Readying the Next Generation of Tinkerers

Local Defense Contractors, Tech Firms Sponsor Robotics Competitions at CSM

            Local robotics team, “Under the Son,” is heading to St. Louis and another FIRST Robotics World Championship contest after outscoring the competition at the College of Southern Maryland’s Annual Maryland FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) for high school students Dec. 11 in La Plata. The team of Renee, Erik, Mary and Laura, home-schooled children of David and Lydean Spangler of Hollywood, returned from Atlanta last spring with a trophy for competing on the World Championship team—they hope to repeat in 2011.

            The Spanglers will be joined by the team G-Force, a club team sponsored by 4-H/GEARS, Inc. of McHenry, which earned the day’s Inspire Award for serving as an inspiration to what the FIRST program and young minds can accomplish.

            Elementary and middle school students also competed in the FIRST Lego League (FLL) Southern Maryland Qualifier. Five teams from St. Mary’s County and two from Charles County will be heading to University of Maryland Baltimore County for February’s State Championship competition.

            Between the FTC and FLL, 55 teams from throughout Maryland participated in the tournament, including a visiting team from Aviano, Italy comprised of U.S. Department of Defense dependents whose parents are stationed abroad.

            “These competitions are important not only for our students in Southern Maryland, but for our businesses, too,” said CSM President Dr. Brad Gottfried. “Locally, there are many high-paying, high-tech jobs that are going unfilled or are being filled by people outside of our area. When our community comes together to get Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s students excited about pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, everyone wins.”   

            “Today the average age of our engineers is the mid-50s. We see only 15 percent of our college graduates majoring in engineering or the natural sciences, far below that of South Korea at 38 percent, or France at 47 percent or Singapore at a whopping 67 percent,” said Gottfried. “America’s call to action is to commit ourselves to keeping the United States competitive, and this community college, CSM, along with our strong partners, are key players in that vision,” said Gottfried, adding that competitions such as FTC and FLL are encouraging students to pursue STEM careers.

            Sponsors of this year’s event, BAE Systems, General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, PTC, Rockwell Collins, Charles County Tech Council, Energetics Technology Center, TIME Center and The Patuxent Partnership, hope that students stay excited about science and technology all the way through college and into the workforce.

             “Our support of FIRST is not only about getting young people excited about science and technology, it is also about developing our future workforce,” said Mark Keeler, BAE Systems vice president of communications – electronics solutions business based out of California. “As a strategic partner, we see students benefiting from an experience that teaches teamwork and innovation. It’s important and exciting for our Southern Maryland community to come together to help young people learn.” Including CSM’s competition, BAE Systems committed $2.81 million and sponsored 14 regional competitions in 2010.

            Another competition sponsor, the Charles County Tech Council (CCTC),

works to ensure the competitiveness of its members through community education and outreach programs such as robotics competitions, said CCTC President Mark Czajka. Representing more than 70 companies and individuals, CCTC members volunteer and work as judges or fill in where needed during the day-long competition. In addition to providing manpower, CCTC has provided scholarships and robot kits that can be prohibitively expensive for some middle school and high school teams. Over the last four years, CCTC has donated more than $7,000 to students through the CSM Foundation, said CSM Development Director Martina Arnold.

            For complete list of award recipients and FTC ranking, visit 







Teams Advancing to FTC World Championship in St. Louis, April 2011

Under the Son, Spangler Software Incredibles Robotics & SSI Robotics, Hollywood

G-Force, 4-H/GEARS, Inc., McHenry, Md. (Garrett County)




Teams Advancing to the Maryland Championship at UMBC, February 2011

Drugbusters, Father Andrew White School, Leonardtown

Heart Burn, St. Michael’s School, Ridge

Doctor D’s Deficiency Blood Tester, Father Andrew White School, Leonardtown

Bot Brigade Blue, California

Kidz 4 Change 4-H Club, Indian Head

LFS Patriots, Little Flower School, Great Mills

CyberKnight, Grace Christian School of Maryland, Waldorf


For a complete list of award winners, visit

To view photos of award recipients, visit



Southern Maryland FTC and FLL Teams by Location


FIRST Tech Challenge Tournament Team List


St. Mary’s County Teams



Los Fuegos, The Kings Christian Academy



Under the Son, Spangler Software Incredibles Robotics & SSI Robotics



Pacman and Shazaam, Dr. James A. Forrest Career & Technology Center High School

Raider Robots, Leonardtown High School

Ryken 1 and Ryken 2, NDEP and St. Mary’s Ryken High School


Great Mills

GMHS 1 and GMHS 2, Great Mills High School


FIRST Lego League Tournament Team List

Calvert County

Prince Frederick

Telepathic Turtles


Charles County

Indian Head


Kidz 4 Change 4-H Club








St. Mary’s County


Bot Brigade




Eagle 6.0



Great Mills

LFS Patriots



St. Johns




Doctor D’s



Heart Burn



Teams Advancing to FTC World Championship in St. Louis, April 2011

Under the Son, Spangler Software Incredibles Robotics & SSI Robotics, Hollywood

G-Force, 4-H/GEARS, Inc., McHenry, Md. (Garrett County)


Tournament Champion Awards

Presented by CSM Interim Chair Business and Technology Department Robert Gates for TIME Center

1st: Under the Son, Spangler Software Incredibles Robotics & SSI Robotics, Hollywood

2nd: Craftsmen, Boy Scout Troop 793, Ellicott City

3rd: Tactical Sheep, New Covenant Christian Academy, Forest Hill (Harford County)


Finalist Awards

Presented by FIRST Assistant Regional Director for Maryland Bill Duncan

1st: 4-H Techno Clovers, 4-H/GEARS, Inc., Accident, Md. (Garrett County)

2nd: G-Force, 4-H/GEARS, Inc., McHenry, Md. (Garrett County)

3rd: Grizzl-E, Garrison Forest School, Owings Mills


Inspire Award Presented by BAE Systems

Presented by Tom Garrison, director, Systems Development and Integration Operation (SDIO) BAE Systems

G-Force, 4-H/GEARS, Inc., McHenry, Md. (Garrett County)