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Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 8:41 am | Fair 52º

 
 
 
 

Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Celebrates Pi Day with Solid Finish at FIRST Robotics Tournament

Members of Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy’s Team 1717 celebrate their fourth-place finish at the FIRST Robotics tournament in Long Beach.
Members of Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy’s Team 1717 celebrate their fourth-place finish at the FIRST Robotics tournament in Long Beach. (Brianna Doyle photo / Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy)

LONG BEACH — Where else but a robotics competition would a key match be put on hold while everyone counted down to jointly celebrate Pi Day (3-14-15, 9:26, get it?).

But that’s what happened Saturday at the FIRST Robotics event in Long Beach. Later on that same Pi Day, the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy made it into the semifinals of the robot battles, and its three-team alliance finished fourth overall.

Team 1717’s next competition will be March 28-29 in Ventura.

Like any competitor that falls a bit short of the top prize, the students on Team 1717 are ready to try again.

“It was a lot of fun, but we know the robot can do better than it showed,” student Jack Ryan said. “We think our robot is up there, we just didn’t get a chance to prove it. In fact, we tore it down and reassembled it in one day here. We think we’ll do better in Ventura.”

First-year coach Sam Ridgeway was impressed with his students.

“I feel surprisingly good,” he said. “Every single match we found some new problem to overcome. But  everyone stuck to it, and we improved every single match. Our ceiling is very high. We’re going to do great this year.”

Team 1717 could thank its programming division for key points that helped earn that semifinal spot at the Los Angeles regional held at the Long Beach Arena. After the quarterfinals, 1717 was tied for fourth place, and only the top four made the semis.

The tiebreaker used was points earned during the autonomous period, the 15-second spot at the beginning of the match in which the robot follows programmed instructions. With those points, the robot continued to the semis.

The team reached those playoffs after 68 robots played through 10 rounds of qualification rounds. The top eight robots earned the right to form new three-team “alliances” for the playoff round.

Although 1717 finished 26th in qualifying, the quality of the robot and the team shone through and they were the second team chosen, by No. 2 seed Vitruvian Robots from Da Vinci Schools in Hawthorne. Those two added a third, the Robodox from Granada Hills Charter High School. That was the three-team alliance that battled to fourth place overall.

For the members of this year’s Team 1717, the Long Beach event is the beginning of the end of a long process that began when they entered DPEA as freshmen.

“This is the culmination of the Engineering Academy for us, and we get to wear the jumpsuit,” said a smiling Quinn Hensley, referring to the team’s all-black gear festooned with sponsor logos. “That is very exciting.”

“Going into senior year, I thought I’d be super-overwhelmed,” Ami Thrakrar said. “I used to look at previous year’s robots and think, I can never do that, that’s crazy.

“But once we started the season, having the background I’d built up in the previous three years doing all the amazing work made it all possible. I was able to understand what I was doing and what others on my teams were doing.”

That sort of integrated curriculum has been the aim for the DPEA over the past several years. The 2015 graduating class is the first that includes a full complement of 100 students.

“I think this is our strongest organization yet,” said Emily Shaeer, DPEA admissions director and a founding staff member. “This is the first class that has come through the complete and latest DPEA curriculum, starting machining in the ninth grade.

“We have never had a team like this one. They are so capable of doing so many different things, and they seem to have such confidence and presence of mind. This is this group of  seniors’ first year of competition, but they are not intimidated at all.”

Of course, in Long Beach those seniors were not alone. In the pits and in the stands and ready to help was a corps of dedicated mentors who volunteer their time and expertise.

“We try and prep them as much as they can, but this is where they learn to sink or swim,” mentor Doug Blair said. “With so little time between matches, they find that they have to do a lot of work in a very short time. They work as a team to solve problems — that’s engineering.”

Even alumni return to lend a hand. Several members of last year’s Long Beach champions were in the pits and on the sidelines offering advice and strategy.

“They’re like we were last year, rookie drivers,” said Phil Downey, a co-driver last year. “I’m excited to be able to come back and help them be what Team 1717 will always be.”

After resting up, the team will prepare their robot and themselves for the Ventura FIRST Robotics Regional at Ventura College. Click here for more information about the Ventura regional.

Click here for more information about the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy. Connect with DPEA on Facebook. Click here to make an online donation to the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Foundation.

— Jim Buckley is a communications mentor for the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy.

Members of Team 1717 discuss adjustments to their robot during a break in the action Saturday in Long Beach. (Brianna Doyle photo / Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy)
Members of Team 1717 discuss adjustments to their robot during a break in the action Saturday in Long Beach. (Brianna Doyle photo / Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy)

The DPEA robot drivers prepare their strategy before a key quarterfinal match. (Brianna Doyle photo / Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy)
The DPEA robot drivers prepare their strategy before a key quarterfinal match. (Brianna Doyle photo / Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy)

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