CSM ro­bot­ics team wins Startup Mary­land prize

Talons pitched idea at road show stop in In­dian Head

Maryland Independent - - Business -

The Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land Talons ro­bot­ics team gave a ro­bot­ics demon­stra­tion for vis­i­tors to Startup Mary­land’s STRT1UP Road Show last month in In­dian Head and ended up walk­ing away with a $500 prize.

Dozens of en­trepreneurs in the re­gion stopped by to pitch ideas for new busi­nesses and in­no­va­tions on the Pitch Across Mary­land bus which had been tour­ing dif­fer­ent re­gions of the state. South­ern Mary­land’s stop on the three­week bus tour was Sept. 16 at the In­dian Head Vil­lage Green Pavilion.

Thomas Lug­in­bill, the direc­tor of the newly formed CSM En­trepreneur and In­no­va­tion In­sti­tute, said in a news re­lease that In­dian Head was an ideal spot for the tour stop and that he rec­om­mend the ro­bot­ics team at­tend the event.

“The Naval Sur­face War­fare Cen­ter at In­dian Head spe­cial­izes in ex­plo­sive ord­nance dis­posal (EOD) ro­bot­ics tech­nol­ogy,” he said. “Bring­ing the ro­bot­ics stu­dents to In­dian Head was a per­fect way to high­light our young in­no­va­tors and show the com­mu­nity some of our fu­ture EOD re­search sci­en­tists.”

While the stu­dents only planned to hold a ro­bot­ics demon­stra­tion and al­low vis­i­tors to drive the ro­bot around, they were un­ex­pect­edly asked to make a busi­ness pitch, said Ber­nice Brez­ina, in­terim chair­woman of CSM’s Busi­ness and Tech­nol­ogy Di­vi­sion. She said they weren’t sure what to pitch, so she sug­gested they pitch the idea of start­ing other col­lege ro­bot­ics teams in the state.

“You al­ways talk about want­ing to com­pete with other com­mu­nity col­lege teams in the state, and there aren’t any. You al­ways say you’d like to help other col­leges get started,” Brez­ina re­called telling the stu­dents. “Talk about that.”

So the Talons mem­bers pitched their idea to ad­vise other com­mu­nity col­leges on how to start their own ro­bot­ics teams and ended up win­ning the $500 prize, which the team in­tends to put to­ward the project.

“The Talons ro­bot­ics team is a class act and an ex­tremely well-run or­ga­ni­za­tion,” Lug­in­bill said. “This team shows how fac­ulty and stu­dents can come to­gether in a fun and col­lab­o­ra­tive learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment. We wanted the com­mu­nity to see that ed­u­ca­tion can still be fun.”

Brez­ina has been lead ad­vi­sor for the team since its start in 2010, though fac­ulty mem­bers Ronda Ja­cobs and Wil­liam Luys­ter have since taken over man­age­ment of the ro­bot­ics club and Talons team.

Ja­cobs said the ro­bot­ics team of­ten re­ceives in­quiries from other schools want­ing in­for­ma­tion on what the Talons team does and sug­ges­tions for how to start a com­pet­i­tive team. The col­lege also has a ro­bot­ics club that meets once a month dur­ing the school year. Mem­bers of the Talons team are se­lected from the club, and they meet twice a week dur­ing the school year and dur­ing the sum­mer.

“CSM has had great suc­cess with our ro­bot­ics pro­gram,” Ja­cobs said. “The Talons can def­i­nitely help other teams. And the prize money will help team mem­bers for­mu­late a plan to help di­rect other col­leges.”

The col­lege hosts qual­i­fiers for the VEX U World Championship at its La Plata Cam­pus, and the team finds it­self com­pet­ing with ma­jor uni­ver­si­ties, which in the past have in­cluded such schools as Ge­orge Ma­son, Univer­sity of Mary­land Bal­ti­more County, Pur­due and Old Do­min­ion. Qual­i­fy­ing rounds this win­ter are Jan. 6 and Feb. 3.

In 2015, the Talons earned the Com­mu­nity Award at the VEX U World Championship.

“We en­joy host­ing the qual­i­fiers,” Brez­ina said. “It’s a good op­por­tu­nity to high­light the col­lege’s aca­demic pro­grams, and it brings to­gether stu­dents, fac­ulty and engi­neers in the com­mu­nity.”

CSM also holds several other STEM — science, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and math — events for local schools at the ele­men­tary, mid­dle and high school lev­els. Club mem­bers at­tend­ing ex­pos, STEM nights at local schools and give demon­stra­tions in the com­mu­nity. The club also helped to set up the aca­demic ro­bot­ics lab at CSM’s Leonard­town Cam­pus.

“We have a very ac­tive STEM out­reach pro­gram at CSM and only one leg of that is ro­bot­ics,” Brez­ina said. “We host com­pe­ti­tions with rep­re­sen­ta­tion from nearly ev­ery pub­lic school in the re­gion. And that in­cludes pri­vate schools, home-school­ers and other Scout­ing and 4-H groups.” The col­lege has formed Lego and VEX ro­bot­ics leagues for mid­dle and high school teams.

“Leagues keep us very busy,” Ja­cobs said. “We com­pete like a sports league with mul­ti­ple week­end com­pe­ti­tions and league play ses­sions, all lead­ing up to a championship event.”

Ro­bot­ics is an area of con­cen­tra­tion within the col­lege’s en­gi­neer­ing tech­nol­ogy pro­gram.

“CSM started the Cer­tifi­cate of Ro­bot­ics Tech­nol­ogy pro­gram last year,” Brez­ina said. “We have the first group of stu­dents — four who started about a year and a half ago — who will be grad­u­at­ing with the cer­tifi­cate this se­mes­ter in the win­ter grad­u­a­tion.” Pro­gram cred­its count to­ward an as­so­ci­ate de­gree in en­gi­neer­ing tech­nol­ogy.

The Busi­ness and Tech­nol­ogy Di­vi­sion also plans ca­reer aware­ness events dur­ing the se­mes­ter. A ro­bot­ics pre­sen­ta­tion and re­cruit­ing event was held in Septem­ber. Loc­cioni USA Inc. rep­re­sen­ta­tives vis­ited the Leonard­town Cam­pus to present its ro­bot­ics tech­nolo­gies and dis­cuss their in­ter­est in re­cruit­ing CSM stu­dents.

Lug­in­bill said several groups came to­gether to get the Startup Mary­land bus to stop in Charles County in­clud­ing CSM, Small Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Cen­ter, Tech Fire, En­er­get­ics Tech­nol­ogy Cen­ter, Charles County govern­ment, the Town of In­dian Head, Charles County Cham­ber of Com­merce, NAVSEA and South­ern Mary­land In­no­va­tion & Tech­nol­ogy.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Mem­bers of the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land ro­bot­ics team at­tend the Startup Mary­land Pitch Across Mary­land event in In­dian Head last month. The stu­dents pitched an idea to help other com­mu­nity col­leges start their own ro­bot­ics teams and won a $500 prize. From left are Joseph May of La Plata, Ge­orge Jenk­ins of Port To­bacco, pres­i­dent of the CSM Ro­bot­ics Club, Ed­ward Gesser of Mechanicsville, WenXing Lin of St. Leonard and John Hamel of Mechanicsville.

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