Iron Eagles Advance to Regional Tournament
On Saturday, Dec. 5, two of the four Iron Eagles Robotics teams competed in the first FTC Qualifying Tournament of the season, held at Four Points Middle School. As the first qualifying event held in the entire state this season, this tournament had a small draw of just 19 teams, but many of the competitors were among the best teams in the state, including two who advanced to the elimination rounds at this year’s World Championship. Each team’s primary goal was to earn one of the six coveted advancement spots to the Regional Tournament next February.
Iron Eagles teams “Prime” and “Silverbolt” worked extremely hard to get ready for this early tournament, including many long nights and weekends since September. Like most of the teams at the competition, the Iron Eagles were scrambling to finish their robot builds just days (or even hours) before the tournament, so they approached the day with little preparation and a LOT of apprehension! But once they settled into the tournament, it became clear that they were going to be extremely competitive overall.
Prime opened up strong with a performance that shocked many of the competitors – they had the ONLY robot in the competition that was even capable of accomplishing the most difficult (and highest-scoring) challenge in this year’s game – climbing a steep 3-foot-tall “mountain” and successfully hanging the robot from a bar placed almost 5 feet above the ground! In addition, they were one of very few robots in this early stage of the season to have a program for the initial 30-second autonomous phase of the game, which they successfully completed in most of their matches. In their opening win, a small technical failure prevented Prime from achieving the full points for their robot-hanging maneuver, but they then stunned the competition by successfully completing this task in their next four matches, finishing the qualifying rounds undefeated and in second place, and with the tournament’s high score of 230!
Silverbolt entered the competition with less than an hour of total practice time with their new redesign, and they suffered two narrow losses in their first two matches. But the more they drove, the more they scored – and they swept their final 3 matches in convincing fashion to end the qualifying rounds in 5th place.
During the final “elimination rounds,” the top four teams select one alliance partner each to compete in a series of best-of-three matches to determine the tournament champion. Prime accepted an invitation from the top-ranked team, the Blue Chargerbots from the Texas School for the Deaf, and the 3rd and 4th place teams from Vandegrift High School (Viperbots “Hydra” and “Quad X”) also teamed up as the 2nd alliance, which then pulled Team Silverbolt into position as the Captain of the 3rd place alliance. Silverbolt chose a third “Viperbots” team from VHS (Team Snakebyte) as their alliance partner, and the final battles for tournament supremacy began. The Blue Chargerbots/Prime alliance easily swept their semi-finals match 2-0 against the 4th place alliance, as Prime again successfully completed their robot-hanging maneuver twice in a row. Team Silverbolt’s alliance split their opening games against the strong 2nd place alliance, but was eventually knocked out in the close rubber match.
The two top-ranked alliances then squared off to determine the tournament champion. Prime’s killer “robot hanging” maneuver made them the prohibitive favorite, as they had successfully completed this move in their previous 6 matches. But unfortunately, a loose screw resulted in one of their wheels falling off during the first game, and their alliance lost 31-24. After a quick fix, Prime came storming back, winning their second match 215-19, and they seemed poised to take the championship in the third “winner-take-all” game against the Viperbots alliance. But shockingly, they lost one of their drive-wheel chains and became stranded on the field, unable to score, and had to rely on the Blue Chargerbots to pull out the win for their alliance. But although the Chargerbots pulled off a nice scoring move with just seconds on the clock, their alliance fell in the final match by just a single point – 38-37!
Without being on the winning alliance, the only way for Prime and Silverbolt to advance was by winning one of the top judging awards – they had to either be one of the top 3 finalists for FTC’s top award, the Inspire Award, or they had to win the Think Award for best Engineering Notebook. As the initial awards were announced, it was clear that both Iron Eagles teams were admired by the judges – Prime won the PTC Design Award (with Silverbolt taking second), and Silverbolt also placed 3rd for the Rockwell-Collins Innovate Award. Silverbolt was also the first finalist for the critical Think Award, just missing out on a coveted advancement spot – which meant that both teams’ hopes for advancement hinged on them being chosen as one of the top 3 finalists for the Inspire Award. Fortunately, both teams were thrilled when their hard work and great performances were rewarded, as Prime was announced as the Inspire Award second finalist, and Silverbolt as the first finalist!
The next step for the Iron Eagles is to help our other two teams, “Optimus” and “Guardian,” qualify for the Regional Tournament at the next competition, to be held on January 16 at Connally High School. Good luck to both teams, and congratulations to Teams Prime and Silverbolt!