Carmel Valley: Canyon Crest Academy rookie robotics team wins contest, qualifies for nationals

Canyon Crest Academy's rookie robotics team, made up of ninth- and 10th-graders, took first place at the first regional competition in Pasadena. Team members are: Jill Farinsky, Meg Farinsky, Maia Kuspa, Ryan Lee, Annabelle Mercer, Tristan Murphy, Eric Nicolas, Claudia See, Yousuf Soliman, Nic Stone and Noah Sutton-Smolin. (Courtesy photo)
Canyon Crest Academy's rookie robotics team, made up of ninth- and 10th-graders, took first place at the first regional competition in Pasadena. Team members are: Jill Farinsky, Meg Farinsky, Maia Kuspa, Ryan Lee, Annabelle Mercer, Tristan Murphy, Eric Nicolas, Claudia See, Yousuf Soliman, Nic Stone and Noah Sutton-Smolin. (Courtesy photo)

Canyon Crest Academy’s rookie robotics team took first place in the first regional competition of the year, held Dec. 11 in Pasadena, qualifying the team for the national competition in St. Louis in April.

CCA’s rookie team – named “De-Evolution” because the robot travelled backwards when the team first moved it – is one of only a handful of other high school teams nationwide that qualified for nationals to date. There are two more regional competitions, to be held in San Diego on Jan. 15 and Las Vegas on Jan. 29, the winners of which will also qualify for nationals.

De-Evolution is composed of 11 students in ninth and 10th grades, most of whom have never competed in a robotics tournament. Many of their competitors were older high school students who have participated in robotics competitions in past years.

Team members are: Jill Farinsky, Meg Farinsky, Maia Kuspa, Ryan Lee, Annabelle Mercer, Tristan Murphy, Eric Nicolas, Claudia See, Yousuf Soliman, Nic Stone and Noah Sutton-Smolin.

“We were just hoping to be in the top ten,” said De-Evolution team member Annabelle Mercer, a 10th-grade CCA student. “We were never even hoping to win. But we did better than we thought. It was amazing.”

She added that the win was a team effort, with every member contributing to the victory and pitching in wherever help was needed. “Everyone did something important,” she said.

De-Evolution is one of two Canyon Crest teams to compete in the FIRST Tech Challenge. The other FTC team is composed of 11th- and 12th-grade students and is not considered a rookie team because team members competed last year. Canyon Crest also has a third robotics team, with about 60 members from all four grade levels, which competes in February in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). FRC is different from the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC).

The FTC game this year is called “Get Over It!” and is played on a 12-foot by 12-foot square field, with two periods of play. The first period, when teams program their robots to move independently, is called an “autonomous” period, which lasts 40 seconds. The second period is driver-controlled and last two minutes. The robots are about 18 inches by 18 inches and resemble mini, open-air tanks.

The object of the game is to move robots to baton dispensers positioned around the field, retrieve the batons which are made of six-inch PVC tubes, and place the batons into stationary and rolling goals. Bridges, cliffs and a “mountain” challenge the robots to “get over” the obstacles to reach their goal. Points are awarded for various moves, depending upon difficulty.

A total of 25 teams competed Dec. 11 in Pasadena, seven of which were from San Diego County, including two from Canyon Crest Academy (the De-Evolution and Domo Arigato teams), one from the Grauer School in Encinitas (the Shockwave Robotics team) and one from La Jolla Country Day (the Torrey Techies team).

Besides earning the top Winning Alliance Award, De-Evolution also won the PTC Design Award which is given to inspire teams to incorporate simplicity of design into their robots. Awarding De-Evolution the PTC Award, judges said, “This team was consistent with perfect accuracy and an evolutionary design. They ran laps around ‘de’ other bots. When other robots failed, they were the fittest survivors.”

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