Clare County Review & Marion Press News

Eagles Robotics team makes playoffs in first competition

From March 2nd through the 4th, the Marion Eagles Robotics team competed at the FIM Robotics Competition at Calvin University in Grand Rapids.
And they competed well.
The squad went 8-4 in qualifying matches, earning an 8th place ranking and a position in the competition playoffs.
After winning their first playoff match 113-109, the Eagles dropped their next two playoff matches 103-89, and 115-77 to finish with an overall record of 9-6.
One of the smallest teams in the competition, the Eagles team, coached by Tony Baldwin, boasts only 3 members – Dan Gaffney, Gunner May, and Sofia Quintero – compared to other squads that might have 20 to 30 members. However, each team member played an important role throughout the competition.
And by all accounts, it was a successful first competition.
“Our goal was to make the playoffs,” May said. “And during playoff matches, our goal was to play defense.”
“What was cool is that we got to pick our teams for our alliance in the playoffs, because we finished in the top 8,” Baldwin said. “Our goal was to get picked for an alliance. So [Gunner] picked two teams that had mechanisms that could do everything. We were in 3rd, and then 4th, then 6th, then we were in 11th going into our last match. And winning that last match bumped us up to 8th. At 11th, we were happy, thinking that we’d get picked. But being able to pick other teams was really cool.”
For each match in robotics, teams are paired in 3 team alliances – a red alliance and a blue alliance. Each team has their own unique robot, capable of being controlled remotely, as well as being programmed to operate autonomously. The strategy is to score points, and prevent the other alliance from doing the same.
Matches are set to include a 15 second autonomous portion at the beginning of each match, followed by 2 minutes of remote controlled robot action.
Points are scored in a number of ways, as each robot works to move and lift cones and blocks into various scoring zones throughout the course.
Gunner May did most of the remote driving work throughout the competition for the Eagles.
“In the beginning it was a little rough, because he hadn’t had a chance to drive it,” Baldwin said. “But he got better and better as the matches went on. Daniel drove it for one match, and he did pretty well too.”
May was also an alliance captain, tasked with choosing alliance team members for the playoff run.
“Being an alliance captain was a lot of work,” May said. “You have to go out on the field, and you better hope that you’ve done your scouting, otherwise it was going to be a pain. It’s difficult to spot good teams from bad teams, and it’s difficult to tell who other teams are going to pick. We were 8th, so we had the last pick in the 1st round, and the first pick in the 2nd round.”
Daniel Gaffney was the team’s mechanical guru, diagnosing and fixing issues as they arose.
“Dan fixed issues,” Baldwin said. “Every time something would come up, he’d hook it up to the computer right away and get us going.”
“His job was to fix my mistakes!” May said.
Sofia Quintero did her part by programming and coding the robot, and working on electrical issues.
“Sofia did the programming, and fixed some electrical issues that we had,” Baldwin said. “When we had to rewire things, she’d work on that. She was also the safety captain.”
Despite some early malfunctions, the Eagles were able to maintain their composure and resolve any issues by the end of the competition.
“We resolved everything by the end, the only thing that we decided to make different [for next competition] is the claw,” Baldwin said. “We ordered parts, and we’re waiting for those. Our claw was slow compared to other teams, so it took too long to accomplish what we needed to. So we didn’t use it as much as we’d hoped too, because you only have 2 minutes and 15 seconds or so.”
Due to their small size and fiery competitiveness, the Eagles won the “Rogue Award” as chosen by other teams. With the format of the competition featuring a lot of teamwork and cooperation, the Eagles were happy to have the backing of other competitors.
“Ludington helped us a lot, actually,” Baldwin said. “They helped us with coding. Boyne City came and helped us with some code. Reed City helped us figure out a problem with our electrical panel in the beginning.”
The Eagles next competition will take place in Traverse City from March 16th through March 18th. If the Eagles can do well there, they’ll have a chance to make it to the state tournament.
“We get points for each competition,” Baldwin said. [Each team competes in 2 regional competitions] I believe we have 28 points now, and we’ll have to do just slightly better [at the next competition] to earn a spot at the state competition.”

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