Team 456-Siege Robotics competes for world title

Published 7:07 pm Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Team 456-Siege Robotics’ season came to an end Saturday at the hands of the best team in the world.

The Warren County based team earned the chance to compete in the FIRST World Championships for the first time in the team’s 19-year history after winning the Bayou Regional last month. The competition was held in Houston, Texas and 405 teams from around the world faced off in a three-day competition to earn the title of World Champions.

Team 456 earned a spot in the quarterfinals after placing 16th out of 68 teams in their subdivision before losing to an alliance led by Team 254-The Cheesy Poofs from San Jose, which went on to win their second straight title.

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“The kids know it in their heart, but it is validation that they are just as competitive and can hold their own against anybody from anywhere,” lead mentor Chuck Dickerson said. “Sometimes growing up in Mississippi, you are conditioned to be the 50th and not as good as folks elsewhere. Our kids know they can compete and they proved it this weekend in Houston.”

The team, which is based at the Army Corps of Engineer Research and Development Center, had six weeks to design and build their robot from scratch before competing in regionals in Orlando and New Orleans.

A title in New Orleans earned them a berth in worlds and they competed last Thursday through Saturday against, and with, some of the best teams from across the world.

“It was the upper echelon of all the teams in the world,” Dickerson said. “It truly is an international event so teams from Turkey and China and Israel and Brazil and all over the world were there.”

Members of the team have in the past gone to the competition as volunteers, but this was the first time they were able to take their robot with them and compete on the playing field. 

“It was pretty great going against all these teams,” team captain Shavan Manusukha said. “There are these teams that are always there, the elite teams, that you wish you get the opportunity tom play with and getting the experience to play with them and looking at how they design their robot and how it works.”

Manusukha said getting to play with Team 254 during qualifying and then against them during the elimination rounds was his favorite part of the event as the chance to compete with a team sponsored by Google, Dropbox and more, showed them they can compete with anybody.

“It was a great season, I joined the team back in 2015 and my one goal was to get our team to the world championship. I am happy to say our team got us there,” he said. “My biggest takeaway was that we can play with the big boys. Our robot was built to be able to compete with them and every year we have that same philosophy. Playing up against the team that won the world championship, because they are the back-to-back world championships, so just being able to play with them, against them and alongside them was pretty fun.”

Without big name sponsors like Team 254, Siege Robotics relied on the community to support them traveling to Houston and Dickerson said every donation they received big and small, “made all the difference in getting us there and the team is very appreciative for all the help.”