Today was a big day. It was day 1 of the FIRST Robotics Regional Competition at RIT. Ben’s team, the IgKnighters, have been working on their robot for weeks. Finally, today, they were going to get a chance to put it into action and see how it would do. There have been many bumps and problems along the way, but things seemed to be in order when they tested it. Still, you never know what will happen once you get into the arena.
This is my son Ben’s first year on the McQuaid Robotics team. It is only the second year the McQuaid has hosted a team. The team consists of boys from McQuaid Jesuit High School and girls from Mercy and Bishop Kearney high schools. Ben has been working as part of the Drive Team and has learned so much. It has been a really great experience for him and he has spent hours and hours working on this robot with his team.
At today’s competition, there were 44 teams from all over the northeastern US and Canada. The teams are randomly assigned into a series of three-robot alliances. These alliances played in matches against other alliances throughout the day today. In each match, the teams scored points when robots placed inflated shapes onto pegs. Bonus points could be scored in the final 15 seconds, when little “mini-bots” were deployed to climb up poles in the center of the field. Two three-team alliances are on the field at the same time, each trying to rack up the most points. The three teams in the alliance share the points that their alliance earned in that match. The teams are seeded based on their scores in each of the matches that they played today and their wins/losses.
The scoring is very complicated, but no more complicated than the robots themselves. The idea that high school students engineered and programmed these robots is hard for me to imagine, and yet I know that it is true. With the help of adult mentors, these students figured out these phenomenal machines.
It was a grueling day of competition for the robots. Today, there were 55 matches played and Ben’s team competed in 7 of them. Here is a video of one match:
As you can see in the video, in this match the IgKnighters had some trouble getting their shapes to stay on the pegs. But, in the end, their mini-bot deployed and made it to the top of the pole, scoring them 20 bonus points. Throughout the day, some matches went well, some not so well. Some robots performed amazingly. Others struggled. The IgKnighter robot’s Acquisition (arm) actually broke at one point, which was very stressful. They managed to repair their robot and it resumed play admirably. These students are very quick on their feet.
Tomorrow, there will be more qualifying matches. The IgKnighters will participate in three of them. Mid-day, the top 8 teams will each choose two teams to join them in an alliance. Those three-team alliances will play in the semi-finals and finals and a winning alliance will be named at the end of the day. The IgKnighters will have to perform well in their three remaining qualifying matches. I know that they will go all-out and do their best. It is wonderful to watch them. Their robot has many strengths – an agile wheel base, great elevation, and a fast mini-bot. The team’s strength, though, is more than mechanical, more than engineering, more than computer programming, more than intelligence. Their strength is in their teamwork. Their strength is in their heart. Their strength is in their gracious professionalism.