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: 2015KickoffAgenda-v1

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.

Wednesday, June 24 – FLL Coach Best Practice Discussion 6:30 pm – 8 pm Thingstitute, 29 Courthouse Square, Rockville, MD 20850 Please RSVP to Milka Piszczek [] with the following information: 1. Name and how long you have been a part of FLL 2. What was your role (i.e. coach, mentor, parent, etc.) 3. What topics would you like to discussed/addressed

Saturday, July 11 – New Coach EV3 Programming Workshop 1 pm – 5 pm Thingstitute, 29 Courthouse Square, Rockville, MD 20850 RSVP to Milka Piszczek []

Thursday, July 16 – FLL Information Night/EV3/NXT Programming Workshop St. Annes School of Annapolis, 6 pm – 8 pm RSVP to Dana Aucoin []

Wednesday, July 29 - FLL Coaching workshops 6-8 pm Mt Airy Library, 705 Ridge Avenue, Mt Airy An open meeting to introduce the FIRST Lego League (FLL) robotics competition to interested adults.  A short overview of the program and how 4th-8th grade students get involved on teams of 5-10 students for the fall-winter season will begin at 6 pm.  From 6:30-7:30, experienced team coaches will provide more detail on what is involved in running teams.  We will end with time for networking and discussion for those actively looking to start or join teams, and coaches can get assistance with registration.  No experience is necessary, and all are welcome to stay to find out about the program with no obligation or cost. Contact Rose Young with any questions and to RSVP

Saturday, August 8 - Coach & Team Members EV3 Programming with Sensors Clinic Saint Thomas More Academy, 9 am – 3 pm Cost $35, includes lunch StThomas More Lego Clinic Overview Aug8-2015 Contact Elizabeth Renninger at to register

Saturday, August 15, FLL Coaches and Parents workshop Greenbelt MakerSpace, 10-4pm The workshop is free, and we will supply programming laptops and robot kits. Last year we supported 4 in-house teams, and teams at several other nearby schools. Please visit the website to reserve a seat.

Thursday, August 20 - FLL Coaching workshops 6-8 pm Eldersburg Library, 6400 Hemlock Drive, Eldersburg See description and contact info for July 29 FLL Coaching workshop

Wednesday, August 26 - FLL Coaching workshops 6-8 pm Eldersburg Library, 6400 Hemlock Drive, Eldersburg See description and contact info for July 29 FLL Coaching workshop

Thursday, August 27 – NXT/EV3 Programming Workshop 6-8 pm St. Anne’s School of Annapolis, 3112 Arundel on the Bay Rd., Annapolis Contact Dana Aucoin for more information

Wednesday, September 2, FIRST Information Night JHU Applied Physics Lab, Laurel — Building 1 Cafeteria Information night for new coaches, mentors and volunteers for FIRST teams and events in Maryland. Teams from all four FIRST programs featured. FREE with registration:

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

Maryland VISTAs Wanted!

VISTA logoWe are looking for Americorps VISTA candidates to help bring FIRST programs to more students and underserved communities in Maryland. The VISTA program is a great way to get involved or give back to the FIRST community.  It’s a full-time commitment for a year with a minimal stipend, but it pays big dividends for yourself and the community.

One posting is already open for a VISTA in Baltimore to support initiatives within Baltimore City Public Schools, particularly for FIRST LEGO League and Junior FIRST LEGO League.  We would like to fill this position as soon as possible to have someone on-board over the summer to prepare for the new season.

We can potentially open a second posting anywhere in Maryland for the right candidate.  We would especially love to have a FIRST alum, volunteer or mentor willing to commit to a year of service.  We have a track record of success with recent alums taking a gap year before college, FIRST alums coming out of college looking to build careers, and retirees looking for a great opportunity to keep them active and engaged.  If you have interest, please contact us at

Maryland Teams at 2015 FIRST Championship

Congratulations and Good Luck to all the Maryland teams headed to the FIRST Championship in St. Louis April 22-25.  This year once again marks our biggest contingent of teams ever — a total of 16 teams making the trip along with 5 Dean’s List Award Finalists, in addition to a bevy of great volunteers.  Make that 17 teams — there’s also Team 418 SWAT Bots from Annapolis going to the Jr.FLL World Festival Expo.

Maryland Teams at 2015 FIRST ChampsThis year features 8 fields of FIRST Robotics Competition action in the Edward Jones Dome, along with FIRST LEGO League teams  competing in the America’s Center adjacent to the Dome.  Four fields of FIRST Tech Challenge and a Junior FIRST LEGO League Expo will bring excitement to Union Station.

Keep track of all the action via webcasts — check here for links to feeds from the Dome and Union Station.  Get more detail from the Championship page for each FIRST program:

Maryland STEM Festival Kickoff

Vertical Logo ColorThe inaugural Maryland STEM Festival will be held November 6-15, 2015.  A kickoff press conference was held at the Maryland Science Center.

STEMaction, our Maryland non-profit that supports FIRST and other great STEM activities, is a founding partner for the Maryland STEM Festival.  This new annual Festival is a great way to get the word out to your local communities about the work Maryland’s FIRST teams are doing to inspire the next generation of STEM leaders.  We encourage Maryland FIRST teams of all levels and ages to consider hosting or participating in an event.  See this flyer (MDSTEM-Fest-FIRST-team-flyer.pdf) for some ideas of different types of events you can hold.