Robotics takes on worlds

Robotics team 4717 earns 35th place at the FIRST World Championship.


photo by Jensen Miller

Team 4717 gets together outside of the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas. The team was able to finish in 35th place out of the 160 teams present at the competition.

Sophomore Jensen Miller is used to early mornings. Waking up to get to school by 7 a.m. is a daily task, but on Tuesday, April 19, his morning was filled with robots, programming computers and boarding passes.

Robotics team 4717 “The Mechromancers” left for the FIRST World Championship in Houston, Texas last Tuesday with head robotics coach Po Dickinson. The team qualified for the competition after receiving the Think Award and second place Inspire Award at the FIRST Tech Challenge state championship, only one of three teams from Florida to advance.

“This year, the number of teams advancing to compete at worlds was significantly reduced,” Dickinson said. “This competition was one of the toughest they participated in as only the top two to three teams from around the world attended.”

The day after their arrival, the team presented their robot, Scoopie, to a panel of judges before going through a pre-match field inspection that afternoon. Once all the teams’ robots had gone through inspection, the match schedules were created for both divisions. 

“Throughout each day and between each match, team members monitored the pit for judges who came in to ask questions, along with other visitors who had questions about the robot,” Dickinson said. “They did a fantastic job with their presentation and interviews with the judges.”

With 160 teams from around the world competing, including groups from Canada, Mexico, Australia, Turkey, Romania, Israel, India, Taiwan, Netherlands and South Korea, the FIRST Tech Challenge level was broken into two divisions with 80 teams each: Jemison and Franklin. 

4717 competed in the Franklin division along with one other team from Florida. They played a total of eight qualifying matches throughout the three competition days, earning points from each match played. At the end of the qualifying matches, the top four teams from each division selected three alliance partners for the semi-final matches, where the winners played each other to claim winning alliance titles and trophies. However, 4717 was not able to make it into the top four, ranking 35th out of 80 in their division.

“We originally went to worlds with the mindset that we were going there to try our best and have fun, and with that in mind, we did a lot better than I expected,” senior Rose Kiriazes said.

Although the team did not bring home any trophies from the competition, they were able to learn the different engineering techniques used on other teams’ robots. They also attracted many visitors to their booth due to their robot’s unique appearance, which stood out against the other teams.

“One of the things that was interesting was that our robot stood out a fair amount, so we had a lot of people asking questions,” Miller said. “I think the way that we were able to layout that information was really helpful.”

Talking to the other teams allowed 4717 to gain new relationships as well, as they created a bond with one of the Australian teams, asking them questions such as, “Do mermaids and moon pools actually exist?”

“Everyone there was kind of bored at points since you’re there from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., so many of the teams were willing to strike conversations,” Kiriazes said.

Team members were grateful for the experience to compete at worlds, however, this came at a cost to some senior team members. The worlds competition took place during senior week, causing them to miss many school events such as dress-up days, The Sammys, The Honors Grad ceremony and prom. However, the team was still able to celebrate their seniors by having their own “robo prom,” which was set up as a surprise by their mentors and parents.

“It was a lot of fun to dance with the people I cared about the most, so it honestly wasn’t completely sad to miss all those events,” Kiriazes said.

The team returned home on Sunday, April 24, coming back with a sense of pride for their hard work and determination for the next competition season.

“The mentors and coaches are super proud of 4717 and how hard they worked,” Dickinson said. “Even though we did not come home with medals or trophies, we have already won because we got to compete with the best of the best.”