News Release

Published on Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Western Technical College’s Electronics program will host a robotics challenge between 13 area high schools on Friday, May 1. The fourth annual event will take place from 10:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m. in the Kumm Center TC Café, 400 6th St. N., La Crosse.

The competition is the conclusion to a special electronics program that Western Technical College offered at Arcadia, Black River Falls, La Farge, GET, Holmen, Logan, Melrose-Mindoro, New Lisbon, Onalaska, Sparta, Tomah, West Salem, and Westby High Schools.

A state Technical Preparation Grant was used in past years to purchase the electronic robots, software, and additional materials for each participating school. Although grant funding was not available this year, Western and the high schools felt it was important to continue the program.

“Without the grant, we weren’t able to grow the program, but we already have the equipment in place,” said Jonathan Burman, Western Electronics instructor. “It has become popular in the high schools over the years, so we wanted to make sure we kept it going.”

Western plans to expand the program next year with grant funding from the Wisconsin Technical College System’s Advanced Manufacturing Network – Northwest Region. The portion of the grant earmarked for the program will cover equipment for two new schools and allow for Burman to visit the high schools and train the teachers who administer the basic robotics curriculum.

“There is a growing need for electronic technicians,” Burman said. “This is a great opportunity for us to show high school students what electronics is all about. The robots really grab their attention and make this a fun experience.”

The robots, called BOE-BOTS, are approximately the size of a five-inch cube. Each is equipped with a circuit board, wheels, and a drive mechanism controlled a micro-controller and sensors. Students use computer software to program the robot’s movement based on information from the sensors.

Over 150 high school students took part in the electronics course, and students from each school will participate in the final competition, which will include four contests: the Dead Reckoning course, where students program the robot to drive in a square and stop in an exact location; a maze race; a blind navigation course and an open contest for the most original program design.

For details on the program, contact Burman at 608.789.4773. For information on other Western Technical College programs and services, call 608.785.9200 or visit the Web site at