Powerhouse teams seldom decide to retire, but when one does it’s always an incredibly surprising and sad occasion. This was seen last week, when two time world champion 330 shook the FRC world by announcing the 2019 season would be their last. The Beach Bots will become the first world champion to retire since 73 (The Illumination) hung it up after the 2016 season, and the most high profile team to disband since 1717 (D’Penguineers) ended their FRC program after 2015.
330 will exit the FRC with an incredible legacy and a large following. Over the years, their signature yellow and blue robots have become instantly recognizable and they’ve done some awe-inspiring things both on and off the field. They have never ceased to be graciously professional to their fellow competitors and have provided some of the most memorable moments throughout the history of the competition. There’s no doubt they will receive a large outpouring of thanks and respect from all over during their last season in the FRC. The Beach Bots will close out their career by competing in the Orange County and Los Angeles Regionals, as well as the Houston Championship should they qualify.
A Stellar Career On the Field
330’s school was originally combined with 294’s program, before 294 split off and formed their own team. When 330 competed on their own for the first time in 1998, Dirk Nowitzki was selected by the Dallas Mavericks. Coincidentally, the Beach Bots and Dirk will be ending their careers in the same year. Nowitzki will be remembered as one of the best to ever play the game, and easily the best person to do it from Europe. Perhaps 330 should name their robot Dirk Nowitzki this year, as they should be remembered as one of the best teams in FRC history and the best from Southern California. They have won many regionals, been incredible under pressure, and have taken the title of World Champion twice. They are a seven time IRI competitor, though it may actually be more since TBA didn’t record data for the event before 2007.
However, they are not the only teams in their region to do what they have done. Two other teams, 294 and 973, can claim to have won multiple regionals and two championships. Another, 1717, was a shining star in the FRC during their career. What makes 330 different? To fully grasp just how dominant 330 has been during their career compared to other very good teams, we need to compare the Beach Bots’ statistics with these three teams. We begin with regionals.
*330’s website says the team has won 23 regionals throughout their career. However, TBA puts the number at 19. Keep in mind, however that TBA is not the greatest source as any data before 2002 is very sparse.
**Seeding before 2007 not found.
***W-L-T in 2005 not found and W-L-T from 2015 omitted.
Compared to the other two world champions, 330 has had a much better record in their regionals. To be fair, it took years for 973 to become a powerhouse and 294’s history has been a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs. 330, however, has won more than half of the regionals they have ever attended and has not missed the eliminations since before 2002. The only other team that comes close to 330’s regional success is 1717, which despite a short career put up a very impressive W-L-T record, which was still just below 330’s all time match win percentage. According to TBA, 330’s twenty-three regional wins ties them with 33 and 118 for fourth most of all time. Plenty of powerhouses have lost to 330 at some point, including 1717, 294, 987, 368, and perhaps most notably, they have been responsible for two of 254’s nine regional losses.
Now, let’s compare these teams’ Championship stats. These begin from the creation of divisions in 2001 and go until the end of the 2018 season.
*Includes the pre-division era.
**Seeding before 2007 not found.
***W-L-T in 2015 omitted.
It’s important to note when it comes to seeding for 330 there were two major outliers; they were 28th in 2012 and 76th in 2014. In both instances, they were still picked by an alliance. Consider the fact that since 2002, 330 has only failed to qualify for the Championship twice (2009 and 2013) and hasn’t missed the divisional playoffs since 2006. Comparing it to the other great teams in Southern California, this is incredible. Since 973’s first Championship win in 2011 they haven’t missed the Championship or the divisional eliminations, but before then it was sporadic. 294, on the other hand, has had stretches of being very good and stretches of being very bad, which directly impacted their Championship statistics. And even though 1717 was a monster at all of the regionals they attended, they could never translate their success to the Championships they attended.
A Legendary Legacy Left Behind
330’s two Einstein wins were very different. In 2005 they were undefeated in the qualifications of Newton (with one tie), teamed up with 67 and 503, and then lost only one match afterwards. In 2016 they were passed up by the first seed on Carver and picked 2481, 120, and 1086. They won the quarterfinals of their division in two, but every other set of divisional elimination and Einstein matchups went to three matches. Though their win in 2005 against 254 was nearly a cruise, it was a long and arduous (and at points controversial) fight to beat 2056 in 2016. 330 has created an image for itself of being truly great when they need to be, which is not unwarranted. Over their entire history (regional, divisional, and on Einstein) the Beach Bots are 24-10 in the third match of an eliminations set.
Beyond the stats, 330 will be remembered for being a part of some of the most incredible moments in FRC history. Everyone will remember them for falling off of the tower with six seconds left, righting themselves with one second remaining, and driving onto the batter to force a third match with 148 in the 2016 Einstein semifinals. On Newton in 2012, they went up against a 1717 team that was considered by some to be the best in the world teamed up with a dangerous 469 team, and eliminated them in two matches. They teamed up with 910 and 1270 on the Curie field in 2007 and then proceeded to beat 118, 195, and 67 throughout the eliminations, all while maintaining an undefeated record. They have been special on the field and have built an incredible legacy.
Of course, it hasn’t all been success. That undefeated 330 team in 2007 went to Einstein only to get their teeth kicked in by 233 in two matches. Veterans may remember them for their field disconnect right after auto in the 2012 Central Valley Finals 2, which forced 1717 to beat 254, 1323, and 3309 by themselves. Before the fall and recovery that made them FRC legends in 2016, they fell twice during the Los Angeles finals and lost the regional because of it. Heck, even this year on Galileo they came in clutch to force a third match in the quarterfinals and then broke their robot and lost the tiebreaker. What has made 330 so successful is their ability to learn from their failures and adapt quickly. Their philosophy has led to the ability to rebound after a bad loss, which has created their sustained success throughout their career and made them one of the FRC’s greats. They’ve been an inspiration to many throughout the years, including me.
An Impactful Career Off the Field
It’s true, one can easily argue that 330 has not been Southern California’s greatest team when it comes to impact on their community. That honor would go to 1538 or 597, both teams that have won the Chairman’s Award at the Championship. (Also worth mentioning is 22, an LA area team that retired just a few years after entering the Hall of Fame.) It may be true that 330 has only ever won the Chairman’s award twice, the last time being 2004, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t done things that have impacted their community. Their motto, after all, is “Putting Others First.” They’ve run LEGO Robotics camps for years for at risk students in the Los Angeles area. They’ve demonstrated their robots for nearby schools and Vacation Bible School camps at nearby churches. Their students have gone on to become engineers. Their volunteer work may not be at the level of some other teams in Southern California, but they have still fulfilled FIRST’s mission of having a measurable impact on their community over a sustained period of time.
As we’ve seen, though this will be it for 330 they’ve left behind an incredible legacy and have a lot of hardware to show for their continual effort. They will be remembered for being one of the greatest to ever compete, and have successed in putting others first. Here’s to hoping they earn a few more banners and inspire many more people during their farewell tour this spring.