The Sounds of Success

CSM Robotics Challenge Results for Senior Division Competition, April 9

            College of Southern Maryland Coordinator, PAX/UMD Engineering Program Robert Marino, with mic-headset moved between two fields of play at the college’s Southern Maryland robotics competition April 9, providing play-by-play and color commentary.

            In the background, the music track mixed by Francisco Legaspi of CSM’s Information Technology Department played a steady techno beat, keeping pace with the level of excitement of the 31 teams from 14 area high and middle schools.

            Event volunteer Lydean Spangler, mic in hand, kept the matches moving by announcing queuing of teams, her volume adjusted to encourage swift action. And, if you listened, above the applause, cheers and banter among teammates, the robot motors could be heard whirring and zooming, and sometimes crashing, in the ring.

            These are the sounds of a successful competition—one that through its many components prepares students for the real-world life of engineers. From out-of-the box thinking and problem-solving, to teamwork and collaboration, to competition and gracious professionalism, robotics events promote exuberant creativity—and offer consolation when creations don’t work as designed.

            For the team of SPEAR-it, from SPEAR (South Potomac Educational Alternative Resource) Academy, a homeschool support group, the competition was a success and they needed no consolation. The team earned the Excellence Award, the highest honor given out in VEX robotics competition, the Robot Skills Award, the Robot Programming Award in a tie with a team from the Dr. James A. Forrest Career and Technology Center and earned the Tournament Champions Award along with fellow alliance teams from St. Mary’s Ryken High School and King’s Christian Academy. Teams who won these top four awards have been invited to the 2012 VEX championship.

CSM Foundation Director Al Leandre, president and chief executive officer of Vyalex Management Solutions, in his welcoming remarks told students that although this competition is a game, their future engineering endeavors could have life-changing and life-saving implications.

For example, in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, U.S. scientists provided robotic assistance to workers at the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, said Leandre. Robots with mounted cameras and sensors built to withstand high levels of radiation provided visuals, radiological surveys and mapping data from within areas of the plant that are not accessible or safe for people. Among the U.S. team were 40 robot operators and programmers, not unlike the students involved in the day’s competition, said Leandre.

            CSM’s Southern Maryland Robotics Championship received major sponsorship from BAE Systems, silver sponsorship from TIME Center, PNC Bank and the Patuxent Partnership, and bronze sponsorship from Charles County Technology Council, CSM Foundation, SAIC and Energetics Technology Center.

On April 27, the Spangler family’s homeschool team of “Under the Son,” of Hollywood, will be one of the teams representing Maryland at the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) World Championships in St. Louis.

On May 7, elementary and middle school teams from Charles and St. Mary’s schools will compete at CSM, with Calvert schools already competing on April 2.

            From the first competition in 2006 with just two high school teams, CSM’s robotics championships have provided exposure to engineering, computer programming and teamwork skills to thousands of students not only in Southern Maryland, but across the state and across the ocean.

            For information on CSM’s robotics competitions and results, visit


Participating Teams

Calvert County

Autonomous Connection, Huntingtown High School

Calvert High A, Calvert High School

Calvert High B, Calvert High School

Plum Point, Plum Point Middle School

Northern Patriots, Northern High School

Panthers, Patuxent High School

Charles County

La Plata, La Plata High School

McDonough High, McDonough High School

Piccowaxen, Piccowaxen Middle School

Thomas Stone 1, Thomas Stone High School

Thomas Stone 2, Thomas Stone High School

Westlake 1, Westlake High School

Westlake 2, Westlake High School

Westlake 3, Westlake High School


St. Mary’s County

Gearheads, St. Michael’s School

Hornet 3, Great Mills High School

Hornet Buzz, Great Mills High School

KCA, King’s Christian Academy

Pacman, Dr. James A. Forrest Career and Technology Center

Raider Robotics 1, Leonardtown High School

Rob2.0, St. Mary’s Ryken High School

Roboco, St. Mary’s Ryken High School

Ryken, St. Mary’s Ryken High School

Shaazam, Dr. James A. Forrest Career and Technology Center

SPEAR-it 1, SPEAR Academy

SPEAR-it 2, SPEAR Academy

St. Mary’s Ryken, St. Mary’s Ryken High School

Techno Terror, Esperanza Middle School

Thunder CATS, Spangler Robotics/SSI Robotics




Support Award

Thomas Stone 1 (898-A)

Presented by Randy Gross, NAWD-AD Robotics Outreach

The Support Award is presented to a team that is always willing to help other teams in need of assistance. There are many forms of “support” that can be given at an event. Leadership, expertise, knowledge and encouragement are some of the most important which make a team worthy of this recognition. This team helped others by providing material support such as batteries and gears. They went out of their way to assist others in need. Also they reached out to others in forming alliances.


Cooperate Award

La Plata (898-C)

Presented by Jason Gousy, NAVAIR Electrical Engineer

The Cooperate Award is presented to a team that demonstrates extraordinary teamwork. This award recognizes a team’s season-long commitment to cooperation and mutual respect both within the team, and to others on the field of play throughout the event. This team was very diverse and composed of fully contributing members. All team members worked well with each other and at a level beyond what would be expected of such a new team.


Community Award

Autonomous Connection Huntingtown High School (1668-A)

Presented by CSM Professor and Biological and Physical Sciences Division Chair Bill Montgomery

This award is presented to a team recognized for making a difference in the community. This team demonstrated strong community building skills and has made many contributions to help support students and teams beyond their own school. This award is given to a team that makes a concerted effort to raise support in their community for technology and education programs. This team helped several local teams start in the VEX program. They have been mentoring middle school teams and recruiting at their own school for future team members.


Future Award

Thunder CATS Spangler Robotics (2843)

Sponsored by Patuxent Partnership

Presented by Flight Test Engineer Scott Buttrill, NAVAIR

The Future Award is presented to a team that demonstrates how the efforts of their team improves their school and/or community, along with showing a vision of the impact this will have on their future. This team gives the judges hope and optimism that the students of today will improve the world as the future innovators, problem solvers and leaders of tomorrow.


Innovate Award

Panthers of Patuxent High School (5525-A)

Sponsored by TIME Center

Presented by Flight Test Engineer Scott Loflin, NAVAIR

The Innovate Award is presented to a team that has demonstrated a strong combination of ingenuity and innovation in designing their VEX robot. This award will typically recognize a specific innovative machine feature, which was designed by thinking outside the box. This team’s design was very solid and well-built. The design incorporated both scoring and defensive techniques. Their ingenuity and design of the robot and their competitive strategy allowed them to focus on winning. The robot’s multi-faceted capabilities prepared it for all phases of competition. They utilized a unique capture cage and a counter weight on the rear to stabilize the robot. These capabilities set them apart from the competition.

Amaze Award

Calvert High School (1670-A)

Presented by Mark Czajka, Charles County Technology Council

The Amaze Award is presented to a team that has built a competition robot that clearly demonstrates overall quality. A solid mechanical design along with demonstrated robot programming, robustness, strong performance and consistency are key attributes for this award. When the judges first approached this athletic team, the team’s first question was “Are we in trouble?” Consistency and strong performance were defined by this team. They were often observed picking up four rings at once and required minimal tweaking between rounds.


Energy Award

Plum Point Middle School (3939)

Presented by CSM Professor and Engineering Coordinator Neal Wilsey

The Energy Award is decided based on team enthusiasm at the event. The winning team demonstrated boundless passion and energy throughout the competition—in the pit area, on the field, in the audience, when their robot was competing and when it was not. This team brought infectious enthusiasm to the competition by their t-shirt design, by encouraging their team members, and by their enjoyment of the competition. During their interview with judges, members often mentioned their enjoyment working with robotics. They gave energy to this event.


Think Award

King’s Christian Academy (3077)

Sponsored by PNC Bank

Presented by CSM Professor Mike Richardson

The Think Award is presented to a team that has successfully utilized autonomous programming modes during competition. Quality, consistency and success of autonomous programs as well as the ability of the students to explain their programming process determined the winner of this award. This team’s robot design was unique in that it used turning wheels at the end of its probe to pick up rings. Additionally, this enabled the robot to pick up multiple rings simultaneously and reverse the operation to deposit them on the stack. On the opposite side of the robot controllers had the ability to lift rings off their opponents’ stick.


Programming Skills Award

SPEAR Academy (855-B)

Dr. James A. Forrest Career and Technology Center, Shaazam (836-A)

Presented by CSM Business and Technology Division Chair Bob Gates

This award is given to the top scorer in the Robot Programming Skills Challenge. In this year’s competition, there was a tie between two teams with a high score of 13.


Robot Skills Award

SPEAR Academy (855-B)

Presented by CSM Business and Technology Division Chair Bob Gates

This award is given to the top scorer in the Robot Skills Challenge. In this year’s competition the high score was 40.


Tournament Finalist Awards