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Class of 2014
Monday, April 28, 2014

Archimedes Division Winners & Einstein Semifinalist at World Champs

As FIRST Robotics Team 2590 Nemesis boarded a plane headed for St. Louis, Missouri in the early hours of April 23rd, they knew they had something to prove. A relatively new and unheard of team outside the Mid Atlantic Robotics (MAR) area, the last 3 seasons had been a whirlwind for Nemesis, coming into their own and earning a reputation as a powerhouse team. Despite being the Hatboro-Horsham District Winners and the MAR Champions, St. Louis would be a competition unlike any other they had attended in the 2014 season.

Since 2011, the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis had been home to the FIRST World Championships. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded by Dean Kamen in 1989 to introduce and inspire a love of STEM (science, technology, math, and science) in young people across the world. Each year, teams from across the world travel to compete in this “Varsity Sport of the Mind.”

Every January, FIRST gives teams 6 weeks to build their own robot to complete that year’s announced challenge. Aerial Assist, this year’s game, 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.

At the World Championship, 400 teams from countries all over the globe, including Brazil, China, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands, and the UK, were invited to compete for the title of 2014 World Champion. The teams would be randomly assigned to one of four divisions (Archimedes, Curie, Galileo, or Newton), where each team would play 10 qualification matches based on a randomly generated schedule. At the end of Qualifications, the top 8 seeded teams would pick their own alliance to advance through the bracket-style Elimination Rounds. The winner of each division would go on to compete at the Einstein Division to determine the champion.

For the third year running, Team Nemesis was placed in the Archimedes Division, where competition was stiff. Stacked against several reverenced teams, Nemesis was unsure how they would fair. But they came with determined to defy the odds.

Bellerophon, Nemesis’ 2014 creation, was designed by team members using CAD software, and then constructed using 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.

Starting on Thursday, April 24th, thousands began pouring into the venue, as FIRST was hosting not only the FIRST Robotics Competition, but the FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Lego League as well, along with their junior league. The Pit Area was soon milling with students and their robots, with over 650 teams from all age groups filling the venue.

Nemesis’ first 2 matches presented no troubles, and the team easily scored a victory. The high caliber of competition became clear in the next 2, however, and the team was left with a 2-2 record. Hope fading of claiming one of the top 8 spots, the team continued to fight for their victories, knowing they could very well still be picked to head into Elimination Rounds. The team won their last match of the day and powered through each of the 4 Friday matches with a victory.

Friday wasn’t only a big day for Bellerophon, however. The “Big Guns” of the Marketing and Finance Teams, Ally Drake, Anthony Heulitt, and Baljot Ranu, presented their Business Plan to the judges, outlining the team structure, explaining their SWOT analysis, sharing the team’s exemplary community outreach, and offering a breakdown of the team’s budget and finances.

The onset of Saturday renewed the team’s anticipation, and it only grew as the team won their final Qualification Match, ending with an impressive 8-2 record, clinching 7th seed and a spot as an alliance captain in the finals. It became clear just how intense the Elimination Rounds would be when two of the top teams joined forces. Sensing the mounting challenge, the 4th seeded team requested to partner with Nemesis. The team then had a choice: join an alliance or create their own. Confident in their abilities, Nemesis declined, asking Team 1625 Winnovation from Winnebago, IL and Team 1477 Texas Torque from Woodlands, TX to form an alliance. As a fourth, alternate robot, Nemesis selected Team 3467 Windham Windup Robotics from Windham, NH.

Ironically enough, Nemesis faced the team it had turned down in the quarterfinals. The first match went without a hitch, but the second was a close call-- 232-231. Hearts sank when the team lost its first semifinals match, but the cheering came back in force when Nemesis turned things around and won the remaining matches.

Now in the finals of their division, Nemesis had come farther than the team ever had, only ever advancing to the division quarterfinals. And after two matches, the alliances found themselves tied at 1-1. As the field was reset, team members knew it was now or never. Nemesis would win the division and advance to Einstein or all would be over. As the bell rang and the match started, team members watched as the alliances stayed neck and neck. With a minute to go, Nemesis suddenly pulled into the lead, one goal ahead of their opponents. The match seemed a sure win until, in the last 10 seconds, the opponent’s score jumped, eclipsing that of Nemesis.

The audience waited as the referees deliberated as the team wondered what had happened. Were foul points awarded to the alliance? How had the score gone up so quickly? For 5 interminable minutes, Nemesis anxiously anticipated the official score, when suddenly the head referee had an announcement.

“After reviewing, we have determined it was a clean match. The following is the official score.”

All heads turned toward the screen to see 285-273 in favor of Nemesis. Cheering erupted around the stands as Nemesis celebrated their victory with their alliance partners. At the Awards Ceremony held shortly after, the teams were declared the Archimedes Champions. Nemesis was also presented the Entrepreneurship Award for their comprehensive Business Plan.

“In my past four years on the team, I’ve been lucky enough to win awards for our business teams alongside experienced upperclassmen at district and regional events. Winning at the World Championship brought a deeper meaning to my work, as I was compared to other students at a global level. In the end, alongside my friends and teammates Anthony Heulitt and Ally Drake, we were able to win the Entrepreneurship Award out of 100 other teams,” explained Baljot Ranu, Chief Business Officer.

The day wasn’t over, however, and Dean Kamen, the founder of FIRST, had a surprise for the audience as the 4 winning alliances set up on the Einstein field. Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas, a strong supporter of FIRST and frequent guest at the World Champs, gave a performace to conclude the Closing Ceremonies, as well as former X-Factor contestant Rachel Crow.

Although they put in a solid performance, Nemesis’ journey came to an end on Einstein. The team finshed as semifinalist overall, officially putting Team 2590 on the map as one of the foremost teams in the world.

“I don’t think any of us expected to advance as far as we did, but I couldn’t think of a better way to end my four years with Nemesis,” said CEO and driver Josh Falk.