FIRST Robotics Places Twelfth In San Diego Regional

McGwire Ishikawa, Reporter

     From March 7 to 9, the MHS For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Team participated in the FIRST Robotics San Diego Regional. Out of 47 different teams, MHS placed twelfth, scoring 78 points in the semi-finals.

The San Diego Regionals, it was a regional competition in which a bunch of teams come together in this one big area and we compete with our robots. The first release is a game every year for us to make a robot in six weeks. We make the robots in the game and we go to the competition and we are paired up randomly with different teams in a bunch of matches and we compete to see who wins in each match,” said robotics member Junior Aleczander Paul.

The season starts in early January, leaving the team with a short amount of time to build their robot. However, returnees begin training their newer members long before the games. “We hold student-led trainings for new members in the first semester in order to prepare them for the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) build season. FIRST gives us only six weeks to design and build our robot (we call this six-week period our build season). After six weeks, we are required to “bag and tag” our robot. This basically means that we have to stop all work on the robot, wrap it up in a large bag, and keep it like that until we get to competition. In between bag and tag and competition we work with our practice bot (a robot similar to our bagged competition bot) that we can practice driving with,” said robotics club president Senior Jasmine Chase.

Constructing the robot itself proved to be challenging for the team. On top of that, they had to get their new members up to speed on how things worked in the competition. “Before the competition when we were building our robot, there were a lot of issues. Building a robot isn’t really a smooth process. There are a lot of things that go into it that people don’t consider, even if you’ve been doing it for a lot of years. There are just a lot of things that we just don’t see ahead of time,” said Paul. Robotics club adviser Tyson Kikugawa added, “We’re a pretty young team this year; not a lot of seniors or juniors this year, majority of our team is sophomores and freshmen. We’re trying to get them up to speed in such a rigorous environment, we’re here late after school a lot of times, we’re here over the weekends. Getting the experience they need to contribute as much as they were able to was a big challenge.”

Many of the team members will happy with their placement in the competition. While they didn’t make into the finals, this was one of their best competitions to date. “I felt really good about the outcome of the competition because we made it to the semifinals, and we only lost to two points, which to some people, they might think, ‘Oh, you were so close to making it to the finals and you could’ve won.’ But it’s the farthest our team has ever gotten or made in a competition before, and I was so happy to make it that far, to make it past the quarter-finals, and make it into the semi-finals and compete against a team — cause we lost to a team had won worlds at some point — so the fact that we were going up against world champions and we had almost won was such a good feeling that all of our hard work this season had paid off and making it to the semi-finals was a feat that I had not expected,” said Paul. Chase added, “I’m really happy about how we did and I’m really proud of the team. Not only did we travel for the first time, but we were able to make it to semifinals and win our very first FRC award! In the past four years that I’ve been in robotics this is the best we’ve ever done.”

To most of the members, robotics is a great way to improve as a team player. Whether they are a regular member or in a leadership position, they find ways to grow and work together with others. “Being in robotics has taught me not only technical skills but also soft skills like communication and management skills. I think that being in leadership has given me a better appreciation of all of the work that goes into this team, not only in regards to building robots but also with planning our outreach and service events,” said Chase. Kikugawa added, “There’s just so much you can get out of it by putting in the time and the effort for it. So I think that those who really invest themselves in the program are able to find that there’s a lot of growth that can happen in this program that you just don’t see in the classroom or other programs. Not just as a student, but as a person.”

The next competition the robotics team will participate in will be the FIRST Robotics Hawai’i Regional. This event will take place at the Stan Sheriff Center from March 28 to 30.