Tiny robots take over Havre de Grace High for technical challenge tourney

Havre de Grace High School was taken over by tiny robots Saturday, Feb. 9, as 13 teams from schools and scout troops around the region participated in a daylong Maryland FIRST Tech Challenge qualification tournament.

Saturday's tournament, a qualifier for the state final later this month, was hosted by the Spears & Gears Team No. 4141 from Havre de Grace High.

In all, more than 200 people attended the event, including approximately 130 team members and mentors, 45 volunteers who were mostly Havre de Grace High students and about 30 spectators, according to Shawna Ashman, one of the mentors for the host team which did not participate Saturday.

FIRST, which stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, is an organization that encourages development of knowledge in science, math, engineering and technology.

The FIRST Technical Challenge pits teams of high school students applying what they learn in math and science to a real-world robotic program, according to information from FIRST Robotics in Maryland, the state sponsoring organization

Participating teams typically spend hundreds of hours, beginning in September, to build a robot, not more than 18 inches on a side, that is capable of accomplishing a series of tasks in alliance with another robot. The robots competed on a 12- by-12-foot field against an opposing team of two robots.

Teams receive points for how their robots perform, as well as for teamwork and sportsmanship and for the engineering process they followed and how they think "outside the box," according to FIRST Robotics Maryland.

Both top awards in Saturday's qualifier at HHS went to The Baybillies Team No. 8180, from Bohemia Manor High School in Chesapeake City. The Patriots, from John Carroll School in Bel Air, was the only Harford County team in the competition, which also drew teams from Baltimore, Howard County, Baltimore City and Howard and Montgomery counties.

Among the spectators attending were Havre de Grace Mayor Wayne Dougherty and Harford State Sen. Barry Glassman.

Members of the host Spears & Gears team are Tucker Barnes and Allison Grabowski, who are both HHS juniors. In addition to Ashman, other team mentors are Craig Kostyshyn, a biology teacher at HHS, and Tim Corbin, who graduated from HHS last year and is a former team member.

The Havre de Grace High team previously qualified for the state tournament with its finish in a tournament held at the U.S. Naval Academy on Jan. 12.

The Maryland FTC Championship will be held on Feb. 23 at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab in Laurel.

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