This season has been a difficult one for many robotics teams around the state, the nation and the world. Most seasons involve a large number of in-person, face-to-face competition. Each year there is a different game objective to accomplish, and teams all around the world dedicate their afternoons, and weekends to designing, building, and programming the best robot they can to accomplish the annual task.
The task this year is a game of 3D tic tac toe. There are nine goals arranged in a three by three pattern on the field. Each goal can contain three balls stacked one on top of another. Balls can be removed from the bottom, and scored in the top. Points are scored by scoring a ball of your team’s color, and for each row of goals owned by your color. A goal is owned if the highest ball in the goal is your color.
Face-to face-competitions have not been a reality this year, and so much of the competition around the world has been in the form of remote individual skills trials. These trials are scored and recorded in a competition leaderboard on the web at World Skills Standings. So far this season, 1,762 teams have registered scores on this leaderboard. That means 1,762 teams have competed so far this season. This is the story of one of these teams.
At the end of April 2020, the new season’s game was revealed for the 2020-2021 season. Team 2142 E John Bapst’s Flat Earth Society (FES) began meeting almost daily to plan for and begin building the robot that would be used for the coming year. The team members, Elliot Collins (’21), Hayden O’Connell (’21), Charles Fussell (’21), Shannon Murphy (’23), Emily Adams (’23), and team member in absentia Sam Lee (’21) had high hopes despite the lock down that was currently under way. Hayden procured his own game field and borrowed a set of robot building supplies and tools for use over the remainder of the Spring and the Summer. By the Fall they had a robot that was ready for competition. In October, their first competition was finished. They ended in a respectable 2nd place coming in just behind MSSM, a team that they had developed strong ties to, collaborating on design ideas and in the past in competition strategies. By the middle of February they had competed in a six-weeks-long series of competitions limited to New England and had placed 7th out of 69 registered teams.
In the ensuing two weeks, Hayden, assisted by Shannon and Emily rebuilt the robot in favor of a faster, more reliable version based on what they had learned in the season thus far. Elliot reprogrammed the robot to make use of the new scoring and driving features added to its capabilities. An individual Skills match involves two different types of one minute competition. The field is stacked completely against the team, with balls of the opposing color (blue) all scored with the maximum possible score. The goal is to de-score all opposing balls, and score all balls belonging to your robot’s color (red) in under one minute. This is done in one run under complete driver control, and a different run with no driver control, where the programmer has written instructions that will tell the robot exactly how to manage the scoring. The team is currently in the midst of a four week long, one per week tournament. Wednesday February 24th was their first match. The programming run was a spectacular success. Out of a maximum of 126 points the team was able to score 80. The video of their run is linked above. The driver skills run was also a personal best and a spectacular success. Out of a maximum of 126 points they were able to score 125. This ranking now places them in the top 100 teams in the world. As of this writing, they are ranked 55th in the United States and 84th in the world. Next week they will compete again and try to top their already stellar performance.
Michael Murphy, John Bapst Robotics Coach, February 25, 2021
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