Spears & Gears Robotics Team

Havre de Grace High School Spears and Gears Robotics Team members, from left, Kenny Hallock, Allison Grabowski and Tucker Barnes and team mentor Tim Corbin watch as their robot goes through inspection at the recent FTC Maryland Championship. The team placed 14th overall and fourth among public schools entered. (Photo courtesy of Shawna Ashman, Homestead Publishing / March 11, 2013)

At the recent Maryland state championship for the FTC class of FIRST Robotics, the Havre de Grace High School Spears and Gears team placed 14th among 32 teams entered in the competition held at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel.

The small Havre de Grace robotics team, consisting of Allison Grabowski, team captain and lead engineer; Tucker Barnes, software programming; and Kenny Hallock, worked feverishly in weeks leading up to the Feb. 23 competition to complete and refine its Bot, according to team faculty advisor Craig Kostyshyn.

After five rounds of intense competition at the state championship, Spears and Gears posted two wins, one tie and two losses and accumulated scoring points for its final state ranking of 14th.

"It is worthy to note that the Havre de Grace HS based team was the fourth-ranked team in the state among teams that were based in public school systems, and the only FTC team fielded by a HCPS school," Kostyshyn said. "This 14th place state ranking and fourth among all public school based teams was the best performance by the HHS Robotics Team to date, and we hope this will be a harbinger of future success."

Teams competing in the state championship had to qualify by virtue of wins or awards earned during the regular season. The finalists competed in 40 separate matches teamed with different "Alliance" partners, according to Kostyshyn, who also noted the robotics action was competitive and intense, with hundreds of students and mentors attending the event from all over the state.

In addition to Kostyshyn, the other FTC Team 4141-Spears and Gears mentors are Shawna Ashman, team manager and public relations, and Tim Corbin, software and programming support.

The team members and mentors extend special thanks to the following companies, organizations and individuals who contributed to our team's success this year: Altus Engineering, Tony Steelman CEO, financial and equipment support; HHS PTSA and Pat's Restaurant, fund-raising; Army - Army Research Laboratory, past program support and robot parts; Chris Hoppel of Tech Brick Robotics, past program support; and Marie Hallock-Sweet, logistical support.

The FIRST Robotics Program, which is For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, is the premier STEM education program in the country, with more than 7,000 teams in the FTC class alone and with membership of more than 300,000 individuals.

FIRST Robotics Tech Challenge, or FTC, competition, combines the disciplines of science and engineering to problem solve within set constraints.

According to the HHS Spears and Gears advisors and mentors, the program creates the opportunity for students to engage in science and engineering practices in a completely "hands-on" fashion within a format that is both challenging and rewarding, but is also loads of fun.