Iron Panthers barely miss the basket at CalGames


Brinda Iyer

Drive team member Jason Zhai prepares the Iron Panthers’ robot at the CalGames off-season competition.

Brinda Iyer, Copy Editor

The Iron Panthers gave their all at this year’s CalGames off-season competition, making it to the final eight among 36 teams competing from across the state.

The team practiced and prepared on Friday, Oct. 8 before entering Saturday’s qualifying round. 

During qualifiers, the Panthers placed eight, scoring well enough to qualify for the quarterfinals on Sunday. That performance in qualifying was enough to impress senior Isaac Ruben.

“What I wanted was to get out of comp, we’ve gotten out of comp,” Ruben said on Sunday morning.

During the quarterfinals, the team competed in two rounds, each with two different challenges. In the first challenge, the robot needed to effectively shoot balls into a designated section. Much like a basketball game, the goal was to score points and to stop the other teams from scoring. The competition transformed the gym of Pittsburg High School into a battlefield, with robots slamming into each other from every direction, frantically scoring as many points as possible.

The second challenge required the robots to summit a structure resembling monkey bars. The robots had to latch onto the bar and try to boost themselves up. The robots had time to ascend as high as they could, and the alliance with the robot that climbed the highest was considered the winner of that challenge. Some robots reached the very top, while others grasped the bars only to fall to the ground.

Surviving required collaboration: each round, three red teams worked together to defeat three blue teams. The Iron Panthers (Team 5026) chose to ally with the Sky Walkers (Team 8404) and System Overload Robotics (Team 6059).

During one of the rounds, Burlingame’s robot didn’t move due to technical issues. Although the Iron Panthers came back to single-handedly score around 40 points, overly-aggressive defense from their alliances cost them multiple penalty points. Their alliance ended up losing 42-118.

“I’m happy [that our last game was such a good one],” freshman Serena Koopmans said. “It was close, and we definitely got the robot working. I’m proud of everyone who worked on it and drove it because they had a time crunch, and they got it done.”

The Iron Panthers left the competition feeling proud of their efforts and confident for the future.

“I think we did everything to the best of our ability,” senior and drive team member Jason Zhai said. “I think that every single member tried their best.”

Despite their optimism from the weekend’s performance, robotics leads called for the school to devote more time, energy and resources into the team. Burlingame was considering an on-campus practice field for the team, which Zhai said would be hugely beneficial if pursued. However, there have been no recent follow-ups.

“We need the school to actually cooperate with us when we’re asking for resources,” Zhai said. “I think it’s really important for the school to take initiative for stuff like this because it really means a lot to us.”