Predictions Championship 2015: Hopper

Once again, the Killer Bees are one of the premiere teams in Michigan this season. After a long hiatus after their week one victory at Southfield, 33 emerged at Troy looking much sharper and capable of pulling tons of totes from the landfill, capped by containers from the step. The next week they managed to captain the 4th alliance at MSC, and looked really sharp in the octofinals, putting up 212 points in both matches. Their run ended in the quarters, but 33’s landfill abilities are trumped by only a select few teams. The only thing holding them back now is their consistency.

Sometimes your competition selection does more to stop you from winning than anything else. 3683 built an incredible machine this season, but was met with the misfortune of having to clash with Simbotics and OP Robotics twice. DAVE builds 5-high stacks from the landfill at a rapid pace, and has a fold down ramp that permits them to intake totes from the feeder stations just as fast. Championship is often an endurance test, and they must work to avoid any issues with their machine if they want a deep run, regardless of whether or not they can start building full 42-point stacks. If everything holds together, they have the potential to return to Canada with medals.

Most teams capable of putting up multiple stacks worth 30 or more points are known for their scoring ability, especially if they can work at both the feeder station and the landfill. The Robostangs are known for their canburglers. 548’s lightning quick can grabbing mechanisms earned them the 1st selection and victories at their last three events of the season, after a 2nd selection and finalist performance to open the season at Southfield. Hopper will put their can grabbing speed to the test, as the division has several other teams aiming to have Einstein-caliber canburglers. If they can convince an alliance captain they’re still the fastest, they could go first overall once again.

When everything is working properly, 2590 can hang tote-for-tote with almost any other team out there. Nemesis had repeated issues at MAR Championship though, failing to reach 100 points four times at an event where all but four teams had QAs above that threshold. If all the cans are upright and nearby and Nemesis can avoid their feeder issues that led to dropped cans and fallen stacks, they are capable of putting up three 42 pointers in a match. However, they’ll need to reclaim the form that helped them win three events earlier in the season.

For the second straight year, no team is coming into Championship with more competition experience than 125. The NUtrons have already taken the field at five different events this year, winning their home district competition. In a good match, they can put 90 points on the board by themselves, but they use three cans do it that. However, 125 does sport the ability to win two additional cans at the beginning of the match, and drag them clear over the landfill if unopposed. The combination of reliable scoring and canburgling ability should be enough that they don’t have to get too nervous during alliance selection.

Dark Horse:
The Duluth East Daredevils came close to extending their regional win streak to four seasons, but lost in the finals at both Northern Lights and Central Illinois. Still, 2512 has an impressive robot in 2015. While their 30-point stacks aren’t always pretty and will lag behind some of the other human fed stacks in the division, it’s their unique autonomous routine that sets them apart. Plenty of teams have a 20-point tote stack, but fewer also ensure that the green bins make it into the autonomous zone for the container set. 2512 utilizes a dangling pool noodle system to bring the additional RC’s with them into the center of the field, which makes for quite an exciting beginning to matches. If 2512 can clean up their tote entry, and perhaps build bigger stacks, they could be a terrific playoff partner.

In an effort to cut down the time until acquisition, most teams opted to only gun for one or two cans from the step during autonomous. However “most teams” is obviously not everyone, and both 469 and 1391 could potentially establish a can chokehold on their own. Las Guerillas usually only runs a double burglar, but they showed a field spanning 4 can version once at MSC. It was both quick and successful, though it hindered their performance during the tele-operated portion of the match. Metal Mooses’ can grabber is not as quick as they have to drive into the landfill zone to make contact with the cans, but it’s easily their most marketable asset. 469 has considerably more scoring upside, even if it’s not to their usual standards, and should definitely be picked regardless of which can grabber they plan on using. Metal Moose wasn’t even selected at their first district event (and missed MAR championship as a result), but with back-up teams at championship and the potential for speed improvements, it’s possible a team takes a flyer on 1391 as a match-up specific player.

Whether you measure it in moments or inches, Wave Robotics came as close as you can get to Einstein in 2012, as a last second slide off the triple balance ended their run in the Archimedes finals. 2013 and 2014 were down years for Wave, at least by their lofty standards, without a regional victory (though they did have three finals appearances in between them). 2826 is back in full force in 2015, and are looking to reach Einstein for the first time in team history. Their consistent 28 point autonomous is the highest scoring in all of FRC, and their early grasp of the containers enables them to be an incredibly consistent corner stacker, routinely putting up three sets of 36 points stacks. Noodling those stacks will be the simplest improvement they make in St. Louis, but they also have aims to ramp up their throughput. While they’ll need assistance in securing additional cans (and their own can hogging may not suit certain alliance partners), Wave is poised to crest the rankings and make a deep run in the playoffs.

2014 marked the first time that the High Rollers weren’t playing in the last match of a divsion since they missed Championship in 2010. They haven’t missed the division finals on two consecutive trips to championship since 2005 and 2006. 987 is a tremendously consistent team year-to-year, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that they’re going to be in the hunt to win Hopper in 2015. Their already quick canburglars will be getting faster, and they’re one of the best landfill miners in FRC. Perhaps their own weakness is the inconsistency of their autonomous routine, or the fact they’ve had a couple poor matches during qualifications at each of their events. It hasn’t bit them yet so far, as they ended up on the top seed’s alliance each time, but no team with championship aspirations wants their fate out of their control during alliance selection.