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Worcester’s robotics team ‘Wrecks’ competition

Team Titanium-Wrecks members repair their robot during the Battle O’ Baltimore competition. (Photo courtesy of Team Titanium-Wrecks)

(Oct. 4, 2013) Worcester County’s fledgling high school robotics team made it to the finals in the Battle O’ Baltimore Sept. 21, the group’s first competition.

Team Titanium-Wrecks came out ahead in the contest pitting teams of three robots against each other in the six-team, mid-Atlantic regional competition. The Worcester group lost in the final round, but brought home a finalist trophy for its showing.

“Our kids did very well and we are jacked up for our official rookie season,” Titanium-Wrecks Lead Mentor Paul Suplee said. He explained that the team is so new, it fought as a “pre-rookie” group.

Team Titanium-Wrecks formed just three months ago, giving county students from public, private or home schools a chance to learn about science and engineering. But the group does more, Suplee said.

“These types of teams and clubs are really helpful for kids… for leadership and cooperation,” he said.

All eight of the Titanium-Wrecks members worked together to build the 100-pound robot, capable of moving and shooting objects like Frisbees, for last weekend’s competition. The six students who traveled to Baltimore shared roles, with one driving the machine, one shooting and another loading the feeder system, Suplee said.

“One of the big things in robotics is cooperation,” he said.

After the showing at the Battle O’ Baltimore, the team aims to do at least two or three competitions each year. In April, members will travel to College Park for a 44-team global robotics contest, drawing competition from as far as England and the United Arab Emirates, Suplee said.

The contests can be costly, and Team Titanium-Wrecks relies on grants and fundraising for projects. The group sold around 300 T-shirts during last month’s NASA Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) launch, and will host a fundraiser-charity event at Seacrets next weekend.

The event slated for Saturday, Oct. 12 will feature sets from CK the DJ from 3-6 p.m., a 50/50 raffle, a silent auction, an aeronautics challenge (paper airplane contest), booths from NASA and other groups and the robot the team built for the Baltimore competition. Half of the proceeds go to the club, and half, to the Believe in Tomorrow Children’s Foundation’s House by the Sea, which provides a weeklong stay in Ocean City for critically ill children and their families.

“A very big part of being on our team is community service, and the kids are very excited about that,” Suplee said. “It doubles the work for us raising money, but we don’t care. It’s important for the kids to learn about giving back.”

Team Titanium-Wrecks meets bi-weekly, working on projects like homemade hovercrafts and Segways, but will bump that up to six days a week leading up to the spring competition.

It works with local groups like Digital Youth Experience — a regional technology training and mentoring center — and other area robotics groups like Team Carbonauts in Virginia and Parkside High School’s Robospectrum team in Salisbury. It has five mentors with backgrounds from working for NASA to being a professional chef.

To learn more about Team Titanium-Wrecks, visit www.team-t-wrecks.org.

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