Dreadbots Battle It Out For State Honors

The Dexter High School robotics team, Team 3656 – Dreadbots, received their official invitation to the FIRST World Championship held in Detroit this year April 25-28. The Dreadbots go into the competition ranked 23rd out of 504 teams in Michigan.

The Dreadbots went into the FIRST State Competition, held this past weekend at DTE Energy Field, ranked #4 but struggles against some very good alliances saw them slip to #18 on the second day. Competition at this stage is very difficult because even the slightest slip-ups can result in large gaps in the point spread between teams.

FIRST is a non-profit corporation in southeast Michigan whose mission is “to establish a sustainable FIRST Robotics Competition team at every high school in Michigan.” FIRST has created leagues as early as the elementary school level up through high school to foster interest in robotics.

Co-captian Kathryn Seward willing her team on from the stands

Students on FIRST teams learn from and play with the “pros” – professional engineers who donate their time to work side-by-side with students to help design and build the sophisticated competition robots.

In head-to-head competition, placing the power cubes on the scale has been elevated in difficulty at this point in the season. Drivers are distanced thirty-feet away from their robots forcing them to maneuver via a small video screen streamed from a camera mounted on the robot. Cubes need to be stacked one upon another to a height of three or four cubes if possible.

The real challenge is the teeter-totter type scale now elevated eight feet off the ground. Drivers compete to control the scale by stacking enough cubes on it to keep it tipped in their direction for the majority of the two-minute match. The action is fast, loud, and nerve-wracking.

Dexter’s slip in the standing kept them from qualifying for the finals matches. However on day 3, Lapeer Strike Force chose the Dreadbots to be their partners in the State Finals competition along with Essexville’s E-Ville Empire robotic team. Given their early struggles, it was an honor for the Dreadbots to be chosen for an alliance at States – something they haven’t experienced since 2013.

Dreadbot VIII pictured here with senior mechanic Quang Le awaiting a match earlier this year at regionals

When asked why they chose Dexter for an alliance to win State, one mentor for Lapeer’s Strike Force replied, “The Dreadbots had the best robot available for us to select!” It was a much appreciated affirmation for the team’s hard work.

The alliance, now ranked 6th in the finals competition, quickly gelled and beat their opponent two out of three sets of matches in the quarter final round. For the first time the Dreadbots were advancing to the semi-final round at state competition where they would face the #1 ranked alliance of Brighton’s Techno Dogs, Brimley’s The Deceivers, and Highland’s The Hot Team.

The Dreadbot’s alliance easily beat the #1 alliance in the first match outwitting them with the strategy of using all three robots to stack power cubes on the elevated scale for its coveted points. The #1 seed however was ready for them in the second match and successfully used their bots to run interference on Dexter’s alliance.  The #1 seed would go on to win the match, the semi-finals, and state honors as well. If there is any consolation, Dexter was beaten by the state champion.

The Dreadbots however did not walk away empty-handed. They were given The Gracious Professionalism Award. This is given to the team that best exemplifies the spirit of FIRST Robotics – going out of their way to help other teams in the competition.

Dreadbot Parent/Mentor Rob Seward says of the award, “I am very moved by this award. It is a strong external validation that our children embody our ideals. That they hold more valuable the opportunity to help other teams do amazing things than they do their own prospect of winning. I am not sure how a parent could be more proud of their children’s accomplishment in this regard!”

Well said.

The Dreadbots next head to World Competition which will be held in Detroit April 25-28.

Go Dreads!

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