Local Robotics Team Dominating On and Off the Court
Robots, science, power tools and teamwork; that’s the underlying theme of Team Titanium Wrecks, a local Robotics Team in Northern Worcester County composed of students from grades 6-12 from Worcester County Schools, Private Schools and Home School Organizations. Built on the mission to afford local students with the opportunity to understand and excel in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), Team Titanium Wrecks not only tackles robotics and engineering, but also leadership skills, community involvement, and of course, fun.
STEM initiatives are slowly gaining momentum on the Eastern Shore, as schools and area businesses realize that it is critical for our students to be well-versed in STEM programs if our nation is going to rise in the rankings in the areas of math and science. While most of the area public schools have STEM programs in place, there are many home-school programs or private schools that don’t. “Our goal is to provide a safe and exciting environment for local kids to be able to excel in science in the presence of professional engineers,” explained Team Titanium Wrecks Lead Mentor Suplee, adding that as new industry develops in the area, the need for technology expertise will increase as well. “If we can act as a feeder system into this emerging industry, then everyone wins.” More importantly, Suplee explained, students will be exposed to more than robotics, they will learn about mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, programming, business, marketing, and media and community outreach.
The need for more STEM initiatives gave rise to Team Titanium Wrecks, which is enjoying a successful first year so far. “A group of parents and kids decided to create an all-encompassing project that would involve engineering, physics, robotics and fun, explained Suplee. “While the focus is primarily on robotics, some of us realized that we wanted to make science fun for kids by exploring other things as well.” Team members are faced with situations that test their ability to conceptualize, build, promote, troubleshoot, and restore through robotics and engineering challenges. The team also works to build leadership skills and community involvement, all while having fun as a core group.
Currently, Team Titanium Wrecks is a small team of 8 students. Suplee explained that for their first year, they would top off at 15 team members. Digital Youth Experience in West Ocean has been a huge help, added Suplee. The private STEM training facility has afforded Team Titanium Wrecks with a workspace, guidance and mentorship. The team is led by a diverse group of mentors, with backgrounds in engineering, education, and cooking. “As of right now, we have engineer mentors from Northrup-Grumman, NASA, the World Bank and Digital Youth Experience. We also have three college mentors from Princeton, Wor-Wic Community College and the University of Maryland,” explained Suplee.
For most of the year, the team meets once a week, working on fun builds such as hovercrafts that can lift over 200 pounds, model rocketry, and a mini-Punkin Chunkin. During the 6-week build season, which occurs during January and February, the competition and the workload heats up, as the team works furiously to create a robot, program it and then test it. “It gets pretty intense,” said Suplee, “but with the mentor group that we are putting in place, we will be able to set up teams that will be able to knock out their respective tasks quite effectively.” The competition the team is gearing up for in January is the high-school aged FIRST robotics challenge. FIRST and NASA develop a new challenge every year, sharing it in the beginning of January. The team then has 6 weeks to get to work before the actual competition when 6 teams go head to head.
“We recently participated as Pre-Rookies at the Battle O’Baltimore at the Boys’ Latin School of Baltimore and made it to the finals,” said Suplee. “Our team captain made sure that every student had a chance to play on the field and it was a huge success.”
The team is looking forward to a number of upcoming events, including a fundraiser event October 11. Students from the team will join Wor-Wic students to help cater the Virginia Space Flight Academy’s annual fundraiser. They will also participate in a fundraiser benefiting the Believe in Tomorrow Children’s House by the Sea on October 12 at Seacrets in Ocean City. Community service plays a significant role in the program, with students encouraged to give back to the community however possible. “Team Titanium Wrecks believes that all students should understand the importance of giving back to the community,” said Suplee.
With significant travel and materials expenses, fundraising for the team itself is critical. As a self-funded team, fundraisers and grants are crucial for keeping the team active and thriving. While the team has received tremendous support from area sponsors and various agencies, donations are always welcome, from monetary donations to building materials such as lumber, aluminum plates, shop tools, electrical supplies, marketing services, meals and snacks and more. “The money that we raise pays for robotics kits in many shapes and sizes. They range from $50 for basic Arduino kits to $6,500 for the FIRST rookie kit,” explained Suplee. Funds are also used to pay for entry fees, travel, a trailer, and food. “A typical build day in the last week of the 6-week challenge is anywhere from 9 to 13 hours, so everyone gets hungry!” noted Suplee.
This fall, the team will focus on a few new projects, like hosting a Punkin-Chunkin style pumpkin toss with model rocketry, as they prepare for the upcoming rookie season in January. Suplee encourages anyone who is interested in donating or joining the team to visit the Team T-Wrecks website for more information. “We are looking for energetic, excited high school students who are interested in robotics and engineering. As we move forward with the project we plan on expanding as far down as 6th grade by the end of our second year and will integrate other robotics programs.”