2008, World Championship in Atlanta, GA, Newton division. I was on Team 968 RAWC. We went undefeated through quals. We had impeccable scouting data: Every team, every quals match, every point scored and every penalty incurred by every individual robot, and a photo of every robot. The night before alliance picks, we did many hours of the “if this happens, then what happens” analysis, I mean, MANY hours, to predict every possible scenario in how elims would end up. We then went looking for the ideal picks, and we came up VERY empty, even in a field of 80 teams. We weren’t happy with any of the robots near the top. We felt that their scoring potential was too low, or they would break at some point during finals, and it would cost us dearly.
We ultimately whittled it down to 233 or 2056. Team 2056 had a great machine, and their performance really was ticking up in the latter part of quals. They were ranked #2. If I recall, they were doing something like 6 hurdles, which was up there with the best of us who were doing 8 hurdles if my memory serves me correctly (it has been 13 years). But, we knew this was probably their peak potential, and that defense could slow them down. We took a look at Team 233, the Pink team. They were ranked WAY down in the pack, 31. Their robot had not performed great, aside from one or two matches early on. They were plagued with technical problems, including the robot completely dying on the field, I think more than once. We knew this robot’s potential, we loved it’s mechanical design and robustness, but the lack of consistent strong performance through quals scared us to death in selecting them as a first pick. We watched both 2056 and 233 closely during their last matches on the morning of finals day. 2056 was working, maybe not at peak, but it was very workable. 233 had not improved any from the day prior, and may have even died on the field again.
So, we went to our friend Mike over on 233, and the conversation was like “Dude, what’s the deal? You’ve got this amazing robot that keeps failing out there. We know this thing can work awesome. What’s going on.” We wanted this robot, but didn’t like what it was (or rather, wasn’t) doing. Mike explained the series of failures that had happened and assured us they had been fixed, and the vehicle was back to 100% peak performance. We hadn’t seen it for most of champs, but again, we knew what that machine was capable of, and we knew it could do well under defense. We liked that it’s mega roller claw could reach into the corner and grab the giant ball from places where other robots couldn’t. We also knew Mike was a trustworthy guy, as our teams had history going way back. So, on a leap of faith, as the number one ranked team, undefeated, we picked as our first pick, a team ranked 31st, whose robot hadn’t really been working previously.
By the time second picks came around, there really were not many favorable options at all. Any of the robots left that could score any decent number of points we felt would either break down or incur a penalty and cost us the title, or get in our way and slow down our own scoring. And then there was Team 60 from Kingman, AZ. They were ranked 30. Their robot had no real scoring potential other than driving in circles around the track. But, their drivers were great, they knew the rules, their robot was robustly constructed with quality, and they were good at getting in between the opponent and their ball, and staying out of the way of their partners. Miraculously, nobody else in our division realized any of this (or they did, and didn’t realize the benefits of these attributes), and Team 60 was available as the last pick for Newton. Yes, please!
We swept the Newton finals undefeated with our alliance of 968, 233, and 60. Onward to Einstein. We were facing 1114, 217, and 148. Talk about stacked. Even on Friday night, before we had ever settled on 233 and 60, we knew this would be the alliance we would face on Einstein if we won Newton. We also knew that if we got past Semis on Einstein, champs would be ours, as the other semis bracket was weaker. In Einstein semis match 2, the 968 robot suffered a fatal hit to one of its 3/4" bore 12" stroke pneumatic cylinders, bending the rod over at almost a 90 degree angle. We are shocked. It had never happened before through multiple regionals and champs, and we didn’t see who or what hit it. We didn’t have a spare…
I called up my friend George on our partner Team 60. “Hey, do you guys have any pneumatic cylinders? It’s an emergency.” George says, “What size?” and I tell him. He replies, “I think that’s the size we have, you need it?” Umm, YES! A few minutes of running around the Georgia dome later, we had the new cylinder swapped in, and we were good to go for Einstein semis match 3. We knew this was make or break it for us.
Einstein Semis Match 3 was hard fought. Team 233 did exceptional scoring hanging right there with us. We were back in action with the new cylinder, working great. Team 60 played exceptional defense as they racked up the lap points, really slowing down 1114 and 217 who were absolute scoring monsters. We waited for the final score… We lost. It was over.
As it turned out, Team 60 incurred a penalty for crossing back over the tape line. You couldn’t do that in 2008 Overdrive. It was just by a few inches, but the ref caught it, and the ref wasn’t wrong. We must have watched the video 50 times.
As disappointed as we were, we were still happy to have gotten than far, and were confident that we had made the right picks with our alliance. I’ll have to go back and watch these matches again sometime to refresh my memory. It’s been many years.