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The Geeklets and I recently had the pleasure of attending our first VEX Robotics Competition. We took our team, The Screaming Weasels, to the Hilton Anatole in Dallas for the WOC VEX Robotics Invitational.
It was an early start for us. I’m not accustomed to waking up at 6am on Saturday, but I’m willing to make the sacrifice for robots. We arrived at the hotel a little after 8 and got setup in the pits. Nothing fancy, just a 10×10 conference “booth” with a table and two chairs. Thankfully we had power for the chargers and laptop. After testing the robot we took a tour of the pits to meet the other teams and check out their robots. Teams 16 and 16B looked to have the best engineered robots, but there were plenty of other good ideas. Ideas that I might be borrowing before our next tournament in December.
Teams are paired up into random alliances for the qualifying rounds. Each match is played two on two and we got to play five times. We did well, winning three of the five, and placed overall in the center of the field. We had a little time between matches to tweak the code and fix a few issues with the robot, but it was quick paced and we rarely had more than 20 minutes at a time.
After a short lunch break the alliance selection started with the top ranked teams drafting their favorite teams. This tends to be a bit of a popularity contest, but the best teams know to draft another good team, regardless of school or friendship status. Alliances for the finals are three teams with any two competing at a time.
The finals weren’t kind to us. We started the first round (best two out of three matches) and lost by a lot more than I’d like to admit. We sat out the second match while the other two alliance members played. They both had equipment problems and failed to score any points netting us a quick exit from the finals. It sucked dropping out of the finals so soon, but it did give us time to enjoy watching the rest of the matches and talk with some of the other teams. In the end, teams 16, 16B and 888G won the tournament and qualifying to go to the 2010 VEX World Championship in May.
We all had a wonderful time, made a few new friends, and most all learned something. We will take most of those lessons with us to the UT Dallas event in December.