Their victory in this Los Angeles Regional event sends them to the FIRST Robotics World Championships in St. Louis in late April.
The black-jumpsuit-clad team erupted in cheers and shouts as the final score was posted in the championship round. High-fives, hugs, and a few tears were shared, as the thousands of fans in the Long Beach Arena saluted the winning teams.
“Winning our first regional championship was extremely exciting.” said Daniel Gay a member of the systems integration team. “Lots of hours and hard work has been put into this robot since the start of the season and there’s something satisfying seeing the whole process come together.”
With high expectations and a long record of success (the team also won in 2012), the DPEA team arrived in Long Beach with a mission: Keep it going. But mechanical struggles with a balky wheel gave them pause and they were 2-1 after early, low-scoring games. Anxious parents watching at home might have been worried, but the team wasn’t.
“The worry after Friday was probably more from the outside than on our team,” said senior Thomas Dwelley. ” We knew we were okay. Our leadership and our mentors prepare us for trouble, so we knew it would not necessarily be smooth. “
Dwelley proved prophetic. Team 1717 won its next four qualifying matches in a row to emerge as the second-seeded team in the event. Success in the qualifying round meant that Team 1717 would have second pick for the three-school team they would form to compete in the championship rounds. With their first pick they chose a team from Atascadero High that was a former world champion. The work of the DPEA scouts, who had watched every earlier match with an eye toward forming a winning team, paid off. The third team, from Milken High in Los Angeles proved a valuable final addition.
Team 1717’s robot, Penguin Bot VIII, had a not-so-secret weapon, too. The rules allowed the robots to pick up the disks from the floor instead of being fed in by students. Team 1717 was one of the few teams to employ this strategy.
“We were one of just a few teams to make a Frisbee collector,” said Shauny Grant, who was on the team that made that collector. “That made a huge difference. We were able to reload the shooter without driving back to the feeding station.”
With that collector and all of the robots’ other skills, Team 1717’s new three-robot team proved a winning combination, racking up 149 points in its first quarterfinal, the highest score posted in that round. The team excelled at putting their flying disks into targets, quickly and accurately. A dominating win in their next battle put them into the semifinals as one of the four teams that had survived to this point.