We may have broken our Improbability Drive

by | Apr 9, 2012 | Competitions | 0 comments

After two weeks of preparation, the North Carolina Regional has come and gone in three short days. But despite that short time period, they passed anything but quickly or easily. The team got to feel a diverse range of emotions through the 72-hour period.

We arrived Thursday confident of a good showing based on our success at the Palmetto regional. We started the day making a few repairs to the robot, resulting in us missing our two practice matches before lunch. One of our worries was our front right wheel. We spent an hour getting in back in alignment but finished just before break.

After a quick lunch, our pit crew took Benjy out on the field to try to calibrate the camera, something we overlooked in South Carolina. Unfortunately, the sheer number of windows in Dorton Arena made it all but impossible to isolate the targets from the background light. It was simply too bright for the camera to be of much use to us.

That afternoon we made full use of the filler line, fitting in a team record five practice matches by filling other team’s vacancies. Our first match was a little worrying because our arm didn’t work, but as soon as we looked at the robot we realized we had left our pressure release open on our pneumatics system and pressure couldn’t build to hold the arm up. We laughed and remembered to check that before every match from there on. After that match we performed well in our final four practice matches and ended up going 2-3. At five our seniors joined in the senior picture and then we all left, several hours before the pits actually closed, spirits high from a successful day. We were ready for qualification matches to start.

Friday was a day filled with disappointment for us. We lost all seven of our matches, ending the day the only winless team. The only redeeming quality of the day was the few coopertition points we got, but through the day we were seeded as low as 51 of 53, and ended the day seeded 44. We were nearly tipped three times on the coopertition bridge. In our sixth match we got up and balanced the bridge at the two second mark. As our drive team backed off the controls, the bridge tipped and Benjy rolled off. As our driver jumped back to rebalance, the buzzer rang to end the match. We lost by five points.

In the downtime we had between our last two matches, we went to the practice field. We looked at our camera tracking, our shooting locations, our strategy, everything and anything that could help us win a match. We tried taking shots just as we had been on the field and we hit every three we took. It was bewildering. We weren’t doing anything different, but for some reason we could use dead reckoning perfectly on the practice field. In the end, we decided to change our strategy from taking long three point shots to drive right to the fender and sink much easier two point shots instead. We tried that in our final match of the day, but we were up against a very good opposing alliance and still lost.

Saturday was slightly more positive. We had three matches to try and show what we were actually capable of. While we stood in queue, our driver’s came over and handed us buttons with the logo of our lucky fast food restaurant from Palmetto. We ate lunch there every day and performed well in the afternoons. Since we couldn’t eat there, the buttons were the next best thing. When we won our first match, we knew it was real.

We won our second match as well, but didn’t manage to sweep the morning. Up against tough competition, we were down in the closing minute but only needed a single robot balanced to win. As we started up the bridge, one of our alliance mates rushed up behind us. As we tried to balance with the unexpected guest, they pushed us too far forward and we tipped over, our first and only this far. Luckily nothing was broken on Benjy, aside from a slightly bent arm. We took him back to the pit and then went up to the stands for alliance selections.

Sadly we were not picked, and since we were not seeded near the top we weren’t in the running to be a backup. After lunch we went down and took down our pit. We stripped Benjy of his arm and some of his Jaguars to replace the ones we took from Marvin so he will be operable at Robot Rumble, our demo next Saturday at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. We’ll modify the arm before St. Louis and replace everything we took from Benjy when we see him next at Championships.

We finished in time to watch the finals matches as a team in the stands. We watched on as the top seeded alliance won in two matches. Congratulations to Team 2642, The Pitt Pirates, one of the teams we beat in the finals at Palmetto; Team 1519, Mechanical Mayhem, the top seeded team after qualifications, and Team 1311, Kell Robotics. They were very deserving regional champions.

We’d also like to congratulate our friends Hawktimus Prime for winning the Judges’ Award and Pyrotech mentor Linda Whipker for winning the Woodie Flowers Award. In addition to them, congratulations to team MARS for winning Chairman’s Award.

All in all, it was a disappointing competition for us as a team, but it was exciting to see teams we know so well win such prestigious awards. We got some more practice in before Championships, and now we’ll be even more ready to hold our own against the best of the best there. It’s coming sooner than you think!

Dates to remember:

  • Robot Rumble in Durham at the Museum of Life and Science: 5 days
  • Championships in St. Louis: 18 days

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