Sumo Bots Teach Students While They Have Fun

Three EVSC middle schools -- Helfrich Park STEM Academy, Cedar Hall Community School, and Perry Heights Middle School -- recently had students who competed in a Sumo robotics competition, with robots they built completely of legos.  The goal of the competition was to push your robot out of the "ring" through programming.  To see a video the school created - CLICK HERE.

Brian Bobbit, Project Lead the Way teacher at Cedar Hall, led the competition.  He said, he had several goals when deciding to teach robotics. First, I wanted something else that would really engage kids.  3D Printing and 3D Printing Pens are also awesome.  Robotics allows students to “Play” while learning.  Often, they don’t realize all of the math involved in robotics.  This allowed me to show them relevance of math. 

"First, they had to make the Sumo Bots in the competition stay in the ring.  This required some programming, but also understanding how many degrees it should turn.  They know there are 360 degrees in a circle, but they have to “play” to see how many degrees to program the robot to move.  For example, if it’s too many degrees they might straighten out better, but because it takes the robot longer to turn they could risk the chance of losing because their opponent is coming right at them. 

"In addition, they have to be able to calculate gear ratio so they can build speed and torque.  They learn the differences in gear size and how circumference plays a factor in speed and power.  They also have to learn concepts of scale.  This is especially important because some of the sensors can’t “see” small things.  Therefore, they have to learn what values to increase the scale factor by.

"Second, was that it requires a GREAT DEAL of problem solving.  Students have to be able to use the design process to determine why a robot is failing to execute an action.  Then they have to decide a course of action they should take to fix it.  They get to test their idea and see if they need to keep refining it or if it is a solution.  This is a HUGE deal for me because I want them to be able to apply this in other classes.

Winners in the competition were 7th grade Cedar Hall students Dylan Bartlein and Antonio Wallace. Bobbit said a bit thank you goes to the Public Education Foundation, Vectren and Dan Ulrich at the Southern Indiana Career & Technical Center for help in getting this project started.