Md. robotics students take 2nd place in international competition

Members of the robotics team left to right: senior Kate Milka Piszczek, sophomore Élan Naideck, freshman Theo Goltzman, freshman Peter Maldonado and senior Sasha Malfonado. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)

ROCKVILLE, Md. — A group of high school students with a passion for science, technology, engineering and math has come out near the top in a worldwide competition in robotics, held this past weekend in St. Louis, Mo.

“We just won second place at the world competition, the international competition between teams all over the world,” proclaims Elan Naideck, a sophomore at Richard Montgomery High School, a member of one of the school’s two robotic teams.

More than 3,300 student teams took part in the competition in which they built robots that had to meet a double challenge.

“What they have to do is pick up 2-inch plastic cubes and toss them into baskets and then, also during the end of the game, the robot is supposed to pull himself up on a steel bar,” says Kate Milka Piszczek, a senior who’ll attend MIT. in the fall.

There are seven boys and four girls on the robotic team, which the kids have named “RM-ed and Dangerous,” — RM denoting their school’s initials but pronounced – “armed.”

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Awards won by Richard Montgomery High School’s robotic team. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)

Besides their inventiveness, the kids — smart enough to build a world-class robot — seem to embody high intelligence and playfulness. Their black and yellow team jerseys display a warning symbol. One female team member’s black skirt is trimmed in yellow lettering that spells “caution.” Team members are great advocates of study in science, technology, engineering and math.

“If the rate of technological growth we’ve seen in the last 20 years could be sustained, I think we could see some amazing things but that’s only going to be sustained if we have more engineers, more scientists,” says Sasha Maldonada, a senior who’ll attend Stanford University in the fall.

The robotics team doesn’t get anywhere near the backing or financial support that high school sports teams receive.

The students conducted fundraising to support their work and built their robot at the Rockville Public Library.

“We work tireless hours at the library. We sit there till eight cursing at robots,” says Naideck.

Looking back at their year of hard work, the kids are understandably proud of their achievement.

“It’s really cool to be able to start out with a pile of metal parts and now we’ve made something that’s successful,” says Milka Piszczek.

The robotics team is also paving the way for future students. While the county council must still approve, they’ve helped persuade the Montgomery County Board of Education to provide $40,000 in funding next year for extra-curricular activities in science, technology, engineering and math.

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