We had our most successful year as a group of ADI teams at the World Championship events in Houston and Detroit. It was record-setting, both for individual teams and for the program! We had a total of eight teams attend Championship and ADI hosted a booth again in the Robot Service Center this year at both events, where we got to talk to teams from all over the globe about what we do and what we have in store for teams next year.
ADI had four teams in Houston this year spread across three subdivisions. We were lucky to have the Robot Service Center right behind the Turing Division field, where Team 2655 Flying Platypi and Team 2471 Mean Machine were competing. One field down from us was 254 in the Hopper Division, and another two down from them Team 1577 Steampunk was competing in Galileo. I have to admit I was particularly interested in watching the Turing division teams, not just because my team was there but because... yeah, no, it was because my team was there. But what made Platypi's situation so unique was that we had zero control over our own destiny because of the robot's design. We couldn't climb, and we couldn't touch the scale. Winning or losing a match was up to our alliance partners. The only ranking point we could control was the Auto Quest. But we knew our robot could fill a niche that very few others could, and we were praying for other teams to see that value we could bring to an alliance.
After finishing 55th in the Turing Division, 2655 was selected to be part of the 8th seed alliance by our friends 1533 Triple Strange, another Greensboro team whom we've worked with nearly enough times to earn a spot in the "most successful team-ups" list on The Blue Alliance. It was going to be a long road clawing through this division as the number 8 seed, particularly for the first set of matches. To get out of the quarterfinals, we had to win against the top-seeded alliance, who was strongly favored to win. And for me, this was so difficult because this meant playing against 2471 who is also supported by ADI, and I've come to know this team as great friends in this community.
To be honest, I actually completely missed the first match. I came running up the stairs to the stands as the crowd erupted at the match score. And to my shock, the 8th seed had upset the 1st seed. As I emerged at the top of the stairs and looked to where 2655 was sitting with 1533, they were going crazy. And I looked closer to see that members from every North Carolina team were sitting with them, all cheering. I ran over to sit with the team while we waited for the next match. One field over, I could see 254 competing on the Hopper field, partnered with 148. This was an all-star alliance, the favored champions. I watched as 148 distracted teams so that 254 could load the scale with no interruptions. With the reality of 2655 advancing to Einstein looking more and more likely, the prospect of playing against this alliance became more and more real. On the one hand, I knew that realistically we probably weren't going to make it to the Einstein finals. But what if we did!?!
So match 2 between the 8th seed and the 1st seed comes up, and it was SO painful to watch. Alliance partner 1296 died in the middle of the match, 2655 threw a chain and couldn't drive. The 1st seed won the game with ease. I stood up and ran down the stairs to the pits with one of our other head coaches to see what was wrong. One of our drive team members ran up to the rail and explained that one of the drive chains had busted and fallen completely off. After a nail-biting and excruciating seven minutes, the robot was fixed just in time to head onto the field for the rematch.
And would you believe it, the 8th seed won it. I watched from the stands as the 8th seed alliance went on this Cinderella-esque journey to the Turing Division finals. I hardly remember each individual match and who did what, I just remember shouting, cheering, losing my voice, and then entirely losing all resolve when at the end of the trial we made it. We made it to Einstein. I shouted with what little voice I still had, I cried right along with the students (so, so much ugly crying, it was kind of pathetic). Hugs were going around everywhere. It was such a beautiful moment to see all of the North Carolina teams celebrate the success of these two teams as one, to watch these students I've worked with for so many long months achieve something they never thought they could do. At that point, I didn't care about any matches past that. We made it to Einstein and won our first Championship award for the team's fantastic business plan. I couldn't have asked for more.
At this point, I had no voice left. Zip, zero, zilch. I watched as our battered robots struggled on the Einstein stage, conversing via text with the drive and pit crew down on the field. When it became clear that we were locked out of Einstein finals, I looked up at the screen to look at who our final match was against. And surprise, it was against the "Black and Blue" alliance from Hopper. I only had one thing to say to the drive team before their match:
"Give them the best defense they've ever seen, and go have fun. No, actually, just go have fun out there. I don't even care about the score. It's your last regular season match, just have fun with it."
The match score was actually pretty sad. FMS sent our robot the wrong information for autonomous, so we scored on the wrong side of the switch and never fixed the switch position. The match score was left at 15 for the majority of the match for our alliance. At first, I was frustrated. Then the most beautiful thing happened, and I just about fell out of my seat.
It wasn't even planned. They just did it. Teams 148 and 1296 just decided to spin out of control because they had literally nothing else to do for the rest of the match. It was by far the funniest thing I've ever seen on an FRC field. I don't think I'll ever be that excited and tickled to lose a match ever again. The only way the season could have ended better was for us to have operational robots and defeat that alliance. But I almost prefer the way it ended because we didn't play to win the match, we played to have fun. In my opinion, that's more important than winning.
The Black and Blue alliance went on to the Einstein finals in Minute Maid Park, and they swept the finals to win the event. The Cheesy Poofs became the first team in FRC history to go an entire regular season undefeated.
Tune in next week for a wrap-up on the Detroit Championship and a look inside the Robot Service Center Booth!
This blog is part of a series covering the 2018 season of the FIRST Robotics Competition, FIRST POWER UP. Stay tuned for more updates, including coverage of the Championship Events in Houston and Detroit at the end of April! Get to know the ADI teams, learn more about our donation boards, and meet the employee mentors that make it all happen!