Photo Credit: AJ Sklar

Robotics Runs the World

May 20, 2018

Thousands of students had worked for six long, grueling, and busy weeks to prepare a robot for the FIRST Robotics Competition. Our Fusion Corps worked night and day to develop a mighty robot, ” Marvin” that could complete every task of the game. Finally, it had come time to compete in the regular season tournaments. We fought valiantly, participating in the fourth seed alliance in the local Dallas tournament, only to lose in the quarterfinals against the fifth seed. However, the team returned to tournament play in Lubbock with vengeance and joined a powerful defensive alliance that made it all the way to finals; even though we lost, we still qualified for the World Championship.

And so, several weeks later, the team journeyed down to Houston to take on the world. The convention center in downtown Houston hosted 408 teams, split into six divisions, playing on separate fields. Tens of thousands of spectators gathered to witness the teams battle each other in mind, spirit, and tech. Fusion Corps played in the Hopper division, which also included the two best teams in the season so far: 148 Robowranglers and 254 Cheesy Poofs.

Over two days and ten qualification matches, Marvin earned a record of six wins and four losses, temporarily receiving the highest score of the day. But Marvin ran into many problems along the way, including failures in his autonomous code, despite the fact that we were consistently improving it. Even with multiple setbacks, Marvin ultimately earned the rank of nineteenth in a division of sixty-eight teams. There was not much time for us to enjoy the festivities within the long days; however, we were able to visit the Tech Challenge and LEGO League fields, which showed us another side of the Robotics world. We then would strategize at night, preparing for both friends and foes and planning our appeals for the alliances of the top robots’. On the second night, the team made a mock draft of how we expected alliance selection to go. We placed ourselves in the most likely spot to be chosen. But we could never have predicted what came next.

As the teams arrived to the convention center early Saturday morning, music was playing on the fields and everyone was in a festive spirit. The team added to this festive mood by singing such rousing tunes as the French National Anthem, and “O Come, O Come Emmaunel.” Awards were handed out, and alliance selection finally commenced. The first seed chose the most obvious team, followed by the second seed team having another expected choice. The third seed also followed suit, and everything seemed to be going as expected. Then, the fourth seed team announced their pick for alliance partner. They were graciously denied. The fourth seed announced another pick since they had been declined, but this second team declined as well. The fans in the arena let out a gasp. Finally the fourth seed announced their pick for the third time. But they were graciously denied by yet a third team. The crowd went crazy–this was certainly not expected. And in the end, unfortunately, our Fusion Corps was not picked. Sophmore AJ Sklar was very disapointed in this, saying “I had to wake up at five o’clock in the morning, and then we weren’t even picked.”

However, the playoffs finished up as expected, with the first seed alliance winning outright. They went on to play the winners of the five other divisions and defeated every one of them. This round-robin event known as the Einstein field determined the two alliances who would be battling for the championship in Minute Maid Park. Every team traveled over to the baseball field and filled the stands. We witnessed the Tech Challenge championship as well, even watching as the announcer crowned the wrong alliance as winner of the match (they eventually won the title). The Hopper and Carver division alliance winners fought for the FRC crown, and the Hopper division, Fusion Corps’ division, went two wins to none to claim the title of world champion. In the end, our team was slightly disappointed, yet we were ecstatic to have even been at the world championship. We worked hard and fought hard in all of our tournaments. We never gave up in the face of setbacks and difficulties, and we did our best on the world’s biggest stage. And as the theme for next year’s game was announced as “Destination: Deep Space” in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, we said goodbye to 2018.

Although the season has ended, there are many things our team needs to accomplish before the beginning of next season. New members must be trained, and the business team is busy again getting funding for the team. The team is expanding its community outreach by exploring new robotics projects and even hosting a summer school camp at Cistercian. Most importantly, as we look back on the past two seasons, we will celebrate how far we have come and constantly find ways to improve our team so that one day we may be the world champions. In the meantime, if you have any questions about our team, our story, our members, or FIRST robotics in general, please talk to me, Samuel Wilcox, or anyone in your class who is on the team.

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