Team 525 hosts regional competition for second year, falls short of championships for first time since 2009

FIRST Robotics Competition Team 525 Swartdogs participated in the Iowa Regional this past weekend, held at the UNI-Dome and McLeod Center in Cedar Falls, but missed a chance to advance the international championship competition after a loss in the quarterfinals.

The event in its second year attracted teams from eight midwestern states to compete for three days. On Thursday, teams participated in practice matches to prepare them for the two days of competition ahead, allowing teams to test out the features of their robot on an official field.

The opening ceremonies on Friday morning brought Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, who will become the governor of Iowa after Gov. Terry Branstad becomes the United States ambassador to China, and Klaus Hoehn, a Vice President at John Deere.

Qualification matches occurred all day Friday, and team 525 ended the day with a record of 5-2. The first award ceremony took place Friday evening, which was a short event giving just two awards to individuals. The first was the Woodie Flowers Finalist Award, given to a mentor who goes above and beyond to their students and to FIRST Robotics.

Swartdog mentor Tom Ore was given this award for his work with teaching CAD to students, volunteering in all FIRST programs and helping to advance robotics in China. The second award was the Volunteer of the Year award, given to an adult who dedicates a lot of their time over the years to volunteering for FIRST. Jan Newendorp, another Swartdog mentor, was given this award for her dedicated work to run the Iowa Regional smoothly over the last two years, as well as her continued effort in running the Cedar Falls FLL Regional Qualifier for nine years.

“It was exciting to see two of our mentors, Jan and Tom, be recognized for all of their hard work that they have done for our team, FLL, FTC, China and the Iowa Regional through the Woodie Flowers Finalist Award and the Volunteer of the Year Award,” sophomore Megan Pezley said.

After the awards ceremony concluded, teams made their way to the Wellness and Recreation Center for the Team Social. There, team members were able to relax and let loose a little bit, not having to worry about robotics and interacting with other team members in a casual setting, with athletic activities provided for teams.

Saturday morning saw a speech from UNI President Mark Nook before the final qualification matches were played. Team 525 went 1-1 in qualification matches on Saturday, finishing 6-3 and ranked 14th overall out of 54 teams. Alliance selections saw team 525 paired with team 4009 from Denfield, Minn., and team 6359 from Aurora, Neb., on the 6-seeded alliance.

The first quarterfinal match ended with a tied score, but the Swartdogs’ alliance received the loss. There were 20 more points committed in fouls by team 525’s alliance, which was the first tiebreaker, giving the opposing alliance the win.

The alliance came out ready for the next match, but a freak collision saw the Swartdogs’ robot break. There was a 5-point foul assessed to the Swartdogs because the broken robot extended outside the allowed parameters, and their alliance lost that match by 5 points, ending the Swartdogs’ day and season.

This event was the last chance for team 525 to qualify for the Championship event, which they failed to do this season for the first time since 2009.

Senior Owen Schupbach was sad about the Swartdogs missing out on the Championships. “I got to go [to Champs] last year, and it was an unforgettable experience, one that I would have loved to be a part of again this year. Being there, seeing robotics at its greatest, is really something that you don’t forget easily,” he said. “Not getting to go my senior year also makes me kind of sad. That would have been one of the highlights from my last year in high school.”

Other members, like junior co-captain Molly Hensing, had a brighter outlook on things. “Not being able to qualify for champs is definitely sad, but I’m happy to see other deserving teams able to go,” she said. “I think our team did the best that we could, and it’s unfortunate to not see it pay off and take us to St. Louis, but we still attended two great regionals and made it to playoffs for both.”

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