Victory in Vegas!
Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Wins Second Straight Championship
Two regional robot competitions . . . two championships for the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy’s Team 1717. A dominating run of six straight wins in the final rounds earned the school’s high-scoring, disc-throwing robot the overall victory in its second straight regional event. Saturday’s big win in Las Vegas follows on the heels of a title earlier this month in Long Beach. D’Penguineers, as they are also known, head to the FIRST Robotics World Championships in St. Louis later in April as one of the teams to beat.
The best-of-three championship matchups between the two top robot teams, including one led by 1717, were the most emotionally charged of the competition. Joined in an “alliance” by teams from Sandy, Utah, and Huntington Beach, Team 1717 won the important first match of the finals, 151–135, and then clinched their second regional championship with a nail-biting 131–119 win. “We beat the odds,” said team member Stephen Sorich, while teammate Anisha Kumar added, “It was amazing and stressful.”
Part of the stress came from the constant work the team put in on the robot. But like a NASCAR team at a big race, Team 1717’s success came as much from its work in the pits as in the arena. “We were nervous because of the intense teams we would be competing against,” said DPEA student Erendiz Tarakci, “but I know we’ve done well under pressure before, so we just prepared for everything that could happen.” That preparation came in handy, because during the qualification matches on Friday and again on Saturday morning, the team overcame everything from loose screws to snapped parts and malfunctioning wheels.
On the way to earning its spot in that championship round, Team 1717 posted most of the highest scores in the competition, finishing the 11-match qualification round ranked second overall out of 47 robots. Team 1717 finished with nine wins in the qualifying and led the tournament in two key points categories. In one of those early matches, Team 1717 led a three-robot alliance to a massive score of 187 points, the highest single-match score in the competition. The robots scored points by zipping flying discs into scoring boxes and by climbing a steel pyramid on the arena floor.
At the FIRST events, teams of three robots form their own “alliance” for the championship rounds. With the second-overall seed, Team 1717 was able to choose just the right partners. According to Daniel Gay, one of the students charged with scouting the competition, “Everything depends on the seeding at the end of the qualification rounds. We are looking for robots that can complement our abilities, so we can work together to win.” Making a good decision about alliance partners is partly luck, but a large part stems from the hours spent by students analyzing the matches, looking at the design of the robot, and documenting the points that each robot contributes. The scouting goes on throughout the long qualifying session so that Team 1717 is ready when it’s time to make these crucial selections. Right after making their Las Vegas picks, student Vir Singh said, “I feel like we have a good alliance, and I think we’ll go pretty far.”
The competition was very strong, however, and the team knew it would need a perfect performance. Olivia Hart, the co-driver of the robot, said, “These are probably going to be the hardest matches we’ve ever played, but it’s good practice for the World Championships.”
Practice turned perfect in the playoffs. After dispatching their opponents in the quarterfinals, Team 1717 had to deal with a wheel problem, but it was quickly fixed and the semifinals were another two-match sweep. That led to the final round and to Team 1717 hoisting another championship banner.
Next up: The FIRST Robotics World Championships in St. Louis beginning on April 24.
The Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Media Relations Team includes Malika Agrawal, Shauny Grant, Alanna Kjoller, Erendiz Tarakci and Caroline Whelan.