News, UCM News

Battling it out: STA program teaching robot design

(Photo by Garret Fuller/ Senior Writer)

An after-school program on the Missouri Innovation Campus teaches juniors and seniors in high school how to build battlebots for competition.

Eric Walters, an instructor and adjunct professor at UCM, helps run the program called Summit Cubed. He said students involved with Summit Cubed learn how to build the bots within certain guidelines, weight restrictions, voltage requirements and the proper design for competition.

Walters said he has been involved with Summit Cubed for three years and since then, they have won first at a Kansas City regional competition and have made it to a national one.

He said they had software programming students two years ago try to write their own code for the battle bots.

“It turned out to be pretty daunting,” he said. “Maybe we’ll get a little further next year.”

Walters said they use 3D printing to help build the pieces for battlebots. But he said the first year they did it, it didn’t go as planned.

“It was really awesome. Unfortunately, we made it too big.” He said. “It was a little cumbersome to drive…so we didn’t do super good with that one.”

Walters said the next bot they built using 3D printed parts in 2017, they did much better in the competition.

“That one won first place at the Kansas City regionals.” he said. “Then we went to nationals.”

He said they used a metal-made battlebot last year and changed to different tires and used 3D printing for the rims and the conceptual pieces. He said last year, they got 12th at nationals out of 69 other battlebot teams, including college teams. To win, the teams have to get aggressive.

“You get graded on how aggressive you were,” he said. “You can get points, too, if you’re defensive and if you do things that are well thought out. Eventually, if you immobilize the other bot either by destroying it, or you can knock it on its backside like a turtle, you win.”

Walters said it can be hard to grasp at first, but the students learn a lot along the way.

“It is tough for juniors to really wrap their mind around this stuff. And when you start trying to work with multiple pieces and assembling in CAD (computer-aided design) systems, it’s a whole level harder,” he said. “They worked really hard and we’ve got a lot of cool ideas. We could have just cobbled things together, but that’s also the teams that don’t win.”

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