Mechanical Madness

As the school year begins to come to an end, sports seasons are also coming to an end. One team at the school recently competed in its first state tournament.

Robotics, which first became a class last school year, qualified for the state tournament. The pandemic forced the cancellation of several other tournaments this year, so although many of the students knew what a robotics competition was like, they weren’t prepared for everything in the state competition.

Junior Christopher Suffern was a member of the team who represented the school in the tournament. “Our team compared well to most other schools,” said Suffern. “This was our first ever competition, so some things caught us off guard. We had no idea about some things. All the other groups had extravagant displays on their work tables, but we didn’t care about that stuff anyway. Our team competed well against other schools, and we were happy with how our robot performed.”

Unlike in many sports, in robotics, one team has to rely partially on another school’s team in order to be successful. “A robotics competition would have a schedule of placement games where every team is given a random partner for each new game,” said Suffern. “Based on a team’s record over many games with new random teammates each time, one can determine which robots are generally most successful based on the win-loss record and total points scored. With the results of the placement games, all of the teams are ranked, and they begin choosing partners for the elimination bracket.

“The size of this elimination bracket will depend on the total number of people in the competition, but not everyone will make it in. The first seed chooses their partner first, then the second seed chooses theirs, and so on until all of the alliances for the elimination bracket have been filled. The teams that do not make it into the bracket are eliminated. Then, all the games in the bracket are played until they have a champion alliance.”

Overall, the team performed well, especially in its first season competing in the state tournament. “We did pretty well in the state competition. We participated in six placement games and went four and two, making us the thirteenth ranked team in the pool of 38 teams that made it to state,” said Suffern. “We then chose a partner for the elimination bracket, and we were the eighth seed out of 16 in the tournament for the state title. Unfortunately, we were eliminated in the first round, but we were overall pleased with our performance.”

In robotics, a team must earn more points than the other team by completing a specific task. “A robot must score points by holding and scoring mobile goals without getting them taken by other teams,” said junior Nathan Ghidotti. “It’s a very complicated game.”

Events outside of the team’s control led to its first-round loss. “We had some bad luck,” said robotics teacher Mr. Paul Lincicome. “Our pairing got flipped over, and you really can’t recover from that. We were playing one on two. We had some bad luck there, but overall in the tournament, we did really well.”

The team qualified for the tournament through a skills competition. “In a skills competition, you’re on the field alone,” said Mr. Lincicome. “You get to exhibit your abilities without a teammate or competitors. There are two parts of every tournament: the skills competition and the actual tournament, and the skills competition is what qualified us for state.”

One of the disadvantages this year was the late start the team had to build the robot. “Our robot was built over a four-month period going into state,” said Ghidotti. “With more streamlining and early planning, we could have developed a much better robot, but we didn’t even think about going to state until late November. We didn’t see it being a possibility.”

The team has high hopes moving forward. “We only want to continue improving on our results every year,” said Suffern. “The rules for next year’s competition will be released in May, and we plan on getting a four-month head start on building our robot, which will give us more time to test designs and hopefully win multiple tournaments before state next year.”

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