The 2015 FIRST Robotics Competition Game, Recycle Rush, was definitely a fun game to participate in, and provided team members with great experiences throughout the season. However, it definitely wasn’t the most exciting game in FIRST history, and thus everyone was excited when FIRST unveiled the 2016 FIRST Robotics Competition Game, FIRST Stronghold.
With FIRST Stronghold, FIRST launched a new trend that would continue in the years to come – Themed games. As first in a long line of such games, FIRST delighted the community with a Medieval Themed competition game, designed and decorated with help from Disney. The objective of the game was to attack and conquer opponents “Stronghold” while defending one’s own Stronghold at the same time. Both ends of the field were adorned with a medieval-themed tower, each with a High and Low goal for teams to score boulders (grey dodgeballs that functioned as the main scoring item) into. Surrounding the towers was a zone known as the “Courtyard”, which served as the only place on the field where boulders could be launched. Between the Courtyard and the center of the field laid the game’s primary special challenge: A set of 5 “Defenses” chosen out of 9 options with the help of the Audience and the defending alliance. Each defense had it’s own unique challenge to it, from the Rockwall (a large, rectangular step) to the Cheval de Frise (a set of articulating panels that Robots must lower before crossing). These defenses, especially the Low Bar, provided unique design constraints on participating Robots.
The game began with a 15 second autonomous period, in which alliance robots could attempt to cross the opposing team’s defenses and score a pre-loaded Boulder into the high or low goals of the opponent's tower. In the remaining 2 minute and 15 second Tele-operated period, alliances worked to further Damage at least four defenses (by crossing them twice) and score as many boulders into the tower as possible. At the end of the match, teams lined their robots up on the batter beneath the tower and attempted to scale the tower by performing a pull-up on the protruding bar. Strategy for Stronghold was further complicated during the Qualifications Rounds through the introduction of Ranking Points, which were used as the primary ranking method. Teams scored 2 points for winning a match or 1 point for tying. Extra Ranking Points were awarded for successfully Breaching the defenses through Damaging at least 4 of the 5 defenses, and for successfully Capturing the Tower by having all alliance members park on the batter or Scale the Tower after reducing its strength to 0.
This season, Plasma was fortunate to compete in two regional competitions: The newly organized Arizona North Regional, and the Arizona West Regional, our standard home regional tournament. At Arizona North, Plasma Robotics ended the Qualification rounds ranked 15th, with a record of 7 wins and 3 losses. With this performance, we were asked to join the 5th Seed Alliance along with Team Paradise (1165) and the Sabercats (4146). However, during the quarter-finals, we suffered a case of the VEX Pro shearing gears - which plagued many teams during this particularly rough season, and our alliance opted to call in CooneyTech (269) as a backup. Unfortunately, the opposing alliance including the Tators (2122) was more proficient in scoring points, and moved on to the Finals in our place. Plasma ended the first Arizona North Regional Tournament with a final record of 9 wins and 4 losses. Plasma saw improved success at our next regional tournament: Arizona West. At the end of qualifications, Plasma had a record of 8 wins and 4 losses, but ended ranked 9th. Through the process of Alliance Selection, this rank earned us the position as head of the 6th Seed Alliance. We invited Westwood Robotics (2478) and Out of Orbit Robotics (2449) to join our alliance, and made it to the Semifinals once again, but were unfortunately beat out by Arizona North alliance partner, the Sabercats (4146) and the rest of their alliance.
However, our season was not over yet. Plasma Robotics was honored to be awarded the 2016 Arizona West Regional Chairman’s Award for our work in advancing STEM and the FIRST programs, and were thus qualified to attend the FIRST Championships. Plasma had a great time at our last bid to Championships in St. Louis, and despite ranking only 29th in the Carson Division and failing to be picked for an alliance in the Division Playoffs, all team members left Championships having had fun and with great anticipation for the upcoming 2017 FRC Season.
In Addition to our formal FIRST Competitions, Plasma Robotics also had the chance to participate the the Arizona FIRST Robotics State Championships, which we qualified due to our performance at both Arizona Regionals. This one-day offseason event was a great way to get to use the robot in competition one last time while showing incoming team members the joys and excitements of competition. Plasma ended the half-day qualification rounds ranked 2nd in the state of Arizona, a large improvement from our formal competitions, but unfortunately dropped to 4th place in the finals due to issues with alliance partner robots. Once again, team members left the competition energized and excited for the 2017 FRC game with the then-announced Steampunk theme and name: FIRST STEAMworks!