The Vandegrift ViperBots sent three teams to the UIL State Championships in the 5A-6A division to compete on May 19, 2017. ViperBots Venom – 6209, looking for a repeat UIL State Championship crown, was joined by QuadX – 6299 and Hydra – 7161. The competition consisted of qualification rounds, where each team competed independently with randomly chosen partners and then the top 4 teams choose their alliance partners for the Finals rounds. Hydra and QuadX finished in first and third place, respectively, and Hydra’s first choice for an alliance partner was QuadX. When it was Hydra’s turn to choose their second alliance partner, they snatched up Venom to make it an all Vandegrift alliance! LISD was spectacularly represented with a total of four teams making it to the Finals rounds!
The FIRST Tech Challenge game consists of a 30-second autonomous period where the robots have to achieve certain goals and score points completely on their own, without any human interaction. This tests the capabilities of the software programmers and how well they use and program the various sensors and motors and servos on their robots. After that 30-second period there is a 2-minute driver controlled period, where the teams actively pilot their robots around the field, doing more scoring on offense, and playing defense to prevent their opponents from scoring their achievements. For the final 30-seconds of the driver controlled period are “extra credit” achievements whereby the drivers can make decisions on just what they will do to maximize their scores. In this year’s game, Velocity Vortex, the robots end-game achievement includes lifting an exercise ball 21″ in diameter off the ground, with different scoring based on how high they can lift it. This “cap ball” can then be placed on top of the center scoring area, or vortex, for a maximum score potential.
The juggernaut ViperBot alliance cruised through their Semi-Finals winning the first two out of three matches, and then awaited their challengers for the Finals. With a three-team alliance, only two robots can be on the field at a time, but it’s a requirement that the first two matches must have all three teams in any combination. After the first two matches, the alliances are free to choose whichever two teams they wish, and this can be based on robot capabilities with the particular game or if a robot is experiencing technical difficulties, etc. The alliance that is the higher seed has one advantage in the Semi-Finals and Finals matches — they can set their robots on the field last. Once the lower-seeded teams place their robots on the field, they cannot change positions. This gives the higher-seeded alliance the opportunity to size up just which teams their competition is putting on the field, and where they are placing them, so they make their own selections based on either offense or defense.
The first Finals match pitted Hydra and QuadX against two of their rival alliance and in a nail-biting finish ended up in a TIE, with a score of 220 to 220! The next match had Hydra and Venom cruising along to what seemed a classic finish until Hydra’s robot suddenly stopped moving, leaving Venom to try to close the gap in the last 45 seconds and bring home the win solo. Unfortunately, they ended up just short, losing by only 15 points! Down 0-1-1, Hydra had QuadX join them for a must-win match. It was a textbook round with maximizing all of the scoring possibilities and handily beating their opponents by 55 points.
Faced with a 1-1-1 tie situation, alliance captain Hydra took advantage of their higher seed by waiting until their competitors placed their robots. Based on the scoring capability of the other team, they decided they needed the rapid shooting capabilities of both themselves and QuadX. The match started out with both teams in a statistical tie at the end of the autonomous period, with all four robots maximizing the scoring potential. The driver controlled period was a dizzying spectacle with lots of particles flying around the arena as they’re shooting the whiffle balls from their robots into the center scoring areas. When end-game hit, QuadX started to lift the cap ball, but ran into some trouble. Their opponents handily lifted their cap-ball and placed it on top of the center vortex, while QuadX continued to struggle. In a heart wrenching moment 5 seconds before the final buzzer, the cap-ball fell out of the mechanism and onto the floor. QuadX raced to try to capture a final scoring component that would give them 10 more points to try to offset the 40 that their opponents got by capping, but time ran out and they were just shy of capturing that beacon.
When the scores came out, they lost the match by only 20 points! At the end of the day, the ViperBots teams took home the Silver medal and a 2nd place UIL State Championship finish!