CSM Robotics Challenge Participation Soars

Overwhelming Number of Teams Produces Pre-Event Qualifier

With more than twice as many competitors than in 2009, this year’s College of Southern Maryland Robotics Challenge included a pre-event qualifier to accommodate the deluge of teams. When CSM Professor and Chair of Business and Technology Division Jeff Tjiputra challenged greater participation among Southern Maryland schools for the 2010 competition, he didn’t anticipate the outpouring of interest and enthusiasm—nor the sheer number of teams who entered the competition.

 On April 10 at CSM’s La Plata Campus teams representing predominantly Southern Maryland elementary, middle and high schools competed in two robotics games appropriate for age and skill levels.

 “We grew so large–with 130 teams from more than 70 schools—that we had to have a qualifying system in the Junior Division,” said Tjiputra, organizer of this CSM’s robotics challenge as well as the Maryland regional FIRST Tech competition. “We have been overwhelmed by the response from schools wanting to participate in this year’s competition,” Tjiputra said, adding, “The purpose of the competition is to get Southern Maryland involved in robotics competitions and we want all Southern Maryland schools to participate.”

The tournament’s champions in the senior division, Leonardtown High Raider Robotics 2, Calvert High School and Carroll County 4-H Super Sonic Sparks C, quailed for spots at the VEX Championship in Dallas. Tournament finalists included Westlake High School teams 1 and 3, and SPEAR Academy SPEAR-it 2. The highest awards at junior and senior division, sponsored by Naval Systems Weapons Command-Indian Head Division and BAE Systems, respectively, went to J.C. Parks Elementary Erosion Destroyers, Plum Point Middle Robotechs and Leonardtown High Raider Robotics 2.

When Jennifer Gilman, principal of Hollywood Elementary, sat in the bleachers watching her “kids” maneuver around the court she welled up with pride and hope. “This could be the spark that will lead to a successful career and a great future,” she said. She believes that exciting competitions such as this one give students a better understanding of how the work they do in the classroom relates to real-world careers, she said.

            The court that Gilman’s students are playing on is competitive but the hours and hard work that students put into perfecting their craft make success—and lifelong career success—attainable. Compared to the bleak statistics of kids who play basketball in high school making it to college or professional ball, the success rate for kids pursuing a science, technology, engineering or mathematics career is high.

            The National College Athletic Association (NCAA) calculated that of today’s nearly 553,000 men’s and 450,000 women’s high school student basketball players across the country, only 44 males and 32 females are estimated will make it to the professional ranks. In other words, three in 10,000 or approximately .03 percent of high school senior boys playing interscholastic basketball and .02 percent of high school senior girls will go on to make professional basketball a career.

            On the other hand, said CSM President Dr. Brad Gottfried, this year’s middle school students competing on the robotics court are looking at national employment projections [from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics] of 1.7 million engineering jobs by the time they graduate college in 2018. “Now that’s a probability to go to school on,” he said. 

CSM’s Southern Maryland Robotics Challenge began back in September 2009, when the names and rules of the games were announced, and schools around the region began putting together teams of students interested in engineering. Some of the high school teams are made up of students enrolled in engineering classes where this competition is part of their curriculum. Other high school teams and elementary and middle school teams formed as extracurricular clubs that met before or after school or on weekends. 

The robot kits are different for the elementary/middle school division and the high school division, but each robot needs to be constructed and programmed to perform tasks either through manipulation with a controller or autonomously. The kits can be pricy so teams look for funding from schools, their own fundraising efforts or business sponsorships.

The 2010 competition junior division platinum sponsors were NAVSEA Warfare Center, Indian Head, and National Defense Education Program; the senior division platinum sponsor was BAE Systems; gold sponsors included Energetics Technology Center, TIME and CSM; silver sponsors included Dominion and PNC; and bronze sponsors included The Patuxent Partnership, Charles County Technology Council, Charles County Government and Wyle.

For information on CSM’s robotics competitions, visit http://www.csmd.edu/roboticschallenge/.



Southern Maryland Schools Participating In the 2010 CSM Robotics Challenge


Calvert County

Appeal Elementary

Barstow Elementary

Beach Elementary

Calvert Career Center

Calvert Elementary

Calvert High

Calvert Middle

Calverton School

Dowell Elementary

Huntingtown Elementary

Huntingtown High

Mill Creek Middle

Mount Harmony Elementary

Mutual Elementary

Northern High

Northern Middle

Our Lady Star of the Sea School

Plum Point Middle

Southern Middle

Sunderland Elementary

Windy Hill Elementary

Windy Hill Middle


Charles County

Barnhart Elementary

Berry Elementary

Charles County 4-H Club

Davis Middle

Diggs Elementary

Gale Bailey Elementary

Indian Head 4-H Program

J.C. Parks Elementary

James Craik Elementary

John Hanson Middle

Lackey High

Matthew Henson Middle

Mattawoman Middle

McDonough High

Mudd Elementary

North Point High

Piccowaxen Middle

Smallwood Middle

Somers Middle

St. Peter’s School

Stoddert Middle

T.C. Martin Elementary

Thomas Stone High

Wade Elementary

Westlake High


St. Mary’s County

Banneker Elementary

Dynard Elementary

Esperanza Middle

Evergreen Elementary

Forrest Career and Technology Center

Father Andrew White School

Great Mills High

Hollywood Elementary

Home Schoolers of Southern Maryland

King’s Christian Academy

Leonardtown Elementary

Leonardtown High

Leonardtown Middle

Margaret Brent Middle

Mother Catherine Spaulding

Piney Point Elementary

St. Mary’s Ryken High

SPEAR Academy

Spring Ridge Middle

SSI Robotics

St. Michael’s School


Out of Area

Bishop McNamara High, Prince George’s County

Carroll County 4-H Program, Carroll County

Mt. Calvary School, Prince George’s County

Potomac Middle, Prince William County




2010 CSM Robotics Challenge Award Winners


Tournament Champion Awards-Senior Division Sponsored by CSM Foundation

Leonardtown High Raider Robotics 2

Calvert High School

Carroll County 4-H Program Super Sonic Sparks C

The Tournament Champions qualify for spots at the VEX World Championship in Dallas later in April.


Tournament Finalist Awards-Senior Division

Westlake High School Westlake 3

SPEAR Academy SPEAR-it 2

Westlake High School Westlake 1

The Finalist Alliance is the runner-up to the VEX Robotics Competition


Excellence Award-Senior Division Sponsored by BAE Systems

Leonardtown High Raider Robotics 2

The Excellence Award is given to the overall top team. It is the highest honor given out in VEX Robotics Competition. The recipient of this award exemplified overall excellence and was a strong contender in multiple award categories. Their robot was elegant, yet simple, and was able to win matches even when outnumbered according to judges.


Excellence Award-Junior Division/Middle School Sponsored by NSWC-IHD

Plum Point Middle Robotechs

According to judges, this team excelled in all categories of competition. As