Brunswick Eruption offers this year’s robotics team a test run

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The entire robotics team.

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The Steel Hawks’ 2022 offseason is coming to an end, as the team prepares for the beginning of the new robotics season in January. On November 12, Team 2601 headed to North Brunswick Township High School in New Jersey for the 20th annual Brunswick Eruption, where their robot from last year’s World Championship would compete for the last time, and this year’s robotics team rookies would compete for the first time.

The teams competed under the 2022 Rapid React theme, which requires the robots to carry and deposit “cargo” balls in low and high positions on a central hub, then climb the rungs of a hanger; their performance was based on the number of balls placed in the hub along with how high they managed to climb. In a series of qualifiers, the Steel Hawks placed 23rd out of over 50 teams. In the next round, the teams were split into alliances of four, which were chosen by the teams who placed highest in the qualifiers; then, they would showdown in a series of three matches to see who would advance. Their alliance, Alliance 7, placed seventh after losing in the quarterfinals.

Junior Vivian Chen, Head of Communications, said the competition offered new leaders an opportunity to take charge. “Our coaches took a step back and let the board manage the team,” she said.

Due to previous COVID-19 restrictions limiting the amount of people at certain events, this was the first competition some veterans have been able to attend.

It’s also where senior Kaitlin Kai said she hopes aspiring rookies can determine whether or not robotics is right for them. She said, “I hope this experience helped rookies decide if they want to dedicate themselves to this team because we want competent people.” Over 150 students make up the Steel Hawks currently; but with the First Impact and Subteam Tests coming up, that number is subject to change. The First Impact Test consists of questions about the team’s history, including significant dates, outreach and past accomplishments. The Subteam Tests gauges each member’s knowledge and abilities within their subteam. “After the tests, we’ll see who stays and who doesn’t,” she said.

For now, the Brunswick Eruption inspired some new team members to commit. “It’s honestly such a life changing experience. At first I was skeptical, but now I understand why people enjoy it so much despite how tiring it can be,” said sophomore Joyce Shen. “I definitely knew that I wanted to remain in this team.”

Physics teacher Michael Quach, who was recently appointed an assistant coach, said, “I never did robotics myself when I was a student here at Townsend Harris. Having the opportunity to work with the team now makes me regret not doing it sooner. There is so much energy and camaraderie, and I love being able to see so many students care about each other and being proud of the school they’re from.”

Though some said they hoped to place higher, members of the team expressed satisfaction and pride in their rookie drive team. “I think we accomplished what we set out to do…which was letting our new drive team members get some competition experience along with the rookies,” said Vivian.

“The veteran members were able to mentor and guide the newer members, and the newer members were able to explore and learn more about what this team is all about,” said Mr. Quach. 

“We had four different groups with veterans for each so they could teach us how to do certain things, such as scouting,” Joyce said. Scouting is an important aspect of any robotics competition, as it allows teams to find the most compatible robots to partner with in the finals. There are three types: stand scouting, pit scouting, and comment scouting. Stand scouts create a breakdown of a robot’s performance during a match, including its speed, scoring, misses, faults, and more relevant statistics, on Scoutapp. Meanwhile, comment scouts write summaries, or comments on a document. Pit scouts take pictures and ask questions about the other team’s robots during the overall competition. “It was very, very fun,” Joyce said.

“Highlights included cheering and shouting for the team members during our qualifying matches, as well as the dancing we did during our off time. I even lost my voice for a while after due to all the cheering and shouting,” said Mr. Quach. 

Joyce said, “I loved when we cheered for our own alliance, as well as for other teams such as Stuyvesant.”

Following this competition, the team’s focus will turn, in part, to fundraising. Joyce said, “Our team has honestly been struggling due to a lack of funds and inflation.” Last year, Kaitlin explained, the team raised a lot of money through boba tea sales, since students were able to eat lunch throughout the building; with students eating in the cafeteria now, the team is unable to run sales during lunch bands.

With Brunswick Eruption over, team members said they are now thinking about what’s in store for the 2023 season. The 2022 season was full of successes, from winning the regional championship in Albany to getting 16th at the World’s Championship.

“I have high hopes for the upcoming season. I think there will be a few ups and downs, but I look forward to future competitions and maybe even going to championships again,” said Vivian.

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