Soon, 76 Elmbrook high school students will see the lights come on and the engine rev up on a six-week long project.

BEAST Robotics is set to be one of approximately 60 teams competing at the FIRST Robotics Wisconsin Regional Competition at the UWM Panther Arena this weekend.

The robotics season sees teams from around the world tasked with spending six weeks building a robot. That part of the process wrapped up in February and now the collaboration between Brookfield Central and Brookfield East high schools is in the midst of competition season.

"Every team starts the same day with the same challenge and at the end of six weeks you have to bag your robot, lock it up and you can't touch it," team adviser Richard Oakes said. "Competitions run from March into early April and then if you qualify at one of the regionals you get to go to the world championships in St. Louis."

BEAST has won its regional and been able to attend worlds two of the last three years.

FIRST Robotics' challenge for teams varies every year. This year, six robots from six different teams will take part in a 3 versus 3 team competition.

"The game completely changes, but it's always about manipulating a game piece. This year there's two airships that are supposed to be getting ready for flight and your robot delivers gears to the airships to get their motors running," Oakes said. "At the end your robot has to climb up a rope."

Oakes is one of 20 mentors involved with BEAST Robotics.

Interest in the robotics team has spiked in recent years. The program first started 11 years ago as a Brookfield East team, but also was opened up to students from Brookfield Central five years ago.

"When we first started we were probably 15 to 20 kids, but in the last few years we've seen some pretty significant growth," Oakes said.

Senior Christian Thorpe has been involved with BEAST Robotics throughout his entire high school career.

"They had a club day for freshmen and that's when I saw the team," Thorpe said. "I had been kind of interested in robots for a while."

Thorpe, a mechanical lead in the team's mechanical division, plans to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering in college.

"I fell in love with it my first year because to me it was just amazing that I can build these big things that do these tasks and can win competitions," Thorpe said. "It just felt fun and exciting."

While approximately two-thirds of students involved in BEAST help to either build the robot or program its software, the team is about much more.

"We have a business team that takes care of things like sponsorships, we've got social media people," Oakes said. "It's like a business in that sense. There's a marketing part, a business part and of course the building part."

Oakes, who works in computers, said he's constantly impressed with the students he gets to work with.

"It's kind of humbling because of what the students bring to the table, how hard they work, how much they know and how much they pour into it," Oakes said. "It's really cool to watch the students grow. A lot of them I have for four years and they go on to have amazing careers."

For more information on the team go to https://www.beastrobotics.com/.

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