The Calculated Chaos of Robotics
SI's Robotics Team 5924 smiles at the Las Vegas Regionals.
The robots take off to the center of the pit, whirring over ramps, scrambling after cones, and revving into other robots on their return to the goal. Geared with safety goggles and matching shirts with “Team 5924” sprawled proudly across their chests, the students of SI Robotics team gripped onto their control consoles to secure points in hopes for a victory at the Las Vegas Regionals FRC tournament.
During the first weekend of April, over 44 high schools from California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii, and Canada gathered to compete amidst a robotics rampage.
After hours of designing, manufacturing, building, and coding their robot, the SI Robotics team entered the tournament area, faced with the challenge of steering the robot and controlling the claw mechanism to pick up cones and cubes in exchange for points. Ciel Duffy '25, who served as the team’s claw operator, initially felt the pressure of the competitive environment as she stepped into the game zone. “Robotics competitions are intense because all of the work we’ve put into the season and the robot comes down to a few 2 and a half minute matches,” said Duffy.
While the robot’s driver and designer, Dustin Lin '25, experienced similar instances of hesitancy as he undertook his large responsibility in his team, he recognized the encouragement that his fellow robotics engineers provided him. “I feel like having teammates is a very important part of this team because without them it would be impossible to compete,” shared Lin. “We all worked together to build the robot, and during the competitions they all cheered me on."
As Duffy and Lin maneuvered the robot’s wheels and arm, Serena Fan '25 carried a clipboard under her arm, scouting SI’s competitors and collecting data about rival and potential groups. If Fan and her teammates advanced to a high enough standing, they would have the opportunity to pick alliance teams to side with in the final few rounds. Gaining steam through numerous victorious matches, the SI Robotics team found themselves ranking fifth out of the 44 teams in total. Yet, challenges arose as Duffy and Lin encountered malfunctions robot's system. "In one of our matches, our robot lost communication and we couldn't drive, costing our alliance the match. We dropped to rank 11 and could not play in the following match,” said Duffy. Lin also noted untested alterations to the robot’s design while working with the repair crew. “We decided to change out the entire grabber,” described Lin. “This was a major risk for us since we could ruin all of our chances if it didn’t work." Cooperating with one another to cut off pieces, drill holes, and rewire electrical elements of the robot, the SI Robotics members shared moments of teamwork and support as they fought their way to the Top 5 and became appointed as alliance captains during the showdown rounds. Although the team took a risky step in picking members with a lower ranking, Fan’s scouting data provided the newly bonded teams with confidence and helpful information of each other’s skills. “Our alliance’s teams worked really well together during playoff matches,” added Duffy.
With their decision paying off in the end, the SI Robotics team triumphed in the Top 5 ranking in the regional tournament, proving their successful response to the risks in robotics.
Kate Quach '25 is a Vol. 71 Associate-Editor-in-Chief