Riveting Robotics at Worlds

Dan Riehl

The Riveters were off to the World Championship this past weekend in St. Louis, MO.  Qualifying as the 38th best robot in the State of Michigan out of 450 teams, team 1481 easily met the district point requirement to qualify for the World Championship.

This is the first year FIRST Robotics features two World Championships.  The first was held in Houston on April 20 – 22 and the second was held on April 25 – 27 in St. Louis. The competition featured 6 divisions with the Riveters competing on the Daly field named after Marie Maynard Daly, the first black woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. In Chemistry. This connection to our mostly girls team resonated and the Riveters ended up in 13th position out of 68 robots on the field.

The action started quickly with a first round win that just missed on earning the full qualifying points of 4 owing to a missed gear by an alliance partner.  FIRST robotics features three robots versus three robots in action.  The alliances are created in a round robin with new partners for each round.  Your ability to win really depends on the strength of the alliance and your ability to contribute. The team ended up 6 – 4 in action, but was rated much higher than the win-loss would show because 1481 was one of only 8 robots that earned an extra ranking point is all of their matches.

The team selected an early strategy to collect plastic gears from a human player (Hope Bemis) and deliver them to an airship pilot (Katie Mueller, freshman) to earn points. The typical robot on the field could manage 3 or 4 gears, but owing to the superb driving of Isaac Reed, we consistently delivered 4 or 5 gears, which put the team in the prime territory for being selected in the elimination round. The competition was fierce with lots of defense and hard knocks on the robot. 

Despite the hard hits and frequent robot to robot collisions the robot performed flawlessly.  With all systems go and the addition of 1 extra ranking point each time on the field, The Riveters continued to climb in the rankings.  One feature that is likely the most technical challenging and highly effective was the program used during the hands-off autonomous mode. For the first 15 seconds robots attempt to score using only a program and onboard sensors to perform the task. Developed by the PEP team (Programming, Electrical, and Pneumatics) and specifically by Sydney Puda, the robot was able to navigate successfully the middle position, the right position and the left position of the airship. This ambidextrous autonomous program that was very successful may be the only robot in the world that fully demonstrated that capability. As a result, the team would consistently score an extra 60 points during this phase of the match.

At the end of the qualification period, with the robot still in great shape, The Riveters we selected by the alliance captain of team 708 – Hatters Robotics out of Horsham, Pennsylvania and 910 – The Foley Freeze from Madison Heights, MI this was a solid alliance with the potential to eliminate the number 3 alliance including Team RUSH from Clarkston. Team 1481 delivered exactly what the strategy called for, but went down in two matches.

In FIRST Robotics there is a principal called Gracious Professionalism that guides our behavior as a team.  In this spirit the team invited Kaelyn Hicks from team 4680, The Astec Eagles to accompany the team to St. Louis. Kaelyn was selected as the Aztec Eagles Dean’s List candidate, which is the highest honor for an individual on the team.  She was selected as a Dean’s List Finalist at the State Championship despite the rest of her team not qualifying for Worlds. She was included in all aspects of the team activities including RoboProm and a night at the incredible City Museum, which is worth Googling to understand this landmark.

This is the furthest the team has ever advanced in post season play and the resume of the Riveters keeps getting better.  With the number of teams selected for eliminations this places the Riveters as a top 400 robot in the world out of nearly 4000 teams. This is exceptional performance for a third year FIRST Robotics team.  You can see the team in action again this summer at the Big Bang Competition in Taylor on July 7 – 8th.