Earlier this spring and halfway across the country in Houston, Texas, the D-E Robotics’ “varsity squad” – Team Critical Mass 207 – was busy at work at the highly competitive, intense, and exciting 2023 FirstTech Challenge World Championships. With a little bit of growth and grit, the team faced the world’s best ‘bot teams at the competition — a bustling hub of innovation, young minds, and ambition.
D-E’s team, Critical Mass, has climbed to the World Championships two times before – in 2017 and 2018. Despite this accomplished record, Coach Chris Fleischl revealed that “none of current members have competed at this level before.” There were several daunting obstacles for the team to overcome. According to one of the Captains, Khush Bafna ’23, Critical Mass “had to face some of the best teams in the world with a random partner”, while also tackling “bent poles, made it very hard to keep the auton consistent”. Despite such challenges, however, the team returned home with impressive results: 15th place in their division, 59th place out of 192 teams, and a 7-4 record. On the second day of the Championship, Critical Mass boasted five matches won in a row against one of their division’s strongest rivals.
In addition to their achievements, the team gained new skills and perspectives; the championship was also a learning experience. “As much as the World Championship is a competition, it is also a massive convention,” Mr. Fleischl expressed. Surrounded by “over 50,000 attendees” who are all passionately dedicated to “science, technology, engineering, math, and robotics”, D-E’s students were exposed to new ideas and innovations. According to Khush, members “saw a lot of designs that had not even thought of”, which could be catalysts for new ideas and creations for builders for the next year.
Through all its triumphs and challenges, the championship most importantly highlighted the essence of the Robotics team: community and collaboration. “I don’t think the team would have gotten to Worlds this year if we weren’t able to work together as well as we do,” Khush enthused. “Robotics isn’t just building, programming, and home.” From the people to the memories, Robotics is a home for unforgettable experiences.
As senior members of Robotics are leaving D-E and moving onto college, the younger members are invigorated and “eager to fill their shoes,” Mr. Fleischl expressed. When asked what advice he would give to future Robotics members, Khush once again emphasized the importance of teamwork and communication: “If your team can work as a unit, then you will succeed.” With inspired, new members following this year’s members’ footsteps, a bright and triumphant future continues and waits for D-E’s Critical Mass.