Baltimore City Competitive Robotics Program

October 2023 / Case Studies / Education
Two students hold their robots at a robotics competition.

The Baltimore City Competitive Robotics Program – the extracurricular robotics program for Baltimore City Public Schools – trains students to design, build, and program robots for team competitions, encouraging teamwork, leadership, and problem solving with adult mentors while buttressing in-school academic performance. With support from the Abell Foundation, it has grown from a program struggling with participation numbers, staff and student retention, and high costs to a thriving enterprise with about 140 registered after-school robotics teams from 60 schools throughout the city and approximately 500 active student participants. In 2013, Baltimore City had three nationally competitive robotics teams. Today, with the support of the Abell Foundation, there are nearly 50 such teams. The program is also ranked third in the country in terms of teams per capita among large cities.

To prepare for larger regional and national tournaments, teams meet weekly and participate in the city league and local open competitions on the weekends. Each competition features various
design challenges, with the opportunity to refine and reprogram robots between matches. This year’s challenge required teams to design a robot that can remove plastic disks from a variety of
dispensers and score them in different goals like hockey pucks.

Students watch their robots.

Students work on a robotics design challenge.

Funded in part by Baltimore City Public Schools, the Baltimore City Competitive Robotics Program’s full-time robotics specialist manages all aspects of the program, including recruitment, registration, training, and tournaments, and provides materials and resources to participating schools. The Abell Foundation complements this work by funding coach stipends during both the school year and summer. Robotics coaches lead weekly after-school practices and prepare their teams for at least three league events during the season. The top teams compete up to six times from October to May.

This year’s Maryland state robotics championship competition yielded many winners from Baltimore City Public Schools. Teams took home the titles of tournament champions and robot skills champions for both the elementary and middle school levels. They also took home runner-up finishes; the Create Award, Inspire Award, and Energy Award; and multiple Judges Awards, Amaze Awards, and Sportsmanship Awards. Fifteen teams from the city qualified for the May 2023 world championship event in Dallas, the largest number of teams to qualify in Baltimore history.


Photos courtesy of the Baltimore City Competitive Robotics Program.