As we near the end of another highly successful FRC season in Minnesota, it seems like an appropriate time to recap the successes and highlights from Minnesota teams throughout the year, and preview what is to come. The year started out with plenty of drama as a blizzard threatened both the Lake Superior and Northern Lights Regionals in Duluth. The RPC made plenty of tough decisions including shifting around the schedules to make everything work… and work it did! The events went off without a hitch and were as exciting and inspirational as ever. Thanks to the hard working volunteer crew teams were able to play 9 matches instead of 8 (and it was REALLY close to only being 8). I’ll express my gratitude and I’m sure I’m speaking for all teams that were in attendance when I say we appreciate the extra match!
Lake Superior was a thrilling event with plenty of upsets throughout. There were plenty of exciting highlights including one of the first double climbs in the world by 1816 and 5638. Ultimately the event would come down to the 4th seeded alliance of 4728, 5348, and 167 vs the 2nd seeded alliance of 3750, 3102, and 5690 in the finals. 4728 built by far their most competitive and successful robot in their history this year. Having worked with 4728 in the offseason, I can say their story, and the struggles they’ve overcome would have everybody rooting for them. They would punch their ticket to champs but fall short to the 2nd alliance. 3750, despite being an amazing team for a number of years picked up their first ever win (and definitely not their last) while 3102 and 5690 each picked up their 2nd. 5690 played some of the most aggressive and impressive defense I’ve seen all year. They can also “send it” with the best of them… 1816 picked up their Minnesota record tying 7th Chairmans Award, and 3rd in a row coming off last years CCA Finalist honor.
On the other side of the curtain in Duluth we saw a couple familiar powerhouses doing what they do. 2052 and 525 seemed like a natural fit going into the event and they didn’t disappoint. Despite a major scare during the quarterfinals, the number 1 seed ran roughshod over the competition. 3630 played some of the best defense I’ve ever seen… with a mecanum drive! Like seriously it’s some of the best driving I’ve seen. They ran into 2826, 4607 and 3130 in the finals. 3130 is one of the most successful teams in Minnesota and despite having a rough year for them, they still made it to the finals, and even carried the alliance through some exceptionally competitive quarterfinal matches. 4198, 2987, and 4703 were an incredible alliance and were definitely a threat to win the event. 4607 took home the Chairmans Award.
Much like Duluth, the Great Northern Regional was once again majorly impacted by weather. This time on the front end of the event. Once again, our incredible volunteers came through and managed to put on a spectacular event! My prediction going into the event was Gators^2 and I wasn’t disappointed. 3750 went on the win their 2nd event of the year along with their neighbors from Greenbush. The 4 vs 5 match up in the quarters could have very easily been the finals match up if those alliances didn’t run into each other right away. They were some of the most exciting MN matches of the year. 2175, 4009, and 2077 battled hard against 4539, 2549, and 4656 with all teams playing at a very high level. 3313 would go on to win their first Chairmans Award since 2014.
It took a couple tries, but the third round of “MN events” were finally not impacted by snow. The North Star Regional featured a rare 8-1 upset with 6487, 2227, and 3130 taking down the number 1 alliance in 3 matches. 3313 made an improbable run to the first seed without a Level 3 climb which is an impressive feat in its own right. The 2 and 3 alliances were both incredibly strong and played what could’ve been a finals series in the Semis. The #2 alliance of 1816, and 2549 were extremely impressive low-only cyclers while 3082 played killer defense with their rare Minnesota Swerve drive (you sure it wasn’t mecanum? @pkrishna3082). They would go on to defeat the similarly impressive alliance of 2175, 3100, and 2129 on their way to winning it all. It was 2549’s first win since 2011, 1816’s first win since 2006(!) and 3082’s first ever regional win.
Across the street at Williams Arena, the 10,000 Lakes Regional (Presented by the Medtronic Foundation) was headlined by the two most dominant MN teams as it relates to robot performance in Minnesota. 5172 and 2052 consistently build the best robots in the state and this year was no different. There was an extremely interesting battle for the top seed between 2987 and 5172 that ultimately came down to Qual 86 where the winner would become the #1 seed, and change the outcome of the tournament. Interestingly, there was originally a 10 point technical foul assessed to the Red Alliance for tipping over an opposing robot but was later taken back as the official scores were logged. 5172 escaped with a 10 point victory and secured the top seed. 5172, 2052, and 3026 would go on to beat 3102, 4607, and 3184 in the finals. 2500 took home their third Chairmans award.
Plenty on Minnesota teams competed at other events including Iowa, Wisconsin, 7 Rivers, etc. 2220 even played in Silicon Valley this year! Notably, 5914 went to the finals of Seven Rivers and qualified to champs via a wildcard. 2220 was selected 6th overall at the hyper competitive SVR event and unsurprisingly (because they’re so deserving) went on to win their 5th Chairmans Award.
We still have two major MN events remaining in the year and I’ll do a quick preview here (this post is already way longer than anticipated):
Detroit Champs MN Preview: MN qualified 30 teams to the Detroit Championship including: 1816, 2052, 2177, 2220, 2500, 2502, 2526, 2549, 2883, 2957, 3026, 3082, 3102, 3184, 3277, 3313, 3630, 3750, 3926, 4607, 4728, 5172, 5348, 5690, 5914, 7432, 7530, 7797, 7850, 7858 (thanks @nomythicalbeast for the list)
Among those teams there will certainly be some contenders at the Championship level. My picks as “Most likely MN teams to reach Einstein” are 5172 (for obvious reasons), 2052 thanks to some amazing drive coaching from @pntbll1313 and 5690 due to their ideal fit into the meta of this game’s 2nd pick. A special shoutout to @grant952 and 2549 for making such a big leap from previous years to this year. 2549 made the playoffs in 1 out of 5 of their previous events dating back to 2016 and now they’re legitimately one of the best teams in the state.
MN State Championship Preview:
The final rankings for states are set, and there is already a thread about it, so I’ll keep this brief. I think states will be the most competitive they’ve been since they started in 2012. There are enough great teams to make me think that any of the 4 playoff alliances have a great chance to win. My prediction is that Gators^2 plus 5690 takes the win over 2175, 1816, and 7028 in the finals. I also think both of those alliances would be able to hold their own at any level of play.
Best Teams to Not Qualify for Champs: 2175, 7028, and 4539
Best Team to Not Qualify for States: 2549
Inspirational Team of the Year: 7893 “Led Sled” - seeing the impact that this rookie team had on the event and the buzz they generated after not showing up with a robot was very inspirational to me, and I’m positive it will be something those students never forget.
Inspirational Story of the Year: In one of the most impactful and newsworthy stories about a FIRST Robotics team EVER, Rogue Robotics’s powered wheelchair project takes the cake. I’ve been bragging to people who see the article and show it to me that “I got to compete with those guys”. 2987 is the ultimate class act. On top of being a fantastic team comprised of fantastic people, they are some of the nicest people you’ll meet and talk to. 2987 is an inspiration to me and that’s just about the strongest compliment I can give as it relates to this program.
I’d also like to give a shout out to Bison Robotics for volunteering at nearly every local event! Seeing you guys all over was awesome. You guys really are great role models for future FIRST Alumni! Additional thanks to the volunteers, Regional Planning Committees, and everybody else that made this year in Minnesota FIRST Robotics possible. It really was a fantastic year and I’m confident that next year will be even better!