By SUZANNE GALLIGHER, Contributor
Four Vandegrift ViperBots robotics teams — 6800 Valor, 6209 Venom, 7161 Hydra and 11503 HyperFang — did not disappoint at the FIRST Championship Houston last week, finishing the highest ever in their eight-year history.
The event at the George R. Brown Convention Center brought together 15,000 students from 43 countries contending for awards and recognition in competitive play through team-based robotics challenges within the framework and enthusiasm of a sporting event.
In the FIRST Tech Challenge track, ViperBots team Venom, Hydra and HyperFang set some impressive records.
Venom took home the judges award — a ViperBot first — in recognition for their outstanding efforts to help a Chinese team, and a competitor, fix their broken robot. This sort of selfless kindness to help others is a core tenet of the FIRST program and is referred to as coopertition.
HyperFang and Hydra fought their way to the playoffs in their respective divisions. This was “the first time two FTC teams from the same school made it to elimination rounds,” according to Irad Allen, faculty sponsor.
HyperFang, the 4th seed in their division, was knocked out in a best-of-three elimination during the semifinal round. Hydra won their division advancing them to the finals round played in Minute Maid Park.
“Standing on the (field of the) Houston Astros stadium, seeing our robot in the big screen and hearing the sounds of a crowd as large as 20,000 people — it was like nothing I had ever done before,” recalled Varun Gorti, Hydra project manager. “We ended up placing 2nd in the world, higher than any ViperBots team ever has before. It wouldn’t have been possible without each and every member and each of the thousands of hours we collectively put in.”
Valor, a first-year team, competed in the FIRST Robotics Competition track at worlds winning the rookie all-star award in their division.
“These were given to the most outstanding rookie teams at the championships,” said Allen. This year, there were about 60 rookie teams of the 400 competing at worlds in FRC.
“Equally impressive, is that they were only one of three rookie teams that made it to the elimination rounds and their #8 seed alliance almost eliminated the #1 seed alliance that eventually competed in the event finals,” Allen said.
He thanked Michael Ray, Jesse Vera, Marya Unwala, Ben Helgeson, Rachel Eversman, and Jordan Stagg for “their unbelievable mentorship and support” of Valor. “Michael’s leadership was crucial to establishing a FIRST class FRC program and setting a precedent for years to come,” he said.
Students shared appreciation after the event.
“I want to thank our parents and the opportunity they have given us to explore the world of science and technology. They have been with us every step of the way and we couldn’t have done it without them,” said Gorti, who also thanked the head sponsors: Allen, Tamany Wendel, and Joe Adrian.
Awards: Carver-Newton Division Rookie All-star Award
Roster: Adam Busch, Adelaide Johnson, Cole Ibanez, Devan Dholakia, Gabriel Diaz, Ian Padovani, James Hofstadler, Justin Phillips, Logan Everitt, Matthew Kind, Neil Rathod, Nolan Ward, Philip Sarkis, Sachin Desai, Will Bryan
Awards: Event Finalist Alliance (2nd place), Jemison Division Winning Alliance
Roster: Varun Gorti, Abigal Pomerantz, Angela Phan, Avinash Gupta, Evan Deeny, Nicholas Chan, Roslynne Norrod, Samuel Kim, William Gunawan, Cole Ibanez
Awards: Judges’ Award
Roster: Rice Province, Bo Deng, Elyssa Padovani, Hamza Ali, Hannah Branstetter, Jackson Roberts, Karthik Chavan, Mikaela McLelan, Ryan Radloff, Stefano Bonilla
Roster: Kelly Scalpati, Christopher Vallone, Daniel Lee, Ethan Williams, Kendall Cuddy, Matthew Poole, Peter Horvath, Phillip Branca, Shawn Burkhardt, Will Pasquarette