LAHS Robotics Team places highest ever in school history


Rohan Vaswani

The Los Altos High School Robotics Team set new records for the school at this year’s FIRST robotics world championship.

Los Altos High School’s robotics team, known as Team 114 or Eaglestrike, just capped off an historic season in this year’s FIRST robotics world championship. This year’s trip marked the third time the team has reached the global level, and the first time in over three years. The qualification follows multiple high placings in previous competitions and a first-place win at the Arizona North Regional.

Ranked 33rd out of 76 teams in the Newton Division, the team reached their highest placing ever before their run was ended in the semifinal round. Had they won, the team would have had the chance to compete with the top robots of other divisions for the competition title.

The tournament mirrored what Team 114 had faced in previous regional events. For this season, participating teams were challenged to build robots that shot balls into a basket centralized on the competition floor. After taking as many shots as they could, the bots would then advance to a set of rungs where they jumped as high as they could before time expired. Points were awarded based on how well each aspect was performed.

Going into the event, the robot saw a major overhaul in anticipation of heavy competition.

“We spent the last week before the competition staying up to pretty late hours working on this bot, and by the end, it looked very different from previous versions,” Team 114 co-captain Justin Chou said.

One of these alterations included adding a roller above the flywheel to the robot’s shooting mechanism, helping to minimize? the backspin of shots. Along with an improved intake function, the efficiency and accuracy of shots were both upgraded.

On a more technical level, the team attempted to integrate a shooting-while-moving sequence into their code. Instead of stopping to pick up balls and shoot, the robot would be able to do so on the go.

“It was intense physics, and didn’t get it completely finished,” Justin said. “We actually found that our accuracy wasn’t as good while moving, so we decided to play it safe and shoot stationary. But our overall shooting percentage was a lot better because of the top roller we added.”

Despite a rough start during the initial qualification matches, the team was able to find their groove and piece together wins. According to Team 114 co-captain senior Andrew Kim, the momentum helped to build resolve and confidence as they advanced to higher levels of the tournament.

“We got better and better as the days went on. Because we were able to be self-sufficient–there was one match where our teammates weren’t very competitive and we still won–we were picked by the top teams there [to be on alliances],” Andrew said.

They continued to adjust their strategy throughout the playoffs. By scouting their opponents’ performance, the team entered matches with an understanding of what weaknesses could be targeted.

“We had one bot on the opposing alliance that was exploitable because they shot from the exact same spot every time, so I think shutting it down led to our victory,” Justin said.

However, the team would ultimately lose in the semifinals as a result of their teammate’s shooting mechanism malfunctioning–effectively removing their alliance’s ability to compete offensively.

“We didn’t really have an understanding that they couldn’t play offense and we ended up playing really bad double-defense. The lack of coordination really cost us,” Justin said.

“I definitely think we could have made it further,” Andrew said. “But overall, I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish this season.”

Looking forward, Justin says he’s positive for the future of Team 114 and the culture he’s helped to foster throughout his time as a member.

“We’re big preachers of passing the torch. I had a huge excitement for robotics as a freshman, and bringing that out in new members is pretty cool,” Justin said. “Whenever I don’t have anything to do, I always make sure they’re learning, too.”