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Robotics Team Attends Regionals Championship, Wins Sportsmanship Award

The robotics team at Regionals.

On February 26th and 27th, members of the South High robotics team attended the VRC Regional Championship in Bridgeport, Conn., where they competed as part of 100 high school teams from around Southern New England.

Two teams from South attended Regionals: Team “Vanilla Chocolate Swirl” (2606B) and Team “Rogue One” (2606E). Team Vanilla Chocolate Swirl received the Sportsmanship Award at Regionals.

The students had been working with their teams for months, building and rebuilding their robots, and creating their strategies. They enjoyed the experience of competing at Regionals, valued the skills they learned, and appreciated the people they worked with on their teams.


What Happens at a Competition?

Robotics competitions are made up of several parts. Mainly, teams compete against each other in a game. In the game, they control their robots around a field, trying to pick up or launch green, plastic tri-balls from their side of the field to the opponents’. They get points for the number of tri-balls on their opponents’ side of the field at the end of the game, which lasts only two minutes. During the game, they work in an alliance with a randomly assigned team at the competition and compete against another alliance.

Teams can use a number of strategies during the game, robotics advisor Mr. Jones explained. Some choose to launch many tri-balls onto their opponents’ side with little precision, while others pick up individual tri-balls and carry them over, trying to place them in the “goal” under a netted area; tri-balls

in the goal receive more points. Additionally, teams can play defense, trying to stop their opponents’ robots from entering their side of the field. 

Mr. Jones next to the model arena at South.

In addition to playing the game against others, the teams have a chance to play it by themselves at competitions. In front of the judges, they have a limited amount of time to score as many tri-balls as possible without working in an alliance or against opponents. This allows the judges to assess the quality and skill of the team and their robot—teams receive a skill score afterwards.

Teams Vanilla Chocolate Swirl (2606B) and Rogue One (2606E) from South qualified for Regionals through their skill scores. 

Team Vanilla Chocolate Swirl was comprised of seniors Charles Allison, Laura Coderre, Ariana Costoso, and Jose Rosario, and included juniors Owen Cohane and Tevin Mbogo. 

Team Rogue One was entirely freshman, and included Luke Allard, Charlie Morrow, Andy Nguyen, and William Thyras.


The Sportsmanship Award

The Sportsmanship Award.

Team Vanilla Chocolate Swirl received the Sportsmanship Award at Regionals.

The teams at Regionals come from different backgrounds, Mr. Jones said, and South frequently has fewer resources than some of the other schools. The one place where everyone starts on equal footing is in sportsmanship. 

“Our team was number one in that,” he said. “And I feel pretty damn good about that.”

Team Vanilla Chocolate Swirl aimed to be respectful to everyone they encountered at the tournament. “We prided ourselves on continuing to be nice,” Coderre said, even when other teams were difficult to work with.

At Regionals, some alliance partners would dismiss her team’s robot because it wasn’t as fancy as theirs. They would tell her team to only play defense. But this “is actually not serving what our robot can do,” said Coderre.

So, she and her teammates needed to stand up to some of their alliance partners and advocate for their robot’s ability. Coderre thinks part of why they got the Sportsmanship Award was because they tried their best to work with their alliance partners, even when their partners weren’t considerate toward them.


Working as a Team

Team Vanilla Chocolate Swirl’s robot.

Though Coderre doesn’t drive the robot, she helps her teammates strategize and work with their alliance partners.

“We all have semi-assigned roles,” said Coderre. She and Costoso are responsible for maintaining the team’s “Engineer’s Notebook,” where they detail the team’s work on the robot throughout the season. Mbogo designs code for the robot to operate autonomously. Coderre and Costoso also think about strategy for the team and help advise the Drive Team, who controls the robot.

Cohane drives the robot during the game, while Allison and Rosario direct him and feed tri-balls to the robot. 

“When you are the driver,” Coderre said, “you are looking at the robot. You can’t see everything on the whole field.” It’s important to have teammates to direct the driver and help manage the game.

Coderre and her team work well together, which she is grateful for. “We’ll try everyone’s idea,” she said. “We’ll talk about it.”

Though she enjoys robotics, she views it as “laid back. We’re just having fun,” she said. Not having pressure on her team is part of what she values about the club environment.

That said, she sometimes does get stressed out by her teammates. “Sometimes they would say, two days before a competition, ‘let’s take apart the entire robot,’” she recalled.

“‘So no,’” she would respond to them. “‘No, we shouldn’t do that.’”

It became a joke on the team, though, evidence of their camaraderie—one time, Coderre, said, some of the boys texted in the team group chat, “‘Laura, we took apart the robot.’”

“I was fuming for a long time until I found out they were joking,” she laughed. “Most horrible prank ever played on me.”


Overcoming Challenges

Charles Allison, Coderre’s teammate, is on the Drive team, and he agrees that the team works well together, even when they disagree. At Regionals, their team argued over whether to remove the robot’s flywheel, which launches tri-balls. Allison wanted to remove it, while Coderre and Costoso wanted to keep it. They ended up keeping it, which he said was a good choice

“Everyone’s opinion matters, at the end of the day,” he said. “Good communication helps your team.”

Allison enjoys the challenges he faces in robotics, especially in the engineering and design aspects of it. “We have to overcome all these challenges,” Allison said. “It’s so much fun to [overcome] the problems that you face.”

Allison hadn’t thought of studying robotics before this year, but he wants to pursue it in college—he is going to WPI next year.


Team Rogue One

Though Coderre and Allison’s team is mostly seniors, the other South team at regionals, Team Rogue One, was entirely freshmen. 

Charlie Morrow drives the robot on his team, though he said he and his teammates share jobs.

Morrow had done robotics in elementary school and decided to try it again at South. “I love building stuff,” he said, “so I decided to give it a shot.” 

He was happy when his team qualified for Regionals, though it was “by the skin of our teeth,” he said. “I couldn’t go to sleep that night, I was so excited.”

Morrow is proud of how his team did at Regionals, placing 67th. “There were like [33] teams that probably did better than us at other competitions,” he said, “but we did better than them at this one.”

He hopes to do robotics again next year.

“They played really well,” Mr. Jones said of Morrow’s team. “And they’re still ninth graders.” They have bright futures.


Looking Forward

For Mr. Jones, encouraging his robotics students and watching them grow is extremely meaningful. “It’s just so refreshing to me to have that opportunity. . .  to get to do that mentorship, to help students figure out their life trajectory,” he said.

Mr. Jones is excited for his current freshmen, and for all he thinks they can achieve in the next three years. 

Maybe they’ll even make it to the World’s Championships in Dallas.

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About the Contributor
Anya Geist, Editor-In-Chief
I am very happy to be the co-Editor-In-Chief of the Colonel Chronicle. I have always loved writing and connecting with my community, and journalism allows me to do both of those things. In addition to working for the Colonel Chronicle, I am the co-Editor-in-Chief of the Apricot Journal (South's literary magazine), and I swim and play tennis for South. Outside of school, I love reading, traveling, being outside, and spending time with family and friends. Here's my email: [email protected]
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