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Titanium-Wrecks Rookie All-Stars

4/3/14 | By Phil Jacobs, Editor

There were over 3,000 people at the George Mason University Patriot Center in Fairfax, Va. last Thursday through Saturday.

On the arena floor were some 50 high school robotics teams representing 10 states.

Most teams came with 100 members or more.

There was one team, however, that showed up with 16 members, and yet came away as “Rookie All-Stars” ensuring a trip to the St. Louis-hosted world championships.

Titanium-Wrecks took part in “Aerial Assist,” a contest challenging the student-operated robots to grab and toss two-foot diameter exercise balls through goals while working with at least one other team. George Mason was hosting its inaugural For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology or FIRST Greater D.C. Regional.

Titanium-Wrecks, Worcester County’s NASA house robotics team got some strong criticism during a safety inspection from officials. But according to Paul Suplee, who mentors the team along with William Mast, the team accepted the criticism and asked for advice and help from other teams participating in the spirit Suplee said of “coopertition,” or cooperating with the competition.

“You can not do it alone,” said Suplee, who was walking on air, he was so excited about his team’s Rookie All-Star win. “We got the safety tips we needed, and the next day the kids blew the judges out of the water. And the kids were able to handle the inspection.”

A chef by trade, who writes a food column for Bayside Gazette, Suplee has three children on the team.

This weekend, the team will be competing in College Park at another regional competition.

Tyler Jenkins, a team co-captain and Stephen Decatur High School senior, said that Titanium-Wrecks team members “brought it all together” to operate their robot and impress the judges.

Jenkins is excited about the world championships.

“We’re going to see all different competitors from everywhere,” he said. “There are teams coming from as far away as the Netherlands and Israel.”

If anything, Jenkins said his team came away with a better feeling for “organization,” and even with the Rookie All-Star designation, “there is always room to improve.”

Suplee effusively thanked the local Worcester County community for the financial support it needed to build the robot and travel to compete. Now, team Titanium Wrecks” is going to need to raise $15,000 for the April 23-26 competition at the Edward Jones Dome, home to the St. Louis Rams of the National Football League.

The team members represent county public schools, Worcester Preparatory School and home schoolers.

“We will make you proud,” Suplee wrote on the team’s website, www.team-t-wrecks.org. “That I can promise you. It was a very intense weekend, and what the judges loved more than anything was the graciousness that our kids displayed when having issues with inspections of the robot itself. The team displayed decorum and professionalism the entire weekend, found solutions to every area of opportunity and showed the region that we are proud to be the Worcester County NASA House Robotics Team.”

Contributions can be made by going to the team’s website.

At the same time all this was happening at George Mason, the Worcester Beach Bots, only its third year, won at the North Carolina FIRST Regional and is also heading to St. Louis for the worlds.  Its website is www.worcesterbeachbots.org.

So as a person who spent his high school years dreading the words “science fair,” I think we all have to be impressed that Worcester County has the opportunity to see about 80 of our county’s youth working in the areas of problem solving, mechanical engineering, marketing and so much more. Many of these students are pulling heavy AP class loads, applying to colleges and getting ready for projects and exams. Yet they get together and create these robots.

They both deserve our admiration, contributions if possible and support to get to St. Louis. I don’t think it’s too difficult to understand that besides their own hard work, they will get to meet students their age from all over the nation and world.

If you were a political science person, you could call the Worlds, the “Model U.N.” of robotics.

This is impressive. Remember, if this was a sports team winning a state title, we’d be excited, sending out the band, cheer leaders and wildly applaud. That’s what Titanium Wrecks and Worcester Beach Bots have already in a way done. Now they get a chance to see the “world.”

Let’s help them get there.

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