The Duxbury Dragons Robotics Team – US First Team 4908 – headed to Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island last weekend not knowing what to expect. Their first competition proved to themselves and to the robot- ics community that this rookie team was ready to compete – though the road to the competition had a few bumps.
After the six-week robot-building period wrapped up in February, the Dragons began to prepare for competition, but as rookies they had little idea of what a competition was actually like. To that end, the club advisors and the pit crew intended to observe a competition at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in mid-March. Due to weather conditions, however, the trip was cancelled.
And so, when the Drag- ons loaded the robot in the truck last Thursday afternoon to prepare their pit operation, they truly did not know what to expect. Then, upon arrival at Bryant to drop off the robot and make some last minute adjustments, the Dragons realized that they had left their registration paperwork at the school – and were unable to utilize that invaluable time slot. As 46 other teams from the region set up their 10’x10’ pits, where the robot rests and is repaired between matches, the space al- lotted for team 4908 remained empty and quiet.
That did not stop the rook- ie team however. The Dragons Robotics Team regrouped and arrived at Duxbury High School at 6:30 a.m. to get an and arrived at Duxbury High School at 6:30 a.m. to get an early start before the competition began. With their registration paperwork in hand, the team arrived at Bryant University’s Athletic Center promptly at 8 a.m. when the doors opened. It was two hours until the first match.
At 10 a.m., a randomizer chose three teams for the Blue Alliance and three teams for the Red Alliance for every qualifying round. During the qualifying rounds, each team plays nine qualifying matches with different teammates and opponents for every match. The Dragons’ first teammates were Team 190 from WPI and Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science and Team 1517 from Bradley High School (NH). In their first match ever, the Duxbury Dragons put up an impressive 103 to 11 vic- tory with their allies.
Their success did not stop there. The Dragons went on to win four of their next five matches. Highlights of the day included the Dragons third and sixth matches. In their third match, the Dragons recorded a 151 to 21 victory with veteran teammates from Aquidneck Island (CT) and LaSalle Academy (RI). One of two rookie teams in the match, the announcer stated for the arena to hear, “4908 is a great starter robot for the Dragons.” In their sixth match, team 4908 put up the highest score of the day – 218 to 70 – with veteran teammates Team 61 from Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School (MA) and Team 1519 from Milford Area Youth Ho- meschoolers Enriching Minds (NH).
Following their memorable sixth round, the Dragons had a 5-1-0 record and found themselves in fourth place on the leader board. It’s safe to say, “the team wasn’t expecting these results, but they deserved them,” as Matt Files, Duxbury High School and Middle School technical education teacher and Team 4908 advisor stated. The Dragons felt as though all their hard work had paid off.
Then came match seven. As the starting bell of qualifying round 41 rang, the robot drivers immediately felt that something was wrong. A key component to the Dragon’s robot failed, leading to a stretch of losses for the remainder of the day. Fortunes turned quickly, and the Dragons real- ized that there was more work to be done.
The lead electrical and programming students dashed to the pit between each of Friday’s three remaining rounds to try and fix the issue. They watched their name move down the leader board to 18th place after three disappointing matches.
Thanks to the talented students and the help of Chuck Nudd, a parent and significant contributor to Duxbury’s Robotics Team as a team mentor, the Dragons were able to diagnose the issue – but not yet fix it. All teams were required to leave the venue at 8 p.m.; the team had to leave their not-yet-repaired robot in the pit, and the Dragons had a restless night as all they could think about was repairing the issue in time for Saturday’s first match.
Once again on Saturday morning, Team 4908 was ready and waiting when the venue doors opened at 8 a.m. After 90 minutes of hard work in the pit, the Dragons had repaired their robot and could start thinking about victory strategies for their final three qualifying matches, of which the Dragons won one.
At the end of the qualify- ing rounds, Team 4908 was in 20th place. Next up was alli- ance selection for the elimination rounds. The Dragons were chosen by The Gongoliers Team 5112, the fifth place team from Ponaganset High School (RI) in the second draft. With them was Team 61, The Intimidators, from Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School. These teams were Duxbury’s allies for the remainder of the competition.
In a best two out of three format, the Dragons and their alliance stormed past the fourth place team and their alliance by winning the first two matches in the quarterfinals, thus earning a spot in the semifinals.
In the semifinals, however, the alliance met tough competition. They faced the first place team and their alliance and ultimately lost two matches in a row to end their first robotics competition at Bryant University.
With the hard defeat hanging over their heads, the Dragons took their place in the stands to watch the finals match and prepare to watch the awards ceremony. With no aspirations of receiving an award, the Dragons were surprised and reenergized as they won the Rookie Inspiration Award, which “celebrates a rookie team’s outstanding success in advancing respect and appreciation for engineering and engineers, both within their school, as well as in their community.”
Even before the award, the Duxbury Dragons Robotics Team saw the weekend at Bryant University as a success for their first competition, but the award exhilarated the students, advisors, mentors, and sponsors, especially after the semifinal loss.
Late Saturday afternoon the Dragons packed up their truck and headed home for the week. They are looking forward to this coming weekend, however, and another regional competition at Northeastern University. With high hopes, the Dragons are expecting to meet great competitors and hopefully rank among the best.
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