After missing out on the final cut during last year's BattleBot IQ Challenge in Florida, members of the Williams High School Slab Crabs team say they have high hopes for a strong victory this year. The WHS students, led by teacher Larry Gutshall, will compete in the annual state tournament Feb. 15 in Phoenix. The Slab Crabs have won the state title two years in a row and took 13th place in the national standings in 2006.
Gutshall said the students are working on a new "bot" this year; one that they hope will smash up the competition. Competitors in the challenge pit robot against robot, utilizing a number of stringent weight rules and various weapons, as well as learning hands-on experience.
"We're working on a new BattleBot. We haven't named it yet. They're working on a name, but it's going to have a titanium weapon. MarZee Corporation in Phoenix is going to cut us two titanium weapons that we can put on it. It will have an impact wheel that will be much better," Gutshall said.
MarZee Corporation's contribution, he added, amounted to a donation of roughly $1,000.
"Titanium is expensive, but we're building a bot to go with it. We're changing to lithium ion batteries, so we've got more weight for our weapon. The one that we took down for this last event did really well. In the first match they had to sweep up the other BattleBot with a broom and a shovel. There were a number of them that we really ripped up."
The Slab Crabs recently attended a competition, held Jan. 12, in Mesa. The event, offered as a preliminary contest prior to the state competition, hosted 12 BattleBots from a number of Arizona schools. The state BattleBot IQ Challenge is slated for Feb. 15 in Phoenix.
"It's in conjunction with a National Tooling and Manufacturing Association convention," Gutshall said.
A generous amount of tax donations have helped the team get the materials they need in order to compete in the upcoming challenge.
"We can always use more and you always get that tax donation back," Gutshall said.
Members of the Slab Crabs are working on a number of details in order to prepare for the upcoming competition as well, Gutshall said.
"We're working on new motors, new types of batteries and having a bot that's really strong," he added.
Gutshall said that members of the WHS Slab Crabs team have to maintain good grades in school in order to participate in the BattleBot program.
"It's a club," he said. "They have to have good grades to get to go on big events where it takes them out of school."
WHS senior Dustin Cushman helped design the new, as of yet unnamed, BattleBot.
"I basically make the blue prints for it and then they go in there and they follow my blue prints and make the pieces," Cushman said, adding that this year's design will not vary too much from past designs, including the original BattleBot, called the "Slab Crab," which won the 2006 state competition.
The team itself is named after the original bot. A second BattleBot, named "Boil This!" was used in conjunction with the Slab Crab last year.
"It's basically the Slab Crab with a big weapon on the front," Cushman said. "There's a lot more experience put into it this way and a lot more fore-planning."
Cushman added that he believes this year's bot, boasting its titanium weapon, will fare far better in battle than any of the school's previous robotic entries.