JACKSON, Wyo. — The JH RoboBroncs were impressive in West Valley City where they won the 2020 FIRST Utah Regional Chairman’s Award, the highest and most coveted award in FIRST. That qualifies the team once again to Houston Championships.

‘cat-dog’ bot 2020 did his thing. Or is it her thing? And just what is a cat-dog’ bot anyway? Photo: Courtesy JH RoboBroncs

Team 3374 finished the tournament with an 8-5-0 record, competing on the 2nd Ranked Alliance and finishing out in the quarterfinals. The squad of 28 students and more than a dozen coaches and mentors from Jackson Hole High School’s robotics team competed.

“The JH RoboBroncs had their most successful tournament ever, and that is really saying something for a team that has gone to the FIRST Championships the previous two years, and five out of the last 10. We rolled into Utah with our best robot, cat-dog, we have ever built and it showed,” said Gary Duquette, head coach and director of the RoboBroncs.

“We showed up with an all-around bot that gave us a chance to compete with the big teams for the first time, and we really did come close. We ended the tournament in 5th place out of 54 teams. We were selected by the No. 2 team to play in the finals. It was some bad luck and some computer issues that took us out. Still, the best showing ever on the robot side during a regional.”

The RoboBroncs FRC Team #3374 was one of 54 high school teams from as far away as the Netherlands who competed last weekend in the Maverik Center’s main arena in West Valley, Utah.

2020 Drive Team JH RoboBroncs – Josh Byrnes, Walter, Jack, Austin, and Brynne. Photo: Courtesy JH RoboBroncs

How the competition works

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition helps promote and foster science and technology learning among the nation’s high school students, creating a new generation of engineers, programmers and scientists. Each year, the competition takes on a different theme, and the nature of the game changes.

This year’s game is called “Infinite Recharge,” a Star Wars-themed contest in which the teams design and build robots that must collect and store power cells (in the form of small yellow balls) in order to energize a shield generator. At the start, the robots must autonomously score the points, and in the second half, students manually operate the droids. The team with the highest score wins the match.

Teams that win the Utah regional competition, as well as select award winners such as Chairman’s, will move on to the FIRST national championship held April 15-18 in Houston and April 29-May 2 in Detroit. Team 3374 competes next week in the Colorado Regional in Denver.

Quality mentors, skilled team

Firing off yellow Power Cells into the upper port of the Power Station, this year’s robot had a pneumatic powered laser-targeting turret that could shoot 5 cells in rapid automatic fire.

“It was truly a thing of beauty to see us performing at the top levels of our sport,” commented Drive Team coach Josh Byrnes. “3374 had 10 qualification bouts to make it into the final alliance selection. We were 5th to select, but were then honored to be chosen by the No. 2 Team to join their Finals Alliance, which we graciously accepted.”

3374 shoots from the outside, live streamed on TWITCH. Photo: Courtesy JH RoboBroncs

“We joined with FIRST Team 1339 Angelbotics from Denver and used our combined manpower to complete the best scouting info we have ever had at a competition,” Byrnes added, “The students used a custom-built app to upload data into a spreadsheet to help with our selection process. Rowan, Stella, Marcus, and Matt worked to focus the scouting. Kai, Caden, Murie, Luke, Aaron, Henry, Max, Jet, Avery, Brielle, William, Jonathan, Hadlee, Avery, and Ben worked to gather as much data as possible to help the team during alliance selection, as well as helping with the robot when necessary. The students worked hard and gave the team the edge that we needed. “

Pit crew works furiously to get ‘cat-dog’ ready. Photo: Courtesy JH RoboBroncs

The pit crew: Brian (climber), Jake (build), Kyle (programming) and Cade (wiring) worked feverously to get the robot ready between matches.

“This is a very stressful time in the competition,” Duquette said. “Thanks to Wes Womack, John Turner, Mitch Springer, Shannon Overly, and Chad Davis for supporting the kids before the matches at the tournament. Also, a big thank you to the mentors that couldn’t make the trip, but worked with the students at home: Harry Shipp, Dan Caudill, Joy Lamb, Eric Balsa, Drew Gillingwater, Charlie Hagen, and Beth Carlson.”

America Martinez and Brian Baker, working with Joy Lamb and Mindy during the season and Steph Salerno at the competition, presented to the judges and explained the work that the RoboBroncs do within Jackson Hole, as well as the Wyoming Indian High School on the Wind River Reservation.

“Despite the arrival of some monster teams from Colorado, California, and the Netherlands, they were able to express our team’s laser focus on FIRST ideals and values. Julian Web created the Chairman’s Video and worked at the event to get video of the experience,” Duquette said.

“We get the big picture. We are the little team that could,” Duquette said.

America Martinez accepting the 2020 Chairman’s Award. Photo: JH RoboBroncs