On Sat. February 14, the Marlborough Upper School Robotics Team (the “Marlbots”) continued their impressive winning streak by becoming one of only ten high school teams in the Los Angeles Regional Championship Tournament to advance to the Western States Super Regional, which will take place in Oakland from March 27-29.
During the Championship Tournament on Valentine’s Day, which lasted from around seven o’clock in the morning to seven o’clock at night, the Marlbots placed 3rd in their division after winning four out of five qualifying rounds. For the following elimination rounds, they allied with the 2nd seeded team but were soon eliminated due to robot malfunctioning. Despite this early disappointment, however, the team won the “Connect” Award for sharing its knowledge of 3D printers with the Marlborough and greater engineering community. Earning the award, the third most prestigious to be offered at the competition, was enough to advance Marlborough’s team, out of more than 130 other teams, to the Super Regional.
“[Getting knocked out] was kind of a low point for us. Everyone was kind of disappointed… but at the awards ceremony we ended up winning that award, and we totally were not expecting that at all… That was very exciting because at that point we had some sense that we were going to advance to the next level,” science instructor and Upper School Robotics advisor Andrew Witman said.
According to Witman, each year the Upper School team typically participates in two qualifier tournaments in the LA region before advancing to the LA Regional Championship, but this year is the first time that the team has made it to the Super Regional.
Over the course of the 12-hour competition, each team must present its robot and design process to a panel of judges, which also judges teams based on their community outreach and their engagement with their school community. The teams then participate in the robot game, which changes each year but typically involves four teams competing against each other, with two teams per side. After the qualifying rounds, teams receive a ranking or “seeding,” and the top four seeds can choose another team with which to partner for the final elimination rounds.
“It was really rewarding to see all of our hard work paying off because at first we had… a really messed up robot that didn’t really work, so we really had to get together––the team worked really hard to make the new one,” Sarah ’18 said.
During the Valentine’s Day competition, the Marlbots also received a “Gracious Professionalism” pin for helping another team fix its robot during the competition.
“The team that we won with last time (Lightning Robotics), their robot tipped over and they broke this part. Well, they gave us the file––a 3D model of that part––and we were able to print it out on our 3D printer, and they were able to put that on their robot,” Witman explained.
The team, comprising ten students, meets once a week during lunch, two or three times a week after school, and during D period, which most of the team members have free.
“You just have this group of girls that become your best friends instantly… who are interested in the same thing you are,” Emma ’18 said, adding that being on the team is more than just creating and operating the robot. “A lot of time doesn’t just go into the robot; it goes into girl empowerment and community service, so we help out the Middle School [Robotics] team, we went to a girl empowerment conference, we’re on social media helping other teams… so it’s definitely a lot of stuff behind the scenes.”
The Super Regional will include 72 teams from thirteen Western states, and the team will travel to Oakland the Thursday before Spring Break.