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A crowd at the College of Southern Maryland learned about the nuts and bolts of the upcoming robotics competition season at a kickoff event last month at the La Plata campus.

Lego and VEX robotics teams, coaches and mentors of elementary, middle and high school teams in the tri-county area were invited to learn about changes to competitions this year and to learn the rules of this year’s games, “Green City” and “Sack Attack.”

Bernice Brezina, an engineering professor at the college and the program’s event coordinator, said this year, with the campus’s robotics team, the Talons, entering its second year, the program for all three counties is undergoing slight changes to allow for better competition odds in the region. The college will sponsor a Southern Maryland VEX Robotics league for those competing in the senior division, which will include a minimum of 24 teams. Brezina said she hopes the league will offer more chances for area teams to compete at higher levels.

“At our competitions last year, we had teams come from all over to compete here,” Brezina said. “We hope that through the league and closing competition off to just include teams in this region, we can offer these teams a better chance to go off and compete at more than just the regional level.”

The robotics program now requires more involvement because it has grown to include more people, Brezina said.

“It will require a lot more volunteers compared to what we have done in past years, but we can be sure now that our efforts and resources will be supporting our own students in our community,” Brezina said. “CSM relies on the support of sponsors and many volunteers to provide these exciting robotics programs to the students in our community.”

Because the college recognizes that competing may be cost-prohibitive for some, Brezina said sponsors are especially necessary, as parts for robots in the VEX competition can cost up to $1,500. The college is able to fund some of the necessary outlays but relies in part on the support of the community.

In the past, college Development Director Martina Arnold said, the robotics program has seen support from a variety of organizations, including Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative and PNC Bank.

Willy Hamel, an electrical engineering student at CSM and captain of the Talons, said he and his teammates participated in about three competitions last year and has designed two robots for this year’s competition.

“We’re very hopeful ... [the robots] are already at a better stage than they were this time last year,” Hamel said. “Being able to work on them over the summer with the lab really helped a lot. There’s still some issues to work out, but I think we’ll do well going forward.”

lrenner@somdnews.com

To learn more

The CSM Robotics Challenge Junior Division is kicking off the new season with a training workshop for the “Green City” Lego Competition on Oct. 13 from 9 a.m. to noon at the College of Southern Maryland, Leonardtown campus, Building A, Room A-302. The same workship will be held at CSM’s Prince Frederick campus, Room PFA 221, on Oct. 27. The workshops are for coaches and mentors who wish to enter their teams in the April 13, 2013, competition.

Deadline to register for competition is Oct. 27. To register a team for the competition or to register for the workshop, email CSM Professor Bernice Brezina at berniceb@csmd.edu. For information on CSM robotics competitions, visit www.csmd.edu/istem/robotics.html.

For more information on the CSM Robotics program, go to www.csmd.edu/istem/robotics.html or contact Bernice Brezina at berniceb@csmd.edu.