What a weekend! This past weekend, Team 7663, Sleuth Robotics participated at the Mad Town Throw Down held at Madera High. The event which was hosted by our mentor team, 1323 Mad Town Robotics attracted 40+ robots from all over California, including the 2018 World Champs team 254 The Cheesy Poofs. Madera graciously allowed our team to use a robot that their Juniors and Seniors designed and built for the event.
Our team had never driven an FRC robot so we were a little nervous. Jacob Warnes and his dad Coach Warnes were able to spend a few hours Friday night in Mad Town’s practice room learning how to drive the robot around their practice field and how to load the yellow cubes into the switch (low teeter totter), scales (tall teeter totter) and vault. It was a challenge but at the end of the evening Mad Town was pleased with Jacob’s ability to drive the robot.
Saturday morning was dedicated to practice matches where we were able to compete with and against other robots. It was decided that Jacob would drive the robot during the matches and we’d switch co-drivers for each match based on who was interested. The co-drivers were responsible for running the controls to pick up & shoot the game cubes as well as controlling the elevator to get cubes into the switch, scale, and vault.
Other team members learned how to scout the competition…how to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses so we could better compete. Others learned how to prep the robot in between matches. In a way this part of the event was a challenge because we weren’t using a robot that we had built, nor did we have our own pit box since we were using Madera’s pit (the pits are similar to what you would find at a NASCAR race).
Saturday afternoon kicked off the first of 65 qualifying matches, where teams were randomly assigned into alliances of three robots, and matches would involve two alliances competing against each other in a two-and-a-half-minute long match. The first fifteen seconds of a match is run in autonomous mode where teams program their robot to automatically place cubes in either the switch or vault (some teams can automatically place up to four cubes in 15 seconds!). I won’t go into the particulars about how matches are scored - let’s just say it’s complicated.
Our team used number 9323 since we were registered with 1323 Mad Town (our actual team number is 7663) …this caused a lot of confusion until we explained that we were rookies with no robot and that Madera was letting us use one of theirs.
In the qualification rounds, we did pretty good for a ream that had never driven a robot before Friday night. We finished with a record of four wins and five losses, ranked 30th out of 43 teams. We experienced a variety of highs & lows in the qualifiers. Our team was able to place blocks on the high scale, low switch, in the vault, and play defense. For our first two Sunday matches we battled a problem with our pneumatics that limited us to playing defense because we couldn’t pick up cubes. Unfortunately, we lost those matches, but we learned how to push through adversity and didn’t let it get in our way. Fortunately we were able to fix the problem and move on.
Once qualifying was over, they had Alliance Selections. In simple terms, the top eight teams get to pick three alliance partners (four teams per alliance). The first three teams typically form the main competitive alliance, with the fourth team acting as an alternate in case one of the other teams breaks. The alliances then compete in a bracket style competition, with alliances needing to win two of three matches before moving on.
Ranked 30th, we weren’t very optimistic of getting selected, but we were shocked to be selected as the fourth member of the top ranked alliance consisting of the Cheesy Poofs and Mad Town. We were expecting to sit on the sidelines cheering on our alliance partners, but Mad Town and the Poofs surprised us when they said that we’d get to compete in the second match and potentially other matches if we did well. After a lot of alliance strategizing, our team, Sleuth Robotics was confident that we weren’t going to let our alliance partners down. Our mission was to play defense, which basically involved blocking the competition and keeping them from getting cubes or getting cubes to the switch or scale.
In short, our drive team of Jacob Warnes and Adam Saldivar killed it. They played great defense and kept one of the three competing robots effectively out of the match while Mad Town and the Poofs scored at will. We got to play in the quarters, semis, and finals…our alliance won each round by winning the first two matches. We were champions!
We are grateful to Mad Town Robotics for giving us the opportunity to compete at this off-season event. We learned so much and are confident that this experience will make us a better team when we compete in our first season, which kicks off this January.
PS: We need your help! Competing in FRC is expensive and we need your financial support. If you are interested in supporting our team, please email Coach Savage and Coach Warnes at firstname.lastname@example.org, all donations are tax deductible. You can also support us by giving your time… our kids need to learn technical skills like fabricating, assembling, wiring, and programming robots along with business skills like marketing, communication, and finances. Even if you don’t think you’re an expert, we need your support during build season. Oh, and we also need food. During build season we’ll be working some late nights and we need some healthy food to keep our students going. Please help!