After countless hours and sleepless nights, Paly Robotics Team 8 claimed their title as winners of the regionals competition. Known to For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology competitors as Regionals, the team traveled to the cutthroat competition held in Utah. In doing so, Team 8 qualified for the prestigious robotics World Championships.
“Winning at a regional had been our goal for years, and I was so proud of the team for finally pulling it off and getting the reward we had been chasing,” said junior Griffin Zajac, the Design Subteam Captain.
The theme for the 2020 FIRST Robotics Competition was “Infinite Recharge”. During each match, two alliances — teams of three robots — faced off in an arena, trying to outscore the opposing side by throwing balls into goals of various sizes and heights, according to Zajac.
Freshman Claire Qin said each match begins with an autonomous period, where the robot acts independently to score on its own, followed by the driver period, where drivers control their robots to continue to earn points. At the end of the match, robots attempt to latch onto a rung, located in the center of the game arena for a last attempt to score.
As a member of the drive team, Zajac said his job at Regionals required picking up the dodgeballs, shooting, climbing and communicating with Team 8’s driver about developments in the arena.
“Between matches, we’re also constantly busy tuning the robot in our pit, making repairs and discussing match strategy with our alliance partners for our upcoming matches,” Zajac said. “I also talk with technical judges about our robot, highlighting both the finished product and the process we went through.”
According to Zajac, there are two parts to FIRST competitions: qualification and elimination matches. During the qualification matches, alliances are randomly assigned and teams earn points by winning or completing objectives throughout the match. These points then are used to rank teams for the elimination rounds.
Team 8 had a win-loss record of 8-2, placing them in fourth out of the 54 teams after the qualification round.
During the elimination round, teams choose their own alliances. Team 8’s alliance consisted of Team 1410: The Kraken and Team 3245: Ravens. This alliance was just one of eight in this round.
The alliances played in an elimination bracket, with alliances advancing for winning two out of three games.
“We were undefeated in (the elimination round) and won finals 2-0 to win the regional,” junior Nina Hunt said. “Our overall win-loss record was 14-2.”
Team 8’s head coach Keith Worrell said a vital part of the competition is seeing other teams’ robots because it allows for the team to develop strategies for their upcoming matches.
“(Regionals) is also the first time seeing many of the other teams’ robots in person, and there is a mad dash for the team to learn about them as much as possible,” Worrell said. “Not just to learn more about alternative designs but to begin working away, coming up with strategies for working with two teams and against another three.”
According to Hunt, it was an amazing feeling to win Regionals, especially since it has been over a decade since Team 8’s last win.
“It’s not just about the current students, but also the alumni who built the foundations of our team and continue to mentor us now,” Hunt said. “It was really gratifying to finally win something we had been working towards for so many years.”
Reaching this milestone brings hope for Team 8’s future competitions.
“(Winning Regionals) still feels surreal to me since we had come so close for so many years, and it makes me very excited to see how much further the team will go in the future,” Zajac said.
However, due to COVID-19, the 2020 FIRST World Championships is canceled. This would have been Team 8’s first time participating in the tournament since 2017.
Zajac said the team would have been able to meet some of the strongest teams in the world at the FIRST World Championships, but understands why it had to be canceled.
“I know that we were lucky to have been able to compete at all,” Zajac said. “On the bright side, the cancellation has given us more time to reflect on this season and to prepare for next year so we can do even better.”
According to Worrell, Regionals was in week two of the competition season, and all events from week three to seven were canceled, meaning the majority of teams did not get the opportunity to drive their robot in competition. Luckily for Team 8, they were not only able to drive their robot, but they were also fortunate enough to dominate at Regionals.
Worrell said, “The team is grateful to be ending on such a high note and I could not be more proud of them.”