The BattleBots IQ team at Williams High School doesn't ever look at their robots as if they are done. Something can always be added or tweaked to lighten the load or to add a touch of ferocity that may not have been there before. The Slab Crabs are not a team to sit on their laurels and wait for battle. Their feisty little robot proved their determination last year, when the Crabs took the state championship in Phoenix and placed in the top 13 overall in the national standings. It was that same little robot, the original Slab Crab, which got the team this year's state championship as well.
The Williams High School Slab Crabs became the Arizona State BattleBots IQ Champions for the second year in a row Feb. 24 in Mesa, beating a number of schools from throughout Arizona. As the state champions, the Slab Crabs will represent the state of Arizona in Miami, Fla. April 12-15.
"There were about 20 schools there, the East Valley Institute of technology, Maricopa Community College, Tucson Magnate School; a number of schools were involved this year. It was bigger than it was last year," said WHS teacher Larry Gutshall.
It's their determination that has earned them a place of respect among the other schools involved in the BattleBot IQ challenge. A number of them have adopted the motto, "Boil the crabs!", according to Gutshall. His students, however, took the motto as a challenge. They created a second robot, complete with a menacing automated weapon, and named the metal creation "Boil This."
"The e-mails I'm getting are saying we are going to boil the Crabs this year," said Gutshall.
That did not prove to be the case, however, though Boil This did not decide the matches. It was the original Slab Crab that dominated the championship games in Phoenix.
"We took two robots. Both of them worked. The draw was that we had to fight each other in the first round, which meant one of us was going to have to lose and as it was, the batteries that we had in them weren't much, consequently we kind of pushed each other around for a little while and had some electrical issues and the Slab Crab won the match and, after that, Boil This had to go to the losing bracket," Gutshall explained. "Slab Crab stayed in the winner's bracket and never lost until the last round. The championship round they lost to a robot they had already beaten in one of the previous rounds. It was double elimination so they had to beat us twice to win. The second round on that one, Kevin Duffy prevailed. He was our driver for the old Slab Crab. Jesus Martinez was our driver for the new Boil This robot. Kevin prevailed and we won the match; (we) beat them severely about the head and neck."
Anatomy of a bot
Slab Crab operator and WHS senior Kevin Duffy has an intimate knowledge of drill motors, mounts, weight and how fast a battery can drain when plugged into a BattleBot.
"Actually you can run it almost like 45 minutes maybe, but we change the battery every match," Duffy explained, adding that every component becomes an integral part of the robot.
The guts of the new robot were installed into Boil This Feb. 22, a scant 48-hours prior to fight time.
The original Slab Crab, Boil This' older brother, is still operational despite a series of rough matches. The machine is covered in deep gouges, scars from last year's battle in Florida against an even fiercer robot named "Vertex."
"It just threw us up in the air, end over end," said Gutshall, describing the battle last year. "That's why we've got an inertial weapon now."
The Crabs made it past the preliminaries late last year, beating all comers, and placed themselves in a strong position for their trip to Phoenix. The team has their eye on the national prize now, though Gutshall says the group has a long way to go before they can get there. Slab Crab crew members include Andrew Eastland, Dylan Tobin, Jesus Martinez, Kevin Duffy, William Shaw, Mathew Verser, Juan Cruz and Dustin Cushman. Cushman and Tobin are both draftsmen, who designed a number of components for the Slab Crabs.
"We've got to raise some money," said Gutshall. "We have a $2,500 check from the Arizona Tooling and Manufacturing Association and then we had generous tax credit donations last year of about $1,800 and it'll take us about $10,000 to do it again, so we're looking at raising about $5,000. Tax credit money is a great way to do this. A family can give up to $400 a year and they get every dime of it back. It all comes back when they do their taxes. It's a great way to support your school club organizations."
Anyone interested in donating can contact Gutshall at WHS by calling (928) 635-4474.