"Robotics is a sport where everyone can turn pro!" - Dean Kamen (Innovator and Founder of FIRST)
This year, robotics teams across Elmbrook were programmed for success! In March, four FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) teams from the District competed in the State Competition and BEAST Robotics competed in two Regional FIRST Robotics Competitions (FRC). From these challenges, three teams advanced to the Worlds Competition in Houston, TX this past April: BEAST Robotics, the GEarheads, and Team Hazmat. Elmbrook students competed in front of an audience of approximately 35,000 at the FIRST Worlds Competition.
For BEAST Robotics (a Brookfield Central / Brookfield East co-op), the team experienced one of the most successful years their organization has ever had. In March 2020, the team had earned the Chairman’s Award and qualified for the Worlds competition, but then COVID hit and in-person competitions came to a halt. Instead of viewing the pandemic as a setback, they used it as an opportunity to step back, regroup and rise to a new level. “This team made some incredible innovations to our robot, designing a swerve drive rotation robot for the first time and made great strides in the automating of its driving and shooting,” said advisor Richard Oakes.
This year, BEAST competed in two regional competitions (one home and one away) in hopes of qualifying for the World Competition through one of them. They ended up winning both competitions, placing as the #1 seed in the competition as an Alliance Captain. BEAST won the Industrial Design Award at the 10,000 Lakes Regional which celebrates their “demonstration of industrial principles, striking a balance between form, function and aesthetics”. At the Wisconsin Regional, BEAST won the Quality Award which “celebrates machine robustness in concept and fabrication” and East Junior Nathanael Ren was a Dean's List Finalist!
At Worlds, BEAST placed in the middle of the pack overall. “When we won in Minnesota, the strategy work we did throughout this season really showed,” reflected Oakes. “We made a strong showing at Worlds but we’re better than what we placed. All in all, it was a great learning experience for the kids - it’s a much different level of competition than we’ve ever experienced.”
This year, only two FTC teams from Wisconsin qualified for the Worlds and they were both from Elmbrook - the GEarheads and Team Hazmat. The top 160 teams out of over 7,000 teams that competed during the regular season made it to Worlds.
The GEarheads (Wisconsin Hills and Brookfield Central) qualified from the State as Captain of the Winning Robot Alliance, which also included the team from Elmbrook - Rising Rhinobots. At Worlds, the GEarheads receive ALL “Exemplary” ratings from their judges. The GEarheads finished 28th out of 80 teams in the Franklin Division with a total score of 1,654. Their team designed, constructed and decorated a booth that welcomed international visitors and represented the State of Wisconsin uniquely.
“Being at Worlds was incredibly fun, motivating and exciting for our team,” said GEarheads Coach Tim Nustad. “The team loved meeting teams from across the globe and sharing knowledge about robotics and life in other countries. The event was an opportunity to see competition at an entirely new level for us. We had the chance to learn from the strongest teams in FIRST about their technical achievements, how they drove STEM in their communities, and the impact that robotics can have on students".
The GEarheads had a focus for this season on developing our technical skills, driving a stronger student lead plan for our season, and building an outreach program that had a much greater impact. The team stretched themselves to invest in a ground up robot technical design that did not rely on off the shelf components, and that fully leveraged a computer based "CAD" design. They took key engineering learnings from mentors and experts to improve their design capability and their robot reliability. The GEarheads leveraged those same technical skills to launch our first broad community outreach. This school year, they coordinated the collection, refurbishing and distribution of used computers and devices to donate to robotics teams and/or STEM organizations and schools in resource-challenged areas of Milwaukee. This outreach collected 79 used computers, and was able to distribute needed computers to Milwaukee area First Student team members.
As a third year FTC team the Gearheads had a season their entire team is proud of. The team qualified for State at their first event of the year, winning the best all-around Inspire award. They qualified for Worlds leveraging their robot performance, holding the highest robot performance score in Wisconsin for that event. Lastly, they impacted the experience of over 100 Milwaukee area STEM students giving them critical computer resources to participate in FIRST Robotics – resources that their teams did not have. You can see the GEarheads having some fun with Hazmat at our State competition here.
Team Hazmat (Brookfield Central) qualified for Worlds as the State Championship Inspire Award Winner (or “Best All Around”), bringing in the prestigious Orange Banner to the school for the second season in a row! At Worlds, Hazmat had an incredible performance, and came in 26th overall in the Robot Games. The team also won the Motivate Finalist Award for the team’s efforts this season in promoting STEM within the Elmbrook community and across the state. Hazmat themed their pit on Ukraine flag colors in support of their cause.
The team ran STEM camps in the schools, MakerFaire, Maruf Center and Children's Hospital of Wisconsin; advocated to the State and Congress representatives; conducted a STEM expo and FTC Scrimmage in BCHS.They started the initiative - FTC WIRES (Wisconsin Rises to Enable Stem growth) engaging all teams across the state to align efforts to grow the program to 100 FTC teams. The team also continued the initiative Project WISER (Women Inspired in STEM, Engaged by Robotics), with summer camp with 38 girls and forming and mentoring an all-girls team Superstellar, who themselves won the Connect award at the State Championship for their initiative to engage and promote the Women leaders in STEM in the community. Hazmat also engaged with 28 mentors this year, introducing 14 of them to FIRST for the first time. Additionally, BCHS Sophomore and Hazmat teammate Aman Amjad was named as a Finalist for the Dean’s List Award from Wisconsin to Worlds. Hazmat took a number of first place titles in their qualifiers and championships throughout this year’s season, including the rare double of Winning Alliance captain and Inspire award at the Fox Valley Qualifier. You can view a video recap of Hazmat’s season here.
All teams are grateful to their sponsors and volunteers for their continued support. If you are looking for ways to get involved, you can donate to the teams at the following links and follow them on their social media: BEAST Robotics, GEarheads, Team Hazmat. The school district was able to provide a dedicated FTC Robotics room next to the library in BCHS, and the teams are thankful to the school and school district for making this a reality. All teams are hoping to raise funds for supplies and BEAST has a long-term goal of a permanent FRC practice space.
If your child is interested in STEM, BEAST will be hosting the FIRST Summer STEM Camp from June 20-23 for students going into 4-6th grade to learn how to use lego robots and do science experiments. Additionally, FTC teams would be announcing their recruitment drives soon - check out their social media or reach out to the FTC teams at the Robotics room in BCHS for more information!