Norwin, Plum students ready for battle(bots)

| Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 3:35 p.m.

Robotics teams from Norwin and Plum high schools have a lot of work to do in the next month.

The students won the top seeds earlier this month in the preliminary round of the Southwestern PA BotsIQ's ninth Annual Regional Competition at the Westmoreland County Community College.

And there isn't a lot of time to bask in the success with the final round scheduled for April 25 and 26 at California University of Pennsylvania.

“We have a month to go, and we're working hard,” said Norwin High School technical education and robotics teacher Robert Shuber, advisor for the BotsIQ program.

The competition tests the ability of the students to build a robot that can outmaneuver and outpower the competitor, much like what is seen on the “Battlebots” television series.

The goal is to have a stronger, more durable robot that can withstand the impact of other robots, as well as act as an offensive weapon.

Shuber said Norwin placed in the top tier with “The Jackal,” a robot that was mostly made of 3D printed parts.

“It held up,” Shuber said. “It had a traction problem so we need to reconfigure where the wheels and tires are so it can gain more traction.”

The team's other robot — “Ambush” — is expected to compete along with “The Jackal” in the final round next month.

“It (Ambush) is defensive,” Shuber said. “It is designed for the “King of the Ring” competition where the last one standing wins.”

The team of seven students competed in the school's fifth preliminary competition, Shuber said.

The students learn not only engineering principles, Shuber said, but also accounting, budgeting and promotions.

Shuber said the students also get to learn about engineering as they work with professionals in two sponsoring companies — PDS Industries in Irwin and The ExOne Company in North Huntingdon.

“We take a tour of the companies and see what they do,” Shuber said.

Zack Knight, 16, a junior at Plum High School, is competing for the third year.

“It's just something I love doing,” Knight said.

“I spend three to four periods a day there (in the technical-education department).

Knight said the team's robot — “Still ‘N Shock 2” performed well despite some problems with the drive motors.

Martin Griffith, team advisor who teaches computer-aided drafting and robotics at the high school, said the team's other robot — “Still ‘N Tact” was eliminated in the fourth-to- last round.

Knight looks forward to working over the next month, and, ultimately going to the national competition May 16 and 17 at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio.

“We're going to do the best we can to be prepared to win the national title,” Knight said.

Griffith is proud of the students. The Plum robotics team first competed in 2007.

The team has captured first-place finishes in preliminary and regional competitions over the past several years as well as top honors in the national competition in 2009.

“We are satisfied with the results for preliminaries when you consider there were about 30 robots for this event,” Griffith said.

“Still ‘N Shock 2 had major motor updates and a few tweaks to the wiring and armor this year; it ran very well. The teamwork for “Still ‘N Shock 2” ran very smoothly and is this is something to be very proud of. This teamwork will be used as a positive example for years to come.”

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8753 or

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