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WHRHS Robotics: RoboWarriors Show Strong Performance in Regional Competition, Win Judge’s Award

By Dave Schlingloff

The Watchung Hills Regional High School robotics team (aka Team 41 RoboWarriors) had a strong performance at the regional competition held at Lehigh University this past weekend. There were a total of 60 teams competing, and the RoboWarriors ranked 25th after the qualification matches. It was not quite enough to be chosen for the playoffs, but the team was nonetheless proud of how they performed.

This year’s competition is called FIRST Power Up. The theme is that the robots are trapped in a video arcade game and must place power cubes in strategic places to gain enough power to escape. Each match has three robots in one alliance competing against three robots in an opposing alliance. The robots are randomly assigned to the alliances for each match, and must use cooperation and strategy to win.

Team 41 had qualified for this regional competition as a result of its two strong showings at the Mt. Olive and Montgomery district competitions. In both, they advanced to the quarterfinals of the playoffs. At the Lehigh competition, the RoboWarriors ended up with 6 wins and 6 losses in the qualification matches. They overcame a number technical issues during the matches and ended on a strong note, but it was not quite enough to make it to the playoff portion of the competition. Following this competition, their final ranking in the FIRST Mid-Atlantic region was 35th out of 125 teams in all, which was not enough to qualify for the national competition in Detroit.  

At the Lehigh competition, Team 41 received the Judge’s Award. This award is given when “the judge’s panel encounters a team whose unique efforts, performance or dynamics merit recognition yet do not fit into any of the existing award categories.” In presenting the award, the announcer noted that “our ability to succeed depends on the tools we put in our hands. These Warriors ensure their ease of operation immersive design.” He then said that the RoboWarriors won the award for their "immersive driving experience.”

After the competition, Peter Ponzio, head teaching advisor for the RoboWarriors, said, “I'm extremely proud of the team for all their efforts this season. The students needed to deal with a few unexpected issues at the start of the competition and did so while keeping their composure. Getting the robot back up and running was a collaborative effort. We were able to hold our heads high despite the season ending a little earlier than we wanted.”

The RoboWarriors are looking forward to next year’s competition and hope to build on this year’s success.

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