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MSJ FIRST Tech Challenge Team 9614 Hyperion Goes to Houston for World Championship

Photos by Richard Kuan

By Staff Writer Sahas Goli & Jeffrey Li

From April 17-20, FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics team 9614 Hyperion traveled to Houston, Texas, to take on the FIRST World Championship in the George R. Brown Convention Center. The team is the first ever from MSJ to make it to the World Championship, and at the championship the team placed as a division finalist. Out of all teams, Hyperion was also ranked 1st overall in terms of score average and 3rd overall for score contribution. 

The team consists of a mix of students from both MSJ and Irvington, and together they  design and construct the robot’s hardware, program software to instruct the robot, and create STEM-related outreach initiatives, all led by Team Captain and Driver MSJ Junior Patrick Chu. 

This FTC season, the competition’s goal was to create a robot that could pick up multi-colored plastic pixels and place them on a backdrop, while also being able to shoot a paper airplane and hang on a truss in the middle of the playing field. Each FTC match included an autonomous period, where robots used sensors and computer vision to perform different tasks without human control, followed by a driver-controlled period. “A lot of time and effort went into optimizing the robot for Worlds; I completely redesigned and rebuilt it with a longer outtake extension and stayed up all night for weeks before the competition,” Chu said. 

At the World Championship, 224 teams were separated into four divisions: Ochoa, Jemsen, Franklin, and Edison, with Hyperion in the Ochoa division. Each match had two alliances, for a total of four teams on the field at a time. Within each division, teams played 10 qualification matches, followed by alliance selection for the final rounds of the competition. 

The first place team in the division chose their alliance partner first, followed by the second place team, and so on until four alliances were formed. Each alliance then competed with other alliances in their division through a single-elimination bracket consisting of best-of-three matches, ultimately deciding the alliance representing the division in semifinals. Finally, a World Champion is decided between the division-representing alliances.

On the first day of the competition, the team headed directly to the George R. Brown Convention Center, where they set up their booth and presented highlights of the robot’s design in front of judges. Each team member also received their own identification badge and explored other teams’ intricately decorated booths. Later in the evening, the team had their first qualification match against 14725 Java the Hutts and 19502 The Moment Makers, which they won 363-247. After the first qualification match, the team returned to their respective living arrangements and tuned the robot in preparation for the series of qualification matches on Thursday.

The following day, Hyperion had five more consecutive victorious qualification matches and four more qualification matches on Friday, culminating to a 7-3 win-loss ratio, placing them 11th in the division. Due to Hyperion’s stellar performance, the team was selected as the first pick alliance partner by 16468 Green Lemons. On Thursday, the team was also interviewed by FIRST Updates Now, a competitive robotics YouTube channel, to be featured in a Behind the Bot video. 

On the final day of the competition, Hyperion’s alliance defeated the alliance between 5356 TARDIS, 19411 Tech Tigers, and 20871 Eureka, allowing Hyperion to proceed to the division finals. Despite a close 1-2 match, Hyperion’s alliance was unable to defeat the alliance between 19762 Ro2D2, 12993 RoboKings Aurum, and 19836 Hawk, eliminating Hyperion from the competition. “Though I believe the performance could have been much better given a little more luck, I think that this is a great accomplishment,” Chu said. 

(OPR stands for offensive power rating, a measure of the team’s score contribution during matches)

Outside of the competition, teams also had many opportunities to connect with both students from around the world and industry professionals. The event featured an Innovation Fair where industry leaders like NASA, Molex, and Qualcomm shared their projects with students through interactive activities. “I had a great time interacting with the different exhibits of the Innovation Fair, especially the Molex one where I got to play around with Molex’s electric connectors. I also met a lot of new and unique people interested in engineering, which was really cool,” Hyperion Member MSJ Sophomore Michael Liu said. 

Most notably, popular engineering YouTuber Mark Rober’s company CrunchLabs made an appearance to promote Rober’s Hack Pack, an engineering kit geared towards teenagers. To the excitement of many fans, Rober himself joined the FTC’s alliance selection ceremony on Friday. Teams from all over the world, including ones from South Africa, Australia, and Romania, attended the event, allowing students to further their passion for engineering. 

Despite the World Championship  being the last official FIRST event, 9614 Hyperion will be heading to the Maryland Technical Invitational (MTI) at the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory from June 28-30, where they hope to improve on their performance at Worlds. “With such a solid performance so far, I believe that we can continue to reach new heights at MTI and during the next season,” Chu said.

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