CSM Robotics Competitions Add Fuel to Pipeline

Kenneth M. Capps

Elementary, Middle Schools Compete for Excellence

While some engineering teams were celebrating masterful designs and precision on the robotics field of play with high-fives and end-zone dances, others were searching through boxes of spare parts while working to overcome mechanical or programming setbacks. Students from elementary and middle schools in Calvert, Charles, St. Mary’s  and Prince George’s counties spent their Saturday getting a taste of the life of professional engineers while competing and having fun at the College of Southern Maryland Robotics Junior (LEGO) Division challenge at CSM’s La Plata Campus on April 13.

The day started with 90 teams from 43 elementary and 47 middle schools vying for the top score and the prestigious Excellence Award.

            The elementary school recipient of the Excellence Award was Benjamin Banneker Elementary School’s ‘Renewables’ which received a check for $400 from Wyle and congratulations from Wyle Aerospace Group Chief Engineer Ajay Sehgal at the morning awards ceremony. In the afternoon, it was The King’s Christian Academy’s ‘Munchkinz’ to receive a $600 check from Wyle presented by Sehgal.

“What is really exciting is how efforts such as robotics competitions are meeting requests from the community to grow a pipeline for engineers,” said CSM Industrial Studies Professor Bernice Brezina, coordinator of the Southern Maryland VEX Robotics League and robotics competitions at the college.

            Teams formed at the beginning of the school year and worked to learn programming and mechanics in order to build their robot for the LEGO game “Green City.” Students had to learn to work collaboratively as engineers. Students could see real-world energy saving efforts at an exhibit of electric cars provided by EVA/DC and MD Volt, Inc., (mdvolt.org), which included a Tesla Model S, an exhibit of solar panels from SMECO and a model of the Ford C-Max Hybrid-Energi electric car.

The day brought more than 1,500 students, parents, coaches and volunteers to the La Plata Campus.       

            “We couldn’t put on events like the LEGO championship without the help of our community sponsors and county school systems,” said CSM President Dr. Brad Gottfried, who added that it is not just funding that sponsors provide—it is also dedicated volunteers, mentors and event support.

The LEGO competition is part of CSM’s “Spotlight on STEM” with April events expected to draw more than 3,500 area students and educators. Events include the Student Success Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference on April 19 and the Women + Math workshop on April 20.

The conference is a day-long event for kindergarten through high school teachers and administrators and college instructors. The conference provides effective teaching tips from state and national experts in a variety of areas, including STEM, along with opportunities for faculty and administrators to present ideas on a wide range of topics and to interact with peers from other institutions.

The Women + Math event is for young women in high school through age 21. Students learn from career professionals what it is like to have a successful career in a field that draws heavily on math. Successful women working in the healthcare, computer science, architecture, engineering, physics, meteorology and cyber security fields will interact with the students in workshops as well as meet one-on-one in their fields of interest.

Spotlight on STEM is sponsored by PNC Foundation, Diamond Sponsor; BAE Systems, Gold Sponsor; and Silver Sponsors Lockheed Martin Foundation, SAIC and Wyle.

            For information or sponsorships on Spotlight on STEM and CSM programs in science, technology, engineering and math, visit http://www.csmd.edu/stem/.

            For information on sponsorship opportunities, visit http://www.csmd.edu/Foundation/ or contact CSM Development Director Martina Arnold at MArnold2@csmd.edu or 301-934-7649.

            For information on CSM robotics programs for elementary, middle and high school, and collegiate levels, visit http://www.csmd.edu/stem/.

            To view photos of the winning teams from the 2013 College of Southern Maryland Robotics Junior (LEGO) Division challenge, visit http://www.csmd.edu/News/MediaResources/13AprRobots.html.




Elementary School Awards


Excellence Awards

The Excellence Award is the most prestigious award that any team can win. It measures how the team members inspire and motivate others about the excitement of science and technology, solve problems, and demonstrate respect and gracious professionalism to every involved in the competition.


1st Place: Benjamin Banneker Elementary, Team Renewables

Judges’ Comments: The team achieved a perfect score in robot design and programming—their robot performed perfectly under less than ideal circumstances.


2nd Place: Beach Elementary, Team Seaborgs

3rd Place: Appeal Elementary, Team LEGO Leopards


Robot Performance Awards

This award goes to the team whose robot achieves the best score on the competition field or in the elimination round


1st Place: Evergreen Elementary, Team 4 Logobots

2nd Place: Huntingtown Elementary, Heron-otics


Judged Robot Performance Awards

This award goes to the team whose robot consistently achieves high scores.


1st Place: Evergreen Elementary, Turbinators

Judges’ Comments: The Evergreen Elementary Turbinators designed a robust, elegant robot that satisfied all of its missions. The robot design was efficient and had unique features which allowed it to swiftly complete each mission.


2nd Place: Piney Point Elementary, The Earth Docs

3rd Place: Windy Hill Elementary, Techno “Wiz” Kids


Research Award

This award is presented to the team that demonstrates the use and understanding of diverse resources to formulate an in-depth and thorough explanation of the team’s point of view and solution to the challenge project


1st Place: Huntingtown Elementary, Heron-otics

Judges’ Comments: The team surveyed their community, then consulted experts to propose an innovation to increase community usage of recycling—a portable recycling plant.


2nd Place: Hollywood Elementary, The Green Machine

3rd Place: Evergreen Elementary, Team 3


Robot Design Award

Judges look for teams whose work stands out for innovation and/or dependability. To assess innovation, the judges watch the robots work and look for things that make them say, “Wow.” They interview team members to reveal the less obvious unique and inventive ideas.


1st Place: Grace Lutheran Elementary, LEGO Lions B

Judges’ Comments: The team was innovative with moving parts, lifts and a guiding hand—and showed the robot was durable and steady over rough terrain.


2nd Place: Dowell Elementary, Ninja Bots

3rd Place: Dr. Gustavus Brown Elementary, Galaxy Robots


Robot Programming Award

Judges look for teams that practice sound programming principles including clear, concise and reusable code. Judges are impressed by teams who are able to use sensors in ways that allow their robot to perform challenge missions autonomously and consistently.


1st Place: Evergreen Elementary, Composters

Judges’ Comments: This team used innovative thinking and strong communication skills to work as a team to design an effective and efficient robot.


2nd Place: T.C. Martin Elementary, Tigers 4

3rd Place: Benjamin Banneker Elementary, Pollution People


Innovation & Strategy Award

This award recognizes a team that uses solid engineering practices and a well-developed strategy to design and build an innovative, high-performing robot.


1st Place: Barstow Elementary, Dream Team

Judges’ Comments: This team was extremely calm when things did not go as planned—which will happen in the real world of engineering. They showed maturity and worked well as a team in order to make adjustments to get the job done.


2nd Place: Arthur Middleton Elementary, Ninja Owls

3rd Place: Benjamin Banneker Elementary, Air Savers