CSM’s Robotics Team Tops ‘Big Ten’ in World Championships

Members of CSM’s collegiate robotics team

‘Blow Pops’, Hard Work are Keys to Their Success

The College of Southern Maryland collegiate robotics team, The Talons, returned from the VEX World Championship in Anaheim, Calif., ranked in the top third and with resolve to ‘up’ their game and hone their strategy for the 2014 competition.

The team traveling to California for the championship included David Barnes and John Hamel of Mechanicsville, Chi Ezekwenna and Stewart Smith of Waldorf and Jonathan Frank of Indian Head, as well as CSM coaches Professor Bernice Brezina and Student Success Center Director Ronda Jacobs.

“We were just five bags away from reaching the quarterfinals,” said Brezina of the robotics game which involved scoring with bean bags. The Talons’ final record was 7-3-0, finishing in an eight-way tie for 10th place, ranking 16th out of 52 colleges and universities from 24 countries.

“We followed the matches throughout the competition and received regular updates from the team—the entire college was rooting for them and we couldn’t be more excited for them and their success,” said CSM President Dr. Brad Gottfried. “There is no doubt that these students will have bright futures in whatever field they choose. Not only are they mastering the mechanics of robotics they are learning how to work as a team—that’s crucial in today’s job market.”

 “They beat all of the Big 10 universities including Purdue University, Michigan State University and University of Illinois. The matches that they lost were close, and we're all very proud of how well they did this year,” Brezina said. The team also finished in 6th place for the Programming Skills Challenge where the pre-programmed robots worked autonomously without driver control for 60 seconds.

 “This year was a vast improvement over our performance in last year’s competition,” said Frank, who is a mechanical engineering student at CSM. He added that in the Talons’ first world competition in 2012 they weren’t really sure what to expect.

What a difference a year makes.

“The most exciting part of the competition is working as a team to outsmart the other teams to produce the best robot,” Frank said.

 “The team's trademark became competing each match with Blow Pops in hand,” said Jacobs. “By the last match, their competitors joined in. Everyone had a great time, learning a lot about teamwork and strategizing.”

In addition to preparing for their own championship competition during the semester, the Talons mentored La Plata High School, who along with Calvert High School qualified for the VEX World Championship through a competition at CSM in February. Both high school teams made it to the quarterfinals in the world competition in their divisions.

Frank said that he did not participate in robotics in high school but that as part of the Talons he has the opportunity to mentor middle and high school teams including La Plata High School.

Other members of the Talons are Willy Hamel of Mechanicsville, Nathan Hancock of Bryantown, Jimmy O’Brien of Waldorf, Tiffany Lei of La Plata and junior team member Jacob Brezina.

The Talons will host an open house at 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. on May 1 to demonstrate their robots and invite students to join the 2013-14 team. The open house and tour of the robotics lab will be in Room 162 of the Francis P. Chiaramonte, MD Center for Science and Technology (ST) Building on the La Plata Campus.

The Talons are sponsored by The Patuxent Partnership, PNC, and Mr. and Mrs. Vincent Hungerford.

For information on CSM’s collegiate robotics program, visit http://www.csmd.edu/istem/events_csmroboticsVEX.html  or contact Brezina at berniceb@csmd.edu.