Robots and their teen builders seek tax break

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Heather Lin and Samuel Lin testify on tax bill with sponsor Sen. Guy Guzzone. MarylandReporter.com photo

By Diane Rey

For Maryland Reporter

Robots and their teenage builders seeking a tax break livened up a hearing before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Wednesday.

Heather Lin, 15, and her brother, Samuel Lin, 13, of Potomac, are already veterans in the world of robotics. They brought several trophies and medals from local, state and international competitions to prove it.

They came to Annapolis to support SB 122, which would provide a property tax credit to property owners who allow robotics clubs to meet at their site.

“This is a program kids go through in elementary and middle school. In high school, their robots weigh 150 pounds or so, so space becomes more important as you move up through the grades,” said Sen. Guy Guzzone, D-Howard, the bill’s sponsor and a committee member.

The Lin siblings are part of a 6-member FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics team that meets in the Lin family’s basement. Heather also serves as head coach of a FIRST LEGO League (FLL) robotics team that meets in the Rockville Science Center. Maryland has about 120 FTC teams and about 400 FLL teams, according to Heather and Samuel’s father, Dawei Lin.

The teens  showed senators a kit they made to inspire their peers to make their own robots and learn how circuits work. So far, they’ve distributed about 200 kits and have connected with students from more than 30 schools.

They’re gearing up now to compete this Saturday at the FIRST Tech Challenge Virginia State Championship. More than 50 of the top high school and middle school robotics teams from Virginia and Maryland are expected to attend.

“The excitement is one of the most important parts of robotics,” said Heather, following their Senate testimony. “It’s like any sport. It’s the same intensity, except you’re exercising your brain instead.”

The teams are required to design, build, and program their own working robots based on sound engineering principles.

Senators were impressed.

“Elon Musk better watch out,” said Budget and Taxation Vice Chair Sen. Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore.