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Robotics ’23 Offseason

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This fall, Hatters Robotics competed in two competitions using last year’s robot to hone their skills and train new team members ahead of their upcoming season. They competed at William Tennent High School and Wissahickon High School on Oct. 21 and Nov. 3, respectively.

Having fallen just short of qualifying for the 2023 FIRST World Championship in Houston, the robotics team is more motivated than ever. Typically, off-season robotics competitions are scaled-down versions of the high-intensity competitions that foster creativity and chaos in gyms across the world in March and April, but this was not the case for Team 708 Hatters Robotics.

With detailed strategy, vigorous scouting, and various iterations, the Hatters were all business at their two competitions this fall.

In this year’s game, robots have to place cones and cubes onto nodes and shelves, and balance on an eight foot by four foot platform with the other two robots on their team, encouraging collaboration between the drivers. The first 15 seconds of the match are autonomous, meaning the robot’s performance is solely based on coding done prior to the competition. The remaining two minutes and fifteen seconds of the match are controlled by the driver and operator using control systems such as XBox controllers or steering wheels.

These two competitions were the last time this year’s game will be used before 2024’s game, Crescendo, is released on Jan. 6.

Without full sets of bleachers, HH was unable to host its annual off-season competition, HAVOC, on Oct. 21. Luckily, William Tennent Robotics offered to co-host the event with HH, allowing the tradition to live on.

Following six qualification matches at HAVOC, the Hatters were selected by Team 1391, from the Westtown School in West Chester, to team up for the playoffs. After some quick deliberation, 708 and 1391 selected Team 321, from Central High in Philadelphia, to be their third and final alliance partner. Looking to be crowned HAVOC champion for the second year in a row, HH competed with 1391 and 321 in a double-elimination playoff bracket for the remainder of the competition.

Match one was no easy feat for the Hatters and their alliance, as they faced the Krypton Cougars, who ranked first of 151 teams in the Mid-Atlantic region during the 2023 regular season. But thanks to a strong endgame and some timely penalty points, 708–alongside 1391 and 321–powered past the perennially-victorious Cougars.

Despite this promising start, HH and its alliance partners met the Cougars once again in the semi-finals. Unfortunately, the Hatters could not keep up in the rematch and faced elimination, leaving them with a third-place finish at HAVOC 2023.

For the final time this year, Team 708 showcased Duke, their 2023 robot, in the team’s final off-season competition last Saturday, Nov. 3, at Wissahickon High School. Once again, the Hatters made a strong playoff run and fell just short.

However, the positives outweigh the negatives. Even with the team’s innate competitive spirit, the goal of off-season competitions is to hone skills, try new roles and integrate new team members into the world of high school robotics.

And HH did just that.

Between the two competitions, 708 utilized four different drivers, four human players, three operators and three technicians. New team members learned scouting techniques and were given opportunities to work with the pit crew, making it a valuable experience regardless of one’s tenure on the team.

“Getting new team members acclimated with FIRST robotics is a vital part of our off-season competitions,” said team captain Aidan Rafferty. “We love winning matches, but the biggest win for us is having experienced underclassmen at our kickoff meeting in January, which gives us a head start over the teams that shy away from off-season comp[etition]s.”

On January 6, the Hatters’ 37 team members will be tasked with a new mission to complete in a little under two months, where they will meet for more than 35 hours per week to prototype, design, assemble and iterate a functioning metal robot.

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About the Contributor
Colin Daly, Staff Reporter
Grade: Sophomore What is a favorite hobby of yours: Some of my hobbies include watching and playing baseball, writing, and hanging out with my friends. What you enjoy/look forward to with The Hat Chat: Getting to cover Hatters sports and interviewing students and teachers. Where do you want to go to college?: Boston University Fun facts: I own about 18,000 sports cards and I love trying different Chili recipes.  

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