A Robot in Six Weekends: A Story of Failure, Persistence, and Learning

On Saturday, September 21, the team went to the MVRC (Mahoning Valley Robotics Competition) off season event at Warren G. Harding High School for our first ever FIRST Robotics Competition experience. We built and programmed our robot in just six weekends.

The Night Before

We arrived at Warren G. Harding High School around 6pm on Friday. We do not have any game elements in our robotics room and had never actually driven our robot around. We are extremely grateful for Team 48. They allowed us to come early and try out our robot on a Cargo Ship and a Rocket and practice getting on and off the Hab. During our pratice efforts, we ran into minor and major trouble. We broke the linear actuator on our intake system. Within minutes two amazing mentors from Team 48 and a team from Champion showed up to help us come up with a quick fix. It took several hours for us to manufacture the repair our robot at Team 48’s machine shop. The mentors and team members from Team 48 were very patient with us, teaching us tips for the future as we worked on repairs. The drive team went home at 11:30pm happy that everything was working again. The other half of the team had spent the evening helping to set up the competition field.

Qualification Rounds

During our first qualifying round, one of our alliance partners did not show up and the other robot did not move. However, one of the opposing alliance robots decided to play defense anyway and rammed us again and again. Since this was our very first match, this was not something we had anticipated. Our intake system got badly damaged in this round and left one side working and not the other. With this unforeseen event, we had to rethink our strategy. We had to reinvent ourselves. For our third round, we decided that rather than use a malfunctioning intake system, we would play defense on the other side of the field. With our intake system strapped to the lift now, our drive team did an excellent job playing defense. The next few rounds went smoothly. We came down from Hab Level 2 at the beginning of the game, played an excellent game of defense and climbed up to Hab Level 1 at the end of the match. In our fifth qualifying round, half way through the match, our lift system snapped at its base and fell over onto the rest of our robot. Our drivers quickly brought the robot back into our side of the playing field. Luckily this issue happened during our last qualifying round, so we had the lunch break to get to work to figure out what we were going to do for the alliance rounds.

Alliance Rounds

We were very excited to be picked by Alliance Captain #1. Our robot was essentially in two pieces with the lift broken. Having no materials to fix the lift, we once again, had to reinvent ourselves. We disconnected all wires, took off the lift entirely and reconfigured everything during the lunch break. Since the lift was a fair bit of weight, we found that our robot was imbalanced. We quickly realized that we would need more weight in order for our strategy to be effective. We started with an orange mallet which was the heavist item we had in our pit. But, we needed more. In order to fix this issue we went to our alliance partner, Team 48, and asked them for some weights. They gave us a 25 pound weight from the weight room at the high school (with permission) and strapped it to the robot. Hence our robot became dubbed Thor’s Hammer Bot. With a hammer and a shield, we were ready to play again. Using this strategy of playing defense we made it all the way to the finals with our Alliance. It was a very close match too. In the finals, we lost round one by 5pts and round two by 3pts. We were happy to be able to contribute to our alliance.

End Result

Although we came second place, we could not have asked for anything more. We made it a lot further into the tournament than we expected, which was a pleasant surprise for us. A few things we learned from this experience was that we need to rethink our robot’s design and strengthen it because in an actual match, it will get hit hard. The other things we learned were to improvise, adapt, and to overcome any situation, because no matter how bad the situation looks when it occurs, with enough thinking and effort put into fixing the problem, you can still succeed. That is what FIRST is all about!

We are thankful for the supportive organizers, volunteers, and teams at MVRC. The Head Referee came to our pit personally and asked us if he had any questions since it was our very first FIRST Robotics Competition experience. He gave our drivers advice. The organizers and host team not only spent an entire evening and night with us to help us get ready, but helped us all through the event and let us practice the night before. At MVRC, Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition were at their best! The experience has inspired us for FIRST RISE 2020!

We are also extremely grateful for our sponsors, without whom participating in this competition would not have been possible: Penn State Shenango, JP Morgan, Mr. Andrew Moore, Bossa Nova Robotics and the supporters of EV3Lessons.com.

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