One of Bloomsburg’s robots throws another one into the air during a BattleBots competition. - Kirk Marshall
The eminence of Bloomsburg’s robotics team precedes them at matches although they are unacknowledged in the school. “We have gone to national competitions four times out of six years,” says Robotics adviser Kirk Marshall. “Everybody is trying to beat Bloomsburg.”
Walking onto the scene with a Bloomsburg title alone puts these students on a different level. “Other teams walk around and take photographs of the inside of our robot, trying to get that competitive advantage,” explains Marshall. “It’s nice to have a reputation, but we want to make the reputation for ourselves not just because it is given since we are from Bloomsburg.” And building that reputation starts after school.

After these students are assigned into a small team, they sketch plans for their robot, design it in a computer program called PTC and then debate and decide three or four robots to fabricate. “We end up assembling and dissembling the robot 20 times, which takes forever to take all the screws out, wire it and fit all the motors,” says Kester.
During this process, Marshall oversees each combative robot from start to finish. “He lets us give a lot of time, and he definitely challenges us to build that best robots that we can,” says senior Rachel Boy.
As a team, they work together to progress over the bumps and roadblocks and anticipate the end results. “It’s definitely rewarding to see the final product and the first time it spins up,” says Kester.

Despite their winning status, the team is often nervous. “You go in expecting to get owned at some point, but when you know that your robot worked better, it’s a good feeling of validation like ‘Man, I am good a building robots.’”
But the most recent competition did not pan out exactly as planned; their robot Executor took first, Pixie third and Axiom fifth. “We could have done better, we were on track to go 1, 2, 3, but we got an unlucky series of events,” says Kester.
However, the team fixed their robot Pixie. “It threw the other robot 5-6’ in the air; we were completely destroying the other robot,” says Kester.
Although robotics undergo beatings, it’s friendly competition. “You would think people would get mad after you destroy their robot, but it’s not like that at all, they just laugh and congratulate you,” says Kester.
Although the team remains humble about their regular victories, teams are always intimidated when the Bloomsburg Robotics team walks into the battle room. “They look at our kids as superhuman,” says Marshall.

How to build Pixie
by Talia Sainclair


Pixie was designed by Brandon Kester and built with teammate Matt Williams, two students in Kirk Marshall’s robotics class. “The robots can be made out of anything really. Whatever you can afford, have, or know how to use,” says Marshall. Pixie is an 11 ½ by 11 inch aluminum remote controlled robot which features a 7 inch wide, 6 lb drum as its weapon. The drum rotates at 1400 rpm (rotations per minute) and has “beater bars” which have steel knockers on them. “When these things hit another robot at the speed they rotate, it’ll send the other robot flying,” says Marshall. Pixie has a run time of 3 minutes and a maximum speed of 12 miles per hour. Each robot that is made starts out as a drawing designed by the students, then becomes a wooden model before being built into the real deal ready to battle.

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  • Matt Leberfinger assembles his robot a few days before his team’s first competition.
    By Kirk Marshall

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The Red & White Bloomsburg High School Bloomsburg, PA
Issue Date: Saturday, March 12, 2011 Issue: Swimming States Last Update: Saturday, March 12, 2011
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