By Jonathan Weaver
A team of Lenape Tech students will battle this weekend to show just how much ‘BotsIQ’ they have.
Friday morning, the group of juniors and seniors will compete in the Southwestern Pennsylvania BotsIQ Finals at California University of Pennsylvania.
Through all three trimesters so far, students have worked on their battle robot “Irobot.”
The robot originally had a different design a few weeks ago, but following the preliminary competition March 14 and 15 at Westmoreland County Community College in Youngwood, Pa., students redid the design and eliminated spikes on the end of the motorized vehicle.
Junior Nic Reesman of Kittanning drew the final bot design and said instead of the spikes, the robot is now curved so that it can’t be flipped by opponents in the area.
The lack of spikes also improves the robot’s battery life throughout each bout. Each team can only have up to a 24-volt battery.
CADD/Pre-Engineering Technology Instructor Heather Simpson supported the team’s decision.
“That’s how they competed in March – with spikes the whole way around – (but) from the experience they had, they decided they wanted something different on the ends that they thought would work better during battle,” Simpson said. “The spikes actually didn’t receive any damage – it was the bolts that they had holding the spikes on that actually bent.”
Reesman crafted the custom master switch and was a leader of the group with Junior Ryan Minckler of West Shamokin – who is mainly interested in the auto technology trade.
“I’ve always been interested in battle bots. I watched YouTube videos on them, and when I first interviewed for Lenape, they said I could use it as an elective so I picked it for second trimester and got involved in building the whole thing,” Minckler said.
Minckler’s second pick is precision machining now after he learned to solder and strip the wires.
Senior Paige Chestnut of Kittanning is one of two girls on the team after working with the FIRST Robotics team earlier this Spring. She will take the controller for one of this weekend’s battles.
“We take turns driving. I drove last competition once, but I only got 2-3 seconds in before we were flipped,” Chestnut said.
Senior Chris Hitchens competed with last year’s bot “Helichoper” and also gets to drive this weekend.
“If everything works out alright with the remote control and it gets programmed right, I think we should be in good shape,” Hitchens said.
He will be eying up the operator of Admiral Perry Vo-Tech in Ebensburg – their first-round matchup – for any sudden moves.
“I think a lot of its mental – you have to watch what your opponents are going to do before you decide what you’re going to do,” Hitchens said. “If they’re driving around like a maniac, instead of attacking them, why not just wait until they get to a certain spot and hit `em? Look for their weak spot on their bot.”
Simpson – who did grade the students based on research papers on materials for the bot – was impressed with the students’ teamwork and their efforts to combine aspects of precision machining, automotive technology and welding.
“They worked really well this year pulling together – especially after the first competition when they came back and wanted to re-engineer the robot. Usually the students just come back and fix dents – this group wanted to make changes the robot and they did a great job coming up with ideas and agreeing on the changes,” Simpson said. “I was really impressed with the team this year.
“It’s a success as far as I’m concerned, whether we win or lose, because they all learned something new.”
Lenape Tech won the first BotsIQ competition in 2006 with “Ila” – which in the Lenape Indian language means “warrior.” Parts of each bot are salvaged year-after-year.
More than 50 high schools will compete with a total of nearly-80 fighting bots, but “Irobot” will be the only bot from Armstrong County competing.
Students leave at 8AM Friday for inspection and Round 1.