Staff Spotlight: Assistant Professor Maria Uriyo as high school robotics advisor

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Mario Uriyo headshot in IronMechs shirt
Dr. Maria Uriyo

Since 2015, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Administration and Policy Maria Uriyo and her husband have been using STEM/robotics as a tool to teach middle and high school age students develop their problem-solving skills.

In order to be most effective in this effort, Uriyo and her husband formed Abacus Robotics, a nonprofit organization that trains students-centered teams to design, build, program, and test robots for use in competing in VEX Robotics tournaments. As the robotics program has grown, Abacus Robotics has moved toward focusing on training parents to act as coaches for teams within the organization. 

This past season, the Abacus Robotics had two teams: IronMechs 2.0 (99157B) and IronMechs 3.0 (99157C). Both teams competed and won awards at the local and state championship levels. The IronMechs 2.0 team qualified to compete at the world championship in Dallas, Texas. At the World Championship, the IronMechs 2.0 team won the Energy Award for their Division. The team had the opportunity to be interviewed by PBS Newshour Classroom.

Each academic year, VEX Robotics releases a new challenge, which requires teams to design, build, program, drive and complete the required mission of the game. Competing teams within each match are organized into two alliance. Each alliance is made up of two teams. The two alliances play against each other. The match has two parts: a 15 second autonomous part and a 105 second manual driving part.

During the autonomous part, the robots may only be controlled by prewritten software code that the students have developed and loaded onto their robots. During the manual driving part, a designated student driver uses a remote controller to control the robots to accomplish the tasks required for the game. Each tournament consists of teams and alliances playing a predefined set of qualifying matches. Based on the performance of the teams during the qualifying matches, they are all ranked and the top 16 teams are selected to compete in the elimination round. The elimination round matches include the following: involving the round of 16, quarter finals, semifinals, and finals. 

Learn more about what Uriyo does while she's "off the clock."

At George Mason University, Uriyo is an assistant professor and MHA Online Program Coordinator in the Department of Health Administration and Policy. Previously, she was a project manager for NCQA accreditation at Johns Hopkins HealthCare LLC’s Quality Improvement Department where she successfully managed the reaccreditation of JHHC’s 3 lines of business - Employer Health Programs (a self-funded health plan in Maryland), Priority Partners Managed Care Organization (a Medicaid Plan), and US Family Health Plan (a managed care program developed by the Department of Defense). These three plans provided care to over 275,000 covered lives. She was program director at Medicalincs LLC, an independent minority owned healthcare consulting firm located in Maryland where she oversaw the Rare & Expensive Medical Conditions Program that provided care coordination services to clients residing in select counties in Maryland.