Robotics Club builds bots for rival competition

By Nabi Dressler

Robotics Club's robot Renegade is being refurbished for the upcoming Battlebots competition. Throughout the year, Robotics club spends time on working and building robots.
Robotics Club's robot Renegade is being refurbished for the upcoming Battlebots competition. Throughout the year, Robotics club spends time on working and building robots.

Staff Writer

Robotics Club is about more than just building robots. It incorporates technology, engineering, teamwork, design, a lot of hands-on work, competition and according to Robotics Club senior Jordan Maziarka, it’s fun.

Maziarka, seniors Dariusz Horwat and Ben Menich and Math/Science Resource department teachers Dino Trinh and Joseph Salvato founded the club during the 09-10 school year.

Since the establishment of Prospect’s Robotics team last year, the club is steadily growing. The 10 students in this year’s club (compared to last year’s three) will be partaking in a two-day District 214 Battlebots Competition against rival D214 schools, creating two brand-new bots, re-designing last year’s bot and, hopefully, winning matches.

But hard work and time come prior to the competition. Engineering robots doesn’t happen overnight for Robotics Club.

The club starts off the school year with a brainstorming session on what battle bots they’ll be making throughout the year, either pusher or weapon bots. Their only project throughout the year is working on the robots for the Battlebots competition.

This year, Robotics Club decided to make three robots. They’re refurbishing their bot from last year named Blue Thunder, now known as Renegade, they’re creating a vertical Spinner named Bowse, and they’re making a two-wheeled ramp bot that will most likely be named Razorback.

The team then designs the bots to exact specifications, selects the materials to build them, draws the components using a Computer Aided Design application, orders the parts like the motor, wheels or radio control units, assembles the bots and eventually will take the bots to compete in the D214 Battlebots Competition.

The Battlebots Competition takes place this year at John Hersey High School on March 11-12, and includes five of the six D214 schools, besides Rolling Meadows High School, who participates in a different competition.

The D214 administration is considering expanding the competition to other school districts in the Chicago area as well in order to get more kids involved in robotics, get more talent, and enhance the challenge ground.

Trinh, one of the two teachers who runs Robotics Club, keeps the club going because he wants to share his knowledge and experiences with the students. He got the job by going to the Career and Technology Education head and introducing himself.

“…I have over 20 years of mechanical engineering [experience] and I also assisted with the ‘For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology’ robotics teams when I worked at Motorola,” he said.

As an engineer, Trinh likes to build motors and moving parts that deal with speed, and students like Maziarka are interested in engineering and technology.

According to Maziarka, the Club isn’t a huge commitment. Some members just work on bots during Robotics Club meetings that take place after school on Tuesdays from 3-4 or 3-4:30, depending on how much will be worked on.

Other members, like Maziarka and Menich, work on the bots during their Computer Integrated Manufacturing and Aerospace Engineering Project Lead the Way classes at Wheeling and Elk Grove High Schools because Prospect does not have a machine shop.

It’s impossible for the club to manufacture certain parts of the robots without a proper place to do so.

The club is “starting to meet during the weekend to fabricate and assemble the components”. Maziarka spends his lunch periods working on the bots too.

Maziarka’s dedication to the club pays off and his work gets rewarded when he finally gets to compete the finished bots at the robotics competition that takes place at Hersey every year, his favorite thing about Robotics Club.

“It’s a very intense feeling seeing the bots battle against each other, especially when we win matches,” Maziarka said. “The sound of the music and the lights just amplify the feeling even more… The adrenaline to get a bot working right after a match and having to engineer new ways to do things right on the spot makes it even better.”

Currently, Robotics Club “is not really allowing people to join… as the bots are pretty much done”, and Trinh stresses the importance of joining early in the school year for team building.

The club does, however, invite interested students to come learn about the club since they can join next year, when new bots will be designed.

Maziarka thinks students should join robotics club because it’s interesting, fun, and, unlike most clubs, it’s very interactive.

“…At some clubs you just discuss things,” Maziarka said. “At Robotics Club we are building battle bots that will get into matches with bots from other schools… We have exact knowledge of how well they do.”

“I think that a club where a person gets to work hands on a project is best [because] it’s a cool feeling when something that someone had their hands on wins matches and they know that that’s their work that [won],” he said.

This year’s Robotics Club, mostly seniors who won’t be returning next year, are currently “looking for additional talents” for the next school year.

“[Robotics Club is different] because what other [clubs] do you get to take off of school to battle using robots?” Maziarka said. “There’s no club out there like that, or even close.”