Champions of the World

SCH’s Team 1218 has a stunning ride at the FIRST World Robotics Tournament and is the 2019 Champion.

After a strong season and winning three quality awards, SCH’s robotics team was ranked 29th in the Mid-Atlantic Region (MAR), just shy of an automatic ticket to FIRST’s preeminent World competition that culminates the robotics season. The team’s faculty advisor, Peter Randall, called the team together to share the bad news: they were waitlisted for "Worlds"and it wasn’t looking good. It was an epic disappointment for the team … until an email arrived a few hours later announcing, “You’ve cleared the waitlist!” They had been granted a spot in the tournament and were going to Worlds.  

This past Tuesday, 22 members of the SCH team, boarded a bus bound for Motor City along with their two mentors, Randall and James Martin. The competition ran from Wednesday to Saturday.

Once in Detroit, it was excitement on steroids. With over 400 teams from around the world in the mix, the first rounds of competition took place on six fields. Team 1218 was assigned to the Darwin Division.

One of the chief features of a FIRST tournament is that teams must form alliances in order to advance. The composition of the alliance is key to any team’s ultimate success. “We were pretty confident we were going to be picked and, indeed, we were,” said Randall. “We were chosen by the #2 alliance exclusively for our expertise and ability to perform. They wanted us because our robot had never broken; it had incredible reliability. We also had the best scouting system. Our custom software, designed by SCH students, is able to quantify the relevant strengths and weaknesses of our competition, providing real-time competitive intelligence from the field that can be instantly deployed in game time.”

That competitive intelligence took Team 1218 and its partners the distance in the Darwin Division competition, garnering them a FIRST blue banner announcing them as the Darwin Division winners. Their performance earned them a berth in a complex round robin between the other five divisional winners. Ultimately, after countless matches, it came down to two alliances earning the privilege of going on to the finals. Team 1218 was in one of them, along with its partners, the Brighton TechnoDogs and the ThunderChickens—both from Michigan—and Team Rembrandts, from the Netherlands.

For the final round of competition, the action was moved to the larger Ford Stadium, home of the Detroit Lions, where an audience of 38,000 screaming spectators witnessed the two alliances battle it out for the championship. In the first of the best-of-three final round, Team 1218’s alliance lost out of the gate. But they rebounded with a new strategy and won game two. Tweaking their tactics further, in the nail-biting winner-takes-all final match, they won by ONE point, 91-90. In an instant, confetti was flying everywhere.

Allison Gerhard, one of three senior captains of the team recalls, “It was so special to feel the support from the other teams in the Mid-Atlantic region. Our team is so thankful for our mentors, alumni, and sponsors for providing us with the knowledge and the resources that helped lead us to where we are today.“

Hadley Sager, another senior team captain added, “We were so fortunate to work with such supportive partners. They listened to us and made us feel very much a part of the alliance. As a team, we couldn't be more grateful to them.”

For anyone who knows mentor Peter Randall, there are many things he could say about the team and its experience in Detroit, but in the end, he reduced his message to this:  “It’s all about resilience—one of the school’s core values—and perseverance. Never… and I repeat NEVER… give up.”

The team’s faculty mentors arePeter Randall ‘69, James Martin ‘99, and Alissa Sperling and the members areIsaac Becker ’21, Henry Brandstadter 22, Vicki Cohen '21, Ryan Comisky '22, Franny Downs '22, Allison Gerhard '19 (captain), Yuze Gu ‘21, Jane Herron '20, Mike Jarema '20, Simon Kioko ’19, Mac Levin '22, Hannah Lexer '22, Abi Li '20, Julia Lieberman '21, Lenny Lorenz '21, Paolo Marchiano ’22, Joe McDermott '19, Corinne Motl '20, Sophie Racz '21, Liam Reeves ‘22, Tony Regli '22, Dominique Regli '20 (captain), Caroline Reitmeyer ‘21, Ainsley Rexford ’21, Hadley Sager '19 (captain), Zach Schapiro ’22, Elizabeth Shoup ’22, Roger Wang '21, Alena Wang '20, Justin Xin '19, Yunliang Zhao '19, and Ben Ziyu ‘20.

Team 1218 extends a bionic SCHout out to their loyal and generous sponsors: Vulcan Spring and Metal Edge International, Inc. For the past 17 years, they have guided, mentored, financed, judged, and wholly supported the SCH robotics program.

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