Heartbreakers Break Hearts at Vex Robotics Nationals


Every day since September, the Robotics teams at AL have been working and practicing after school, and now the “Heartbreakers” team can say they are national finalists. The team is part of the larger AL team but is specifically the JROTC division. Dolton McCormick is the Organizer, Zander Rollen is Communication, Noah Welsh is the Programmer, and Dara Pich is the Driver.  

“To be in this competition I put a lot of work into this. Not many people qualify to go national,” Pich said. “I feel like my team deserves it because we put a lot of time and a lot of work into this robot.”

Pich felt confident about this year’s competition. 

“I feel, for this year’s competition, is great because we built a great robot,” Pich said. “Last year, not really but this year we improved a lot. . . I feel confident that we are going to win.” 

There is a lot that goes into this competition. Being a part of this takes a lot of dedication. Starting all the way from last April to now, the team got ideas ready in the spring and then started to build in the summer. They have been practicing throughout the school year every day. 

“Before we build this robot we have a meeting. Everyone in the group can talk about how the robot will be designed. We do research on Youtube and Google, on how to design a robot. We find some ideas. Then I separate all those people, like give them jobs to do,” said Pich.

This year was VRC Spin Up. This game is played by two Alliances (two robots per team), red and blue. There are 60 Discs in total for the game. 38 of those Discs start on the field while the other 22 stay outside the field for other purposes.

There are four ways to get points. They can gain points with their respective goals on either corner of the field in the high or lower goal, at the end of the match for a special challenge, or with the four rollers on the wall of the field. The match starts with a 15-second Autonomous period, which is the time when drivers have no control over the robot, it’s all code. They can gain 1 AWP (Autonomous Win Point) by owning both Rollers on their side of the Field and scoring Discs in their High Goal. Then the Driver Control Period begins and goes on for 1 minute 45 seconds. The robots can pick up Discs off the ground or receive the Load Discs through the Loader. At the end of the Match, the Alliances receive bonus points for each tile the robots are covering.

“I feel like we did well and in the end, I was happy with how I did,” said Welsh. 

The team placed 8 out of the 126 teams in the JROTC division. They even won an award for their robot. It’s called the Amaze Award and it’s given to a team that has built an amazing, high-scoring robot that demonstrates overall quality.

“I feel it is a great experience for the kids and a nice reward for all the hard work they’ve done throughout the year,” said robotics coach Ryan Higgins. 

While Welsh and Pich will not be returning next year, Rollen will return with new “Heartbreakers” team members to face next year’s challenge.