Pencil in Cistercian Preparatory for a Robotics Championship

Students learn teamwork while navigating computer, mechanical mishaps

The robots may get more complicated, but the lessons remain classic.

Cistercian Preparatory School’s robotics students learned about the importance of teamwork and resilience as they overcame technical difficulties on their way to win the international 2022 FIRST Robotics Competition.

Created in 1992 by Dean Kamen and Woodie Flowers, the competition allows teams of students worldwide to design and build a working robot. Teams are presented with game and engineering specifications every January, consistent with the annual competition’s theme. This year’s theme, Rapid React by Boeing, centered around alliances of teams’ robots working together to accomplish tasks like shooting balls into a tower and climbing monkey bars that increased in height under automatic pilot or remote operator control.

“This year was by far the most complex robot we have ever built with a swerve drive, a passive climb, and an auto-aiming shooter,” said rising senior Andrew Oliver, programming captain. “We showed ourselves what can be done when you put your heart and mind into something you enjoy.”

After qualifying for the international competition, Cistercian’s team, named Fusion Corps, made its way through eight qualification matches before being partnered with Up-A-Creek Robotics from Colorado, The Cheesy Poofs from California, and Knight Vision from Michigan for an April match between the other divisions’ winning alliances. Through practicing good teamwork, Cistercian and its group members advanced through three championship matches, ultimately attaining victory for all by a score of 142 to 108.

“It was so incredible being able to work with and learn from such world class teams like the Cheesy Poofs and Up-A-Creek Robotics,” said rising junior James Novinski, the team’s driver. “As the main driver of Fusion Corps, it was such an exciting but really nerve-wracking experience being alongside those teams and helping them on and off the field.” 

Cistercian’s win did not come without a few glitches, however.

The robot, aptly named Resilience, endured a parts failure at the qualification match that was quickly remedied using some pencils.  

“Those pencils probably were the reason that we got picked,” said rising senior Ryan Jackson, engineering co-captain.

Later at the world championship, one of the key computers used to navigate the robot ran out of battery power before a critical match.

“It was a pretty tough moment for us because the power cable wouldn’t charge the computer,” said rising senior Matthew Nguyen, a team member. “But we found the solution to that by using an alternative cable in a different port.” 

Celebrations after the big win consisted of a good night’s rest for most members. But seniors Blake Harris and Nathan Comeaux hurried home to catch the end of their prom night.

“The team lived up to the robot’s name, Resilience, and persevered when it looked like our season might end,” said Rev. Mark Ripperger, robotics school liaison and science teacher. “We were honored to be selected for such a strong playoff alliance and enjoyed the relationships built in pursuit of the world championship.” 

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