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High school students use welding, engineering for robot battle

Wrenshall’s Darton Mattson (left) and Jake Menze work on Ironsides between heats at Lake Superior College’s 16th annual Robot Wars competition May 8 in Duluth. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)1 / 5
Cromwell-Wright’s A.J. House operates Whiplash during Lake Superior College’s 16th annual Robot Wars competition May 8 in Duluth. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)2 / 5
Cromwell-Wright’s Dominic Horton straightens out some battle damage to Chuck E. Cheese during Lake Superior College’s 16th annual Robot Wars. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)3 / 5
Wrenshall’s April Lattu (from left) and Justin Freer watch as teammate Jake Menze operates Ironsides during a heat at Robot Wars on May 8. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)4 / 5
Cromwell-Wright robots Chuck E. Cheese (left) and Whiplash battle each other during Lake Superior College’s 16th annual Robot Wars. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)5 / 5

Sparks were flying as 15 robots fought for survival during Lake Superior College's 16th annual "Robot Wars" competition May 8 in Duluth.

Students from Wrenshall and Cromwell-Wright competed against teams from Proctor, Mesabi East and area community colleges to take the title of 2019 Robot Wars champion.

Wrenshall industrial arts teacher Chris Gustafson said the teams dealt with wiring, welding and the design process as they each built and prepared a robot for battle from the ground up.

"It's supposed to teach the whole engineering process, but it takes it a step further than that and teaches perseverance," Gustafson said. "When things don't go right, you're either going to quit or you're going to keep robotin' on."

The Wrenshall team found out firsthand about continuing in the face of adversity when their robot caught fire two weeks before the competition.

"We had a wiring problem," Gustafson said. "The students made a mistake, but they persevered and they continued. They didn't quit and they got the robot back together."

The competition was a one-on-one, double-elimination tournament with robots battling each other for supremacy. This was the first year of competition for students from Wrenshall, but Gustafson said he believed his team and its robot performed well. Their robot won two matches before bowing out to other more experienced teams.

Robot Wars encourages students to create durable, battle-ready designs. Over the last few years, the competition has seen steady improvement in the competing robots, according to LSC integrated manufacturing instructor Rich Kresky.

"The goal is for students to not only create a tough robot, but a well-built and well-engineered robot," Kresky said in a press release. "Battle robot design in the last couple of years has evolved into much stronger robots. We're seeing more speed and attack power from the bots."

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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