By Jim Sprague
Kettering University hosted the 19thedition of their popular pre-season FIRST Robotics competition September 14 and 15. High School teams from across the state brought their battle-scarred but still formidable competition robots to Flint for a last hurrah and a priceless opportunity to gain real-world competition experience for younger team members using last season’s robots. A total of 41 teams, including many of Michigan’s powerhouse teams who can boast extensive success at the regional, state and world level, were in attendance. Dedicated volunteers from the mid-Michigan robotics community assembled the field and operating system for the final reprise of the now-completed 2018 FIRST Robotics game, “FIRST Power-Up,” in the Kettering fieldhouse.
Like several of the other top teams in the state, the Dreadbot student team members prepared the robot and fielded two rookie drive teams consisting of 4 students each to drive in the qualifying matches. Team mentors and parents all happily watched from the sidelines as Dreadbot students managed all aspects of the competition. The rookie drive team students performed well in qualifying, but the combination of an exacting game and very spirited competition left the Dreadbots squarely in the middle of the pack, qualifying 21st. Junior Anna Robelen (programming sub-team) commented “It was more challenging than I expected,” after serving as primary driver in two bruising matches.
The Dreadbots and The Dragons Robotics team from Lake Orion were both selected by the 5thseeded team, Strike Zone Robotics team from Lapeer, to join their robot alliance for finals competition; both of Dexter’s alliance mates were familiar and friendly teams to the Dreadbots from previous competitions. In finals competition, the Dreadbots utilized a drive team who were experienced from last season’s match play, and that familiarity with the robot and the game helped the valliant Dreadbot VIII propel the 5thseeded alliance to consecutive upsets of both the 1stand the 2ndseeded alliances for a surprise overall win of the competition. Although the Dreadbot’s necessarily aggressive late stage robot driving bordered on reckless, Dexter’s robust robot chassis once again proved its worth by surviving largely intact, and will provide new mechanical sub-team members something to repair for practice before beginning work on the new 2019 robot.
As icing on the cake, a “just for fun” match with only the team mentors driving their student’s robots was held late on Friday. Since all of the programming sub-team members were attending the Dreadnaughts football game, the mentors had to furiously text queries regarding how to program the robot for autonomous operation. Answers arrived, the correct switches were set, and the Dreadbot’s alliance was again victorious.
The award-winning Dexter Dreadbots Robotics team (FIRST Robotics Team # 3656), just having completed its 8thseason, has qualified 6 times for the state championship, 5 times for the world championship, and boasts a large (and growing) roster of team alumni having earned college scholarships through FIRST. Ranked 23rdin the state for the 2018 season (of 508 teams), the Dreadbots currently have approximately 45 student members serving in capacities ranging from mechanical design and programming, to marketing and business. All competitions are free to the public. Queries should be directed to email@example.com.