This weekend was wicked fun. I speak for my team when I say that the Pioneer Valley District Event was one of the best ran events we have ever attended. It felt just like NE Champs last year. It was great to see a lot of our friends from the CT area that we are so used to competing with, as well as some new teams and faces.
This competition was stacked with some of the best Robotics Teams NE has to offer, and the Aluminum Falcons walked in with hearts in hand. This winter hurt us tremendously, costing us almost 2 weeks of our build season due to being snowed out, as I am sure many of other NE teams have faced as well, but in true Aluminum Falcon way, we never say never!
One of the others put it best, our first day was indeed “meh”. We walked into our first match without any driver practice, and no software tested on our competition Robot. To put it lightly, we were still very much behind most of the other teams, and we were still ironing out our own bugs. The fact that it even worked first time out, and the drivers even moved is a testament to our programming, mechanical, and drive teams dedication to meticulous detail.
But the Falcons have been in this position before, actually too often. Many remember us at CT Hartford Regional in 2013, where we completely rebuilt our entire robot from scratch during the practice day, in just a few hours.
So like we do at every event our Software team stayed up then entire night on Thursday cleaning up the code, I think we did over 20 commits that night in the hotel. When we got back to the pits Friday morning we were running on fumes. Systematically code was tested throughout the day on Friday, and mechanical structures were tweaked better. But we were not able to get done what we needed too, and back to back matches only delayed our ability to work on the bot. Our first day was anything but glorious. All we did in auto was drive fwd, and the controls were a bit confusing for our drivers.
Once again, select members of our programming team stayed up Friday night again, we knew in order to even be picked, we needed to pull off an amazing autonomous, so we stayed up writing the code to pull it off, bouncing the logic back and forth. While we designed our robot to do a Three Tote Auto, we never did it before because we lost so much of our build season this year. We walked in Friday morning, code in hand ready to run on the bot.
Surprisingly, it worked the first time out, it just took 35 seconds to complete, which meant it was no good! We needed to shave 20 seconds off, which was not an easy task, coupled with more back to back matches, time was running out. We knew in order to get picked we needed to show this off in quals before alliance selections, so that other teams knew we had something to offer. Unfortunately, I didn’t allow our drive team to run the auto in our last qual match because when we were getting queued, there was a bug in the code which could have potentially destroyed our lift, and so we played it safe, but at the risk of appearing lack luster. In auto we grabbed a single tote, and drove fwd.
During alliance selections we had some time to tweak the logic and try and speed it up, it was amazing how many people gathered around the practice field cheering us on, even Dr. Woody Flowers came to give us some inspiration as we tested. That’s one of the reasons we love competing in NE so much, that sense of home. It was similar when the Falcons were on the edge of their seat cheering on BOP to get the RC’s in auto. Anyway, we fell to the late pick of the 5th alliance, which meant that we were picked based on reputation alone, because up until that point, we hadn’t really demonstrated any of our competitive edge.
The programming team worked through lunch, bringing each system online and pushing it closer to its limits, and finally had a successful run on the Three Tote Auto under 15 seconds. It took a few times to get right, because we didn’t have time to test, we were testing during live gameplay. Running the code in quarterfinals, and watching what happened. Since the Falcons have been here before under pressure, we have become used to writing code and running it for the first time in field. While its not ideal, our team takes pride in being able to pull that off successfully time and time again without breaking on the field. I think a lot of people were shocked when we even attempted it for the first time, but we ran into the wall so it wasn’t a big threat… yet. The second time we stopped short of the auto line, and the 3rd time it was successful. The 4th time it stopped to far… so after we learned all of the bounding conditions, the code was modified. And from there on out, it was flawless. With the help of the Grunts and Battalions, we pulled a 24pt auto at least 3 times at PVDE, while only 2 days prior we were unsure if our mechanical systems could even lift or intake a tote. So Wow!
It was pretty amazing to hear the crowd cheering louder than me when we pulled it off for the first time in a match. The Grunts, and Battalions were amazing alliance partners, and I was shocked to learn this was the first time they had won anything before. Both are truly deserving teams, and we were honored that their first banner of many more to come came while soaring with the Falcons.
We also want to give a shout to Redshift, and our neighbors the Stem Whalers, both teams are amazing, and after we shared in Victory at Battlecry last year, both teams only get better. 4048 is a huge threat in NE, and I would love to share the field with them anyday, hopefully on the same side, because what every they field is deadly accurate. Congrats on seeding #1. 3719 will continue to be the critical member to any alliance, their ability to adapt to any strategy makes them a huge asset. Also shout to 176, and 175, both great machines. Lastly, congratulations are in order for 316, 61, and 663. They were a very strong alliance, and has an 18pt auto which was very impressive. I am sure 61 will be a top contender again at RIDE in 2 weeks.
Lastly, shout out to 716 for all the kind words expressed about our team, it is truly inspiring to hear words of our team spoken from such a high caliber team as yours!
Also congratulations to the 2nd law enforcers on winning the Chairman’s award. It was a long time coming, over the many years we have competed, you are definitely a model team! Keep up the great work. And again congrats to 176 for EI, your machine is awesome, and I can’t wait to see it in action again at RIDE.
This competition was an amazing triumph for our team, and we couldn’t be happier of our team’s perseverance and dedication throughout the competition. Can’t wait to show off what were working on for RIDE! Its going to be a few more sleepless nights in Groton!
P.S. Thanks to the entire planning committee for putting on a great event.