Team 456 lays siege to competition

Published 12:02 pm Monday, April 7, 2014

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The atmosphere was electric — with music blaring, people on their feet cheering and the competitors racing up and down the field grappling for possession of the ball. In a matter of 2 ½ minutes, the match was over and the competitors picked up and carried off the field.

The competition wasn’t a traditional match between highly-trained athletes but a match between six robots on two alliances. Each robot controlled by a team of three students with two dedicated to driving and one directing from the sidelines. Team 456 Siege Robotics was among the competitors at Bayou Regional in a field of 57 teams competing for six slots to advance to the FIRST Championship in St. Louis.

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AERIAL ASSIST is played on a flat 25-foot by 54-foot field, straddled by a truss suspended just over five feet above the floor. AERIAL ASSIST, in layman’s terms, can be described as a combination of soccer, basketball and rugby carried out by 130-something pound metal robots. Once the match begins a 10 second period of autonomous moves is carried out and then the drivers take over. The matches are fast paced and pure excitement as the robots whiz around the field trying to contain, control, and shoot a 2-foot exercise ball in order to score points. There’s a lot of smashing and banging as the robots jockey for position and control of their team’s ball. The object is to outscore your opponent without destroying your robot, other robots or the field of play. Penalties are assessed for committing either of those fouls. Robotics is a sport for the mind.

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During the Bayou Regional in Kenner, La., Team 456 members broke up into groups that would spend three days scouring the pits, scouting matches from the stands, and preparing their robot for some fierce competition. Competition is not what drives the students involved, but cooperation. Cooperation is the term FIRST uses to convey the spirit of cooperative competition among the competing teams. During the preliminary matches, teams wander through the pits, the area where teams repair their robots, looking over the competition. If a team is having trouble getting their robot working properly another team will help them in any way they can.

The preliminary matches finish with eight top ranked teams picking their alliances and those 24 teams competing for six spots in St. Louis. Team 456 had a strong competitive robot and finished the preliminary matches ranked eighth. The number one ranked team aligned themselves with Team 456 and a third team rounded out the alliance. Despite a strong showing Team 456 failed to advance to St. Louis. Breakdowns occur and the number one ranked team suffered one during the quarterfinal matches.

During the preliminary matches Team 456 loaned two members of their team to another team in order to get that robot ready for competition. Siege Robotics puts safety above all else and for the eighth year in a row brought home the Industrial Safety Award and Gracious Professionalism Award, the latter for the willingness to help any team needing assistance. The mentors of Team 456 strive to instill those very qualities in each member. The mentors teach what they can to the team and prepare them for competition as best as they can. Once the team arrives for competition the mentors take a back seat and let the students show what they are capable of.

Team 456’s season is not over and in the next few weeks they will be demonstrating the robot they designed, built and programmed. They are a talented group of students who exhibit qualities that our community can be proud of. One, two, three 456!