A group of inventive, tech-minded students from Bruno School banded together to take on a challenge involving combatting robots. The annual Sask Polytech Robot Rumble was held at the Saskatoon Campus on May 3, and the team of Parker Fleck and Mckenna Edwards, along with their diminutive robot, dubbed Smiley Face, walked away with top honours. 

The Robot Rumble allows students from across the province to build and program small cube-like robots, designed to track their opposition and move them out of a defined circle. The students have no remote controls over their combatants. Their success relies on their construction and  their coding efforts. The competition is a wonderful way to engage students in electronics and computer coding, and to introduce them to skills that have a vast range of practical applications.

William Keller, Logan Vanderveen, Austin Saxinger, along with Fleck and Edwards rounded out the team. 

When the Robot Rumble competition started a number of years ago, the programming was accomplished using Basic programming language, which was the go-to fundamental language for beginning coders. Things have changed over the years.

“The coding keeps getting easier,” explains Keller, “We use a new thing that has surfaced called Blockly Pro.”

“Blockly Pro is a ‘drag and drop’ with a list of commands so that when you use it, it runs the robot,” Edwards continues. 

The competition begins as a round robin knockout. With 60 teams in their pool, team Smiley 

Face squared off against eight opponents going undefeated into the afternoon double elimination bracket. Again, the Bruno duo of Fleck and Edwards went undefeated into the winners’ finals, coming out on top in a close set of matches. 

Moving forward, William Keller is bound for HCI in the and is hoping to shark up a band of interested coders and some funding to start the sumo bot tsunami there. Mckenna Edwards and Logan Vanderveen are looking for new members in their home school of Bruno with the departure of their teammates. For his part, Parker Fleck is off to the University of Toronto to continue his coding passion in pursuit of a degree in computer science. 

Terry Seto of Sask Polytech talked about the importance of the Robot Rumble in providing an avenue for students to explore science.

“Robot Rumble is here to promote a lot of the technology programs we have, particularly those in the area of mining, engineering and manufacturing. Some examples of programs in that school would be electronic systems engineering technology, programs that are very STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) related to really foster kids’ interest in those programs.”

Seto is originally from Humboldt, so he knows the importance of involvement by rural schools in programs like the Robot Rumble.

“Every year we draw students from north, south, east and west - from Ile a la Crosse to Estevan, and from Kindersley to Hudson Bay. We cover the whole province and we have great participation from lots of high schools. Bruno has been one of those schools that’s been a regular competitor over the past 10 years. The Bruno team was very successful in winning the stock competition.”

It’s a tiny robot with a lot of muscle, and perhaps more importantly sound circuitry and coding. Team Smiley Face and other team members and supporters from Bruno can be proud of bringing home the hardware thanks to their software.