The Paul D. Schreiber High School Vikings Team 1803 recently competed in the newly expanded SBPLI Long Island Regional FIRST Robotics competition where they were ranked 18 for most of the tournament. Port competed against 35 teams from across Long Island in the first regionals at Hofstra University, finishing 28th out of 35. However, the Vikings were selected to be on an alliance and made it to the quarterfinals for the first time in years, but were later eliminated at the quarterfinals.
“Students spend many hours designing and building this robot,” said coach Thomas Stepanek. “They put in an incredible amount of time and effort so to see your robot up and running during the competition is very exciting. It is an amazing experience just to be at the event watching from the stands, but its even more thrilling to be in the pits preparing your robot before each round. It’s very exciting to see the competition especially during very close matches.”
While typically the regional competition was three days long with the first day being a practice day to unbag the robot and set it up for a few practice matches, the second day being for qualifying matches and the third day being the remainder of the qualifying matches followed by the finals and award ceremony, this year, the Long Island regional expanded and broke it down into two separate regionals. Port competed in the first regional from April 9 through 11 while the second regional was April 12 through 14. This year’s challenge for all teams was dubbed “FIRST Power Up” and was described by FIRST as a competition that “finds teams trapped in an 8-bit video game” in which “teams use power cubes to defeat the boss.” The Vikings created a 120-pound robot to compete in the alliance-style tournament where two three-team alliances take to the playing field to compete in a variety of tasks in order to score points and win the round.
Students had been preparing for this since the club started meeting in September while the official announcement that describes the task the robot must complete was made in January. The students prepared by building a practice robot, allowing them to experience assembling many components needed for building a robot. Then, the students are allotted only a six-week build season in which they spend many late nights and weekends designing, building, programming and testing out their robot.
“As a team, we made an effort not to overcomplicate things,” said Stepanek. “This year, we designed a simple sturdy robot that can score points quickly. We were complimented by many teams on our strategy and the design of our robot. We were designed to be a defensive robot and we worked great with our alliance partners during the qualifications. We were picked to an alliance for the quarter finals. This is something that Port Washington hasn’t accomplished in many years. Students were very excited about this opportunity. It was a great way to end our season.”
Stepanek explained that the team has come a long way in the three years he has been advising them, saying now that they have placed more emphasis on the FIRST competition after previously focusing on a smaller league called VEX robotics, they have drastically improved.
“It’s amazing to see students with diverse talents and interests all collaborating together for a common goal,” said Stepanek. “At the end of the season, it’s not how the final robot turns out but the process of how we got there. I think the most important part of this team is that students have a lot of responsibilities and they learn quickly to rise up to the challenge. They truly learn the definition of dedication, not just to the robot, but to each other. As a team we grow together. This year we got a taste for victory by making it to the finals and I’m excited to ride this momentum and see what we can accomplish next year.”
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