Lancer Robotics Team triumphs despite trials and tribulations

by Navaneeth Dontuboyina (’24) | April 8, 2022

Photography by Clarissa Chen (’22)

The FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) members of the Robotics Team competed in the annual Sacramento Regional at UC Davis from March 23 to 26. However, the journey, struggles, and experiences leading up to this event are far more representative of Team 2367 than the competition itself. As Clarissa Chen (’22), the Lancer Robotics social media liaison, stated, “It’s a really fun challenge, and working with other brilliant minds and putting a robot together is a really wonderful experience.”

Throughout the school year, Lancer Robotics has been an integral part of Saint Francis’s extracurricular STEM program and school spirit, as demonstrated by their T-shirt cannon robot at the Back-to-School Rally last September. The team also planned on hosting the Wiffle Rush soccer competition on December 4, 2021, where new members would have designed remote-controlled robots and learned the technical skills required in robotics, but the event was later canceled due to rain. 

Towards the start of the FRC preparation season in winter, the board members held tryouts for the official FRC team to select potential members whose skills would contribute to either the electronics, fabrication, or code of the project. For instance, the code team entrance exam required knowledge of MiniMax algorithms and their implementation in C++, the widely accepted language for robotics and computer science, according to board and FRC team member Siddhant Hullur (’23).

However, after the FRC team was assembled, it encountered challenges when designing a robot that met the requirements of this year’s FIRST Robotics theme: RAPID REACT. According to Chen, the first stage of RAPID REACT involved a red team and a blue team, each with three robots that shoot red and blue balls into a hoop for points. The team took into account complex strategies in different aspects of the game, such as defending, pinning other robots, and scoring, when designing their robot. Another segment of the theme required the robots to climb ascending rungs, where the number of rungs climbed determined the number of points earned. For the FRC team, incorporating these seemingly unrelated tasks became a priority.

President Aarush Kachhawa (’23) identified time limitations, mechanical errors in the design, and unprecedented technological difficulty as the obstacles the FRC team faced. “We did spend a lot of time cutting and designing, and that did lead to some unforeseen errors mechanically,” he explained. Yet, through grueling late nights in the lab, the FRC team completed the robot punctually for the Sacramento Regional.

There was a palpable sense of competitive pressure mixed with sportsmanship between teams at the Regional. Most importantly, this was the first time many of the FRC members ever experienced an official robotics competition due to COVID-19 regulations. “The whole theme [last year] was canceled and scrapped, so this [was] actually my first FRC season where I got to go to the tournament and everything,” Hullur stated.

Currently, the FRC team is evaluating the performance of Robot 2367 at UC Davis and making necessary adjustments for the upcoming Silicon Valley Regional on April 7. This process of conception, setback, and perseverance that the team constantly undergoes truly makes Lancer Robotics a sacred space for STEM on campus.

Categories: Features

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