Robohounds on a mission to program, build

Staff photo by Connor Cummiskey Elliot Hoffman, left, Landon Klawitter, middle, and Zach Paszkiewicz, right, troubleshoot their robot “The Candy Van” during an open house for the Robohounds Wednesday.

NEW ULM — It was the rise of the machines Wednesday evening during a Robohounds open house in St. Anthony Elementary (SAE).

The Robohounds is the SAE robotics club. They use LEGO Mindstorm robotics kits to learn how to build, program and troubleshoot their robots.

“At times it was very frustrating,” student Elliot Hoffman said. “You had to persevere, and at the end it was very fun.”

Hoffman is on the best scoring team this season, called “The Cure for Cancer.” His teammates are Landon Klawitter and Zach Paszkiewicz.

The teams each build and program a robot using various LEGO pieces to accomplish different “missions.”

The missions are laid out on a large table, with a ridge running along the top. On the table is an assortment of what appears to be unrelated Lego sets.

One set looked like the facade of a building with a panicked mini figure in front and flames shooting out the top. Another was a LEGO flower set on a circular base and leaning over as if it were wilting.

Each of these sets prompts the teams to program and build their robot to manipulate pieces without any direct control from the students. In the case of the fire, the robot has to push a toy firetruck into a bar, dropping the plastic flames out of site.

The flower was the hardest challenge, according to “The Cure for Cancer” team members. It required dropping plastic barrels onto the base to get the flower to stand up.

“They start in home base with their robot and they had to get to the mission,” assistant Janelle Kopacek said. “Whatever the mission told them they had to do they had to accomplish it, get back to base, and that was worth an amount of points.”

The challenges this year were based on the physical properties of water, Kopacek said. Each year LEGO sets a theme for the missions.

This is the second year for the program, which has grown to 36 fifth and sixth-grade students. Now they need two nights a week for all the students to participate.

Connor Cummiskey can be emailed at