Year in Review...2019

As far as rookie years are concerned, it couldn’t have gone much better for Sleuth Robotics, team 7663. Our season started off a bit slow as we worked to confirm our school coach/mentor and build space. Fortunately Mrs. Savage-Piasecki a second year ceramics teacher stepped up to lead our team. We were also able to use her large classroom along with some of the Ag mechanics classroom space. At the start of the year we recruited around 12 members from West campus to join us on this adventure into the unknown.

Every rookie team is encouraged to find a more experienced mentor team that can help them learn the ropes of participating in FRC. We considered all of the teams in the valley, but in the end we asked team 1323 MadTown Robotics if they would help mentor us this season. They welcomed us with open arms and we couldn’t have competed without their help.

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In November, 1323 invited us to compete in their MadTown Throwdown event, a post season event for California FRC teams. They allowed us to use their off-season Junior/Senior robot to compete with. This was a fun event as it exposed us to what an FRC event looked like, without the pressure of competing in a real event. Our team was ranked 31st out of 40, but we were fortunate that the top ranked alliance of MadTown 1323 and the Cheesy Poofs 254 selected us to be their 4th alliance partner. We were expecting to sit on the sidelines, but 254 & 1323 swapped us in as their third partner every other match. In the end our alliance won the tournament and we won our first trophy!

The build season started off in early January and we joined MadTown at their shop for the launch and initial planning. From there we started designing our robot. Since we were without a machine shop, MadTown and ADCO Manufacturing agreed to fabricate our parts for us. Additionally MadTown was very helpful in opening up their shop space to us as we assembled our robot, offering us guidance as we fumbled along. On February 19, we put our mostly completed robot in its bag where it would have to stay until our first event. Unfortunately we never had a chance to power up our robot!

Our first event was the Central Valley Regional on March 6-9 here in Fresno. With our robot being non-operational, we weren’t hoping for much…just that our robot would get better every match. The first day of the event is reserved for getting your robot ready, inspected, and tested. Unfortunately we spent the bulk of the day finishing up our robot so it could be inspected, which we were finally able to do at 7:30pm (they kick everyone out at 8:00pm!). Upon leaving, we learned that our robot would be competing in the first match of the day with everyone watching, keep in mind our robot had never actually ran. Our alliance won the match despite the fact that our robot did nothing other than roll around the field so we could verify its functionality. Fortunately we were pitted next to MadTown and they helped us gradually increase the functionality of the robot. By the end of day two our robot was successfully scoring cargo (hatches) and playing good defense. Our team started off so poorly that we did not attract the attention of other teams scouting for a 3rd alliance partner. Fortunately MadTown and team 1678 the Citrus Circuits (1 & 2 seeds) knew that we played good defense, scored reliably, and most importantly could drive onto the Citrus ramp. During alliance selections, MadTown and Citrus Circuits selected us to be their 3rd alliance partner! Immediately after selections we went to the practice field where we practice driving onto Citrus’s dual ramp with MadTown. In the bracket tournament, our alliance won every match and for a few weeks four of our matches were on the top ten ranking overall in the world for high score. The coolest part of being with Citrus and MadTown was that we got to be a part of their three team buddy lift where all three robots climbed to level three of the HAB. In the end, we finished off in great shape, winning the tournament as a member of the top alliance and we also won the Rookie Inspiration award. Most importantly we have received an invitation to compete at the Championships in Houston…all in all it was a great first event!

Our second event was the Sacramento regional on March 21-23 in Davis. Our goals for this event were to win the highest rookie seed award and to be an alliance captain. These goals were pretty optimistic, but we had already qualified for Champs. Inspection went much better the first day and we were able to get a few practice matches in where we worked out some bugs. Adding to the pressure, MadTown told us that we were on our own for the event…whatever happened, we needed to own it. Overall the qualification matches went very well, our robot was reliable and our team did whatever was asked of us. By the end of qualifications, our team was ranked 5th overall making us alliance captains and the highest ranked rookies…mission accomplished! In the bracket tournament, we lost in the first round but we weren’t disappointed as we had done what we wanted to do. During the closing ceremonies were surprised to learn that we had won the Rookie All Star award, which is the highest honor a rookie team can earn and it also includes an invitation to Houston.

Getting to the Championships in Houston was a challenge as we had no funding nor done any preparation. Fortunately ADCO Manufacturing and the Sergey Brin Family Foundation stepped in to assist financially and the Central Unified School District cut some red tape for us that enabled us to buy our tickets and make reservations on short notice. We also have to thank team 1671, the Buchanan Bird Brains for taking our tools, battery, and cart to Houston for us.

The Championships in Houston was an amazing experience for our rookie team. There we were, four students and two mentors, competing against teams with $100,000+ budgets and 100+ members..it was amazing. Long story short, the competition in Houston was tough and we didn’t do as well as we hoped to. However we learned so much and just the experience of competing at that level has inspired us to work harder so we can go back next year.

2019 Awards:

  • Winning Alliance, Central Valley Regional with 1323 & 1678

  • Rookie Inspiration Award, Central Valley Regional

  • Rookie All Star Award, Sacramento Regional

  • Highest Rookie Seed, Sacramento Regional

  • 5th Seed Alliance Captain

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We are looking forward to growing in 2020!