Robot Rumble features student machines built for destruction

  • Hersey High School senior Nikhil Nair makes an adjustment to his team's robot Friday during the Robot Rumble at Prospect High School in Mount Prospect.

      Hersey High School senior Nikhil Nair makes an adjustment to his team's robot Friday during the Robot Rumble at Prospect High School in Mount Prospect. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Spectators and participants watch as robots do battle in the enclosed arena at Prospect High School.

      Spectators and participants watch as robots do battle in the enclosed arena at Prospect High School. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • A robot from Fremd High School, front, battles one from Prospect High School during the Robot Rumble competition Friday at Prospect High School in Mount Prospect.

      A robot from Fremd High School, front, battles one from Prospect High School during the Robot Rumble competition Friday at Prospect High School in Mount Prospect. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 2/28/2020 5:56 PM

The Prospect High School Fieldhouse looked like a scaled-down scene out of a "Mad Max" movie, with marauding robots designed for one task -- destruction.

The 11th annual Robot Rumble featured machines built by area high school students squaring off in a weekend competition that draws heavily on engineering and manufacturing skills, and the coolness of watching robots pound on each other.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We're just trying to eliminate everything else," said Nathan Boldt, a 17-year-old senior from John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights.

Boldt is a member of the "Nowhere to Hyde" team -- named for Rich Hyde, the school's engineering teacher and robotics adviser -- whose robot featured a weaponized spinning drum attached to a pulley and designed to make hard frontal contact with a competitor.

"This is the highlight of my year, 100 percent," Boldt said. "I'm very excited for it every year."

Students from 14 area schools bring 44 robots to compete in two-minute matches in a 20-square-foot arena surrounded by plexiglass and a plate-steel floor. Competitors, judges and spectators are outside the arena. The event was inspired by BattleBots, a professional, national event featuring robots weighing more than 200 pounds.

Hyde said the students spend four months or more designing and building the robots, which can weigh up to 85 pounds. The machines feature various weapons for pounding, and styles to push, upend and otherwise bully opponents.

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The most durable and robust robot is typically the one that will win in a match, Hyde said. Robots in the competition need a tough metal exterior and durable internal electronics.

It's an engineering challenge, he said, though all the participating schools are heavily into engineering and manufacturing. The ultimate goal of the competition is to help prepare students for careers in those areas, Hyde said.

"The kids are not only learning how to design stuff, but how to build it," he said. "That's the key -- if we can't manufacture it, what's the point of designing it?"

The competition continues Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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