Robotics competition: A tale from two cities
The First Robotics Competition, Orlando Regional, took place in Florida last month. To safeguard our students’ well-being, the high school administration took the tough decision to allow Grade 12 students only to travel to Orlando, while younger high schoolers remained in London to participate from a distance. It is our great hope that our Grade 9-11 students will be able to make the trip next year, as COVID restrictions relax. Here, two dedicated robotics students share their experiences of the competition from Orlando and London.
Ishaan ’24, who experienced the competition from London, shares, “For the first six weeks of 2022, we worked six days a week. From day 1, we began conceptualizing mechanisms, and the energy was incredible. The ideas flowed on how to tackle the challenges of the upcoming competition, and the team bonded over the highs and lows of building a working robot.”
Sufan ’22, who traveled to Florida for the competition, takes up the story, “A challenging moment for the team was learning that only seniors would travel to Orlando. I worked closely with so many younger students.
“In Orlando, the competition scene was intense. Day 1 was designated for practice matches and robot inspection. We encountered a major issue with the size of our robot—it was too large. We spent a frantic day coming up with a solution, but with modifications, we passed the inspection.”
Ishaan was circumspect about the decision, and he and the team were able to make the most of opportunities on offer back home. “Our experience in London was filled with adventure. We were fortunate to visit the robotics lab at University College London, where we explored cutting-edge research in the drone industry and biotechnology fields. After our visit, we returned to ASL to scout for our team in Orlando. Scouting is an integral part of the competition where teams analyze other teams’ strategies. While we fought loss of connection and the rain, we worked together to ensure the team in Orlando got the best data possible to ensure they picked strong alliance partners.”
Sufan reported from Florida, “Qualifying matches were intense, and we needed to put in a strong performance to stand a chance of forming an alliance for the quarters, semis and finals. We had a qualifying match against a team called Rembrandts, one of the best in the competition. Our strategy was to play offensively, but we changed to a defensive approach when our robot’s intake broke. Our opponents has one of the smallest and lightest robots in the competition, but our swerve drive made our robot fast and agile. We lost the match, but we cut their scoring in half and established ourselves as a force to be reckoned with.
“Rembrandts were impressed with our robot and shared tips on how to improve our climber mechanism. During alliance selection the next day, we were stunned to find that Rembrandts and another team called Bomb Squad had chosen us to form the #2 alliance in the regional.
“We breezed through the quarter-finals, setting a new North American record of 117 points, but after encountering technical issues, we were eliminated in the semis.”
Ishaan and team were following closely back in London: “We were glued to the live feed, and watching our team get picked for the number 2 alliance was exhilarating! While we were sad to see our run come to an end, going so far in the tournament was a wonderful experience to see our hard work in action.”
Ishaan is impressed with this flourishing program at ASL: “No high school engineering program in the UK facilitates as much learning and growth as ASL robotics. It has taught me so much about teamwork and engineering, as well as fostering friendships for life. I am genuinely grateful. We have the privilege of using the MILL (Make Innovate Learn Lab) as our home base. Fully decked out with a lathe, milling machine, laser cutter and multiple 3D printers, the MILL is where ideas come to life. Robotics gets students involved in the real world and acts as a complement to STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) classes at ASL in preparing students for college and beyond. The school’s robotics program is something unique that sets ASL apart. ”
Back home from the competition, Sufan reflects, “This season was an enormous achievement in so many ways, given the two years of COVID. We are still rebuilding our skills as a team. These experiences encourage us to keep working hard to see what we can accomplish. I am so grateful to be a part of this team. I have learned so much and I hope the team continues to inspire students in the future.”