An inside look at BEAST Robotics at Wisconsin Regional


David Harmeyer and the BEAST team assemble their robot.

Eugene Kim, Editor-in-Chief

It is 8:30 a.m., Saturday, Mar. 25, and dozens of matching-outfit teams make their way to the stands of the Milwaukee Panther Arena, leaving their prized robots behind in their “pits” – small stations where these robot enthusiasts gather to refine their creations.

The joint Brookfield Central and East team, BEAST Robotics, is outfitted in matching orange shirts featuring their team logo and sponsors. This seems to be halfway between the rest of the attendees, whose team uniforms range from matching beige bow ties to blue-mohawked safety helmets.

In the center of the arena there is a field where the robots will later compete. The theme this year is “Steamworks,” and the game this year fits the steam punk style. Robots score points by throwing plastic balls into the “fuel tank”, or by delivering gears to their airship to spin the rotors. Although these robots are not combat-oriented battle bots, they are allowed to block opponent robots from scoring points on their airship. Penalties, such as entering a taped-off zone or unauthorized human intervention, score points for the opponents. For each 150-second game, the first fifteen seconds are restricted to the robots’ autonomous programming, and teams are not allowed to pick up their controllers until those fifteen seconds are up.

The first half of the day wraps up the qualification matches from the two previous days. Teams are randomly assigned for this portion, but at noon, the top eight teams will choose their other two allies for the final rounds. The BEAST team did not score high enough to choose its own alliance, but it did catch the attention of the second-place team, AppleCore.

Liam Brugger (‘17), who has been a part of BEAST since his freshman year, had good faith that this would happen. “I thought we would do pretty well and probably at least get picked by one of the top teams,” he said. “Happens most of the time as long as I’ve been in robotics.”

Being hard at work does not mean, however, that these junior engineers do not enjoy the fun every once in a while. Between announcements and requests for parts, the intercoms are also used to break the boring silence. “We have a team in need of a flux capacitor, if you have a spare, please come to pit admin.” “We have a team in need of a prom date, if interested, please come to the pit and talk to Matt.” In another instance, speakers buzz to life without any warning as teams take a brief respite to dance the Macarena and the Chicken Dance.

After a lunch meet up with the allied teams, the teams return to their stations to prepare for the final rounds. The BEAST team’s alliance was able to make it to the quarterfinals, but luck is not on their side. At what would be their last match, in the final seconds, an allied robot climbs the rope to prepare for takeoff – when suddenly the rope disconnects. This significant point difference puts them out of the competition.

“I was disappointed that our team ended up getting knocked out and that we won’t have the opportunity to go to the championship competition, but I had a lot of fun with my teammates along the way,” Connor Kuse (‘17) said. “I hope the team continues to succeed in the future.”

Payal Ahuja (‘17) shared similar thoughts on her experience. “I think the learning experience has been phenomenal. Robotics is the kind of club that feels like work we would actually be doing in the field, very practical. I think that even though we weren’t as successful this year as last year, we got to see teams successfully go through all the challenges and that provided some great insight going forward, whether that be for another year of robotics or moving onto college.”