2017 Hatboro-Horsham District Competition

33100482182_2f613d28b0_oFor the first time in FIRST® history, human player members of the drive team are allowed on the field during the match as “pilots,” standing on top of a platform in the middle of the field called an “airship.” As a pilot, you have to be quick, both physically and mentally, with sharp reaction times and a strategic eye. You have to work with another pilot on the airship, quickly picking up gears and placing them in the correct locations, spinning the rotors at the correct times, and releasing the ropes in the last 30 seconds of a match.

At the Mid-Atlantic Hatboro-Horsham District Competition this year, I had the privilege of being our team’s pilot. Overall, it was a really exciting experience. For the past three years on this team, I became accustomed to a spectator’s viewpoint of the match, watching eagerly in the crowd. For the first time, now I felt like I was seeing an entirely new perspective.


E33256062545_e7159e2d22_oach match I have a routine where I start by immediately tying our climbing rope to the airship. Next, I talk to the other pilot and we figure out the best way to work in sync. Since there are only two people and three robots coming at us with gears at once, we have to quickly
choreograph the motion of it. Some robots make it easy by throwing the gear onto the peg and driving away. Others are more finicky, such as passive robots which require you to gently lift the gear out of them. If you drop the gear, you lose points and time. You have to make those decisions, work quickly, and remain mindful of the rules.

Sometimes the crowd will start screaming. I never noticed it from the spectator’s perspective, but you can’t hear anything from the center of the field. You can hear screaming, you can hear the difference between happy screaming and angry screaming, but you can’t really hear what people are saying. It’s hard to react because what seems obvious in the crowd is not as obvious when you are on the airship. Even if there are only a couple of tasks that need to be done, it’s still very hard to tell what people want from you. You have to really trust the other pilot and trust yourself.

After the Hatboro-Horsham District Competition, I learned the 33140946442_ca175ff46d_oimportance of communicating with the other pilot. The way I performed as a pilot in qualifications and in eliminations was a lot different. I learned to gain a good rhythm. I learned where everything had to go and when. For the next competition, I plan to communicate with other pilots more often and more efficiently so we can maximize our points and play the best game possible.

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