Pope John students to present at robotics conference

First walking robot in league competition


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  • From left, Gaige Moore and Evan Gagnon with Pope John XIII Robotic Team’s six-legged robot. Photo by frank Setlock



— Gaige Moore, a senior at Pope John XXIII Regional High School, has been selected to present at the prestigious FIRST Robotics Conference in Houston, Texas, on April 19. Teammate Evan Gagnon, a junior, will assist with the presentation, which outlines a case study of the Pope John XXIII team’s innovative walking robot design -- the first walking robot to compete in the league’s history.

The unique robot thrilled audiences and inspired teams at competitions this past season. Moore spearheaded the unique idea, and Gagnon was a key builder on the complex project. Each of the robot’s six legs required dozens of precisely cut and meticulously assembled parts as well as complex, custom software to coordinate the leg motions.

“I had been taking an independent study on walking robots,” said Moore, “and had the idea to try building the first walking robot in our competition league’s history. I had been building wheeled robots for competitions for years, and I wanted to try something different.”

FIRST, a nonprofit organization that promotes science and technology through competitive robotics, organizes leagues worldwide, drawing tens of thousands attendees. “Being invited to speak at the world robotics conference is a huge honor, especially for a student presenter,” commented Steve Pendergrast, coach of the Pope John Robotics Team. “Most of the speaking slots went to technology industry executives, teachers, and executives in the robotics league. Only a handful of presentations are being led by a student.”

This is not the first time Moore has been honored nationally for her work in robotics. In 2015, she received the FIRST Robotics Dean’s List Finalist Award for her outstanding technical expertise, team leadership, and commitment to educating younger students in competitive robotics, an honor awarded to only about one hundred students out of tens of thousands in the league. In 2016, Moore was also invited to speak at the World Robotics Conferences about the benefits of organizing a team around CNC and CAD/CAM engineering technologies, in which computers design and fabricate parts.

Moore, the daughter of James Moore of Sussex, will study engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute this fall. Gagnon, son of Chad and Valerie Gagnon of Andover, also has plans for an engineering career.

Pope John XXIII Regional High School in Sparta, New Jersey, has a long history of achievement in competitive robotics, including numerous international championship berths and national recognition for the school’s robotics programs.

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