From left: Allyse Birken, Jackson McLaughlin, Iliana Aldana, Nicholas Mata, Zachary Wright, Jason Farnam, and Kailey Reardon
Richie DeMaria

Rogue Cephalopod is ready for more. The turreted, ball-tossing robot — the masterwork of district-wide student robotics team Riviera Robotics — is aiming its sights on new targets after the student-led, multi–high school team concluded its second and best year so far.

Riviera Robotics formed in 2016 following the retirement of Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy’s Team 1717. This year, the team flexed their robotic might with Rogue Cephalopod, first earning an Excellence in Engineering Award and an elimination match placement at the San Diego Regional FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) in March. Riviera Robotics went on to score their strongest showing yet with a second place victory at the Ventura Regional. This earned them a chance to compete in the Houston World Championships, where they made it all the way to semifinals, placing 101st out of all 6,771 FRC teams worldwide.

Judges raved about Rogue Cephalopod’s one-of-a-kind turreted gear-placement mechanism, which helped the team in trials involving picking up and moving balls and gears. Pilot Kailey Reardon said this gave the robot the distinct capability “to place gears at awkward angles,” which earned them high points.

Up next, the Chezy Champs in San Jose on September 16-17, and Beach Blitz in Huntington Beach, October 7-8 — and chances are, going Rogue will go well for the team again.

“The team’s really excited about [Chezy Champs], considering that the teams going are very competitive,” alumna team member and robot co-driver Allyse Birken said. Though Birken graduated from Dos Pueblos High School this June, she and other veterans will return again for San Jose to assist newer members of the team. At Chezy Champs, Riviera Robotics will go toe-to-toe (or circuit-to-circuit) with top-seeding champions from previous tournaments. “It will be really interesting to meet the teams, see how they perform, and see how we perform up against world championship winning teams.” Birken says Rogue Cephalopod’s software has been upgraded so it will run even smoother in competitions ahead.

Reardon says the team hopes its efforts will inspire younger students to pursue STEM fields or enhance their professional savvy in general. “It’s a really fun process to learn things that are useful in your professional career,” she said, “especially the business side, like becoming a nonprofit and talking to sponsors.”

To learn more about the team or to support them in future endeavors, visit


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