By John Toole
---- — PELHAM — Pelham High senior Emily Lamport stood before schoolmates and town leaders Friday and confessed she wanted to become a lawyer before she joined the Pelham High robotics team.
Then it all changed for her.
“I discovered electrical wiring,” Emily said to laughter. “I fell in love. I don’t know why, I just did.”
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who is married to a lawyer and compelled to serve with other lawyers in Congress, smiled and nodded approvingly.
New Hampshire’s Democratic senator visited the high school to promote her legislation that would make federal grants available to school districts to boost science, technology, engineering and math education.
Shaheen let Emily and her robotics teammates know they are on the right career path.
New Hampshire will need about 40,000 graduates in science, technology, engineering and math fields in just four years, she said.
“You’ve got a job almost guaranteed,” Shaheen told the students.
About two dozen students in the robotics program met with Shaheen. They let her pilot their robot around center court and the three-point line in the gym.
Mark Critz, regional director for FIRST robotics, said Pelham will compete in two regional competitions this year, one in Nashua and the other at the University of New Hampshire.
Emily liked the sound of Shaheen’s legislation.
“That’s incredible,” she said.
She intends to pursue studies in electrical and computer systems engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.
Her brother, Matthew, a junior and teammate, said he wants to become a mechanical engineer.
“Robotics has exposed me to the STEM field,” he said, referring to science, technology, education and math.
Another teammate, junior Alison Blanchard, said she wants to pursue art conservation or museum studies, but expects STEM to be a big part of her college experience.
“They are extremely chemistry heavy,” Alison said. “New technologies are being explored by museums and in the preservation of art.”
Her father, Stephen Blanchard, is a vice president with Applied Energy Group that supports the robotics program.
He’s a believer in what it does for students.
“She has learned a lot of life skills around project management,” Blanchard said.
Teacher Tim Guanci, who helped start Pelham’s robotics program and is one of the advisors, said it offers students a chance to augment studies with real life engineering experiences.
When they apply for college or internships, their participation in robotics will make their resumes and applications stand out, Guanci said.
Principal Dorothy Mohr welcomed Shaheen to the event. Selectman Hal Lynde, School Board member Deb Ryan and Superintendent Amanda Lecaroz attended, as did representatives for the state Department of Education and Pelham-based Design Mentor Inc., which supports the robotics program.
Shaheen said she always enjoys meeting with students to see what they are doing with their robotics, describing their efforts as impressive.
“We need a lot more people with that background to be competitive as a country,” Shaheen said.