By Lauren Boisvert, Community Communications Director

In mid-February, we “experienced” a CHAOS 131 meeting at Central High School in Manchester, NH. CHAOS 131 is the Central High School FIRST Robotics Team. Spilt between four rooms were about 30 students and 10 mentors, all working together toward one goal…FIRST Robotics Worlds! 

Advisor of CHAOS 131 and Central High School Science teacher, Charles (CJ) Chretien, gave us a tour of their workspace as well as introduced us to many students and mentors. Mr. Chretien has been involved with the FIRST Robotics team since 2014/2015. About the team, Mr. Chretien says, “It’s like a family,” and told a story of several participants who have met their spouses through the team. A Manchester resident himself, with children within the district, Mr. Chretien says, “This is an amazing thing happening in Manchester, making Manchester a better place.”

What exactly is FIRST Robotics? FIRST Robotics is an international youth organization that operates the FIRST Robotics Competition along with other branches of FIRST Robotics. Established by Dean Kamen in the late 80s, Central High School was not far behind in establishing its team in 1992. What do you do at these Competitions? On the First Saturday in January, information is released to FIRST Robotics teams, information they will use to begin constructing a robot. The 2024 theme is centered around “music” including amps and speakers, into which the robot must put “music notes” (round discs)  successfully. To make it to FIRST Robotics Worlds, the team must qualify at Districts. CHAOS 131 will be competing at Districts at Salem High School and Revere High School. Upon qualification, CHAOS 131 will proceed on to Worlds in Houston, Texas. 

During our visit, the team was in peak development of their robot and all of its many components. As mentioned, students were split into four different rooms, each room having a specific duty. About this split, Mr. Chretien says, “a team is like a company with departments such as engineering, programming, communication, fundraising, and more.” The four rooms during this day included one room focusing on the mechanical and electrical build of the robot, one room focusing on applying for the FIRST Robotics IMPACT award, one room focusing on the programming of the robot, and last but not least one room focusing on the protection elements of the robot. 

Each room had at least one mentor, who are working professionals that volunteer their time to come in to assist in the FIRST Robotics program. Mentors present included a former FIRST Robotics advisors, a lawyer, a quality assurance manager, engineers, programmers, and FIRST Robotics program alumni. These mentors work with students to assist in learning through hands-on experiences in their assigned area. 

CHAOS 131 not only is building a robot for competitions, but are working to make Manchester a better place. In 2023, They completed over 700 volunteer hours as a team, participating in events such as CelebratED and hosting their own events. One example of an event that they hosted was in partnership with a local Girl Scout Troop. Through this event, they provided instruction and materials for the troop to create their own robot to earn 3 badges! The week prior to us visiting CHAOS 131, they had gone to McDonough Elementary School to facilitate an art project as well as conduct a demo of their robot. 

Not only is the team working to give back to the community, but they are demonstrating teamwork and sportsmanship. About FIRST Robotics’ sportsmanship, Mr. Chretian says, “One of FIRST Core Values is Gracious Professionalism. We operate with that in mind as a team.” While describing this, Mr. Chretien shows two students who are printing a piece for Memorial High School’s robot. “We are ahead of schedule and Memorial asked us to help out so we are happy to,” said Mr. Chretien. 

Want more information about CHAOS 131 or to see where they will be competing next? https://www.chaos131.com/ 

Interested in being a sponsor of CHAOS 131? Email 131chaos@gmail.com

Part 2

Programming Team – The Programming Team of CHAOS 131 Central High School’s FIRST Robotics team is working in Java Programming. Their job is to create programming to make the robot drive. About this team, advisor Charles (CJ) Chretien says, “This is real-world experience. We encourage students to take classes on programming, but this will show you how to implement those skills”. Mr. Chretien further explains how they have had to add in comments to their code to record errors that occur during competitions, enabling the team to problem solve.

Some programmers joined this meeting via Zoom, this stems from COVID but has proven  effective for busy schedules. The in-person team works collaboratively with the virtual team as pictured below.

Part 3

Matt Bisson is an alumnus of Central High School (Class of 2017) and currently works at DEKA as a Systems Engineer. He discovered his love for engineering through FIRST Robotics and Central High School’s team, CHAOS 131. Matt continues to work with the team through mentorship.About being back as a mentor Matt says, “It’s cool to give back to the program and students”. 

Matt shares his excitement about CHAOS 131 journey to Worlds, “the last time we went to Worlds was during my senior year in 2017”. His confidence aligns with the team upgrading equipment since his time in 2017, including a 3D printer and other mechanical and electrical technologies. Matt credits this to grants provided by the Department of Education, but also to Assistant Superintendent, Nicole Doherty and School board member, Jim O’Connell advocating for funding for the program. 

Part 4

Mia is a senior at Central High School who is a Dean’s List Semi-Finalist, an award based on Leadership and Impact. Mia plans to attend Wentworth Institute of Technology to study both Fine Arts and Robotics. Mia used her love of art, robotics, and desire to give back to the community to facilitate a workshop at McDonough Elementary School. She facilitated an art project and the CHAOS 131 team then gave a demonstration to the school of their robot. 

Part 5

Tony Pion is an alumnus of Central High School (Class of 2020) and currently in his senior year at UNH Manchester, while working full-time in Computer Information Systems at Mainstay Technologies. Troy participated in FIRST Robotics during his time at Central High School and returns back to mentor. About his time in FIRST Robotics, “Participating helped me with electrical knowledge in my career”. Troy assisted students with wiring and electrical components  of the robot. 

Part 6

Caiden – is a senior at Central High School, who plans to pursue a career in Mechanical Engineering. Caiden received acceptance into all the schools that he applied to and is still deciding on the right school for him. Caiden has been a part of CHAOS 131 since his sophomore year (2020 was his Freshman year and CHAOS 131 was not active) and has worked a lot in the CAD (computer-aided design) software to create the blueprints for constructing the robot. About his work Caiden says, “I enjoy the CAD work the most, but now that’s basically done, it’s fun to be in the shop building.” 

Part 7

Isaac is a junior at Central High School, who is also on the baseball team. He participates in the shop where the robot is built and during competition he does some scouting.Through Isaac’s experience with baseball, he has developed scouting skills to collect data at competitions. He then puts this data into spreadsheets for analysis and reporting. When asked what he liked about FIRST Robotics, “I like design, I plan to go into some sort of engineering – mechanical or robotics.” 

Part 8

Zuzu is a sophomore at Central High School, who has been a part of FIRST Robotics for both of her years. When asked why she joined FIRST Robotics, Zuzu says, “I want to be a Wildlife Biologist. A lot of biologists want to learn the science, but stay clear of the robots.  But the only way to observe wildlife is by creating robots that blend in with surroundings.” Zuzu works in the design and construction of the robot to get experience that she is hoping to transfer into her career as a Wildlife Biologist. 

Part 9

Oliver is a senior at Central High School and has been a part of FIRST Robotics since his freshman year. Oliver will be the driver of the robot for the 2024 competition season. When asked about his favorite thing in regard to FIRST Robotics, Oliver says, “Build and design robots.” He hopes to continue this work into his career as he has been accepted into several colleges, including Wentworth and WPI to study Mechanical Engineering. 

Part 10

Lexi is a junior at Central High School, who just joined the FIRST Robotics team this year. Lexi was encouraged to join by the team advisor, Charles (CJ) Chretien, as she would like to go into a STEM major like Chemical Engineering. When asked what she enjoys most about FIRST Robotics, Lexi says, “I really like hands-on work and assembling in the shop.”

Want more information about CHAOS 131 or to see where they will be competing next? https://www.chaos131.com/ 

Interested in being a sponsor of CHAOS 131? Email 131chaos@gmail.com