Owings Mills, New Town high schools assemble winning robotics teams

As any successful team knows, a run to the championship of anything requires as much luck as it does skill.

Owings Mills and New Town high schools' robotics teams had both Nov. 19.

Teams from Owings Mills and New Town high schools combined with Towson High's B Team won the Baltimore County Public Schools VEX Robotics Competition at the Maryland State Fairgrounds, in Timonium.

"This is the first time New Town has had a robotics team. Their hard work paid off," said Kimberley Simms, faculty advisor to the team, who said the team worked for six to seven weeks to prepare for the contest." The kids are pretty excited. They were surprised they made it, but they did a good job."

The competition required teams to build and program robots for an event that involved putting different sized spheres and cylinders into goals. Teams face off in a series of matches.

Owings Mills and New Town high schools ultimately qualified to participate in the VEX World Championships next April in Anaheim, Calif.

Ron Rivers — who, along with Fred and Robyn Needel, was a mentor to the Owings Mills team — attributes the team's win to good preparation.

"We pushed our team to understand the strategy, so when we got to the competition, it was second nature," said Rivers, who explained that the team practiced on Thursday before the competition on a field at the Girl Scouts Headquarters in Baltimore. On the Friday night before the competition on Saturday, the team helped set up at the fairgrounds and then used that field to practice again.

"We were battle ready," Rivers said.

The invitation to the world competition is a high honor but will come with a price.

The entry fee for the World Championships, which includes the cost of parts for a robot, is $750, and sending four students from New Town and 15 from Owings Mills to California for a week could cost as much as $1,000 per person — potentially putting the event out of the team's price range.

Simms said the team is holding fundraisers selling doughnuts and pizza to raise money for the trip to California. They are also looking for a corporate sponsor, she said.

Rivers said his team is also looking for corporate sponsors and holding fundraisers.

At this point, there might be a shortage of funds to get to the world competition, but Rivers said there's no shortage of enthusiasm from the Owings Mills team.

"They're psyched," Rivers said.

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