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Centerstage: A Rookie FTC Robotics Team's Journey of Innovation and Growth

Updated: Mar 5

Embarking on a New Journey

As four middle schoolers, we embarked on an exciting journey into the world of FTC Robotics in July 2023. With no prior experience, our only goal was to soak up as much knowledge as possible in our rookie year. We struck gold with three incredible coaches (Rajeev, Neeraj and Shivang) & two mentors (Suhani and Yashmit) and found ourselves propelled into a whirlwind of learning.

Our journey began with the basics of electronics, slowly building up to the intricacies of mechanical design, CAD, and the fundamentals of robotics. Then, the Centerstage competition was unveiled, challenging us to pick hexagonal pixels and drop them onto a backdrop to create mosaics. With a fear of analysis paralysis looming, we settled on a design that seemed both simple and achievable.

Designing Our Dream

Following a mentor's advice, we meticulously designed our entire robot, Batboy, in OnShape. Days, weeks, and months were spent perfecting the design before ordering the necessary parts and commencing assembly. However, the path to completion was riddled with challenges, from motors overheating to the robot arm failing to lock its position, and even wheels falling apart.

Innovation with Machine Learning

Undeterred, we embraced the challenge and decided to use custom TeamProp, creating our own Machine Learning model with TensorFlow Object Detection. The process of data generation for machine learning was not only educational but also enjoyable, leading to an impressive 98% efficacy as a rookie team.

Innovate Award at Google Qualifier

With our robot, Batboy, finally ready just two days before our Qualifier tournament at Google, our experience exceeded all expectations. We not only performed admirably on the game field but also clinched the Innovate award and were runners-up for the Inspire Award, a remarkable feat for a rookie team.

The Evolution to Batman

Empowered by the opportunity to participate in multiple qualifiers, we set our sights on the Santa Clara Qualifier. Learning from our previous experiences, we made the bold decision to rebuild our robot from scratch, giving rise to Batman, the evolved form of Batboy.

Challenges at Santa Clara Qualifier

The Santa Clara Qualifier proved to be a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Despite initially trending in first position, a series of setbacks, including the new claw's finger breaking the servo and running out of micro servo motors, led to a heartbreaking loss in the final match. However, undeterred by this setback, we resolved to improve Batman's design, adding mechanical backstops behind the fingers, after the competition.

Selection for Champs & Standing Among Giants

Our perseverance paid off when we received the unexpected call three days before the Northern California Regionals, informing us of our selection for the Champs tournament. Despite the time crunch, we made the most of the three days and headed to the NorCal Regionals with newfound determination.

Competing against 48 top teams from Silicon Valley at the NorCal Regionals was a surreal experience for our rookie team. Surrounded by seasoned competitors with years of experience, we felt like David facing Goliath. Despite our initial doubts, we held our own and emerged 10th in our division, an achievement that left us speechless. Standing among the top teams, we realized that our journey from rookies to contenders was nothing short of remarkable.

It was a humbling experience that taught us the value of perseverance, determination, and teamwork. As we reflected on our journey, we felt an overwhelming sense of pride and gratitude for how far we had come.

Looking to the Future

As we eagerly anticipate the start of the next season, Centerstage is filled with gratitude for the incredible learning platform that FTC Robotics has provided us, setting the stage for even greater accomplishments in the future.

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