Last Week Our Students Were in India

Three of our graduating seniors were in India last week  to do a robotics demo and discuss how we could help the school start an FLL or FTC team.  Floris, Jacob, and Yash went to Yash’s old school in Bhopal to talk about FIRST, and how it had impacted their educational experience.  The Billabong High International School students seemed to be very keen on the idea of starting an FLL or FTC team at their school.  And our graduates had a lot of fun presenting, answering questions and making a lot of students excited about robotics.  This is just the first chapter in this story, more to come….


Here are some photos from the experience.

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MoCo Advocacy 2016 Day 2

Students from Richard Montgomery High School and Walt Whitman High School met with Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett last Tuesday to learn what his position was on robotics in Montgomery county.  The meeting went very well, not only did Mr. Leggett voice support for growing robotics in the county, but he also told us about his experience visiting the Walt Whitman FRC District Event.  He was blown away by the size of the robots and the number of people attending the event. We talked about the need to expand robotics into more schools and the need to bring more diversity to STEM programs in the county.

On top of the great support, Mr. Leggett also volunteered to join our students when we meet with Larry Hogan in August to help push for making robotics a state level sport.


MoCo Advocacy 2016 Day 1

Today students and mentors from several of the robotics teams from Montgomery County were in Rockille to talk to our county leaders about recognizing robotics as a sport.  We started the day talking to George Leventhal and his staffer Waltin Harris. Mr. Leventhal has been very supportive in the past, and has even driven Liftzilla, our 2015 robot.  He heard our idea of declaring robotics sport in Montgomery county and was immediately behind the idea.  He even offered to ask a question of the new superintendent DR. Jack Smith to see what his opinion might be on the topic.

From there we attended a meeting with the MoCo Board of education, the County Council and the new superintendent to learn more about his plans for the school district.  It was a very enlightening meeting and allowed us to get a better idea of some of the passions that drive county council members and the new superintendent. Of particular note was when Mr Leventhal asked about growing robotics in the county and getting is classified as a sport, the new superintendent agreed with both aspects of his question and asked back, “how do we get robotics in to all 204 Mo Co schools.”  Needles to say we are delighted with his answer, and have contacted Andrew Zuckerman (MCPS Chief Operating Officer) and Dr. William Beattie (MCPS athletic director) to figure out the details. You can read more about the meeting in the Bethesda Beat.

In the afternoon we shifted from asking how MCPS could make robotics a sport to some of the logistics that need to happen. We met with Crystal Ruiz from Council Member Hans Riemer’s office who gave us a lot of things to think about.  We decided to do a referendum declaring robotics a sport in Montgomery county would be a good first step.  We are going to work with all of the offices to get the final wording as quickly as possible because the county council session ends on the 2nd. We also decided to follow up with a few very specific people inside the county to ensure this moves forward as quickly as possible.

Next we met with County Council staffer for Tom Hucker, Matt Verghese, who played Bot Ball for several years in High School and was extremely supportive of the idea of making Robotics a sport in the county.  His boss, Mr. Hucker is also a big fan and wants to work with us to help grow robotics in his district.  Matt was also very disappointing to hear that robotics teams are charged CUPF fees for using the buildings.  He wants to help teams get the CUPF polices changed so that Blair High School stops charging their robotics teams and can use those funds on growing STEM instead.  Matt also asked us to look into if chess is considered a sport by MoCo.  He was part of an effort to get chess classified as a sport in college that ended in success.  So he knew a good bit about the ask we were making.

Last we met with Councilman Robert Berliner and his staffer Zac Trupp.  Mr. Berliner has been a big supporter, and even came to the Walt Whitman District event we hosted.  Mr. Berliner played devils advocate to our idea or having MoCo declare robotics a sport by asking us why not consider debate a sport.  We responded with what does the county want to celebrate and develop.  Does the county want more debaters, or does the county want more STEM students?  The answer to this question is important since we are asking the county to change the way it does things and bring a fresh perspective to the way we define sports.  Not unlike the new perspective the County Council is looking for in Dr. Smith.  We also went on to inform him that being classified a sports comes along with some very specific program changes that would remove some serious impediments schools run into when looking to start new teams.

  1. Larger stipends for robotics coaches
  2. Schools participate in filling robotics coach vacancies so that teams do not go with out a coach
  3. Access to practice space and build space without being charged CUPF fees
  4. Access to MoCo transportation resources for attending events
  5. Access to team administration support in the school and at the county level
  6. Access to gyms and schools for tournaments at zero cost to the team
  7. Students could varsity letter in robotics

We also discussed the major positives for the MCPS athletics Directors office, MCPS and the County Council

  1. More people would be interested in and responsible for growing STEM students inside the county
  2. More people would be interested in and responsible for growing diversity of STEM student participation inside the county
  3. More people would be interested in and responsible for growing the number of project based learning activities inside the county
  4. More students inside the county would be prepared to walk out of high school prepared for both college and vocational training
  5. Athletics would get access to county, state and federal funds dedicated towards STEM programs
  6. Athletics would get access to county, state and federal funds dedicated towards Vocational training programs

Tomorrow the teams meet with County Executive Ike Leggett to discuss making robotics a sport and funding a community grant to help this new new sport get started inside the county.


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Thanks to Mr. Leventhal for the photos.

Kid Museum Outreach Last Weekend

Students from Blair High School joined us at the Kid Museum last weekend to help grow awareness for robotics in the county.  Not only did we find some future Bethesda robot builders in the crowd, but we helped some New Yorkers learn about robotics as well.   Our students also inspired some amazing VexIQ creations that two of our students will spends the next few weeks teaching Kid Museum visitors how to program.

Students from both Blair and Walt Whitman went through a presentation and then we turned on the Indiana Robotics Invitational so that everyone could watch some real matches being played.   Thanks to the Kid Museum for giving the opportunity and good luck this year with your brand new FLL team.

Check out some of the pictures and videos from the event.

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Time to Register for Robotics

Are you going to be on the Walt Whitman Robotics team starting Fall 2016?  If you are, please start your registration now.   To register, go to and log in or register a new account and then sign up for FRC team 1389.

FIRST has opened up student registration early this year and we are encouraging students / parents to take advantage of this opportunity to avoid some paperwork in the fall.   This is open to all returning and new students.

Kickoff is

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Robotics Day at the Kid Museum

Walt Whitman will join 3 other FRC teams from the area and help the local Kid’s Museum host their first Robotics Day. Stop by with your kids, your neighbors kids and your inner kid to check us out. We will have several team members on hand as well as our World Championship  Level robot Maelstrom available for you to drive.

Saturday, July 16

From the nuts & bolts of how robots move, to testing out competition robots…it’s everything robots at KID’s first ever Robotics Day!

Open Explore
Stop in throughout the day to experiment with gears, parts and pulleys; take part in “Imagining the Robots of the Future;” and learn about different machines and systems, like VEX, LittleBits, and Arduino.

Featured Workshops
LEGO WeDo: Move and manipulate objects with this robotics tool. Design your own interactive machine using gears, motors, motion sensors, and more. Ages 8+. $6 members; $7 nonmembers. 11:00 REGISTER

MakerWear: Customize clothing with lights and sounds that react to your movements, and be a part of the University of Maryland’s Human-Computer Interaction Lab MakerWear prototyping project. Ages 6+. $3 members; $4 nonmembers. 1:30 REGISTER

See amazing demos by local high school FRC robotics teams:

Team 1389 
Walt Whitman High School
Bethesda, MD

Team 449
Blair High School
Silver Spring, MD

Building a master list of all of the robotics teams / programs in MD

Walt Whitman is working on building a list of all of the robotics teams / programs in Maryland.  We are trying build this list so as to enable student impact conversations with county and state officials for upcoming advocacy efforts.   This list is not limited to FIRST teams, so if you have VEX, VEX IQ, MATE, seaperch.  We are also including programs that do not have teams at schools, not at schools, at summer camps, at private schools and in after school programs.  So….If you are doing anything with robotics in MD we want to know about it.  Please email us with your details and we will get it added to our list.  Or add your details on your own

If you are interested in getting involved in our upcoming advocacy effort please reach out to us via email The more folks we get involved, the more of an impact we will have.