Biloxi Gold

         On the 5th of January, Trial and Error Robotics FTC Team 10191 competed in it’s 2nd qualifier match of the 2018-2019 season coming in just one position short of earning a ‘Golden Ticket’ to the 2019 Mississippi FTC State Championships. Although they were the second-place team at the end of the normal competition rounds and were the winners of the Connect Award, it appeared to be the end of their season. They even had begun to disassemble their robot with plans for a low priority rebuild for off-season events when the email came in offering one final shot at qualifying for the state championships.  Mr. Mannie Lowe, the FIRST Mississippi FTC partner offered a chance to participate in a third competition match due to a low number of teams registering for the January 19th event taking place at Saint Patrick’s High School in Biloxi Mississippi.

           The immediate challenge was the timeline. When the offer to compete again came in, the team had less than a week to reassemble their robot, make improvements in their robot, programming, and presentations, and prepare for the longest team overnight road trip to date. The team met for more than 9 hours the Saturday before the competition and nearly every day up to the Friday travel day. Finally, after a lot of scrambling for parts, testing and tweaking, the day came to pack up and head south.

           The competition day began with the judging session where the robot, it’s features, and the team were presented to the judges.  The team members explained in detail how they designed, tested, and refined the systems of the robot. It’s not all about the robot though, they also presented what the team accomplished outside the development of their robot. They described their efforts to spread the message of FIRST in their community and sometimes the effects of what FIRST robotics has taken on their own lives. According to Jacob Runnels, one of the team’s senior members, “it felt great to be prepared for our judging session and have it go so well…” He did issue a note of warning to the younger members of his team that the judges aren’t always as engaging as the ones in Biloxi were and there was room for improvement through more practice.

The team taking a moment to show the robot to State Representative Kevin Ford.

       img_0135.jpg    The actual robot competition rounds got off to a rough start. During the first match the robot failed to find and recognize the Vuforia markers staged on the sides of the game field. These markers are used to give the robot location information on the game field and allow the robot, through preprogramming, to make decisions based on its location on the game field. According to Brandon McGrew, the team captain and senior at Vicksburg High School, the likely cause was the lighting differences between the team’s practice field and the competition field which was considerably darker, and light was less intense on the already dark colored makers. This caused the robot to score less than the expected number of points in autonomous. The teleop portion of the match, where two team members, the driver and the operator, operate the robot using game controllers, did not fare much better. A glitch caused the programmed controller inputs to operate improperly and quickly produced an early loss.

Builder Evan Watkins getting a helping hand from his Dad Parm Watkins.

           The rest of the day brought improvement with every round. The team was able to make programming adjustments to compensate for the low light and the glitch that caused errors in the operator controls did not reappear. The Operator team became more confident with the robot’s capabilities and the time necessary to complete the scoring tasks. With the combination of improvements, the team was able to post an average score of over 100 points per round, unassisted. Unfortunately, the team did not make it to the elimination rounds of competition, but felt successful increasing their average points by more than 70 points from the previous qualifier just 2 weeks prior.

The Award ceremony brought the important recognition that the team was looking for. They were chosen by the judges as the winners of the Design Award, which is presented  to teams that incorporate industrial design elements into their robot design. 2nd Place for the Motivate Award, given to a team who embraces the culture of FIRST and clearly shows what it means to be a Team. 3rd place Collins Aerospace Innovate Award that celebrates a Team that thinks outside the box, and has the ingenuity and inventiveness to make their designs come to life. Finally and most importantly, the 2nd place Inspire Award which is given to the Team that embodied the ‘challenge’ of the FIRST Tech Challenge program. The Team that receives this award is a strong ambassador for FIRST programs and a role model FIRST Team.

Our Team Mascot, Larry, the Golden Ticket, and our Design Award

The Inspire Award is actually placed at the same level as the Winning alliance captain. At minimum, the Inspire Award winner and the Captain of the Winning Alliance will be advanced to the next level of competition, in this case, the Mississippi FTC State Championships. Fortunately for the Trial and Error Robotics team, the winner of the Inspire Award was also the Captain of the Winning Alliance and per the rules, the “Golden Ticket’ goes to the 2nd place Inspire Award Winner.

Overall, it was a great weekend for the Trial and Error Robotics team. Although they didn’t have quite as much preparation time for the event, they were extremely successful. Preston Darling, one of the team’s coaches, said, “While not as prepared as we could have been, this was the best planned qualifier we’ve had so far. We were able to refine our mechanical and software systems to the point which enabled us to have one of the best robots there. We still have a ways to go. We need to refine our latching mechanism, implement sampling in autonomous, and write a more robust computer vision algorithm. All of these are doable by our team if they keep the effort up. Couldn’t be more proud.” So now the team has another 4 weeks to prepare for the State Championships and they are already looking beyond with hopes of attending the FIRST World Championships in Houston Texas.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s