Dexter High School’s robotic team, Dreadbots, owned the competition in their pre-season warm up Dec. 9 at Ann Arbor’s Forsythe Middle School.
The event was hosted by Pioneer High School’s robotic club, Pi Hi Samurai, along with a swarm of enthusiastic volunteers. The games and competition are the creation of the largely volunteer robotic organization FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).
The local competition known as WAPUR (Washtenaw Area Pick-Up Robotics) is a two team alliance competition. During the qualifying rounds of the event, teams are paired randomly. Your alliance then competes in a match against another alliance of two teams. For the qualifying rounds, teams are paired with a different team each match. A team could be your ally in one match and then your opponent in the next match.
The matches include activities such as competing to place the most soccer balls in a trash can and gather the most cube-shaped objects to their home area. Competition can get fierce during the two-and-a-half minute match. There are four robots on the field blocking, stealing and frantically maneuvering for the balls and cubes.
Robotic club mentor Lori Sprague, whose son was a Dreadbot until graduation, explained just how intense things can get out there on the field of play. “It’s not supposed to be a ‘battle bots’ scenario though it can get pretty rough, she says. “I have seen robots fall from heights, get tipped over and, on one occasion, catch fire.”
After the 14 qualifying matches were finished, the Dreadbots had robots in 1st and 7th place. This earned Dexter top seed which meant the Dreadbots would be first to choose who to make their alliance with for the elimination rounds.
The Dreadbots looked over the field of teams to select from and chose 3rd seed “Technical Difficulties”, Chelsea’s robotic team for their partner. Unlike the qualifying matches, alliances would remain intact for the entire elimination rounds.
Dexter and Chelsea handily sailed through the final rounds due to their complementary abilities. Dexter’s ungainly but maneuverable robot gobbled up the game cubes while Chelsea’s robot teamed up with sharp-shooting student players to fill the scoring bin with soccer balls and played aggressive defense. It was an alliance that truly embodied the FIRST Robotics principles of ‘co-opertition’ and ‘gracious professionalism’ as students set aside traditional rivalries and worked together for the win.
Match play was exciting and occasionally a bit rough on the robots as many rookie drivers made their spirited first appearances in competition. “The WAPUR tournament turned out to be a fantastic event for training the team’s newer members,” said Dreadbot Mentor Jim Sprague.
WAPUR is just the warm-up for the regular FIRST Robotics season. The 2018 game reveal will be on January 6 at which time the robotic teams will learn how they will be competing this year. All of the Washtenaw area teams are eagerly awaiting the details of the game called “FIRST Power Up” to be revealed. After the reveal, teams will have six weeks to build their robots that will compete state-wide and further in March and April events.