Plum's battlebots advance to national competition

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 7:03 p.m.

Don Doerfler recently wrapped up his sophomore year at the University of Pittsburgh.

Doerfler, 20, is using the spare time he has in between working a full-time job to spend some time at his alma mater — Plum High School.

Doerfler is working with the 16 members of the Plum High School robotics team to prepare for the national BotsIQ competition May 16 and 17 at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio.

“I love doing battlebots,” said Doerfler, 20, a past member of the high school robotics team. “It is my passion.”

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.

The Plum team won a top seed at the preliminary round of the Southwestern PA BotsIQ ninth Annual Regional Competition at Westmoreland County Community College in March.

Also, the team won two trophies during the final round on April 25 and 26 at California University of Pennsylvania.

The team with battlebot Still 'N Shock II took two first-place honors out of 66 teams for combat.

They also won the Grand Champions trophy for teamwork, documentation and overall placement in the fighting competition.

The students also received $1,000 checks for each first place, according to team advisor Martin Griffith who teaches computer-aided drafting and robotics at the high school.

Team members late last week were working on the other robot — “Still 'N Tact” — that needs to be rewired before the national competition.

Jeff Noll, another team advisor who teaches technology at the high school, said the students in the next week will tear down “Still 'N Shock II” to see if parts need to be replaced.

They also will develop a list of supplies for the competition.

Rylee Carter, 16, a sophomore, was a team member last year. She will be participating in her first national competition.

“I'm really excited,” said Carter who plans to study astrophysics in college.

Joe Doerfler, 16, a sophomore and Don's brother, is confident in the team's chances at the national contest.

“I think we can win it,” Joe Doerfler said. “Most people (at the previous competitions) were scared to see what it (Still ‘N Shock II) has done.”

The team is accepting donations. Anyone interested can send a check made payable to the Plum Robotics Boosters.

Donations can be mailed to Plum High School, 900 Elicker Road, Plum, PA 15239.

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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