The Carmel High robotics team left the FIRST Robotics Competition at U.C. Davis on March 22 and 23 in disappointment.
Team 2035—called such because the CHS team was the 2,035th team to join FIRST, the organization which holds international robotics competitions—placed 36th out of 53, a letdown for many team members.
“We were pretty disappointed,” club advisor Paul McFarlin says. “The machine didn’t work the way it was supposed to.”
The game for this year’s competition is sort of like Frisbee golf, according to robotics mentor Woody Knapp. Teams compete to shoot Frisbees at three goals of varying heights for ten points and can also climb a metal pyramid to put a Frisbee in a basket at the top for 30.
Team 2035’s strategy was to spend less time shooting and more time climbing the pyramid for the maximum amount of points.
“The climbing is where the bulk of our brain power’s been going,” Knapp comments.
But the team’s strategy failed when they actually reached the competition.
“Our Frisbee shooter wasn’t working,” says senior J.D. Russo, adding that the climbing proved too difficult as well.
McFarlin attributes the robot’s failure to the short preparation time given to all FIRST competitors.
“We didn’t have enough time to test the robot at school before the competition,” McFarlin says.
Teams are given six weeks to build and program the robot for competition, and once at the game can bring only 30 pounds of the robot to tinker with or change.
“It was pretty disappointing to get there and not have the robot do what you expected,” McFarlin notes.
According to the Robotics instructor, the team got caught up trying to fix the shooting and climbing functions of the robot and didn’t focus enough on switching strategy.
“We changed our strategy halfway through the competition,” senior Buddy Satow says. “We went from a shooting/climbing robot to autonomous/defense.”
The change in strategy proved successful, but occurred too late in the game.
“We were losing most of our matches, but when we switched to autonomous/defense we won our next match 77-6,” Satow says. “Unfortunately, it was too late, and we were already ranked too low to move ahead in the competition.”
Before the competition, McFarlin had fears that the robot would not function well because of the difficult nature of this year’s game.
“I hate this year’s game,” he admits. “It is the most challenging we’ve ever had to do.”
Senior Parker Levinson agrees: “It’s a really confusing game this year.”
But despite all of the setbacks, team members remain optimistic.
“The Davis competition is where we test everything and see how the robot does in the field,” Russo says. “We don’t always expect to do well.”
Now that the team knows what needs to be fixed, McFarlin is hopeful about the next competition, April 4-6 at San JoseStateUniversity.
And McFarlin says, “With the change in strategy and tweaks to the robot, we should be competitive in the next competition.”