Saturday morning, we walked into Springside Chestnut Hill Academy with a purpose.
It wasn’t a question of if we could possibly win, but how would we win.
After our last competition at Hatboro, we spent hours in the shop improving our robot. Starting with our climber, we reduced the gear ratio, making it 20% faster. Then, we tackled our shooter by making the wheels larger. The robot proceeded to programming, where they reiterated our autonomous process.
Thanks to the changes made during the two week period in between the competitions, we hit the ground running at SCH. Our head coach, Kirsten, said, “We felt like a force coming in!”
For the first time in a while, we actually participated in practice matches. In the past, we’re busy making final touches on the robot to compete in them. Even more unlike last time, we took no time to climb to the highest bar, the traversal bar. What made this practice match even more special was the debut of our high shooter. At that point, there was nothing our robot could not do. Our high shooter expanded our capabilities, allowing us to score more and more points. To emphasize, this feat was unprecedented. From our team’s living memory, we had not participated in a competition where we had it together from the get-go. But after practice match 4, we knew this would be one for the books.
Although things were going very well, our shooter was a bit wobbly and wasn’t shooting consistently. As qualification matches were around the corner, both our hopes and our robot improved. Every match we climbed the ranks, constantly beating our best. We even had a few unicorn matches, where we got ranking points for every possible category.
Excitement filled the pit with an electrifying buzz. Floods of judges inquired about the engineering genius of our climber hooks. Multiple teams stopped by to compliment our mechanism, sharing our passion for design and new ideas. We even had a few coaches even tell us about how they wanted to build something like our climber, but did not have the support to do so. Some students just stopped by the pit to tell us about how our robot was their favorite. We were incredibly proud to have our hard work recognized. Some students took the time and effort to voice that our robot was their favorite. It was incredibly gratifying to have our hard work recognized. We were both proud and grateful for our team, and the FIRST community at large.
Beyond our personal wins, we felt more defined by the spirit of collaboration we shared with rookie team 8707. Together with team 708, we helped the rookie team build an entire robot to compete with on Friday night, the night before the competition. Their team, the “Circuit Breakers,” has struggled to gain funding from their administration, and we were happy to help them out. There was no “my” pit and “their” pit, it was “our” pit. We gladly lent materials and tools out, dispensing guidance and enjoying ourselves at the same time.
We ended Saturday on a high note– literally. After our operator and human player left for our annual school dance, Hemish and Anderson got up from warming the bench to bring the heat to the field. At our last match, we scored the most points out of all the matches in the competition.
In the morning, the girls (and Andrew and Jackson) got serious. The competition ahead required our utmost attention and focus. We couldn’t let our hair get in the way. While waiting for the competition venue to open, we furiously began braiding. Soon afterward, we walked through the gym doors, french braids in hair, ready to tackle the day’s challenges. In fact, we would end up doing more than just tackle the challenges, we would end up thriving from them.
For a period of time, we hovered between fourth and third place. After we solidified our ranking at third, we looked to our next goal. An hour before lunch, we made it. We were in second place– something that we hadn’t achieved in many years. We were a mere 1.66 points away from first place– a position 1640 held. We ended qualification rounds with 10 wins and 2 losses.
As they say, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. During alliance selection, we allied with 1640 after they picked us, and our competition became collaboration. Team 714 “Panthera,” a team that had previously been a formidable opponent, became our formidable ally when we graciously invited them to join our alliance.
With a well-rounded alliance, we were well equipped to win. And win we did. Do you know what undefeated means? Yeah you probably do, but if you were looking for another definition, look no further than our alliance’s performance during eliminations.
By the end of the competition, the only competition was ourselves. Although we had scored the record points the night before, we ended up beating that record with a whopping 116 points.
Eventually, our effort ended up bringing us to the final matches, against teams 1218, 103, and 423. Although we thought we had successfully jumped over the first hurdle – the first match of finals – a field malfunction proved us wrong. We had to replay the match, but once again, we prevailed. With our hopes high, we entered the final match with extra zeal. Hearts pounding, we watched as the plane on the big-screen announced the winner. A red banner of victory flew past our eyes, and all our dreams came true. We had earned our win. Jumping up and down, while also shedding a few tears, we glanced at the blue banner that was now our own.
On top of our blue banner, we were surprised with another Excellence in Engineering award, which we had also won previously in Hatboro. Even more, the rookie team we had helped won two awards: the Rookie All-Star and Rookie High-Seed awards. The feeling was indescribable.
With the win still fresh, we hope the momentum we gained from this competition will bring us to further success. On that note, see you at district championships!