As we barrel through the 2009 season, every now and then there will be a moment that makes and stop and look at it harder. It may be a particular alliance, team, strategy, play, or any number of other events.
One such moment happened in week 2, with 2543’s pinning ability guiding the #4 alliance to victory in San Diego. We saw 71 and 1114 lose based heavily on pinning in week 1, but the alliance that beat them lost in the semis. The defensive maneuvers of the Titans in San Diego is an early watershed moment for Lunacy, and many teams will likely try to emulate it in week 3.
Will they all be as successful? No. Will some winning alliances use other strategies? Absolutely. But will more teams and more alliances dedicate teams to harass specific scoring bots? Definitely. Will some teams start to develop an answer to this strategy? Yes, and that will be the most exciting thing to watch.
Week three promises to be exciting, with both a blend of highly respected teams playing for the first time (such as 148, 233, 254, 330, and 987) and many teams returning for their second event of the season.
Look for more developed strategy (even in qualifications) and increased super cell scoring over week 2.
And now what you’ve all been waiting for…
This first year regional is young in more than one way, with exactly half of the field of 52 being composed of rookies. Many more are only in their second or third year competing. A number of teams at the event competed in Oklahoma City during week 1, and this event will likely have many similarities. Look for human players, super cells, and defense to be especially important, and when the crowd of legitimate scorers runs thin during alliance selection, many alliances will likely try to secure teams who specialize in moving empty cells. If two of the top scoring machines align, even with dedicated defense against them, they will be hard to stop.
There is little doubt who is the biggest name and favorite to win this event. 148 is a defending FIRST champion and has a tremendous looking robot for 2009. Tornado will likely be the highest scoring bot and the biggest threat in any match it plays in this weekend. That also means they will have the biggest target on them, and will likely be the focal point of defense, especially during the eliminations. Strong secondary scoring from their partners will be the easiest way for them to secure gold, but they might still be able to pull it out with strong driving and strategy without strong partners.
1561 was a member of the winning alliance in Oklahoma City, scoring their initial seven balls then dedicating the rest of the match to moving empty cells. Their simple dumping mechanism will be effective again, and they could be a major player in an alliance that relies on super cells. Their lack of reloading ability will make it hard for them to overcome some of the better scoring machines and it’s unlikely they’ll be able to add another banner to their collection.
418, 476, and 1742 all have shooters that should be playing in the eliminations. 476 and 1742 both made the eliminations in OKC, with 1742 besting 476 in the semis en route to the regional victory. None of these three will be dominant on their own, and will need the help of a machine capable of putting up big points quickly if they want to reach the finals.
Expectations are high when your design can be described as “similar to Beatty’s.” Unfortunately for 935 they didn’t quite live up to those expectations in Kansas City, where they were outed in the semis and never scored higher than 74. RaileRobotics will have a chance to build on that event here in Dallas, and if they find themselves with the right partner they could reach the finals.
932 reached the semis in OKC, and their quick and effective scoring method makes them a team the other alliance can’t forget about. But if the Circuit Chargers want to build on their performance they’ll need to improve their driving.
One of the older events this season, both in terms of the regional and the teams, the Sunshine State promises to have some fun moon action. A combination of highly anticipated debuts and teams playing for the second time will make this event interesting for just about anyone. Look for a few teams to separate themselves from the herd, then a lot of parity beyond that. Two or three alliances should be in very definite contention for gold.
Collaborations are all the rage in Florida, with 179 and 1345 forming twins and 408, 1251, and 1902 making triplets. The triplets are some of the prettiest bots this year, but most shooters have struggled to score consistently, and typically have to be in dumping range to do so. They should be in the eliminations (if driven well), but it will take strong partners and some luck to go far, especially if they don’t improve their rate of fire. Swamp Thing and the Platinum Dragons are going to both be very dangerous, but they are limited by the same factors that influence other “all or nothing” dumpers. If they can pin their victim, they will be able to score in bunches, but it will be more difficult to score on the quicker and more effective opponents in the eliminations.
79- Krunch always builds a quality and consistent machine. They will definitely go far on Saturday.
Both Krunch and Shark Attack (744) have built simple power dumpers that should both be effective. Look for both to be in the eliminations, and could bring home some hardware with the right partners.
The juggernauts of the New Jersey regional are both making the trip down to Florida after being stopped short in NJ this year. 25 and 103 both want to capture a banner. Both teams are going to improve on their bots, namely 25 attempting to solve jamming issues. Both Raider Robotix and the Cybersonics will be factors in the eliminations, but it’s entirely possible that one might be outed in the quarterfinals.
Many teams drew inspiration from their helix in 2006, but this team didn’t bring it to 2009. Pink is coming off of a season with two regional wins (including here in Florida) and their second consecutive trip to Einstein. It’s pretty safe to say that expectations are high for 233. 233 is famous for improving their designs and robots, and if you give them a 40 lb. withholding allowance they’ll start even before they compete. Their 6WD, traction controlled, quick-firing, turreted shooter is poised to be one of the most dangerous bots if everything is fully functional. Expect them to work out some of the kinks as the regional progresses and be fully swinging on Saturday (similar to 2007).
A smaller event, Pittsburgh is typically most notable for the shallow depth of field and defensive play. It’s slowly changing, and the regional is getting bigger and better. There aren’t any teams that immediately stand out as elite at this event, and the depth is still questionable at best. Expect the serpentine to be a factor, but if the top couple teams can pair up they might be able to dodge its bite. Super cells will be important, and the third bots will have a big role to play on most elimination alliances. Especially if the top teams are held apart, there should be multiple alliances capable of taking home gold.
Best known for their innovative and interesting bot that made the trip to the Einstein finals in 2004 (only their second year), 1218 produces solid, competitive bots year in and year out. However, they haven’t captured a regional victory since 2003. Their speedy delivery system should make them a definite contender in Pittsburgh, and with the right partners they could win.
As their name implies, the Hard Working Hard Hats aren’t glamorous, but they certainly know how to win. 337 won Pittsburgh in 2007 and 2008, and is looking for the three-peat in 2009. It’ll be difficult, as it would be for any team to three-peat, but with good strategy, good partners, and a good human player it’s not out of the question.
48 didn’t do as well as they had hoped in Buckeye, but in a field with fewer top level teams, Delphi ELITE has a chance at making it past the semis.
With five finalist trophies and no regional wins, the Tigertrons always seem to be bridesmaids. 222 hasn’t quite been on the same level since their great years in 2003 and 2004, but they still field contending robots. Their 2009 bot is fairly simple and well-designed, and should be a definite factor in Pittsburgh, at least reaching the semi-finals.
GaCo seeded high, but lost in the quarter-finals in DC. 1629’s physical style of play and consistent scoring will fit well into the play style in Pittsburgh, and if they can find a partner with the right explosive scoring capabilities, it would be a tough combo to stop.
Duluth will be playing host to a surprisingly veteran group of teams. More than 2/3 of the regional has at least three years of FIRST under their belts, and many are relatively well traveled, having attended events such as Palmetto, VCU, Florida, and the Championship (which is just down the road) multiple times in their history. This will help the event be slightly less defensive than some of the others of comparable size and caliber. Still, it’ll be difficult for the offensive teams to survive unmolested, and for any one team to take the regional by storm.
1261 has been one of the better teams at this event in the past, and they have a simple power dumper that should be a contender again. Look for them to seed high and have a good shot at reaching the semi-finals (if not further).
It only took a scrimmage for Metal-in-Motion to decide their shooter wasn’t going to cut it in this game. On the last couple days of the build season, 343 modified their design to become a power dumper, and it should aid them here in Georgia. They’re defending champs, and should be a definite player in deciding who brings home gold.
342 has a very simple dumping machine that should do well in this field. The Burning Magnetos will need to drive well, but if they can pin the opponents trailers, they’ll be able to put up some of the biggest scores at the event.
Perhaps the saddest part of this regional will be the lack of Oscar on 832’s machine. Chimera’s helical shooter will have to do without him, but their bot is certainly capable of it. Driving and strategy will ultimately govern their success.
1771 had one of the most innovative designs in 2008, even winning the Xerox Creativity Award at the Championship because of it. This year, more teams are using similar designs (helix-loaded shooters), but theirs is certainly one of the most attractive to the eye. Their smaller ball intake may make realoading slower than some competitors, but if they can score quick enough and accurately enough, they should stay alive well past noon on Saturday.
Like many other regionals this weekend, LA is mostly filled with traditionally “middle-class” teams. The larger size of the event (60 teams) will mean a few will stand out and some dregs will sink to the bottom, but the middle of the field will be wide open. There will be a bit more depth here, largely due to the size, than in places like Duluth, Pittsburgh, or Dallas, but teams here definitely noticed what happened a couple hours south of LA last week. Expect more than one alliance to opt for a defensive specialist, even if some decent scoring machines are still available.
Fresh off their appearance in the finals in San Diego last week, Eagle Robotics is hungry for more. 1388 should do well again in Los Angeles, but in a much larger field it will be hard to control their destiny the way they did during week 2 (#2 seed). Still, expect them to be a first-round selection or alliance captain.
For the second year in a row, the publicity of 1726 likely helped to influence many other teams’ designs (thus accounting for part of the popularity of the helix-shooters). Shooters haven’t had a whole lot of success so far this season. In order for Major Tom to take off past the quarter-finals, the NERDS will need some aid from a big time partner.
The Greybots had a solid bot last year, even reaching the finals in Vegas. 973 has the potential to do very well again if they can stay fully functional. If they work out all the kinks and keep away any jamming issues they’ll be a major factor, and if they have another high scoring partner the potential is there for a banner.
So long as you don’t mind hideous orange and purple color schemes, 399 will be one of the better bots in LA. A simple dumping mechanism and large intake should make them effective, and if they drive well they will be a threat to anyone.
D’Penguineers finally got significant attention last year after two solid seasons before that. 1717 won this event in 2008 and were semi-finalists in 2007 (and losing to the combined might of 254 and 330 isn’t shabby). They’re on the short list of teams capable of winning this event, and will be a big factor in every match.
The Beachbots are probably the favorite headed into the weekend. Their bot is slightly more complex than in years past, but still simple compared to many. They’re experimenting with a new “pseudo-crab” drive system, that could prove advantageous (and shouldn’t be crippling if not as effective as intended). However, they’ve lost the driver that led them to Einstein twice and a championship in 2005. 330 should be effective, and one of the best teams here, but reaching the finals will be no guarantee.
The oldest event on the west coast, SVR is poised to be another event worthy of story. Despite the controversy, 100 and 254 emerged victorious last year, returning the Poofs to the winners circle after missing it for the first time in 2007. 254 has won nine of ten SVRs, and wants to restart their winning streak in 2009. But there are going to be twenty-one other teams looking to stop them after lunch on Saturday, including some legitimate contenders to do so. This regional will have a small handful stand out above the rest, then a number of average scorers and defensive bots. Most of the top teams will not be heavily concerned with super cells, but a smart alliance might be able to use them well, and combined with defense might be able to pull off an upset or two.
This regional is certainly generating a lot of buzz, as I’ve had more tipsters chime in on this one than event so far this year.
There’s little doubt that 254 is going to be the biggest target at this event. They’ve dominated here year in and year out, and their twin just laid the blueprint on how to stop them last week in San Diego. The Poofs will be incredibly dangerous, and if you give them even an inch of room they’ll convert it into big points. Their best hope to secure gold would to be seeding high and finding a partner who can score as well as they can. They’ll need to pray to the scheduling Gods that they end up with a favorable qualification schedule to make that far easier.
971 has a high capacity dumper that could prove effective if they can overcome their jamming issues.
971 will be a dangerous team, capable of putting up a lot of points when everything goes well. 1280, 766, and 675 could all also make some noise when working 100%. All these teams should factor somewhere into the first ten selections (either as captains or themselves picked). Of this bunch, 971 has the most potential though.
Another nice point from an informant:
1868- A really, really, really good 3rd alliance partner. Designed specifically to execute the “A-Bomb” maneuver from Einstein '06.
The Space Cookies certainly resemble the 195 machine that helped 968 reload in many ways. But beyond their massive hopper (which will be useful for feeding balls and empty cells to human players in its own right), 1868 also has the ability to score pre-loaded and/or human loaded balls too. They would be an ideal partner for their mentors, the Cheesy Poofs, but likely won’t be around by the time 254 gets their second selection. Their strategic flexibility could provide a huge bonus to any alliance that selects them, but they are a complimentary piece rather than the focal point, so they will obviously need strong partners.
100 made a splash when they unveiled how quickly they can unload their balls. Like other designs with similar fire rates, their drivers will have to be patient and well-coordinated, else they risk ejecting their load all over the floor. If driven well, the WildHats will be a big factor. They’ll likely be a very early selection, but they’ll need a partner who can help them overcome defense if they want to make it far.
Few teams have had the same amount of success as the High Rollers over the past four years. 987 has been to six regional finals (winning twice), reached the Archimedes finals (2008), and won the 2007 Championship during that span. Only a fool would bet against them having another strong machine in 2009, and they’ll have a hand in saying who is crowned champion. Expect 987 and 254 to want to pair together desperately, but it would likely require one of them to seed 1st overall.
Most probably wouldn’t immediately jump to Wisconsin when thinking about the better regionals this weekend, but they can play Lunacy up there too. Milwaukee is hosting a number of quality teams, but a large portion of the regional is also young. More than half of the field could still have members who were on the team in their rookie years. Many of the youngsters have promising robots, and the field should be fairly competitive. Aside of a couple top teams, the event will likely be wide open.
Before the Midwest Regional, if you had to guess a team that would be in the finals, most would not have picked 2039. Yet, they reached the finals as the 4th selection in a very competitive field. They were a more than capable scorer and typically very conscious of their own trailer (which often made it difficult to score on them). They weren’t afraid to “get dirty” and make contact with other robots in order to score and avoid being scored on. They look to be one of the top competitors in Milwaukee.
2506 is looking to have a strong debut for their sophomore effort after not doing very well on the field last year (let’s put it this way, it included a 0-0 tie). If they avoid technical issues, their power dumper should be one of the more effective bots and should definitely earn them a spot in the eliminations for the first time.
In this young field, there are a couple of old vets ready to show them a thing or two (or possibly kick them off their lawn). 141 has been around since 1995, and 93 since '97. The Wo-Bots had a solid but not great showing in Traverse City two weeks ago, and look to improve in week 3. It’s the first time out this season for Appleton, and they hope their shooter fairs better than many of its counterparts earlier in the season. Both teams should drive and strategize well and make the most out of their machines. Expect both to be gone by the time the number six alliance gets their first selection.
In week one this team was described as “quality, but not yet elite,” and apparently they took offense to that. They showed it by playing better than anyone else in Chicago and winning the regional. 1625 was consistent and explosive. They were able to score like few others, load quickly, and move around the field with ease. Winnovation was the favorite here last year too though, and even with what was an ideal alliance, they were still bounced in the semi-finals. Their design is simpler and more refined this year, and that will go a great deal towards keeping the technical gremlins that haunted them last year away. It will be a major upset if they can’t capture gold again.
MICHIGAN - CASS TECH:
In case you’d forgotten, Michigan teams are good. Despite the smaller district event, another Michigan event will be one of the better events of the weekend once again. Since 2005, teams at this event have gone to Einstein seven times, and won four Championships. The bad news for most of the teams here? All that glory is divided among three teams (67, 217, and 503). On top of that, 469 has a 2003 Championship banner hanging as well. This event will have a lot of action among the great teams, but the field isn’t quite as deep as what we saw in Kettering last week. It will likely pan out similar to many of the Detroit regionals of the past, with defense playing a fairly large role.
HOT is making their way onto the field for the first of three (likely four) consecutive weeks of competition. 67 is one of the most storied and successful teams in FIRST history, producing quality machine after quality machine. They should start earning their way to the Michigan State tournament quickly, and expect them to contribute at least 40 points to that effort this weekend.
The Thunderchickens, like most shooters, had issues with accuracy and consistency during week one. 217 still secured a spot on the #2 alliance in Chicago, but it took cunning strategy and heavy use of super cells in order for them to reach the semi-finals. They’ll likely improve this week, but they won’t be able to rely only on super cells if they want gold this weekend.
The Frog Force robots are rarely pretty and often don’t perform up to expectations early on during seasons. 503 and their helical shooter might struggle at points during this event, but expect them to fine tune and tweak until it starts working better on Saturday (and even more so in future events). They should still be in the eliminations and earn a solid amount of points towards their state championship effort.
469 always creates powerful scoring machines that aren’t afraid of playing rough in order to score. And 2009 will be no exception for Las Guerillas and their fan propelled machine, which is looking to conjure up similar success to 45 in week one (currently the only undefeated team in FRC). They’re next to impossible to push around the field, and will be able to pin their targets with ease. The Gorillas are going to go deep in the eliminations on Saturday, and it would not be a surprise to see them standing atop the podium when all is said and done.