Young ‘Inventioneers’ Impress Sizable Audience
by Karen Plumley
It was Lego Day at Pelham Public Library on Tuesday, February 27 and a substantial group of children gathered around a large Lego table on the second floor. The table had paths, patterns, and intriguing gizmos, but all eyes were glued to an intricate Lego robot that rolled around seemingly with a mind of its own, avoiding obstacles and occasionally backing up and redirecting itself as necessary. Seven driven, talented children in bright blue t-shirts and excited grins huddled together, planning their presentation to the group. These children, aged nine to 14, are members of a Lego team aptly named “The Inventioneers.” There are a total of nine children on the team, from Londonderry, Pelham, and Nashua. Each youngster joined at a different time, but the team itself was formed three years ago by parents of children interested in taking their Lego hobby many, many steps further.
This ambitious team took a giant leap last year, when it won the State Championship, and is now destined to compete internationally at the World Festival in Atlanta, Georgia on the weekend of April 12. The competition has four parts. The first two are teamwork and technical judging. The third is the table challenge. This part of the competition requires the team to build its own robot to complete a series of instructions by programming a special Lego component. The programming alone took the young inventors over four months. Despite the duration of the project, Sarah, a team member who has been with The Inventioneers for the full three years of its existence, commented that she likes the programming. “I like to use science and technology to solve real world problems. It’s a really rewarding experience.” One of the youngest members of the team, nine-year-old Nick, enthused, “You wouldn’t believe how exciting it is to win!”
The final section of the competition is the research project. “This is the hardest part,” commented eleven-year-old TJ, another of the team members. Maybe so, but according to team leader Lisa Evarts, it is their biggest strength. “In our first year we won rookie team of the year, and a research award. Last year we won the research award again. This year, we are the state champions,” she enthused. The other team leaders are Lisa’s husband, Brian, and Luan Heimlich; all three are from Londonderry. In November 2005, the team was working on their research project, which was called “Kids for Clean Oceans.” In particular, they were studying the effects of marine debris on ocean wildlife, and learned of the dangers that balloons pose to these animals. They decided to propose a law to the state legislature with the help of Representative Kevin Waterhouse. The efforts resulted in a proposed bill, called the “Balloon Bill” that would prohibit the large-scale release of balloons in New Hampshire. The first hearing on the bill was on January 23, 2007. According to the team, several House Committee Members commented that the team’s testimony, which included the research that it can take up to four years for a balloon to completely deteriorate, was one of the things that persuaded them to support the bill.
The Inventioneers are part of the First Lego League (FLL), an international group founded in 1989 by inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen. Based in Manchester, the FLL is a nonprofit organization with the vision to encourage young people around the world to celebrate and pursue careers in the sciences, technology, and engineering. Kamen is the president of DEKA Research & Development Corporation based in Manchester, and is widely known as the inventor of the SegwayÒ Human Transporter.
According to Children’s Librarian Miss Debbie, the team first contacted her to ask permission to circulate a book that they had produced containing information on their research and Lego projects. According to Miss Debbie, they approached her again a few months later, about coming to the library to reach out and find others who might be interested in forming Lego teams. “These children are extremely well organized, and I’m so impressed with them, their work, and their ability to speak in front of a crowd,” commented Miss Debbie, stating later that, “they must be giving up a lot of their free time to accomplish all they have done.” For more information on the Inventioneers, or to learn more about forming a First Lego League team, contact Luan at 552-2019 or Lisa at 437-8455.
After the presentation and robot demonstration prepared by The Inventioneers, guests at the library on Tuesday were encouraged to get hands-on and build something of their own with the two huge tubs of Lego’s that Miss Debbie was able to secure for the day from a friend. Others who could not squeeze their way in, headed over to the programming section, and followed a series of instructions laid out on the floor, directing them to touch their noses, spin, hop a number of times, and so forth, demonstrating the types of commands that needed to be programmed and downloaded to a Lego computer component. For the younger attendees, Lego coloring pages and crayons were provided.
“The turnout today has been phenomenal,” remarked Miss Debbie. “I really want to promote the library as a place not only to come to borrow books, but also as a community gathering place, where people can come to share a passion, have fun, and get excited about new things.”
Fly Fish New Hampshire
by Lynne Ober
Pelham Fish and Game has a direct connection to Mother Nature, and that connection produces a day filled with the smells of early spring, just in time for their fifth annual Fly Fish New Hampshire show held last weekend at Pelham Fish and Game Club. Although it snowed, sleeted and rained cold icy drops on Friday, by Saturday, in time for the first day of the two-day show, temperatures had risen into the 40s, birds were twittering and people were thinking of spring.
The show, New Hampshire’s only fly fishing show, is presented by Pelham Fish and Game Club and Merrimack River Valley Chapter Trout Unlimited (www.merrimackty.org). It’s a two-day fish-fest, filled with demonstrations, seminars, and lots of exhibits.
New fishermen had an opportunity to learn the basics with Gerry Crow, in his Fly Fish 101 seminar. Crow, a long time fly fisherman, shared his love of the sport and taught everything that anyone needed to know to get started, from safety, to better techniques, to on-stream etiquette.
Stephen Rock from Fly Fishing New Hampshire, shared his secrets for sleuthing out a new fishing place where all the biggest fish are hiding. A licensed state guide and a Federation of Fly Fishers (FFF) certified casting Instructor, Rock has more than 10 years experience fly fishing New Hampshire waters. He presented a great overview about the various fly fishing opportunities in the state’s waters, including saltwater, wild brook trout and brood stock salmon. Rock just loves to fish, and his second love is sharing what he knows.
Harry Mehos talked about Still Water Fishing in New Hampshire’s Lakes and Ponds. As a licensed New Hampshire guide and owner of North Star Guide Service, Methos has been guiding and fishing throughout New Hampshire. He has perfected the skill of catching fish with a superb fly casting technique.
As always, one of the crowd pleasing events was fly casting with Tom Jutras. Jutras and his class moved outdoors where they could practice their casting technique.
Want to learn about the pleasures of salt water fishing? Captains Bret Vaughn and John Vratsenes from Castaway Adventures talked about fly fishing New England coastline. They presented a tour of saltwater game fishing at its best. They took their class from southern Maine to New Hampshire, and then on to Cape Cod and the islands.
On Saturday, there was a rod building class for those who wanted to learn how to build their own equipment.
Wandering through the exhibitions you can feel the desire to be outside – preferably fishing. Fishermen gathered in small crowds and talked about the one that got away, or the biggest one they ever caught. A number of guide services discussed their programs with interested patrons; groups of watchers are intrigued by the intricacies of making fishing flies; or if you’d rather make your own, you can browse at any number of displays where you can find feathers, eyes, eggs, tying materials and hooks and make your own.
You could learn about estuaries where rivers meet the seas, and talk about dreams of fishing in the upcoming months.
New Hampshire Wildlife Federation had a display, as did Mountain Road Fly Shop, who had canoes and kayaks on display as well as other fishing gear. New Hampshire Guides Association (www.nhguidesassociation.com) had a booth where you could find out about their programs and guides.
When your feet got tired, or if you just wanted to sit and chat with a fellow fisherman, you could grab a cup of coffee and a muffin and sit and dream about warm fishing weather that is just over the horizon.
Haverty Wins Open Selectman Seat in Pelham
by Diane Chubb
This was Jean-Guy Bergeron’s last year serving as on the Pelham Board of Selectmen. The open seat was filled by new member Bob Haverty, who received the most votes in the town election on Tuesday, March 13. Unofficially, Haverty had 1,191votes.
Haverty, who is a Senior IT Manager, has served on the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) Committee for the past four years. He also spent a year on the Board of Adjustment, and two years on the Pelham Technology Plan Committee.
“Pelham is my home, probably always will be. I care about what happens to it, and the people who live here,” said Haverty. “I think that the experience I bring to town politics will help in dealing with some of the challenges we are facing as a growing community.”
Pelham certainly has its share of challenges these days. The high school is overcrowded, and the warrant article for the new fire station failed.
“The historical lack of capital investments is finally coming back to haunt us,” he responded. “Next year we will most likely be looking at a new high school and a central fire station. The challenge is going to be prioritizing and scheduling these investments in a way the tax payer can live with, yet addresses the needs of the town.”
Haverty said that the CIP has attempted to prioritize and schedule such projects, and believes that the Board of Selectmen (BOS) should start using that report in a more formalized manner.
“I certainly think that the BOS should work with departments to establish the large capital projects that need to be complete, but I think that the scheduling of those projects should be determined by the CIP. In turn, the BOS should view the CIP as a working document used to present items on the ballot. I would even go so far as to say that if an item is not scheduled on the CIP, it doesn’t get put on the ballot. This obviously doesn’t hold true for items submitted by petition, but it would go a long way towards demonstrating to the voters that we have a process as to how capital investments are identified.”
When asked about the high school, Haverty stated that he is looking forward to the results of the architectural study and “will support a reasonable solution.” The school district warrant article requesting $350,000 for architectural studies for a high school solution passed, and the School Board will be able to move forward with concrete information.
Haverty also hopes to improve communication within Pelham to make sure that voters have all of the information they need. “One of the things I ran on, was an improved communication plan leveraging some traditional methods, as well as some of the newer technologies available to us. If I can look back at the end of my first year and see that my plan has become a standard practice, I will be satisfied.”
When he is not being “Bob Haverty, town official,” he enjoys spending time with his wife, Crissy, and his children, Meghan and Bobby. He is also active in a couple different youth sports organizations, and enjoys coaching his son’s hockey team.
Congratulations to Bob on his victory, and we look forward to following his progress with the BOS.
PHS Assistant Principal to Resign
by Karen Plumley
Pelham High School’s James Wilhelm has handed in his resignation as Assistant Principal. He will continue on with his duties until his contract ends on June 30, 2007. Mr. Wilhelm started working in Pelham two days after school began on August 28, 2004. He commented that starting this late in the game was “a really hard thing to do as I didn’t know anyone at PHS,” but continued, “Dr. Mohr and the staff were great and I felt at home in no time.”
This is not the first time that Wilhelm attempted to resign. During his 33 years of experience in education, 23 years have been in administration, with an emphasis on discipline. “This can be a very negative and stressful situation,” Wilhelm noted. The strain finally got to him and he decided to resign last year in 2006, but according to Wilhelm, “… the staff, Dr. Mohr, Dr. Cutler, and several school board members approached me and asked me to stay. I really do enjoy the people I work with, so I said why not, what’s another year?”
Assistant Principal Wilhelm has impressed many during his tenure with Pelham High School. According to Principal Dorothy Mohr, Mr. Wilhelm’s “interactions with members of the PHS community, our staff, students and parents have been positive.” Dr. Mohr also stated, “Mr. Wilhelm has served Pelham High School for the past three years; consistently and constantly demonstrating fairness and concern for the well being of students.”
As for the future, Wilhelm claims to have no definite plans at this point. “A bike trip across Canada sounds interesting … I’m also trying to go to the high point in every state; more people have climbed Mount Everest than done that!” Wilhelm enthused. Professionally, Wilhelm said, “… I might get back into education in a more positive, less stressful position that does not deal with discipline. Time will tell.”
So the business of searching for a replacement is underway in the Pelham School District. Meanwhile, Dr. Mohr commented that Wilhelm’s “sense of humor and his ability to see the whole picture will be missed.” Wilhelm wrote in a statement, “I would like to thank Dr. Mohr, Dr. Cutler, and the entire staff at PHS for their support and friendship. I will fondly remember the years spent here.”