News Release, College of Southern Maryland

The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) competitive robotics team – the Talons – is off to a busy and successful 2020 season, earning titles in two major robotic competitions and landing a spot on the world stage at the World VEX U Competition for the ninth consecutive year.

The CSM team now has its eyes set on – and is fine-tuning its robots for – the 2020VEX Robotic World Championship in Louisville, Kentucky April 22-25. It’s there that the Talons hope to surpass their impressive position among the 16 best overall college robotic teams on the globe and to earn a spot among this year’s top world teams.

CSM’s Robotics team, the Talons earned a second-place win and the judge’s award at the January 2020 Widener Pride VEXU Open in Chester, Pennsylvania. From left are Talons Christine Wang, Ben Mead, Julia Czecha and Michael Balazs.

The international VEX U competition is sponsored by theRobotics Education and Competition (REC) Foundation, whose mission is to increase student interest and involvement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Participating teams build robots to compete in a series of challenges through VEX U that involve maneuvering game elements and completing tasks. Each year, VEX U creates a new game that challenges students to design robots to score the most points against their opponents. Because each game is different, students must critically think through new design iterations and strategies as they master the game. The Talons claimed the title as 11th best overall college robotic team in the world last year at VEX U’s Louisville competition.

“They not only placed 11th in the world in their division in 2019, the CSM Talons placed fifth in the United States; they were one of only three U.S. community colleges to earn a spot at the VEX U World Robotics Championship and wereone of two community colleges earning global recognition,” explained Ronda Jacobs, CSM associate professor and Talon’s mentor.

Riding high from a second-place win and the judge’s award at the January 2020 Widener Pride VEXU Open in Chester, Pennsylvania, the Talons went on to host a VEX U Robotics Tournament Feb. 14 at CSM’s La Plata, Maryland Campus. Competing on home turf against nine competitors spanning the eastern seaboard, CSM earned its 2020 VEX U entry ticket after receiving the “tournament finalist winner” in what Jacobs coined as nail-biting elimination rounds.

“Our robots took a bit of a beating during the competition,” Jacobs explained, “so the students really shined by combining their critical thinking skills with strategy-solving skills to score additional points by outsmarting their opponents. This team is remarkably nimble and just does not give up.”

“I took the opportunity to stop in and watch Friday’s competition several times,” said CSM’s President Dr. Maureen Murphy of the Feb. 14 competition. “What these students are accomplishing is nothing short of phenomenal. Each team exhibited cohesive teamwork; agile response to unexpected situations; amazing innovation and they made every minute of the competition look like fun.”

Murphy added that the CSM community is thrilled and ready to support “our Talons as they compete on the world’s stage.”

“Going in to the competition we knew what we needed to do in orderto secure a ticket to the VEX World Championship. As the president and captainof the team, I could not have been prouder of how the team members, both experiencedand brand new, steppedup and executedtasksthat we needed to accomplish in order to be successful,” said CSM Talon Julia Czecha. “There is no doubt in my mind that the Talons’ biggest strength is the ability to communicate, adapt and overcome. These traits are what will carry us to success in our next competitionin West Virginiaand then at the VEX World Championships.”

CSM’s Talons robotics team will return to the 2020 VEX U World Competition in April. Front from left are James Jaluag, Michael Balazs, Julia Czecha, Christine Wang, Zoe Amowitz and Michael Chiong, and back row from left, Joe Brown, Ben Mead, Johnathan Davis and Daniel Hines.

International VEX U elimination competitions are underway through March 21 as college teams continue to vie for the remaining and coveted 70 VEX U competitive slots through March 21. When the CSM Talons won their ticket to compete on Feb. 14, they were the 19th team to guarantee their chance to face top-notch colleges and competitors from the United States, Hong Kong, British Columbia, Mexico, Columbia, and China.

The CSM Talons and Robotics Club promotes the study of STEM fields including robot design and programming, competing at several VEX competitions annually, and volunteering in the community. For information on the CSM Talons and Robotic Team, visit

For photos from the VEX U Robotics Tournament Feb. 14 at CSM’s La Plata Campus, visit

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...