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Hello, Robolions team members, mentors, friends, and community members! Welcome to "The Fourth Law of Robotics," home to University City High School's FIRST (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Team. We hope to use this blog to inform you about what we're up to.
We compete in the FRC (First Robotics Competition), an annual competition where we have six weeks to build a robot from scratch. This year's game is Recycle Rush. We'll post updates here to let you all know what we're up to with building (and competing with) our robot!
We also are now competing in FTC (First Tech Challenge), the next level down from FRC. The game was called Ring It Up!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Frantic Friday

Our day got off to an exciting start when we received our match schedules and realized we were up for the first match! Immediately, the crew got working on preparing Serenity for her first big game.

However, the first match was somewhat disappointing. The dustbin snapped off once again (although another team lost an entire bumper, so by comparison it wasn't that bad), and although we did some mediocre defending, by the end of the match Serenity somewhat spiraled out of control, incurring dozens of points of technical fouls. Furthermore, we forgot to unload some Frisbees from Serenity's chute. However, we were visited by three very friendly judges, and three scouts from Team 931 (Perpetual Chaos), and talked to each for a while about our robot. Captain Grace assigned Addy and Paul to watch from the stands and take notes on teams we were to be either paired with or against in the course of the competition.

Our next match was #15, around 10:40 in the morning. This one was a disaster. Someone forgot to remove the wooden plank lodging Serenity's arm in the upright position before the match. The drivers didn't realize this and kept trying to move the arm, which eventually broke the fasteners allowing it to move. Consequently, we didn't do much of anything. Henry made a valiant effort to score some human points, but it's awfully difficult to aim across the field. The wooden plank was removed and exiled to a corner of the pit, but there were still bugs to fix. The worst part was that we were scheduled for Match 18, meaning that any repairs had to be made in the queue line! 

In a few minutes, we competed again. Serenity still hadn't been completely patched up, but she did some decent defense agains Team 4331. However, we were allied with Teams 4330 (Rambunction, from Ladue) and 4154 (Perpetual Recursion), the latter of which was outstanding and carried our alliance to victory. We returned to the pit and leapt into action repairing Serenity, while Captain Grace talked with a scout. Our next match wasn't until after lunch, so we had ample time to repair those screws -- a task that might necessitate removing the entire arm!

While Walter, Christine, and Mike worked dutifully on the arm, the rest of us headed outside to enjoy glorious summer-like weather, eat Subway (provided by Mrs. Sechrist), and play an AWESOME game of Frisbee. The builders joined us for the last half of lunchtime, and then it came time to reenter the pit and prepare Serenity for a match in thirty minutes.

In our next match, we were allied with Team 1288 R.A.V.E.N. Robotics, one of the best shooters in the competition and at that time ranked #1. Victory was guaranteed. As for Serenity, she defended rather zealously, becoming locked up with Team 1706's robot for some time. Tension was high as everyone waited for 1706, perched at an awkward angle, to topple to the ground -- and the drivers stressed over losing connection to Serenity. However, after a few awkward moments, our opponent freed itself, bumping Serenity against our pyramid and incurring a technical foul. After that, noting that there was no way for our opposing alliance to make a comeback, Serenity retreated to a corner to let 1288 do their thing. Another win for 3397! We returned to the pit to inspect Serenity and make sure her close call with 1706 hadn't damaged anything.

The next match wasn't very exciting, since our two alliance partners built specialized climbing robots. Serenity ran about and blocked a few opponents. Our points were guaranteed by the climbers, but an opponent robot also bumped into the climbers twice, incurring 40 points of technical fouls that only cemented our third victory.

About an hour later, we returned to the field for another match. It's worth noting that our autonomous period had been faltering in every match until now. Dan and Josh anticipated trying out their new autonomous code on this match. However, she unfortunately turned in the wrong direction, so it seemed some changes still needed to be made. Furthermore, it seemed the new battery we'd put in was less than optimal: Serenity was sluggish and eventually stalled out about halfway through the match. Our opposing alliance included the 1985 Robohawks, our friends and rivals, who scored enough to wallop our team. Looked like our winning streak was broken.

Although autonomous goofed up again, in our next match we actually scored points, disgorging a few Frisbees into the 1-point goal. Unfortunately, we also bumped up against an opponent robot at its feeder station; and more worryingly, a corner of our arm shield broke off during a tussle with the Army Ants' robot. Also, our alliance was thoroughly trounced -- but the important thing is, we scored points! That's a victory in our book, even if Henry disagrees.

In our final match of the day, Serenity defended her best yet. The problem was that our alliance mates were not optimized for scoring, so all our awesome defending didn't mean much. Really, that was the problem with most of our bungled matches: simply not having any synergy with our alliance mates.

Well, with our matches for the day done, we migrated to the stands to watch the final few matches and the awards ceremony. Walter, Henry, and I danced with the Cavaliers before hanging out with the CyborgCats for a time.

All things considered, today was a pretty great day for the team. We fixed all the problems that came up, and marketed ourselves to higher-up teams. We didn't get a chance to do what Serenity was built for -- feeding teammates -- but there's always tomorrow. Regrettably, I won't be there on Saturday, due to a prior commitment; Captain Grace will take the reins of the blog then and keep you all posted!

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