Members of the Glenelg High School robotics square are, back row: Ryan Bacon, Patrick Mullinix, Mark Carman, Raymond Gerstner, Benjamin Perlman, Dean Sheridan, Matthew Owen, Nicholas Lawson, Michael Borkoski, Robert Borkoski, and front row:  Ben Miller, Colleen Regan, Jimmy Mielke, Yosh Shah, Robert Anderson. Not pictured are   Meghan Finnan, Connor Hall, Evan Paregol, Sharon Puthumana, and Ross Vechery,   (submitted photo / April 9, 2014)

Have you ever seen a game that looks like a cross between basketball and soccer being played by robots? Do you think you would be able to design and build a robot to play that game?

Sixteen Glenelg High School students, under the guidance of faculty mentors Raymond Gerstner and Dean Sheridan, have done just that, and the robot has performed in two separate regional competitions. The competition is part of the U.S. F.I.R.S.T. (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition Team, and the game is called Aerial Assist.

Aerial Assist is played by two alliances of three teams each. Alliances compete by trying to score points, both in a floor-level goal and in another that is five feet off the ground, during a two and a half minute match. Points are also earned by robots working together to throw and catch the ball as they move the ball toward the goals.

The 2014 season began on Saturday, Jan. 4, when the teams were told how to play Aerial Assist, and received a kit of motors, batteries, a control system, a computer and automation components. The students were given six weeks to design, build and program a robot to play the game. Robots could be designed to catch the ball and kick or throw well. Robots could even be designed as goalies to block the other team from scoring. The ball was two feet in diameter, and the robots had to be sturdy enough to function after being hit by the ball. At the beginning of the match each robot had to act on its own for ten seconds, then the students would take control.

The Glenelg team, consisting of Robert Anderson, Ryan Bacon, Mark Carman, Meghan Finnan, Connor Hall, Nicholas Lawson, Jimmy Mielke, Ben Miller, Patrick Mullinix, Matthew Owen, Evan Paregol, Benjamin Perlman, Sharon Puthumana, Colleen Regan, Yash Shah and Ross Vechery, competed at the Greater D.C. Regional Competition in March.

They had problems controlling the shooting mechanism on their robot. While they were working with their robot, team members were also helping other teams, and they ended the competition by winning the Gracious Professionalism award. Gracious professionalism is an important part of F.I.R.S.T., which emphasizes respecting others while competing against them and learning about science, technology, engineering and math fields.

After the competition was over the Glenelg team fixed the robot's faulty sensors and reprogrammed the robot so it would be able to compete in the Chesapeake Regional Competition, which was held on Saturday, April 5. The team advanced to the elimination rounds in that competition.

Glenelg High School students are learning to be great debaters, as well. Blake Halpin and Nihir Nanavaty qualified in Extemporaneous Speech, and Joseph Cipolla and Edward Taylor qualified in Public Forum at the statewide competition. All four debaters will be attending the national competition at the end of May in Chicago. Competition was intense, as students from over 22 schools in Maryland participated in the state competition. Congratulations and good luck.

The Glenelg United Methodist Church food pantry will be open Saturday, April 19, from 9 to 10 a.m., serving people in need of groceries, toiletries and household products. Both Howard County Food Bank and privately donated items will be given out.

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Glenwood will host a feast on Thursday, Apr. 24 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the church on Route 97. The menu this month will consist of cheesy macaroni and beef casserole prepared by Smokin' Hot Bar & Grille in Glenwood. There will be a vegetarian option as well.

The meal will cost $9 per person with a limit of $30 per family, and children 5 and under are free. You can dine in or carry out. Proceeds will benefit St. Andrew's Vacation Bible School, which will be held July 21 through 25. For more information, email Lynne Quinn at lynnequinn@comcast.net.