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Brookfield East Robotics team shows city leaders its tricks

Team to compete in regional contest with disk-throwing robot

Aaron Neusted, Brookfield Central freshman, is a member of the Brookfield East robotics team. He demonstrated a frisbee throwing robot on Jan. 28.

Aaron Neusted, Brookfield Central freshman, is a member of the Brookfield East robotics team. He demonstrated a frisbee throwing robot on Jan. 28. Photo By Mary Catanese

Jan. 29, 2013

Members of the Brookfield East Robotics team showed Mayor Steve Ponto and Alderman Scott Berg the fancy tricks their robots can perform at an open house Monday.

The 33-student team invited the officials to the school, 3305 N. Lilly Road, for a demonstration of what this year's competing robot and past-year's winning robots are capable of.

This year, the team is working on a robot that can pick up a Frisbee and throw it through targets 15 feet high, and also climb a metal pyramid.

The team will compete against 49 other teams in the First Robotics Milwaukee Regional Competition at the U.S. Cellular Arena from March 21 to March 23.

The robot also will compete in the Crossroads Regional in Indiana in the teams' first trip out of state.

All teams are required to build and program their robots from scratch - wiring, fuses, drive shafts, and chassis included - in six weeks. They receive a kit of parts and the year's challenge after paying a base competition fee.

Last year's challenge was to build a robot that could pick up basketballs and shoot them into goals. The East team won first place at regionals.

Professional guidance

The team has 12 software, computer and mechanical engineers who mentor the students.

One of the team's founders, 2008 Brookfield East graduate Dan Mueller, said he was inspired to start the team after attending a Marquette University robotics event.

"The dean of engineering was showing one of the robots they sponsored," Mueller said. "I thought it would be cool to do it here. So I approached my classmate, Tim Oakes, and his father, Richard, and asked him to be our adviser."

Richard Oakes is still one of the team's advisers, bringing 25 years worth of engineering experience to the effort.

"It's a lot of fun," Oakes said. "The students learn teamwork, how to work with tools, how to come together on design ideas, and about engineering."

The hands-on training the students receive goes beyond building.

"It's not just about the robot," Oakes said. "We teach them about marketing, award-writing, maintaining our website."

Oakes said the program costs about $20,000 a year, and is funded through sponsorship by Milwaukee School of Engineering, General Electric, Environmental Systems Inc. and NASA.

The skills students learn through robotics competition can help them later in the pursuit of careers in engineering, project management or website development, Oakes said.

Lessons in teamwork

Evan Weiss, a 17-year-old senior and a second-year team member, said building the robots can be a challenge, but he looks forward to the teamwork.

"We brainstorm and try to gather all the ideas we can," Weiss said of the planning stage. "Then we split into teams - like a chassis team, programming team - and we build."

Monday's visit was the first for the mayor, and he said he's proud of the team's success.

"I think it's wonderful to bring this kind of experience into the high schools," he said.

Brookfield East has extended an invitation to Brookfield Central High School this year, and hopes other Brookfield schools will take an interest in the program.

For information about Brookfield East Robotics, visit BEastRobotics.com.

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