Glenelg robotics

Glenelg softball and girls soccer coach Dean Sheridan helps his school's robotics club build a robot for competition. (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam / June 17, 2010)

At Glenelg High, a robot named "The Dean" is this summer's big star.

The robot is designed, built and programmed by students of the school's robotics club, founded in 2001 under the direction of longtime teacher and softball/girls soccer coach Dean Sheridan.

Under the name "Team 888 Glenelg Robotiators," the club will take The Dean to Indianapolis in mid-July to compete at the Indiana Robotics Invitational. A group of 25 students had six weeks, beginning in January, to make the robot. Then the team finished in the top 24 among 350 competitors at the World Robotics Championships in Atlanta in April — its best finish in its nine years.


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These days, the task at hand is fine-tuning the robot for next month's competition. The team meets up to three times a week at the high school in preparation, and even more when the competition dates — July 16-17 — grow closer.

For Sheridan, who teaches calculus and engineering design and guided both the girls soccer and softball teams to state playoff appearances this past school year, developing the robotics club gave him another chance to mentor promising students while helping keep his competitive fire lit when he's away from coaching. He started coaching at Glenelg in 1980 and teaching there in 1984.

"The main benefit the kids get out of it is the early education in problem solving — it's at a higher level than what you find in a regular classroom. The pace at which you have to design and build a fairly sophisticated machine really requires the kids to work through a lot of things. … It's really all-encompassing," Sheridan said.

Since 2004, every senior who was a member of the robotics team has been able to go to the engineering college of his or her choice.

"In middle school, I was part of the Lego Robotics Team there and I heard about the robotics club at Glenelg and went to see one of their competitions, and I thought it was really cool," said Steve Morton, a rising senior who also plays soccer. "It's a lot of fun. I personally want to grow up to be a programmer, so the programming aspect of it really caught my interest and brought me into the program."

Sheridan added praise to NASA, the Glenelg Booster Club and W.R. Grace — a specialty chemicals and materials company — for its strong support of the program.

Glenelg also has helped other schools in Howard County — Atholton, Hammond and Marriotts Ridge — to start robotics clubs, along with a number of others throughout the state.

Sean Welsh, Havre de Grace, baseball

A Havre de Grace alum who played baseball at Towson University, Welsh, 27, enjoyed his first season coaching the Warriors this spring. As for the summer? Not surprisingly, more baseball. Welsh is a freelance writer and can often be found at Camden Yards covering the Orioles for MLB.com.

"I cover games for MLB.com because it's something I genuinely enjoy doing, but it certainly benefits the coaching aspect of my life, too. If I can tell a student-athlete, 'Watch the game tonight and you'll see Nick Markakis do it this way,' what I'm trying to teach has more impact than having kids watch me show them the fundamentals in the gym. I find any anecdote I can take back to my team from a big league clubhouse to be beneficial," Welsh said.

Welsh also plans to enjoy his daughter's second birthday and prepare to welcome his family's first boy, due in September.

Jackie Boswell, Seton Keough, girls basketball and softball

For many high school basketball coaches, summer means working camps and coaching Amateur Athletic Union teams, but Boswell has cut down on that to spend time with her three favorite athletes — daughters Kayla, 10; Elayna, 9; and Tessa, 6.

"I absolutely love having three daughters and being able to just be with them, having every day to ourselves with my husband working. I like the relax time. I like getting up at 9 o'clock in the morning and not to be rushed. By the end of the summer, I'm ready to go back. I just want to use the summer to recharge and be with them."

Boswell will work a few camps, including one at Seton Keough and one at the University of Florida, which gives her a chance to visit her 91-year-old grandmother, Vincie Cordery, who lives about an hour from Gainesville. Boswell's husband, Tony, and the girls will join her there for a short vacation.

Mike Moynihan, Mount Hebron, volleyball