The Buffalo FIRST Robotics team (RoboHerd) went to the semifinals on Saturday the tenth of March at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC) in Duluth with their outstanding robot. As a team they took nineteenth place, but their alliance took fifth.
“FIRST Robotics Competition is the ultimate Sport for the Mind. Under strict rules, limited resources, and an intense six-week time limit, teams of students are challenged to raise funds, hone teamwork skills, and build and program industrial-size robots to play a difficult field game.”-FIRST Robotics
Every year the game is different; and this year the game was titled “FIRST POWER UP”. The game involves two alliances of three teams each, with each team controlling a robot and performing specific tasks on a field to score points. The game has a retro 8-bit theme and teams are required to place milk crates, or “power cubes”, on large balancing scales or switches to tip the scale and gain ownership. Alliances can also trade power cubes for power ups in the vault, which gives them a temporary advantage in a match. In the final seconds of the match, robots can climb the tower earning them additional points.
Last year at the FIRST Robotics competition The RoboHerd had an amazing robot. They were ready for anything! Then the unthinkable happened; the team ended up in 63rd (last) place behind a team whose robot never moved. A RoboHerd team member explained “The reason why our robot got last was because of ranking points. The number of ranking points the team has is divided by the number of games, and that ratio determines the rank you get placed in.”
This year to improve their chances for a higher rank, they made a robot that could do all the tasks, but during the competition they focused on having the robot do a specific task, the vault. Their robot also had a useful autonomous that helped them get some needed ranking points. Lastly, their team members did a lot more scouting to help the drive team formulate a strategy. Through their perseverance and hard work, at the end of the placement rounds they were in 19th place.
Next came the choosing ceremony the top 8 teams lined up to choose two other teams to join with for the final rounds. The choosing went from first to eighth and back again. Top eight teams are allowed to choose each other as long as the other team hasn’t chosen yet. The first team chose, followed by the second, third, fourth, and fifth. But the fifth said “We chose team 5542 RoboHerd”. The RoboHerd waited for a few seconds making sure what the fifth place team said was true, then they jumped for joy because they had been chosen for the first time ever.
Almost immediately after the choosing ceremony was over the semifinal rounds started The RoboHerd played the fourth place alliance for their first two rounds. If they won both they would be able to advance to the finals. Their first round was underway, and for the first half of the round their alliance was ahead, but then one of the alliance member’s robots malfunctioned and stopped responding to their commands. When the round ended the alliance had lost by a narrow margin. The RoboHerd had a short time to recuperate before their next match, and most of that time was spent trying to help the teammate whose robot malfunctioned. During the second match the same teams robot lost connection again, the game ended, and the RoboHerd was out of the competition.
All in all it was a good season for the RoboHerd. The season had its ups and downs from the design coming together perfect to remaking a part four times. It taught the participants not only how to problem solve, but to find the problem than find a solution. FIRST Robotics is an amazing program and I look forward to joining next year.