© 2022 90.5 WESA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Contact 90.5 WESA with a story idea or news tip: news@wesa.fm

Robots Designed By Teens To Battle In Gladiator-Style Tournament

Southwestern Pennsylvania BotsIQ
Two robots battle in a duel during a preliminary competition at Westmoreland County Community College.

Robots designed by teams of teens from 53 schools in southwestern Pennsylvania will compete in a two-day, gladiator-style tournament starting Friday.

The aim of the Southwestern Pennsylvania BotsIQ competition, which is being hosted at California University of Pennsylvania, is to get high schoolers to think creatively and collaboratively, while also exposing them to careers in manufacturing.

BotsIQ executive director Michel Conklin said the robots are judged on a variety of criteria.

“For example, if I’m in a battle and I hit the other bot, I get a point for aggression. Perhaps that hit also did some damage. And now I can get a point for aggression and a point for damage,” she said. “They are also judged on their maneuverability, their strategy.”

This is a double-elimination contest, so in order to continue competing, teams have to figure out how repair damage their robots sustain. Adults are not allowed to touch the machines.

“The students really have to work together with each other. They have to really understand a lot of the components of the bot itself, and be able to problem-solve,” said Conklin. "A lot of times teams will help each other...everybody wants to keep the competition going."

At least one robot is returning from last year: A Mon Valley team created a machine with weapons that can be changed between rounds.

Many designs are low to the ground and don't have flat sides because landing in an awkward position can render a bot immobile. 

At the end of the event a number of awards are given, including the Grand Champion, Coolest Bot, Rookie of the Year and “King of the Ring,” which goes to the winner of a rumble where about six bots battle at once.

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio where she covered a range of issues, including the 2016 Iowa Caucuses.