CyberKnights survive damage; come away with a silver medal in St. Louis

A group of CyberKnights display their silver medals and plaque for placing second overall in the Carson division at the FIRST Robotics international championship in St. Louis.

After 10 hard-fought qualification matches, Knightro took on some heavy damage at the FIRST Robotics international championship in St. Louis. The Southington robot swung during a rope climb and suffered a direct hit to its shooting turret.

The damage was monumental, but the Southing-ton crew jumped into action.

Most teams would have been seriously derailed by such a hard break, but this is exactly the kind of skills that a FIRST Robotics competition is designed to test.

A small army of Southington High School engineers swarmed the broken robot, and repairs were ultimately successful. Southington’s Team 195 dropped to fifth place in the qualification rounds, but the team was far from finished on the world stage.

The season began with over 3,300 teams from around the world, but the CyberKnights were among 406 of the world’s best when the damage took place. Still, Southington survived to reach the playoff rounds.

Knightro, above, performed well at the international robotics championship.

To continue their run at a world title, the CyberKnights partnered with another Connecticut squad, Team 177 Bobcat Robotics from South Windsor, along with Team 1073 The Force Team from Hollis, N.H. and Team 1080 Resurgence Robotics from Henrico, Va.

Just two weeks ago, Southington paired with Team 1073 during their New England regional championship run. Could lightning strike twice?

The alliance fought through the Carson Division playoffs, reaching the final four and advancing to the championship match.  It was there that the CyberKnight rally finally came to an end.

In a battle of New England powers, the CyberKnight alliance fell to an alliance which included Team 125, the Nutrons, from Boston.

“We were sad to see the CyberKnight’s run end, however still very happy to see them with the silver medals after such a hard-fought week,” CyberKnight officials said in a press release.

In fact, Southington’s defeat was tempered by the fact that a former CyberKnight team member—Bailey Kahl—was a mentor for the Boston-led winners. Kahl is currently attending college in the Boston area, and he continues to stay involved with robotics.

Kahl is one of more than 10 CyberKnight alumni that are currently mentoring FIRST teams from all over the country, and many have developed their squads into high ranking, top teams.

Kahl tipped his cap to his former teammates, sending a condolence message to the CyberKnights that applauded their run at the finals.

“You gave us a crazy run for our money,” Kahl wrote to the locals. “You guys have an amazing robot, and a hell of a season to boot.”

Kahl wrote that what really hit home was the support he received from his former teammates who were still smarting from the loss.

“You very easily could have been upset,” he wrote, “but instead all I got was hugs, high fives, and congratulations.”

Team officials said that the show of sportsmanship is a credit to FIRST Robotics. Sure, it’s a competition, but “it’s more about gracious professionalism, helping all teams succeed and inspiring STEM leaders along the way.”

The St. Louis event marked the end of the official FIRST robotics season, but it’s not the end to Southington’s competitive year.

The team will still have chances to compete at a pair of upcoming local events.

On Saturday, May 13, the CyberKnights will take on the state at a Connecticut championship, sponsored by the CIAC. The competition will only include a field of Connecticut teams.

The following weekend, the CyberKnights will venture to Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts for the annual WPI Battlecry competition.

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