Robotics gets a boost from SAIC

Defense company donates to STEM efforts with $3,000

Friday, April 29, 2011

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Representatives from Science Applications International Corp., La Plata division, presented a check to the College of Southern Maryland Foundation in support of the college's robotics program. From left are CSM Business and Technology Division Chairman Robert Gates, CSM President Bradley M. Gottfried, SAIC Vice President and Division Manager Mark McGraw, SAIC Deputy Division Manager Bonnie Rafer and CSM Executive Director of Development Martina Arnold.

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CSM Foundation board member Jay Lilly, left, and SAIC Deputy Division Manager Bonnie Rafer were spectators at the CSM Southern Maryland Robotics Challenge on April 9 at the La Plata campus.

The College of Southern Maryland received a boost to its annual robotics competitions for area youth through a donation of $3,000 from Science Applications International Corp., La Plata division.

"The American economy and our standard of living have been built on innovation," Amy Alving, SAIC chief technology officer, said in a news release announcing the donation. "And innovation is created by people educated in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. Our nation's future depends on maintaining a strong pipeline of students in these fields. That's why SAIC supports science-based programs like FIRST Robotics that engage and motivate students to pursue STEM careers."

The FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship was April 27 in St. Louis and included a local team who qualified through CSM's Maryland FIRST Tech Challenge in December.

Under the Son, the team of Renee, Erik, Mary and Laura, home-schooled children of David and Lydean Spangler of Hollywood, returned from Atlanta last spring with a trophy for competing on the World Championship team — they hoped to repeat this week.

The Spanglers, who are competing in St. Louis, weighed in on what the FIRST program has meant to them.

"Robotics has helped me to decide to pursue a career in mechanical engineering," said Erik Spangler, who along with his sister, Renee, will have two robots in the World Championship, a FIRST Tech Challenge robot and a FIRST Robotics Competition robot.

"Robotics has helped strengthen my leadership abilities and has provided me a choice of multiple careers," Renee Spangler said.

"Being the on-field coach has helped me learn to make decisions under pressure," Mary Spangler said.

"Just getting to the qualifying competition can be a great expense for teams," said Robert Gates, CSM business and technology division chairman. "Sponsorships can help with award money that allows teams, like the Spanglers, to compete at the next level."

"STEM is a big growth area for all educational partners in Southern Maryland," said Michelle Goodwin, CSM vice president of advancement.

"And events like robotics competitions allow us to demonstrate to youth that science and technology are fun and exciting areas of study; we encourage them to stay engaged through their high school years and into college. We are grateful for partners, such as SAIC, who have those same goals and values and help make these outreach events possible."