Week 2 brought many firsts to the PCH district, including the first individual triple climb and the first consistent scale autonomous modes.
Dalton sits as one of the weaker events on the PCH district lineup, as such it suffered from being very top-heavy. The top tier of robots was relatively small and the competitiveness dropped off very quickly.
However, that didn’t stop teams from reaching high and improving. Both the winning and finalist alliances had robots hit the scale in autonomous mode, with the 3rd seed even getting 2 robots to hit the same scale. As impressive as that performance may seem, it will slowly become the norm in the district. Regions around the world are seeing two and three cube autonomous routines for both the switch and the scale. Any switchbot who want to compete must be able to hit the switch in autonomous and scalebots aiming for the top-tier need to be able hit the scale before drivers take the sticks. It may not make that big of a difference in Albany, but will definitely be a critical differentiator at future events.
Climbing also poked its head into the fray at Dalton. There was, of course, that impressive triple climb during qualifications, but both the winning and finalists alliances had individual climbers. While we still don’t feel that individual climbers are enough to sway the direction of most matches, the climbing meta is just starting to getting underway in PCH.
Albany sits as the shallowest event on the schedule and suffers from the same “top-heaviness” as Dalton. However, while Albany is a little light on the scaling front, it does bring together some of the best switchbots in the district.
Most analysis and reporting around this game clearly indicates that if you win the scale, you will likely win the match, but that’s not to say that there isn’t a path to victory for an alliance of supercharged switchbots. Ultimately, the best strategy will take the day, and if scalebots don’t take the switchbot threat seriously, they may get overpowered and miss out on some serious hardware.
With that being said, the top tier at Albany is much smaller and the competitive drop-off is much sharper than at any other PCH event. It’ll be up to each individual team to claw their way to the top during qualifications and make their own luck for eliminations. But at such a shallow event, an alliance’s 3rd robot may have more of a bearing on their performance than their 2nd robot.
1648 - G3 had their struggles at Gainesville and saw a semis exit, but by the end of the event, they were putting away nearly 6-7 cubes a match. While it’s clear that Grady has the robot to compete at Albany, we’re still waiting to see if the team is up to the task. Across the board, an overall young, inexperienced crew meant missed opportunities and avoidable mistakes on the field. Look for G3 to come out swinging at Albany, and if they’re able to take the next step on their autonomous and driving performances, they may be nearly unstoppable.
6340 - Marist quietly burst onto the scene last year after picking up a Rookie All-Star at Dalton and winning Columbus in the 2017 season. After picking up their first banner last year as one of the few gearbots capable of an autonomous low-goal dump, they’re looking to go even higher and place cubes on the scale. Some practice time has indicated they may be making changes to their intake, but regardless, this team has proven its ability to play with the other predatory birds.
6341 - The Electric Eagles stunned us by solid performances at their first events. After struggling as a rookie and failing to make DCMP, 6341 has come to play this year with a solid scalebot and a nicely packaged climber, resulting in a solid semifinal finish at Dalton. This probably shouldn’t have surprised us; their issues last year mostly stemmed from choosing the wrong strategy, and by picking the right one this year, they have established themselves as an strong competitor. In fact, they may be the only elevator-climber combo at Albany, which, if they can continue to be consistent, makes a compelling case for them to go early during alliance selections.
The Little Shooter that Might….
6829 - Ignite hit the field in Gainesville with a little shooting robot that looked very promising. However, difficulties in aiming and getting the cubes high enough ultimately meant that 6829 was relegated to a switchbot, although we will acknowledge that they filled that roll excellently. If all 6829 can do is show up with similar switching capabilities at Albany, they’ll be fine, but if they’re able to make some changes to help fire up their scaling game, they’ll be a serious contender.
Climbing with a Buddy…
3581 - THINC surprised the district by playing a critical role in the only individual, 3-robot climb at Dalton, and we believe, all of FIRST. Their buddy bar system is well thought out and enables other robots with simple climbers to climb on board. However, the benefits they provide in climbing assistance are somewhat outweighed by their switching and scaling performance, which can be a little subpar at times. THINC will make a great addition to any alliance, but if they can improve their cube game just a bit, they’ll be a contender in their own right.
6177 - The Atomic Robotic Dogs came out and really swept the rug out from under some teams at Gainesville. A solid switch performance and switch autonomous modes meant that the Dogs earned the right to lead the 8th seed alliance and nearly upset the 1st seed, at Gainesville. At Albany, we look for 6177 to hit the ground running and easily finish as a top five seed.
4468 - If we didn’t know anything about Fernbank, they would still probably make this list considering 5 of the 7 posts on the Gainesville predictions were about 4468. Considering they weren’t even going to Gainesville, the hype is impressive. Fortunately for us, they’ve released their robot and it’s gearing up to be a small, quick little switchbot. We know the Links have picked up a lot of practice thanks to their simple design and a practice field located ~20 feet from their build space, but if they’re able to hit the ground running and pair up with a scalebot, they may just leave the event with some nice hardware.
4941 - Our state champs from last year are finally hitting the field, and they’ve kept their “simplicity” mantra alive and gone for a switchbot this season. Their robot looks like a typical switchbot, but driver practice and first-event jitters may impact 4941 more than anything else. Robobibb may not get off to a hot start, but like last season, look for them to warm up as the event goes on and establish themselves as a threat going into eliminations.