For the fourth year in a row, the Talons, the College of Southern Maryland’s competitive robotics team, has qualified for the VEX-U World Championships. After qualifying at a March 10 tournament at Fairmont State University in Fairmont, West Virginia, the team now has a spot at the world championship April 19 to 22 in Louisville, Kentucky.
“The Talons had a huge victory today,” reported Bernice Brezina, professor and interim division chair of CSM’s business and technology division, after the March 10 win. “They went undefeated all day at the West Virginia tournament. They finished first in qualification rounds and then went on to eliminations to win the Tournament Champion award. They beat Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in the finals. The judges also awarded the Talons with the Excellence award.”
While the team also beat teams from Virginia Tech, Rutgers University, Northern Virginia Community College and Old Dominion University to get to the championship, the win against WPI was particularly critical in the team’s eyes. “When we saw the [March 10 tournament] team list we thought we had a good chance at getting a spot to worlds,” said George Jenkins of La Plata, Talons team captain. “We had already competed against six of the 16 other teams previously this season. There were a few teams we knew nothing about from Georgia and Tennessee, but our main concern was the team WPI1, which has one of the best robotics programs in the country.”
Assistant Professor Ronda Jacobs, one of the team’s advisers, commended the Talons. “They had an incredible sense of focus and were able to strategize on the fly in order to outplay their opponents,” she said.
In the VEX-U robotics competitions, college teams design, program and operate robots that can perform a variety of tasks, including picking up objects and throwing them into their competitor’s court within a set time limit, earning points.
The Talons have been successful this year because the members work well together, according to Jenkins. In addition to Jenkins, Wen Xing Lin of St. Leonard and Ed Gesser of Mechanicsville are the other two members who qualified to compete in the world championship. Students Dillon Mandley of Charlotte Hall and Joseph May of La Plata are also members of the CSM Talons. “Wen Xing is really good at coming up with new designs and ideas to make improvements,” Jenkins said. “Ed is our head of construction since he can build strong and very durable parts. I am in charge of the sensors and programming. While we have these roles, everyone is still willing and able to help outside their role.”
The team’s advisers include Brezina and Jacobs, who “have taken care of all the administration that goes along with being a college robotics team, allowing us to just focus on winning,” Jenkins said. “Our coach Professor [Bill] Luyster has been there all season helping us any way he could, keeping us on track, and his impact has really made our team capable of winning championships.”
“We were happy with winning the tournament and even happier winning the Excellence award,” Jenkins said. “We still have a lot of room for improvement over the next month to get ready for worlds.”
Jacobs noted that the members of the Talons are also excellent students at CSM “Despite their focus on robotics, they’ve been able to balance their studies and maintain high GPAs in engineering.”
For more on VEX U tournaments and world rankings, visit https://www.robotevents.com/robot-competitions/college-competition/.
For more on the Talons, visit http://stem.csmd.edu/events_csmroboticsVEX.html.