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Battling with bots: Bishop’s School student competes on Discovery Channel’s robot series

Anouk Janssen, a student at The Bishop's School, is competing with team Gigabyte on the Discovery Channel show “BattleBots.”
Anouk Janssen, 13, a student at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, is competing with team Gigabyte on the Discovery Channel show “BattleBots.”
(Courtesy)

There are a lot of challenges to creating a battle droid that can knock out its opponent.

It has to remain balanced while knocking the other robot off kilter. It has to have a strong enough shell but remain light enough to move nimbly around the mat.

So is team Gigabyte, including Anouk Janssen, a 13-year-old student at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, up to the task? The team is competing on the Discovery Channel program “BattleBots,” which is shown at 8 p.m. Thursdays.

According to Discovery, each match consists of two robots competing in a single three-minute bout in which the goal is to destroy or disable the opponent. If there is no knockout during the battle, a panel of judges declares the winner.

The series highlights the design and build of each robot, backstories of the bot-builders and the pursuit of the “BattleBots” championship.

Anouk and her teammates created a “full body spinner” robot called Gigabyte.

“Our robot has a shell around it, and to attack its opponent, it starts spinning,” Anouk said. “The goal is to hit the robot until it flies off [the mat] or something comes off the robot.

“They are very challenging to maintain because they have to balance properly and don’t get damaged themselves when they hit the other robot.”

The show starts with 60 teams competing. Whichever team wins the championship takes home the “Grand Nut” trophy.

Team Gigabyte created a “full body spinner” robot for this season of Discovery Channel's "BattleBots."
(Courtesy)

Gigabyte has already had its first battle, but the episode hasn’t yet aired, so Anouk couldn’t elaborate about how the team did.

“I’m proud of how we did,” was all she could say. “The trophy would be great, but the real prize is the pride that comes with doing well.”

Anouk has been watching the robot construction and matches for years. Her father, David, an engineer, also is on the team and has been involved with robotics for decades.

“There was one year in which they watched the competition and the producers asked Anouk [and her sister] to speak to other young people in the audience about the process,” David Janssen said. “I was overwhelmed with the impact we were having on other young people.”

“It’s an expensive hobby, but it’s a great way for me to spend time with my family and friends,” he said. “I’m an engineer and it’s a great way for me to see my girls get involved with STEAM [science, technology, engineering, arts and math] activities: the hydraulics, the artistic aspects, coding, the control we have to have, the quality that goes into the work we do.”

Anouk’s participation as a team member “is just another way for her to express herself and find different opportunities that exist for her if she chooses to get into something with technology,” he said. “But if she finds something else that inspires her, that’s great, too. I want to provide things that interest her and things she wants to learn more about what she can pursue in the future.”

Having the opportunity to be on TV doesn’t hurt either.

“When I started and knew I was going to be on TV, it was crazy, everyone was freaking out,” Anouk said. “But everyone is so supportive and nice, they made me feel better about it. For me, it wasn’t even about how far we got in the competition, it’s the friends you meet. A lot of the people I now consider my friends weren’t even on my team. Even though it’s a competition, no one really cares. We all want to see each other’s robots and how they did and learn new things.”

Anouk said there is a hardship in learning how to adapt when things go wrong, but she “loves being challenged.”

“You know something is going to go wrong, but you have to figure out how to fix it, and fast,” she said. “It can be confusing but interesting.”

Anouk not only has her father, her team and her friends to learn from but also “there are women and girls in the field. They are leaders and I think it’s a great community of women and I hope it grows,” she said. “I like that we can be represented.”

To learn more about “BattleBots” and watch past episodes, visit go.discovery.com/tv-shows/battlebots/about.