KANSAS CITY – Team SCREAM may not have won the battle, but members believe the experience will make them stronger for their next challenge.
The Smith-Cotton High School robotics team made it to the elimination rounds Saturday at the FIRST Robotics Greater Kansas City Regional, but their three-team alliance fell short in the first round. The teams competed in FIRST Stronghold, a medieval-themed game that challenges robots to traverse obstacles, score into low and high tower goals and eventually challenge and climb a tower.
Team SCREAM finished qualification matches ranked No. 33 out of the 59 teams competing at the Metropolitan Community College Business and Technology Center. But FIRST’s Offensive Power Rating had the team’s robot, Tempest, listed as the fifth-best scoring robot in the field.
“I don’t think the ranking was a good indicator of how well we performed,” said Team SCREAM head coach Michael Wright. “Our robot performed the way we wanted it to – we did have some mechanical difficulties that impacted our performance in a couple of matches but overall with the team, they kept saying, ‘It’s OK that we aren’t ranked very high. We know who we are and we know how well we can do.’ The important thing is that and the end of the day in our final qualification match we were right on point. We were stellar.”
During alliance selection, in which the eight top-ranked teams select two partners each to create their playoff alliances, The Cyborgs of Metropolitan Homeschool Robotics chose Team SCREAM with the sixth overall pick. Panther Robotics of Paola (Kan.) High School rounded out the alliance.
“We saw (Team SCREAM’s) high scoring potential in the high goals, which is something we can’t do very well,” said Cyborgs mentor Trevor Stacy. “We were thinking that it if we could get balls forwarded to them that they could be scoring goals while we dealt with the defenses.”
Stacy said that strategy worked reasonably well, but their competitors’ defense proved to be a greater challenge than they expected.
“Our alliance did pretty much as well as they could,” Stacy said. “It was a good match.”
Team SCREAM overcame a variety of mechanical issues on its way to the playoffs. Team captain and driver Levi Anderson said the robot sustained a broken axle on the first day of the competition, and the replacement was installed incorrectly so the wheel turned the wrong direction. In addition, at the start of a qualifying match, the game field had to be reset and “the programming changed how the wheels were oriented so they were working against each other.”
The Kansas City Regional was won by the alliance of Team Titanium from Lee’s Summit West, Tigerbytes of Lincoln College Prep in Kansas City and the BurgerBots from Warrensburg High School. The title advances all three teams to the FIRST World Championships in April in St. Louis. Team SCREAM, which has competed at the world championships each of the past four years, has two more opportunities to get to St. Louis. The first is the Oklahoma City Regional on March 23-26.
To prepare, “We will be focusing on getting more practice hours in and getting more comfortable with the machine,” Anderson said. And while they showed off Tempest’s consistency in scoring into the high goal, the team will work on “being more multi-dimensional,” he said.
Wright said the best take-away from Kansas City was that Team SCREAM “learned a lot about how this game is really played. … We struggled with identifying what our bread-and-butter strategy was. What I think we found out is we can’t have a bread-and-butter strategy; the game is so dynamic, we have to be versatile. So we need to spend time practicing those versatile tasks” such as traversing obstacles, playing defense and scoring into the lower goal.
The experience also was beneficial beyond the playing field.
“We brought 40 kids here, 25 to 30 of them have never been to a regional before and they are having a ball,” Wright said. “I think they are really proud of our team, seeing who we are and how we are respected in the FIRST community. We were very competitive … we performed at a very high level. We just had a few things that didn’t go our way that maybe we can make up for next time.”
Anderson agreed: “Although we didn’t win the regional, it was a great learning experience and has gotten us ready for the next one.”
By Bob Satnan
For the Democrat