They’re made from popsicle sticks, syringes, hot glue and hopes. They come in all shapes and sizes. Antony Fink’s class about the hands-on application of physics and engineering at Cody High School pitted students against one another in a classic battle of judo bots.
“The whole class is based on learning the engineering design process,” Fink said. “This gets them all hands-on and having fun.”
The bots look a bit like how one might imagine an automatic spatula. They have long arms for flipping their opponents off the table and sturdy bases to act as counterbalances. Syringes and tubing provide their power and movement through basic hydraulics.
The “fights” take place on a table in an arena. Not unlike sumo wrestlers, the bots start off in a square and try to hold their position – or fall off the edge. Each one looks different, each one has a unique design. Water squirts everywhere as the lines pop, struggling against their opponent.
Teams of two square off, struggling for control. Teams Sumo and Uppercut place their machines on the table. The arms swing side to side, up and down, trying to find a purchase on their opponents machine. Each one has a long, thin arm, like a wooden kebab skewer.
The bots play pattycake, bouncing off each other until Sumo finds a purchase. Uppercut can’t break free, and Sumo snaps its arm in half.
“That’s the first time someone’s broken a piece off,” said Teagan Robson, a freshman who makes up half of Team Sumo.
These Career and Technical Education classes are much loved by the students.
“I’m really into these sorts of classes,” said sophomore Rachel Lear, “especially woodworking.”
“CTE classes in general bring together all sorts of education,” Fink said. “They let students apply what they’re learning through hands-on activities and develop skills.”
Sumo faces off against Second Place, a team whose bot has a truly gargantuan arm. It extends across nearly the entire table, and the base of the bot fills nearly the entire square. A counterweight at the end of the arm dips low enough that the bot can brace itself against the table.
They battle back and forth. With these bots, it’s all about pressure. The pressure to find a purchase, and the pressure going through the syringes. Andy Anderson, the other half of Second Place, presses his syringe in too hard. The line pops off and their gargantuan flipping arm is locked in the up position.
Sumo finds a place to hold but can’t flip the bot because of the counterweight. Time in the round ticks down. Fink, teacher and referee, declares Second Place the winner of the bout.
“That’s some proper B.S. right there!” Royce Lineberger, the other half of Sumo, says.
B.S. or not (Second Place certainly disagreed), they’re learning more than just how to deal with a disappointing call from a referee. Where the skills take them is anyone’s guess.