Robotics team competes at regional competition

Kyle Chen

Last weekend, Wayland High School’s robotics team competed in the FRC (First Robotics Competition) North Shore event at Reading High School. The team advanced to the quarterfinals of the competition, where they were eliminated 2-1 in a best of three series. The team was awarded the “Excellence in Engineering” award for their performance during the tournament.

The competition is organized into two different rounds, including a preliminary stage of qualifications and a playoff round that involves a best of three series. The qualification round consists of 12 matches against different opponents, in which each team’s robot is awarded points based on how well it completes the task at hand in that competition. After the qualifications, the 40 teams are seeded based on their performance in the preliminary round. Then the top 8 seeds get to choose their partners for the next round – other teams whom they will collaborate with during the playoff round.

The WHS team has competed in two tournaments so far. In the first, they were ranked 3rd after the preliminaries but lost in the quarterfinal. In this second tournament last week, the team earned the ninth seed. However, another team chose them as a partner, so they were able to proceed to the next round. Again, Wayland was knocked out in the quarterfinals, winning the first match out of three but then losing the next two.

Despite their early defeats in the playoff round, the team believes they have had a good showing at the tournaments, at least compared to their performances last year.

“Last year, our robot was not made of very reliable systems, and when it came to competition time, everything kind of just fell apart,” senior Hunter Leonard said. “So, it became a constant battle of keeping the robot going. But this year, we have not had that issue, and our robot has been working really well.”

Founded in 2014, the robotics team has participated in the First Robotics Competition for three years. Every year, they are given a different task by the competition’s organizers, and they have to build their robot to be able to complete the task efficiently in order to score more points. In order to create a machine that can successfully fulfill all aspects of the task, different people on the team each with their individual areas of expertise work on specific parts of the robot.

“We have people who are better at certain things than other people,” junior Tyler Brient said. “So we have them take care of the part that they do best. There are people like [junior] Alex Zhu, who leads most of the mechanics, and we have some programmers, like me, [senior] Alex [Briasco-Stewart] and [junior] Geoffrey [Wang].”

While the team members each work on their specific area of the robot that allows them to utilize the full potential of their expertise, general understanding of all the robot’s mechanisms is vital to the success of the team.

“It’s important for everybody to know all parts of the robot,” Wang said. “If some members of the team have family issues or homework gets in the way, we still need the robot to work. [For example], if all the coders suddenly disappeared, we still need need the robot to be coded to be able to do the task.”

Overall, while the FRC tournaments are just as stressful as any other type of competition, they can also be fun and interesting.

“For us, last year it was very stressful due to the fact that our robot ended up having a ton of problems,” Leonard said. “But when your robot works well, competitions can definitely be an enjoyable experience.”

The team is currently still waiting to see if they qualified for the regional FRC tournament. If they scored enough ranking points in the last two tournaments, they will travel to the University of New Hampshire’s Whittemore Center in Durham, NH and compete at the New England Regional competition in April.