The Iron Panthers finished off the season at the FIRST Robotics Competition World Championships in Houston, Texas on April 19-22. It was the first time the robotics team qualified and attended the World Championships and the farthest they have advanced since their founding in 2013. They landed in the division quarterfinals, placing 43rd out of 66 teams after winning five and tying one of their 10 matches in the ‘Roebling’ division.
The team was able to qualify for the World Championships by reaching the semifinals at the San Francisco Regional in March.
Because only qualified teams could attend the World Championships, the opponents were noticeably tougher to beat.
Programming lead and junior Isabel Dominik, one of the 22 students who attended the championship, was interested to see how the team stacked up against the competition.
“During the competition, I was really excited because we were competing against the best teams from around the world and were doing better than some of them,” Dominik said.
The robots score points based on how well they complete a series of objectives, including 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.
One of the most difficult moments for the Iron Panthers was when the team ran into technical difficulties with the autonomous mode, which is when the robot is not controlled by any driver and relies solely on code for instructions.
“We needed to get on a practice field to try and make sure the autonomous worked,” Dominik said. “That was kind of stressful, but we eventually got them all to work for the majority of the competition.”
Although the Iron Panthers are a relatively young team compared to the other local teams, they were able to accomplish what they had achieved through a desire to learn, hard work, dedication, and guidance from mentors and student leaders.
“Our student leaders have worked tirelessly to train and inspire our members to work hard and do the best they can to design, build and program the best robot possible for this year's challenge,” coach and teacher advisor Christina Wade said. “Our mentors have also supported our students with improved project planning tools and ideas to make sure we give our designs a lot of thought and prioritize our tasks so we are as efficient as possible. This has allowed us to build a successful robot in the allowed six weeks.”
Another contributing factor to their success was that they were able to refine their main robot by testing a second robot they had built. They had secured a practice field at the San Mateo Event Center to test the second robot.
“This allowed us to set up a practice field to work on last minute details and practice our driving with the second robot we built for practice,” Wade said. “This was a huge advantage. We also opened up the field to other local teams, which allowed us to network and learn from local teams as well.”
Having the opportunity to attend the World Championship boosted the team’s spirit. The Iron Panthers aspire to qualify for the World Championships again next year and will recruit more experienced members and focus energy towards training and practice.
“This will increase the members’ individual confidence and ability to contribute more to the whole design and build process,” Wade said.