There are over 2,400 FIRST Tech Challenge robotics teams competing each year for the FTC World Championship (to be held in St. Louis, MO). From those thousands of teams, only 128 will win the right to go to the World Championship. On Saturday, March 16th, Williston Wildcat Robotics spent the day in Bridgewater, MA competing in the Massachusetts State FTC Robotics Championships to win one of the coveted 128 World Championship invitations.
Massachusetts is well-known for its high-technology initiatives in secondary education, and all 28 competing state teams displayed a very impressive use of technology and creativity in preparing their robots to compete in the Ring It Up! robot challenge. All teams had to be invited to the State Championships by being a member of an “alliance” that won one of the seven qualifying rounds held between December and March. An alliance represents two individual teams who work together in the Ring It Up! game to defeat an opposing alliance. Also invited were the top two judged awards winners from each of the qualifying rounds.
In the qualifying rounds, the Williston Wildcat Robotics team was a member of the winning alliances at TWO competitions and was also the winner of the PTC design award for excellence in combining engineering and creativity in their robot’s design. The team (and its robot “Frodo”) began its juggernaut at an early scrimmage in November. By March, it had evolved into a formidable power that was to represent the Williston Northampton School at the FTC State Championships.
The opponents at the state championship represented the “best of the best” teams and robot engineering from secondary public and private schools across the state. Some of these schools have very impressive robotics labs in which they develop and test their robots. Other teams are sponsored by large high-tech corporations in the Boston area and have impressive grants for development. One might get a bit intimidated by all of this, but not Williston Wildcat Robotics!
The team had supreme confidence in Frodo, their strategic abilities, and in each other. They conducted themselves with gracious professionalism in their laser-focused efforts to earn a trip to the world championships. In short, they had an edge: purpose, passion, and integrity!
The competition started with a disappointing loss in a high-scoring match, 240-330 points. This was one of six matches the team would play. The second match was a defensive one, with one robot from each alliance trying to block the other team from scoring. However, Frodo’s agility and the team’s brilliant strategy prevailed in a 95-55 win. This win placed the Wildcats in 12th place.
The third match was also hard fought, but the Wildcats’ ring-hanging strategy combined with that of our alliance partners to capture a 186-86 win. Frodo and the Wildcats were now in fourth place! The fourth match was also a win (115-55) advancing the Wildcats into second place!
The fifth match was a heartbreaker. We were pitted against a very high-scoring alliance and were actually doing quite well until the event’s Field Control System (the WiFi, specifically) suffered a glitch and rendered our controls inoperable and those of our alliance partner as well. Unfortunately, the judges decided not to replay the match. We lost the fifth match 60-240 but the team’s integrity and gracious professionalism ruled; they were not to be deterred! However, this loss moved us from second place down to seventh place.
The pressure was on for the final match of the day. The Wildcats were more determined than ever in their last match. What unfolded was a textbook example of defensive robot strategy. While our alliance partner played defense, Frodo went to work hanging rings and out-maneuvering the opponent’s defensive robot. The sixth and final match was won 135-35.
The last win helped the Wildcats to finish the state championships in sixth place for individual team scoring. However, the day was not over. While our sixth place put us out of the running for the world championships, the elimination matches we still to come. We still had a chance to be alliance partners on the first or second place state championship alliance (and win a trophy for the school).
Elimination matches pit the top four individual teams against each other in semi-final and final, two-out-of-three match play. Each of the top four individual teams must pick two alliance partners and rotate their partners through the elimination matches. The Wildcats were chosen by the third place individual team. In the elimination matches, the first place alliance plays the fourth place alliance and the second place alliance plays the third place alliance. The winners of the 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3 matches play each other in the finals.
Our third place alliance’s match against the second place alliance was a nail-biter! However, in the end, the second place alliance won two matches to one. In the finals, the first place alliance won the tournament and the second place alliance were the runners-up.
What an incredible journey for the Williston Wildcat Robotics team. We are so proud of our performance throughout the season, the two first place wins in the qualifiers, the PTC Design Award, and the impressive sixth place individual team (and third place alliance) finish in our first-ever state championship! Of course, the team could not have performed as well as they did without the support of the school’s administration and staff, and without the knowledge given to them in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics curricula at Williston. We eagerly await the 2013-14 season!
Thank you to the entire school your support,
and…for Williston Wildcat Robotics,
Computer Science Teacher
Student Council Advisor
Coach, FTC Robotics Team #3157