The Davis robotics team made up of local high school students came one step closer to the ultimate prize over the weekend — making it to the finals of the FIRST Robotics world championships in St. Louis for the first time, before falling in the final match of the tournament.
Last year, Citrus Circuits advanced to the semifinals and has been among the top-ranked teams in the world ever since.
More than 400 high school teams competed in St. Louis, with each team assigned to one of four divisions. For the second year in a row, Citrus Circuits emerged as the champion of its division, Newton, as part of a three-team alliance — one that included teams from Canada and Pennsylvania.
In the finals, the alliance faced the world’s top-ranked team from San Jose, the Cheesy Poofs, the same team Citrus Circuits lost to in the Silicon Valley Regional competition earlier this month.
After the alliances split the first two matches in the best-of-three competition, the Cheesy Poofs won the deciding game in the final seconds by a score of 280-250.
This year’s FIRST competition featured robots playing “Aerial Assist,” a game that involves three-team alliances shooting an exercise ball two feet in diameter into one of eight goals. Additional points are earned by passing the ball between allied robots and tossing it over a truss in the center of the playing field.
Each team builds its own robot, using a combination of materials provided by FIRST and their own add-ons, meaning no two robots look exactly alike. Teams received parts and instructions for the game in January and had six weeks to build their robots. They then entered regional competitions in order to qualify for the world championships.
Citrus Circuits won the first two competitions it entered — including the Sacramento Regional Competition held at UC Davis in April — qualifying the team for its fourth straight trip to the world championships.
The Davis team is made up of students in grades 9-12 from Da Vinci Charter Academy, Davis High School and Harper and Holmes junior high schools. The team is coached by Da Vinci math teacher Steve Harvey and mentored by numerous alumni, parents and local college students.
By winning their division at the world championships and advancing to the final “Einstein” field, Citrus Circuits served notice to the world that it is a team to beat, Harvey said.
“In one year, our team has gone from an Einstein team flying under the radar to a world championships contender,” he noted.
In addition to being a finalist, Citrus Circuits also took home the “Gracious Professionalism” award, which celebrates a team that honors one of the core values of FIRST: competing while also helping your competitors to compete and learn in the process.
The award was given to the team in large part for Citrus Circuits’ efforts to assist rookie teams that were competing in the Newton division at the championships. The Davis students helped one team that came with only a simple drive system and no mechanism to interact with the ball by providing it with a new ball capture-and-release device.
Citrus Circuits aided another team by adding a ball-holding device to the side of its robot. Both teams used their new additions to assist their alliance partners and participate in each match they played in ways that otherwise would have been impossible.
The world championships are the final event in the series of FIRST events this season — a season that saw more than 2,700 robotics teams compete. Four hundred teams from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Israel and other countries qualified for the competition in St. Louis through regional events around the world. The championships were held at the Edward Jones Dome and America’s Center Convention Complex over the weekend.
Citrus Circuits now returns to Davis along with its robot, Beca, named after the late wife of longtime team mentor Devin Castellucci, who died last year. The couple were engaged at the 2009 Sacramento Regional when Castellucci, who spent two years on the team as a student before becoming a mentor, proposed to Beca in front of a crowd of spectators.
Learn more about the team at www.citruscircuits.org.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at email@example.com or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy