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By Izzy Martinez & Sam McDole, Dreadbot Reporters

After an impressive roller coaster of a season, the Dexter Dreadbots, along with 82 of the top-ranked Michigan teams, were invited to participate in the World Championships in Houston, Texas. 598 of the best teams across the globe (and an estimated 50,000 student team members) competed in three days of intense matches and activities.

Additionally, the team members met Dean Kamen, the founder of FIRST Robotics, and Mark Rober, a prominent STEAM YouTuber and former NASA engineer, who attended various conferences and events, and crushed it on the field. Companies and organizations ranging from the U.S. Space Force to the Walt Disney Corporation were in attendance, both to show their STEAM wares and technology as well as to recruit FIRST students for future internships and jobs. Additionally, scores of colleges were present, including MIT and MTU, all anxious to attract the many high school juniors and seniors.

The drive team receiving an egg from the announcer before one of their matches (Photo by Shari Lindskov) and a 3656 egg forever drawn onto a brick wall (Photo by Will Reed)

Located at the George R. Brown convention center in downtown Houston, each of the 8 fields in simultaneous play hosted 75 teams, with the Dreadbots dominating on the Archimedes field. Unlike the Dreadbot’s competitions earlier in the season, the World Championship had teams and students from around the globe attending.

Dexter’s team competed with and against teams from Israel, China, Australia, and so many other nations, as well as with many familiar Michigan teams joining them for one more competition. Throughout the World Championship, the Dreadbots demonstrated one of FIRST’s key messages, Gracious Professionalism, by cheering for other teams during their matches. “The teamwork, spirit, and support each team member showed was recognized by everyone at competition,” said Janet and Jeff McDole, two Dreadbot parents.

In order to bring the team’s tools and equipment, two of the team’s mentors, Andrew Merriman and Michael Lindskov, volunteered to drive the 20 hour trip to Houston. Once in Texas, the Dreadbots steadily worked their way up the ranks during qualifying matches, achieving an admirable 8-2-0 record. Ranked 7th out of the 75 teams in their Archimedes Field Division, the Dreadbots earned the position of the Alliance 6 captain (with teams 360, 1714, and 3655 as their Alliance-mates).

teen controlling competitive robot while crowd in bleachers watches

Will Weiszhaar, the Dreadbot’s outstanding human player, succeeds on a high note throw after catching a note on his head… unfortunately the head catch earned the Dreadbots no extra points. (Photo by Penelope Babe)

Together, this powerful Alliance would successfully bring the Dreadbots to a new level, making it their best Worlds competition to date (in their 14 seasons, the Dreadbots have qualified for and attended State Championships 9 times and World Championships 7 times). Mentor Lynne Ertel said she was impressed with “the positive energy and the way the team took on projects with focus and dedication. We all worked as a supportive team.”

While the Dreadbots drove away from Worlds without making it to Einstein (finals), they left Texas after an unbelievable season that gave each student an experience like no other. “This is such an incredible opportunity,” said Co-Captain Penelope Babe. “Seeing the robot perform so spectacularly at the Worlds Championship is so exciting.”

All Dreadbots were proud of their success this season. “Seeing all of the hard work that, not just me, but that the team did, all come together and work was really something,” said Max Rogers, Mechanical subteam member.

teens posing as a group with FIRST sign with tents in the background

The Dreadbots pose with the giant FIRST sign after a long competition (Photo by Penelope Babe)

The amount of work the team put in during the season paid off. Overall, the bot remained undamaged. Despite very aggressive play during the bruising matches, the team’s robot suffered zero electrical faults and almost no mechanical failures. Even when the robot did suffer damage, it was quickly repaired in the pits before the next match. Mechanical subteam lead, Hanne Nielsen, while discussing an important robot repair, remarked, “I really wanted to go home, but I was on that robotics grindset, and I had to get the job done.”

In between all of the exciting robotics action and repairs in the pit, there was still time for the Dreadbots to interact with different teams. A tradition in FIRST is to give out pins, stickers, and wristbands, as well as 3D printed tokens, such as mascots and mini-robots. Occasionally, one could find a unique handout, such as puka shell necklaces, various British candies, and dog toys. Outside of the pits, the Dreadbots participated in currency exchanges, switching US dollars for Vietnamese dongs or Mexican Pesos.

Memories were collected, too. During downtime in the pit, several Dreadbots ran into one of the other teams’ mascots, wandering freely between the robots. “A giant, blow-up rubber chicken,” described Kaleb DeLancey, an Electrical subteam member. Meanwhile, other members took full advantage of the conferences. “The ROSS presentation was fire,” said Calvin Ophoff, the Vision subteam lead, who joined a conference explaining different ways to code the robot. Will Reed, an electrical subteam member, said, “Drawing on the art wall” was one of his favorite memories. Will drew an egg alongside a 3656 on the artwall, the team’s mascot after the numbers 3656 are flipped and moved around to form the word EGGS. The mentors even got in on the fun, such as when they had the announcer of Archimedes give the drive team an egg during their introduction.

Overall, the FIRST championship was an enriching experience that surpassed the expectations of many of the Dreadbots. “There were so many teams and so much creativity.” Remarked Luke Baur, a Vision subteam member. “It’s insane what everyone can do, and that all these teams can make it this far, and that our team is one of them.”

Does your child want to get in on the robot fun, but isn’t in high school? The Dreadbots and Dexter Community Education support K-8 robotics teams here in Dexter through our DROID program. DROID teams build and compete in the fall. For more information, email outreach@dexterdreadbots.org.

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