Robotics stacks up spots to state championship

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photo by Maggie Taylor
Senior Mason Dettman and juniors Jolie Miller and Ben Steinebronn do the macarena before the start of a match.

On Saturday, Feb. 1, robotics hosted the annual FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Tech Challenge SpaceCoast League Championship. Twenty-three teams from Seminole and Brevard counties, including Hagerty teams Metal Morphosis (4227) and Mechromancers (4717), competed to earn a spot to the state championship at the end of February. Though the day was filled with highs and lows, both teams secured spots to the state championship.

This year’s game is Skystone, where teams had to build a robot that could collect 4” by 8” yellow blocks, or stones, and stack them on top of a movable rectangular goal zone, the foundation. Teams earn an additional bonus if their robot places a team marker, or capstone, on the foundation or on top of a stack. However, robots are only allowed to carry one stone at a time, so the way that a robot can efficiently deliver and stack these stones on the foundation is a key element of the game. 

Throughout the day, teams played six matches, adding onto their overall wins from the three meets prior. On Saturday, their performance over the last five months determined their League (region) ranking. Metal Morphosis won four matches and placed fourth, while the Mechromancers won two matches and placed 11th.

As one of the top four teams, 4227 had the opportunity to captain an alliance going into eliminations. Each of the top four teams chose two teams to compete with them in the elimination rounds. As the third-seeded alliance, 4227 chose 4717 as their first pick. However, Metal Morphosis and Mechromancers’ alliance lost during the semi-finals. 

Despite not winning the tournament, both teams still advanced. Team advancement is not solely based on robot performance; teams can advance by winning awards for the documentation process in the engineering notebook and presentation. Teams had five minutes to give a presentation about everything that makes up their team: robot, outreach and team cohesion.  

From the SpaceCoast League, eight teams advanced to states. Team 4227 won the Inspire Award, given to the team that best encompasses the FIRST values and the best overall team. 4717 won the second place Inspire Award. This qualified both teams for states, with the first and third qualification spots for the FTC State Championship on Saturday, Feb. 29 in Jacksonville. 

This is the first year that 4227 has won the Inspire Award, and the first year that both teams have won the 1st and 2nd places for this award. 

“The suspense of having our sister team qualify right before us definitely put some pressure on our team,” sophomore Nitin Balasubramanian said. “It was a surprise, but probably one of the best experiences that I will take away from robotics.”

The two other teams from the robotics program qualified for state championships as well. VEX teams Cyber Shock (97052A) and Cataclysm (97052B) qualified for their state championship in January and February, respectively. In VEX, teams are limited to building their robots with VEX manufactured parts, a major difference from FTC. The game, Tower Takeover, also features robots that stack cubes into goal zones, and place them in towers. The VEX State Championship will be held on Feb. 15 in Lakeland.

“I think it is a good indication of where our program is. Everybody worked really hard to earn those spots, and now we are trying to earn the next spots to world championships,” mentor Stefan Ibarguen said.

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