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First Robotics: Building a Passion for STEM


When John Seeman isn’t teaching engineering classes at Salem High School, he’s promoting a passion for science and technology in the Salem community. A major effort in support of this goal includes hosting the NE FIRST Granite State District Event.

The SHS FIRST Robotics team will host more than 40 schools from around New England for a three-day competition scheduled at the high school.  “Essentially we’ll have robotics teams taking over the school for three days,” Seeman said.

“STEM projects always involve a lot of problem-solving and working together to find solutions..."

The main action will take place in the Davis Gym where a competition stadium will be erected for teams and their robots to engage in difficult field games in alliance with other schools. Teams score points when their robots complete a series of automated and user-controlled maneuvers. This year’s contest – Rapid React – simulates an airport terminal and robots are tasked with collecting and moving cargo (large rubber balls) into baskets at different levels within a specified time limit. Extra points are earned for having the robot climb and traverse a hanger structure.

Teams will be spread throughout the building taking advantage of the school’s machine shop and other spaces to make last minute repairs or finalize robot builds through customized work supervised by volunteer adult mentors.

SHS team members won’t be competing but will have essential event management and organization responsibilities, according to Seeman. “Our team will gain valuable insight and knowledge being able to watch matches and identify successful strategies,” he explained. “They will also get a better understanding of what goes into running an event. These experiences will help us in future competitions.”

SHS Robotics Team members get first-hand experience in the technical aspects of mechanical design, electrical wiring, fabrication, and software programming, but they also gather skills in communication, collaboration, and community outreach. “It’s a lot like running a business,” Seeman said. “STEM projects always involve a lot of problem-solving and working together to find solutions. The team is involved in fundraising and community outreach to help recruit new members and professionals from the community to volunteer as program mentors.“

Salem started hosting the NE FIRST event in 2019 as a way to help boost interest in and excitement around the school’s robotics team. “This is an exciting competition,” he said. “I feel it’s important to show that STEM activities can be fun. Fostering an interest in technical skills development in the community not only helps our program, but also adds an important skillset to the workforce in Salem.”

The competition stadium from the 2020 NE FIRST Granite State District Event in the Davis Gym at Salem High School.

About the Instructor

Mr. Seeman graduated from Clarkson University in 2015 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He has 10 years of robotics engineering experience, including teaching an advanced robotics engineering course in Texas. Mr. Seeman is starting the first robotics program at Salem High School.

“Having taken many of the courses I’m now teaching while I was in High School and my recent experiences with college, I’m able to relate with my students in a rather unique way. Because I went through these major milestones recently, I have a good understanding of the way these systems work today and the challenges my students are about to face; because of this I feel better prepared to help prepare them and provide them with the technical and professional skills they are going to need to be successful in their careers.”