Battlebots competition engages physics students in robotics


Joe Griffin

Students’s customized Clawbots competed in a battle royale.

Ryan Chang, Online Editor-in-Chief

Students cheered as robots clashed in the middle of arena, surrounded by metal beams and wooden constructs. On Apr. 9, Physics II (H) students participated in the final round of the Battlebots competition.

The project was an extension of an earlier Physics II (H) assignment in which students constructed Clawbots using online instructions and coded them to lift and carry payloads. Students then customized these robots and paired them with joysticks to compete in the Battlebots competition.

“The customization requirements forced students to not just follow preset instructions, but to really think outside the box and make very unique robots,” physics teacher Franco Posa said. “We wanted the students to be as creative as possible while still learning technical skills like building and programming.”

Posa and physics teacher Nolan Harris constructed an arena in the physics room, where the finished robots competed in a single-elimination tournament. The winner from each class would advance to the next round. Once the winners from each class were determined, their robots fought in a battle royale.

Seniors Matthew Mercado and Cameryn Burnette won first place in the competition by constructing a mobile, defense-oriented robot. 

“A lot of people made offense-oriented robots. My friend actually made his robot into a tank,” Mercado said. “A really popular strategy was to attack the cords so the robots couldn’t be controlled, and they’d be sitting ducks. We added metal protection around my cords, and that helped my robot a lot during the battle.”

Mercado and Burnette were the first students to finish their Clawbot, which gave them more time to customize and practice with their robot. According to Burnette, the customization of the robot was the most satisfying part of the project.

“Coding the robot and making it do new things or accomplish different tasks felt very good,” Burnette said. “Making the robot function the way you want it to was a great personal achievement.”

To prepare for the battle royale, Mercado devoted a lot of time to learning his robot’s controls and practicing different maneuvers. Many seniors favorably compared controlling the robots to playing a video game.

According to Mercado, the customization and fighting helped build upon robotics concepts the class had learned earlier in the year.

“I like hands-on stuff, so the experimental process of the project was super fun,” Mercado said. “That’s really the core of robotics: continuously adjusting your robot to see what works and what doesn’t.”

Posa and Harris consider this project a success due to the high level of engagement and plan to continue expanding and improving the project in the future.

“The robots fighting are a lot of fun to watch,” Harris said. “Everybody is pumped, and it’s really interesting to see everybody start with the same robot and really make it their own by customizing it. Even between rounds, you see people making adjustments to their robots on the fly, and it’s really cool to watch that development and progression.”