March 19, 2017

2017 First Robotics Competition in Peoria, Illinois

2017 First Robotics Competition in Peoria, Illinois
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for March 19, 2017

It's FIRST Robotics season again, so we drove to Peoria, Illinois for this weekend's regional tournament.

On our drive down, we were pulled over by the deputy sheriff in Waverly, Iowa.  Lucky for us, the deputy sheriff is none other than one of my oldest friends, Ron "Sugarman" Myers.  We let him know about when we were coming to town and since he was on duty, he tracked us down as we drove by his town.  Miss Sheri knew it was him, but said it was still a bit stressful being pulled over like this.

We went to Peoria to cheer on Prior Lake High School's FRC Robotics team, KING TeC #2169.  Here's the release video for this year's robot.

This year's game is a fun one called FIRST Steamworks.  Here's the official game video for how it's played.  The kids saw this video back in January and then had only 6 weeks to build a robot for the tournaments.  They're not allowed to work on it again except for a few hours before the tournament begins so it's always a lot of pressure to be ready.

This year, the team's strategy was to be one of the best gear scoring robots in the world.  Based on their results in this tournament, I think they are doing pretty well in this regard.

Being able to hang at the end of each match is also worth quite a few points, so that was another function they wanted to be able to accomplish.  I believe they achieved this goal in every match but one so they should be pretty happy with that performance.

Between each match, the kids bring the robot back to the pits to work on it.  It's pretty intense kind of like a NASCAR pit stop, but I was very impressed at how well the kids work together to accomplish what needs to be done in a timely fashion.

Avery is the head of programming, so it's his team's responsibility to make sure the robot can perform by itself in autonomous mode and respond to the commands of the human drivers during Tele-Op mode.  Other students are in charge of different departments like mechanical, electrical, drive train, and the other functions of the robot.  They have to strategize and negotiate on the fly which is pretty fascinating to witness.

Luke was the captain of the junior FLL elementary school team this year and participated in the tournament in a scouting and spirit role.  All the kids in the stands always have a real good time supporting the team.

This team is full of great kids who are passionate about supporting KING TeC.  It's a lot of fun coming to these tournaments because the kids are singing and dancing all through the day and the robot matches are extremely competitive and exciting.

There's a bunch of fun parents that we get to hang out with as well.

Even the coaches come up and hang out with us from time to time.  As you can probably tell, Bob on my right just LOVES getting his picture taken.

We had a great group of coaches and mentors this year.  Our team has a very solid group of students who pretty much design and build the robot all on their own. The mentors help challenge their ideas, make sure they are thinking things through and follow engineering processes that are used in industry today.  These kids are building skills that they will most definitely be using later in their careers.

On Friday night, we had a parents dinner at Biaggi's Italian restaurant while our kids were back at the hotel strategizing and planning for the next day's matches.

When we came down to the pits on Saturday morning, we were interested to see that several judges were stopping by to talk to the team in greater depth about the robot and it's technical capabilities.  Quite a few of the judges visited and spent considerable time with the team which made us think they had a chance to win one of the big awards of the tournament.

KING TeC performed very well in the qualification matches and ended with the 7th best score out of 40 robots.  For the finals, they were selected by the 2nd ranked robot to join their alliance and battled several other very competitive teams to advance to the finals.  But not before winning two extremely close matches in the semi-finals by the same exact score of 250-249.  It made us feel bad for the other alliance because that really sucks to lose two matches that were that close, but we were still happy to win and advance.  We ended up in the finals against the defending World Champion robotics team called Roboteers out of Tremont, Illinois.  Our alliance put up a pretty good fight, but ended up being defeated.

Losing in the finals did not mean we left the tournament empty handed.  KING TeC was awarded the Chairman's Award for the tournament which is considered to be the most prestigious award at FIRST.  It honors the team that best represents a model for other teams to emulate and best embodies the purpose and goals of FIRST.  This team has a long history of success and has done so much to promote STEM over the years.  This group of students and the alumni that came before them really deserve a lot of praise for the effort and hard work they've put into this program.  I'm very proud of all of them.

The team was so excited to achieve this honor.  It was really a great way to end a long and hard fought tournament full of so many great teams from schools all over the Midwest.

It feels like only a short time ago that these kids were freshman, but they are now the ones graduating in a few months.  The program should continue to be very successful in future years based on all the young talent I witnessed in action over the past couple of days.

And for the bizarre coincidence of the week, the boys rode home from Peoria on the bus with the team.  In the middle of the 7 hour trip, they just happened to stop at a restaurant for lunch in Waverly, Iowa.  My boys walked in and just happened to see the same guy that pulled us over on the way down.  

Deputy Sheriff Ron "Sugarman" Myers.

How amazing is that?

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