TPHS robotics ends season at world championships

Competing against 77 international teams, the TPHS Millennium Falcons robotics team advanced to the semifinal round of the FIRST Robotics Championship in Houston, Texas, from April 19 to 22, ending their season with an 18th-place finish.

The Millennium Falcons consistently ranked high in regional competitions this season, including a fourth-place finish in Idaho that qualified them for the world championship.

“We knew we wanted to go to the world championships, and we knew we had a robot that could do it,” Rohan Inamdar (12), the team’s head of design, said.

Earlier in their season, they received the Ford Autonomous Award, an international award given to the best autonomous performance by a robot.

The format of the world championship changes annually, challenging teams to develop new robots for the competition.

“They release a new game every year so you always have to build a new robot because the games are always completely different,” Victor De Oliveira (12), the team’s head of electrical, said.

This year the championship featured an arena divided evenly into two sides with three rows of grids stacked on each other on each end to act as goals, with obstacle-like game pieces. Each side hosted one alliance, red or blue, with each consisting of three teams. Points were scored by each alliance for autonomous and manual capabilities as well as to how many grids they were able to fill with game pieces. Although easier said than done, the Millenium Falcons dominated their way through the ten qualification rounds.

“Since we were one of the highest scoring robots in San Diego as well as in the competition, we focused on scoring while the rest of the alliance focused on support,” Ella Ju (11), the co-driver and apprentice head of build, said.

However, despite their strong performance, the Millennium Falcons faced many challenges. From making the robot faster at collecting game pieces to optimizing its movement, the Millennium Falcons rebuilt their robot over five times throughout the season. In their attempts at perfection, the rebuilds put them at a strategic disadvantage on the day of the championship.

“A major failure we had this year was we were often rebuilding to make better iterations when really we needed to have the design down at the very beginning of the competition and have it available for the driver to practice with,” Inamdar said.

During the championship, their alliance began to struggle during the semifinal round.

“We had forgotten to Velcro the battery down into its holder and it actually ended up flying out of the robot and breaking our main circuit breaker in half,” De Oliveria said.

Though the radio failure was not enough to drop them out of all of the semifinal matches, that critical mistake on the Millennium Falcons’ part was the nail in the coffin.

While the Millenium Falcons closed their 2023 season with a bittersweet defeat, they look back on the opportunity to compete with pride.

“It was an honor just competing with and against the best robots in the world,” Ju said.

Competing on an international stage, they formed connections that transcended the language barrier.

“You can still communicate with these people from different backgrounds purely through the love of robotics, even if we don’t speak the same language,” Ju said.

Regardless of the points on the scoreboard, the Millennium Falcons end the season with lessons learned and hungry for more.

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