For the fifth consecutive year, the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) Talons robotics team has qualified to compete at the VEX U World Championship, the pinnacle of the university level robotics competitive season. The international tournament will take place April 25-28 in Louisville, Kentucky.
“The Talons’ consistent success is remarkable considering CSM is competing against many four-year schools and even graduate-level students,” said CSM Assistant Professor Ronda Jacobs, who is one of the team’s advisers along with Associate Professor Bill Luyster.
The Talons earned the spot when they competed at the VEX U regional qualifier Feb. 9, against teams that included George Mason University, Loyola University, Virginia Tech, New York Institute of Technology, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Rutgers University and IFI, a multi-college team comprised of students from several colleges in Connecticut. The Talons placed second after the IFI team, giving them a finalist position that earned the team a place at the April international competition.
The CSM Talons team is comprised of CSM students Team Captain Edward Gesser III of Mechanicsville, Paul Goldsmith of St. Leonard and Eudora Tak of Charlotte Hall, with a second CSM team including Team Captain Michael Balazs of California and Cameron Williams of Indian Head.
Robot design quality and the ability to function well as a team are seen as two of the Talons’ strengths. “We had multiple designs that were iterated over time so that at the time of competition, we were using the best design,” Williams said.
“Through a subsystem-based design, each team member became proficient with a particular function of the robot,” Gesser said. “We also made use of various 3-D printed parts to decrease weight and improve functionality of the robot. The Talons also emphasized build quality and a robust design in their construction of their robot, increasing the probability of success.”
Balazs ascribed the Talons’ success to three things — “The dedication of all of the students; the experience of our senior students and mentors; and the chemistry between our team members.”
Jacobs noted that being a member of the Talons goes beyond showing up for the competitions and extends to being an advocate in the community for robotics and engineering events. “The team’s dedication to robotics and to supporting future engineers in the region is commendable,” Jacobs said. “The team volunteers at all the CSM-sponsored robotics competitions for youth in the tri-county area and they compete at the college level. At the same time, they work on their robots three to five days a week when not in class.
“Their work has built a reputation to high school students entering CSM as the team to join and a reputation to other college teams as the team to beat,” she said.
To compete in the VEX U World Championship is the annual goal for the Talons. Drawing teams from outside of the United States, including multiple ones from China and from the United Kingdom and Mexico, the event also includes teams from across the United States.
Each year, VEX U creates a new challenge for competitions. This year’s challenge, called “VEX Robotics Competition (VRC) In the Zone,” is played on a 12-foot-by-12-foot field. Two teams compete in matches consisting of a timed period of autonomous play followed by a timed period of driver-controlled play.
“Robots are designed to stack cones on objects called mobile goals, and move around the mobile goals into zones to score points,” Gessner said. The object of the game is to attain a higher score than the opposing alliance by performing these tasks with their robots.
The CSM Foundation is sponsoring the Talons’ trip to the world championship. Sponsorships help pay for such items as equipment, team travel to competition and outreach events, and team shirts. Donations may be made through the CSM Foundation, specifying “CSM Talons Robotics” as the designation, at http://gvcmp.us/8n9y82.
To view photos from the Talons’ qualifying competition on Feb. 9, visit http://csmphoto.zenfolio.com/2018vexcollege.
For information on the Talons, visit http://stem.csmd.edu/events_csmroboticsVEX.html.