WBHS Atomigators Battle Bot in OCCRA Competition


Atomigators hard at work! Photos by Lauryn Azu

Lauryn Azu

The Atomigator’s most important member is 120 lbs, about 4 ft. tall, and is tweaked and prodded at daily by fellow members of of WBHS Robotics. No, they’re not a person, but a machine both designed built and operated by WBHS students.

Most WBHS students aren’t aware of the time commitment it takes to fund, build, and operate a fully-functioning robot for serious competition. But that’s just what Robotics team members are doing almost every day after school, in preparation for its 5th season in the Oakland County Competitive Robotics Association (OCCRA) competition season.  


“During the OCCRA season we usually stay after school for around two to four hours,” said Jonathan Xi, junior. OCCRA season lasts from September to December, and so far WBHS has competed in 4 OCCRA competitions.

WBHS hosted the first, and then the Atomigators competed at Our Lady of the Lakes, Rochester Hills, and Birmingham Seaholm. Their final competition is this Saturday at Walled Lake Western.

“It was definitely a learning experience for our team, when it came down to it, we were working on the robot until 11:00pm the night before,” said Salice Brown, sophomore.

Even though some aspects were indeed stressful, hosting the first competition of the OCCRA competitive season at WBHS gave Atomigators the chance to scope out their competition for the year.

“The robotics team at WBHS is relatively small compared to other teams in OCCRA. There are some teams in OCCRA that have over 100 members”, said Xi. Still, this year, WBHS Robotics has gained many new members.

“This year we have about 20 new members. The last few years have been a little slower,” said Atomigator team advisor Mr. Buddy Muylaert.  “I think with the introduction of the new STEAM program, we’re getting a lot more tech-savvy individuals entering our schools,” Muyleart continued.

This influx of new members adds to the amount of pressure the Atomigators face because not only do they have to build this robot, but they also have to teach new members what to do along the way. Luckily, WBHS Robotics has a strong mentoring and support network that can help this team push through their setbacks.

Each year, teams competing in OCCRA have to build a robot that can perform a certain task.

According to Antonio Alvarez Tostado Aerdker, freshman,  “We’re playing a Connect Four type of game and we try to find a way to put balls in these racks, and that’s a way of scoring points . . . They’re certain little games that if we complete in a small amount of time, about 6 minutes, we can score points and our team can win matches.”

“Last year we had a great robot, it was perfect. When we remeasured it to make sure we were within the guidelines, the captain found out it was 3 inches outside of the perimeters, so we had to rebuild a robot that usually takes 6 weeks to make, in 3 days,” said Brown. Apparently, the OCCRA design guidelines are pretty strict.

Since the robot is a work in progress, improvements are made in between competitions. At the Birmingham Seaholm OCCRA competition on Thursday, November 10,  the Atomigators scored points using a newly added claw on the robot. However, the entire claw fell off the robot the day after the competition. Because of this, team members had to stay after school longer to replace the claw.

“Now, everything’s looking pretty good,” said Brown. Hopefully, the hard work the Atomigators have put into their machine will pay off.

Despite their challenges this season in crafting the robot, things are looking up for Atomigator team. They have recently received a $3,000 grant from Ford Motor Company, they will be sponsored by Meritor Engineeringing Firm in Troy next season, and future Atomigator membership is only projected to grow, thanks to the new First Tech Challenge program at Abbott and Orchard Lake Middle Schools.

Cheer on the WBHS Atomigators at the OCCRA County Championships this Saturday, November 19, at Walled Lake Western High School. Spectrum wishes the Atomigators the best of luck!