Sierra College Mechatronics Professor Tony Osladil and his former student Jeff Gomez were invited to be on a team for this summer’s BattleBots competition on ABC that aired June 23. For Sierra College, it proved to be a great opportunity to show the exciting side of electrical engineering and mechanical design. “Combat robotics is the perfect showcase for so many Technical Education programs here at Sierra College.” says Osladil. “Designing and implementing a robot that can be competitive on the national level requires a wide array of skills such as drafting, welding, electronic design, mechanical design and 21st-century fabrication. And considering that these weapon systems use voltages as high as 72V and pressures up to 3,000 psi, not knowing what you are doing could be detrimental to your health during the building process.”
Fortunately, the skills taught in the Career and Technical Education division of Sierra College are a good match for this rather intimidating sport. “In the process of designing and implementing our robots, we have utilized the expertise of the Sierra College engineering, welding and drafting departments as well as a significant number of the skills from my own department, mechatronics.” says Osladil. Mechatronics is a mixture of electrical, mechanical and computer technologies that teaches students to work on the automated technology that keeps our modern world moving, everything from computer chip manufacturing to municipal water processing to ski lifts. “The fact that these skills also precisely match the skills needed to design and build a combat robot is a happy coincidence.”
As part his role as professor of Mechatronics, Osladil is the faculty advisor to the Sierra College Robotics Club. “The robotics club has been building combat robots from 1 pound all the way up to 220 pounds for almost 10 years now. We have been competing at Northern California competitions every year. It is a fun experience that lets students be part of a technical design team before they graduate and apply their skills in the working world.”
Besides the extensive fabrication facilities at Sierra College, students really benefit from having access to Hacker Lab, a maker space affiliated with Sierra College. It is open to the public and can be accessed 24/7 providing space, equipment and mentoring to help people do everything from electronics to woodworking to sewing to computer code. “For projects like this that don’t fit inside the traditional assignments in a classroom, Hacker Lab provides the time and space to tinker and experiment. This has been a great resource for my students as well as local artists, craftsmen and start-up businesses.”
Because of his robotics team’s reliable track record at local competitions, Osladil was asked by a Sacramento-based team to join the crew for the BattleBots robot Stinger – The Killer Bee. “Our team leader, Matt Maxham, had some new ideas he wanted to try out but was running out of time to finish the main design. Matt invited me to assist with design and fabrication and I called on Jeff Gomez, a graduate from my department that is now working as a designer at a local manufacturing company.”
The results of their efforts are being shown on national TV this summer. “Every team goes into BattleBots wanting to win it all, but honestly we are all just happy to have a place where we can test our creations by having them beat the heck out of each other. And for me as an educator, it is a great way to show the fun side of technology. Sometimes school tends to takes the fun out of technology by focusing on the math and the extensive science knowledge required to do it well. This is a chance for people to see why we love the math and science. It lets us make things like combat robots that we can be proud of and that exceed everyone’s expectations. My students actively seek out electrical power formulas and steel strength charts not because it is a required assignment, but because they want to make something great.”
Sierra College’s Career and Technical Education division is a leader in providing training for 21st-century technology skills. From 3-dimensional drafting to advanced manufacturing techniques like plasma cutting and 3D printing to certification in high-demand, high-pay skills like pipe welding and robotics, Sierra College provides certificates and degrees to launch graduates into living-wage careers building Americas next-generation infrastructure and manufacturing base.