Predictions St. Louis Championship 2017

ARCHIMEDES

Tips:

Like every field in St. Louis, many of Michigan’s stronger competitors will be strong contenders on Archimedes. 67, 2137, 2834, and 3539 will each be fielding machines that can contribute solid gear totals along with a handful of fuel points. The Byting Bulldogs were an early pick at MSC, while HOT and TORC each captained lower seeded alliances to their MSC division finals. The Bionic Black Hawks went all the way, winning the Dow division as the first pick before taking home a Michigan State Championship Winner’s banner. 2834’s fast gear cycling and ability to snipe gears from the opposition’s loading lane will put them in top company among gear-focused teams in the division. 2611 doesn’t have the fuel upside of some of their Michigan peers, but their ability to load directly from the chute or the ground can enable them to hang in there gear-for-gear. But it will be hard to pass up HOT’s resume as a Championship favorite (reaching at least the division finals in four of the past five years), and they have a slight edge over their Michigan peers in the autonomous fueling department.

In a field loaded with solid gear focused machines 558 will be looking to improve upon their last eliminations run at NEDCMP. They have the fastest gear collector in the division and a drivetrain to match. If they can improve consistency and keep their Tarzan climb under control they are the perfect compliment to a fuel dedicated robot or one piece of a very fast four rotor and defense strategy. The Elm City Robo Squad captained their alliance from the 6th spot on Galileo last year all the way to the finals, and is not afraid of making changes to their strategy min match or to their robot mid season. Expect them to seed high, or get picked up early.

Scoring multiple gears in autonomous is something only a couple of teams in all of FRC have accomplished this year. 188 is among them. Blizzard failed to parlay that ability into even a finalist appearance this year, but their effective gear scoring in both auto and tele-op gained them a favorable spot in alliance selection at all three events they attended. If they can continue to shave seconds off their double gear routine, they will surely draw the attention of some of the glut of hopper shooters on Archimedes as a potential partner.

The only banner 217 claimed in 2017 was of the Chairman’s variety, but you wouldn’t guess it by looking at the machine of these 2016 Einstein competitors. The Thunder Chickens combine an effective roller intake for gears situated on the carpet with an autonomous routine that can score 15-20 kPa when fully operational. The consistency isn’t there when compared to some of the other top flight shooters on Archimedes, but their solid gear game can help smooth that out over the course of qualifications.

 

Dark Horses:

After captaining the #5 alliance over the heavily favored #1 alliance in the semis en route to winning Greater Kansas City, 1987 was poised for another strong event the next week in Iowa. The Broncobots seeded second, but ultimately lost in one of the most intense semi-final series ever to happen in FRC. The sixth match of the series (yes, you read that right, the sixth) showed 445-445 on the scoreboard (the third time in the series that had occurred), but was settled by the foul points tiebreaker. To make matters worse for 1987’s alliance, all three robots had managed to get gears onto lifts in time for two rotors to spin up (the second straight match that had occurred), but a pilot’s hand blocked the gear counting sensor for just long enough that the rotor wasn’t scored until tele-op. Despite the heartbreaking finish in Cedar Rapids, the Broncobots have proven themselves capable of reaching four rotors regularly at each of their two events. If they can also dial in their autonomous fuel scoring, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

Winning any event as a rookie is impressive. Winning a district championship as the second overall selection is considerably more so. 6334 picked up their first ever banner (and fourth Highest Rookie Seed award) at the Chesapeake district championship. Their experience behind the sticks helps make their passive gear scoring among the best of its type in the division, and they can even throw in an extra kPa via the low goal. Despite many bearing the word “rookie,” the Aluminati’s 10 trophies in 2017 are more than any team heading into St. Louis.

 

Sleepers:

When everything hits just right, 3357 can solo their way past the 40kPa mark. Half of that can happen in autonomous, meaning their autonomous potential is among the best in the division (which should earn them plenty of attention from alliance captains, and maybe put them on that platform themselves). Consistency has been an issue for them so far this season, and winning at Championship without consistency is essentially unheard of. With some more tweaks and practice, could they jump over some of the more established shooters? Could they be the type of high-upside pick that pushes an alliance over the edge?  

The Mukwonago BEARs reached the finals in Wisconsin and were an alliance captain at Seven Rivers. Gears were often 930’s primary focus during Wisconsin, only scoring fuel when the opportunity presented itself. However, their rapid fire boiler front scoring took on a larger presence during their second outing. Even without a hopper autonomous mode, 930 can challenge the 40kPa threshold and initiate overflow chute cycles when firing well. While their wide roller shooter won’t ever be an accuracy champ, if they can manage to sink a few more shots with their side peg autonomous routine (and hit the gear more consistently), they could enable some truly high point ceilings for a playoff alliance.

 

Locks:

There aren’t many better times to round into form than the final day of a district championship. After early selections led to a pair of finalist appearances and a quarter-final exit in three previous events, 2590 got their hopper loading autonomous routine dialed in just in time to sweep through the MAR Championship playoffs to gold. Although Nemesis has yet to break the 40kPa barrier, they can certainly put up the shot volume to get it done. The problem has been that too many of their autonomous shots aren’t counted until tele-operated, and that they dedicate tele-op scoring gears with their excellent floor pick-up system. If they can continue tuning their routine on the practice fields to shave a second or two of their maneuvering and alignment, perhaps their already impressive dual-threat machine could find a way to breach both bonus points thresholds.

Also making their way onto Archimedes from the MAR district is the 40kPa capable machine of 225. TechFire may have one of the best hopper fuel autonomous’ in the field and the teleoperated ability to finish off the boiler and run a few gears. That gear game saw significant growth at MAR Championship, where they pivoted from a fuel focus to a quad rotor focus once the eliminations started. Playing from the #1 seed at every event they went to this year but being ousted before the finals, expect them to seed high and make a run for a banner.

Most dedicated shooters haven’t found a ton of success in STEAMworks. 2337 is not most dedicated shooters. The Enginerds improved their seeding at each of their four events (and they only started as the #5 seed), up to earning the top seed in the DTE division playoffs. Even though 2337 can throw up a couple gears when necessary, their alliance at MSC captured the attention of FRC by winning their division off of a two rotor, heavy defense, and plenty of kPa strategy (which had not been a strategy that had been able to best four rotors for a few weeks). If the Enginerds can keep pouring fuel in the high efficiency boiler in tele-op, they could once again seed near the top.

 

CARSON

Tips:

During the New England District Championship elimination rounds it became clear that 125 had dialed their shooter in to be one of the most effective in the world. Consistently hitting +25kPa in auto and finishing off the 40kPa with time to spare, the Nutrons’ weakness going into St. Louis may be their gear game. As a team that has been constantly improving since week 1, it’s fair to expect them to have spent more time on all facets of their gameplay.

2451 collected two event wins for the second straight year, and added a finalist appearance at Seven Rivers on top of that. PWNAGE is not only an effective autonomous shooting machine, they’re one of the few teams who regularly score fuel from in front of the peg while gear cycling. Their gear game isn’t quite on par with some of the other elite teams in this division, which could hurt their consistency if the playoff bar for success is set at achieving both four rotors and 40+kPa. Still, they’re a super high upside team and will likely be valued high in alliance selection.

The TEST Team doesn’t know what it’s like to be anywhere but the #1 alliance in 2017. 303 has either seeded first or been the first pick at all five events they attended. With 83 official matches under their belt, 303 is a battle tested gear scoring machine that contributes 4-5 gears on a reliable basis, has a side peg autonomous mode, and can add nearly 10kPa on top of that.

All the way back in week one, 5687 was one of the first teams to demonstrate the power of quick gear cycling and the fourth rotor. While the Outliers haven’t managed to get back to the winner’s circle since Granite State, they’ve remained one of the premiere gear specialists in New England. While earning the #1 seed (as they did at their first two events) may be out of reach here without 40kPa ability, expect 5687 to be on the short list of any alliance captain looking for a team that can pile on the gears.

The explosion of teams in Michigan mean that there are quite a few strong competitors who don’t get the same recognition outside of the oven mitt. 1684 and 5053 are two of those teams. Both teams are solid gear scorers that can throw in a fuel points of fuel after scoring their gear on the center peg in autonomous. The Chimeras also boast a ground pick-up for gears and sometimes a side peg routine, but ended up with two silver medals on the year as opposed to the Laker’s pair of golds. Barring any surprises, both should be playing on Saturday.

While much of the hoopla surrounding FRC in the pacific is centered around Hawaii, Australia, and now China, a Taiwanese team has established themselves as one of the best in the hemisphere. 4253 steady advanced at each tournament they played, from the semis at Southern Cross to the finals at South Pacific to winning Hawaii as the top seed. Raid Zero is a quick gear cycler with a side peg autonomous that’s been part of a dual rotor autonomous (and that leaves them in the neutral zone to help offset cycle stages from their partners).

 

Dark Horses:

The Hilltoppers may not have the hype of some of the other big names on Carson, but they’ve already captained two alliances to victory in 2017. 1732 won their home even in Milwaukee just a couple weeks after winning just a couple miles away from the Edward Jones Dome at the St. Louis regional. And 1732 has done it in different fashions, as part of a more traditional 3 or 4 rotor and autonomous fuel alliance in Wisconsin as well as the lone gear specialist on a fuel heavy alliance in StL (where they often more-or-less soloed three rotors themselves). When allowed to feast on ground gears, 1732’s gear scoring potential is as strong as anyone’s, peaking at as many as nine gears scored.

1018 finally earned their first blue banner in team history at the Tippecanoe district. Their simple yet effective gear running robot has been a force all season long in Indiana, including the state championship where they earned the #2 seed. Unfortunately they were eliminated in the quarters, losing the first match by 3 points and then the second on the autonomous points tie-breaker after a 453-453 deadlock. In just their second ever trip to Championship, the Pike RoboDevils should get their first taste of playoff action.

 

Sleeper:

5401 is rapidly ascending the ranks of noteworthy teams in MAR. While the Fightin’ Robotic Owls have yet to secure a blue banner, the third year team proved themselves a very effective gear scoring machine at MAR Championship, in addition to their quick rate of fuel firing and large hopper they’d been showing off all season. Expect them to get their first taste of Championship playoff action on Carson.

 

Locks:

195 returned to Einstein after a decade away from the field in 2016. If the CyberKnight’s performance at the Hartford district qualifier event and the New England district championship are to be believed, they may not likely have to wait anywhere near as long for another appearance. As is typical for 195, they improved as the season progressed, truly hitting their stride as a dominant force in terms of both fuel and gear scoring at their third event. They’ve only failed to record a bonus ranking point three times over their last two events (thirty-seven matches). Ten times during that span they’ve hit [i]both[/i] the four rotor and 40kPa bonuses (eight times in eliminations and twice in qualifications). They’ve crossed 500 points six times (and would have a seventh if Q25 at NEDCMP was scored as a playoff match). Expect another high seeded and deep running performance from 195.

Not many teams can top the blend of fuel and gears that 33 can contribute. The Killer Bees used their blistering autonomous shooting to gain early edges, and backed it up with gear scoring in tele-op to leave two events with gold and two more with silver. Moreover, they were on the #1 alliance at all four events they attended, twice as the top seed and twice as the first overall selection. Among the teams they were selected in front of include 610, 1285, 27, and 4967. The Bees haven’t been to Einstein since 2013, but they’ll be on the short list to make it this year.

 

CURIE

Tips:

Most teams don’t win five banners in their career, but 4039 did that in just one season. MakeShift won all three district qualifier events they attended (including an impressive upset over 2056 at the loaded McMaster event), and were awarded the Chairman’s Award at Victoria Park and the Ontario Provincial Championship. While 4039’s playstyle doesn’t wow quite as much as their bright colors, they’re a well practiced gear cycling machine that can score on any peg in autonomous and can pitch in defensive efforts when required.

After years of being on the cusp, 2791 finally earned a regional win in 2017. Shaker followed up their Tech Valley win with a semi-finals performance in NYC, where they were a single gear away from taking out the eventual champions. While their existing level of performance would already make them a noteworthy contender on Curie, they have been working diligently with their practice bot to raise their performance higher (namely in terms of adding a hopper dumping autonomous mode).

Indiana has been synonymous with speedy gear running all season long, and perhaps no division will demonstrate that better than Curie. 71, 234, 1720, and 4272 are all slated to compete in this division. Cyber Blue won Tippecanoe and Perry Meridian, and was the top pick at Miami Valley and the Indiana State Championship. Unfortunately for 234, failed hangs in the DCMP quarter-finals resulted in a quick exit at the hands of the consistent 445 point #8 alliance. Hammond seeded first at St. Joseph and Perry Meridian, but was only able to capture one finalist medal as they were bested by Cyber Blue in the Perry finals. 4272’s remarkably simple gear cycling machine was also defeated by 234 in an an event finals (Tippy), and paired up with Team Hammond at State Champs, reaching the semi-finals. PhyXTGears’ swift mecanum robot also sports some autonomous fuel scoring, which helped them captain the #7 alliance past 71 and 4272 to the finals at the State Champs. While 234 may be the only one of these teams to capture a banner so far, all of them will be featured on pick lists.

Consistent gear prowess paved the way to a lot of success across many different districts this season. Chesapeake’s 384 and Mid-Atlantic’s 1807 are two examples. Redbird Robotics climbed from 21st seed to 10th seed (and a pair of #8 alliance appearances) to 2nd seed at the district championship (only denied the #1 seed by a loss in their last quals match and the match points tiebreaker). Their simple but well driven passive gearing was capable of supplying a plethora of gears, earning them an 17-1 record at a district championship. Sparky needed no such buildup, winning all three events they attended. 384 also won their DCMP as the #2 seed at the event, with a similar gear funnel from the human player. However, they also have the ability to lift off the ground and don’t have to wait for the pilot to lift the gear out of their robot.

 

Dark Horses:

You can count on MARS/WARS to build unique and ambitious machines each season, and 2017 is no different than usual. 4143’s swerve driven machine with a giant spinning indexer and belted shooter is a wonderfully unique solution to STEAMworks. And the machine delivered them their second event win in team history, picking up gold as part of the top alliance at Central Illinois after a semi-final exit at the St. Louis regional. Their ability to swerve through tight passages and contribute side peg gears and kPa in autonomous should make them a valued competitor on Curie.

Fellow Mars themed team 494 is in the midst of another very strong season. The Martians were either on the first or second alliance at all three events they attended, including the fiercely competitive Dow division at Michigan State Championship (where they picked their twins). While two of their three events ended in quarter-final upsets, at Lansing they battled through a nine match playoff run to their first win since 2014 (and only their third since their five year banner streak between 2003-2007 was broken). Even in their non-banner years they’ve been competitive at Championship, reaching eliminations in each of the past three years (including a division finals trip last year). Their robot sports virtually all the features expected of an elite contender. Their mecanum driven robot sports a floor gear intake that’s been highly effective, and a hopper popping autonomous mode that’s currently a work in progress. Still, the upside is there for them to make noise in the playoffs.

 

Sleeper:

KING TeC hasn’t been able to pick up a regional victory since their world class full court shooting robot in 2013, but they came close this year with a finalist appearance in Central Illinois. 2169 built one of the more unique and fully-featured gear specialists of 2017, and were rewarded with early selections at both of their events. While they were eliminated in the quarter-finals at North Star, their rear-side ground intake put them on the verge of completing a two gear autonomous routine. If they can get that working (and delivering in time for the pilot to place the second gear), it could be a feature that changes the dynamic of a playoff series.

 

Locks:

In their eleventh season, 2056 picked up banners #34, #35, and #36. While the regional win streak was snapped last season (and they never were able to establish a district win streak), it’s hard to argue that the levels of success experienced by OP Robotics are anything short of astounding. They’re riding a 16 match winning streak heading into St. Louis. Only once over their past two events have they failed to record at least one ranking point in qualification matches. They earned an insane 3.36 ranking point average in the Ontario champs qualifications. Their blue banners come in virtually all flavors, ranging from regional wins to district wins to district championship wins to Chairman’s Awards to division titles (and even IRI titles). However, one banner has eluded 2056 thus far. Can 2056 finally break through on Einstein in 2017?

With no competitions since week three, 2481 hasn’t been in the spotlight in a while. But the defending world champions did not back off the pedal this year, with a slick swerving machine that can contribute impressive gear and fuel totals. The Roboteers’ ability to put up around 30kPa in autonomous helps mask the fact they cannot acquire fuel (or gears) from the floor, as they don’t need very much in tele-op to reach the 40kPa bonus points. Moreover that swerve drive provides them excellent ability navigate through the narrow choke points on STEAMworks fields, making them a very strong gear and fuel cycler from the far loading lane. If 2481 has continued to improve in their downtime since CIR, a third trip to Einstein for the Class of 2017 might not be out of reach.

 

DALY

Tips:

In a division loaded with teams that aren’t afraid of shooting fuel, a couple of elite level gear specialists stand out. 340 was the first overall selection at both Finger Lakes and Buckeye, leaving the former with silver and the latter with gold. 1285 earned their gold as the #2 seed back in week one at Durham College, followed that up with two more #2 seeded outings at Georgian and Windsor-Essex, and closed out their district season as a member of the #8 alliance at the DCMP. While their presence may be overshadowed by some of the teams that are solid gear scorers and launch fuel, captains who want to offload some of their gear duty to other teams will definitely take notice of GRR and the The Big Bang.

Dyslexic scouts beware, both 4967 and 4976 will be standouts on Daly. Purely in terms of shooting, That ONE Team is the better of the pair. 4967 was frequently crossing the 40kPa mark at both East Kentwood and the Dow division at MSC. However, The Rebels reached the finals at the Ontario DCMP and McMaster because they could not only contribute meaningful amounts of fuel (albeit not 40kPa), but could do so while on an alliance that achieved two rotor autonomous modes. Both teams are very mobile machines with roller intakes for gears, capable of both cycling rapidly across the field and snatching up gears from the opposing loading lane.

Two of Michigan’s finest gearing robots will be taking the field on Daly. 2960 won Southfield and St. Joseph (Indiana), and were division finalists on Dow. 3620 won the other St. Joseph event (in Michigan), reached the finals in West Michigan, and had strong showing as the Midwest regional and the Ford division. While the Joes have shown flashes of modest fuel scoring, it’s cycling gears across the field that’s the hallmark of both teams.

Not since 832 in 2008 has there been a more beautiful use of a trash can on an FRC robot than 5406’s hopper this year. Celt-X’s machine is also tremendously effective, winning Georgian and reaching the finals at McMaster via solid gear scoring. Their fuel scoring sometimes took the back seat to their alliance partners’, but they’ve demonstrated the ability to score up high in qualifications and during the ONT DCMP eliminations.

5895 burst onto the scene on Carson last year, captaining the #3 alliance all the way to the finals. Peddie School Robotics has big shoes to fill in their sophomore season, but their robot just might be capable of filling them. 5895 joins a crowded field of teams that can effectively cycle gears and score high goals, which may make it hard for them to stand out (and highlight their inability to acquire fuel from the ground). However, they’re one of very few teams worldwide to perform a simultaneous hopper autonomous (which they did alongside 225 in Q104 at MAR DCMP), which opens up some intriguing possibilities if they can find another suitable dance partner.

 

Dark Horses:

Gear scoring will be the core of almost any winning strategy, and one of the best gear scorer’s on Daly will be CORE. 2062 seeded #1 in Wisconsin before being upset in the semis, then won gold as the first overall selection at Seven Rivers. While they have a ground pick-up for gears and some low goal fuel capacity, it’s really their well practiced cycles between the loading station and the gear pegs that’s the bread and butter of CORE’s game plan.

After missing MSC (but not CMP) last year, Foley Freeze emphatically rebounded this year. With three golds and a silver from the Consumer Energy division, 910 is having their best pre-championship season ever. The first two wins came from the #7 alliance, but the more recent two came with the expectations of the #1 alliance. While they can contribute a few gears, 910’s hallmark has been their shooting this season. With both center peg and shoot and hopper dumping autonomous routines, they can be a flexible contributor to a number of different partners. With the right partners, 910 could be a real threat in a playoff shootout.

 

Sleeper:

Despite high ranks and even higher alliance invitations, 862 wasn’t able to secure a trip past the semifinals this season. Lightning Robotics are a zippy gear cycler (to the point where their driving can be a bit jerky), and their flashy speed across the field helped them secure an invitation (or captainship) to the #1 or #2 alliance three times this season. While it’s unlikely that they’ll be picked anywhere near that early on Daly, they’re the type of robot that some of these fuel heavy teams could be looking for later in the draft to round out their alliance and help secure four rotors.

 

Locks:

Stryke Force picked up a bonus ranking point in 11/12 qualification matches on the Ford Field at MSC, just a couple weeks after picking up bonus points in 9/12 matches at the East Kentwood district. That type of ranking prowess has helped 2767 remain in alliance captain territory, despite taking a handful of losses in qualifications. Ultimately that has led to this smooth swerving team earning three banners this year (including their division at MSC), all from either the #1 or #2 alliance. Stryke Force’s hopper popping autonomous is the second most proven on Daly heading into St. Louis, and they can follow it up with both remarkably accurate tele-op shooting, one of the best floor fuel intakes in FRC, and very effective gear running. Assuming they’ve corrected their shooter concerns that saw them focus more on gears during the Ford finals and MSC finals, Stryke Force will likely be invited to one of the top couple alliances and have positioned themselves well enough in qualifications to decide whether they want to accept or decline.

A 345-274 loss in qualification match 26 at Silicon Valley is the lone blemish on 254’s otherwise sterling 2017 resume. The Cheesy Poofs are sporting a 30-1 record, with two event wins from the #1 seed, and 40kPa markers in their last twenty-one matches heading into St. Louis. The Poofs have once again pushed the how much can be done with an FRC robot, mostly thru how fast they accomplish tasks. Rather than tacking on additional mechanisms like a turret or omni-directional drive, they’ve refined their design to hold and fire absurd quantities of fuel in dramatically short periods of time. Their ground loading of fuel is the best in the business, and their ground loading of gears features efficient sensor feedback to the drivers to help them quickly know they’ve acquired gears in the seas of the fuel in the far side loading corners. Their autonomous pathing is heavily refined and ridiculously quick, and opens up opportunities to do things like place a side peg gear AND score 30 fuel in autonomous. Just like Newton last year and Curie in 2014, the Poofs have been slotted in a stacked division that will test their mettle. But it would be shocking if the Poofs aren’t able to pass that test.

 

DARWIN

Tips:

2017 was another season of mainland regional domination and home island defeats for 359. The Hawaiin Kids’ scored fuel and gears to pick up wins in Palmetto and Pittsburgh, but couldn’t upset the #1 alliance in the semi-finals at their home regional in Hawaii. They’re a high volume shooter, but the pair of times they managed to hit the 40kPa threshold in Honolulu were the result of extensive tele-operated shooting. Their combination of effective gear scoring and the ability to shoot will comfortably get them into the playoffs, but they may need to increase their autonomous shooting if they want to outgun the top teams on Darwin.

Coming into STEAMworks, ILITE was known more for pretty purple paint jobs and their outstanding efforts to change the culture (which have earned them an abundance of Chairman’s accolades) than they were for on-the-field success. While their robots were rarely lacking, these 2006 rookies had never managed to break through for a regional or district win. 1885 stamped that out quickly in 2017, picking up wins in Greater DC and Central Virginia, then reaching the finals at the CHS DCMP. Their effective ground pick-up and quick and consistent end-game should not only earn them a berth in the Darwin playoffs, but keep them in the hunt for a gig as an alliance captain.

If it weren’t for Crescent School Robotics, 4939 would be known as the best gear scorers in Canada. The same may be true on Darwin. Allspark9 took home blue banners from all three district events they attended, then captained the #3 alliance to the finals at the ONT DCMP. They had to beat some pretty impressive names, including Theory Six, the CyberCavs, Blizzard, Team Dave, Ice Cubed, and even OP Robotics to secure those finishes. If 4939 can continue contributing a handful or more of gears each match, they will have little trouble ranking high and finding a terrific alliance.

New England DCMP was a blitz of bonus ranking points throughout qualifications. While Infinite Loop did little to contribute to the 32.81% rotor four engagement, their ten trips over 40kPa during qualifications buoyed that figure significantly. 2648’s lack of gearing allowed them to slide in the draft, but Henry Hippo was one of the premiere shooters in New England and at least reached the semis at all four events they competed at (with a finalist trip in SE Mass and a top seeded win in their home state). On the right alliance, they could be deadly, but it will take some top notch gearing partners if they want to hit four rotors.

2512 managed to reach the finals at both Iowa and Northern Lights on the back of their solid gear contributions. The Duluth East Daredevils could occasionally pot a few balls in the high efficiency boiler (including after scoring a side peg gear in autonomous), that’s not yet something that’s a strength of their robot. Watch for a solid outing from these passive gear scorers on Darwin.

 

Dark Horses:

Despite having a brand new championship in their home state, Texans 3310 waitlisted themselves over to the final edition of the St. Louis champs. Black Hawk Robotics head into StL with three blue banners (one for Chairman’s) and an impressive 29-5 record. While they likely would have had more familiarity with competitors as some more fanfare at the southern championship event, the Black Hawks will fly a bit under the radar here, but still find plenty of success. Any cloud cover they may have been lying under will be quickly shed, however, if they can find ways to get more out of their hopper loaded autonomous routines.  

After seven banners combined in 2014 and 2015, The Megatron Oracles looked poised to secure their spot as an elite team in Michigan in 2016. However, that’s not how the story went for 314, as they not only failed to secure a Stronghold banner, but missed MSC entirely. The Oracles are back on the right track in 2017, earning a win in Livonia and handily seeding on top of their division at MSC. While 314 isn’t likely to breach 40kPa on their own, they’re one of the better autonomous shooters in the division and can top the mark in a tandem. They’re also a skilled gear scoring machine, and with the tough lesson learned in the Ford division quarterfinals regarding three rotors not being enough, expect 314 to gun for quad rotors in the Darwin playoffs.

 

Sleeper:

Save perhaps Team Titanium, 3277 is the most accurate shooter in FRC. ProDigi’s rate of fire leaves a fair bit to be desired, but when allowed to square up against the boiler, they almost never miss a shot. After a 3rd seeded semis trip in Duluth, they qualified for St. Louis as the final pick of the #1 alliance at North Star. Their lack of gear scoring and firing speed may scare away some captains, but if the right captain takes a gamble on 3277 (and with the option for back-up bots, it’s easy to imagine that one will), they could be the type of robot that changes the complexion of an alliance.

 

Locks:

Nobody outshoots Titanium in autonomous. 1986 comes as close as any team to scoring every fuel ball possible from the hoppers in autonomous, being credited with 57kPa during their last match played (finals 2 at Seven Rivers). While their focus on fuel over gears ended up denying them gold in their first two events, the increasing quality of gear scoring partners enabled them to hit four rotors while focusing on fuel at their third event and earn their first banner of the year. With their incredible shooting prowess, it’s hard to imagine them ranking anywhere but #1 or #2 in qualifications. After all, they’ve hit the 40kPa mark in 43/45 matches this season and in 38 consecutive matches (both of their misses were at their first event). With that type of seeding position, they should have a strong chance at being able to build the type of alliance they want, and should challenge for a second straight trip to Einstein.  

The comparison between 610’s 2013 world championship machine and their 2017 machine has been drawn often this season, but the stylistic similarities are hard to ignore. Both robots sported some “high upside” features (the ability to shoot full court in 2013 and the ability to add in some tie-breaking fuel in 2017), but the bread and butter of both machines is their rapid acquisition of game pieces from the human player and then quickly ferrying them into scoring position. Hardly any teams in all of FRC have can match Crescent Robotics’ gear scoring upside, and they are peerless when it comes to the consistency in which they can place 7+ gears. While their four rotor rates in qualifications aren’t going to match their nearly impeccable 10/11 success rate at Ontario champs (which could put them at a ranking disadvantage compared to some top flight shooters), their gear running should put in contention to be the top pick. At the very least, it’s hard to imagine them sliding nearly as far in alliance selection as they did in 2013 (although that came as a shock to many as well).

After an uncharacteristic performance in 2016, 1114 rebounded nicely in 2017. Simbotics picked up wins from the top alliance at both of their district qualifier events, and used their impressive shooting to secure the #2 seed behind a 2.81 RP average at the provincial championship. Still, despite that world class shooting and a well above average gear game, 1114 has had some trouble with opposing alliances capable of putting up two rotors in autonomous (such as the one that knocked them out in the quarters at DCMP). Additionally, their lack of ground pick-up will stand out when compared to some other top flight shooters in St. Louis. But the upside is obviously there. Four of their eleven quals matches at DCMP resulted in the Simbots securing four ranking points. Their autonomous shooting alone hovers around a 30kPa contribution. Expect a much more Simbot-like performance from 1114 in St. Louis than we saw last year.

 

TESLA

Tips:

Two members of the Indiana State Champions alliance will be competing on Tesla. After somewhat shaky starts to 2017 (including PantherTech missing the eliminations entirely at Perry Meridian), 292 and 829 picked up their first banners of the year at DCMP.  While the Digital Goats landed a handful of fuel in the high efficiency boiler to start matches, the alliance’s true key to victory was consistently reaching the fourth rotor (which they did in 7 of 8 playoff matches). Both team are more likely to be role players than all-stars on Tesla, but both could be valuable in the roles they end up filling.

Save perhaps some target locking when all three alliance partners attempt to aim for the boiler in autonomous at the same time, it’s hard to find many errors with the The ERRORs play STEAMworks. 3130 won both Northern Lights and North Star and was on the top alliance in Wisconsin. Their gear scoring is arguably the best in Minnesota, and their reputation is growing quickly outside the state after trips to the semis on Tesla and Newton in the past two seasons. While gears are their primary concern, scoring a bit of fuel could help push them over the edge and onto a very strong alliance.

The Aluminum Falcons are having a season most teams can only dream about, a blue banner at every event they have attended leading up to St. Louis (totaling 4). 2168 is a deadly consistent and quick gear and hang machine that has been refining its fuel shooting abilities along the way. For Tesla expect them to have dialed in their ability to shoot more in auto and in tele-op if their strategy calls for it. They have gotten their wins by maintaining consistency, assembling a strong alliance, and making very smart strategic calls as an alliance.

Michigan’s gear scoring contingent will be well represented on Tesla. 2619, 3452 and 3546 will be among the standouts in that respect. Despite not being quite as big of names as some of the other Michiganders competing in this division, these teams have performed as well or better virtually all season long. The Charge picked up a win back in Kettering week one, and followed that up with a finalist trip at Midland and winning the Consumers Energy division at MSC. The GreengineerZ took home gold from Lake Superior State and gathered enough bonsu ranking points to seed 3rd on the Ford field despite a 7-5 qualification record. The Buc’N’Gears ranked just behind 3452 on Ford, and managed to captain their alliance to the semi-finals. All three teams are effective gear cyclers with the ability to place on the sides of the airship during autonomous (with 2619 and 3546 moving to the neutral zone after they score). While the high rankings might not follow again, they will be effective alliance partners in the playoffs.

Most teams wouldn’t even consider removing a giant chunk of their robot that they spent all build season working on, but for 95, tearing off their shooter proved to be the right call. The Grasshoppers were already an effective gear scoring machine, reaching the finals at the Granite State District, but replacing their shooter with a floor gear grabber helped pushed them from silver to gold in Boston. A pair of quarter final exits followed at their next two events, but 95 still stands as one of the better gear scorers in the division, and reached the fourth rotor mark in the last seven matches they’ve played (including all three playoff matches at NEDCMP).

 

Dark Horses:

It’s been awhile since we’ve seen 4481 on the field, but that doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten about them. With strong showings at both of their Regionals in FL, including a win as the first overall draft pick at Orlando, Team Rembrandts is back for their second US tour of the 2017 season. Their machine is equipped with a floor pickup that allows them to drive over the gear and take it from floor to scoring position in the blink of an eye. Rumor has it they have decreased their climb time and been practicing back home just waiting for this weekend.

When paired with an elite gear scoring team, 1706’s 40kPa-capable high goal shooting cruised to victory in St. Louis. They suffered more difficulties in the Rocket City quarter-finals, where climb and rotor deficits sent them packing after two matches, despite reaching the 40kPa mark in both. Still, with some of the best shooting ability in the division, 1706 could knock out some high profile names to keep some hardware in the St. Louis metro area.

 

Sleeper:

Missing the playoffs can be a deflating experience for a team, and is usually a notable blemish on a team’s competitive record. However, sometimes the depth (or weird picking) of field at extraordinary events like district championships can leave some high quality teams out of the tournament. 3974 missed the eliminations at MAR champs, but their nimble gear thieving machine can put up very impressive rotor contributions (tops in the whole division by computed inferences). They were playing in the elims at their only previous trip to St. Louis, and even after missing the elims in Bethlehem, it’s likely E=mcD will be playing on Saturday on Tesla.

Locks:

Ranger Robotics has taken home medals from both of the prior two Championship events they’ve attended, in 2015 as Newton finalists and as the defending Tesla champs and world finalists in 2016. Yet 3015 was rotated on and off the field in both of those alliances. Barring some sort of mechanical failure, Ranger Robotics sitting out an elimination match is unlikely to be the case in 2017, as 3015 has built was is unquestionably their best robot in team history. When on the mark, their hopper autonomous can flirt with 30kPa before the 15 seconds expire, and if they follow that up with tele-op shooting (as they often do in qualifications), they can cross the 40kPa threshold. Their claw for snatching gears off the carpet also makes them a more than respectable team in terms of gear totals, and we know from prior exposure that they’re not afraid to mix it up defensively when the situation permits.

After the realities of STEAMworks revealed themselves, 148 stripped down their robot into a lean, mean, gear scoring machine that reached the finals in Dallas, before revamping it for Lone Star North and Las Vegas. However, the results were the same at both of their latter outings, more silver medals. The Robowranglers are heading into Championship without a regional win for the first time since the 2007 season. Don’t mistake that to mean they’re any less of a favorite to reach Einstein for the third straight year, as they’re one of the best gear scoring teams in all of FRC and sport a shooter/hopper autonomous that will have another couple weeks of fine tuning since its last outing in Vegas.

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