Note: This story was updated at 12:45 p.m.
KNOXVILLE—The Secret City Wildbots struggled somewhat in the opening qualifying rounds at Smoky Mountain Regionals on Friday, falling to a rank of 32nd after lunch, but the team rebounded strongly in the last three of the day’s eight rounds, finishing with a ninth-place rank.
At the end of qualifying rounds at noon on Saturday, the top eight teams select an alliance partner, and those eight groups of two select their third partner team. In the event that one of the top eight chooses another from the top eight, the next ranked team moves up to team captain post.
Following Q41, the Wildbots moved up to number 13 by playing on their core strength of crossing defenses and scoring low goals in rapid succession. In Q51, they continued playing to core strengths but added a feat that only a few robots in this competition have mastered: climbing the tower.
In Q59, the final match of the day, the Wildbots again finished strong and in an excellent position to face the final two rounds Saturday: Q-70 at approximately 10:26 a.m., and Q-81 scheduled for 11:57 a.m. (the next to-the-last qualifying round of the tournament).
Providing a fitting end to a successful day, Team 4265 mentor Mark Buckner was presented with the Volunteer of the Year award.
The live stream can be viewed on Saturday at https://www.twitch.tv/team1912combustion/mobile. This year’s event is being held at Thompson Boling arena, ensuring adequate seating with excellent views for any who are interested in attending.
Practice rounds were Thursday.
Here is more information from a University of Tennessee press release:
Teams from around the country are in town for the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics 2016 competition. The event moved to Thompson-Boling Arena at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville this year—a sign of how popular the competition has become.
“We’ve had a number of good years at the Knoxville Convention Center, but the fact that we are moving to such a large arena is an indication of the support and excitement that the Smoky Mountain Regional has gained,” said L.J. Robinson, regional director for USFIRST Robotics for Tennessee and Kentucky.
Fifty teams are expected to attend the sessions, which runs from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. both Friday and Saturday. In the past, the Smoky Mountain Regional has drawn teams from as far away as the Midwest and New England, as well as Canada, while also featuring more than 20 squads from Knoxville and East Tennessee.
Those teams will be part of the 75,000 students and 19,000 mentors and volunteers worldwide taking part in this year’s game, named Stronghold.
Each team received an identical kit of parts in January and had the same time limit—six weeks—to come up with a design for and construct a robot capable of performing one of four key Stronghold skills:
- Reaching and breaching defenses.
- Launching boulders through goals in the opposing tower.
- Defending your own castle.
- Scaling towers.
As a sign of how intricate the game is, the defense portion alone includes more than 18,000 possible configurations.
Once at the event, teams form alliances based on the specific skill of each team’s robot.
That sense of teamwork is what FIRST refers to as “gracious professionalism”—the idea that working together, even helping a competitor, can lead to a greater good, Robinson explained.
UT’s College of Engineering has long been a key supporter, having been recently named a Bronze Level Sponsor for its $20,000 in pledged scholarships.
Associate Dean Masood Parang said the college takes the chance to foster the next generation of scientists as a “very solemn responsibility,” noting that it was as important to the college as it is the students.
Support from industry partners is also critical for the event. One example of such help comes from the Tennessee Valley Authority, which is supplying a machine shop for teams—a much-needed resource that allows teams access for repairs to their robots by professional machinists.
Other local businesses and centers lending support include Alcoa, Bechtel, Leidos, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, General Cable, and Kendall Electric.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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