StuyPulse Places Third in Robotics World Championship

StuyPulse won third place in the Robotics World Championship: Galileo Division.

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By Rain Shao

StuyPulse 694 won third place in the Galileo Division of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics World Championship hosted in Houston, Texas from April 20 to April 23, making it to quarterfinals. Before the world championships, StuyPulse had won two regionals and made it to the finalist pool in another competition.

The layout of the competition consists of smaller regionals in which many winning teams are invited to the World Championship organized by FIRST, where StuyPulse is placed into the Galileo Division. “Each of the six divisions [...] compete and ultimately group into seven to eight alliances of three teams in each,” senior and Director of the Numatics Department Bryan Zhang said. “The winning team in each division goes off to the Einstein in which these six different alliances [of each division] compete to figure out which is the [world champion].”

Despite being faced with competition, the relations among Stuyvesant and the other competing teams was strengthened with the alliances. “Within championships there is a lot of comradeship. We really try to help each other out more,” sophomore and Vice President of the Marketing Department Daniel Uh said. “It’s not really like we’re bitter rivals. We’ll give each other spare parts.”

During the competition, meeting other very well-qualified groups also allowed members to expand their knowledge by learning more about different types of mechanisms and robots. “FIRST isn’t all about competition. Granted, it was a big part, but the other parts, like helping other teams, sharing knowledge, and especially gracious professionalism, help connect FIRST into one family,” sophomore and StuyPulse member Eric Lin said. “During the competition, I came to understand more about robotics, engineering, and electronics.”

In addition, StuyPulse members focused on the greater lessons that they internalized from the championship, especially regarding stress management and how these critical skills can be applied in the real world. “It was a fun experience, very eye-opening. You learn a lot in StuyPulse, it prepares you for the real world, especially building a robot in like six weeks, which was very stressful, barely enough time actually,” Vice President of Software Engineering Ivan Chen said. “We just barely built it up. [...] In-person meetings [last up until], like, seven, and then eight or nine on Fridays, and then people will still work at home, designing or coding.”

However, traveling a long distance to Houston presented problems, one being whether members were able to keep up with the demanding schedule. “Our flight was delayed there and then canceled on the way back, so we were all really exhausted throughout the competition,” StuyPulse faculty advisor and Technology teacher Joseph Blay said. “The competition itself lasted like 12 hours, and started really early in the morning, [...] so that was brutal; we were all exhausted.”

There were also frustrations regarding the process of getting the robotics material all the way to Houston from New York City. “We had the New York City regional [...] a week before champs,” junior and Co-Director of the Design Department Sean Zhan said. “We had to give enough time for the robot to ship to Houston so we only had a couple of days to fix the bot and make spares.”

The pandemic had its own impact as well, causing uncertainty and safety concerns, especially at a crowded event on an international level. “A few people caught COVID, and tested positive when they came back [from Houston], and that was scary, but everyone was okay,” Blay said. “Coming there, no one had tested positive before, [...] but it’s always a danger when you’re going to an event with so many people.”

Some expressed that StuyPulse was not prepared to jump out of quarantine into an in-person competition without a year to recuperate. “We were expecting it to be a gap year because, obviously, we went through COVID so we lost a lot of experience,” senior and Co- Director of the Design Department Edwin Zheng said.

This sentiment is shared by others, who touched upon StuyPulse’s gradual process of rebuilding their knowledge and experience with robots. “We start[ed] off the season with nothing, basically. We just have the game[s] and then we formulate ideas, and over time, we build the robot and look for changes that we can make,” Chen said.

Furthermore, some expressed that the team did not have the same resources as other competing teams, such as Team 254, 1619, and 118 in the division. “The other teams also have swerve drive, which was definitely an advantage this year, because swerve drive made the robot faster,” freshman and StuyPulse member Rain Shao said. “Also, the other teams had a turret, which is a hood that spins, which gives them a [better] aim.”

Half of the team also experienced an unexpected flight cancellation for coming back to New York City from Houston. “So we had divided [at the airport]. One of us was to come to JFK and the other was to land at LaGuardia,” freshman and member of the Field Construction Department Ian Bae said. “But the LaGuardia group’s flight got canceled and there weren't seats available in the next few flights so they had to spend the night in Dallas at the airport and wait for the planes in the morning on the following Monday.”

Nevertheless, even with many challenges due to the transition to an in-person world championship, the team was generally satisfied with their performance in Houston. “Going in, we’d had a really good season so far: the robot was really good and the team was really strong this year,” Blay said. “This was arguably our best robot and best team performance throughout the season.”

With the end of another season, StuyPulse continues their aim of doing better in the World Championship in future years with the help of new recruited members. “I hope that [recruitment] continues into the future and [we] get even more members to join because StuyPulse is super great for personal growth. I’d like to see the team win more competitions,” senior and former President of the Software Engineering Department Sam Belliveau said. “We had a really good year, but I think, [what’s] most [important] is increasing the amount of people who can work on the robot so that we can inspire more kids.”