Paly Robotics places at World Championships, ends season on high note

Daniel Li and Daniella Maydan

The Palo Alto High School Robotics Team 8 poses for a picture at the World Championships in Houston last weekend. The team was named as a semifinalist. Photo: Kenny Cheung.
The Palo Alto High School Robotics Team 8 poses for a picture at the World Championships in Houston last weekend. Team 8 was named as a semifinalist, marking 2017 as the team’s most decorated year. Photo: Kenny Cheung.

Palo Alto High School’s Robotics Team 8 is celebrating its success after finishing as semifinalists at the FIRST World Championships in Houston last weekend, marking the team’s best performance in its entire 21-year history.

“Every year, FIRST, which stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, releases a video detailing a new robotics game,” Senior captain Kenny Cheung said. “All of the teams around the world then have six weeks to design, build, and program a robot from scratch to play that game.”

According to the FIRST Robotics Competition’s website, this year’s game was called “FIRST Steamworks” and it required “two adventure clubs from an era in which technology relied on steam power to prepare their airships for the ultimate long distance race.” Each team’s robots played in three by three, two and a half minute matches with the objective of trying to score the most points. The main ways robots could score points were through collecting fuel (picking up wiffle balls), delivering plastic gears to pilots on their airships (transporting gears from one side of the field to the other) and climbing onto airships (climbing ropes).

The 2017 competition began in January, with approximately 3,400 teams participating in various regional and district competitions, according to sophomore Nathan Kim. Team 8 was one of approximately 800 teams to advance to one of the two World Championships.

“The teams at our World Championships were divided into six divisions of around 60 teams each and we finished as semifinalists in the ‘Roebling Division,’” Kim said.

According to Cheung, 2017 was the most decorated year in Team 8’s history in terms of the number of awards won. When the Class of 2017 joined the team back in 2013, the team was finishing in last place at most events and had not won an award in years; however, in just four short years, the team has completely transformed. Earlier this year, Team 8 finished as Quarterfinalists at the Ventura Regional Competition and Finalists at the Silicon Valley Regional.

“This past season our team also won four awards: two Entrepreneurship Awards for our team structure and outreach, one Creativity Award for our unique robot design and one Finalist Award for finishing as runner ups at the Silicon Valley Regional,” Cheung said. “On top of all that, our Assistant Captain junior Simran Pujji was a Dean’s List Winner at Championships. The Dean’s List Award recognizes outstanding student leaders in the FIRST community and she was one of ten people who was selected out of thousands of candidates.”

The World Championships marked the end of Team 8’s season this year. Cheung said the team’s goal for the upcoming year is to win at a regional event.

“I would say that the goal will be to aim for winning a Regional event or winning the Chairman’s Award (awarded for team outreach)”,” Cheung said. “Finishing as Finalists this year and winning our Entrepreneurship awards shows that the team is close to being able to achieve those goals.”