Did Sahuaro Robotics Make it to State? Spoiler Alert: No


Rhea Rohr, Editor-in-Chief

You know who likes to wake up at 3 in the morning to get to Prescott by 8:30?

No one.

Guess how I started my Saturday morning.

Our robotics team was late in signing up for competitions, and the slots got filled up before we had a chance. At the last minute, a middle school competition in Prescott opened up to high schools, so we jumped at the chance. Check-in was from 8:00 to 9:45, meaning we had to leave Sahuaro by 4:15; I’m sure you can understand my reluctance. A very long nap and a Pop-tart later, we arrived and began to test our robots.

To further understand the competition, here’s a short video on the 2017-2018 game.

Our school has two teams, and we both built very similar robots, but each team seemed to have their own problems that day. We had built a claw bot that could stack the yellow cones onto the colored mobile goals, but as we were practicing, our claw decided to stop opening at random times. As our robot was having difficulties, I began to make friends with other successful teams in the hopes of securing an alliance (more on how the alliances work later).

Once we sorted out our issues, the competition began. Each team competes in six rounds. We were randomly teamed up with a different robot every match, and competed against two other robots, the goal being to score the most amount of points. Due to being paired with high-quality teams and our robot actually working the way it was supposed to, we ended up tying the first match and winning the second.

That was when everything went wrong.

Unknowingly in the third match, a part of the motor on one of our wheels snapped off, rendering it completely useless and leaving us unable to drive in a straight line. We lost that match. As soon as it was over, we were in another one, meaning we didn’t have time to fix the motor. We lost that match too. We went from 3rd place to 12th out of 24.

Luckily, we had an hour for lunch to fix our problems, and the robot began running smoothly again. We won our last two matches, bringing us to 8th place, while our other team fell all the way down to 18th.

All of the preliminaries were finished, which meant it was time for the finals which could qualify us for State.

The way the finals and alliances work is rather complicated, so I’ll try to explain it as best as possible. Basically, the top eight teams (team captains) get to choose two other teams to be allied with them. These eight alliances go against each other in three rounds: the quarterfinals, semifinals, and then the finals. The winning alliance goes to State. The first team gets first pick. If you are one of the top eight teams and you get picked by a team that you don’t want, you can decline, but no one can pick you again; you can only pick people after that, meaning good teams can’t pick you. If you aren’t in the top eight and you decline, you are disqualified. If the top team picks the team below them, the team picked is no longer a team captain, and the person in ninth place becomes a team captain, and so on and so forth.

Now that we have the boring rules out of the way, let’s go into why everything went wrong.

I learned early on that being anywhere from 5th to 12th place was basically the worst place to be in. Once the first team picks their first alliance, they have to wait until the 8th team captain picks their alliance to pick their second team. This means that if the first team picks the second team, it is impossible for any of the other team captains to be on their team. If we had just lost a few more games, we might have gotten picked by them.

As teams began to pick, we wound up being the fifth team captain, with three teams behind us, the third one being really good (they had already made it to State). Unfortunately, there was a terrible team one spot ahead of us.

And then they chose us

To be

Their ally.

And we declined.

And then the next two teams below us declined.

And then we watched as the third team, the one we wanted as our ally, was forced to accept, seeing as no one else could have picked them otherwise. After that, we had to choose the next best thing; the teams we got allied with were still alright, but we knew right away that there was no chance we were going to State.

Hey, look at that.

We were right.

We immediately lost the quarterfinals, but surprisingly enough, our partner team almost won the semifinals because they got picked by decent teams.

But then they lost too.

Overall, it was still a fun experience, but we could have actually had a chance of making it to State if the rules hadn’t messed us up and if our stupid motors had just stayed in one piece.

“It’s always a fun time to go to the competitions,” said Devin Dafoe, the robotics president. “This year was especially tough and unfortunately we didn’t make it to State, but we had a good time.”

Hopefully next year’s team will have better luck.