By Tommy Smeltzer
All four squads of Chaminade’s Eagle Engineering robotics team, including the middle school’s team 83, advanced to elimination rounds at the Windward School Vex Robotics Tournament this weekend; with one squad emerging as tournament champion and another taking home their first judged award. This was the team’s first tournament of the year, resulting in one of the eagle units reaching their goal of qualifying for the State Championship in March.
The all-day event was also the debut of Chaminade’s first all-girl robotics team, 1138-G, who launched on a high note by taking home the Judges Award, given to the team singled out as deserving of special recognition.
Vex Robotics is the smaller of two robotics platforms in which the team competes, with robots limited to 18 inches in each dimension. Matches are played between two opposing alliances, each comprised of two unique robots with a team number specific to their school. Schools may field multiple teams by adding a letter designation to their team number, giving more students an opportunity to design, build and compete as a unit. Over the course of several qualifying rounds teams play in randomly assigned alliance pairings, requiring them to adapt quickly to each other’s unique abilities and style of play. Squads from the same school may play with, or against each other according to the luck of the draw during those rounds. However after qualifying is complete, the top 8 seeds are allowed to choose two partners to rotate in for the finals. The alliance captains may invite a team from their own school, or not, depending on their tournament strategy.
On this day, Chaminade’s team 1138-B (captained by Julian O’Neill ‘16, with drivers David Ardy ’17 and John Mosunic ’17) dominated throughout the day, going undefeated and landing in the top seed. They selected teams from Servite and El Camino Real as their partners for the finals. The 1138-A team (captained by Noah Hosaka ‘18 with coach Chris Grabow ’17 and driver Shail Desai ‘18) finished 5th, but were bumped up to the second seed with a selection by another El Camino team. Chaminade’s middle school team 83 (driven by Eric Zhao ’20 and Daniel Ahn ‘20 with field coach Harry Bebedian ’20) performed exceptionally well against mostly high school teams, finishing 7th in qualifiers and bumping up to the 4th seed for the elimination rounds. Chaminade’s third high school squad, newly formed all-girl team 1138-G (captained by Nicole Kuberka ’17 with programmer Aubrey Dooling ’17 and a committee of drivers including Ariana Nicolau ’17 and Gioia Melian-Huerta ’19) finished 14th, but rose to the 8th seed during alliance selection. The entire roster of Team 1138 includes 70 students working off the field, filling essential roles from designers, builders, programmers, and support personnel to business, management and marketing staff.
This year’s game Nothing But Net is a fast-paced and exciting sport in which student-designed machines must shoot 4-inch foam balls into a net from as far as 15 feet away. The 1138-B robot led scoring with a very accurate and consistent shooter, with the crowd often cheering as they nailed full-court shots one after another. The robot design relied heavily on the students’ application of their physics education, well documented in their engineering log book full of projectile motion equations and test data. “The physics doesn’t lie. You could even say this is Dr. K’s ‘bot,” said Julian O’Neill. Their work earned the team a Design Award on top of their tournament win.
The playoffs began with brother versus sister as the 1138-B alliance faced the girls from 1138-G in the quarterfinals. After winning the best-two-of-three round, they moved on to face their younger sibling team 83, who went toe-to-toe with the high schoolers, forcing the round to three matches. The 1138-A Alliance also sailed through their side of the bracket, leading to a showdown between the two Chaminade teams. At that point there was no way Chaminade would leave without a state championship-qualifying victory. The final matches featured an impressive display of scoring from both sides, each match going down to the wire.
Both the A and G teams have no time to rest as they head off to Viewpoint School in Calabasas for the annual Clash in the Canyon tournament this Saturday, October 17. Qualification rounds start at 8:30 a.m. and admission is free.