Robotics Team Places Near Top at Competition

The Robotics Team won an elimination match for the first time in six years and made it to semifinals during the Silicon Valley Regional Competition from April 4 to 6 at San Jose State University. The team was one win away from making it to the final round at this competitive event, which drew teams from as far as Texas and Florida.

“Our first elimination round was against Mountain View, Gunn and Leland,” co-captain senior Adam Evard said. “We were able to develop a strategy from what we saw in our first match to help [us upset] the third seeded alliance of Mountain View, Gunn and Leland. Then in the semifinal round we lost when we were unable to effectively defend against a full court shooting robot.”

During the third quarter, the Robotics Team worked on creating their robot in the six-week time period known as the building period. However, during the first two weeks, the robot the team was preparing ended up being discarded because its design was too complex.

“We went from designing a robot that could climb to designing one that could both shoot and pick up discs,” co-captain senior Lucien Mueller said. “We made such a sweeping decision weeks after the start of the season. But I think it was the right choice, given how we were having trouble finding a workable initial design and how the game ended up being fairly high-scoring [with our new design].”

But despite having changed their strategy and design for the better, the rest of the building process was not easier.

“It was a hard situation because we had four weeks left and had to go back to working with a clean slate,” junior Nick Bousse said.

Despite this hiccup the team was able to come up with a simpler robot. According to competition rules, the robot has to be completed and sealed in a bag by midnight of the last day of the build period. As a result, members spent long hours building the new robot, some staying until nine or ten during the last week and midnight on the last day.

“It did not look pretty,” Nick said. “It looked like we were going to have a poor year. But we definitely pulled it off. We were so crunched on time. Any mistake would have meant that we wouldn’t have finished in time.”

Since there is a brief time period between the sealing of the robot and the first competition, the team built a copy of the robot to make more modifications before the first competition. Teams are given 12 hours before the day of each competition to make any modifications to their robots. This limited window of time forced the team to have parts pre-made and ready to install immediately.

“We added a significant upgrade to our robot that made the task of picking up a frisbee go from not happening at all to actually working,” Nick said. “It’s definitely not perfect but we really changed our performance. We almost made it to the final round and knocked out Mountain View High School, one of the best teams in the nation.”

During the competition, however, things did not always go according to plan.

“During the competition we realized our next match was going to be up against a full court shooter,” Adam said. “We scrambled to build a shield to try to block as many shots as we could, but we only had a couple minutes. We had an alliance member disassemble part of their pit display to take some PVC pipe and we worked frantically to build the shield, making it onto the field with just seconds to spare. This mad scramble of teamwork, cooperation, resourcefulness, and ingenuity in the face of a challenge and daunting time limit is what FIRST [For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology] is all about.”

With the combination of their teamwork and the transition of the club into a class, the team was able to do better than it had in the past. Aside from the significant progress it made in the competition, the Robotics Team itself is an organization of academic excellence and independence.

“It’s not about winning but it’s about the kids working with each other,” Robotics advisor Karen Davis said. “They design [the robot], they build it and they trouble shoot it if something goes wrong.”

With the season now over, the Robotics Team will be designing and building go-karts.

“This year had its ups and downs and I definitely had my doubts about our chances of success,” Adam said “But in the end we pulled through and ended up with a result I am satisfied with. We most definitely can [do better and] that’s what next year is for.”