Adventures in St. Louis – Robotics style

Confetti shot everywhere as the Currie Alliance won Nationals to break its drought of National Titles

After a seven and a half hour bus ride down to St. Louis, Missouri, for the World Championship for Robotics, Team 5148 (NB Blitz) finally got to experience the excitement of what will become of the 2014 FRC/FLL (First Lego League)/ FTC (First Tech Challenge) Championship, in which 400 teams from all over the world will participate in.

On Wednesday, April 23rd, the team stopped in to drop off their luggage at Embassy Suites, the team’s hotel for the next three and a half days. The bus then headed to Edward Jone’s Dome for some practice matches on the actual field they were to play on the next day. Once seeing the inside of the dome, they saw that there were 5 fields: Archimedes, Curie, Galileo, Newton, and Einstein (in which was where the final 3 matches were played to determine the alliance winners of 2014). Team 5148’s field was Galileo.

After getting back to the hotel around 9pm, the team was excited to explore their new home. The next morning, Thursday, April 24th, they left at 6:30am to go back to the field for their first four matches of the championship. The first two matches they played, their autonomous (a 10-second period where the robot was pre-programmed by students to run by itself), did not work due to the ultrasonic sensor having a too wide of a range and causing it to pick up things around it, which made the robot stop short while going forward. But for the third and fourth match, the team got the autonomous to work by switching some language in the computer code. Sadly, during the third match, the robot fell over on its side by being pushed over, but nothing was harmed.

Coming back from lunch, the placements were listed as the team discovered they were in fifth place out of 100 teams. By the end of the day, they only got as low as 24th place. During the fourth match, something went wrong with the code again, and the robot rammed into one of the low goals, causing the acrylic piece on the arm to break, which meant the arm could not go up and down. Luckily it was their last match of the day, and they could fix it before the next matches.

Friday, April 25th, the team had five matches; they lost all but one match, the final one by defeating an otherwise undefeated team during this competition.  But after losing that many overall, they ended up in 48th place.  After the let-down of that day, they went on a tour and visited the St. Louis Arch to take pictures and do some team bonding. Considering it was their last day to sleep at the hotel, kids split up into groups – some went swimming, others watched movies.

Saturday, April 26th finally rolled around, and kids were reluctant to leave the exciting atmosphere. They had a final match to play and they won it, which boosted the team standings to 45th place, which was better than the day before, and is surprisingly well for a rookie team. All the teams from Galileo, Archimedes, Newton, and Curie came over to the Einstein stands to watch the final matches. A special appearance by Will.I.Am got the kids pumped up for the finals matches between all four field’s winners (three robots from each field). Will.I.Am remixed his song “Champion” to fit the FRC/FLL/FTC standards of being a part of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Before the show, there was an outburst of paper airplanes being shot down from the seats higher up. About 2,000 paper airplanes were made and thrown. It was a beautiful scene. The finals began and the crowd was cheering with more enthusiasm than ever imaginable. The Curie Alliance won overall, breaking the “Curie Curse”, of having not won challenges in awhile. Confetti shot out everywhere, which is what marked the end of the championship.

“Overall it was a phenomenal experience for all of us, and you can bet we’ll take what we learned this year to push our team to new heights,” says Momin Mohis, who was one of two drivers.

There was a social bonding for all 400 teams after the championships were complete. , Food was served, and activities consisted of many games to play, a rave dance party with a lot of dubstep/ light-up dance floors/ and jumping, and carnival games to play in another area of the Dome.   The team got home back to New Berlin around 3:30-4am Sunday morning, tired but still excited from the Championships.

“It was fun and you can expect us back next year,” says Andrew Hintzman, a mechanic for the team.