First Robotics Competition

 and Team 1619

FRC or “FIRST Robotics Competition” is a high school robotics competition designed like a sports game for STEM students. Every year, over 3,000 teams analyze a new game, design a robot, fabricate its custom parts, wire it, program it and practice for competitions. We do this in two and a half months, although we meet year-round to teach new students and prepare for the next season. Teams then compete in regional competitions to earn a spot at the World Championships. The intense, 3 day competitions are some of the most difficult and stressful events I have ever participated in, but also some of the most rewarding.

2020 was my fourth and final season on Team 1619, Up-A-Creek-Robotics. The team of 60 students and 15 mentors meets year-round at our ‘World Headquarters’ in Longmont, Colorado. From the moment I stepped into the building, I knew I wanted to stay. It was such an incredible experience that I found myself in our building at least 20 hours a week during the official build and competition season from January to April. My time on 1619 writing software, wiring electronics and operating our robot was unforgettable. I’ve gotten to know amazing people and learned so much from this fantastic team. I will miss everyone and everything so much.

2020

This year started out as my best season yet! We had a fantastic group of people, a great robot design and autos by our first event. At that event, despite a few issues in qualifications, we captained the 2nd alliance and won the event. We also received the Autonomous Award, a first for our team. Everyone left the event excited and planning for our next regional. Then, during the next week and a half, we watched apprehensively as event after event was canceled or postponed due to Covid-19. On March 12th, the FRC season was officially suspended and development was forced to come to a screeching halt. The team was crushed to lose the rest of our season, but also grateful that we were able to compete at Great Northern. As of June we were finally able to meet in person again and have been focusing on offseason projects.

Great Northern Regional

This might have been my favorite event yet! The team traveled 16 hours by bus to attend this event in North Dakota. Once there, we had a spectacular practice day, getting to test the robot in many practice matches. Qualifications were a little bit rougher as we had several matches where we had to switch to playing defense due to balls getting jammed in the mechanisms. We pulled through qualifications and ended up as the captain of the second alliance. Eliminations were difficult as we were up against very powerful alliances, but we made it through and won the event, winning our ticket to the Houston Championship. One of the pieces of the event I'm most proud of was our autos. They were highly effective and in recognition of this we received the Autonomous Award.

2019

This year has been an exciting one for me! I was a part of our software team and was an integral part in writing the code for the game piece manipulators (the arms) and the climber. I was chosen as the robot Operator, one of the two students who drives the robot during the competitions. I control the elevator and the game piece manipulators while another student controls the drivetrain and the climber. The robot this year was one of our best yet and our lightest. We won two regionals and made it to the quarterfinals at the World Championships in Houston. I was given an MVP award (most valuable player) by my team. It’s been a fantastic season!

Chezy Champs

What an event! This was my team’s first time competing at Chezy Champs, an offseason event hosted by one of the world’s best teams (team 254). I spent a month and a half preparing for this event, both writing and testing code and practicing with our new driver. A big achievement for software at this event was being able to run autonomously at the beginning of almost every match. This was a very competitive event, but we finished the qualifications in 4th. We were able to captain the 3rd alliance during the eliminations, but due to some unfortunate luck we ended up losing in quarter finals. Despite not making it as far as we would have liked, we had a successful event and I can’t wait for the next competition. 

Houston Champs

My team’s fifth year straight at the World Championships and my third! We spent every last minute we could getting ready. Between driver practice and software, I found myself in the building for 35 hours a week for the month leading up to this competition. We went in hopeful we would make it to Einsteins (the finals) for our second year, but things did not play out as we hoped. We were hit by tough defense and a challenging match schedule, but we played hard and made it onto the second alliance. Our first eliminations match went decently but due to escalating issues we lost the match. We still had a chance to move on if we won the next two matches, but in our second match everything that could go wrong did. It might not have been our best competition, but it was still a fantastic experience and left us all determined to do better next year.

Colorado Regional

Another incredible competition! We got our autonomous vision code working and it proved remarkably useful in speeding up our game piece placement and pick up. After a day and a half of qualifier matches, we were first seed and captains of the top alliance. With our partners, The Kraken and Palmer Ridge BEARbotics, we made it through a tough set of finals matches. After breaking the ratchet on our climber before finals match number two, we lost the match and were down to a heart-pounding tiebreaker match. Because time between matches is short, we didn’t have time to bolt the replacement ratchet onto the robot. We resorted to putting two T-handles (allen wrenches) into the bolt holes and using duct tape to hold them in place. The final score was close but thanks to some fast thinking and the world’s best repair hack (duct tape), we won the regional!

Oklahoma Regional

I went into this competition a little nervous because it was my first time being our robot’s Operator (one of the robot’s drivers.) After a long day of getting our robot ready to compete, we only made it onto the field for one practice match. Qualifying matches went fairly smoothly, other than a network lag issue at the beginning and struggling with our automatic vision. On Saturday, we were captain of the first alliance with our partners Hostile Gato Robotics and Tiger Strike. After playing three extra finals matches, (we had to replay one and play two tie breakers,) we won our first regional of the season and a ticket to the Houston World Championships in April!

2018

What a memorable season! This year I joined the software team and started learning the complicated world of software, hardware, and how they connect. We built our most successful robot yet and made it all the way to Einsteins (the finals at the World Championship). At competitions, I took on the role of making sure our alliance partners were ready and had everything they needed to compete at their best. We came away from the season with five banners (three for winning regionals and our division, one for outreach and one for our amazing mentor, Dr. Cathy Olkin) and lots of excitement for next season!

Houston Champs

What a competition! After only making it to the quarter finals last year, we were excited to be chosen by the legendary team 1678 from California as their first pick. We went on to compete with them in a succession of difficult finals matches. Watching the last two matches were some of the most stressful five minutes of my entire life. I have never been a fan of sports and have not understood how someone could be so into watching and rooting for their team, but in that moment I felt the magic of hoping with everything I had for my team to succeed. As we sat down to watch the Einstein matches, I saw the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen on our drivers’ faces as they walked our robot onto the Einstein field for our team’s first time ever. What an incredible year!

Colorado Regional

The Colorado Regional upped its game this year. We had six high level teams come from Texas to compete and I’m proud to say we held our own and ended the qualification rounds as captain of the first alliance. After a tough fight in eliminations with an amazing alliance, The Robo Wranglers and PEARadox, we lost to the legendary team Robonauts in the finals. It might not have been a satisfying end to the competition, but I thoroughly enjoyed competing with so many excellent teams from Colorado and Texas.

Hub City Regional

We started the competition struggling with a code bug that took six hours to find. Not a great start, but after a long process of copying, pasting and rebuilding we got the code running just as the building closed for the night. The competition went more smoothly after that. There were some problematic moments -  like dumping a game piece out of the field - but otherwise uneventful for the first competition of the season. I spent most of my time finding other teams needing help and ensuring our alliance partners were ready for our matches with them.

2017

My first season on Up-A-Creek-Robotics. What an experience! I spent my year learning CAD, the control system of the robot and machining parts (which I discovered is not my thing. The fact that 1/10,000th of an inch matters, drives me a little bit crazy). I’m so glad there are people on our team who enjoy it. Meanwhile, I discovered a love for figuring out how different parts of the electrical system work together. I also discovered that prototyping is the perfect place for my love of quickly creating things. The season went amazingly well, and I learned so much about how a team functions. I’m captivated with FRC. I want to do this for as long as I can.

Houston Champs

Such an amazing competition and lesson. We weren’t in a competitive division but we did well in the qualifications. We ended as captain of the first alliance with our partners: Friarbots and Flash. In our first quarterfinals match we got badly broken. Between matches we tried to fix our robot but there wasn’t enough time. We tried to play the next match anyway but lost spectacularly. It was a sad way to end the competition, made worse by how well we’d done up to that point. It’s amazing how disappointment hits an entire group and changes the dynamics. Not all in negative ways though, we started up conversations about improvements and ended up knowing each other better because of it.

Colorado Regional

What an experience! This was my first competition with Up-A-Creek-Rototics. What a steep learning curve! I spent my time being a ‘runner’ for our drive team, getting whatever they needed as quickly as possible and helping tie knots in our climbing rope. We did well in the qualifications and made it into the finals. Finals match one was a brutal match and our intake broke. Between matches we desperately tried to fix it, but didn’t have the tools and parts we needed at the field. I was sent, along with several other people, to retrieve supplies from the pit. Running with a box of bolts is NOT easy. We did not have time to finish the repairs before we had to go back on to the field, so we duct taped the ball collector onto the robot and went on anyway. We had never run a strategy not involving shooting wiffle balls but we ended up setting the record score for the event by running only gears (the other game piece)! We were sure we’d lost, so when one of the mentors came back to tell us we’d won, we all jumped in the air crying tears of disbelief. I will always remember that moment.