TA Robotics Teams Shine at States, Headed to World Championship
February 22, 2023
Photo: Team 4886 at the VEX Robotics VT/NH State Championships; on the left, 4886 alumni Tate Whiteberg and Eldon Crossett cheer on their former team. Credit: Kate Hill
Last year, TA’s VEX robotics team established itself as a regional powerhouse with their performance in the VT/NH state championship; on Saturday, at the 2023 event, they drove the point home. Forty-one teams from 12 schools across NH and VT gathered at Manchester Community College to battle it out for bragging rights, trophies, and to earn the six spots that the VT/NH league sends to the World Championship. Of those six spots, TA’s four participating robots earned three of them.
Seniors Marshall Melancon and Isaiah Kol had dominated the league in regular season competitions and went into Saturday’s event presumed to win. After 70 two-minute qualification matches, they did just that, joining Spark Academy’s team to take the top two spots. TA and Spark joined forces for the elimination rounds, defeating the remaining opponents and emerging tournament champions. Marshall and Isaiah’s team “Beefcake” is headed to Worlds!
With TA and Spark presumed to win the match-ups, some teams shifted their strategy away from the head-to-head matches and toward the event’s Skills competition. The Skills competition pits a solo robot against the clock in two 1-minute heats: one with a driver controlling it, and one where it runs solely according to pre-programmed code. TA’s “String Theory” team (Aden Perry, Connor Kutter-Walker, and Duncan MacPhee) took this tack, deciding in December to shift away from the main competition to focus their design on winning via Skills. They added features to their machine which were only applicable to the solo contest. On Saturday, this strategy served them well: they came in second and earned their own spot in Worlds!
The remaining two teams were Yogurt (eighth-graders Rowan Moody A’ness, Tristan Woodward, Paul Hesser, and Aidan Oulette) and X-factor (seventh-graders Jay Hill, Lucca Huling, and Stone Riegler). These teams were competing not to win the tournament, but for the Middle School Excellence Award (and with it, a spot in Worlds). Though they knew that only one team could win, the teams developed their robots on adjoining benches, shared tips and scrimmaged against each other, and supported each other at the event. In the end, however, the Judges sent our eighth-grade team on to Worlds.
Regardless, the seventh-grade X-factor had a great season. At the first meet, they ended the qualification rounds seeded 1st as the only undefeated team – and won the Judges Award for that accomplishment. Later in the season, they were invited as special guests to compete in a middle school tournament in Framingham, MA. They are a skilled and determined group to watch out for in next year’s competitions. In the meantime, coaches Jonathan Crossett and Leif Lawhite have enlisted their help teaching a series of introductory seminars to prospective 4886 members.
There is another group that deserves credit for the TA teams’ successes: the parents who volunteered hundreds of hours to keep the robotics workshop open. Many weeks the kids were able to work on their robots right through dinnertime every day, and on several weekends the shop was opened and staffed by parents. Succeeding in this competition requires, among other things, lots of time to build, test, rebuild, tweak, and test again. Without that time availability, our teams simply could not have been as successful as they were. So more than being supportive, the dedicated 4886 parents were critical to the teams’ success. Our collective hats are off to them.