One day about around October or November, during pre-season I was walking into robotics as usual. We were apparently fixing up last years robot for some reason, and I was confused about that. I walked up to The COO (chief operations officer) my good friend Chase to find out more about this. “Hey Chase; why are we fixing up Charlie?” I asked. (Charlie was the name we gave the robot because our team has a history of picking really generic names for the robots)
“We are getting Charlie ready for Cow town.” Chase replied. Now that sounded really weird to me, and I became even more confused than I was before.
“Cow town is a pre-season event that we take the previous years robot to to compete” Chase explained. “This year it’s at Lee’s Summit High School.”
“What do we do there?” I inquired.
“It’s like a regional, but with teams from all over the Kansas City area instead of teams from all over the Midwest.”
“Oh! I get it now.” A regional is the first level of the competition for each year in which about 50 or more teams compete in. At the end of the preliminary rounds the top 8 seeded team step onto the field and selected 2 other teams to make up their alliance which has to be composed of 3 teams because the game requires 2 alliances of 3 teams in order to play it. Whichever alliance wins the regional goes on to world finals and competes against the top teams from around the globe. The Cow Town Throw down was a slightly smaller version of a regional in pre-season to help team in the Kansas city area get prepared for real regionals a few months later. You don’t win anything for winning the Cow Town Throw down except a trophy and the right to say that you are the best team in KC. So what can I help with?” I asked.
“Go help Tyler get the shooter working.” He ordered.
Tyler is leader of our electrical team who wires the robot and makes sure that the power supply and coding is able to work within the robot. He is probably the most knowledgeable person on our team.
Our robot from the previous year was designed to play the game for last year. Each year First Robotics Competition makes a brand new game that way you’re team has to design a new robot every year instead of using the same robot over and over again. Last year the game was about shooting Frisbees from your robot to one of three goals, or you could dump your Frisbees into the tops of one of 2 pyramids to earn a considerable amount of points as well. Your team can only score point on goals or on the pyramid on the Opposite side of the field, so you can’t score a goal in where your opponent is trying to score. Our robot shot Frisbees like most other offensive robots, and apparently something was wrong with the shooter.
“So what’s wrong Tyler?”
“The shooter is jammed.” Said Tyler
“That’s the story of our lives on this team.” I joked. Tyler laughed, and we went to work on the shooter and got it working a while later.
A week later I was about to embark on my first robotics adventure. When we were on the road to Lee’s Summit there was a lot of cheerful talk, and casual banter. Before long we reached the high school and went inside. Within Lee’s Summit high school there were pits absolutely everywhere. Pits are little sections of the area around the building where your team can hang around and work on your robot between matches. Typically these pits are too small for more than 3 people, but it is where you keep the robot and tools.
As a team we walked into Lee’s Summit’s huge gym, and that’s when I saw it. The Field in which the competition would take place was enormous with the metal pyramids rising up from the field like two twin towers that you might find in some cities. Then I saw the 3 rectangular goals, which were, raised about 12 feet of the ground, and had chambers that the Frisbees would fall into once they hit the chains at the mouth of the goal.
My team found and empty section of the stands to sit down, scout other teams, and watch the games. Eventually the practice matches started, and some teams robots would have problems that they needed to fix before the preliminary rounds. After all the teams had at least 3 practice matches; at around noon the opening ceremony started.
After all of the introductions and formalities the competition was under way. The first match saw Lee’s Summit high schools robotics team, known as Team Driven, (each robotics team is free to make their own team name) and two other team versus their sister team Lee’s Summit West High School’s robotics team know as Team Titanium. At this point I was first up to scout out the teams along with 5 other members of the team. A senior on the team, Jordan was in charge of scouting this year; he leaned back to us and said “Be sure to watch Titanium they are probably the best team here.” I quickly scanned over the robot from Lee’s Summit west and realized how cool it looked. The Kraken (what Team Titanium called their robot) was a smaller, but more agile robot compared to other teams bulkier robots, It had black metal, but mostly it had a chrome green color metal, which distinguished their robot from all of the other robots because no other robot had colored metal like the Kraken did, also it match their team color which was green.
Suddenly a loud voice boomed on the mic “Hello everybody and welcome to the Cow Town Throw Down. This is the first match, so robots START YOUR ENGINES!” Then a loud bell rung and the Autonomous period started. The autonomous period means that your robot must follow a code that was programmed into your robot, and there must be no human interaction with that controls, so the robots were operating on their own. The robots were scoring goals left and right, and you saw Frisbees flying everywhere, but most of the Frisbees found the goals as if by magic. I looked around at my teammates; all of them were first years on this team just like me, so they had never seen this before. And just like me all of my teammates had stunned faces. Jordan looked back at us and laughed.
“What’s your deal?” I asked Jordan
He stopped laughing and said. “If you think these teams are good wait until you see our robot. The only team that’s probably better than us on that field is Titanium.”
I soon saw what he meant when our first match rolled around. When the autonomous bell rang we turned, and made every single shot, and scored a large amount of points for our team. Then when the players stepped to the controls I quickly saw what the years of experience of our drive team could do. Our team was drifting and strafing around other teams with ease, and made it to the loading station over and over again to score, then came back and scored more. After we won the first match we watch more and a team from Denver had a robot that could do everything like shoot, climb the pyramid to dump Frisbees inside, and even shoot into the goals from the pyramid while suspended on it. After a day of jaw dropping performances we headed home, and called it a day.
The next day we had to be there at 6 o’clock in the morning so I woke up at 5 A.M. to get ready, so I was tired for a while. On the long, dark bus ride to Lee’s Summit I noticed some of my teammates with cards in their hands. They were from a game called “Magic: The gathering. Now magic isn’t a children’s card game, but rather a strategy game, and I was bored, so I joined in. I tapped my friend drake’s shoulder. “Drake, teach me how to Magic.” I stated
“Teach you how to dougie?” He asked.
“No teach me how to magic.” I replied back. After a conversation of absolute nonsense and singing “teach me how to dougie” he taught me how to play this card game.
We finally made it to Lee’s Summit High School, and set up again for the preliminary rounds. After a day of overwhelming victories, and 1 or 2 defeats one of the team’s former members, Morgan (who still comes to events, and helps out because she loves the team so much even though she graduated last year) came running up to us and said, “guys! Guess what seed we are?!”
“Um 15?” I guessed. She held up eight fingers
“Eight!” our whole team exclaimed this was monumental. If we kept this position or even moved up we would be one of the alliance captains! In disbelief I ran over to pit-admin who had a flat screen TV behind their table with the rankings of all the teams. I looked up at out team, and surely enough we were eighth seed.
We came back the next day to finish all of the preliminary rounds and move on to alliance selection. We finished in sixth seed, which was even better than eight because we got to pick our teams sooner. We sent down our scouting lead, Jordan and the ceremony began. Everyone stuffed themselves in a seat and quieted down in anticipation. The master of ceremonies started with the representative from the first seeded team, Team Titanium who was nearly undefeated, and worked his way down to us. For some reason we had foam king and queen crowns to wear around our heads to look silly made last year, and Jordan went down wearing on of those and had a ballerina tutu on for some strange reason. When the master of ceremonies came by Jordan handed him a crown and a tutu to wear, which he gladly accepted and put on right then and there, bringing a loud laugh from the stadium. Liberty robotics is known for being the most fabulous looking team in Missouri Then Jordan spoke. “On behalf of Team 1764 liberty robotics, and on behalf of liberty, and liberty North high schools we select Team Scream from Sedalia high school to join our alliance.” Said Jordan speaking into the mic Then the master of ceremonies went to the seventh and eighth seeded teams and worked their way back around to us again to select our final team. “Team 1764: Liberty Robotics selects the Broncobots from Lee’s Summit North High School to join our alliance.”
With our alliance completed we prepared for our elimination match against the third seeded team from Denver and their alliance. We were by our pit, and our coaches and drive team were about to leave to go strategize with the other teams on our alliance, but before they went I had to say something to the head coach. “Hey coach Pierson,” I said.
“What do you need, Given?” he asked.
I was out watching the matches all day and I knew how every team worked. “Make sure you guys keep a lot of defense on the team from Denver, because if you don’t they’ll climb the pyramid and dump all of their Frisbees into the top and you’ll lose (because putting Frisbees into the container on top of the pyramid was worth so many points that if you did it you were ahead by an almost insurmountable amount of points).”
“Okay then, I’ll put that into the plan.” He said as he wrote it down quickly. He, and the other coaches and drive team left and the rest of the team and I were off to get lunch.
After Lunch the elimination matches started; at the end of all of these matches we would crown a champion. The first match pitted the first seeded alliance against the eighth seeded alliance. The first seeded team delivered a crushing defeat to their opponents, and the second seeded team did the same in their match.
Then our match was about to start. We were the heavy underdogs in this match, and not a whole lot of people expected us to win, but we still had a lot of confidence and team spirit. Our entire team was in the stands waiting for the match, and the other two team on our alliance moved their whole teams up to sit with their team captains as an alliance; together we occupied a whole section of stands.
Our drive team got the robot on the field, and all team had green lights.
The announcer went onto the field in front of each team, (The drive team is separated from the field by a screen of glass which combined with all of the structure and beams held up the goals right above it, so each alliance occupied one end of the field) and announced them and waived their team flag in the air (if they had a team flag). He shuffled over to our side of the field after he announced the other alliance. He moved in from of the Broncobots. “From Lee’s Summit North High School we have THE BRONCOBOTS!” He boomed on the mic as he waived the Broncobots majestic flag that had a nice logo of the head of a robot Bronco, and our alliance in the stands went crazy cheering. Then he moved over to team screams crew, and did the same.
Finally he got to our team. “And finally the team captains TEAM 1764: LIBERTY ROBOTICS. Our entire team started chanting LIBERTY for a solid minute. Even though we were the underdogs our alliance was absolutely bursting with team spirit. He waved our glorious flag around in the air. It was twice the size of a normal flag, and it was a notable blue flag with our logo on it in silver, which are gears with the words: TEAM 1764: LIBERTY ROBOTICS on it. The opposing alliance had group together as well exactly opposite us on the other side of the gym, and our alliance saw them, and we had a good old-fashion stare down.
“ROBOTS START YOUR MOTORS.” The master of ceremonies projected into the mic. The bell rang, and the robots were off. Everywhere you looked on the field robots were scoring goals perfectly (keep in mind the first 15 seconds is autonomous mode, so nobody is piloting these robots, so it’s all coding). Then another bell rang, and the pilots stepped to the controls. Our team made a b-line for the team from Denver, because if they were left undefended then they would undoubtedly climb the pyramid and caused a loss for us in this best of 3 series. Our team had them pinned to the wall while our other team members went to work, scoring goals, defending, etc. Then we all saw a team from the enemy alliance swerving past both of our teammates, and scoring over and over again. If we didn’t do something soon they would be back in this match. So our team left to go defend the other team causing problems, and the other team were previously defending drove over to the pyramid like a mad man, and started climbing with is various hooks. I instantly knew that our team had made a mistake. While we were defending the other teams the other robot was climbing like a King Kong climbing the empire state building. It was 5 seconds left until the buzzer, and all eyes were on the robot climbing the pyramid, and out of the corner of my eye I saw our team race to the opposite pyramid it ram its “Antlers” into the lowest bar of the pyramid, because you get points for being suspended on the pyramid when the match ends. Also our robot has pieces at the top made of plastic that look like antlers so we can just run into the pyramid, and hook on.
Suddenly the buzzer let loose a bellowing “BEEP!” And the robot on the pyramid dumped all of its Frisbees in the container on top. Everyone on our alliance let loose an exasperated sigh because without that we would have won, but it earned them so many points that we diffidently lost this first round in the best of 3.
We went back to the pit and discussed what went wrong for the time in between then and our next match. We concluded that we must hold the other team for an amount of time long enough that they had no hope getting to the top of the pyramid, and then let go, and go defend some other team because the other robot was almost useless at that point.
We rolled out the robot on our cart, and made our way to the arena. One of our alliance member pulled up their cart besides ours, then 10 seconds later our other alliance members, and we gradually picked up team members on our way with more and more each second. When we walked into the gym, and almost every member in front followed our robots on each of the three teams. This sent one clear message to the opposing alliance “let’s go.”
Our drive teams lined the robots up, and they had menacing looks on their faces. “BEEP!” The buzzer sounded, and the match was under way. After the autonomous period teams were driving their robots to specific positions to carry out their game plans. Our teammates rushed to collect more Frisbees from the feeder stations, and our team ran straight to the enemy robot from Denver, and smashed into it like a train. We pinned it against the wall, and then backed off and pinned it again several times. We did this because it’s a penalty to pin teams against the arena wall for more than 3 seconds. We did this for about 40 seconds and then we concluded that they did not have enough time to climb the pyramid all the way. Then we backed off and went to block the other two teams. I looked back at the team from Denver and sure enough they were climbing the pyramid. I leaned over to the CEO (president) of our team and shouted in his ear “They don’t have enough time to pull that off.” He nodded and watched intently. If we lost this match we were out of the tournament. Then I glanced over at our teammates from Sedalia, and they were doing WORK. They were just loading up, driving to the goals, shooting, and reloading constantly, and they were racking up serious points.
Then the buzzer sounded, and the robot from Denver fell short of its destination, and didn’t score the points it needed. The score was taken off the scoreboard, so the final scores could be shown. A minute later the final scores came up, and our team let out a roar that would eco throughout the ages. We had won! We won by a considerable margin too, by about 50 points, but it wasn’t over. It was tied 1-1, and whoever won this last match moved on.
After adjusting the strategy we came back to the arena. Not many people had moved from their seats because we only had a five-minute break between matches. Our alliance was more confident now, and I took it upon myself to congratulate and wish good luck to the drive team from Team Scream from Sedalia, so I walked up to them, and patted the shoulder of the pilot. I shouted over the noise to them “good job guys! You guys can do it in this next match!”
They nodded, said their thanks, and prepared. I went back up to the stands to cheer on my team. When I came back the match was about to start, and I had a wondrous idea. I leaned forward to my teammates and said “we should start the Liberty chant, so they know we have faith in them.”
“Okay then!” Tyler shouted. “Hey guys do the Liberty chant when they announce our team.” Then it began. The master of ceremonies walked over to our team on the farthest drive station from the stands on the opposite side of the field, picked up the flag and announced, “AND YOUR TEAM CAPTAINS, LIBERTY ROBOTICS!” He boomed as he waived our majestic flag in the air. Then we started. First it was I screaming “LI-BER-TY, LI-BER-TY, LI-BER-TY”. Then my other teammates joined in, then the rest of the team. Soon enough our whole team was a synonymous roar of LI-BER-TY, LI-BER-TY. Then t he buzzer gave a loud “BEEP,” and the match was under way. Our team started out strong, and used the same strategy as last time. The whole time our team was singing “LI-BER-TY, LI-BER-TY, LI-BER-TY”. Amazingly the other teams on the alliance who sat with us to take up an entire section of stands join in, because LI-BER-TY is such a good chant, and they knew that cheering for us was like also cheering for their teams since we were the team captains. Soon enough and entire mob of over 200 people were roaring “LI-BER-TY, LI-BER-TY, LI-BER-TY”, and I could see our drive team look up at us, because even over all of the noise of the field they could hear our roar. Our team was doing work. We blocked, and Team scream and the Broncobots scored. The buzzer sounded and the final score came up. Then our alliance gave out the loudest roar yet of general happiness. We had won the match.
We then moved on to face Smithville’s alliance, and we lost to them. Smithville then went on to face Team Titanium from Lee’s Summit West in the finals, and they lost. This made team Titanium the Cow town throw down champions, and we finished third out of 50 teams. This made me proud to be a member of liberty Robotics, and I kept with this team until this very day.
What a robotics match is like: