When the Monarch Global Academy Robotics Team won first place for their robot's design at the First Lego League Robotics Competition at Prince George's Community College, the team's success was deemed "uncommon" among first-year teams.
"Some schools have had teams and programs running for years, so as a first-year team, I am overwhelmed by our accomplishments," said Shane Conrad, seventh grade Humanities teacher and sponsor of Monarch's robotics team.
Conrad started the club during the 2016-17 school year. It became a competitive team in October 2017. This year, Monarch Global Academy Robotics team competed alongside approximately 400 middle schoolers in 21 qualifying rounds across Maryland. T
he team of 10 students from grades fifth through eighth also took fourth place for Robot Performance in a First Lego League qualifying round. The team advanced to the Maryland Championship held at University of Maryland Baltimore Campus, where they placed 15th of 72 teams overall.
Although the robotics club is new, Conrad began a similar club at his previous school.
"When I arrived at Monarch it was something I was passionate about," Conrad said. "Our principal, Donna O'Shea, immediately backed my enthusiasm with a significant investment from the school to purchase the required materials to begin a new club. From there I simply had to let students know.
"The first inception of the club was only targeted at two grade levels. Just within that group I had over 25 students participate."
The teacher attributes his team's victory to a combination of things. The judges consider the length of time a team has been together, as well as the intricacies of the robot.
"My students really had a knack for learning higher level programming which I was able to teach them," Conrad said. "Their being able to show and understand that programming, was exceptionally impressive for a first-year team. The judging takes into account the length of a team's existence together, and for our team to produce the level of complexity we had, was on par with teams who had been competing together for four or five years or more."
Monarch's robot was a battery-powered vehicle the size of a tissue box with wheels and arms built from Lego Mindstorm parts. The automated robots compete by navigating and completing specific tasks on a table-top course.
The course depicts miniaturized representations of real-life problems like food safety, recycling, energy, water conservation and hydrodynamics. While navigating the competition course, the students learn STEM fundamentals by applying science, technology, engineering and math to complete their tasks.
"The sense of accomplishment I feel is a great reward for them," said Conrad of his students. "For many of them this was the first competitive experience they have ever had, and then to do so well was a dream come true. The future is bright for the Monarch Butterflies."
A second Monarch Robotics Team, Mighty Monarchs (a younger team coached by Tomeka Walker) received perfect scores in a round of the Wonder League Robotics Competition. Mighty Monarch's team consists of first graders Tyler Blake and Charles Umoh, along with third graders Chanel Umoh and Gabrielle Walker.
To qualify, Mighty Monarch members met weekly to write computer code programming a toaster-sized Wonder Workshop robot on wheels to complete three space-themed missions on a colorful mat. They are the second robotics team at Monarch Global Academy to win in competition this year.
The Fort Meade Retired Officers' Wives' Club will meet May 1 at 11 a.m. at Club Meade, 6600 Mapes Road. This will be the year-end meeting and will include the installation of next year's new board.
Classical and jazz guitarist, Paris Spivey, will perform for the membership. Cost of the buffet luncheon is $20, reservations required. Call Debbie Alexander at 703-328-8242 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meade Steel Drums Ensemble Goes International
The Instrumental Music Association of Meade Senior High School's is collaborating with international recording artist Liam Teague in a concert on May 4. Teague spends the week as the Musician in Residence at Meade High School.
The steel drum concert that is open to the public. The concert begins at 7 p.m. at Meade Senior High School, 1100 Clark Road.
Tickets are $7 for general seating, $10 for VIP seating center stage. For more information call 410-674-7710.