Highlander Robotics qualifies for Worlds for third straight year

Banshee (8033) climbs a chain alongside alliance partners in the last seconds of a match.

Thirty-five members of Highlander Robotics attended the FIRST Robotics Competition’s Orange County Regional March 29-30 with their robot ‘Banshee’ and won the top judged award, earning their third consecutive qualification to the World Championship held April 17-20 in Houston.

The FIRST Robotics Competition announces a new game each January to be played by two alliances of three robots, built by 9th to 12th grade students, in an arena about the size of a basketball court. A new robot, which operates both on its own and with a driver, must be built for each season and competitions begin six weeks after kickoff. Teams can win awards based on the performance of their robots; the quality, innovation, and creativity of their designs; and the impact they make on their communities. Bids to the World Championship are earned by the captain and first pick of the winning alliance as well as the winners of the two most prestigious awards, ‘Impact’ and ‘Engineering Inspiration’, the latter of which the Highlanders received in 2022.

The team, attending their second regional of the season and ranked 12th in the state, entered the 48-team event as the favorite. However, after struggling through three different matches where partner robots, which are randomly selected during qualifications, failed to move for some or all of the time they found themselves with a five-win four-loss record and in 16th place. Even so, they averaged the highest points earned in the tournament and in the draft preceding the double elimination playoffs were the first selection of the tournament by the first seed captain “Robot Dolphins from Outer Space” from Dana Point, CA. The three team alliance was completed with 16th pick, Team Sprocket from Diamond Bar, CA.

Scouting Lead Cassie Colby works with her counterpart to choose a third alliance partner before playoffs.

In the first round of playoffs the alliance won, setting a tournament high score of 137-61. In their second match however, Banshee malfunctioned during the self-driving period, moving at full speed into a steel truss and afterwards had difficulty picking up game pieces. The alliance lost to the fourth seed captained by NOMAD from Escondido, CA. In the lower bracket, despite a rapid set of repairs performed by the Highlanders pit crew, Banshee continued to behave erratically and struggled through two more wins 97-79 and 95-58 largely due to the strength of the Dolphin’s robot, Siren. Finally, in the semi-finals, the Highlanders’ alliance lost a second time to NOMAD and finished third overall.

In the awards ceremony the Highlanders were awarded FIRST’s most prestigious award, the Impact Award, which honors the team that best represents a model for other teams to emulate and embodies the mission of FIRST. The judges cited the use of their skills to support Oakland USD’s Special Education department, their free release of a scouting application used by hundreds of other teams to track robot performance at competitions, and the number of communities they touched with teammates in 17 schools over 11 districts.

Mechanical Lead Ayaan Jajodia repairs Banshee between matches.

Banshee was operated by Vaughn Khouri and Max Seiden and supported by drive coach Justin Green, technician Alex Gish, and human player Chloe Kessinger.

Highlander Robotics was founded in 2019 by brothers Henry and Charlie Lambert and is composed of 62 students from 17 high schools around the area. They work from the Mary G Ross Engineering Lab at Piedmont High School. For more information visit the team on the web at frc8033.com. 

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