Photo by Zachary Sorohan

Teams of high school students competed in the 2017 Buckeye Regional FIRST Robotics Competition at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center from March 31 through April 2.


April 18, 2017

Contest pits robots against robots

More than 60 teams of high school students gathered in the Wolstein Center March 31-April 2, to compete in the annual 2017 Buckeye Regional FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition.

These teams come from W. Va., N.Y., Ohio and Pa. They face off in an original game designed by FIRST known as Steamworks.

The game requires robots to earn points for the teams by loading fuel, spinning rotors by attaching gears, and loading robots onto the airship.

Simulated with bright green plastic balls, the fuel the robots have to load goes either into the top chute or bottom hole of boilers located in corners on either side of the arena.

The robots load gears onto pulleys that team members standing on the airship platform pull up and then add to a crank to spin the rotors.

Finally, in the third segment, robots climb onto the airship by ascending a string the team drops down from the platform using devices like a rotating bar covered in teeth to reel in the string.

Three teams of students make up the alliances that compete in each match, dubbed the Red Alliance and Blue Alliance, and each uses their own robot. Together they compete in this Steamworks game over the course of two-and-a-half minutes.

The first 15 seconds of each round has the robots acting autonomously, without the team controlling it.
If the robot can cross a designated baseline several feet in front of starting positions, before the team takes control, extra points are awarded.  Most robots managed to load a gear or load fuel during this period.

The final two minutes and 15 seconds lets the team take over with a remote control. The robots scurry across the arena floor loading extra gears and attempting to stop the rival alliance from loading all of their gears.

Most teams’ robot had the capability to score in every way. With the help of engineers, faculty mentors and other sponsors, each team created a multi-functional and partially program-run robot.

The combination of different ways to score and a total of six robots on the field contribute to the chaotic environment of the competition.

On one side of the Wolstein Center, student team members scrambled to make last-minute corrections to their machines, and on the other, crowds gathered around the Steamworks arena to watch them compete.

With come-from-behind victories and back-and-forth battles, the entire first day and the first half of the second day were packed with matches to determine the seeding for the final round of competition.

Playoffs began with the announcement of the top eight seeds, followed by each of these teams selecting another two from the entire pool to round out their alliances.

Wolstein held the energy for the whole three hours it took to narrow the field from 24 teams to the three championship teams that will proceed to the next level of competition.

Robotics Plus Mayhem from Fairview, PA, Ranger Robotics from Spencerport, N.Y and Greater Rochester

Robotics from Churchville, N.Y. made up the champion alliance. This alliance won two consecutive matches by no more than 10 points to be crowned the champions of the 2017 Buckeye Regional.

Because of their victory at the Regional, these three teams move on to a FIRST Championship in either Houston, Texas or St. Loius, Mo.

Aside from the three champions, an additional four competitors will be moving on to the FIRST Championship. These teams earned an appearance for winning different awards like the Rookie award or the Wildcard.

Two teams earned this Wildcard after advancing to, and being defeated in the championship round. One of these teams was the Fighting Unicorns from Hathaway Brown School in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Nicole Trombetta, the faculty mentor for the Fighting Unicorns, said that this appearance means more than the last time the Unicorns advanced to the next round.

“Last time was 2015 — we won the Engineering Inspiration award that qualifies [the team]. This time it was for robot performance,” Trombetta said.

The Fighting Unicorns will be one of four teams that qualified for the championship that will represent Ohio.


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