Robotics places second in regional tournament

The St. Louis U. High Robotics team earned the runner up title at their regional tournament for the first time ever. 

On Thursday and Friday before Spring Break, the RoboBills headed to Chaifetz Arena to participate in the Charged Up tournament, one of the team’s most anticipated events of the year. Every year the task that the robot has to perform changes along with the criteria for constructing the robot. 

After about a month of work, the SLUH team was finished with its robot and took a trip to the auxiliary gym at Westminster Christian Academy to run its machine on a practice course. When testing their robot, they realized that they had built the robot ten inches too tall. With only a week to go before the tournament began, the team had to scramble to rebuild not only the bones of the robot but the inner-workings of the entire thing. They had many long nights at SLUH until midnight trying to rebuild the robot to make up for the overlooked error.

“We put all of our effort into that robot that week,” said senior Peter Roither. “It was pretty stressful, we were optimistic we could overcome it but not 100 percent sure. We didn’t know, when we were able to figure it out we were pretty darn happy.”

art | Kane Luchun

The tournament started on Thursday, March 9 and ran until the following Saturday. The first day was a practice day for all teams to master their robot and run the course so they could be prepared for the qualifying round on Friday. In the qualifying round, the teams received seed numbers for the playoff rounds that took place on Saturday. 

Robots had to carry out tasks that involved acquiring cones and inflatable cubes and relocating them to designated spots. The more efficiently and accurately the robots could accomplish these tasks determined the number of points they would receive for that round. 

At the end of the qualification matches, the RoboBills were ranked 15 out of the 43 participating teams. The top eight seeds were able to draft any team in a snake-style draft to join their alliance. These alliances competed together in the playoff rounds so there could be a total of three teams to win the competition. SLUH was selected last but chosen by the No. 1 seed in the tournament. Moving into the Saturday competition, the team was very optimistic about their placement and prepared to overcome any challenge that came at them.

The final bracket was played in a double elimination format, so the Jr. Bills had to lose twice before they were sent home. The red alliance breezed by their first two qualification matches with SCORES. Their third matchup was not as easy: the RoboBills had to face the No. 2 seed in the tournament. Ultimately, they could not win this game against a team that rarely loses in the Charged Up competition, and they fell short 128-151. 

It was win or go home for the SLUH robotics team. After the alliance won its fourth matchup, the Jr. Bills were headed to the finals where they again had to face the No. 2 seed team in a best of three matchup. SLUH won the first game but the No. 2 seed team fired back, winning the second game. It was all down to the final round where the Bills could have, for the first time ever, attained the number one prize in the tournament. Unfortunately, the final round did not go in their favor and they were beaten 153-120.

“I'm going to admit it, we had pretty low expectations going into it,” said Robotics moderator Robyn Wellen. “We were getting super excited when our bot was performing very well. It was doing all the things that we were hoping for and we were completely flabbergasted that it was doing well at all.”

The team was happy with its accomplishments in winning second place. With a last-minute scramble to fix their robot, the Jr. Bills were proud of how far they progressed in the tournament.

“Compared to years past, nothing really went wrong,” said Roither. “We didn’t have to fix the robot after every time we ran it, everything stayed consistent with the robot so that was a big plus throughout the competition.”

With the successful conclusion to the robotics season, the team will have to regroup for next year. Graduating robotics veterans will take the offseason to give the future leaders more experience and prepare them for next year’s challenges. Nevertheless, the RoboBills are charged up for another year of building, programming, and competing for the prize.

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