Diary of a Robotics Competition

Member of robotics team 177, sophomore Satvik Kadappanavar details his experience at the FIRST robotics competition in Houston, TX.


Satvik Kadappanavar

South Windsor Robotics Team, 177, competes at the FIRST Robotics Competition in Houston, TX.

Day 1: 4/18

Immensely excited, and very nervous to compete on the biggest stage of the FIRST robotics competition for this year, our team, Team 177 took off from CT today. Following an eventful morning at the high school, we boarded our very comfortable coach bus and began our venture towards LaGuardia Airport. We came across many buildings, such as the New York Times office and even Citi Field for the Mets. Our journey on the bus came to a close around 4 PM, and we boarded our Southwest flight out to Houston at around 5:30 PM. We ended up taking off around 6:45 after many delays. Our team and our wonderful mentors settled in for the flight, and we touched down in Houston just four hours later at 9:45 (1 hour set back because of time zones). We checked in at our hotel, and rested up for an exciting Day 2 of the trip.

Day 2: 4/19

Day 2 was very anticlimactic, but at the same time, very exciting, with it being the first time that I had seen the George R. Brown Convention Center. It was a behemoth of an establishment, with a fairly large “FIRST” sign out front. We walked through the beautiful greenery of the park by the building and made ourselves inside. It was a jam-packed and energetic area. Teams from all around the world, Israel, Turkey, Mexico, India, Japan, China, Germany, France, and even Brazil were there. Hundreds of teams, thousands of people, and hundreds of unique designs in every robot could be seen around the pits and in the stands. The nearly ⅓ of a mile long area reserved just for the competition was split into eight different divisions, with about 80 teams in each. The divisions were Newton (ours), Milstein, Johnson, Hopper, Galileo, Daly, Curie, and Archimedes. On this day we went through 13 simple practice matches before packing up our stuff and leaving, excited for the next day. After exiting the area, our team went bowling together at a nearby bowling alley. We reserved about 6 different lanes and had pizza, lemonade, and lots of other food as we had a blast bowling. This concluded right around 9:30, and we came back to our hotel rooms for the night.

Day 3: 4/20

Day 3 was very eventful, as were the following days. The day started bright and early, with everyone in my room, Dylan Hunt, Abeer Dhillon, and Jacob Chen and everyone else on the team waking up around 5:30 AM and grabbing breakfast from the lobby. After breakfast we boarded the nearby metro at 6:00 AM and headed towards the convention center. At the convention center we settled in on the bleachers in between two different Israeli teams, team 5135, the Black Unicorns, and team 5990, Trigon. The day was very busy after this, with our team working in the stands by scouting other teams and collecting data for our matches to be as successful as possible, and a couple members of our team residing in the pits, practicing coding lines for our robot and fixing any problems with it. We played a total of 5 games on this day, with one of the more challenging schedules. We dueled it out against very talented teams, each game ending with nail biting finishes and incredibly low score differentials. We ended the day with a total of 3 wins and 2 losses, and we were around 32nd out of 77 teams. 

Day 4: 4/21

Day 4 was more of the same as Day 3. We woke up at the same time, made our way over to the building and resumed the qualification matches. This day determined our position in the standings and we tried our very best to perform at our highest level. We put up numbers similar to the best alliances at the New England District Championship event and ended up winning 3 of our remaining 5 matches. This day presented us with some additional free time in the middle of the event, and this allowed us to explore the upstairs area of the Convention Center. We met different FLL and FTC teams and observed their competitions. Their robots were smaller, and their competitions were less complex, but they still fascinated us. Speaking with the younger children of these teams was very enlightening and we got to see what their goals were with their projects. The upstairs area also presented a lot of colleges to talk to and many STEM related exhibits that were very interesting. We concluded the day with some more qualification matches, ending around 8:30, and we finished qualifications at 25th place. At the end of the day we had a team dinner at a restaurant that we reserved completely for ourselves. It was a buffet. We had turkey, mac and cheese, pasta, and some cake while laughing and talking to each other and with our team mentors. After the team dinner, we held a 90 minute-long pick-meeting discussion from 9:30 PM to 11 PM. We crunched some numbers, analyzed the best options for strategies in the playoffs and finalized our best options for the next day. 

Day 5: 4/22

Day 5 was Saturday, the biggest day of the competition. Alliance selection would occur for every division, and the teams that win the tournament for each division would compete in a tournament of their own in a very competitive and exciting atmosphere on the Einstein field. Our team was selected by team 4522, Team SCREAM, and we ended up selecting team 9084, Octobots, for our third robot in our alliance. We also selected team 4069, Lo-Ellen Robotics, as our back-up robot. Playoffs were exciting, but brief for our team. We zipped around the field in our first game, placing cones and cubes and balancing on our Charging Station, scoring points to the best of our abilities. Unfortunately, we fell short, losing to the 1st seeded alliance 202 to 152. Our second game brought some joy, as we barely edged out Alliance 5 by a score of 175 to 173, scoring one of our highest point totals all year long. We were very hyped up during this game and prior to our next game, shouting out our team chants as loud as we could. However, through an unfortunate turn of events, we fell short on our controversial last match, where our alliance partner accidentally damaged the Charge Station, preventing us from balancing in the last few seconds and costing us several points. The match ended 185 to 159, and our journey in this year’s FIRST robotics competition came to a close. We were still very happy, however, as our team performed miles better than last year, as we actually qualified for the playoffs this year and even came away with a win. The rest of the day was the most exciting of all. Alliance 3 ended up winning our Newton division and went up against the other 7 alliances in the Einstein finals. There were an astounding 4 teams from New England in the Einstein finals. Each alliance battled it out, putting up unseen before point totals, each win being in the 200s, until eventually, the alliance from Hopper and the alliance from Daly were the only two left standing. They dueled it out in the first game, with the Daly alliance facing many technical challenges, and Hopper prevailed 213 to 141. However, the second game was a different story. Both teams cycled their scoring and all 6 robots were zooming around the field, scoring pieces and even supercharging (scoring after filling out the grid area). All 6 robots began to balance at the end and they were all successful as the final buzzer went off. Everyone held on to their breaths as the officiating crew tallied up the points. Eventually, the score animation went up, and the Hopper alliance barely edged out Daly 209-208! This concluded the FIRST competition for the year, as confetti rained down on the winning alliance. The music and lights went crazy and the members of the Hopper alliance, 1323, 4096, and 4414 hugged each other in immense joy, as they were world champions!

Day 6: 4/23

This day was a lot more laid-back, as we went to the Houston Zoo as a team. After taking the train and walking over, talking about the previous day’s events and looking forward to next year, we got to meet many animals. There was even a 99 year old turtle named Mr. Pickles, and it was the oldest animal at the Houston Zoo! We went to many different exhibits, seeing Sea Lions, Crabs, Snakes, Gorillas, Okapis, Elephants, Tigers, Cheetahs, Lions, and even a Red Panda! Some viewing areas got us really close and personal to the animals, practically a few inches from them, separated by a glass barrier. We went around excitedly taking pictures and enjoying ourselves at the zoo, until it was time to head over to the airport at 12:30. We went back to our hotel, packed up, and headed out. We boarded our Southwest flight at 6:30 in Houston time, and spoke to other FRC teams that competed at Worlds on the plane. We touched down at LaGuardia around 11:30, and boarded our bus and headed back to the school, reaching at 1:45 AM, officially concluding our Houston trip. Our team was very tired, but also very hungry to pounce on our competitors at Houston in 2024! Go Team 177, Bobcat Robotics!