PCM Robobics team moves on


Justin Hall

A photo of the PCM Alchemists robot during the process of construction. Photo taken by Justin Hall.

This last Saturday, PCM’s robotics team, 18527 – The PCM Alchemists – competed in the Solar league tournament. This event was the culmination of their season so far, existing as the first event in which teams may fail to move on. 24 teams competed at the event, spanning the breadth of Central Iowa, and just over half would continue to the super qualifier in three weeks.

After months of running the same robot from event to event, the Alchemists finally unveiled the new creation they had been working on behind closed doors. The entirely redesigned robot represented months of digital cad work followed by an intense two weeks of rapid part fabrication, design iteration, building, and programming, with several team members working late into the night, and even into the early hours of the morning before the event in order to finish documentation and critical functions of the robot.

Before any matches are played at the event, teams meet with judges to present their robot designs as well as various out-reach reach activities that the teams may have completed before and throughout the season. Following this Judges will evaluate each team on a number of set criteria in order to determine their eligibility for various Judged awards. The League tournament competition structure is split into two parts, qualification
matches, and the elimination tournament. During Qualification matches, teams compete with and against random other teams. Their performance in these matches coupled with their history throughout the rest of the season determines each team’s ranking among the other present teams.

Following these qualification matches is the elimination tournament. Before the tournament begins the top four ranked teams are placed as alliance captains and are able to pick from the remaining pool of teams in order to create an alliance. Three teams on each alliance and alliance captains may select each other causing the next ranked team to become an alliance captain. Once selection is completed a tournament begins in which the four alliances face each other in elimination matches culminating in a single winning alliance at the end. The teams which move on are determined by their final position in the elimination
tournament, the judged awards they may have received, and finally their rank after qualification matches.

Following a number of rough qualification matches, the PCM Alchemists ended up ranked fourth. This was enough to make them an alliance captain, but they opted to pair up with the 2nd ranked team, 10435 – Circuit Breakers generating a strong alliance heading into the tournament. Rounding out the three teams was 13085 – the Bionic Dutch.

In the first round of the tournament, the three-team alliance was able to easily sweep their opponents, but heading into the second round they had met their match. Though the competition was close, with the difference between scores narrowly coming down to just a few points, the alliance ended up coming in second.

The PCM alchemists ended up walking away from the event with the Innovate award, for having the most innovative robot design at the event, the title of finalist alliance first pick, and the 4th rank in qualifications, meaning they comfortably moved on to the Super Qualifier.

Their next event, the Central Iowa Super Qualifier will be held on Saturday, February 11th at Lakewood Elementry in Norwalk, Iowa.