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Real-world science academy earns students McDaniel scholarships

A team from the Summer Science Academy fit their sumo-bot with a javelin.
July 23, 2013

Although the $40,000 scholarships are an incentive, the reason 85 high school science students are attending McDaniel’s Summer Science Academy is simple – they love science, especially the rockets, robotics, forensics and real-world physical science headlining this year’s offerings.

Attendees are eligible for $10,000-per-year scholarships to McDaniel if they complete one week’s session and are accepted to the college. In fact, Physics professor Jeff Marx and Chemistry professor Brian Wladkowski, who designed and teach the sessions, note that the college has always offered generous financial aid packages to deserving students.

With these scholarships, they hope to draw even more science students to McDaniel’s highly regarded programs. The science academy, featuring two sessions a week over three weeks, also offers high school students an opportunity to see real applications of science, test their interest in a career in science – and get to know McDaniel.

But for right now, the students enrolled in the sessions, ranging from high school sophomores to college freshmen, are more focused on launching the rockets they built, figuring out who-done-it, using advanced lab equipment and techniques and defending their standings in the “Sumo-bot” battles among the robots they built and programmed.

A Summer Science Academy attendee works on his sumo-bot.On the final morning of the Robotics session, cheers rang out as sumo-bots named Omega, Pinokenstein (from Pinocchio and Frankenstein), Charger, and Die Ziegel rammed, dodged, tipped and shoved their opponents out of the white boundary encircling the black battlefield.

In teams of two, the dozen students armed and then programmed the robots to observe their surroundings – to turn around before venturing outside the white border and to engage their opponents. After each round, the teams had a five-minute break to re-program their robots based on what problems they observed in that battle.

When the final sumo-bot lay on its side outside the ring – and Die Zeigel, German for “the brick,” had been declared the number-one robot – everyone wanted to keep going so they put all the ‘bots in a makeshift ring on a table top and went at a free-for-all.

Die Ziegel’s designers – Brett Knox, a sophomore from South Carroll High School, and Ryan Fochler, a junior from North Harford High School – crowned their sumo-bot with a masking-tape crown. Knox, one of only two sophomores at the session, decided to attend because “robotics sounds like fun.”

Geordan Somerville’s physics teacher told him about the science academy.

“I wanted to see what dorm life was like and to learn a little bit about the programs at McDaniel,” says the Archbishop Curley High School senior from Baltimore, who sees the scholarship as a definite incentive. “I’ve met some cool people and learned a lot of stuff.”

For Brennan O’Reagan, from Bethesda, Md., and Gracie Chaney of New Windsor, Md., the science academy is just an introduction to McDaniel College.

They begin their first year at the college in the fall.

Two of the teams sumo-bots about to face off.

 
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