‘Pwnage’ robot a hit at middle school

By on June 14, 2014

Photo: Kaneland students and 2451 Robotics Team members include Elburn resident Triston Powell (left to right), 16, and siblings Alyssa, 18, and Charles Faulkner, 15, of Aurora. Photo by Lynn Logan

KHS students bring robot to Harter Middle School
KANELAND—Harter Middle School recently had a unique visitor grace its main stage: a robot.

And not just any robot. This one stands 28 inches by 38 inches and weighs nearly 140 pounds. And it also has the ability to move at a speed of 16 feet per second.

The machine in question belongs to robotic team Pwnage No. 2451, which consists of three high school students from Kaneland—Triston Powell of Elburn, and Aurora siblings Charlie Faulkner and Alyssa Faulkner, who is a recent graduate—as well as 22 high school students from Batavia, St. Charles North, St. Charles East, West Aurora, Metea Valley, Glenbard North and Burlington Central.

On the recent visit to HMS, Powell operated the robot to toss red, white and blue frisbees to the sixth- to eighth-graders on the stage in the cafeteria.

“A few of (the students) were in awe,” Powell said. “A lot of them were just saying that it was cool that it could actually do that. And they just were excited to be able to catch a frisbee and stuff.”

Alyssa enjoyed having the robot on the school site.

“(It was) fun to see all of the kids come up and just like talk to them about the robot and see them so excited to see the robot working,” she said.

Charlie noticed that the sixth-graders had lots of enthusiasm about the robot.

“A lot of them were just ready to learn about the robot, ready to look at it, have it explained to them,” Charlie said. “They loved having the frisbees thrown at them.”

Ryan Wlodek, an eighth-grade science teacher at HMS, coordinated the demonstration at the school.

“It’s unbelievable,” Wlodek said. “The effort and the amount of engineering that has to go into something like that to build; that’s highly complex.”

The Pwnage team has made more accomplishments with their recent robot. The machine has a signature move, thanks to a swerve drive that allows it to spin around and around while playing the competitive game “Aerial Assist” with other robots. The game’s objective is to score balls in goals during a 2 minute, 30 second match.

Pwnage in April competed in FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition World Championship at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

Pwnage ended the competition with a ranking of 14 out of 400 teams.

“It feels really exciting,” Powell said of Pwnage’s showing in St. Louis. “We’re all really happy that we’ve gotten the opportunity to be (ranked) this high.”

The team was a finalist in a Curie division. Dan Kein, adult mentor representative and project manager of Pwnage No. 2451, called the team “pretty incredible.”

“When you consider out of 2,700 or some robots that we were in the top 14, I think that that in itself is a pretty amazing accomplishment,” Kein said. “There’s a lot of really excellent teams out there, and for us to have as highly ranked as we were, I think we’re pretty humbled by that.”

Pwnage’s recent success is already paying dividends, as the robotic team will participate in the Indiana Robotics Invitational (IRI) this July.

“The teams that get invited to IRI are teams that the people who organize (the competition) believe are the best teams in the world,” Kein said.