Machines can't feel pain, but you still wince a bit watching the YouTube video of Beaumont School's tanklike Deus Ex Machina laying waste to Willoughby South's Nautilus — smashing into and flipping the robot, over and over, until it moves no more.
In April, Beamount School's "Beaumonsters" rose from a field of 24 to make it to the Alliance for Working Together RoboBot Competition's final battle. Along with being RoboBot rookies, they were also the only all-girl school in the competition.
"I was extremely nervous," says Beaumont sophomore Ana Maria Vargas, who drove Deus Ex Machina. "But by the time our first match began, and I took control of our robot, everything fell into place."
Preparation started in November, when the team began Saturday morning meetings at the headquarters of its sponsor, Christopher Tool & Manufacturing Co. Phase one was brainstorming ideas for the robot and then building it. After that, each team member was evaluated via a series of driving tests to determine who would be the best to direct Deus Ex Machina in battle.
"Ana Maria was an excellent driver because of her singular focus, concentration and unflappable composure," says Gretchen Santo, Beaumont science teacher and the team's coach. But driving the machine was only part of the challenge.
"I controlled its movement and weapon," Vargas says. "But I also had to take the strategies my team had formed by identifying our opponents' weaknesses and employ them to inflict maximum damage."
The Beaumont team prepared by practicing repair strategies and testing the damage potential of the robot's spinning weapon on discarded printers and wooden blocks. The work and preparation lifted the team to the final battle, where Deus Ex Machina lost to West Geauga High School's unforgiving robot, Crunch Time. This year, the Beaumont team has its sights set on first place.
"We hope to improve on our design from last year," Vargas says. "Perhaps we'll even find more students interested in joining our efforts."