Capping off a rigorous season, Trial and Error Robotics joined 17 other teams from across the state for the Mississippi FIRST Tech Challenge State Championship on March 3rd and 4th, 2023 at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, MS. Although this was far from Trial and Error Robotics’ first time attending state championships as a team, this was the first time that the majority of our team’s mostly rookie membership has competed at this level. As such, our team members made a concerted effort in the weeks leading up to the championship to perfect our robot’s design for competition. Our build team made adjustments to our robot including skeletonizing our lifting mechanism, and streamlining the profile of our robot. Meanwhile, our programming team troubleshot our autonomous portion of code to improve our robot’s capabilities.
After arriving on Friday afternoon, our team was quickly queued for our judge’s panel. FIRST competitions employ a panel of adult volunteer judges that ask questions about the team’s decision making and season strategy to team members in consideration of awards. These awards recognize the whole of a team’s operations, considering not only the robot’s design and functionality, but also categories such as teamwork and outreach. Our team members left the panel feeling confident in our performance, and we quickly moved onto robot inspection.
The competition began early the next day at the University of Mississippi’s Tad Smith Coliseum where each team in the coliseum had set up a personalized booth that highlighted their team, robots, and design. Our booth acted not only as an informational hub for judges and other teams to learn about our outreach and operations out of Vicksburg’s Engineer Research Development Center (ERDC), but also as a miniature workshop for our pit-crew to make adjustments in between rounds. We participated in a total of 6 qualifying matches, winning 4 and losing 2, and were ranked 5th overall by the end of the day’s normal rounds.
Here’s what our programming team captain Shayne had to say about the day’s events: “With this being my first state competition, I enjoyed the experience. By this time in the season, I knew just about every team at the competition. There were a lot of people there that I became particularly close with during the qualifiers and met again doing the state competition. I think this state competition proved to me that FTC isn’t just about building and programming robots, it’s about being able to present your work and make connections too. One of the things I really liked about this competition was how easy it was to make friends because of similar interests. Just by being a bit open, you can make friends. Overall, I’m proud of how we did this season, especially since most of us are new to the team.”
Although we were not selected as alliance partners to move onto the semi-final stage of matches, we were recognized as the 2nd place runner up for both the Motivate and Connect awards. The Motivate Award recognizes teams that exemplify FIRST ambassadorship and Gracious Professionalism within their community. The Connect Award is awarded to teams that seek and recruit STEM professionals while exploring the world of STEM opportunities. Our team’s engineering portfolio (the primary document that judges examine in consideration for these awards) recounts both our team’s professional and community outreach from this year. Specifically, our portfolio describes our experience hosting several STEM related classes for members of our community, and our opportunities to meet with professionals from ERDC and other organizations making innovation in STEM fields.
We at Trial and Error Robotics are thankful for the opportunity to compete and interact with 17 other teams at Mississippi’s state championships, and we wish good luck to teams #6274, Technocats (@BCtechnocats) and #8651 Wait For It… (@waitforit8651) as they move on to compete at FTC World Championships in April!