Ferradermis Competes with Some of the Best at Midwest Regional

Ferradermis spent part of their Spring Break in Chicago, enjoying some strong competition at the Midwest Regional, which featured 50 teams from 6 countries and 10 states. Teams traveled from Panama, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Canada, and Mexico, to join American teams from Hawaii, California, Florida, Arkansas, New York, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Minnesota at Credit Union 1 Arena on the campus of the University of Illinois Chicago from March 27 – 30. Among the participants were four FIRST Hall of Fame teams – Team 359 Hawaiian Kids, Team 111 Wildstang, Team 16 Bomb Squad, and Team 191 the X-Cats – as well as a member of last year’s world championship alliance, Team 4096 Ctrl-Z.

Ferradermis more than held its own in this elite field on day one of qualification matches, going 5-2 and ending the day ranked 11th. The team returned to action on Saturday morning for 3 additional qualification matches, going 1-2, with a final ranking of 18th out of 50 at the end of the morning. The robot’s performance has steadily improved at each of the team’s three regional events, scoring more and more points in each aspect of the game (autonomous, tele-op, and the endgame).

During the 15-second autonomous period at the beginning of each match, the robot runs pre-programmed code to pick up and shoot notes (orange foam rings) from various pre-determined positions on the field. The Ferradermis Programming Team, led by Ace Hudec, has been logging extra hours between and during competitions to improve the autonomous routines. The biggest challenge of autonomous is coordinating with your alliance partners to make sure your pre-programmed paths are complementary and will not interfere with each other. Bumping another robot during autonomous will force both robots off of their planned paths, and neither will be successful. Ferradermis has prepared a variety of different autonomous routines in order to coordinate with their other alliance robots.

The Ferradermis robot, Chief Lee the Tangerine, has become an expert at scoring notes in the amp (a shorter field element) during the tele-op period when the robot is controlled by Driver Andrew O’Toole and Operator Kay Mikos. When one note has been placed in the amp for each alliance, there is an opportunity for the human players for the two alliances to push a button and activate a “coopertition bonus” which lowers the threshold that both alliances need to meet to earn a ranking point for note scoring. During the Chicago event, only two teams – Ferradermis and Mukwonago – had a perfect 1.0 Coopertition score. This score is also used as a tie-breaker in the rankings if multiple teams have the same average number of rank points.

In addition to managing the coopertition bonus, Human Player Erison Dreksler also controls amplification. Notes scored in the larger field element (the speaker) count as 2 points each during tele-op, unless the speaker is amplified, and then they count as 5 points. The speaker can be amplified for 10 seconds at a time each time two new notes have been placed in the amp, and the human player has pressed the amplification button. Timing is everything in this operation, as you want all 3 alliance robots prepared to shoot notes into the speaker within that 10-second timeframe after the button is pushed, potentially also having other notes on the ground nearby to try and get off additional shots.

During the endgame (the final 20 seconds of a match), robots try and climb onto chains on the stage (a third field element). Chief Lee the Tangerine is an excellent climber, and can be counted on by its alliance partners to climb when needed as part of match strategy.

Only 24 teams make the playoffs (not necessarily the top 24 ranked teams), and by midday Saturday, the team anxiously awaited alliance selections. During alliance selections, the top 8 ranked teams get to choose their alliance partners for the playoffs. Decisions are based on scouting data gathered during the event as well as sometimes, prior relationships. Teams attempt to build well-rounded alliances with 3 robots that will complement each other in all aspects of the game on the field. Ferradermis Game Strategy Subteam Lead Emerson Dunham graciously accepted an invitation from Team #5847 Ironclad from Bradley, Illinois, who was ranked #5 in qualifications, and Team #930 from Mukwonago, who was ranked #30 in qualifications, to join the #4 seeded playoff alliance. Ferradermis then agreed to mount a shield onto Chief Lee for the playoffs that would help them play defense on behalf of their alliance, and this added an interesting twist to the remaining matches. The alliance was eliminated after only two playoff matches, when both Chief Lee and the Ironclad robot experienced mechanism failures.

Representatives of the teams forming the #4 seeded playoff alliance – Ironclad, the Mukwonago Bears, and Ferradermis – stand together on the field.

Throughout the week, the team was supported by students serving in many additional roles including Technician Nina Heim, Safety Captain Elora Wildermuth-Breitzman, Head Scouts Andrew Zimmermann and Cyrus Hudec, Videographer Margaret Brown, Judging Spokespeople Maddison LaHaie and Cosette Wildermuth-Breitzman, Scouts Chacha Binagi, Zoe Olson, Toby Kapfer, and Belle Cohen, and Pit Crew Member Luc Pomazak.

Ferradermis had never participated in the Midwest Regional before, and it was a fantastic experience. The team spent time at the WNDR (wonder) Museum upon arrival in Chicago on day one, and enjoyed several meals together as well. The competition itself was a really great warm-up for what the team will see in Houston at the FIRST World Championships in two weeks, both in the high level of competition and in the global nature of the teams in attendance. For the 2023 Championships, Houston hosted around 50,000 people representing 974 student robotics teams from 59 countries across the FLL, FTC, and FRC levels. The FRC competition this year (the level in which Ferradermis competes) expects to host 600 teams from approximately 30 countries divided into 8 fields/divisions. Each division will crown a champion alliance, and then the division champions will play off against each other for the title of world champion.

Article and Photos Submitted by Laura Masbruch
Whitewater High School Robotics Advisor

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