April 27, 2017

Generous Gift Boosts Robotics Team

Robotics Team Margaret Brent MS

The Margaret Brent Middle School robotics team received new equipment just in time to register two teams for the upcoming Southern Maryland Junior VEX IQ Challenge on Jan. 14. Thanks to The Patuxent Partnership members, AVIAN LLC and RPI Group Inc., the school can now accommodate the large number of students who want to participate in the robotics program this year.

Student participation in the robotics program exploded this year, jumping from two students last season to more than 30 participants for the 2016-2017 program.

“I was overjoyed to see the number of students interested in robotics this year,” said Debbie Orgel, MBMS robotics coordinator. “Then I was overwhelmed by lack of equipment the school had to support that many students. The team started fundraising immediately, but I knew we wouldn’t be able to raise that amount of money in time for the tournament.”

Junior VEX IQ ChallengeThat’s when Kevin Switick, president of AVIAN, and Robert Pleban, president of RPI Group, came to the rescue and purchased kits and competition equipment so the school could register two teams for the Jan. 14 tournament.

“We are so thankful to Kevin and Robert for their generosity. Without their support, we could not have accommodated the large number of students this year. The team is excited to have such wonderful sponsors,” Ms. Orgel said.

Robotics programs have been gaining momentum in Southern Maryland over the past several years. With local teams, such as the RoboBees, Great Mills High School, and Ridge Elementary capturing national and world titles, the community is taking notice. As more and more schools join the robot revolution, community support is going to be critical.

“Investing in students is an investment in our own company’s future,” Mr. Switick said. “These are future AVIAN engineers in training and giving them the tools and materials to learn is a small price to pay for the return on investment in the future.”

Mr. Pleban sees the advantages of robotics programs in early education as a powerful motivator for engaging students in STEM fields.

“Many people view robotics as an ‘engineering-centered’ STEM activity, but robotics programs are so much more. The coding/programming necessary to successfully compete in these tournaments is astounding. These students are technology and computer savvy by the time they enter high school and bring an amazing skillset to the workforce,” Mr. Pleban said. “With a projected 51 percent increase in computer science positions over the next five years, robotics programs should be common place in school curriculum if we want to ensure a qualified workforce.”

For further information about VEX IQ and the CSM Robotics Challenge, click here.

For more information about TPP’s STEM initiatives, click here.

About The Patuxent Partnership

The Patuxent Partnership works with government, industry, and academia on initiatives in science and technology, hosts programs of interest to NAVAIR and the broader DoD community, and supports workforce development including education initiatives and professional development. Call 301-866-1739.

To learn more about The Patuxent Partnership and its programs, visit its Leader member page.

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