ST. LOUIS — As the last day of competition began at the FIRST Robotics Competition Championships in St. Louis on Saturday, the first order of business was to finish up the last 20 of the 150 qualification matches. Dos Pueblos High School’s Team 1717 had one match left to play, and the D’Penguineers knew they would have to play it perfectly to defend the first-place seed they had held for most of the competition.
A distinctive feature of Rebound Rumble is the Cooperation Bridge, which rewards teams from opposing alliances for working together by increasing their rankings. Because the opposing alliance was unwilling to “coopertate” with 1717 in their last qualifying match, the D’Penguineers did not get the ranking boost they needed and ended up in second place as the qualification matches ended and alliance selections began.
During alliance selections, the eight highest-seeded teams choose alliances of two other robots, which will remain constant for the entire elimination tournament. The alliances that win this tournament on each field will go on to compete in the final round on Einstein Field. Team 1717 allied themselves with Team 469, Las Guerillas, from International Academy High School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and Team 2471, Team Mean Machine, from Camas, Wash. This alliance of three prepared themselves to face off against the other seven alliances in a best-two-out-of-three elimination tournament for the title of champions of Newton Field and the chance to compete at Einstein.
The D’Penguineers and their alliance had a rough start in the Newton quarterfinals. Shortly after the match began, 1717’s robot stopped moving. It stayed that way for the rest of the match. The team determined that it was most likely not a problem with their robot, but rather with the field. Regardless, without 1717’s scoring ability, their alliance lost by two points. If they wanted to remain in the competition, they’d have to win the next match to force a tiebreaker.
Fortunately, the next time the D’Penguineers took the field, their robot worked without a hitch and the alliance won a convincing victory. It would all come down to a tiebreaker match between the two alliances. Within the first minute of that match, Team 1717’s worst fears came true: their robot stopped moving again. It looked like the end of their championship bid. Alliance members 469 and 2471, however, did not give up. 469 immediately switched to offense from defense, while 2471 continued to frustrate the opponents. At the end of the match, 469 and 2471 balanced together on the alliance bridge for a 20-point bonus, but the opposing alliance kept scoring baskets, quickly eating up our slim lead. At the last second, a Hail Mary throw from 1717’s human player, Nick DeHeras, sunk into the top basket for three points. Those three points turned out to be the margin by which 1717 and their partners won the match and progressed to the semifinals.
That miracle shot turned out to be the extent of 1717’s luck. In the first match of the semifinals, against longtime friendly rivals the Beachbots of Hope Chapel Academy in Hermosa Beach, 1717 ended up stuck in the corner for about half the match, resulting in a loss for the alliance.
The second match didn’t go much better; jams in the ball collection mechanism kept 1717 from scoring effectively, which was a big blow to the offensive capability of their alliance. Although the D’Penguineers, Las Guerillas and Team Mean Machine all fought hard, they could not pull out a win. It was the end of the line for the alliance of three. As D’Penguineer Vy-Luan Huynh said, it was a true case of “Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”
The perfect storm of mishaps ended 1717’s championship dreams, and disappointment in the stands was palpable, but the general consensus was one of pride in the team’s accomplishments and recognition that despite unfavorable circumstances, they had built a world-class robot. They were the highest-scoring robot at this competition (out of 402), scoring 75 more points than the closest competitor. Only three robots were within 100 points of them. But Murphy spoiled the day.
The unique and exceptional quality of the Lindsay Rose Bot, dedicated to a teammate who died in a 2009 surfing accident, was substantially acknowledged by their receipt of the Xerox-sponsored Creativity Award, which “celebrates creativity in design, use of components or strategy of play.” Their totally unique individual wheel motors and omnidirectional driving ability were highlighted.
DPEA Class of 2012, signing out.
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— The Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Public Relations & Event Reporting Team includes Sepideh Parhami, Jeff Gau, Justin Morris, Phillip Hodgson, Parker Olson, Chloe Warinner and Danielle Tisdale.