After a whirlwind weekend at the Oklahoma FIRST Regional Competition in Oklahoma City, Team SCREAM has extended its season once again and is headed to the world championship in St. Louis later this month, thanks to a first place win.
Teacher Michael Wright received a phone call early Thursday morning from a FIRST representative asking if Team SCREAM could fill a team opening. The only catch was the competition started Friday morning, and they were already going to miss a full work day. However, the team scrambled and nine students, Wright and mentor Bill Chapman made the trip to Oklahoma City after spending a day reconstructing their robot. After arriving at 11 p.m., the team had to be at the arena at 6:30 a.m. Friday to set up their pit and get ready for a full day of competition, which was plagued by connectivity issues.
“It was a rough Friday,” said senior and team captain Chase Bussey. “We had some connectivity issues that caused the robot to lag on the field. I was pretty pessimistic that we weren’t going to do well.”
Those issues caused the robot to not respond to the driver controls. In what Wright called the “culture” of FIRST competitions, Team SCREAM received assistance from other team mentors who noticed their robot wasn’t performing well. The problem was soon fixed, and the team finished qualification matches 9-1, ranking them No. 3 out of 62 teams. Not only did they come out as the champions, but during semifinals they also beat two of the three teams from the alliance that beat them in the Kansas City regional two weeks ago, which had originally ended their season.
“It turned out to be one of our best matches,” Bussey said.
“We were eager to face them again,” Wright added. “It turned out much happier this time.”
The team was cautious about celebrating their overall victory too early. During their competition in Arkansas the team had been announced the winner, but soon the final scores were announced and too many fouls knocked them out of the first place position.
“We waited until we saw the final scores on the screen,” said sophomore Nicole Reedy.
Once they saw the scores though, there was no holding back for this team.
“We were hesitant at first, but then we were crying and hugging each other,” Reedy said. “Other teams were hugging us too.”
“We tasted victory in Arkansas, so we knew what it felt like but they took it away from us because of fouls,” Wright said. “Winning this was so much sweeter after all those obstacles.”
Because they were added to the list of competitors at the last minute, many teams were unaware Team SCREAM would be attending, and Wright said many were impressed they were able to make the trip.
“A lot of them couldn’t believe we made it down there,” he said. “It would’ve been impossible for most of those schools to leave so quickly like we did. I credit that to administration for allowing us to go.”
Because of the quick turnaround, only nine students were able to attend, meaning they picked up extra, and new, responsibilities. Reedy had “photographer” tacked on to her list of tasks, something she had never done before, and junior Zel White, who is typically on the pit crew, became one of the human players. Senior Caitlin Williams is the lead scout for the team, but usually leads a group of 12 to 15 teammates around the arena to scope out the competition and to find alliance partners. This weekend she was mostly on her own, with some occasional assistance from Reedy and other teammates. For Williams though, it was no big deal.
“It wasn’t too bad,” she said. “I pretty much know what we need in an alliance, so it wasn’t too bad.”
“They were seasoned pros by Oklahoma, so they knew what to look for,” Wright added.
Their big win earned Team SCREAM the chance to compete in the FIRST World Championship April 23-26 in St. Louis. They aren’t allowed to work on their robot until then, and it’s currently sitting wrapped up at the school, waiting to be shipped off later this week. Now the team will work on gathering extra parts such as wheels and arms to bring with them. They’ll also be gathering information about other teams to prepare for scouting, unlike Oklahoma where they walked in blind with little prep time.
There will be 400 teams competing from around the world, and Wright said there will be about 30,000 spectators. The scouts will have to sort through hundreds of teams and they will have to work through language barriers with their alliance partners, but all the students are looking forward to the opportunity.
Whether or not Team SCREAM comes home with the title of World Champions at the end of the month, they’ve already had a successful season and now have a story not many teams can match.
“I think this is the highlight and the story of our season,” Wright said of their time in Oklahoma. “It’s a good comeback and perseverance story. It’s not over until it’s over. It made what we endured so much more worth it.”