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NEW Apple Corps Wins Lake Superior Regional Robotics Competition 
Contributed by Sean Schuff, written by Jenna Joestgen, Plexus Functional Manager – Design for Excellence and engineering mentor

NEW Apple Corps Wins Lake Superior Regional Robotics Competition

This past week, AASD and Plexus sponsored FIRST Robotics Competition Team 93: NEW Apple Corps competed at the Lake Superior Regional in Duluth, MN. Team 93 was selected by the 1st seeded alliance and WON THE REGIONAL! As if this wasn’t impressive enough, Team 93 was awarded the Engineering Inspiration Award, which is the 2nd most prestigious award given at each competition! Team 93 has qualified to attend the World Championships in April!
 
The NEW Apple Corps is made up of high school students from around the AASD working side-by-side with mentors from Plexus and a host of other companies in our community.  This is the 21st season the team has competed and the 20th season with Plexus as the primary partner sponsor.  It’s a two-decade partnership that has had a profound and lasting impact on many of our students.
 
For details on how these amazing feats were achieved, please read on!
 
Game Summary
This year’s game, STEAMWORKS, plays off the delightful Steampunk theme where two competing alliances play on a 27’ x 54’ field to prepare their airship for flight. Each alliance works to collect fuel (whiffle balls) and score them in a boiler via a high or low efficiency goal, deliver 11” diameter gears to an airship for installation to turn rotors, and finally latch onto the airship before the end of the match by ascending a rope. Each match begins with a 15 second autonomous period where the robot performs tasks using preprogrammed instructions, followed by a 2:15 tele-operated mode where students drive the robot.  During teleop mode, fuel scored is 1/3 point in the high efficiency boiler and 1/9 point in the low efficiency boiler, each rotor spinning is worth 40 points, and climb per each robot is 50 points. 

NEW Apple Corps Wins Lake Superior Regional Robotics Competition
 
The Robot
This year, our robot consists of 3 major subsystems: drive, climber, and gear manipulator. The team elected to take on the very complex crab/swerve drive (picture a powered castor than can drive forward, backward, strafe left & right with a separate motor that spins each wheel 360 degrees) to provide increased maneuverability and a little more pushing power than a mechanum drive. The climber consists of a curved metal plate with a “V” shape cut out to catch a knot at the bottom of our rope and spins around an axle to coil up our rope as it pulls the robot up about 4 feet into the air. The gear manipulator is truly one of a kind and we found very few other teams had the courage to take on an active mechanism that could pick gears up off the floor. A track runs underneath and curves up to the front of the robot. Running along the track, our gear manipulator has 4 grippers controlled by pneumatics that strategically open and close to catch gears as we drive over them and actively secure the gear. The gear is then presented to the front of the robot for placement on a peg and released by the robot. 
 
Qualification Matches
Friday consisted of 6 qualification matches for Team 93 and one rematch due to a damaged field element prohibiting points that could have won the match. It became quickly apparent we were assigned to alliances that were less than stellar and we would have to get to the playoffs by being a top alliance pick. We ended the day with 3 wins and 3 losses. While our ranking was on the low side, the team was very excited to see our robot perform consistently well throughout the day and received many comments from other teams regarding our unique capability to pick gears off the floor and our super smooth driving skills. At the end of the day, we were one of the top individual scoring robots at the competition. 
 
Saturday morning, Team 93 had 2 more qualification matches. Again, our alliance partners were not high scoring robots and naturally we were up against some of the best robots at the competition. Our ranking was not important at this point, we just needed to demonstrate our consistency in being able to climb and deliver gears to the airship to catch the eyes of alliance captains for the playoffs. But we knew it would make for a boring recap if all went according to plan. In both of these matches, our robot began demonstrating electrical brown out symptoms, where the robot was drawing so much power from the battery when we used the drive steering motors, all robot functionality came to a halt in the middle of the match. The team huddled up to go through what the root causes of this were and how could we quickly find a mitigation that would keep us viable should we be selected for the playoffs. Confidence in being picked by an alliance for the playoffs dropped quite low.
 
Playoff Matches

After qualification matches completed, Team 93 was ranked 41st out of 63 teams. Painstakingly, we watched as team after team was selected by the 8 alliance captains. Finally, alliance selection came back to the #1 seeded captain to pick their 3rd robot to round out their alliance for the playoffs. This would be the very last robot to be selected to partake in the playoffs. After a deep discussion between the representatives from Team 4539: KAOTIC Robotics and Team 2052: KnightKrawler, the near silent arena heard over the speaker system, “Team 4539 and Team 2052 invite Team 93 to join our alliance!” By the beard of Zeus, we were going to the playoffs with the 2 best robots at the regional!
 
Each round in the playoffs is best out of 3. Our first quarterfinal went very smoothly for the first time working together as an alliance. The 2nd quarterfinal however, Team 93 had the same electrical brown out issue occur just seconds before trying to climb the rope and as a result, lost the round by 1 point! Determined to not let this happen again, we switched our role from gear runner to defense and stayed near our rope. As a result we really slowed down the other team from scoring points and had no issue climbing at the end. We defeated the 8th seeded alliance handily with a score of 316-267. 
 
Semifinals got off to an interesting start. Our alliance noticed that robots assigned to certain player stations did not match the rules. We brought this up to the head referee and field crew, who then placed a call into FIRST HQ to have this remedied. As it turns out this issue was observed at all regionals happening over the weekend. After a 30 minute delay (where students on the field killed time with a friendly game of Duck Duck Goose), the issue was resolved and were ready to roll! When we were finally able to play our semifinal matches, our alliance came upon a bit of luck. We maintained our defensive strategy which really threw off the 5th seeded alliance. Our drive team had a blast getting in the way of the other teams trying to pick up gears at their retrieval station and comically observed 2 of their robots get stuck on a pile of whiffle balls for half of the first match. The second match of the semifinals was also quite lucky as 2 members of their alliance failed to get the critical climb points and our alliance won by 1 point! But a win is a win and we were onto the finals!
 
We were up against a very strong group of gear robots, the #2 seeded alliance. In their last semifinals round, this alliance was able to get all 4 of their rotors turning, which grants an additional 100 points in the playoffs. This was the first time this feat had been observed at this regional. While this caused some panic for our fans, it was key to understand that the opposite alliance made little to no effort to play defense on them. They also had no fuel robots on their alliance. If our alliance just maintained our strategy of Team 93 playing defense, while our partners ran gears and dumped some fuel, and we all got our climb points, we would be in perfect position to take home the blue banner. In final match #1, our strategy was incredibly successful and we prevented the opposite alliance from scoring all 4 rotors again. We all got our climbs pulled off and won 291-215. Final match #2, the opposite alliance became more aggressive against our effective defense. We made pretty solid impact against one of their robots, causing our robot’s plastic shield to pop out of place and perfectly land right in the way of our climbing mechanism, preventing us from climbing. On top of this, one of our partners got a piece of their robot stuck above the touch plate sensor and also didn’t get their climb points, resulting in a loss of just 191-205! Onto the last finals match, winner take all. 
 
After the match, our opponents had some technical difficulties with one of their robots. In the playoffs, alliances are allowed to call in a backup robot to replace one of their damaged robots. The alliance made the decision to call in a backup robot after it was too late to call one in, however the referee allowed them to make the switch. The field system has controls in place to not let this happen, and was forced to try and override the system. After some delay, the match began. However, teams quickly realized that none of the audio cues were working. And when looking at the projection screen, the game clock and scores were also not visible! As opposed to stopping the match and calling for a reset, the field team allowed the match to continue and emcee would yell how much time was left in the game. Our alliance played one of our best matches and pulled off all of our climbs. Looking upon the opposite alliance, only 1 of their robots achieved their climb and they did not get even 3 rotors spinning. We knew despite seeing the actual score we had done it! Our alliance started to high five and give congrats. The scores were still not coming up though and all the referees were huddled together. Soon, we began to have a sinking feeling that we might have to replay the match despite the very clear outcome we saw on the field. 
 
After what felt like an eternity, the final score came up on the screen, 309-165! It had been determined that both teams were equally disadvantaged, therefore no rematch required. Truly an emotional rollercoaster that took several years off my life. 
 
Chairman’s Award
Team 93 competed for the Chairman’s Award, which is FIRST’s most prestigious award, and honors the team that best represents a model for other teams to emulate and best embodies the purpose and goals of FIRST. Submission for this award requires several essays, a video, and an oral presentation in front of judges at the competition. A great deal of time is spent working on this submission year round. This year, the Chairman’s team focused on the importance of partnerships and celebrated how this is the 20th year Plexus has sponsored the team. Few FIRST teams can tote such a strong, longstanding partnership with a company, and it’s pretty darn cool to see how much the students appreciate Plexus’ contribution. While we didn’t walk away with the Chairman’s Award, our hard work here played heavily into a different award that we took home…
 
Awards & Our Impact
In addition to being the Lake Superior Regional Winners, NEW Apple Corps was also awarded the Engineering Inspiration Award! This is the 2nd highest award a team can win at a competition and is awarded to the team that demonstrates outstanding success in advancing respect and appreciation for engineering within a team’s school, organization, and community. Both of these awards qualify us for the World Championships in St. Louis and the Engineering Inspiration Award winner has their event registration covered by NASA!
 
As is tradition, Team 93 also had a number of mentors and students volunteer at the Lake Superior Regional. A host of Plexus mentors played key volunteer roles at the event. Nick Luther lead/mentored a new batch of Control System Advisors, Simon Felhofer helped inspect robots for rule compliance and safety, Rebecca Manshaem kept the regional in order as scorekeeper, Ken Laux ran the onsite machine shop, Gary Haberland herded whiffle balls all day as part of the field reset crew (and has battle scars to prove it), Scott Paap helped teams that needed parts, and our students manned the safety glasses table for most of the regional. A solid contingent of mentors also helped with setting up the field (which was shipped from FIRST HQ missing thousands of fasteners) and tear down. 
 
Looking Ahead
Team 93 will be competing at the Wisconsin Regional in Milwaukee on March 23rd - 25th. The team has several ideas on how make our robot stand out above the rest by adding an autonomous mode that can deliver a gear to the airship, climb the rope faster, and of course firmly resolve our power consumption issue. And of course after Wisconsin, we will be competing in the World Championships in St. Louis April 26th - 29th. 
 
Thank you all for your support and encouragement. This team exemplifies what is possible when we, as a district, establish solid, meaningful partnerships between our students, our community’s businesses, and their employees.
 
Posted by aasdwebmaster On 09 March, 2017 at 9:50 AM  

 
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