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.
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
Moynihan doesn't mind stepping out of his comfort zone, and he will step way out of it this month when he heads to Jinja, Uganda, to work with teachers at a school for AIDS orphans. On the 19-day journey, six American teachers will work with educators at the school for grades 1 through 7 to help them actively engage their large classes. As a high school teacher, Moynihan is not used to working with little kids, and he has never been to Africa.
"Just seeing Africa is going to be so awesome," said Moynihan, who spent time in Asia and Europe while in the Air Force. "On our one day off, we get to go rafting on the Nile."
Oh, and he's stowing something away in his luggage — six volleyballs to donate to the school.
George Petrides, City, football and girls basketball
For nearly 30 years, Petrides has spent his summers at the pool. The coach manages Swan Lake Swim Club, where he has given a lot of city public school students summer jobs.
It hasn't been all work for Petrides over the years. He met his wife of 26 years, Mary Theresa, at the pool when he was an assistant manager and she was a lifeguard. Two of their five children — Christina and Stephanie — also have worked at the pool.
"I enjoy being outside and working with the people. It's a nice swim club, a lot of nice people here. I get to hire lifeguards, and I try to help a lot of the kids from the city schools. I have guards here from Western, Poly, City. I have college kids here. It's just been a good experience," said Petrides, who lets his assistant coaches run the Knights' summer lifting program and fits in a week of family vacation at Rehoboth Beach, Del.
Krystin Porcella, John Carroll, girls lacrosse
Porcella had two vacations planned for August but both ended up in the path of tryouts for the U.S. Under-19 team, which she will coach next summer at the Federation of International Lacrosse Women's U-19 World Championships in Gottingen, Germany.
As for the rest of the summer, "It's never really a summer vacation anymore since you're at a school. We do camps all summer long," Porcella said with a laugh, adding that she will slip in a couple of days of family vacation at Bethany Beach, Del.
Among those lacrosse camps, Porcella will run a new overnight camp at Rocks State Park and a combination camp at John Carroll with lacrosse half the day and field hockey or soccer the other half. She also plays in a pick-up league Wednesday nights at Cedar Lane Park in Bel Air that, like some of her camps, brings back many Patriots lacrosse alums, including Ally Carey and Casey Ancarrow.
Tony Ruocco, Kenwood, football and boys lacrosse
Family time takes up the better part of Ruocco's summer as he plans a lot of trips to the pool, the movies and the library with his daughters Sophia, 7, and Olivia, 4.
"My wife went back to work full time, so that kind of makes me Mr. Mom for the summer," said Ruocco, whose wife, Rachel, is expecting their third child in January.
The family will travel to the Finger Lakes region of New York to visit both sides of the family. Ruocco also will head to Indianapolis for the National Federation of State High School Associations boys lacrosse rules committee meeting, study for his Certified Athletic Administrator exam in July, manage the weight room at Kenwood three nights a week and coach the Bluebirds in a seven-on-seven football league. Still, he said, he should have enough time for a couple rounds of golf a week.