May 22, 2024
Michael Harrison, professor of GBCC’s information systems technology program pictured in the GBCC data center with the new 3D printers used to make the Experiential Robotics Platform (XRP). Harrison is leading the college’s involvement in the partnership with FIRST NH and area high schools.

The installation of ten new 3D printers has transformed the data center at Great Bay Community College (GBCC) into a robotics laboratory as part of an innovative partnership with FIRST® New Hampshire that will bring programming and robotics education to area students.

GBCC joins Manchester, Lakes Region, and White Mountains Community Colleges currently participating in the program. The new 3D printers will make seven-inch plastic chassis on wheels that are part of the Experiential Robotics Platform (XRP), a low-cost, open-robotics platform developed by Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). Built around a Raspberry Pi® Pico W microcontroller, the XRP was designed to provide an affordable means of introducing students to robotics, engineering, and software development.

Funded by a $455,000 grant from the New Hampshire Department of Education, FIRST NH has been outfitting labs across the state.  The goal is to produce 5,500 robotics kits by July 2025 to support engineering education for New Hampshire students in community colleges and career and technical education centers and to create learning opportunities for students in grades 6-12.

Dr. Cheryl Lesser, president of GBCC, said that the college is expanding its involvement beyond the manufacturing of the robotic kits to include professional development for teachers and classes for secondary school students. “GBCC has a long-standing commitment to robotics and microelectronics education, and we are developing new programs, such as automated manufacturing, that will prepare employees to work with the cutting-edge robotic technologies used by area companies. We are excited to participate in the partnership with FIRST NH to share our expertise with secondary schools and CTEs to get area middle and high school students interested in engineering, robotics and software development,” she explained.

Michael Harrison, chair of GBCC’s information systems technology program, is leading the college’s involvement in the partnership with FIRST NH. He said the goal is for GBCC to create at least 1,000 robotics kits using the 3D printers. Once the printing design is built and tested, it will take approximately three hours to make the plastic chassis for each kit. GBCC then coordinates delivery to area schools.

“GBCC’s participation is unique in the amount of hands-on involvement we have with the secondary schools. We are reaching out to high school and middle school teachers about how to incorporate robotics kits into their classroom teaching and we go out to secondary schools to provide professional support,” he explains. Harrison also goes to secondary schools to offer both in-person and remote courses on topics, such as applied logic, that incorporate the XRP kits.  With over 20 years in industry and another 20 years in higher education focused on microcontrollers , Harrison is excited to expand his teaching to include this professional development opportunity to grade 6 through 12 educators in the seacoast area.

In his 2024 State of the State address. Governor Chris Sununu touted the “vertical integration of learning” through the partnership with FIRST New Hampshire, from setting up the automation for the 3D printers and learning about the manufacturing process at the community college level, to learning how to program and use the robotics in secondary schools.

“FIRST New Hampshire is thrilled to add Great Bay Community College to the growing number of NH community colleges and CTEs that are manufacturing the 5500 XRP robot kits that are being distributed to middle and high school classrooms across NH,” said Frank Grossman, president of FIRST NH, “This collaboration with FIRST NH provides a wonderful opportunity for the community colleges and CTE centers to showcase their programs and highlight the pathways available to NH students.”

About Great Bay Community College
Great Bay Community College is a comprehensive postsecondary institution offering quality academic and professional and technical education in support of workforce development and lifelong learning. Great Bay Community College is part of the Community College System of New Hampshire, a public system of higher education consisting of seven colleges in Berlin, Claremont, Laconia, Concord, Manchester, Nashua, and Portsmouth.  The colleges offer associate degrees and career training in technical, professional and general fields, including transfer pathways to baccalaureate degrees. The college’s second campus, the Advanced Technology & Academic Center is now open in Rochester offering academic courses and a degree program in Advanced Composites Manufacturing.   For more information on Great Bay Community College, visit

About FIRST New Hampshire
Inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to help young people build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating them to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering around the world. FIRST New Hampshire (FIRST NH) is the local non-profit organization that implements the FIRST programs in New Hampshire. FIRST NH is dedicated to making FIRST programs available to all students in the state. For more information about FIRST NH, send email to [email protected] or visit