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'Battle bot' best of bunch at national competition
[May 07, 2009]

'Battle bot' best of bunch at national competition

May 07, 2009 (The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- If you ask Alex Udanis, it all came down to the titanium.

Udanis, 18, a Plum Senior High School junior, and his teammates won the North American National Robotics Competition last weekend at the Mall of America in Minnesota with "Still 'n Shock" -- the team's "battle bot." "Aftershock," the team's second robot, placed fifth. There were 33 robots in the competition.

"The big thing was the titanium," Udanis said. "It protected the robots better from getting damaged." The competition pits student-built robots against one another.

Plum finished second and third in the national competition last year in Miami with "Aftershock" and "Shockwave II." "(Winning) was good because we put so much time and effort into these (competitions)," Udanis said.

The team received a trophy, gift certificates to the Mall of America and a travel case for the robot.

The team's adviser, Rick Volker, who teaches energy technology at the high school, helped the team this year by refining the robot's design, making it more durable.

Volker said the students learned how to work as a team and become adept at problem-solving.

"The group has good chemistry," said Volker, 58, of Bell Township.

Volker said the team is taking a short break to "savor the moment" before getting back to work.

Udanis said next year's entry will be called "A Final Shock," because several members of the team will be seniors and taking part in their last competition.

Karen Zapf can be reached at or 412-380-8522.

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