We just recently returned from St. Louis, where our team competed in the First Robotics Competition Championship! We had the honor of competing inside the giant America’s Center Dome for the last time before the Championship’s transition to Detroit next year.
The competition was incredibly exciting. The championship was split into four days, the first day was occupied with required inspections and practice matches, allowing us to test our robot in a competitive setting and eliminate minor errors, such as hazardous edges or weight violations. With the exception of some bumper troubleshooting, we had no trouble passing inspection!
The second and third days were filled with a heated mix of qualification matches, 4 of which we won, and another ending in a tie. This landed us in 28th place out 68 in our assigned Darwin division. Fortunately, our pit crew, which rotated every few hours throughout the day, found very few issues with the robot, resorting only to cosmetic fixes, and routine battery and connection checks.
When we weren’t occupied with matches and exploration of the massive, colorful, and chaotic pits, the team participated in a yearly FedEx challenge. The Girls of Steel combined their specialized talents to finish the challenge. We even created a video, which can be viewed on our Instagram or Twitter.
As the pits closed for the first night, it was time for a show! Opening ceremonies was a conundrum of flashing lights and roof-shaking music. A nationality and state parade with representation for competing teams was accompanied with an incredible jazz performance, followed by inspiring speeches from sponsoring companies, and a highly entertaining, several-stage routine dance by Kenichi Ebina.
The consistent rainy weather and umbrella-rocking violent winds did not prevent the Girls of Steel from exploring St. Louis! The evening after the opening ceremonies, the team went to the Old Spaghetti Factory, where we even celebrated a team member’s birthday! On other evenings after the competition, the team attended RoboProm – a kind of surrogate prom for robotics students unable to attend their own potentially-conflicting prom. We also went to the St. Louis City Museum, an unorthodox, family-oriented geometric museum that is more like a giant jungle gym than a museum. There were many small crevices and cave-like passageways to explore, and the outside portion was a massive jumble of wire connections and slides.
Saturday, our last full day in St. Louis, we witnessed the Awards Ceremony and the alliance selection, who graciously applauded the selected teams. Although we weren’t among them, our team walked away with scores from our best competition season to date, and a fairly high qualification ranking. Go MO!
Closing ceremonies that same Saturday entailed an engaging blend of performances from acrobats on trampolines and professional bicycle stunts. Student announcers from FLL, FTC, and FRC teams introduced speeches from engineers and STEM advocates, alternating the Einstein Round Robin Matches (Championship Final rounds). Other awards were given such as the Chairman’s Award. It was a jubilant and high-energy moment when Mountaineer Area Robotics (MARS), a team the Girls of Steel is close with, won the Chairman’s Award for their efforts as as not just a robotics team, but a movement to spread the influence of STEM.
In the Einstein Round Robin, a total of 15 matches was played, best ⅔ rounds within those matches. After some words of wisdom from Woody Flowers, and a bittersweet speech from FIRST founder Dean Kamen thanking St. Louis for its STEM initiatives in the past decade, the final round ensued, ending with a victory for the Daly blue alliance – Team 2767, Team 254, Team 862, and Team 1676. An explosion of confetti showered the STEAMWORKS field upon their victory, a close win of a mere three points – 546 to 543.
The laughter, excitement, dancing, the feeling of accomplishment, and the spirit of gracious professionalism; what’s not to love about FIRST? After the long event, the team rested for one last night before our departure from St. Louis on Sunday morning. Although this was the last time St. Louis would host the Championship, the prospect of integration of STEM in Detroit is more than exciting.
Great job to the winning teams!