Ms. Amy Harmon Krtanjek
This weekend, the York Country Day School GearHounds robotics team will be in Scranton, Pennsylvania competing against the best teams from the eastern US in the FIRST Tech Challenge East Super-Regional Championship. They earned their spot to compete by their performance at the Pennsylvania State FIRST Tech Challenge Championship held in February. Since the team is only in their fourth season, many in our community may not be aware of the significance of this achievement. For perspective, there are 5,900 FIRST Tech Challenge teams competing this season. Only 72 teams from each region (North, South, East and West regions), or 288 teams overall, advance to the Super-Regional level of competition. This means the GearHounds are in the top 5% of all teams in the USA.
This is especially impressive when you consider the team had only materials, motors, sensors, and other parts in September when they first learned the game pieces and rules in the worldwide release of the 2018 Relic Recovery game. Until the game is released, the only aspect teams know is the field size of 12’ x 12’ and that the game will be played with two robots vs two robots in a 2:30 minute match. The game elements, methods of scoring, and therefore robot design and strategy change with the theme each year. In the four years since the GearHounds have been competing, the games have involved capturing and scoring with various balls from the size of golf balls to exercise balls, two inch plastic blocks and now this year, six inch foam cubes and 12 inch tall plastic “relics.” This means that before the team can compete, they have to design, fabricate, test, and program the robot to meet their interpretation of the best strategy of play. The GearHounds’ experience in prior seasons helped them create a robust robot that impressed the judges with the level of engineering put into the design, programming, and continuous improvements of the glyph (foam blocks) mechanism, which is key to the team’s ability to score points. Team members not on the field are intensely focused on scouting other teams’ capabilities during matches (similar to baseball statistics collection). This data is constantly updated and analyzed to help the team on the field strategize how each match can be played to take advantage of our alliance partners’ strengths and exploit any weaknesses of our opponents. They are working towards programming an app to help make this even better. Good robots win matches, but great scouting wins championships!
During the competition season, the GearHounds competed in one scrimmage, three qualifying tournaments, the PA state tournament, and now will represent Pennsylvania and York Country Day School at the East Super-Regional Tournament, Hopper Division (named for Admiral Grace Hopper). Fans can follow the team’s progress via LiveStream at https://livestream.com/ESR-Hopper with matches running from 10 AM – 5 PM Saturday and 8:30 AM – 4:00 PM on Sunday. Wish the team luck via Instagram @gearhounds9242.