After bagging and tagging our 2019 robot, Deep Thought, we took a few days to catch up on some sleep and school. However, we knew that our break could not be long due to our mechanical falling behind schedule quite a bit. With that in mind, we set out to improve the status of our mechanical, which was possible through the Withholding Allowance. The Withholding Allowance allowed us to have 30 lbs of fabricated parts that we did not have to bag and tag, enabling us to continue our work on the arm that attaches to our elevator and our ball and hatch collectors.
The two weeks leading up to our first competition at the Wake County District Event were used mostly on fabricating a new hatch collector (the old one did not work well) and testing various mechanical functionalities. Near the end of the second week, we had a hatch collector that worked and a little time to test various functions of our robot.
We also spent the time continuing our outreach efforts. A few days following the end of Build Season, we, along with several other NC teams, participated in a showcase of FIRST for the NC Legislature, and two days before the start of our first competition, we presented and demoed at Apex Elementary’s Science Spectacular. Science Spectacular is an event that we have participated in for many years, and it allows us to spread the message of FIRST to over 400 children and get them as excited about STEM as we are. Unfortunately, right before the event began, we broke a chain on Deep Thought that was essential to lifting our robot to the third level of the HAB Zone. Because of certain rules, we were not allowed to fix any damage sustained by our robot at the demo itself, so we had to fix it later during the couple of unbag hours we had left (teams get 6 hours total of allowed unbag time a week before a competition). Despite that mishap, the demo itself went smoothly. While our voices were shot by the end of the day, it was a ton of fun, and we loved seeing the children’s faces light up when we showed them what our robots can do and how they work!
Soon, it was time for our first competition to start. As usual, the first day was devoted to unloading all of our stuff and setting up our pit. After we had finished with those tasks, we set out to get our robot inspected, which is a requirement for all teams to ensure that we meet FIRST and game regulations. Passing inspection does not usually take us long, but for some reason, our radio would not flash during inspection. In short, this meant that we could not go to the practice field or participate in any game matches until the issue was resolved. Eventually, we got it to flash by updating the radio over and over again, and we were able to get a few minutes on the practice field before pits closed for the day!
The next day, qualification matches started, and as expected, our first few matches were rough. Prior to the competition, we were unable to extensively test out all features of our robot, and our Drive Team had less than two hours of actual practice with Deep Thought. Our primary driver was not even there for that practice as he had not been feeling well (fortunately, he felt well enough in time for the event!). Coupled with issues such as joystick problems and getting stuck on a ball (which was quite a common problem for teams the first week), it was a unique start to the day! We also had a problem where our endgame mechanism would deploy too soon, and for a few matches, it made it so that we could not collect cargo until we figured out a way around the problem. Despite these difficulties, we improved throughout our matches and even ended the day ranked 7th thanks to our consistent climb to the third level (a platform 19 inches above the ground) of the HAB Zone!
Things continued to improve the next morning, and after the end of qualification matches, we were ranked 5th! During Alliance Selections, we moved up to being captain of the 4th alliance with Team 3737, Roto-Raptors, and Team 7029, Scotbotics, as our alliance partners! While our alliance did not advance beyond semifinals, we had a ton of fun, received the Gracious Professionalism Award for the 6th time, and learned some valuable lessons and things to improve for our next competition at the Guilford County District Event!
Additionally, Team 7763, Carrborobotics, the rookie team we are paired with and mentor for the TEAMS Grant, did quite well at their first competition ever! They finished ranked 14th, and ended up on the 5th alliance. They did not advance beyond the first round of playoffs, but they enjoyed themselves and learned a lot!