Please Pick up the Phone and Help Robotics in Maryland

FIRST in Maryland Friends we need your help! See Delegate Kirill Reznik‘s message below. Call your Senators, Delegates, and the Governor to let them know how important state funding for robotics programs is in helping our children prepare for high skill and high paying jobs in Maryland! lease call his office at 410-974-3901.

From Reznik’s office on the Maryland Robotics Education bill that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support
Dear Friends,

As you may have heard, yesterday Governor Hogan announced that this year’s proposed state budget will fully fund all mandated programs, cut virtually nothing, raise no taxes, and come in under last year’s budget in real dollars.
Unfortunately, this miracle budget uses a number of budgetary gimmicks to reach that goal and uses a separate piece of legislation to eliminate a number of funding mandates. Though I have not seen the full budget yet, I have been told that the bill we fought so hard to get last year to provide for a grants program to the robotics programs throughout the State was included as part of his cuts.
Given the enormous power that the Maryland Governor has over the State budget by Constitutional authority I don’t know if we will be able to restore it. I will try my best, but I need your help. Please call your Senators and Delegates, and also please call the Governor’s office ( and tell them how important this funding is to our children and their future. Let them know that in order to create high skill, high paying jobs in the State, we need to invest in STEM education, and not cut those crucial programs.
I hope that by the time this session is over I will be able to report to you that we have restored this program.


Delegate Kirill Reznik

Contact the Governor’s Office

Whether you’re a citizen of Maryland or just visiting our great state, your comments and suggestions are welcome.

  • Mail:
    100 State Circle
    Annapolis, Maryland
  • Phone:
    MD Relay 1-800-735-2258

Thanks for taking the time to contact the Governor’s Office of Maryland.

Governor Larry Hogan

The 2016-2017 goals

Yesterday, the team met to discuss last season and start to make plans for how we step up our game for next season. We had lots of great observations and lessons learned and many great ideas. First, the team reviewed the 2015-2016 goals to see how well we did meeting them;

  • Lab organization
    • Did better than last year till the snow storm, than we did the same
    • We need new system that is
      • lazy proof
      • easy to understand / well labeled
      • easy able to get in and out of robotics room
    • Students need more self discipline
      • individual tool kits might be a good idea
      • using a tool chit system combined with tool boxes that are shadowed
  • Win regional and go to worlds!
    • We did better, still have more work todo
    • We did make it to worlds, but we want to earn it next year
  • Team 1/4 girls
    • The team felt we achieved 50% of this goal
    • We did
      • Increase the number of girls on the team
      • Increase the number of girls on the core team
      • Marginalized some of the girls by not including them in critical decisions
      • Selected a girl for the drive team
    • We did not
      • Get enough girls in leadership
      • Keep girls involved on the technical side as much as we should have
    • Things we should change
      • Get more girls involved in leadership
      • Ensure the team has a minimum of 8 girls
      • Make sure girls are part of every critical decision
  • Finish robot earlier in build season
    • The team really missed the mark on this one
    • The programmers never really had enough time with the robot
    • Here are some ideas on how to do this better next year
      • Need to do more prototyping
      • Need to get more people involved in CAD
      • Need to have work well defined
      • Need to have a snow day plan
      • Build a second robot
  • Score autonomous points
    • We did really well here
    • We can do better by getting all of the auton points on a consistent basis next year
  • Fundraising more
    • The team missed the $68,000 goal
    • The team raised nearly $40,000 this year
    • Next season
      • Need to increase fund raising
      • Make fund raising mandatory
      • Do more earlier
  • Outreach
    • Team improved here
    • Team needs to do more here
    • team needs a chairman’s plan that goes out 5 years so that out reach efforts can be coordinated
  • 2-4k for last season’s cost
    • Team raised $1,000 to cover the 2014-2015 cost overrun
    • The cost overruns from this year are also an issue
    • Team needs a budget for next season
    • Team needs to spend per the budget
  • Hold mock build seasons this summer and fall
    • Team partially completed this
    • Team needs to do this for next season


Next, we went over what went well this season, what did not go well this season and what we need to change for next season;

  • What went well
    • We went to worlds
    • Did a better job scouting
    • Built a turret (mostly)
    • Worked well together
    • Fixed flaws in design
    • Alright driving
    • Pretty organized code
    • Fastener standardization
    • Auton points
    • Task pairing for assignments
    • Hosted a competition
    • Strong fund raising when we made an effort
    • New mentors
    • Better leadership structure
    • Most complex robot ever
    • Tech phone calls during snow
    • Cheering at Walt Whitman Event
    • Using crate as pit at worlds
  • What did not go well
    • How we used belts
    • Project hand offs
    • Leadership structure still to lose
    • Not enough depth in some system teams
    • Need better document team decision making process
    • Not enough inclusion
    • To many design flaws
    • Not enough prototyping
    • Building field elements took to long
    • Bumpers
    • Didn’t finish on time
    • Snow plan did not work
    • Tool standardization
    • Organization
      • wasted a lot of time looking for things
      • lost things
    • Sharing knowledge
    • Sharing responsibility
    • Picking leaders
    • Including human player in decision making
    • Control station
    • Controllers
    • Cheering at Dist Champs and Worlds
    • Pre event scouting
    • Better pit design
    • No real safety stuff this season
  • Things to do better, differently next season
    • Involve freshman more
    • Agile development
    • Use backlog and Scrum board with stickies
    • Quick attach bumpers
    • Single piece bumpers
    • Get done on schedule in week 4 with test bot
    • Keep more people involved
    • Drive team does only drive team
    • Uniform organization for all code
    • Team leads delegate more responsibility
    • Team leads make sure everyone on team has work
    • Include more girls in descisions
    • Include more girls in leadership
    • Include more girls on each sub team
    • Do a better job choosing the right fastener
    • Create more trust within team and sub teams
    • Make sure each sub team has a first, second and third in command
    • Sub team leads need to make sure they are always on the same page
    • Keep and formalize work pairing
    • Pair up new team members with seniors
    • Make sure new people come to off seasons
    • Learn how to do machining
    • Make sure drive team members commit to scheduled and possible events
    • Pick drive team in the fall
    • Do a better job picking drive team
    • Pick team leads in May
    • Copy how the stage crew picks their people
    • Communicate changes in control systems better
    • Better control system labeling
    • Do a better job of creating an inclusive environment for everyone
    • Stress that stepping in / over people is not how we operate
    • Stress that saying nothing or not asking also send a message to people
    • Need to cheer louder
    • More stagey feedback to drivers from scout team
    • More involvement in scouting
    • Setting up two lead position in scouting, one in the pit and one in the stands who talk to each other, the scout in the pits accompanies drive team on strategy discussions.
    • Better pre event scouting
    • Pre event pick lists
    • Include more cameras in base design
    • Create better drive station that includes input from multiple cameras
    • Write awards in fall
    • Create an awards strategy in May
    • Set awards goals for the team for next season
    • Use pnuematics
    • Better pit design for pit team and awards team
    • Improve safety
    • Maintain tools better

After that the team discussed the FIRST national Advocacy conference. The team is planning on taking 3 students and is looking for volunteers to attend the June 19th to 21st. Each slot will cost the team $260 so those who would like to go should try and do some fund raising before the end of the school year. Here is a list of all of the advocacy work we have scheduled for the summer. We encourage any robotics team or program to join us if you are interested.

  • MD Federal representatives June 19-22
    • Part of FRC Team 27 National Advocacy Conference
  • Mo Co county – July 18th
    • County Board
    • County Executive
    • County School Board
    • County Dept. of Health & Human Services
    • County Dept. of Economic Development
  • Mo Co State representative – August 8th
  • MD Dept. of education – August 15th
  • MD Governor – August 15th


Next we talked about the team banquet. it is being held the evening of May 21st. More details to come. Please be sure to tell your parents, any sponsors, school officials who helped and any and all volunteers that made this season possible.


We moved on to talking about our seniors. We really want to know where everyone is going and what their major’s are. We also want to think of some way of recognizing our seniors before they leave the program. Lastly we want to collect some data that the team can use to win awards in the future.


Next we talked about all of the to do items in May. This list is critical as we get ready to end the school year and make next season more successful.

  • Set up time in lab – Ari
  • Set up a fund raiser – Micaela
  • pick new team leads – JJ & Natalie
  • Plan banquet – Parents
  • Set up a drive day at Walt Whitman so that anyone on the team can drive Maelstrom – Floris
  • Set up drive day at Pyle so that incoming freshman get a chance to drive – ??
  • Set up robot demos – Joey
  • Clean up lab and robot room – Sebastian and Theo
  • Invite sponsors to banquet – ??
  • Make senior gifts – Micaela
  • Find space for summer – Ari and Jonah
  • Make Liftzilla and Maelstrom completely functional for summer demos
  • Get robots, tower and drive station to United Therapeutics before school closes


Lastly, and most importantly we set the goals for the 2016-2017 season

  • Raise $50,000, create a budget and be within 10% of the budget
  • Create a larger and more diver core group with a minimum of 4 people on each sub team
  • Ensure that leadership team and that each sub team has at least one female
  • Win district and district championship
  • Have 3 major impacts on the community
  • Transfer knowledge to more incoming students


The team will meet again in the 21st to create the plans to make these goals a reality. Here is the agenda for that meeting;


  • Agenda items for the 21st
    • 2016 summer plans
      • starting teams
        • FTC
        • FLL
    • 2016 fall plans
      • Off seasons
        • Battle O’Baltimore – Sept ?? 2016, Baltimore, MD.
        • Girl power – Oct ?? 2016, Flourtown, PA.
        • Rumble in the roads – Nov 5 2016, Newport News, VA
      • training
      • fund raising
    • 2017 spring plans
    • picking team leaders
    • picking drive team
    • lab cleanup
    • Communication tools
    • respect
  • Lab Cleanup May 23rd, 25th and 27th

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Clubs Night This Thursday

This Thursday between 5pm and 7pm in room D213 the Walt Whitman Robotics team is inviting one and all to join us in showing off our 2016 robot.  Folks that stop by can drive our 2015 robot Liftzilla and take a look at the 2016 robot names Maelstrom.  We will give tours of the lab and answer any STEM or robotics questions you might have.

Open Labs night

Please come to Walt Whitman High School room D213 between 5pm and 7pm and be curious.

Students and visitors of any age are welcome.

What are our Almuni Up To

The Walt Whitman Robotics Club has been around since 2004 and has had over 150 people graduate from the program.  Here is the map of where all of those alumni have ended up.

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Here are all of the places our alumni work




The page is a little light since we just started this in 2015.  Please help us fill it out by sending us info on our graduates and pictures from previous year to

Alumna’s message to students thinking about joining robotics

2013-03-28 10-22-01Robotics was my favorite place at Whitman. It was the most enjoyable “work” I’ve ever done, a retreat from stress, a place to hang out with friends, and a powerful teacher. All these are and were connected, so I’ll start with the beginning. Most people, including myself, come into robotics knowing very few relevant skills, and with maybe one or two friends there. So the first things we did were to play some team building games, and go through how to safely operate all the machinery.

Once the basics are done, robotics really starts. Robotics is wonderful in that it’s very much up to the students what to do, and every individual has a ton of options. All that’s given to you is the rules, and how to score points in the year’s game. So you decide, with your teammates, what your strategy is; offense, defense, team player, solo, some mix? Then you have to decide on just how you’re going to accomplish that strategy, what traits do you need to perform well? Maneuverability? Speed? Durability? How are you going to accomplish that, swerve drive, tank drive, 6 wheels, 4 wheels? What kind of wheels, skid wheels, mechanum, omni?

Everything is left up to the team. And the people with more experience will have more to say, but everyone can put up their ideas. And at first, no single option is decided. Which is wonderful! What happens is the various implementations of the strategy are researched, prototyped, and tested. Each implement tends to have its own sub-leader who’s passionate about that project, and is there consistently. My first year I helped lead a sub-project simply because I was there often enough, and really wanted to see it through. It was great to see it done, even when it wasn’t used later, just because I knew that this was my sub-teams little creation. One of the epic, and extremely real-world, parts of robotics is how you really get out what you put in. And if you can’t be there consistently, you still join up on whichever project you like the most, and help out when you can. The choices are really up to you, robotics gives you a freedom you really don’t find until college, and it’s brilliant and enjoyable. The “work” is so fun because it’s what you choose to do.

But the work isn’t just your work, it’s your team’s work. Each subteam member helped build or plan or wire or program the mechanism, and you all did it together. You can’t have a working mechanism with no power, or with nothing to tell the motors or pneumatics when to run, code. So you learn to accommodate the other member’s needs on the system. More than that, you learn to work together. You start becoming a team, sharing laughs at your derpy failures, and being proud of your shared work.

You also form bonds outside your subteam, robotics has dinner! Oftentimes, work goes on rather late into the evening. But that’s also a great way of team building, because you’re all in the same situation. We had one day where all the seniors blitzkrieged their math homework together. We often talked about our aspirations during *between* classes, and it’s quite brilliant to learn how everyone is getting their “work” done. So by the time the tournaments start rolling around, you’ve definitely found your niche, with probably a few closer friends, and the rest of the team being pretty awesome, but in the background.

The tournaments are awesome. First, if you’re going to a non-DC tournament, you essentially get the college life. You’re going out with your friends to get food, and sleeping (or staying up late watching movies) together. The actual rounds are a mess of high-speed stress, exhaustion, elation, and general passion. Team cheers happen, or sometimes don’t, but the entire team is hanging by the same high-tension thread while they watch the robot go. The frustrations can come out, but it’s also a period where the entire team shares the same joys and pains. And when it’s over, it’s celebration time; a few more movies, and some food, and then the return to a life where you wish the lab was open more.

When it’s through, you’ll be astounded at what you’ve learned. It really is amazing how what you see around you changes. I can name half the parts on the bus, and how it was put together. But what’s better are the lessons in what you can do. You really learn what you can do; you went through a difficult project from the very basics, and have learned enough to embark on your own projects. I’ve fundraised for my own little projects, and have the confidence to do them. No longer do I say, “oh that’d be cool,” and then just move on. I make it. Because I know I can, and because I want to. Also because there’s something intrinsically awesome about creating things. It’s not like I wasn’t self-confident before, but now I’ve got much more of a “let’s do it, because it’ll be awesome!” attitude.

This has obviously had an impact on my day to day life, but it’s probably most evident in the start of my college life. The college I’m going to started their engineering society when I was a freshmen, and it didn’t have the backing of the relatively small engineering department. I joined, and immediately became part of the board. You don’t realize how much you know till you see others who don’t really know: a fair number of the board were individual hobbyists. They didn’t know how to go about large scale, team oriented projects. So I helped forge the new society into a more professional and large scale organization, because I knew how to go about all the frustrating necessities for large projects, such as fundraising and coordination. I helped teach the various years, freshmen to senior, some of the basic skills I learned in robotics, and I organized my own projects which the society pursued together. I think what let me do all that was the organization, brute-determination, and self-confidence I learned from robotics.

So, if you’re thinking about joining, GO FOR IT! I literally can’t encourage you enough, I love seeing new people join! Join for the friends, for the skills, for the overall lessons, for the late nights and great dinners! Join for the experience, just give it a try. If you need some more practical incentives, 9 of 12 of my year’s seniors went to Ivy+ colleges. I can, and have, talked with professional engineers and can carry an in-depth conversation for a while. I’ve got enough relevant job-skills that I’m teaching some Grad Students how to go about their engineering projects, and teaching various entrepreneurs at the local tech start up how to CAD or other skills. But frankly, I think back on robotics not for these, but for the new world-view where I see all that society has built around me, and mostly for the amazing times I had; with the friends I continue to spend time with.

Good luck, and rock it!


Even Mata

Walt Whitman 2014 grad