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Class of 2014
Monday, April 14, 2014

Nemesis Crowned MAR Champions

Last weekend Robbinsville’s FIRST Robotics Team 2590 Nemesis added another win to their season with their victory at the Mid Atlantic Robotics (MAR) Championships.

Lehigh University’s Stabler Arena, a venue typically filled with the sounds of bouncing basketballs and squeaking sneakers, instead rang with shouts “Robot coming through!” and the noise of power tools as 55 teams set to work in their designated pit areas. Thursday April 10th marked the beginning of the MAR Championships, and teams from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware who had qualified to compete spent the day preparing for the Friday start of Qualification Matches.

Every January, the organization FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) announces a new challenge for teams around the world to complete with their very own robot. This year’s game, Aerial Assist, is played 3 versus 3, the objective being to place a ball into a floor goal or to shoot for the high-scoring goal. An emphasis is placed on cooperation, with 10 points added to an alliance’s score for each assist.

In six short weeks, Nemesis was able to create Bellerophon, an agile, sharp-shooting robot. Team members first designed the robot entirely using CAD software, then worked to bring their creation to life. Most parts were constructed in the Technology Lab of Robbinsville High School using the CNC Mill and Router. Any parts too large to be crafted in the lab, however, were made by local sponsors per the student’s specifications. Sporting a claw and a spring-powered linear punch shooter, Bellerophon was designed to swiftly grab balls and launch them into the high-scoring goal.

The first day of competition, however, was fraught with difficult matchups for Team Nemesis. Despite presenting a consistently rigorous offense, and Bellerophon’s first five matches left the team with a record of 2-3. The less-than-auspicious start to the competition was disheartening, but Nemesis rallied, and thanks to their superb Drive Team (seniors Josh Falk and Antonio Papa, sophomore Christian Gavalchin, and mentor Scott Meredith), the team won the remaining matches on Friday.

Despite the turnaround at the end of the day, however, Nemesis still hadn’t climbed into the top eight, the robots who would captain their own hand-picked alliance in the finals. Heading into competition Saturday morning, the team knew they had a lot to prove. After ending the season ranked as the first robot in MAR, Team Nemesis was ready to fight for the title of champion. And sure enough, Friday morning saw victory after victory for Nemesis, who gradually worked their way up the rankings. By the conclusion of the Qualification Matches, Team 2590 sported a solid record of 9-3, grabbing 7th seed.

Due to their high rank, Nemesis reserved the right to select two teams to join them in the Elimination Matches, a series of matchup where best two out of three would advance to the next round. For their first partner, Nemesis picked another skilled offensive robot, Team 11 MORT from Mount Olive, New Jersey. To round out the alliance, they selected Team 341 Miss Daisy from Wissahickon, Pennsylvania, a strong defensive robot.

The trio made a fantastic alliance, and the quarter- and semi-finals proved no problem for the three teams. Easily winning the first two matchups in both rounds, the alliance powered into the finals. But it was in the first finals match that the winning streak came to a crashing halt: Miss Daisy’s robot stopped moving early on after a run-in with an opposing robot. Short one team member and unable to rack up all three assists, the alliance had a heartbreaking loss of 241-195.

As soon as the buzzer signaled the end of the match, Miss Daisy called a timeout, team members rushing onto the field to assess the damage and see what caused the mishap. It appeared that after being hit, a wire was knocked loose, leaving the robot at a dead standstill.

The problem rectified, the field was reset and the countdown began for the next match. At the sound of the buzzer, the crowd began to cheer, only to see Miss Daisy come to a halt again after a few seconds. Hearts dropped and students exchanged worried looks as the match unfolded, again played two against three. Despite the clear disadvantage, Nemesis and MORT valiantly played the match, and at the conclusion, all heads turned anxiously toward the screen where the final score would be displayed. Serving as proof that every point truly counts, the score was revealed to be the closest of the entire competition-- Nemesis nabbed the win with a score of 176-175.

Still alive and in the competition, the teams once again made a beeline for the field, this time truly under pressure. The alliance's only timeout already used, there were precious few minutes to fix Miss Daisy. And the question remained: would they break again? The second match was too close, and the alliance couldn’t risk another match outnumbered.

After a quick investigation, it was found that the problem was a communication fluke, and the field was reset for one last match. As the points continued to climb, it became clear that it would be a close match. Nemesis, MORT, and Miss Daisy worked as a well-oiled machine, and thankfully, all three continued to function perfectly. It was a hard fought match, both sides knowing it was winner-takes-all, but after the buzzer, the 226-182 score named Nemesis, MORT, and Miss Daisy the MAR champions.

“It’s really satisfying; after spending six weeks practically living in the Tech Lab building the robot, winning with it makes the hard work all worth the effort,” enthused Mehaa Gupta, a junior Build Team member.

In addition to their blue Winner’s banner, Nemesis collected the Industrial Design Award, recognizing Bellerophon as a superbly designed robot that efficiently addressed the Aerial Assist challenge.

“It was a great way to end our season in MAR, especially seeing as it’s my senior year. I’m really proud of how far the team has come in the past four years,” said Jenna Mollica, the Build Team’s Chief Technical Officer.

Due to their successes at both the Hatboro Horsham and Lenape District Events and their victory at the MAR Championship, Team Nemesis was invited to compete at the World Championship in St. Louis, Missouri. From April 23-26th, 400 FIRST teams from countries all over the world will congregate in the Edward Jones Dome to see who will take the crown and emerge the 2014 World Champions.

“St. Louis is a truly unique experience because we watch competitions from all these foreign countries online, and for this one event, we all come together in one place to not only compete against one another but to see firsthand all the different ways teams designed their robot to complete this year’s challenge,” explained Chief Business Officer Baljot Ranu, who has been to the last two World Championships.