Now Hiring: STEMaction Program Assistant

STEMaction-v03med (640x206)STEMaction is now hiring a part-time, paid Program Assistant to help organize our Maryland Junior FIRST LEGO League program and maintain our Maryland FIRST contact management system.  Please see the STEMaction Program Assistant Position Description for more details.

We would like to fill the position quickly, so candidates please indicate interest by October 1, 2015.

2015-2016 Maryland FIRST Seasons Underway

MDFIRST Programs Logo

Happy FIRST New Year!  Our seasons for three of the four Maryland FIRST programs are underway. And for FRC, we’re getting ready for the new FIRST Chesapeake District season in 2016.

Junior FIRST LEGO League: Waste Wise For ages 6-9, Junior FIRST LEGO League offers a great way to get started with FIRST and STEM activities.  This season’s Waste Wise challenge gets kids thinking about trash as teams put together a poster project and LEGO model of their research.  Teams can start anytime from August through April, and we’re planning to hold more than a dozen Jr.FLL Expos in Maryland, starting in December.

FIRST LEGO League: Trash Trek The 2015 FLL Trash Trek challenge gets teams (ages 9-14) thinking in new ways about trash: are there better ways to recycle, reuse, or recover the things we consume? Team registration will close by the end of September. so you need to hurry if you want to start a team this season.  Our All-Coaches Meeting on Oct. 3 at UMBC will include the unveiling of our 20+ Maryland FLL Qualifier tournaments.

FIRST Tech Challenge: RES-Q The new FIRST RES-Q game, unveiled Sep. 12, features mountain climbing, ziplines and debris clearing tasks for the robots and teams (ages 12-18) to conquer.  Our Maryland/DC season will have eight Qualifier tournaments and a new Championship venue.  Now is the time to register new teams!

FIRST Robotics Competition Maryland FRC teams are now forming and getting ready for our off-season Battle O’ Baltimore on September 26.  This is a big new season as FRC shifts into a District competition model across Maryland, DC and Virginia with seven District events feeding into a new FIRST Chesapeake District Championship in April. The new season officially begins on January 12, 2016 with our FRC Kickoff.

Drive 4UR Community Event, Oct. 10, 2015

FPRB_12D4URC_4C_R01Maryland FIRST, STEMaction and Academy Ford are holding a Drive 4UR Community event on October 10, 2015 from 9am – 2pm at Capitol Technology University (11301 Springfield Rd, Laurel, MD 20708).

This fundraiser helps support Maryland FIRST Tech Challenge teams that went to the FIRST Championships last season, and helps all Maryland/DC FTC teams through the STEMaction Grant pool.  Academy Ford in Laurel is bringing new Ford cars to test drive, and each drive translates into $$ for our teams.

We will have a car wash, food and robotics fun for the family from 9am – 2pm.  The public is welcome.  Anyone 18 or over with valid license is eligible to drive (one per family).  You can reserve a time slot in advance by registering here, but walk-ins are welcome, too.  See our flyer.

Watch for more information on special workshops and meetings for FIRST Tech Challenge teams and tournament hosts at this event.

FIRST Information Night at JHU APL, Sep. 2, 2015

20150228 13-30-20 IMG_9468cIntended AUDIENCE:  Educators, Parents and Mentors who are new to FIRST Robotics or considering forming a team — covers Jr.FLL, FLL, FTC and FRC programs

WHEN:  Wednesday, September 2, 6 PM – 8 PM

WHERE:  John’s Hopkins Applied Physics Lab – 11100 Johns Hopkins Rd  Laurel, MD 20723, Building 1 Cafeteria

JHU/APL, ASME and FIRST invite you to an evening of discussion and demonstration of robotics. If you are interested in starting a FIRST team for your elementary, middle school, or high school age child, or being a mentor or sponsor, you will not want to miss this session.  Local teams from all four FIRST programs (Jr.FLL, FLL, FTC and FRC) will be on hand.

For kids ages 9 to 14, FIRST LEGO League (FLL) is an exciting and fun international robotics program that ignites an enthusiasm for discovery, science, and technology. Each year FLL teams embark on an adventurous challenge based on current, real-world issues and then build and compete with robots made from Legos and Lego Mindstorm controller kits.  For kids ages 6-9, Junior FIRST LEGO League (Jr.FLL) gives a taste of Lego building, teamwork and fun research.

The FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) and the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) are designed for high-school-aged students to discover how interesting and rewarding the life of engineers and scientists can be. It challenges teams of students to design, build and operate robots in an exciting sports-like game.

Cost: Free! See flyer for more info: 2015 FIRST Information Night at APL Register here by Sep. 1.

2015 Maryland/DC FIRST Tech Challenge Kickoff, Sept. 12

FTC LogoStart the 2015 Maryland/DC FIRST Tech Challenge season with us at our Kickoff event and workshops on Sep. 12 at Capitol Technology University (11301 Springfield Road, Laurel, MD).

Team check-in will start shortly after 8am and light breakfast/coffee items will be available for purchase in the Student Center.  Workshop sessions start at 9am and run until 4pm.  The new game reveal and overview of the Maryland/DC FTC season begins at 11:30am.  More workshops and game discussions continue in the afternoon. A full agenda and descriptions of the workshop sessions are here: 2015 FTC Kickoff Agenda2

The entire event is free and open to the public, but please register so we have a good idea of headcounts for the workshops and lunch.  To allow the greatest number of teams, we ask that you limit attendees to no more than 10 per team (including students and adults).  You will probably want to split your group to cover various workshops, so please plan ahead.

We are also holding a SuGO training workshop in the afternoon.  This is a fundraising opportunity for your teams…learn more here: SuGO Training at KickOff 2015.  This workshop requires one adult (YPP approved) and three team members to attend; seating is limited.  Please use the link for separate registration in the SuGO Training at Kickoff document.

FLL Trash Trek “Meet the Experts” Festival, Sept. 12, 2015

FLL Trash Trek Meet the Experts posterYou’re invited to a festival celebrating the FLL TRASH TREKSM Challenge!

Saturday, September 12th

United States Patent and Trademark Office, Alexandria, VA

Two sessions offered: 9:30 AM – Noon and  1:00-3:30 PM

All FLL participants, along with their coaches and family members, are invited to “meet the experts.” Experts will share what they do and know through demonstrations, hands-on materials, literature, and conversation. This is a free event, but attendees should register in advance.  For more information and to register, go to (password: trashtrek).

Questions can be sent by e-mail to

2015 Battle O’ Baltimore Coming Sep. 26

The Baltimore Area Alliance is pleased to announce its 9th annual Battle O’ Baltimore, one of the east coast’s premier FIRST® Robotics Competition off-season tournaments, will take place on Saturday, September 26, 2015, and will once again be a highlight of Baltimore Innovation Week.  See our 2015 Battle O Baltimore Flyer and help spread the word.

McDonogh School in Owings Mills, Maryland will host the Battle O’ Baltimore in the Rollins-Luetkemeyer Athletic Center on September 26 from 8:30 AM – 5 PM.  Courtside seats are available and the event is free and open to the public.  30-minute guided tours are available to visitors registered through Baltimore Innovation Week or  Demonstrations of all four of FIRST‘s K-12 programs will be on display at the Battle O’ Baltimore.

FIRST LEGO League Coach and New Team Workshops

See the following workshops and training opportunities for current or prospective coaches of Maryland FIRST LEGO League teams.  Most of these events are free but registration/RSVP requested.

For a listing of Summer STEM Camps in Maryland and vicinity, see our STEMaction listing.

Saturday, September 19, FLL Coaches’ EV3 Bootcamp

Launch Workspaces, 9841 Washingtonian Blvd, Suite 200, Gaithersburg, MD, 9:00AM – 5:00PM The Rockville Robotics FTC team 9794 is hosting a FLL Coaches’ EV3 Bootcamp which will teach coaches, mentors, and parents EV3 programming and robot tips. Topics will include how to teach/guide your team on robot strategy, flowcharts, programming, and overcoming robot challenges during the FLL season. The course will be lead by past world festival team members from Mindstorm Masterminds and Fast and Curious and their coaches. This is a fundraising event for the team and the cost is $22 per person. The location has been sponsored by Launch Workspaces.

For more information and to register go to:


Saturday, October 3, FLL Coaches Kickoff

UMBC ITE Building

9:00-9:30 – Welcome to MD FLL + Maryland qualifier registration

9:30-10:30 – Rich, our MD Head Referee, will present Robot Game Clarifications and Tips.

10:45-11:30 & 11:45-12:30, two rounds of optional breakout sessions will include:

  • Running a New Team
  • Project – Best Practices
  • What to Expect during Project, Core Values, and Technical/Robot Design Judging
  • Fundraising, Sustaining FLL Teams & Resources
  • Building Team Branding and creating an easy Website
  • Volunteering and Event Hosting

1:00-3:00 PM 

  • NXT Mindstorms Basic Programming – New Coaches
  • EV3 Mindstorms Basic Programming – New Coaches
  • Experienced Coaches Best Practice

Please register for the event at Eventbrite by using the following link:

Note that everything is free, but we have limited capacity for the afternoon workshops. If you plan on attending, please reserve a “ticket” for each session you plan on participating in.

FTC Android/Java Training Info

For those of you that may not know, FTC is transitioning into a new platform next year.  Teams will switch from using the NXT LegoMindstorm to using a ZTE Speed cell phone.  The Field Control System will no longer run on a laptop that connects to the four robots on the field, but each team will bring a second cell phone to the field that connects to the cell phone on the robot.  Game controllers will be attached to the second cell phone and will allow the students to communicate with the cell phone on the robot using WiFi Direct. One way to overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed is to be informed.  FIRST has provided a forum to keep us informed and to provide teams a way to help each other through the transition.  The Kit Of Parts is just becoming available, but learning Java is another large part of the transition and it can done now! The following forum post discusses a lot of FREE resources that can help: Most of the resources listed in the forum post are self-directed.  If you prefer an instructor-directed approach, then your local community college may have the answer.  Some have classes on the campus, but many also offer on-line courses.  For example, the College of Southern Maryland offers two on-line courses this summer.  The beginning level course is a 6 week on-line course that begins May 13 and is geared to those that have had no prior programming experience.  The intermediate course is also a 6-week on-line course and it begins July 15.  The courses are $131 each.  CSM requires an additional fee if you do not live in Charles, St. Mary’s or Calvert.  There are many other community colleges in Maryland that may offer a Java class over the summer.

The following link describes how to enroll in the course through CSM.  The courses are offered in conjunction with a college, so CSM handles payment and account access.

The following link describes the introductory course.  It is offered on June 17 and August 12 in addition to the May 13 start date, but to complete both the introductory and intermediate classes before FTC kick-off in September, I suggest taking it starting May 13.  According to the CSM webpage, registration closes when the class starts.

The following link describes the intermediate course.  It also has an optional start date of July 15

These courses teach Java…we can start learning how Java pertains to FTC robots when the FTC SDK is released and the KOP is available.

Enjoy this learning experience and your summer!

[Thanks to Lydean Spangler for this post]



Baltimore Robotics Expo, May 16

Baltimore City Public Schools and STEMaction are hosting a Baltimore Robotics Expo on May 16, 2015 from 9am – noon at Baltimore International Academy (4410 Frankford Avenue, Baltimore).  The event will feature some of this season’s teams engaged in robotics challenges and will include information about starting FIRST LEGO League and Jr.FLL teams in Baltimore City Public Schools.  2015 BRX Flyer