At our last regional we proved that unity is truly what makes a winning alliance. Although we did not score the most, we provided something essential to the total victory of our 3 robot team. This regional was a different story; we decided to try and emphasize just how well we could do on our own. The game changes quite a bit when we change our approach, and so does the meaning of winning.
Our first day in the pits was probably the least frantic day we’ve ever experienced as a team. Our robot came out of the bag unscathed and our withheld parts were mounted before our first practice match just before noon. Each match we learned a little bit more about what could go wrong on our robot, but every snag was smoothed over by the time our robot hit the field next.
Every snag, that is, except our climber. This system has been designed and redesigned since the first week of competition. First too heavy, now too unbalanced, it seemed more of an impossibility to ever get Sally off the ground. By the end of Thursday, we had a plan if nothing else, but were kicked off the practice field in the midst of implementing our solution.
Coming in Friday morning, we went straight to the pit and then the field to start our qualification matches. After the previous day’s electrical mix-ups and inclination issues, Sally scored an impressive score of over thirty points just in shooting alone. Exhilarating as it was, we still had no climber. The rest of the day was a back and forth of strategy weight added to torque the system just into stabilized balance and rushing out to the field to showcase the incredible consistency and solid driving working to ensure our high position in the rankings.
These two events were not quite exclusive—it seemed that the more we did to shift weight forward, the harder it got to keep our driving aggressive. Sally’s stability suffered with a new swinging component to be deployed only for a climb, and caused us to question whether or not Sally could live up to her blocker ‘bot identity that won us a regional. But as engineering has it, there is always a more elegant solution to the problem at hand. And as the pits closed on Friday night, we thought we had it ready to go.
On Saturday we strode into competition with confidence. Our robot hung, our scouting was impeccable, and our drivers were ready to take on whatever defense was headed their way. We blasted through our qualification matches with clear high scores that let all the cheering fans know exactly what we can do. Then it was time to choose.
We ended the qualification ranked 7th, but got bumped up to 5th after alliance heads joined forces. Our picks were chosen deliberately: 4096 Ctrl-Z and 2358 Bearbotics. We headed into our qualifying matches against the team with the full court shooter and the only team that could really do everything. Then things got complicated.
Ctrl-Z sheared a gear and needed our only time out before the games even started to fix up their robot. Our strategy failed to overcome the ridiculous points racked up by the opposing alliance. Shots were high, robots were fragile, and opinions were bold as we fought our way through two elimination matches. But we could not overcome, and our opponents went on to win Midwest.
Our trophy case bears no extra load after this weekend; we were not selected for any award nor did we earn our position twice over to go to nationals. And yet this weekend was full of victory. In two days we designed a system that got 120 pounds of robot off the ground for ten points in four seconds. We pulled off a scouting effort so impressive that we could predict everyone’s picks before the alliance captains even knew. We tripled our average score from our last regional while still reminding everyone not to get in Sally’s way. We did exactly what our team intended to do.
Robotics teaches us that learning is the most important goal of any process. To win is sometimes no better than to face odds very much in our favor. What it means is that some powerful combination of luck and strategy and partnership and skill provided an opportunity for greatness that someone was smart enough to seize. But to learn is to is make our best better, and hopefully make opportunities like that for ourselves someday.
– Cari C