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1418 Wins Big at District Tourney

Erik Boesen

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Members of the GMHS Robotics Team 1418 celebrate after winning the district championship on March 6.

Update (March 14): Over the weekend of March 12-13, Team 1418 scored another first place victory at the Washington, D.C. district competition, and will continue to the regional competition in April.

The weekend of March 4-6 was a banner one for the George Mason Robotics Team 1418. Competing in the FRC district competition at Battlefield High School, Mason’s team took home the first place trophy — winning a narrow tiebreaker round that came to be only after a judging error. The team was also awarded the “Innovation in Control” prize for the robot’s user interface.

“All and all it was a very intense weekend and George Mason High School was very well represented,” said Mr. John Ballou, the team’s coach, in a message sent to the GMHS faculty.

The team struggled at first between 5th and 15th place due to mechanical errors, especially involving the robot’s tower-climbing arm. However, after the initial qualifying rounds, the top six teams are each allowed to choose two other teams to ally with. The first place team, Team 2363 from Newport News, Va., chose 1418 as their primary ally, and the team was allowed to continue competing.

“It was a big surprise, but I think we managed to show them we were the best team for them, despite being slow to fix our initial problems,” said senior Tim Winters, drive team member.

The team used a new scouting system, implemented by junior Carter Fendley, to gather data on the other teams’ abilities.

“Thanks to the scouting system we had organized data on every team and how they would fit in alliance with us,” said team member Aki Maher. “I think that allowed us to show the other teams how much we could help them. Also, when you’re constantly plugging data into iPads from a custom webserver hosted on a Raspberry Pi in your team’s pit, people start to notice that maybe you really know what you’re doing.”

During the playoff elimination rounds and semifinals, the alliance won by a landslide, scoring a competition record of 164 points.

However, in the second final round out of three against another alliance, Mason’s success took a tumble when the robot’s climbing arm again accidentally extended at the starting of the round, making the robot slower and less stable. Everyone expected the alliance to lose the game, and a surprise came when after a long delay the judges announced the team had won.

There was celebration following the announcement, as Mason’s win was the second in a best-of-three format, thus securing the title. However, a dramatic turn of events changed the scene: After several minutes of celebration, the judges announced they had made an error in their scoring and a tiebreaker round would be necessary.

After hastily repairing the robot’s climbing arm — “we broke, like, five pulleys before it worked right,” said member Freddy Bruner — the third round began.

To the dismay of the entire team, the arm again extended at the start of the game. The alliance fell again significantly behind in score, and looked like it would lose. However, after nearly half an hour of waiting, the judges announced that the alliance had shockingly won 131-127, by only four points.

“We were feeling really (over)confident coming into the finals, but then when the hook went off early we all freaked out and cussed a lot,” said senior Leon Tan. “But we ended up winning and we were both pretty thrilled and really surprised.”

In addition to the team’s first place win, they also won the Innovation in Control award for the robot’s User Interface, designed by members Erik Boesen, Aki Maher, and Leon Tan.

Team 1418 will be competing again this weekend in Bethesda, Maryland, and then again at the state competition at the University of Maryland.

You can keep up with Team 1418 on its Facebook page.

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