Robots Invade Rose-Hulman, Begin Practice for FIRST Robotics' Crossroads Regional

Thursday, March 06, 2014

The charter busses, box trucks, and grocery getters were lined up outside Rose-Hulman's Sports and Recreation Center this morning as 45 teams from nine states couldn't wait to begin the challenges in the 2014 FIRST Robotics' Crossroads Regional, being hosted by the college this weekend.

Starting at 8:30 a.m., team members wasted no time in getting to their assigned tasks. The first order of business was setting up their workshops in the "pits," where the real work will be taking place through Friday's qualifying matches (9 a.m.-5:45 p.m.) and Saturday's finals (1:30-4:40 p.m.).

One of the more impressive workshops is the saloon located on the "MBR Ranch," home to Maverick Boiler Robotics from West Lafayette, Indiana. The Ranch is an imposing wooden frame that would not look out of place at a trade show or a county fair. The centerpiece is, of course, an authentic set of Texas longhorns.

"The saloon goes well with our ranch theme. It is also a good place for other teams to come and get parts, if needed," says Eric Jacoby, Maverick Boiler Robotics' president and director of graphics and branding. (Teams earn special points for its exhibit theme and showing sportsmanship.)

Other teams committed a significant number of team members scouting the Crossroads Regional for potential partners for the all-important alliances that will eventually challenge for top honors in Saturday's final rounds.

"We put a significant effort into our scouting, and that helps," says Joseph Soruco, a senior from Indianapolis' Perry Meridian High School's Cyber Blue team. Members closely observe the strategies being used by teams scoring the most points during today's practice rounds - successfully picking up, passing, and throwing large balls into target areas at the end of the large playing field. All of this data will be fed into an algorithm to determine the best alliance to win the competition, and qualifying for the FIRST Robotics World Finals in St. Louis in late April.

These mathematical models work. Cyber Blue was a member of the winning team in last year's inaugural Crossroads Regional.

Other teams were just glad to be able to get their hands back on their robot, which had been out of reach for nearly the past two weeks. Two rookie teams, Vigo County Area Robotics and Galactech (Columbus, Indiana), focused most of their first-day attention on making sure everything was working properly and passed technical/safety inspection.

"We do want to get some practice matches in. Our drive team definitely wants to practice handling the robot," says Richard Liu, a Galactech team member.

Meanwhile, the local-based Vigo County high school team is looking ahead to Friday's qualifying matches.

"We want to find some teams that compliment out strategy" says Vigo County team member Ben Brubaker.