By: Staff Writer Katrina Cherk
On February 23, robotics teams from across Northern California competed at the 2013-2014 FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) NorCal Regional Championship Tournament held at Newark Memorial High School. A buzz of excitement filled the gym as teams, advisers, parents, and peers watched the much-anticipated matches, which ran continuously from 1PM to 6PM. 36 teams, decked out in their spirited team uniforms and protective safety glasses, qualified from 12 preliminary tournaments to attend the Regional Championships. Out of the 36 teams, MSJ was represented by seven teams: Pew Pew Laser Beams (Team #455), Geek Squad (Team #548), VOID (Team #5057), Infinity Robotics (Team #5151), Pink Fruffy Unicorns (Team #5353), Robo Avatars (Team #7303), and Voltage of Imagination (Team #7591).
The competition consisted of three rounds: qualification matches, semifinal rounds, and final rounds. In each round, teams played a game designed to showcase each robot’s capabilities and allow referees to determine the quality of its performance. During the game, two-team alliances faced off to score the most points by placing blocks in the floor-scoring area or in their pendulum goal baskets. Furthermore, team robots were challenged to do a pull-up on the center bridge and raise their alliance flag.
Each match consisted of two distinct periods of play: a 30-second Autonomous period, immediately followed by a two-minute Driver Controlled period, including a 30-second End Game. Within the Autonomous period, robots operated by pre-programmed instructions alone, receiving points for performing certain tasks, including driving/parking on the center bridge and placing blocks in the pendulum goals. Following the Autonomous period was the two-minute Driver Controlled period, in which teams raced to place the most blocks in their respective floor-scoring areas and pendulum goal baskets. During the last 30 seconds of the Driver Controlled period, teams could earn additional points by raising their Alliance flag up the flagpole, lifting their robot off the bridge using the pull-up bar, and balancing their pendulum goal basket.
During the qualification matches, teams were randomly paired into temporary two-team alliances. Teams were ranked based on their total Qualifying Points (QPs), which were obtained during the qualification matches; two points were awarded for a win, one for a tie, and zero for a loss. Ranking points (RPs), based on the scores of the losing Alliance, were used to settle any ties.
After qualifying matches were completed, Alliance selection was held, during which the top-ranking teams were chosen to pick two additional teams to join them in a permanent alliance for the Elimination Semifinal and Final rounds.
Three teams from MSJ – Infinity Robotics, Robo Avatars, and Voltage of Imagination – will be advancing to the FTC West Super-Regional competition, where the top 72 teams from the Western US will meet and compete in late March. In addition to the three qualifying teams, MSJ teams also received several awards. The most prestigious award, the Inspire Award, was presented to Infinity Robotics. The Robo Avatars also won the Motivate Award for showing the most team spirit.
“Though the tournament ran late, it was still incredibly exciting…it was a great opportunity to meet people with similar interests,” said Sophomore Stella Seo, a member of Voltage of Imagination, one of the three MSJ teams who qualified for Super-Regionals. Congratulations to all seven MSJ teams that competed, and the Smoke Signal wishes the three advancing teams the best of luck as they continue to Super-Regionals in Sacramento from March 20-22!
Photos: Staff Writer Katrina Cherk
Correction: Infinity Robotics only won the Inspire Award.