National spotlight couldn’t stop CyberKnights

Members of Team 195 CyberKnights tinker with a prototype during the preseason. The Southington robotics team faced their biggest test this season as they made back-to-back visits to the national competition.

By JEN CARDINES

STAFF WRITER

They are no longer the new kids on the block. They can no longer surprise anyone in competition. This spring, the CyberKnights had big shoes. So how did they do?

The dust has finally settled on the FIRST Robotics postseason competitions and all of the subsequent state competitions, and before the final switch was flung on the 2017 robot, members of the robotics program took time to review their season.

Southington was coming off of their first top 4 finish at the international competition, so no team has come into a season with higher expectations.

Each time “Knightro” took the field, Southington’s Team 195 CyberKnights walked away with awards and accolades. In their 20th season, the world-ranked robotics team showed the competition what they were made of, finishing with a silver medal in the Carson division at the FIRST Robotics international championship in St. Louis, Mo.

“The season started off rocky but improved greatly throughout the season,” team co-captain Natiya Washer said. “And we made it to the finals in our division at the world level.”

Titled “Steamworks,” the 2017 game allowed human players to be on the playing field for the first time ever. Participating teams had to construct a robot that could shoot balls into a goal, deliver gears, and climb up to an airship.

“The nature of the game pushed us to improve our scouting and data analysis programs,” said Washer. “Additionally, this year we spent five of the six possible weeks to construct the robot design, which left one week for manufacturing. This pushed the team to find new quicker ways to make parts, and to really drive forward when machining.”

Extra time designing Knightro proved successful for Team 195 on more than one occasion. With their rapid-fire turret, Southington was one of the best high goal shooters, achieving the 40kPa pressure mark in the autonomous period for most of their matches. The robot also earned a creativity award and an excellence in engineering award. The CyberKnights were the team to beat.

Washer said the main highlight this year was winning the New England Championship for the third year in a row, known as a “three-peat.”

“We were the first team to set that record in New England—and maybe the world—and we were ecstatic about it,” Washer said.

But Team 195 was never alone in the victory circle because teams were required to choose alliances at every competition.

“The beauty of the sport is working with other teams. The networking skills you build and the friendships that are forged are beneficial for a lifetime,” Washer said. “Our team is very close with other teams and they have become a part of our family.”

CyberKnight allies came from Connecticut, New England, and even Turkey.

Following the monumental regional win, Southington travelled to St. Louis where they faced teams nation-wide along with those from other countries. 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, but it didn’t stop Southington students just yet. Team 195 competed in off-season events that don’t count toward the FIRST competitive season, but are just a fun way to stay involved in robotics.

Looking back, the co-captain said the group grew a lot this season and while she’ll be away at college next year, she’ll be sure to check in with them, following the ‘Once a CyberKnight, always a CyberKnight’ mantra.

The team is focused on improving for next year, Washer said. “We are never satisfied and work to improve and better ourselves. I love this team because of its drive.”

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jen Cardines, email her at JCardines@SouthingtonObserver.com.

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