REACT Wins First Appalachian Laboratory Inspiration Award

May 8, 2023
Mr. Michael Fiscus (REACT) accepting 2023 award from Appalachian Laboratory Director Dr. David Nelson at Allegany College of Maryland on April 27, 2023.

The Appalachian Laboratory of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) is pleased to announce Robotics and Engineering in Allegany County- Together (REACT) as the inaugural winner of the new Appalachian Laboratory Inspiration Award.

The Appalachian Laboratory Inspiration Award, launched as part of the Lab’s 60th anniversary celebration in fall 2022, is awarded annually to an individual, nonprofit organization, or for-profit entity that supports or engages in activities related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the tristate region surrounding Frostburg, Maryland. 

“The Appalachian Lab has been doing world-class research to advise decision makers on air and water quality, wildlife and fisheries management, and forest and agricultural sustainability in western Maryland for 6 decades. We care deeply about our community and want to help inspire the next generation of STEM professionals in our region,” said Dr. David Nelson, Laboratory Director.

"This award is meant to recognize those who share our commitment to promoting the next generation of STEM professionals, to celebrate the great work being done in this realm by so many individuals and organizations in our region, and to promote the collaborations and partnerships that are so critical to success in rural areas like the tri-state region." 

REACT's Michael Fiscus, Lesa Edwards, Jessica Mellon and Barry Hartung with award.

REACT, an educational nonprofit organization, provides Allegany County students with opportunities to participate in engaging, fun robotics activities at all grade levels, challenging students to develop and use critical thinking, collaboration and communication skills in the context of solving real-world problems.  In just five years, the program, staffed and led by a team of volunteers, has grown from 35 students to 800 and from 4 competing robotics teams to 25.

“REACT does amazing work and they have certainly set a high bar for the award going forward,” said Nelson.  

The award selection committee, composed of community members and Laboratory faculty, chose REACT for this first ever award due to the depth and reach of their robotics and engineering activities. Their scaffolded approach to programming, enabling students to participate in a variety of linked STEM activities throughout their K-12 educational careers, clearly demonstrated the organization’s commitment to fostering the next generation of STEM professionals by continually encouraging an interest, curiosity, and confidence about STEM among participants and building the necessary strong foundation of STEM-related skills.

Appalachian Laboratory Inspiration Award for April 2023 award celebration.

"REACT is honored to receive this award from the Appalachian Laboratory. We are great admirers of their work and hope that we, in turn and through our efforts, can enable, enlighten and inspire local kids to pursue STEM activities and future STEM careers," said Barry Hartung, REACT President

The award was presented on April 27, 2023, at a special ceremony held at Allegany College of Maryland, host of past REACT robotic tournaments.

Nominations will be accepted in fall 2023 with the next award being presented in spring 2024. Visit or contact Rhonda Schwinabart at 301-689-7102 or for more information. Visit to learn more about events and community initiatives at the Appalachian Laboratory.

To learn more about REACT and how you can get involved with their activities, visit