Swartdogs encounter setbacks at FIRST international contest

The robotics team, known as the Swartdogs or team 525, finished with a 3-7 overall record in their group and could not make it into the elimination rounds in St. Louis last week at the world finals where over 400 teams qualified. The Swartdogs were placed into one of the most difficult groups at the competition and knew it would be tough.

“I feel like we gave it our best shot. Our robot performed as well as we had hoped,” sophomore team member Jason Cheng said. “Luck just didn’t go our way, I suppose.”

The game this year is called Aerial Assist. The premise of the game is that two alliances of three robots each try to outscore the opposing team in the number of yoga-ball sized balls into goals at the opposing ends of the 25×54 foot field. The more balls each team gets into the goal during the two minute and 30 second match, and the more each team works together to do it, the more points each alliance will receive. Each alliance is made up of robots from three teams, and each team must work together to get points for their alliance.

The Swartdogs competed in two other competitions, or regionals, before competing in the world finals. Team 525 first went to Pekin, Ill., for the Central Illinois Regional, where the team won a host of awards including being part of the winning allegiance, thus winning the regional. In addition to that, the Swartdogs won the Innovation in Control award, which is given to the robot that has the most innovative design. Perhaps the most prestigious award that the Swartdogs earned is the Woodie Flowers Award, which is presented to the best mentor at the regional. Mentors are adults on the team who look over and guide the team in the right direction. Mentor Jan Newendorp won the coveted award.

“Receiving this award at the FRC Central Illinois Regional was even more special since Dr. Flowers came to Illinois and gave it to me. While talking with him afterwards it became clear why the award is named after him. He is very gracious. I am honored that our students nominated me,” Newendorp said.

A few weeks after Pekin, the team travelled to Cincinnati for the Queen City Regional. There, the Swartdogs posted similar results winning the Innovation in Control Award. Unfortunately, the Swartdogs were knocked out in the quarter-finals in Cincinnati.

Physics teacher Kenton Swartley is the “coach” of the team, and he said that the season as a whole went very well.

“We had some great successes mixed with some challenges. The goal of the robotics team is to provide students with learning opportunities related to engineering. There were many great opportunities for learning, and students did a tremendous job throughout our design, construction and programming of the robot,” Swartley said.

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