Battle bots enter arena in annual competition

Jack Stornello, Staff Reporter

The culmination of six months of hard work arrived earlier this month, as the Robotics Club had their district competition at Rolling Meadows.

Dozens of students from schools around the state and even other states came to show off their creations.

Competitions like these have been taking place for over a decade, with ABC’s Battlebots (airing just last year) featuring many of the most prominent and well-known competitors throwing their bots into the ring.

Rolling Meadows’s district competition isn’t a recent establishment, either. It’s been going “for 7 years now,” said club sponsor Jay Whalen, and it’s no small event either.

“This year we had about 35 students,” said Whalen, “It fluctuates year to year, but it’s usually right around 30-35 students.”

Furthermore, the amount and the variety of schools competing was equally impressive. This particular year included “all of District 214, there were [also] 3-4 schools from [District] 211, Leyden and Boston,” Whalen informed.

“We more or less needed a fun project-based assignment for engineering students,” Whalen re-marked, commenting on the reasons behind creating the competition, “It’s sort of a culmination of lots of different classes now. There’s programming, machining, design, etc.”

Preparation isn’t done overnight, either. Students start work “right at the beginning of the year,” and “go all the way up to the competition.” Six months of planning, building, and testing, all for two days of competing, shows just how committed these students are, and how great the payoff is at the end. There’s definitely a lot they look forward to at these competitions.

“I was looking forward to seeing our bot in action and just a culmination of all of our hard work during the competition,” senior Hannah Olson explained “Everyone put in a lot of time and effort into building these robots and at the competition it was really cool to see everyone’s ideas come together. There were some pretty interesting robot designs and weapon ideas and you never know what kind of quirky touch someone will put on their robot.”

Senior Peter Barts was “most interested to see the returning bots” and to find out “how well they held up” to their own, while senior Campbell Kraemer looked forward to “being able to finally battle test” his team’s creation.

“What I was looking forward to seeing at the competition,” said senior Darien Middendorp, “was the battle-bot that my team built either A, beat another one, or B, get blown up. Also, the best part of the competitions is watching little kid’s reactions in the stands. This is because later on in life the kids might be more interested in going into a STEM career later on in life.”

Whalen also has a favorite aspect of the whole experience.

“I like the hands-on learning that the students do. It’s one thing to plan a robot out, but to actually make it, and troubleshoot the problems that arise, [to] show true knowledge of what you’re doing.”