2013 Baltimore City Robotics Olympiad

160 Middle Schools (bigger than the middle school division at worlds!)

Two divisions with 4 fields each!!!

81 qualification matches for each division

Tons and tons of awards!

Yay Baltimore! Yay Joshua Gabrielse for the 4th year of pulling this off! Yay to all of the people that volunteered time and a huge amount of effort!

I went down to the 2013 Baltimore City Robotics Olympiad on sort of a whim. I had been the first two years at the Fair Grounds and was interested to see what their new location at Coppin State University would be like.

WOW oh WOW. It is huge! 8 fields along one set of stands, pit space for 170 teams. And there was still room to walk around. So I donned my special robot event shoes, met up with the event organizer Joshua Gabrielse, and said I was here to help. He assigned me to tech support, since I had some VEX skills and could help make sure all of the robots moved during the day.

Pretty soon hundreds of people started flooding the area (quick math says 160 teams * (3 roboteers + 1 teacher) + 70 volunteers = 710 people) in a sea of brightly colored shirts. Music came up (a great job by the DJ, no Polka, no Cotton Eye Joe!!!) roboteer chatter and off we went.

Pretty amazing robots and play for roboteers that saw their first VEX metal 5 weeks ago. Lots of protobot like robots, but a lot of upgrades and improvements to the designs. When I spoke to some of the judges later they said it was hard to pick the best out of so many robots and so many variations.

RECF was represented by Jim Crane our new regional support person along with two veteran support team members from Florida. Nice to see that RECF is able to supply people to events.

Scores in the matches were upper teens, mid 20’s, to be expected with new roboteers. Not many autonomous programs, but I did help a few teams that came over help getting simple ones in place (Aim at the ball, roll forward with the arm up and knock it off). Some mechanical things were interesting to fix on some of the more complex robots.

I did my standard survey “Did you learn something? Did you have fun? Did you get hurt?” to see how the day went. Had to revise my questions since it turns out that middle school roboteers have a higher incident of “hurt” (mostly due to running when they were not supposed to) so I revamped to ask “Would you do this again?”) ~50 teams surveyed and ~20 volunteer staff gave thumbs up to all three answers. (And a large amount said "Yes I had fun, but I’m tired).

Kudo’s to Joshua Gabrielse for pulling this off for the 4th year. I know the amount of work that goes into events, it was very impressive. Everything I touched from admin setups, pits, fields, judging space, volunteer break space (and food!) was great. Clap hands for Ron for being an amazing Head Ref (he’s soooo good) and his team of refs (mostly from REX??) that did a great job. Judges under Erik and Mary along with help from Jenny were awesome. All the judges I talked to were excited about their part in the day.

Major Way to Go to all the volunteer staff that set up, ran and packed up the event. You made the final event for 600 roboteers and teachers something to remember.

I want to do a special shout out to one of the coaches for the “600 teams” at the event. In a sea of chaos of robteers and robots he was an island of calmness. “No Yelling” was his mantra, and he was able to keep a calm head ( and extend that calmness to his roboteers). He must have been doing it for awhile, since the 600 alliance was the Science Division winners.

Nice job of mentoring with a purpose, not flailing around!

Foster, it was a pleasant surprise to see you at the event. Thanks for all your help!

Most of these teams (some were 5th graders) had less than 4 weeks - 2 hours/day to build. They traveled to one of 11 sites around the city for the program. The bus system is a big part of the program logistics. They also take math and reading classes for 2 hours/day and then they get to build robots. The program was held for 2 summers and then last year Baltimore City Schools received a very competitive federal grant for another 3 years.

Each team got to experience a Scrimmage day where they learned HOW to compete before the Olympiad. How to queue, plug in, be on time, ask for help.

These 160 teams won’t exist after this summer, but the plan is that many of the dozens of teachers involved and the hundreds of students will form Vex teams at their home schools. This has happened in the previous years, and there are more teachers each year getting more comfortable with robotics.

A shout out to Mary and Erik, both experienced Judge Advisors in Maryland and both Northrop Grumman engineers for all their efforts guiding the judges. Judging 160 teams is not for the faint of heart. Judges came from industry and the school system (including the accountability office) and were both veterans and rookies. There were also many loyal returning volunteers - who helped with the scrimmages and this event - including experienced alumni from teams in Maryland. Cameron and Nik from Florida were also a great help and thank you to RECF for including them.

Here is the link to some of the press from the event: http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2013/07/31/think-math-science-are-boring-city-students-use-them-to-make-robots/