Team SCREAM left the FIRST Robotics regional competition with the “Rookie All Star” award, a ticket to next month’s world championships and the respect of squads that have been involved in the contest for years.
Michael Wright, Smith-Cotton High School industrial technology teacher and Team SCREAM (Smith-Cotton Robotics, Engineering and Mathematics) sponsor, said the team “didn’t do as well competitively as we hoped,” but still came out as the top first-year program at the competition, held last weekend in Kansas City; that distinction moves the team to the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) world championships, set for April 24-27 in St. Louis.
“The competition was very exciting,” Wright said. “There were thousands of people there; it was a fun atmosphere for the students. ... They learned a lot, it was a really good expierience for them. The best of the best are in these competitions, and they learned from them.”
Team SCREAM’s robot, Mantis, did what they had designed it to do, but unforeseen issues cropped up during the competition. Senior Keegan Kendrick said a couple of parts on the robot broke, which forced the team to redesign some elements.
“That is what I love about the robotics team, the real-world problem-solving and troubleshooting,” Kendrick said.
Those mechanical problems prevented the team from scoring higher in the game, which involved having the robot shoot Frisbee-style discs into goals and climb a jungle gym-type tower. Wright said his students learned a lot from watching the veteran teams in action.
“We saw the difference between the higher-caliber teams and the performance of their robots versus what ours did,” he said. “We learned how important it is to be fast, smooth, and to have all of your systems working efficiently.”
Still, Team SCREAM performed well enough that many teams “could not believe we were a rookie team, they thought we were a three- or four-year-old team,” Wright said. “We got a ton of compliments and really positive feedback from teams who we look up to. Our team took a lot of pride in that.”
Two teams, Up Next from Kansas City and PWNAGE from suburban Chicago, even gave Team SCREAM their own “outstanding rookie” awards.
That spirit of support ran throughout the competition, Kendrick said. Team Titanium, from Lee’s Summit, helped the S-C squad with programming issues and game strategy.
“The whole thing is about gracious professionalism,” Kendrick said, adding that FIRST stresses, “You are at your best when other teams are at their best, when their robots are working right.”
Teams cannot access their robots before the world championships, but they can work on modifications that can be applied once they get to St. Louis. And getting to St. Louis is the next big challenge for Team SCREAM.
The registration fee is $5,000 per team, and that does not include meals and accomodations for team members. So the S-C squad will have to do some significant fund-raising over the next few weeks.
“It’s an expensive trip, but it’s ... an awesome opportunity for our team. I don’t want to call it ‘once in a lifetime’ because now our goal should be to get there every year,” Wright said. “This year we won Rookie All Star, (going forward) we’ll have to win a competition to get there.”
Kendrick said he expects the competition in St. Louis will be “crazy, busy and probably very stressful.” But he’s looking forward to the challenge. Wright is looking forward to another learning opportunity for his students.
At the Kansas City competition, “We learned that we did have a really competitive robot, it was reliable and consistent,” he said. “The best thing (his team) learned is that they can be there, they can get to that point. With more work, they saw they have potential to be a great team.”