Climbing to the Top

Cyborg Cats win the St. Louis Regional for the first time.

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After one-second place finish and 3 semifinalists finished in six years, the Cyborg Cats finally won their hometown regional to earn their way to the World Championship.


It was a roller coaster ride all weekend, and they made it all the way to the top. After having a practice day Thursday and fixing lots of bugs across 7 practice matches, the Cats really felt Friday would go pretty well. After the first two matches ended in victory, things were looking up for the team, and they were even ranked fifth. They lost their third match by just 5 points down a robot on their 3 team alliance because it failed to connect to the field, but their fourth match they set a regional high score of 502 points.


“The climber worked great, and the other systems were working alright,” said Luke DeGroot, Junior robot driver, and Chief Engineer.


Disaster ensued shortly after, and the Cyborg Cats dropped 3 of their final four matches of the day. They quickly fell out of a top 8 position and ended the day ranked 25th out of 49 teams. They burned out 3 of their 4 drive motors on the robot and sat dead on the field in two of those matches as a result.


“We did the math Friday night, and there was no chance we could vault into a picking position [for alliance selection] with just two matches remaining on Saturday, even if we played the best matches of our lives,” said Ricky Johnson, Senior strategist and robot operator.


In an attempt to solve the problems with the motors on the drivetrain, Luke and Senior Sam Dare, the lead designers, spent all night Friday working on a better gear for the drivetrain. Unfortunately, upon testing it with the 3D printer, it was evident such a gear would not work.


“We entered Saturday knowing we needed to prove we could just move, and we had to figure out what was causing all the errors,” said Luke.


In their two matches on Saturday, they did not move. Everything looked bleak. Then, in the stands, while explaining the code to Luke and Sam, Senior Hayden Shively, programmer, realized the problem. Two lines of code needed to be added in order for the robot to move.


Luke motivated the pit crew, including sophomores Reagan Grass, Max Radloff, and Ethan Storer, to get Hayden’s solution implemented in a last-ditch effort to get to the practice field to test it while Sam convinced the top two teams in a picking position to watch the robot on the practice field.


As teams were picking their alliances for the playoffs, the Cyborg Cats started to move the robot over on the practice field in a last-ditch attempt to show the top alliance that the robot was fully functional and was worthy of the last pick in the selections. Luke and Ricky scored 10 cubes in under 90 seconds, and the two top teams appeared to make up their minds after typing furiously on their phones.


They finished up on the practice field, and they went up to watch teams prepare their alliances for the playoffs. This is Alliance Selection, and the top 8 ranked teams pick in order of rank for the first round, then in reverse order for the second round. The only teams that knew the robot could move were the teams that saw the Cats on the practice field. They were ranked first and third, and the third-ranked team joined up with number one for the first pick. Then the anxious waiting began, and the Cats only real shot at getting picked was in the last pick of the draft.


Then, it happened. The number one seeded alliance invited team 4256 the Cyborg Cats to be apart of their alliance during the playoffs. There was cheering and yelling with a great deal of amazement.


The playoffs started, and the Cyborg Cats had to implement brand new, lightly tested code in order to meet their new partners’ wishes. It worked, and all of a sudden the awesome robot the Cyborg Cats always knew they had was starting to work as it did back at Westminster.


The quarterfinals were won in the blink of an eye, and the Cats won despite a broken elevator. The semi-finals were stressful, and the main claw of the robot used to manipulate the cubes to gain points broke after the first match, but Senior mechanical genius Chris Faust fixed it in seconds with a giant washer. Then the finals hit, and the intensity was brought up.


The Cats and their alliance had to play De Smet and the Wentzville School District’s alliance, and it was close. The first match was narrow and heavily aided by a clutch play from the Cats. In the final match, De Smet hit the Cyborg Cats hard all 2 minutes and 30 seconds for a total of 85 penalty points. With those 85 points and a last-second climb, the Cyborg Cats knew they had done it.


For the fifth time in 7 years, the Cyborg Cats are going to the World Championship. Unlike the previous four, this year the event will be held in Houston, Texas, rather than the Edward Jones Dome downtown. The Cats have 6 more weeks to prepare, and a big weekend this week in Peoria, Illinois. Also of note, the team won the Quality Award for robust design and finished a runner-up for the safety award.

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