Hersey students finish first during Robot Rumble at Prospect High

Hersey students finish first during annual Robot Rumble at Prospect High

  • Fremd High School senior Justin Lilliebridge makes a weld repair to his team's robot while working in the auto shop area during the Robot Rumble at Prospect High School in Mount Prospect.

      Fremd High School senior Justin Lilliebridge makes a weld repair to his team's robot while working in the auto shop area during the Robot Rumble at Prospect High School in Mount Prospect. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald correspondent
Posted3/4/2020 9:30 AM

Fans poured into the field house at Prospect High School on Saturday, literally faster than organizers could set up chairs.

The draw: the 11th annual Robot Rumble, which featured 44 student-made robots from 14 schools, all designed for destruction.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

These fighting machines could weigh up to 100 pounds and involved fabricating sheets of metal, aluminum or plexiglass, as well as wiring its electric components and programming its remote-control features.

"This brings science, technology and engineering together," said Dave Wietrzak, technology division head at Rolling Meadows High School, who helped start the competition.

"Plus, it's collaborative," Wietrzak added. "Kids work together to build, test and design their robot, and all before bringing it to competition."

A Hersey robot, left, engages in battle with one from Conant during the Robot Rumble at Prospect High School.
  A Hersey robot, left, engages in battle with one from Conant during the Robot Rumble at Prospect High School. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer
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The Rumble took place Friday and Saturday, Feb. 28-29, and drew more than 1,000 spectators on Saturday alone.

Schools competing included Buffalo Grove, Conant, East Leyden, Elk Grove, Fremd, Hersey, Hoffman Estates, Niles West, Palatine, Prospect, Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg, West Leyden and Wheeling high schools.

In the end, the last robot standing, so to speak, was one designed by Hersey students -- one of the six robots they entered in the competition. Schaumburg and Prospect finished second and third, respectively.

While the majority of the action took place inside the 20-foot arena -- built by faculty members from Northwest Suburban High School 214 and made of plexiglass -- the problem solving took place back in the pit areas and the auto shop, where students made repairs and even resorted to more welding.

One early match on Saturday paired the only two all-girls teams against each other, from Conant and Fremd. The Fremd bot won the match, allowing them to fight another day in the double-elimination tournament, but the Conant girls seemed pleased.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Teagan Whiteside, a Conant junior from Elk Grove Village, described their robot's features, including its 23-inch wheels and frame raised high off the ground, the better to survive an attack. But it also featured a crane off the front that they described as its secret weapon.

"It can hit from the top," Whiteside explained, "and most bots are not expecting overhead hits."

Her teammates said they were interested in engineering when they joined the robotics club, but the four months of working together surpassed their expectations.

"I love the building part of it," said Kyla Herr, a Conant junior from Hoffman Estates. "It's all hands-on, and you get to just go for it."

Hersey High School senior Adam Tichansky makes a repair to his team's robot during the Robot Rumble at Prospect High School in Mount Prospect.
  Hersey High School senior Adam Tichansky makes a repair to his team's robot during the Robot Rumble at Prospect High School in Mount Prospect. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Tim Schaap coaches students at Rolling Meadows High School. He has more than 40 students involved, who began meeting one day a week back in September. They ultimately brought four robots to the Rumble.

"We give them the freedom to design whatever they want," Schaap says. "Then students vote on what bots they'd like to make.

"There are lots of educational benefits," he adds, "but the kids have fun. And they get to destroy stuff."

One of his students, senior Nate Morgan from Mount Prospect, saw the benefits from his involvement even before he applied to college. He earned an internship at an aerospace engineering firm last summer after describing his experience with Robot Rumble.

A group of Hersey students moves their robot from the competition arena following a victory during the Robot Rumble at Prospect High School in Mount Prospect.
  A group of Hersey students moves their robot from the competition arena following a victory during the Robot Rumble at Prospect High School in Mount Prospect. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

"They realized I could already do all this stuff," Morgan says. "It put me ahead of my peers. Now, I'm looking at majoring in mechanical or aerospace engineering."

Seth Hettel, the division head at Prospect who ran the Rumble, said the emphasis on STEM education is driving the interest, both at schools and with students. He pointed to the junior high schools that came to watch on Friday, as well as students from Illinois State University.

"It offers experience in fields we need right now," Hettel said, "namely manufacturing, engineering and computer science."

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