Warren, NJ

WHRHS Team 41 RoboWarriors rise to the challenge at FIRST Robotics World Championships

Leanna Wellerding

Tired but triumphant, Team 41-RoboWarriors, representing Watchung Hills Regional High School in Warren, NJ, arrived home late Sunday afternoon, bringing home the title of FIRST Robotics World Championship Roebling Division Semi-Finalists, and a whole new appreciation for the sport.

Team members and advisors in attendance at WorldsCourtesy:Peter Ponzio

It was a demanding and rewarding season, this great re-entry to live play with physical robots after a pandemic related early-season ender in 2020 followed by a year’s hiatus. More than 3,300 teams from across the globe participated in the FIRST Robotics 2021-2022 season. High performers all season long, bringing home 2 silver medals and a caché of awards, the RoboWarriors joined with 453 other teams that earned their qualification to the FIRST Robotics World Championships, this year held in Houston, Texas.

Screenshot:Leanna Wellerding

Following the global live-streamed kickoff event on January 8th of this year, teams had just under 2 months to scratch build an industrial sized robot capable of playing in the season’s themed game. “Under strict rules and limited time and resources, teams of high school students are challenged to build industrial-size robots to play a difficult field game in alliance with other teams, while also fundraising to meet their goals, designing a team “brand,” and advancing respect and appreciation for STEM within the local community.” (Credit: FIRST) Participating teams tackled the hands-on tasks of designing, programming and building a robot that starts with a standard part kit and an extensive set of rules and regulations. Once built, teams work to train their drive team to maneuver the field and, in the case of this year’s overarching theme FIRST® FORWARDSM presented by Qualcomm and FRC specific theme RAPID REACTSM presented by The Boeing Company, to pick up and transport cargo across the field under enemy defensive plays, offload cargo by shooting into either of two cargo hubs, climb a series of 4 suspended bars at increasing heights and cooperate with their alliance partners to earn ranking points.

RoboWarriors alliance battles it out on the fieldLivestream screenshot:Leanna Wellerding

RoboWarrior bot climbs in playCourtesy: Joanna Chan

The WHRHS Team 41 RoboWarriors did just that, diving into their 25th season with a robot whose stats quickly caught the eye of other competitors. Racing up the rankings at Region Qualifiers and then again at the FIRST MidAtlantic District Championship, the team spent hours preparing themselves and their robot for the high-intensity matches. Early in the season, it became clear that they had built “the bot to beat” as alliances playing opposite them regularly strategized defense against the RoboWarrior bot over cargo scoring. During the early season the team brought home 3 coveted awards:

  • Excellence in Engineering
  • Innovation in Control
  • Industrial Design

2021-2022 season awardsCourtesy:Peter Ponzio

That winning spirit propelled the team forward and with their hopes set on Worlds, team families with the assistance of the WHEAT Foundation raced to organize transportation and accommodations for team members to attend the global event and the team’s 54th official event since its inception in 1997. The WHEAT Foundation’s GoFundMe, linked here: Fundraiser by Peter Holczinger : WHRHS Team 41 Robotics to World Championship! (gofundme.com) seeks to help offset the cost of team participants’ families who paid those fees personally, as well as the cost of transporting the robot, pit equipment and tools safely to Houston and back.

Team 41 RoboWarriors pit at World ChampionshipsCourtesy: Joanna Chan

WHRHS Team 41 descended on Houston, Texas, during the high-school’s spring break, joining their competitors for 4 days of intense competition from Wednesday, April 20 through Saturday, April 23, 2022, at the George R. Brown Convention Center. During two days of qualifier matches, the team battled it out in the Roebling Division with randomized alliance partners, collecting ranking points and racing up to 4th rank at one point. Off-play matches, when other alliances were earning their own ranking points, bumped teams up and down the ranks during the 127 matches played. The battle ran fast and furious as bots traversed the field, firing at the target and performing lightning-fast offensive and defensive maneuvers. As part of one randomized alliance, Team 41 and its partners scored the highest total score of the division’s event. A solid contender, the RoboWarrior robot held 11th rank out of the 76 teams in play at the end of two long days of battle with 7 wins to 3 losses, and was eagerly scooped up by Alliance 5 during alliance selection for the playoffs.

The team's alliance cleared the highest score of their divisionLivestream screenshot:Leanna Wellerding

The RoboWarriors and Alliance 5 tore up the competition in the quarterfinals, but fell to the challenger in Semi-Finals when battle-damage from a full season of competitive play made itself known as cargo after cargo overshot the high hub.

Drive team members wait out the autonomous play periodLivestream screenshot:Leanna Wellerding

Team mechanics handle repairs between matchesCourtesy: Joanna Chan

With a season full of exhilarating wins and challenging losses, Team 41 drove their bot all the way into the semis, among a mere 96 teams still in contention from the original 3,325 teams who participated in the season. Said design-team member and WHRHS senior Johannes Wellerding, “The wins and awards that our team collected this season serve as acknowledgement of what can be achieved when teams follow the FIRST ideals: to innovate, to compete, and to collaborate while maintaining gracious professionalism within competition.” As the team prepares to graduate its seniors, the RoboWarriors know that through participation in this award-winning program, they have learned to solve problems, developed creative solutions, persisted against unimagined obstacles, and honed the skills with which they can build the next chapter of their lives with a solid framework in STEM.

Team sponsors include: Picatinny Arsenal/The Knotts Company/Nokia Bell Labs/Picut Manufacturing/Warren Lions Club/Intuitive Surgical/Thor Labs/P&R Fasteners Inc./Advent Industrial/Offaly Associates LLC/Advanced Circuits/Watchung Hills Education and Technology Foundation & Watchung Hills Regional High School

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