Going into the FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics Super Regionals, Bosons Co-Captain Zac Rawls understood the scope of his team's situation.
"We knew it would be a struggle to get our robot to the next level of competition," he said.
He was right. Things started off a bit rough.
"When it was time to start qualifying matches, we were not fully ready to compete," Rawls explained. "We lost our first match. We lost our second shortly after."
The team didn't give up.
"Having early losses can be discouraging, but we pulled out of the slump by winning three in a row."
While the team wasn't selected for the finals, it didn't mean they were down and out. Certain awards given at the competition can mean a chance to compete at the next level. When the PTC Design Award category came up, something amazing happened.
"We had to wait several hours for the announcement of the awards," said Bosons mentor Doug Rawls, "and while we tried to be positive, many of us were thinking our season was over."
"We weren't expecting to even place in the award category," Rawls said.
They did - second place.
"We were caught off guard by the award," he said. "It took a few moments to realize what was happening, and it took nearly until they were announcing the winner of the award before we realized what it meant."
Rawls has figured out that second place in the PTC Design Award category meant an automatic qualification for the World Championship competition.
"The attitude of the students changed immediately," Doug said. "They began cheering and clapping for other award winning teams with a lot more enthusiasm. When they finally announced that we would be advancing, the team went crazy!"
"I was speechless and couldn't believe that I was going to the World Championships my freshman year," said team member Derek DeMartino. "It was like hearing you got a promotion the first day on the job! We put so much work into our robot and made it the best we could. To hear that we would be advancing made me feel that our hard work had finally paid off."
The team has a few kinks to work out, but Rawls is optimistic. "Coming directly from the state competition we didn't get much time to improve our robot," he said. "Now that we have a few weeks, I think we will be able to boost our average score and be able to really compete with the other teams at the Championship."
This is the third World Championship trip for the Bosons. The competition is held in St. Louis at the end of April.
We will continue updating this story as the team prepares for the big stage.
Original story - March 10, 2016
Dozens of teams walked into the 2016 Missouri FIRST Tech Challenge Championship at Missouri S&T in early March. Students put their robotics skills to the test with hopes of making it to the Super Regional Competition in Iowa—bringing teams one step closer to the World Championship in St. Louis.
The Quarks and Bosons, from Eureka High School, made the cut and will now face teams from across the Midwest March 17-19 . They are two of only nine Missouri teams fighting for a chance to make it to the next round.
At the state competition, the Quarks received the THINK Award. It is given to the team the judges feel best reflects the journey the team took as they experienced the engineering design process during the build season. Team members include Luke Bremer, Tyler Rhoades, Sean Sampson, Matthew Clark, Samuel Huff, Devon Gordon, Trevor Lewis, Matt Harster, Matt Bozdech, Andrew Pemberton, Catherine Colletti, Josephine Schmaltz and John Schultz.
Meanwhile, the Bosons received the highest award at the competition. The INSPIRE Award is given to the team that the judges felt truly embodied the ‘challenge’ of the FTC program. The team that receives this award is a strong ambassador for FIRST programs and works to promote FIRST and make it loud in their community. The Team that receives this Award has performed well in all Judging categories and was chosen by the Judges as a model FIRST Tech Challenge Team on and off the playing field. Team members include Zac Rawls, Andrew Floyd, Zach Kipping, Manish Chaganti, Nathan Yeager, Derek DeMartino, Ben Peterson, Cade Stephens, Drew Fransen, Andy Swanson, Rohan Rai, Collin Luft, Joseph Steinhoff and Justin Adler.
The FIRST Tech Challenge is designed for students grades 7-12 who want to compete head-to-head, using a sports model. Teams of students are responsible for designing, building, and programming their robots to compete in an alliance format against other teams. Teams, including coaches, mentors and volunteers, are required to develop strategy and build robots based on sound engineering principles.