By the end of March of 2022, the Haverford robotics team, The Cavalry, had already enjoyed an incredible season, earning themselves multiple high finishes in a variety of tournaments. Following this success, team members packed the robotics room throughout the entirety of April to prepare for the final competition of the season: Worlds.
From May 5-7, the team competed in the Vex Robotics World Championships in Dallas, Texas. The tournament brought over 800 teams from 36 different countries to compete in the VRC High School division. With five qualified Haverford teams—169A, 169E, 169R, 169Y, and 169Z—The Cavalry looked to test their skills against the world’s best.
“Worlds is always very challenging both mentally and physically. We’re up late every day trying to get these robots ready and trying to get everything working for the competition,” Sixth Form 169A team member Elijah Lee said. “Still, Worlds is always a really fun experience, and there’s always a collaborative team aspect that’s there because we’re all together working so hard, so that’s fun as well.”
Compared to the season’s other competitions, Worlds has an entirely different atmosphere simply because of the large number of participants. Robotics Coach Mr. Will Leech acknowledged the difference in the size of Worlds compared to local tournaments.
“The biggest tournament that we would attend in the regular season would contain, at most, locally, maybe eighty robots,” Mr. Leech said. “There were ten times [of] that at Worlds.”
In addition to the size of the competition, teams’ mastery and understanding of the game are significantly higher at Worlds.
“At the World Championships, it’s that 0.1% that makes the difference…When you get to Worlds, everybody knows exactly the tactics to be the running for the game. You know how to defend yourself, you know what’s important in terms of scoring points.”Mr. Will Leech
“At the World Championships, it’s that 0.1% that makes the difference,” Mr. Leech said. “When you get to Worlds, everybody knows exactly the tactics to be the running for the game. You know how to defend yourself, you know what’s important in terms of scoring points.”
Knowing the competition they were up against, the team immediately set to work once they arrived in Dallas.
“We flew in on Tuesday, got everything shipped over and set up, and rented out a conference room to give us a working space,” Lee said. “Wednesday was a full work day—kind of getting everything working and ready and making sure nothing broke in transit. Thursday was more of the same, but there was also registration and checking into the actual venue.”
The tournament formally began on Friday and Saturday. Teams played a total of ten qualification matches on Friday and Saturday morning, which determined their seeding and whether they could move on to the elimination rounds. Although The Cavalry fought valiantly, none of the teams moved on to the elimination rounds.
The Cavalry attempted to build intricate and complex robots that could address multiple areas on the field. However, given the time constraints, certain aspects of the robots were simply unable to be tested until matches began.
“Things were under-tested, code wasn’t tested, a lot of mechanisms weren’t properly tested, and really that just came down to we kind of ran out of time in the end,” Lee said.
Still, the potential for success was evident. With a little more time, team members are confident that they could have performed at much higher levels.
“I think, generally, we just, like, almost over-thought our competition,” Fifth Form 169Y team member Zachary Shah said. “Rather than taking the simple route, we kind of wanted to build and go above and beyond. I truly think if we just had one or two more days to prepare, we would’ve done incredible.”
While the results may not have been the most desirable, team members enjoyed competing in person on such a grand stage.
“This is the first time we’ve had the whole team on the trip, which was fun to see, and it’s the first time in a while because of COVID that we’ve had these kinds of events,” Lee said. “This is one of the biggest tournaments they’ve had yet, and it’s really exciting to see it get back on its feet after two years of hiatus.”
Furthermore, Worlds was more than just a competitive, intense competition. For younger members, the event proved to be both an exciting and valuable learning experience.
“It was my first time actually going to Worlds in-person because of COVID, so it was really cool to actually be in that kind of space.”Zachary Shah ’23
“It was my first time actually going to Worlds in-person because of COVID, so it was really cool to actually be in that kind of space,” Shah said. “It was also just really fun to hang out with all your teammates for a week in Dallas. And, now, I sort of know the strategy for preparing for Worlds, so we’ll know how to move forwards.”
Perhaps most importantly, team energy remained high throughout the event.
“I don’t think I saw anyone with their heads too low during or after Worlds,” Shah said. “We went out and tried a bunch of food at different restaurants, and just hung out as a team without being too sad about what was happening.”
Sending five teams to Worlds, the most teams sent by the Cavalry since 2017, is nothing to look down upon. In the end, the season was successful, and the team’s accomplishments and high team spirit throughout the year bode well for the future of the program.
“I’m hugely proud of our team, and I think they’ve done some fantastic stuff and really stepped up during the season,” Coach Leech said. “Of course, I’m super grateful to our seniors. We’re really grateful for everything they’ve accomplished while on the team, and we’re looking forward to what the next class of seniors is going to do in terms of their student leadership.”