On January 18, the Deerfield Robotics Team, started by Alexa Murray during her freshman year at Deerfield, traveled to Greenwich, Connecticut for a qualifying competition for the Connecticut State Championships.
The team is made up of 10 core members, ranging from freshmen to seniors. At the beginning of the season in the fall, the more experienced members gave lessons to those who had never worked with robots before. After gaining more experience, these beginner members joined the team at triweekly meetings.
The team splits into specialty groups— builders, programmers, and organizers. After weeks of hard work, these specialty groups collaborate together robot moving. Two weeks before the competition, the team practices in their arena on the first floor of the Koch.
Among the tasks that the robot must achieve are picking up blocks, raising a dag and hanging from an overhead bar in the middle of the arena.
The Connecticut robotics competition, created by the First Tech Challenge (FTC) Company, is comprised of five rounds during which teams are paired with different allies.
Upon arriving at Greenwich Academy for the competition, the team—dubbed Big Green— immediately began preparing to evaluate their robot’s readiness. At 10 a.m., the Deerfield team was interviewed by the event’s judges. The judges at a robotics competition typically look for a functional and efficient robot, the team’s organization and outreach to the local community, as well as chemistry and teamwork among the members of the team.
After the interview, the team was assigned its first ally, and that team began the first round of competition, with Xander Li ‘17, Kyle Bums ‘14 and Kento Yamamoto ‘16 controlling the robot, while the rest of the team shouted and cheered from the sidelines.
DA was paired with a few rookie teams and won only two of the five rounds. The difficulty of being paired with a rookie team is that the points after each round are combined, so if an ally’s robot performs its tasks inefficiently, the points reflect poorly on both teams.
Though Big Green did not have enough combined points with their allies to qualify for semi-finals, the team’s high individual score attracted another team to choose them as an ally for the semi-finals.
Unfortunately, during the first round of the semi-finals, Big Green had programming difficulties, causing its claw and its hanging mechanisms to fail. Moreover, its allies then lost the next round, preventing Big Green from making the final round. However, after anxiously anticipating the final ceremony, during which the judges would announce who would move on to the State Championships, Big Green was awarded third place and “The Inspire Award,” the highest award given by FTC’s judges.
With this third-place award, Big Green automatically earned a spot in the March robotics championships, where they will have the opportunity to qualify for the regional tournament.
“We worked tirelessly to finish our robot before the competition, and I’m so proud of how far we’ve come,” said two- year member Riker Bixby ‘15.
Burns, another two-year member and head builder of the robot added, “We went out there with all our heart and we came out with the prize.”