Robots made by students battle each other - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Students' robots battle each other in the name of education

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Chippewa Falls (WQOW) - An area middle school is using destruction to build an education. The voyagers after school program at Chippewa Falls put students at the controls of their own custom built robots today. It was a chance for students to get a unique hands-on learning experience.

"There's only three rules...No flamethrowers, no hand grenades, no live animals. That's it," said Tim Wolters, a volunteer for the Voyagers After-School Program.

The Chippewa Falls cafeteria was turned into a gladiator arena Saturday.

"What we have is a group of 24 middle school students, who with a budget of under $20 each, have each built a combat robot that will drive around the arena, and push each other into hazards and variously interact with each other," Wolters said.

It was the 13th annual machines behaving badly event, part of the Chippewa Falls Voyagers After-School Program, which mixes equal parts excitement and education.

"I have the wheels under the robot so nothing can really hit it. And then I have a Lexan cover around everything so nothing can really touch my electronics," said Sam Strecker, a student at Chippewa Falls Middle School.

"I learned a lot about tools, and how to make wheels out of Styrofoam, use a lot of duct tape, cutting of wood," said Alissa Hering, also a student at Chippewa Falls Middle School.

It's the sort of learning experience that program staff members say is being left behind.

"We don't have people tinkering the way we used to, taking stuff apart and putting it back together. I have some kids who honestly, I'm not sure they know which end of the screwdriver to hold on to. By the end of the class, they do know what end of the screwdriver to hold on to, and the hot glue gun. And they've learned a few things about design, electronics," Wolters said.

Some students enjoyed the battle so much that they'll continue to work on their robots for next year.

"I like sort of destroying stuff and taking stuff apart. And I learned I like electronics, so it sort of went together," said Strecker.

The kids spent about 12 hours over the course of several days working on their robots. The winner received a trophy made of spare parts.

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