A robotics engineering team from walked away this weekend with the first world championship title in the school's history.
Two teams from Murrieta Valley's NightHawk Robotics Club (NHRC) competed in the VEX Robotics Competition World Championships Friday through Sunday at the Anaheim Convention Center. There were 396 teams from 17 different countries, said club adviser and Murrieta Valley drafting and robotics teacher Kevin Bradley, in an emailed announcement.
Students design and build robots as part of an elective and extracurricular club that has been in existence for five years at Murrieta Valley. Teams then use radio controls to maneuver the robots in "arenas" in which robots complete timed competitions.
The weekend competition took up a majority of the Anaheim Convention Center; in all there were more than 600 teams from more than 20 different countries represented at the middle school, high school and college levels, Bradley said.
Among the top-scoring teams were those from Canada, China, Mexico, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Singapore and United States.
There were four high school divisions of 99 teams each. Team 569 from Murrieta Valley was in the Engineering Division and Team 569C was in the Math Division.
Team 569 consisted of students: Vinayak Pillai, Jordan Niell, Erik Ruiz, Kevin Cruz, Harrison Chea, Matthew DeNava, Grady Quinn, Roger Scherer, Jordan Petersen and Vishakh Pillai.
Team 569C consisted of students: Devin Catron, Devin Bailey, Jenna Patton, Peter Cerbu, Ryan Berger, Dylan DaPra, Bryce Longacre and Noah Ekstrom.
Each team had 10 qualifying matches over the three days. After the 10 qualifying matches the top eight teams would pick two other robots to be on their alliance for the playoffs.
Team 569C went 6 and 4 and ended up in 30th place out of 99 teams.
"They would have to convince one of the top eight teams to choose them," Bradley said, of Team 569C. "Unfortunately they were not selected. They were certainly good enough to make the playoffs and even beat many of the teams who did make it. They have absolutely nothing to hang their heads about. They had a great season including the No. 4 highest score in programming skills in the WORLD—a first for NHRC. They were also the designers of arguably the most popular pit at the event.
Eleventh-grader Devin Bailey said competed on Team 569C and said he "had a blast" at the World Championships.
"After working hard all year and finally achieving our team goal of competing in the Vex World Championships, 569C was very proud of our accomplishments as a team," Bailey said. "Even though our team did not make it to the playoffs we were very happy with our accomplishments and we had a great time. This was my first year at the World Championships and it was a blast. I learned so much and I cannot wait to compete next year!"
Team 569 went 9 and 1 and was the fourth-seeded team at the end of qualifying, which meant they were one of eight teams entitled to select two other robots to be on their playoff team.
"We have made the playoffs in the past, but have never had the opportunity to pick our own alliance—another first for NHRC at the World Championships," Bradley said.
The team from Murrieta Valley chose a team from Auckland, New Zealand and one from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada as their alliance partners.
The alliance won in a nail-biter quarterfinal match-up against the fifth-seeded team, Bradley said.
In division semi-finals, the Murrieta Valley alliance beat out the first-seeded alliance led by the Shanghai, China team.
Then it was on to the division finals. The alliance competed against one led by the second-seeded Beijing, China team.
After winning that, the Murrieta Valley alliance—winner of the Engineering Division—moved on to compete in the championship round against the winner of the Math Division in front of an audience of thousands.
The alliance led by Murrieta Valley's Team 569 outlasted and was crowned World Champion.
“We worked so hard to get here, and our whole team rose to the challenge that was before us in ways we didn’t even know were possible,” Vinayak Pillai of Team 569, told VEX in an interview. “Each year VEX Worlds gets bigger, becomes more impressive, and the competition gets fiercer. Even if we didn’t win today, this event is something that we will remember for the rest of our lives.”
The event was a production in itself, Bradley said.
Opening ceremonies included a parade of nations, Bradley said, during which students from the myriad countries were accompanied by the University of California Trojan Marching Band.
Students also had the opportunity to meet and see Dr. Douglas D. Osheroff, professor at Stanford University and 1996 Nobel Prize winner, he said.
"This was an inspiration to all those so interested in science, math, engineering and technology," Bradley said.
In addition, the Murrieta Valley teams were able to reunite with three former robotics students—Will Miller, Eric Hamilton and Chris Patton—who now attend California Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara, he said. The Murrieta Valley alumni volunteered as judges and referees for the event, he said.
"These former students were instrumental in laying the foundation for the success that was achieved this past weekend."
Bradley thanked sponsors Milwaukee Tools, which sent tools used in constructing the robots, and West Coast Industrial Supply, which donated funds to the program. NHRC is always in need of corporate sponsors, he said.
Bradley congratulated both teams on their stellar performances.
"Watching these students shake the hands of their competitors after every match, win or lose was an awesome display of sportsmanship.
"I could not be more proud of the accomplishments of BOTH TEAMS including; their sportsmanship, character, determination, and dedication over the past year," Bradley said. "All of the success NHRC has achieved this year is the culmination of teamwork and countless hours put in by these kids. Don't ever underestimate what they are capable of because they just might surprise you."