ARLINGTON — The Arlington High School Robotics team performed almost exactly in the middle of the range at this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, but the lessons they learned made the experience well worth it in their eyes.
AHS Robotics sophomore Caroline Vogl noted that, out of 64 teams to compete from Thursday, March 28, through Saturday, March 30, Arlington placed 32nd.
For John Allen, a junior in his first year on the team, joining AHS Robotics halfway through its build season meant “lots of gray hair” and stress, but even with the competition’s technical difficulties, he appreciated the opportunity.
“Our automations at the beginning didn’t work, but we kind of got that dialed in halfway through the day on Friday,” Allen said. “But then we had trouble with the joysticks controlling the robot. If we’d had at least another hour between our matches on Friday, we would have fixed our 10-point climber and done better, but just being here gave me a feeling of success and accomplishment. Next year, I’ll have a better understanding of what to do.”
Sophomore Geff Hederich’s second year on the team culminated in a competition that he deemed as “bad luck from the beginning.”
“There was miscommunication and robot problems,” said Hederich, who described his own stint as the robot’s driver as “chaotic and exhausting,” even as he declared, “It was still a lot of fun, just being able to drive and actually control the robot that we spent so much time on. Next year, I want to drive again, because driving was the most fun thing at competition and I now have experience.”
Breena Sarver, a fellow sophomore in her second year on the team, appreciated being able to meet new people and be reunited with some familiar faces at the competition.
“What I like about competition is that it’s awesome to meet people I’ll probably be working with in the near future,” said Sarver, whose favorite part of the three-day trip was “the dancing and the mosh pit, because you get to be yourself out there, and no one cares what you look like. This year, I beat Edward Radion [the brother of 2012 AHS Robotics President Dan Radion] at dancing, and that’s something I’ll never forget.”
Steve Smith has served as a mentor for the team since 2008, and he believes this year’s competition proved especially challenging because its membership was less experienced than previous years’ teams.
“We were renewing our team’s knowledge base, but there was a lot of lessons learned by the rookie members that they were able to take from this competition,” Smith said. “One thing that I can take from this is that, no matter what happened, we didn’t give up. We competed to the best of our abilities, and we had a blast. For next year I wouldn’t change too much because the students learned a lot of what they can correct in themselves, and are now ready to take more leadership roles away from the mentors which is the most valuable experience these students gained. They have a lot to be proud of.”
Sophomore Geoffrey Root, the AHS Robotics president for 2013, agreed that the robot’s climber and shooter needed fixing, but credited the team with compensating for these glitches with a more defensive strategy.
“It was a good year,” said Root, a second-year member of the team. “Lots of hard work came from the kids and mentors, and we were really proud of our accomplishments. Next year, I want us to get our robot done sooner, so we can practice more and get it more polished. The spirit of our team was my favorite part. Well, that and seeing the other teams’ robots. All the energy of the competition was my favorite, really.”