As the final metal-grinding match of RoboBOTS 2014 sent the last sparks of battle into the plexiglass arena, Cochranton High School made history by becoming the only school to take home the first place trophy in two consecutive years.
Cochranton’s Team Millennium Force trounced the competition at Meadville Area High School on Saturday morning and into the evening with another undefeated winning streak courtesy of its bot Earthshaker which traded blows with team Wolfpack’s similar-style drumbot Falken in the championship match.
While Falken was able to keep fighting upside-down toward the end, it lost its front wedge to Earthshaker’s teeth and suffered one too many flips, taking home a few battle scars along with the second place trophy and leaving countless chunks of metal behind.
“First place was well-deserved by (Millennium Force),” said Gavyn Korinko of Wolfpack. “It was a great experience. We’ll come back bigger and better next year.”
Wolfpack and The Crusaders, also Cochranton teams, won second and fourth places respectively in the double-elimination tournament, sponsored by the National Tooling and Machining Association’s northwest Pennsylvania chapter.
Third place went to Saegertown High School’s team Menace with bot Black Widow, which worked its way up through the elimination bracket after an early loss to win with a come-from-behind victory over The Crusaders’ Excalibur.
“It was awesome,” said Matt Sowers, driver for Menace, undeterred by the loss to team Wolfpack. “We had a lot of fun with it.”
The final four bots all utilized spinning drum weapons with varying sizes of teeth, but ultimately experience and superior design brought home the consecutive win for Millennium Force, according to Lane Hall, the team’s driver.
“It feels good,” he said, still a bit stunned by the win. “Hopefully we do it again next year.”
Team member Adam Field was credited by his peers with an “amazing design,” the product of several months of research and testing, some of which involved contact with manufacturing and design companies as far away as California, according to Chris Yost, Cochranton’s coach.
“They’ve come a long way,” he said. “They came up with a whole new electrical system this year. They’re still learning it, but they figured it out to the point of competition.”
Millennium Force members engineered what they described as a brushless drive system with their in-kind sponsors Neu Motors and Castle Creations, based in California and Kansas respectively. The team also redesigned its bot’s frame and armor.
As a result, Earthshaker took a bite out of several bots besides Falken and became something of a crowd favorite midway through the competition when it rendered one opponent helpless by standing it up on its side before grinding it to pieces.
In addition to first, second and fourth place, Cochranton High School won Best Documented for the quality of its mandatory pre-competition submission of engineering designs. Millennium force also took home voter-based award King of the Ring.
“This is the best competition yet,” said Ken Kuhn, former NTMA president and owner of Kuhn Tool & Die, a RoboBOT sponsor. “The quality of bots gets better every year. Their matches last longer and the kids fix them quicker.”
While most if not all students comment as to the thrill and excitement of the event, RoboBOTS coordinators and sponsors strive, first and foremost, to interest local students in technical education careers.
“There seems to be more interest,” Kuhn said. “We’re now getting to the point where college-age kids are finishing their educations and getting back into the trade. I think we’re continuing to build interest in high school and middle school students.”
Yost agreed that a lot of students are looking into joining the machining and tool and die industries.
This year’s competition saw 43 teams representing 21 schools, comprising about 300 students, according to Tami Adams, local NTMA executive director.
She also reported about 1,500 spectators attended the event.
“That’s the most ever,” she said, referring to both spectators and students. “Some schools are new and some brought more teams this year.”
Commodore Perry High School and West Middlesex Middle School were newcomers to the event and Central Career and Technical School came back after a year off, having last competed in 2012, Adams said.
“Just being here, even if we don’t win, is still really fun,” said Alexis Langdon of West Middlesex team The Little Bo Peeps. “It’s tough sometimes, working on the robot, but we’re learning for next time.”
Her team’s bot, The Titanium Sheep, stood out among the flock of wedge bots pretty far into the competition, but eventually saw its second elimination before the final rounds.
“It’s fun, the kids really liked it,” said Chris Anderson, West Middlesex coach. “They’re already thinking about next year.”
Anderson credited the sponsors with keeping the event alive, noting that without their resources and the hours of volunteer work from coordinators and coaches, RoboBOTS wouldn’t benefit students and entertain audiences as it does each year.
“It takes a lot of resources, money and time, but it’s a great learning experience,” he said.
Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.