Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Here’s how the Baltimore Robotics Center is rebooting competitions this fall

The Baltimore Robotics Center is not giving up on robotics competitions during the pandemic, and is figuring out ways to keep providing opportunity to students.

The action at a Baltimore City Robotics Center comeptition.

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

As virtual learning becomes the new normal, extracurriculars of the old world are beginning to plan how they’ll function during the pandemic.

Robotics competitions were typically held in school gyms with hundreds of spectators and competitors coming from different areas to compete.

“Ninety percent of the people who ran events were school systems,” said Ed Mullin, executive director of the Hollins Market-based Baltimore Robotics Center, which provides space for the city’s robotics league competitors. “And school systems don’t want anyone in the building let alone visitors from other schools.”

The Center’s goal is to get kids scholarships through these competitions — the kinds of scholarships that get youth a free ride to college and a dream job in robotics.

“For some kids in Baltimore city, this is their ticket to the pros,” Mullin said, referring to why the center and other robotics orgs are working so hard to make events happen. “This is a full scholarship to college and a job at Northrop Grumman or Johns Hopkins is on the line playing this sport.”

That’s why the robotic center is planning to run events out of their building. Events like time trials and skills challenges only require one team in the competitive space at a time, instead of two or three going head to head.

The plan is for teams to compete in 15 minute intervals. One team is on deck, while the other team is in the time trial space. With this operation, the two teams are in separate physical spaces at all times, with the goal being no physical interaction between different teams.

Mullin and the center have submitted tournament dates for state qualifiers in late October and mid-November for the international league they participate in.

“We’re already setting dates and we’ll see who shows up,” said Mullin.

Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. -30-
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