CSM Robotics Earn Top-10 Spot in World Championship

CSM robotics team

Talons Advance Past Top U.S. Engineering Universities Rice, Michigan State, Purdue

The College of Southern Maryland robotics team, the Talons, returned from the 2015 VEX U World Championship in Louisville, Kentucky, April 18 ranked 10 out of 54 teams and with their first playoff appearance in the team’s four-year history.

The Talons beat out teams from top four-year U.S. engineering universities Rice, Michigan State and Purdue as well as teams from Bahrain, Mexico, Spain, Canada, Brazil and Puerto Rico.

“As community college students, the team make-up is constantly changing, and adjustments in team roles are the norm. Team roles include programming, mechanical, CAD (computer aided design) and outreach coordination, with some students serving multiple roles,” said Professor Bernice Brezina, who along with Director of Student Success Ronda Jacobs is a faculty advisor.

Team Captain John Hamel of Mechanicsville, an engineering major, provides leadership and ensures the team follows a sound engineering design process throughout the season; Secretary/Treasurer Allison DeCarlo of Charlotte Hall, a business administration major, manages the team’s budget and schedule, and coordinates the team’s volunteer activities; John Ingram of Leonardtown, an engineering major,  is a current Robobees FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team mentor, who brought his experience with high school robotics and CAD expertise to the college team; Ryan Achterberg of Lusby, an engineering major, is a graduate of Calvert Career Center where he acquired manufacturing and CAD skills that he applied to improve the robot designs; Jonathan Frank of Indian Head, a business administration major, led the game strategy plans and managed the small robot project; and Cody Graham of Great Mills, an engineering major, was the lead programmer and mechanical designer for the large robot, said Brezina.

VEX U Championship judges presented the Talons with the “Community Award” for demonstrating strong community building skills through the team’s efforts to change their community's perception and support for technology education.

“Team members are involved with CSM’s STEM outreach programs throughout the year. Their support includes robotics competitions for elementary, middle, and high school teams, volunteering as inspectors, referees, judges and match control for the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) qualifier tournament, VEX IQ tournament, CSM LEGO Championship, and the middle and high school VEX Robotics leagues. They are particularly proud of their work helping to get the two VEX leagues off the ground and still growing with 34 high school teams and 19 middle school teams participating this year,” said Brezina. “They volunteered at all four league play sessions, and coordinated and ran the middle school championship. They also served as referees, judges and match control officials at the VEX IQ division, Maryland State Championship.”

Prior to the start of the 2014-15 academic year, the team supported kick-off events by explaining game rules to local kindergarten through 12th grade teachers and mentors. Behind the scenes, they assembled the LEGO mission models for the competition tables. Additionally, the team hosted the VEX U Qualifier that they competed in at CSM.

Most of the team members plan to transfer to the University of Maryland (UMD), A. James Clark School of Engineering to complete their bachelor’s degree through the partnership between CSM, UMD, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) and Southern Maryland Higher Education Center in St. Mary’s County. The partnership allows students to take the majority of their classes in Southern Maryland while participating in a cooperative education program with NAWCAD. Some of the Talons participate in CSM’s STEM Scholars program, as well as the Student Math League sponsored by the American Mathematical Association of Two Year Colleges, AMATYC. The CSM Math Team leads the state of Maryland following the first round, with the high score in the state held by Graham.

            Support of the Talons comes from CSM’s Student Association which has provided funds to support registration fees, volunteer activities and travel expenses as well as through STEM program sponsors including, CSM Foundation, The Patuxent Partnership, BAE Systems and PNC Foundation.

            For information on robotics and STEM events at CSM, visit www.csmd.edu/STEM.