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Friday, March 22 , 2019, 6:25 am | Fair 44º


Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Headed Back to FIRST Robotics World Championship

Team 1717 engineers victory in Ventura with record-setting final match at regional tournament

After Sunday’s Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy victory in Ventura, an unofficial Team 1717 portrait. Click to view larger
After Sunday’s Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy victory in Ventura, an unofficial Team 1717 portrait. (Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy photo)

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Sometimes the best teams don’t win by simply being better ... they win by simply overcoming obstacles more consistently. Sometimes, greatness is most evident not when things are going well, but when things are going wrong, and yet somehow a team rallies to get past that to the finish line.

That was the theme at the Ventura FIRST Robotics Regional, which Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy’s powerhouse Team 1717 won Sunday with a dramatic and record-setting final match in the “Recycle Rush” competition.

Team 1717 also won the Innovation in Control Award from Rockwell Automation for the creative way it designed its robot’s movement system, as well as the arms and “elevators” that lifted the boxes that were part of the competition.

Teaming with robots from Hermosa Beach and Fresno, Team 1717 managed to eke out a win in the first game of the best-of-three final at Ventura College, even after a key system of its robot did not work. Then in the second game, they put up 207 points, the highest score of the nearly 100 matches played in the two-day event.

The Ventura championship earned all three schools on the winning “alliance” a ticket to the FIRST Robotics World Championship in St. Louis, April 22-25. For Dos Pueblos, however, it will be the fifth-straight appearance in the title tournament.

“This is the happiest moment of my life, bar none,” co-driver Devon Anable shouted. “I lost my voice in the 10 seconds after we won the second game.

“The key was just fighting through. Stuff was going wrong all day. Then in that first final match, our driver did the best job ever to overcome that.”

That talented driver was Ryan O’Gorman, who had to steer a robot that was without the gyroscope he had been able to use in every match to that point. But somehow, he and the other alliance robots held on for a two-point win.

“I was a little worried there for a bit; our gyro was messed up the whole game,” O’Gorman said, relief and joy clearly showing on his sweaty face. “I was so happy when we won that one. This is totally worth all the extra effort we’ve put in.” 

First-year head teacher Sam Ridgeway echoed his student drivers’ sentiments.

“The key to this team is, honestly, staying confident in the face of all doubt,” he said. “Every single mechanism broke at one time or another, but we just kept fixing things and moving on.” 

After finishing in second place after 12 rounds of qualifying on Saturday and Sunday, Team 1717 joined an alliance with the Beach Bots (Team 330), the top-ranked team from Hope Chapel Academy in Hermosa Beach, along with a qualifier from Clovis North High School outside Fresno (Team 2761).

Together, the trio created a strategy that used each team’s strength. While Dos Pueblos and Hope Chapel built high-scoring stacks of boxes, the Clovis North robot lined up boxes for easy access by 1717 to make another scoring stack even more quickly. It was a winning formula from the first quarterfinal to the thrilling finale.

Two weeks ago, Team 1717 finished fourth in the Los Angeles Regional in Long Beach. They were proud of that effort, but not satisfied.

“We had to learn to keep up the positivity,” team member Yesenia Terriquez said. “We finished fourth, which was pretty good, but there was some disappointment. We had to realize we tried our best, and knowing that helped us keep our positive attitude.”

Midway through the qualifying rounds in Ventura, it was clear that Team 1717 was firing on all cylinders — though, of course, the robot is electric and doesn’t have cylinders. 

“Compared to Long Beach, we’ve done really well,” Heaven Estrada observed midway through the event. “We’ve worked really hard and we’ve been doing a lot better. The drivers have been doing incredibly well today.” 

As the students learned in the two weeks since Long Beach, change is part of engineering. That earlier competition pointed out some things that could be made better on their robot, so they returned to the Elings Center for Engineering Education and got to work. 

“We fully re-designed the collector and added on a new mechanism, which I helped design,” said Spencer Mullanix, speaking of robot parts that manipulate the large game pieces. “We call it the raptor claws, which grab the cans off the ground.”

The new trash-can-collecting raptor arms were the not only new robot wrinkle since Long Beach.

“We added a flipper foot to turn over upturned boxes,” Nathan Tsai explained. “But in one of our early matches, it just sheared off when we rammed it one time. I had brought extras to the competition, so all I did was go down to the pit and replace it.”

The atmosphere in the Ventura College gym matched anything March Madness is putting out. Mascots danced, music blared, and parents cheered for their sons and daughters. Parents of the members of Team 1717, however, can see past the dancing penguins and into the real heart of the program.

“I think the whole four years are great, but the six weeks of the build seasons are awesome,” parent Don Gilman said. “It’s amazing what they accomplish in that time. At the end of it, the they say, ‘I can do anything.’ They might think it's impossible, but no, they did it.”

DPEA teachers see their hard work with the students paying off, too.

“It’s really cool to see how mature the seniors are and how they handle the challenges they face here, seeing them developing emotionally, too," teacher Kyle Stewart said. “They’re a great group of kids. They have a lot of great teamwork, really working hard together.”

As for the students, they realize that they are learning about more than just making robots.

“I saw that although it’s competition, people still focus on really having fun and helping other people, too, so that dynamic is very cool,” Celyne Demonteverde said.

“I learned responsibility for sure,”​ Mullanix added. “During build season, I was working on the CAD, so I had to get the designs to the machinists. And if I didn’t do my job, that would mean they couldn’t do their job.

“I learned what it is to actually work and not just study. Those are two distinct things. And I found that working was a lot harder, but it was more rewarding.”

Former students recognize those rewards, and in fact, many were on hand in Ventura to add their experience and ideas to the mix. 

“I came back because I had such a great time last year,” 2014 team member Raven Bouregy said. “I think that they need mentors, and it’s good to have people who have been in the program. I remember how much the mentors helped us.”

That help will certainly be needed — and more rewards potentially await Team 1717 — when they travel to the FIRST World Championship, which begins April 22 in St. Louis.

Ridgeway echoed the sentiments of the entire team, when he had this message for the future.

“My advice for St. Louis is to remember our team saying, ‘the relentless pursuit of perfection’,” he said. “We may have won here, but we’re not done yet.”

Click here for more information about the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy. Connect with DPEA on FacebookClick 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. He was assisted by members of the Communications and Social Media Business Teams for this report.

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