The Iron Panthers have had a busy season so far, competing in the San Francisco Regional FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) from March 16-19 and the Silicon Valley Regional FRC from March 29-April 1. They placed 16th out of 41 teams during the San Francisco Regional after winning six of their ten matches and 12th out of 60 teams at the Silicon Valley Regional. The Iron Panthers have also qualified for the World Championships in Houston, Texas on April 18-21.
During these FRCs, objectives for the robot include collecting and shooting wiffle balls, which act as fuel, into boilers to build steam pressure, picking up gears from the field and delivering them to the central platform, and climbing onto ropes at the end of the match. Points are awarded to teams based on how well they complete these tasks.
“Our team division attempts to prepare an immobile structure dubbed the ‘airship’ for takeoff,” junior Austin Soohoo said. “By attaching game pieces such as gears to the rotors of the airship and adding fuel to the boilers, we race to see who can prepare their team’s airship the most effectively. In the end, our robots can also climb aboard the airship to take off with it using a deployed rope.”
Also, the team also focuses on repeatedly testing the robot, and carefully analyzing ways to improve.
“We put our ideas to the test, approaching problems from multiple angles and testing it numerous of times,” Soohoo said. “We reflect on our statistics and argue the efficiency and practicality of each decision.”
As members of the drive team, junior Serena Haddad and sophomore Christopher Sung play a critical role during the competitions because they are in charge of controlling the robot. They often have to solve problems on the spot through decision-making and communication.
“The competitions are very stressful because of the split-second decisions that we need to make,” Haddad said. “It can be difficult at times to adjust to situations quickly when learning how the opposite alliance plays. Also, when running into issues with the robot, it can take awhile to identify the problem. At the San Francisco Regional, we had issues with our robot climber and needed to diagnose the problem and find ways to work around it.”
After competing in the San Francisco Regional, the team discussed how to fix their mistakes and new strategies for the predictably tougher Silicon Valley Regional.
“The San Francisco Regional and the Silicon Valley Regional competitions are quite different because of the different level of expertise of the teams showing up,” Haddad said. “At the San Francisco Regional, there were multiple rookie teams, while at the Silicon Valley Regional there were more teams in general but with higher skill levels. In addition, teams were more competitive in the Silicon Valley Regional because the regional is later in the season with more time to improve on their designs.”
Despite the challenges involved, the Iron Panthers are excited about what they have accomplished, and the competitions are a time of bonding.
“I have had an amazing experience working together with everyone to see what we have accomplished over the past six weeks,” Sung said. “The FRCs allow us to bond better as a team, and even if we don’t win every time, we still have fun doing what we are passionate about.”