Well, that happened. The Hatboro-Horsham District Competition proved itself to be quite the event for Team 341, Miss Daisy. It has been four years since our last blue banner, and spoiler alert: the drought is no longer. The ride to our newest blue banner was the farthest thing from linear, and it is with this rocky ride that our team learned what actually gets us medals. More valuable than any new tool or any shiny new trophy are the problem-solving skills we have developed, even over the course of just one competition. Hatboro’s win was the first win any of our student members have experienced. It has already made its mark on our work ethic and mindset, and will make a mark on Miss Daisy’s history. But first, let’s explain how we got here.
Going into the first day of competition, our future was promising. We had succeeded in completing the mechanical side of our robot; all of her subsystems seemed to have the necessary components for success. In our first two matches, we figured out what we needed to work on. We had teleop down pat; our robot was running amok on the field with a killer drivebase, and manipulating power cells with some ease. Unfortunately, autonomous period and endgame were a different story. We had no autonomous functions, and our robot was unable to hang from the structure in the middle of the field. The first few matches essentially functioned as diagnostic testing for our robot. Not only did our programmers have little time with the real robot prior to competition, but the drive team was driving the robot for the first time. This was not exactly a recipe for success.
Regardless, our robot’s performance started to look up…literally. By the sixth match of the day, we climbed. For students and mentors who went through the rollercoaster that was our 2019 season, this was earth-shattering. It took our team an entire district competition and a half to climb to stage 3 last year, and the fact that we had completed that task’s equivalent in just six matches was amazing. Unfortunately for Miss Daisy XIX, what goes up apparently must come down. The climb stopped working promptly after its first successes, as did everything else…except our drivebase! That is a common theme we saw throughout Hatboro; when all else was going downhill, at least our drivebase was still kicking. Our pit crew was working to find the simplest solutions to each of our robot’s problems, but her difficulties seemed to be outpacing them. We left Saturday feeling defeated, and took a solemn bus ride home.
Are you feeling down yet? We certainly were! But competition waits for no one! We found ourselves back at Hatboro-Horsham High School bright and early on Sunday morning. After playing our last few qualification matches, we found ourselves on the bottom of the dogpile. Ranked 34th out of 36 teams, our robot’s future was looking grim. Our strategy team traveled through the pits and spoke to other teams’ representatives in hopes of establishing a presence on the pick lists of the top eight teams. We went into alliance selection hoping for the best, and preparing for the worst. The alliance captains started picking their first robots, and swiveled back around to pick their second robots. The eighth alliance picked, then the seventh, all the way up to the second alliance. Our name had not yet been called. Our drive coach turned to us, asking us to keep our spirits up regardless of the outcome of the first alliance’s pick. With gathered hands and bowed heads, we willed our team’s name to be called on those speakers. Team 365, Miracle Workerz, fellow Hall of Fame team and long time friend of Miss Daisy, and Team 5895, Peddie Robotics, selected us as their final robot. We erupted in the loudest cheer that gym had heard all weekend; we hugged, some cried, and we promised one another that we would not let this alliance down.
After our celebrations and a strategy session between the drive teams and strategy captains of our teams, we were ready to compete. Our strategy proved itself to be incredibly effective; we blazed through the quarterfinals and won in a tiebreaker, in part due to our defense that was stopping the toughest robots in their tracks. After defending, we would shoot as many power cells as we could into the outer and inner goals during endgame. We made it through semifinals in the same manner, and soon found our drive team shaking hands with our opponents before finals. We won the first match, and were beyond excited to see the outcome of the final match(es). By this point, we had proven ourselves to be a powerful defender and a valuable member of our alliance. Regardless of whether we came out on top at this event, we knew we’d be proud of how far we came. But boy, did it certainly help seeing those red fireworks on the projector. In our second finals match, we won the event. We screamed, we danced, we hugged, and we let it sink in. We knew this moment would serve as a reminder of how important optimism and perseverance would be.
We were elated to have medals around our necks and a blue banner in our hands as we left the event. Words cannot describe how grateful we are to our sponsors, parents, alliance partners, mentors, and each and every student member that made this possible. Relentless encouragement from all sides carried us to this win. The challenges we have encountered not only over the course of this one competition, but over the past 4 years, have amounted to this moment. We are beyond excited to carry this newfound motivation and reputation to uphold into our next district competition at Bridgewater-Raritan. In the meantime…cake.