Making and innovation initiative meets sumo wrestling

BattleBots2015 action
Professor of Biology Jeremy Wojdak helps a young participant ready her robot for combat in the BattleBots competition.

On Nov. 7, Radford University and the City of Radford schools hosted the second BattleBots competition in which high school and middle school students got creative with robots they built to battle for supremacy.

Led by Professor of Biology Jeremy Wojdak and Dalton Intermediate School CTE Teacher Jennifer Eller, the Battlebots competition was a collaborative effort by Radford University's Making and Innovation Initiative, its Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning and the Radford City Schools.

Battlebots brought together almost 30 middle and high schools students with graduate education students for a unique problem-solving and technology competition.

"There was a lot of tearing up, cutting, burning, taping and gluing at the build sessions," said Eller '99, MS '12 of the work that culminated in the 13-team single elimination battle tournament with robots built from cannibalized household items and toys.


To win the championship match of the BattleBots competition, Dark Train drives The Grey Merchant off the field.

Dark Train, conceived, engineered and built by Radford High School (RHS) seniors Caleb Fuhrer and Isaac Blair, stymied The Grey Merchant, built by RHS freshmen Sam Dent, Nick Hastings-Crowey and Sage King in the title bout to win the Grand Champion Award.

"We spent 11 hours and went through three different designs," said Fuhrer of the effort he and Blair put in on their winning robot.

Rebekah Curtis, an early childhood education graduate student, was one of five RU students from EDET 620 Education Technology who volunteered to mentor the teams.

"I loved their passion and excitement," Curtis said. "Education is discovery. They, and I, discovered plenty . . . like how to solder, build robots, solve problems and work together."

Amidst the sound of cheers, whirring motors and snapping plastic, Wojdak, who started the event last year, reflected on the barriers being broken.

"It is really about giving those who don’t yet think of themselves as engineers or scientists or technologically savvy a chance to grow, build and be creative in a fun, unintimidating way," Wojdak said of the event that brought student families, faculty, students, alumni and staff together on behalf of the community and Science-Technology-Engineering-Arts-Mathematics (STEAM) education.

BattleBots2015 field

Dalton Intermediate School CTE Teacher Jennifer Eller '99, MS '12 (third from right) joins the BattleBots 2015 field of builders and makers.

Nov 13, 2015