First Person-Perspective: Attending A Robotics Competition

Gryphtech Robotics and team at the competition in North Bay
Photo courtesy of Gryphtech Robotics

Submitted by Gravenhurst High School robotics team Gryphtech Robotics

It was a sunny cold winter day as we headed north on the highway eleven corridor, heading up to compete in the North Bay FIRST Robotics CHARGED UP competition. We were all charged up for this event because we had something that we needed to prove.

FIRST Robotics is a lot like robot hockey. You need to pick up game pieces and place them in their correct spots while trying to dodge the other team’s robots trying to hit you and knock you off your course. Matches are only two-and-a-half minutes long, and for the first 15 seconds, your robot can only move based on the code you give it.

Teams only have two events to show what their robots can do, and our first competition in Barrie took a turn for the worse. Our robot, Phillip, named after our favourite Phillips screwdriver, kept having mechanical issues. We had just repaired the arm our robot uses to pick up pieces, and then our drive train encountered issues.

After all our hard work, we ended up missing the playoffs for that event. Our work did get acknowledged by the judges, who awarded us the judges’ award for our hard work and persistence in fixing our robot.

Our slow start saw our team place 88th out of 127 teams, and we had our work cut out for us. But thanks to the hard work of our lead programmers, Axel and Trent, we got the robot doing exactly what we needed it to do before we got to North Bay. Now it was our time to show all the other teams there what our robot could do.

The first few games we played, however, didn’t quite go to plan. Phillip was performing the way we wanted him to, we just weren’t getting the results we needed. We ended up dead last out of the 28 teams there, and our overall ranking fell to 91st out of 127 teams.

We would need a ranking around 75th to move on into provincials, and we had some work to do to get there. We held together strong, in large part thanks to our mentors, Rachel, Christie, and VK, and our head of safety, Kaitlyn, who helped to calm everyone’s nerves and get us back on track.

Our team kept on improving from there, thanks to the great coordination of our co-driver Parsa and our human player Owen, whose job was to drop pieces for the robot to pick up. After a quick intermission, where our team played Go Fish with our teammates and opponents, we jumped into the playoffs.

We ended the qualification matches with our team ranked 20th out of 28 in the competition, but we still needed more to get to provincials. To start the playoffs, the top eight teams in the competition got to choose who they want as their two alliance partners, and our hard work paid off. We were selected to join the number three ranked alliance, captained by Hoya Robotics from Huntsville, as well as the hosting team Ice Cubed Robotics from North Bay, one of the teams we had played Go Fish with while waiting for our match to start.

Our first playoff match with our new teammates also didn’t quite go to plan. Our alliance captain, Hoya Robotics, was having issues connecting to the cameras they use to pick up pieces, and we ended up losing that match by just two points. Thanks to the double-elimination style tournament for playoffs, our team had one more chance to prove what we could do. In large part thanks to wonderful scouting by our co-captain Matalyn, and the two-headed monster of strategy, co-captains Aiden and Oliver, we were able to win our next few matches, allowing us to stay alive in the losers’ bracket of the tournament.

North Bay robotics competition
Photo courtesy of Gryphtech Robotics

Our work was not yet done, however. In our third match in the losers’ bracket, we defeated alliance four to move on in the tournament, or so we thought. A field issue that hampered our opponents during the game meant that we would have to replay the match. Replaying a match due to field issues is an extremely rare event in FIRST Robotics, and it meant we would have to fight for our lives again. We ended the game victorious, 100-99, in a heart-stopping match for everyone in attendance.

We would continue our fight toward the championship, and after eliminating the team who had defeated us in our first playoff match, we would move on to the finals. Our alliance would end up playing the number one ranked alliance for the right to hold the trophy, in a best-of-three series.

This alliance had not yet lost a game in the playoffs, so we needed to pull something out of our sleeves. Thanks to a fantastic idea to tape a Bristol board to Phillip, displaying our Highway 11 pride and blocking the view of the field for our opponents, we were ready. We then got the signatures of everyone in the pits and on the drive team on that Bristol board, letting us walk onto the field with style.

The first championship match was a close game, but we held on to a small lead to emerge victorious, with only one more match we would need to win. Our second championship match was an even closer affair, and we found ourselves in a very tight situation.

Any match ends with both teams trying to get their robots onto their charge station, which tilts up and down with the weight of the robots on it. If a team can get their charge station leveled, they receive points for every robot on it at the end of the match. We needed to get all three of our robots on and leveled before the end of the match to win, something which was difficult to do in any match, let alone the stress of a championship-deciding game.

Our team’s driver, Trent, as well as the drivers of our alliance partners, managed to get our charge station level with less than a second left in the match. The roar from the crowd was enormous, and we had just won the championship. Thanks to those last-second heroics, our team finished the competition ranked 33rd, putting us on track to make provincials, which will be held in Hamilton from April 5 to 8.

We would like to thank our alliance partners Hoya Robotics and Ice Cubed for the amazing playoff matches we shared, and we wish them the best of luck, as we all independently travel down to provincials to compete with and against each other again. As a team, we plan to bring upgrades to Phillip, in part thanks to our newest student mentor, Eric. These upgrades include a whole new arm, which should allow us to score game pieces better than before.

Our team is currently looking for more sponsors to pay for transportation and accommodation for the provincial competition, as well as funding to build next year’s robot. Anyone looking to donate to the team, or become a yearly sponsor should email

This submission has been lightly edited for clarity.


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