Swartdogs return from St. Louis

Out of around 3,000 robotics teams in contention to qualify for the world championship tournament in St. Louis last weekend, only about 600 made it. The Swartdogs, or Team 525, from Cedar Falls High School were one of those 600.

Each year, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) creates a new game, with all teams involved with FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) making a robot to perform in the game. In the past, games have pitted Frisbee-throwing robots against each other, basketball-playing robots against each other and soccer-playing robots against each other.

This year, the game was called “Recycle Rush.” It is a recycling-themed game played by two alliances of three robots each. Teams score points by stacking totes on scoring platforms and capping those totes with recycling bins. Robots then try to put pool noodles, representing litter, inside of the recycling bins.

The world championship event is set up with eight divisions, each with 75 teams. After 10 matches, the top eight teams from every division pick three other teams from their division to form an alliance with. After that, the alliances compete in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals. The winners of each division then play the winners of each of the other divisions in the same format.

The Swartdogs finished third in their division but were knocked out in the quarterfinal stages, but Swartdogs mentor and physics teacher Kenton Swartley was pleased with the way the team performed.

“We performed above expectations. At our regionals, we were usually able to make two full stacks of totes, while at championships, we improved to completing three full stacks of totes,” Swartley said. “The team as a whole did a great job throughout.”

Now that the championship is over, junior Sam Ponnada said she is looking forward to next season.

“Our goals for next season are to have a good season, even better than this one was,” Ponnada said. “We would like to win a chairman’s award as well.”

Ponnada said that the team will work hard during the off-season to achieve those goals.

“We’ll have summer projects as well as practice drive time on old robots for future drivers,” Ponnada said. “We will continue our outreach into the community to help the team grow as a whole, along with staying committed throughout the whole off-season.”

Swartley said he was happy with the year overall.

“We focused on keeping the robot simple and reliable,” Swartley said. “We were very pleased with the way the season turned out. We won both regionals that we competed in and made it into the playoffs at championships.”

The winning alliance at the world championship event consisted of teams from California and Texas.

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