Powell High School hosted a live Robo Rumble Saturday at the new agricultural building. Fifteen teams from across Wyoming and Montana came out to compete with other teams, as well as learn from one …
Powell High School hosted a live Robo Rumble Saturday at the new agricultural building. Fifteen teams from across Wyoming and Montana came out to compete with other teams, as well as learn from one another.
Robotics clubs have struggled over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While some virtual events have been held, the competitions that get the students pumped up about robotics have been scarce.
With the kids safely masked up, Saturday’s Robo Rumble event was as energetic as last year’s event, which took place right before the pandemic prompted closures.
Powell High School math and technology teacher Joel Hayano said he was quite pleased that the response to the competition was so good. Besides the robotic clubs from Powell Middle School and PHS, there were clubs from Cody, Jackson, Worland, Thermopolis, Kaycee, Midwest and Casper, plus Billings, Montana.
The Robo Rumble is an opt-in scrimmage and not all the teams compete. There’s a lot to learn in robotics, and some teams come to Powell for the opportunity to learn from other teams how to build the best robots.
Ronnie Mull, robotics coach from Midwest, called the Robo Rumble a “cooper-tition.”
“It lets them help each other. There’s so much you learn,” Mull said.
She came with co-coach Jim Fulkerson and two teams, the Midwest Pirates and the Midwest No Bulls.
“This is our favorite event,” Mull said.
When she got the email from Hayano that the Robo Rumble would happen this year, Mull said she immediately confirmed the Midwest teams would participate.
Chad Martin, who teaches at Lodge Grass High School in Lodge Grass, Montana, attended the event without any students in tow. Lodge Grass is located on the Crow Indian Reservation, and the robotics team hasn’t been able to have any events since last March, due to COVID restrictions.
Martin said he teaches robotics to kids as young as kindergartners, who start out on simple Lego robots.
“I thought I might have lost them all after this year, but it turns out I didn’t lose any of them,” Martin said.
The high school kids were so eager to participate in the Robo Rumble that they lobbied the school board for permission during a public comment session. Martin said the board was supportive, but the principal turned them down.
Martin spent the day talking to the teams who were able to attend. He took photos of the robots and learned as much as he could to take back to his students.
“I’m here networking, making contacts that can help me out,” he said.
Gary Duquette, teacher and robotics coach from Jackson Hole High School, came to Powell with four teams. He said the competitions are what really motivate the kids. Duquette said he hosts a robotics scrimmage every year, but with Jackson Hole being out of the way, the scrimmages don’t draw a lot of teams like other places in the state.
“We’re super psyched,” Duquette said of being at the Robo Rumble. “We’ll go anywhere there’s a scrimmage, any time.”