Get to Know Team Valkyrie: The Minds Behind the Mayhem
Self-declared as the “ultimate robot-fighting series,” BattleBots® on the Discovery Channel pulls no punches for its 2020 season — sparks, saws, sideswipes and even a 500-lb walking robot! So we wondered, as any inquiring mind would, how does one end up in a rough-and-tumble robot showdown?
TE Connectivity sat down with three members of Team Valkyrie to pick their brains on how they found themselves in the middle of a robot battle arena and what makes it worthwhile.
Q: What do you do as your “day job” and what’s your role on the team?
Leanne Cushing, Team Captain:
I’m a senior mechanical engineer for an autonomous vertical farm startup in the Bay Area. For Team Valkyrie, I act as the team manager and contribute to the robot’s mechanical design.
Alexander Crease, Design Engineer and Outreach Coordinator:
My role on the team is on the system design side — I helped design the look of Valkyrie and how it all comes together. I make sure everything fits our unique aesthetic. In my day job I work as a product marketing manager for a 3D printing company.
Frederick Moore, Power Systems Engineer and Driver:
I’m a senior mechanical engineer at a self-driving vehicle startup, which is pretty fun. A lot of my work on the team has been figuring out the electrical system, from the batteries and the wires to the motors we’re going to use, as well as radio receivers and the telemetry system.
Q: So, how do you make that leap to a robotics fighting competition?
Yeah, we all participated in a robotics competition by high school. And Fred and I were both on teams in the 2016 season of BattleBots that didn’t make it across the finish line.
That first experience was frustrating. So, going into the 2018 season, we knew we wanted to make a very pretty, very dangerous robot.
After that season, I thought “I’m going to come back and have my own team, and we’re not going to let this happen again.” And I asked Fred if he’d like to join me. I also pulled in Alex, who was my intern 6.5 years ago. It became like a big group of friends in Boston.
Q: What do you like most about being involved with BattleBots®?
One of the big reasons I like being on this show is that it’s not just, “let’s build this dangerous robot that destroys stuff.” It’s also about reaching the enthusiastic kids and their families that are watching us. This show has a huge impact on inspiring kids to get interested in engineering and robotics. As a team, we want to inspire a diverse set of kids to get really, really excited about engineering.
Following up on that, competing is also a good message for younger engineers, too. I counsel some of the younger engineers at my work to fail quickly and not worry too much about it. It’s about testing a lot of things and seeing what sticks — which is how you can be successful in a competition like this. You can’t be afraid to try.
There are so many smaller competitions around the world — just like the ones we got started with — with 1-lb or 3-lb robots. So, if people as us, “how do I build a BattleBot?” those competitions are the perfect place to start.
To see this team of inspiring engineers at work, tune into BattleBots® every Thursday at 8 p.m. EST on the Discovery Channel.
TE designs its products to withstand the harshest environments. Watch as Team Valkyrie members Frederick Moore and Leanne Cushing talk about leveraging the benefits of TE's unique touch.