A Slice of Combat Robotics – The BCRC

written by our collaborators at the Maker Lab

by Jan Bawol ‘23, David Le ‘23, and Gavin Gibson ‘25

What is the BCRC?

The BCRC, or the Bellarmine Combat Robotics Competition, is an organization founded in the Maker Lab intended to make robot engineering more accessible to students and further establish combat robotics as a high school extracurricular. You may be asking, “What is combat robotics, and what does it entail?” Well, combat robotics, popularized by the TV show BattleBots, is an exciting field of engineering in which custom-made robots use weapons to destroy each other. The BCRC was officially founded in August of 2021, but it‘s been in the works since 2019, when its founder, David Le ’23, built their first robot as a passion project. Since then, the BCRC has been able to use the Maker Lab’s tools to scale up its ideas and engage several new members in the process. The BCRC has come a long way; Carney’s Amphitheater is packed during every BCRC tournament!

How does BCRC operate?

There are two weight classes within the BCRC: the 1-pound robots, and the 3-pound robots. Each team starts out by building a 1-pound robot to learn the fundamentals of robot physics, assembly, and manufacturing. After learning the basics, they split off into teams where they brainstorm robot designs and begin the designing process. Then, each team gets assigned a student mentor that guides them through the preliminary stages of robot development. These mentors consist of some of the BCRC’s more experienced members who can teach them how to effectively use Maker Lab equipment for rapid prototyping, a crucial step in robot production. Some of the commonly used Maker Lab tools for robot production include the CNC Mill, Waterjet Cutter, Laser Cutter, 3D Printers, and Soldering Irons.

From carbon fiber sheets to rocket-grade titanium, BCRC teams can manipulate almost any material to develop their robots. And of course, the higher fidelity a robot becomes, the stronger impact its weapon has on the opponent. For instance, one of our robots, the Culverizer,” has a weapon that spins at over 700m/s! To accommodate this level of power, the BCRC decided to upgrade its arena from a small, polycarbonate rectangular prism to a bigger, stronger octagonal prism. This highlights the iterative development process of the BCRC, and how its recent growth in membership allows it to further evolve.

What’s next for the BCRC?

On December 4th, 2022, from 10 AM to 4 PM, the BCRC will be hosting Bell Brawls,” which is a combat robotics competition hosted by the BCRC and the Maker Lab in Liccardo. 10 of the best 3-pound robots in Northern California will attend and compete in a double elimination-style tournament. This event is the first of its kind to take place in Silicon Valley, and it’s going to be an incredible milestone for the BCRC. All Bellarmine students and faculty are invited to watch, either live on campus, or from our live stream if you can’t make it! (Email will be sent out the 11/28-12/2 week!)

David Le ’23

What are your final thoughts on this event?

“We’ve been working incredibly hard on this event for several months now, so it means a lot to us that it’s finally happening. I can’t promise much, but it’ll definitely be Bellarmine’s most entertaining combat robotics tournament to-date, so you won’t want to miss it!”