Webb robotics kicks off the season with their FIRST competition


Sharon Xu

The Webb robotics teams finalizing their robots before the competition begins.

As the winter season begins and afternoon activities prepare for the upcoming season, one activity has been working on their preparations for months.

Since the fall season, the Webb robotics teams 358 and 359 have been creating robots to compete in FTC: FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Tech Challenge. Every year the tasks and the set-up of the game vary. Each match is played with four teams sorted into two alliances: blue and red. 

This year’s game is called SKYSTONE, and the goal is to score points by performing specific actions with the stones such as building a tower or moving the stones across a dividing line.

The teams’ countdown to Game One began Friday, November 15th during afternoon activity and spanned late into the night. On Friday afternoon, team members toiled away in the robotics lab, testing and putting the finishing touches on the two robots. Later that night, the teams trekked up Gym Hill to set up for the meet the next morning. 

Fast-forward to early Saturday morning. At 6:45 a.m., students had to be at the gym ready for the competition at 7:00 a.m. and then stay until 2:00 p.m. to clean up. 

Cecilia Li (‘20), a robotics captain, said, “I don’t know which is better: 6:30 a.m. in the lab Saturday morning or 11:00 p.m. in the lab Friday night. But the fact is that no matter which one you choose, you’ll always end up sleep-deprived.” 

As the first match began, the Webb teams were anxious to see how their robots would fare and if they would be able to surpass their performance from last year. 

Luke Raus (‘20), also a robotics captain, said, “[Team] 358 definitely wants to make it to regionals because we were hoping it would happen last year… Ideally, we would really like to go to the world championships in Huston if we advance past regionals.”

The team members eagerly watched their robot during the 30 second Autonomous period where the robot must be programmed to move on its own. Following the Autonomous period was the two-minute driver-controlled, or TeleOp period, where two drivers from each team controlled the robot. Tensions were high, as one wrong move would cost the team points. 

During match Q-18, Team 358’s robot was able to easily identify two Skystones and transport them across under the Skybridge, as well as park over the mid-field tape and earn the team an additional five points. Beginning the Teleop period, Team 358 was able to move two more Skystones and during the End Game, their robot was able to move the foundation out of the building zone and give them bonus points for the match. 

As the game day was winding down and the final scores came out, Team 358 finished in a top tier spot, as they ranked 5 out of 14. Team 359 ranked 14 out of 14 but that did not diminish the team’s spirits. 

Elizabeth Bowman (‘22), a 359 team member, said, “Every year it gets harder but we’re improving every year too, which is great. Hopefully, we can improve more than it is hard so we can rise up.”

The robotics teams will continue to push into the season with their second meet at Harvey Mudd College, all in preparation for Interleague and hopefully the World Championships.