Homeschoolers Joshua Driesman,  Aidan Merryman, John Yalov, Jeremy School and  Morin French have been racking up awards in a series of robotic competitions. 

Through the Howard County Horizon 4-H Club, the 12th grade students formed the robotic team Green Machine to attend local, regional and state competitions, including a recent win at the FIRST Tech Challenge State Robotics Championship. 

According to Tim French, a Maryland Extension Service volunteer and team supporter, the Green Machine builds robots for competition, designing both the software and hardware, with the goal of creating a custom machine that will perform specific tasks better than the designs of their opponents.

"Our 4-H Club Robotics team has earned 1 of 128 slots to compete in a competition that had over 3,000 teams competing for those slots. It's a big deal. At least in the STEM world it is," French said.    

Coached by Amber Driesman with mentors Andrew Driesman, Mike Turner and Jon Merryman, the team's most recent accolade came when competing as one of seven Maryland teams at the Northeast Super-Regional competition held in York, Pa., April 3 through 5. The Green Machine finished as a finalist in their division, earning them one of the 20 coveted slots to advance to the World Tournament in St. Louis, Mo., April 23 through 26. 

Another local student group, the Ragnarok Robotics, Mount Hebron High School's robotics team, recently took their 2014 custom robot, nicknamed "The Hammer of the Gods," to the FIRST Robotics in Maryland Chesapeake Regional Competition held at the University of Maryland at College Park's Comcast Center

"FIRST Robotics Competition is the highest level of STEM learning activity that high school students can reach, said one of the team mentors, Jeff Becraft.  "FRC is known as "Sports for the Mind," and "The Hardest Fun Ever" because the program is deliberately designed to align closely with the intense level of work and preparation that is required of traditional varsity level high school sports."

It took six weeks to design, build, program and test Hammer of the Gods by team members Sachin Kumar, Chase Louden, Anuj Apte, Jimmy Nolan, Joe Nolan, Kevin Johnson, David Allen, Karthik Ganesh, Navin Bhattarai, Kevin Nolan, Ime Essien, Brandon Serrano, Jackson Pugliese, Rory Nolan, Brian Park, Karen Osei-Boamah, Evan Chen, Handa Chun, Caroline Crocker, Vincent Pugliese, Jared Clabough, Hanseung Chun, Spencer Becraft, Dustin Brashear, Andrew Choi, Quentin Huyett, Shayan Siahpoushan, Noah Torsiello and Ramseii Welton, along with support from mentors Suzette Becraft, Rick Bodziak, Devin Miller, Uttara Apte, Jeff Becraft, Steve Nolan, Bruce Hoelzer, Jim Bothe, David Layshock, Tim Estell  and teacher sponsor Kara Brooks-Odom.

The custom robot competed in FRC's new game, Aerial Assist, that combines elements of basketball and soccer played by two alliances of three robots each. There's a YouTube video, titled 2014 FIRST Robotics Competition Kickoff Broadcast, that demonstrates the Aerial Assist game. 

According Becraft, Mount Hebron's Ragnarok Robotics achieved its highest rank yet at FRC, placing 28th out of a competitive field of 54 teams from around the U.S. and Canada. The team will now turn its attention to recruiting new students, parents and mentors as they pursue the championship next year with a new custom robot. For more information about the Ragnarok Robotics, go to the website at http://www.ragnarokrobotics.org.

In other Mt. Hebron High school news, the first annual Marching Band Unit's Band-A-Thon is Friday, April 25, from 3 to 8:30 p.m. at the school.  The community is welcome to enjoy music by the jazz band, percussion ensemble and Dixeland Combo as well as special performances by the Cavaliers flag group and Lancers dancers. Younger children will have the opportunity to meet and talk with band members. Dinner and dessert from La Pearl Waffle truck and Upslide Down Dave will be available for purchase. And don't miss Lite FM 101.9,  especially the prize wheel from 3 to 5 p.m. 

On Saturday, April 26, Bethany United Methodist Church will hold a pancake breakfast and flea market to raise money to support the United Methodist Church's "Imagine No Malaria" campaign. From 8 to 10:30 a.m, breakfast will be served, including pancakes, sausage, fruit cocktail, hot apples, orange and/or apple juice, coffee, and milk, for a donation of $7 adults; $4 children under 12 and $20 per family of 4 or more.

From 8 a.m to 1 p.m., visit the 30-table flea market featuring original craft works, candles, holiday centerpieces, Chinese Christian art, vintage comic books, ceramics and glass work, Franciscan Desert Rose pieces and more. The church is at 2875 Bethany Lane in Ellicott City.