In 2013 many teams around the world, and in California for that matter, had not heard of Team 1678. That year, however, they would start a dynasty and begin a rapid transformation from unknown team to one of the best in the world. After a surprise first seed finish on the Curie Field that year, Citrus Circuits used their shortcomings to their advantage by scorching the field; they were rejected by an FRC record four teams before 148 finally accepted. They would go on to win the division, and in the years after they would become a powerhouse. It culminated in this season, when Citrus Circuits beat 3310 on Newton to clinch a sixth consecutive year on the Einstein Field. Those newer to the FRC would likely think this is the first time this has ever been accomplished. However, though the feat was incredible, it was not original.
If you been in the FRC for less than five years, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Team 177, Bobcat Robotics, unless you live in the New England District. Though they’ve had a resurgence in recent years, they are not the household name they once were in the mid-2000s to early 2010s. However, seven years before Citrus Circuits won their sixth, 177 celebrated for the same reason as they defeated 2054’s alliance on Archimedes. That’s right, Bobcat Robotics once captivated the world’s attention by reaching Einstein six years in a row. Just like 1678.
Though the two streaks seem similar, both teams had very different paths to and results on the Einstein Field. Analyzing the streaks further reveal a few major differences between Citrus Circuits and Bobcat Robotics when it comes to their six-year tenures on the field of champions.
1. 1678 has had a much more dominant run in qualifications and divisional eliminations than 177 did.
There are two factors to consider when it comes to qualifications, qual records and seeding. Citrus Circuits has been unbelievable in the divisional qualifications during their run, compiling a combined 50-8 win loss record* across their six years. 177, on the other hand, compiled a less stellar 36-17 record during theirs, but it’s still a record most teams would kill for at the championship. When it comes to seeding, the two teams differ starkly. The table below shows just how strong Citrus Circuits has been.
1678 177 Year Rank in Qualifications Position in alliance Year Rank in Qualifications Position in alliance 2013 1 Captain, Alliance 1 2006 2 Captain, Alliance 2 2014 1 Captain, Alliance 1 2007 50 First Pick, Alliance 8 2015 2 First Pick, Alliance 1 2008 26 Second Pick, Alliance 3 2016 3 First Pick, Alliance 1 2009 25 Second Pick, Alliance 5 2017 3 First Pick, Alliance 1 2010 41 Second Pick, Alliance 1 2018 2 Captain, Alliance 2 2011 6 First Pick, Alliance 1
Incredibly, during 1678’s run, they’ve never dropped below the third seed in the qualifications. Even more unbelievable is the fact that they’ve been part of the number one alliance five of their six appearances, with the only exception being this past season.
177, on the other hand, was in control of their own destiny just once. They were nowhere near as dominant in the qualifications, and their seeding was reflected because of it. Stooping as low as the fiftieth seed in their division at one point, they’ve reached Einstein more times as the second pick of their alliance than they have the first. It’s difficult enough to reach the finals of a regional that many times as a second pick, and on a Championship field it is even harder to do so.
Now, when it comes to divisional eliminations, 1678 once again asserts themselves. They’ve only needed three divisional elimination tiebreaker matches, while 177 needed seven in order to keep their streak alive. Both teams required one of them due to a red card in their alliance, but that still means that Bobcat Robotics had to come back and win the series three times as often as Citrus Circuits. Taking into consideration Bobcat’s standing on their alliance most of those years, that’s even more inconceivable.
*Statistic includes the 2015 season, where wins and losses did not matter.
2. 1678 had more hardware to back up their streak, making 177’s streak even more notable.
1678 177 Regionals won before Champs (2013-2018) Regionals won before Champs (2006-2011) 15 2 Robot-related awards received before Champs (2013-2018) Robot-related awards received before Champs (2006-2011) 12 2 Average event seeding before Champs (2013-2018) Average event seeding before Champs (2006-2011) 2.35 14.56
Citrus Circuits’ dominance also trickles down to the regional level. They’ve averaged a seed at all of their events twelve positions higher than 177 ever did during their run. Also, 1678 had more gold medals entering the Championship year after year. Of the seventeen regionals 1678 attended since the beginning of 2013, they only lost two. (One was against 254 and 971 in the finals of Silicon Valley in 2014, and the other happened when they were swept in the quarterfinals of the 2013 Sacramento Regional.) In contrast, 177 only ever won two of their regionals during their streak, both in the first year of it. They would fail to win the next seven regionals in a row after 2006, and they would not win gold at that level again until 2014.
Also, worth noting is that 1678’s robots were more decorated and recognized than 177’s. From 2013 to 2018, Citrus Circuits won twelve robot-related awards at their regionals. 177 won two, both in the final year of their streak. 1678 has been renowned for their elegant and effective robots during their dynasty. 177 didn’t make flashy machines, but they performed when it mattered most and were an excellent team player.
1678 177 Year How they reached the Championship Year How they reached the Championship 2013 Regional Win 2006 Regional Win 2014 Regional Win 2007 Waitlist 2015 Regional Win 2008 Champion 2016 Champion 2009 Waitlist 2017 Regional Win 2010 Waitlist 2018 Regional Win 2011 Champion
What is even more mind-blowing is how each team reached the Championship each year. Unsurprisingly, 1678 did so by winning a regional each year, though they were already qualified in 2016 having won the year before. 177 had a much more turbulent journey, as they only qualified by a regional win once. In fact, for half of their appearances Bobcat Robotics qualified for the Championship by nothing more than being offered a waitlist spot. Had they not won in 2007, that number may have been four instead of three. Few teams nowadays are lucky to get into the waitlist even twice in a row. Luck was certainly on 177’s side.
3. Even though 1678 has been more dominant in the divisions, 177 has taken home more hardware on Einstein against tougher opponents.
1678 177 Year Finish Alliance they lost to or beat Year Finish Alliance they lost to or beat 2013 Semifinalist 33, 469, 1519 2006 Semifinalist 968, 195, 25 2014 Finalist 254, 469, 2848, 74 2007 Winner 233, 179, 71 2015 Winner 987, 2826, 4265, 2512 2008 Semifinalist 67, 16, 348 2016 Semifinalist 330, 2481, 120, 1086 2009 Semifinalist 67, 111, 971 2017 Finalist 973, 1011, 2928, 5499 2010 Winner 1114, 469, 2041 2018 Third Place 4911, 2910, 4499, 5006 2011 Finalist 254, 111, 973
1678’s only Einstein finals win came in 2015, when they defeated 987 in two matches. In contrast, 177 claimed the victor’s crown on two occasions. The alliances both defeated to win it all, however, were very different. For Citrus Circuits, they did not have a brutal battle to fight. Though 987 had performed admirably until the finals that season, the Highrollers were a tossup to win the Championship at best. When Bobcat Robotics won the Championship, both times were as massive underdogs. They shocked the world first when they and their eighth seed alliance stopped 233’s championship effort in 2007 by five points and then again in 2010 by defeating what was considered to be an unstoppable combo in 1114 and 469. Both have also had finals appearances where they came up short, however. 1678 has had two, losing once to 254 in 2014 thanks to a brilliant last-second change in strategy by the Poofs and once to 973 in 2017 due to 4188’s unfortunate disconnection. 177’s only Einstein finals loss came in 2011 against a 254 that was steamrolling their way to their first Einstein win. Each team has also been eliminated before the finals on three occasions; both Citrus Circuits and Bobcat Robotics have been eliminated by the eventual champion once, and the finalist twice. Also worth noting is that Citrus Circuits has forced more tiebreakers on the Einstein field against their opponents than 177 has.
4. While 1678 got their streak because of their offense, 177 got theirs because of their defense.
With the exception of 2013, every single one of 1678’s robots has been in the top tier of the world when it comes to scoring. They’ve found ingenious ways to play the game and have been some of the best in the world when it comes to doing whatever it is that puts your alliance ahead. From shooting frisbees to placing cubes, they have been one of the best in the world offensively. 177, on the other hand, was not the primary point scorer for most of their alliances on Einstein. However, they were among the best in the world when it came to playing defense. Watching old match footage will reveal that when it came to close matches and playing against alliances where they were clearly overmatched, Bobcat would play shutdown defense and prevent the primary scorers of the other alliance from scoring. Even more importantly, they would do so and avoid getting fouled. This was critical not only to reaching Einstein but beating teams like 233 and 469. Though offense may have been the answer for Citrus Circuits, defense was the game of 177.
So, who had the more amazing run? I’m not sure that question can be answered, as both of these Einstein runs are incredible. However, I think I’m safe in saying that while 1678’s run has been more dominant, 177’s was by far the most improbable.