Engineering students build robot for Vandal's marching band

MOSCOW, ID - The University of Idaho had a rough season when it comes to football, but their halftime shows were a different story.

Four University of Idaho engineers became a part of the marching band this semester, but not by playing an instrument.

"What we designed, was a power-assisted robot that moves a drum set so that a drummer can carry more weight than he physically can, and move around a field better," said U of I Engineering student Travis Dorerzaph.

They call this robot "Band Beesten." It rolls on three legs and weighs about 75 pounds. A drummer can strap into the machine, and play a whole drum set while on the move.

"Turn it on, you walk, and it follows you," said U of I Engineering Student Chris Ohlinger.

"If anyone's ever driven a go kart, or a bumper car with the two little dual joysticks, or a skid steer, basically it's works like that," said U of I Engineering grad student Dan Mathewson. "You just push forward on both levers but instead of your hands doing it, it's just attached to your hips."

The machine is fun to watch...and to operate.

"It's definitely different and the drummer that uses it for the shows, he definitely gets a kick out of it because it's something that's never really been done before," said Ohlinger.

"It adds an entertainment factor," said U of I Engineering student Steven Watts. "I mean, being able to have a full drum set move around with the marching band, which has never been done before, the crowd just kind of goes, 'Woah, what? That's awesome, that's incredible.'"

But marching into uncharted territory wasn't easy, this capstone project took about six months to put together.

"We definitely had our highs and our lows, let's put it that way," said Mathewson.

"The week that it was supposed to debut, we burnt it up, and we had to rebuild it," said Olinger. "So we were here at about 4:30 in the morning."

Despite the early morning work, all four members of the team say the hard work was well worth it.

"The first time we put it out there, I was sweating bullets," said Watts. "I mean, we take the cover off, and everything works great, and the crowd was all, 'Wooo,' and everything. It was amazing. It was just great."

The robotic drum set made its last appearance Friday night during a holiday concert at the Kibbie Dome.

For more information on "Band-Beesten", check out
Rolling with the Beat