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OMS Students Learn Problem Solving Skills While Building, Battling Robots

Walking into the Ozark Middle School classroom, students are seated in a circle, cheering loudly as two robots — Ghost and The Hammer — are fighting.

“Use the hammer, use the hammer!” one student yells. “Push him out of bounds!” another says.  

When the fight is finally deemed a draw — and pieces lost during the skirmish are scattered across the floor — the students pick up their robots and take them back to their desks with a plan to make the battle bots more durable and possibly invent a better attacking weapon.

“They are problem solving,” teacher Christie McElhinney said. “This week they are testing them out — making a hammer or wings. Then they are asking, how can I reinforce my structure? How can I make this better? How can I make this the strongest so I can destroy the others?”

In the robotics summer school class, students work in teams to develop a solution to a realistic need; then design, build, and program a robot to satisfy that need. Students in this particular class are designing and building battling robots.

Incoming seventh-grader Connor Cummings and his team constructed a robot, named Ram, that they think has a good offense and defense

“Its name is Ram because we have this (shield) to ram in the front and we have a back support to keep other robots from messing up our wires,” Cummings said.

Teammate Seth Metzker said they have modified the robot many times in an attempt to make Ram the last robot standing when it comes time to battle.  

Students are certainly excited about the upcoming fight, which imitates the TV show “BattleBots” that showcases remote-controlled armored machines designed to fight to the death. Much to the students’ disappointment, however, the OMS robots can’t shoot fire or use a sharp-bladed grinder to destroy their opponents. Students, however, are inspired from “BattleBots,” even playing the theme music in the background.

“There are instructions for the robots, but do they want to follow them? No,” McElhinney said with a laugh. “This is 100 percent their own creativity.”

And while students think this is just a fun class where they get to build and fight robots, it’s actually teaching various life skills.

“They have to disassemble their robot everyday and then rebuild. So it’s working on spatial reasoning skills of what did I do yesterday and how do I do it again,” McElhinney said. “They are also learning coding commands, setting instructions for the robots.”

But most importantly for the students, they are having fun.

“I love it because in this class we get to use our imagination and creativity and we’ll get to actually battle,” said Daylen Stutesmun, who is going into the sixth grade. “It’s the best class I’ve ever been to. I recommend it a lot.”

Students cheer on the robots — Ghost and The Hammer — as they battle during the robotics summer school class at Ozark Middle