Techies win pumpkin racePublished 5:44pm Sunday, October 28, 2012
Niles Noon Optimist Club’s inaugural Great Pumpkin Race Saturday came down to Lake Michigan College’s youth robotics quintet snatching the grand champion Mugawuga Trophy from Batman, whose secret identity is Austin Christner, 5.
Austin’s batmobile went like a bat out of … the cave all afternoon, but the Fab Five of Maven Losey, Marcus Hurt, Jackson Hall, Zachary Conybeare and Christian Hall coached by Meg Edwards from Eastside Connections School, 314 N. 14th St., threw the caped crusader a curve.
Their freestylin’ chariot kept careening into the hay bales lining the Sycamore Street hill by the Bell Building, so they corrected and aimed at the crowd.
“The hill made it curve, so Maven told me to angle it. Then it was just a matter of how much I needed to angle it,” Marcus said.
Their pumpkin responded by hooking back just before the gutter like a bowling ball nestling into a pocket of pins.
The LMC robotics program for ages 9 to14 launched in the fall of 2008 at the Bertrand Crossing Campus and moved to the newly renovated Eastside lab earlier this year.
The program offers seven unique classes and clubs during the school to build and program robots.
“We’re getting ready for FIRST LEGO League competition in two weeks,” Edwards said. “The FLL team meets at least three times a week. My other classes meet once a week, but they compete, too.”
Robotics entered two pumpkins. One lost once, the other got beat twice.
“We got good weather,” ebullient Optimist organizer Betty Arndt said. “I think there were about 100. There are some things we’re going to tweak for next year, but it went real well for the first year.”
There were two ways to play — classic, built from an axle-wheel kit — or free style — relying more on a racer’s creativity and their own supplies.
To promote fair play, Optimists snuck two pumpkin imposters into the fray, so they could be pulverized by the Mallet of Destruction.
Entry fees and sales of pulled pork sandwiches, hot dogs, chips and drinks go into the $35,000 the club spends each year helping kids, according to pumpkin starter Tom Rasler.