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FIRST Robotics Competition Ventura County Regionals Reflections

Our Senior Robotics Team is back from LA, exhausted, but with smiles on their faces, memories to cherish, and a trophy to take pride of place in the cabinet! 

The team achieved the Rookie All-Star Award, which celebrates teams exemplifying a young but strong partnership effort, as well as implementing the mission of FIRST to inspire students to learn more about science and technology. The team also won a Wildcard Invitation to the FIRST Robotics Competition Championship in Houston, Texas in April. Last year, the event brought together almost 1,000 of the best FRC teams, from 58 countries, and over 46,000 attendees.

We are incredibly proud of their achievements, and we hope you will enjoy a recount of their experience.

Day 1 (by Hinako, Grade 11)

On day 1, we took the flight from Hong Kong to LA. For some of us, it was our very first time in California, which made everything even more exciting. After we arrived, the city's vibrant energy welcomed us as we made our way to Warner Bros Studio. Along the way, we couldn't help but point out familiar American stores like Target and Trader Joe's, and all of us were excited for the time ahead of us.

At Warner Bros Studio, we attended the guided tour, where we got introduced to their history and countless film productions. We got to see the behind-the-scenes of filmmaking, sets, props, and costumes that we had only ever seen on the screen. Walking through the sets where actors and actresses were acting in the films was a truly valuable experience. 

Although all of us were exhausted after the long flight, today was an unforgettable first day. We are all looking forward to the competition starting on Friday, and we can't wait to showcase our skills, collaborate with other talented teams, and make the most out of this amazing opportunity.

Day 2 (by Ariel, Grade 9)

At 12am, we finally started reassembling our robot in the garage of our Airbnb, blasting loud music while enjoying the California sun. We finished building the robot a lot later on during the day but we pulled through despite the distraction. 

In the evening, we had the wonderful opportunity to visit Ventura High School, home of veteran team 3925. The school is very big with over 2000 students enrolled. Their robotics team showed us their advanced industrial equipment in their metal workshops which helped their robotics program immensely. We were impressed with their large workspace that held a mock FRC game field. They even catered food for us!

We were so overwhelmed with their hospitality and to experience how a veteran team operated up close. It made us aspire to be like them someday. We couldn't wait until the start of competition the next day.

Day 3 (by Peter, Grade 9)

Our third day in LA, but the first day of our competition! We made an early start, waking up at 6:00am to make sure we would have as much time to set up at the competition as possible. Once we got to the competition venue we were given a designated location known as “the pit”. The pit was our space to fix and tend to any problems our robot came across during the next few days. 

Amped up for our first practice match we placed the robot onto the field and anxiously waited as the countdown for the match began. After a grueling 2 minutes and 30 seconds of play, we walked away somewhat disappointed as we realised how much worse our robot performance was compared to other teams. It was a crushing loss, but we were reassured by the other teams, telling us their experiences with their rookie years. We comforted ourselves with the fact that our robot was able to get onto the field and score points, an absolutely huge milestone from where we had come from only six months ago when we knew nothing. 

Day 4 (by Ayla, Grade 8)

Today the students in the International Stream competed in the first round of the qualification matches and we ranked a surprising 17 out of 48 teams. We even placed as high as 8th during the course of the day. This was our first experience in FRC and we really were not expecting this outcome. 

Certainly we would not have achieved this without the help of the other teams in our alliance. We don't expect to maintain this ranking tomorrow, but we have all gained something much more important - experience. 

A surprising element of this competition is how willing everyone is to help other teams and opponents. Not only did other teams spare us extra parts but they also came to our station to work on our robot in times of need. We have gained friends, mentors, and lessons from these people. Today, one of the coaches from an advanced team approached us. He told us about the journey of his own robotics team, and how the value of our small achievements should not be undermined by the big accomplishments of other teams. He said the purpose of this competition is ‘not for students to build robots, but for robots to build people’. With every mistake, we learn to find solutions and with every achievement, we learn to find how to improve.

Although going abroad to an advanced robotics competition looks good on college applications, and being in California with friends is an unforgettable experience, they are not the only purposes of this trip. It is also to improve and grow in areas of knowledge, understanding, and skills.

Before meeting up with the rest of the students, who had stayed behind for Shabbat, we ended the day at the beach, admiring the sun as it sank below the horizon.

Day 4 (by Mr. Sunny Ma, Robotics Director)

Today's qualification matches in the competition with the IS team were unforgettable. We faced a grueling schedule of matches and our robot really took a beating. After each match, we had roughly about 30 minutes to make repairs. And there were many.

As these 125 lb robots crashed against us throughout the day, little by little, defects started to appear. We suffered a shooter misalignment, loose electrical connections, piston pivot failure, and our frame column almost ripped out from the vibration.

What stood out to me the most was that all other teams were incredibly helpful all throughout the competition. They were willing to offer help by giving spare parts, tools, and advice for us. There truly was a sense that the other teams wanted us to perform our best. The students took their generosity to heart and it don't take long for them to make connections with other teams, asked for help, and shared design ideas. We really experienced their motto 'gracious professionalism' to the fullest. We also made it as high at 8th place in the standings after lunch. We finished the day in 17th place. 

Tomorrow, we will complete the qualifying matches in the morning, and, if we're lucky, playoffs in the afternoon. Everyone is really looking forward to tomorrow.

Day 5 (by Caleb, Grade 9)

On the final day in Ventura, our team had just three matches left before the playoffs. Initially ranked 18th, we maintained a mild sense of optimism. After two tough games resulted in losses, our rank dropped to 29th. Despite this setback, Mac and Hinako delivered an incredible performance in the last match, leading us to a victory that bumped us up to rank 23rd. We had put in so much effort and dedication and were thrilled. 

As we were departing that night, some team members then focused on dismantling the robot while others watched the playoffs, culminating in everyone gathering to witness the finals. 

Following the intense matches, the award ceremony commenced. As the announcer called out "9...4...2...1!!!"—our team number—the previously silent stadium erupted with cheers and shouts. Overwhelmed with joy, we rushed from our seats to the center of the arena to accept the Rookie All-Star award. The excitement continued to build as we were informed that we were also invited to participate in the World Championships. We are so excited and determined to cherish and make the most of this rare opportunity.