Robots rumble at student competition

by Mark Arehart on February 7, 2013

Wassallie Brink focuses in front of his robot "Kid Lightning" before Thursday's qualifying match in Bethel.

“The Delta Robot Rumble” robotics competition has come to Bethel. Eight teams from various LKSD schools are taking part in the rumble today, which will send qualifiers to the state robotics tournament in Anchorage.

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There’s a lot of whizzing and clanking as these student-guided robots try to hang plastic rings on racks several feet in the air.

They hustle and bustle around a 12-foot-by-12-foot rink–sometimes banging into one another.

They are racing against the clock, trying to hang as many plastic rings as they can before time’s up.

But before these robots could whirl around and lift their robotic arms to the sky, there were hours and hours of construction of complex motors and grabber arms.

“It starts from the bottom like this, try to pick it up, try to grab the ring. Move this around and then grabs and moves it back and picks it up,” said Wassillie Brink, a student from Nunapichuk, as he demonstrates his robot’s arm movement.

He and his partner Malcolm Enoch built this robot from the ground up. Enoch said they spent several late nights to get it just right. It’s called 6060 Kid Lightning.

It looks like an erector set on steroids, with lots of gears, wires and batteries. Sitting on four wheels, it’s about the size of your average microwave.

Team “Kid Lightning” almost didn’t make it this year due to a dense fog that prevented flights between Nunap and Bethel.

So their coach Nathan Deehan said the team hopped on snowmachines and rode to Bethel just hours before competition started.

They had to take special precautions for the robot on the bumpy ride.

“Yeah we wrapped it in a bunch of blankets, borrowed some clothes from the lost and found, put it in a suitcase, tied some rope around it and put it on my back. So it wouldn’t get damaged at all on the ride” Deehan said.

Deehan said this year’s competition is an oversized version of tic-tack-toe… but you know, with robots.

“On each side there’s a rack that holds circula rings. And so what the robot has to do is take the rings from the side racks and bring it to the middle. In the middle there’s a three by three grid,” he said.

So what does Kid Lightning or the other seven robots sound like in competition? Well quite entertaining to say the least: there’s lots of banging and gear grinding. It’s looks and sounds like a toned down version of the early 2000′s show “Battlebots” on TLC.

There are two teams from Bethel, two teams from Quinhagak and a team each from Oscarville, Kwethluk, Mekoryuk and Nunapitchuk in this year’s competition.

Qualifiers to the state tournament in Anchorage will be determined after competition completes this evening at the Cultural Center in Bethel.

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