169Y wins back-to-back signature events in robotics

Maxim Kreider _21, left, and Bennett Twi’myer ’20 at work in the lab, February 1, 2020 – photo by Toby Ma _20

After winning the VEX Robotics Signature Event at Worcester Polytechnic Institute just a week before, team 169Y The Cavalry took the victory again at the Northeast Wisconsin VRC Showdown Signature Event on January 23 and 24 at the Packers Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Made up of Fifth Former Maxim Kreider and Sixth Formers Aditya Sardesai, Bennett Twitmyer, and Brandon Windle, 169Y’s victory makes them the only team in VEX that has won two signature events.

     In VEX Robotics, a signature event is a large-scale tournament that’s designed to give participants a highly competitive experience early on in the season, similar to the level of competition seen at the VEX Robotics World Championship.

     “It’s pretty difficult to qualify for Worlds, so not everyone can experience it,” Sardesai said. “Signature events have spots that directly qualify teams to World Championships, which attracts a lot of high-level competition and makes the tournaments much more competitive than regional and state-level events.”

169E: Owen Gormley ’21 and Daniel Hou ’22- photo by Ms. Vicky Kreider

     Every season, VEX Robotics releases a game that requires high school students to build, program, and drive a robot in competitive matches.

     “This year’s game is essentially stacking a bunch of cubes on top of each other in the corners of the field. Another important aspect of the game is to place some of those same cubes into cups, increasing how much each cube is worth,” Sardesai said.

     “Like previous games, it is teams of two playing against each other,” Twitmyer said.

     At a competition, the team will play with teams from other organizations in an “alliance” against two other teams. After a set of qualifying matches, where alliances are randomly assigned, teams choose whom to play with during the elimination rounds.

     In Wisconsin, 169Y was in an alliance with 1008M Minimal Margins, a team from Vermillion, South Dakota. At Worcester the week before, 169Y was in an alliance with sibling team 169E, consisting of Fourth Former Daniel Hou and Fifth Formers Gary Gao and Owen Gormley.

The match field at The Wave at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, January 2020 – photo by Ms. Vicky Kreider

     Sardesai attributes his team’s success to the attention to detail towards all aspects of the robot.

     “We go through many iterations of designs and builds for each of our subsystems,” Sardesai said. “Especially in a game like this year, where even minor mistakes can cost you a win, the consistency of our robot through meticulous building, coding, and driving helped us win.”

     Another overlooked asset is the cooperation within Haverford’s robotics organization. Although Haverford teams compete against each other, everyone on The Cavalry supports each other no matter how the tournament goes, and in the robotics lab teams work together to test different ideas.

     There is also the robotics community’s sportsmanship and the mutual respect between individual teams. Before their semifinal match at WPI against teams 375X Falcon and 9421X The X-bot, 169Y had to make repairs to their robot and called a three-minute timeout.

     “As the timer hit zero, we thought we would have to compete without a fully functional robot,” Twitmyer said. “A team on the opposing alliance called their timeout for us and gave us another three minutes to finish fixing our robot.”

“Each time a 169 team wins, we know that it isn’t just a team win—its an org win.”

Aditya Sardesai ’20

     “Each time a 169 team wins, we know that it isn’t just a team win—its an org win. Everyone on 169 contributed to the program’s success,” Sardesai said.

     Haverford has a storied VEX Robotics program, but the organization’s notoriety has also led to increased pressure for the team to continue performing at the same level of success. However, with two signature event champion trophies under their belt, the season has been anything but a disappointment.

     “It feels especially good to win because a lot of people in the community and in the region said that 169 was a ‘dead program’ and not very good this year,” Sardesai said. “We did have a slow start to the season, but it’s been good to turn the tide and show that 169 has no plan of ‘dying’ or going away any time soon.”

     Despite already having qualified for the World Championship twice over, 169Y does not plan to step away from the sticks beforeWorlds in April.

     “Our early qualification to Worlds gives us an advantage no other 169 team as really had before,” Twitmyer said. “Knowing that we are qualified allows us to take bigger risks and perfect designs that we would have otherwise had to rush.”

“We are trying to get ourselves and the program in the best spot heading into Worlds.”

Aditya Sardesai ’20

     “It has definitely taken some weight off our shoulders and allowed us to focus on helping the underclassmen more,” Sardesai said.

     “This is the earliest any 169 team has ever qualified for Worlds. We have three months until Worlds, so we have the flexibility to explore and iterate on new design ideas as well as further improve our current bot. We are trying to get ourselves and the program in the best spot heading into Worlds.”

Author: Toby Ma ’20

Toby Ma is an editor-in-chief of the newspaper, previously serving as managing editor and assistant editor of the Features section. Three of his recent articles earned Gold Keys from the 2020 Philadelphia-area Scholastic Writing competition. He also contributes poetry and fiction to the school literary magazine Pegasus, and is a member of the Haverford VEX Robotics Team 169 “The Cavalry” and Model UN. His favorite subjects are English, history, and science. Outside of school, he enjoys reading and fencing.