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.
- Larger stipends for robotics coaches
- Schools participate in filling robotics coach vacancies so that teams do not go with out a coach
- Access to practice space and build space without being charged CUPF fees
- Access to MoCo transportation resources for attending events
- Access to team administration support in the school and at the county level
- Access to gyms and schools for tournaments at zero cost to the team
- Students could varsity letter in robotics
We also discussed the major positives for the MCPS athletics Directors office, MCPS and the County Council
- More people would be interested in and responsible for growing STEM students inside the county
- More people would be interested in and responsible for growing diversity of STEM student participation inside the county
- More people would be interested in and responsible for growing the number of project based learning activities inside the county
- More students inside the county would be prepared to walk out of high school prepared for both college and vocational training
- Athletics would get access to county, state and federal funds dedicated towards STEM programs
- 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.
Thanks to Mr. Leventhal for the photos.