By Bob Satnan For the Democrat
March 16, 2014
KANSAS CITY – A return trip to the world championships was one win away, but that victory eluded Team SCREAM on Saturday in the semifinal round of the Greater Kansas City FIRST Robotics Regional Competition, held at the MCC Business & Technology campus.
Team SCREAM — Smith-Cotton Robotics, Engineering and Mathematics — took part in the FIRST world championships last May after being named the top rookie performer in the 2013 Kansas City regional. To make it back this year, the team needed to be part of the winning three-team alliance at a regional contest. After finishing on the runner-up alliance March 6-8 in Searcy, Ark., the team had confidence it could compete in Kansas City.
The team finished the two days of qualifying rounds with a 10-1 record and was ranked third among the 58 participating schools. As the competition wore on, Team SCREAM lead scout Caitlin Williams, a senior, examined other squads’ robots and how they performed in the game, Aerial Assist, which required robots to pass a large ball to one another, over a 5-foot-high truss and into a floor-level goal and through a goal window set about six feet above the playing surface. After qualifying rounds determined rankings, the top eight teams took turns selecting partners for their three-team alliances for the final rounds.
The top-ranked team, NASA-JSC & Clear Creek School District from Clear Creek, Texas, selected the No. 2 squad, Lee’s Summit West High School; that moved S-C’s team into the No. 2 position. Team SCREAM selected Team Driven, from Lee’s Summit High, the No. 7 seed; and The Celtics of Archbishop O’Hara High in Kansas City as its alliance partners.
The No. 1 alliance, which included the Independence School District team, cruised to the finals. Team SCREAM’s alliance won its first-round showdown, then faced the alliance led by the team from Lincoln College Preparatory Academy in Kansas City. S-C’s alliance won the first of the best-of-three matchup, 245-154; but Team SCREAM’s robot encountered a failure in the autonomous stage of the second game, missing out on 40 potential points. That 164-106 loss was followed by a 246-121 defeat which saw Team Driven’s robot stall out as the other alliance posted one of the higher scores of the day.
The NASA-Clear Creek alliance beat the Lincoln Prep group to claim the regional title. Because two teams in the top-ranked alliance – NASA-Clear Creek and Lee’s Summit West – both won previous regional competitions, two teams from the runners-up, Lincoln Prep and Smithville High School, were granted “wild cards” to advance to the world championships.
While disappointed at missing a chance to go back to St. Louis, Team SCREAM advisor Michael Wright said, “That’s a heck of a run for a second-year team. I can’t say enough about our team right now. I’m just really proud of them, this is a good showing. This is one of the toughest, best regionals in the country.”
Driver Levi Anderson, a senior, said, “It’s a bit disappointing, obviously, but for the most part I’m just really glad that we could get the second seed out of 58 teams. It’s amazing for a second-year team.”
Kyle Overlease, head scout for Team Driven, enjoyed working with Team SCREAM and gave credit to S-C’s mentors for playing key roles in its success.
“Usually when a team is that good right off the bat, the mentors are usually working really well with the kids,” he said.
Wright called Lee’s Summit West, known as Team Titanium, the “top dog” among regional competitors. FIRST Robotics stresses “gracious professionalism” among its competitors, and Wright said during Team SCREAM’s inaugural season last year, Team Titanium provided a lot of support.
Senior Cameron Lerch, a driver for Team Titanium, said Team SCREAM has quickly become known for the quality of its robots and for its professionalism.
“For a second-year team, they have surpassed a lot of teams that have been around five or 10 years,” Lerch said. “They are not just a new team, they are an elite team. You can look forward to Team SCREAM being a powerhouse in the Midwest.”