2013 Recap

And thus ends our most successful season ever.

Oh, and welcome to our new team blog. Here you will find updates on everything going on in room 7110 at American Heritage School. That’s our home (for six weeks at least) where we design, build, and program a professional robot while maintaing seven classes, the SAT, AP exams, sports, clubs, and whatever else high school students have to deal with. That’s right, we’re high school students. We are team 2383, the Ninjineers, of the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). Each year we spread the message of FIRST and compete for an opportunity to go to the FRC World Championships.

And this year, we made it.

Our team began in 2008 here at American Heritage School. It was a humble beginning, with just a few students and teachers guiding the team. Eventually we moved into the bus shop at the far end of our campus where we continued working year after year. Since then, our team has grown incredibly. Our school now houses us in a state of the art facility where we work tirelessly. Many of our students participate in the Pre-Engineering Program which educates students in engineering, physics, and architecture featuring classes administered with certified Project Lead the Way curriculum. Additionally, the growing Pre Bio-Medical Engineering program has bridged the gap between with our school’s Pre-Medical track. In the past decade, the presence of engineering has exploded at American Heritage, and we plan to continue the growth for years to come.

But it’s not all about engineering. In our club, students can participate in management and public relations efforts, learning essentials to business and communications.

When we found out we would be attending the 2013 FRC World Championships in St. Louis, it came suddenly to all of us. It was Tuesday, April 16th, and students were in their final class of the day, taking exams, writing notes, and doing all the usual activities. We had since completed our regional competitions without securing a spot in St. Louis. Our slightly crazed mentor had been continually checking his e-mail for weeks, holding onto a glimmer of hope. You see, last October we applied for a waitlist for the World Championships. Just in case. But with the championship just a week away, many have given up this hope. But, the e-mail came. It actually came. With just one week to organize all school assignments, ship our robot and tools, notify students, and do everything else needed to travel across the country, we scrambled to get ready for this amazing opportunity. On the next Tuesday after school, about 20 students gathered at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and departed for an awesome week.

The whole experience was slightly surreal, hard to even believe. Some teams we talked to had a surprised look to see that we had made it. But we had, and we were determined to make some noise on the world stage. A few early blunders and close matches led us to losing four of our first five matches. But, we remained determined and won our last three matches by margins of 41, 58, and 72 points. Our future lay out of our control, as we entered alliance selections, hoping to be selected.

Our talent was our versatility. This year’s FRC game featured two totally different objectives: shooting Frisbees into rectangular goals and climbing a 7 and 1/2 foot tall runged pyramid. The unique challenge led to many diverse designs across the competition. Some ran their robot continually between the feeder stations and goals, shooting many cycles of disks. Others camped out at the feeder station and shot disks across the 54-foot field. Some focused on innovative climbing methods, reaching the top of the pyramid quickly and efficiently. Our robot, however, accomplished both game challenges. We cycled disks into the goals and climbed efficiently to the top of the pyramid.

At the South Florida Regional, we proved to be the only robot all weekend that climbed all the way up the pyramid. Not only did we accomplish this task, but we did it consistently, in almost every match. This versatile climber along with our shooting abilities convinced the judges to award us the Excellence in Engineering Award sponsored by Delphi for our “King Kong” like climbing design.

However, at our first competition of the year, our climber wasn’t as prime for competition. In fact, we only reached the top once. And it was quite the exciting climb. From the driver station, our drivers see the back of the robot as it climbs. The main hook is completely obstructed by the main column of the robot. So, when we finally achieved our top climb, little did we know how fragile this climb really was. But close enough is enough sometimes. We got the top climb.

So, with alliance selections looming in St. Louis, we were heartbroken as our team was not selected. It was a sad end to our best season ever. But sometimes, close enough is enough. We tried our hardest on the world stage. We ended up as tied for 2nd best among all the Florida teams that attended in St. Louis and we were one of the best climbers in the whole competition. We had an incredible year and had so much fun along the way. Our success is not measured only in rankings or awards, but in how much we’ve all grown this year. We’ve learned incredible skills and grown closer as friends and peers.

This is an incredible program and we hope you follow along here as we do bigger and better things in the future. Thanks for reading. Check back often.

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