Muncie Robotics Team Competes in World Championships

Team members visit the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Photo provided.Team members visit the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Photo provided.

By: PhyXTGears Media Team—

Muncie, INLast week, 35 students and mentors from Muncie’s own PhyXTGears team 1720 traveled to St. Louis, Missouri, to compete in the World Championships of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics, making it to the quarterfinals in the elimination rounds on their division field, Curie, named after scientist Madame Marie Curie.

Leaving Wednesday in several vans and pulling two trailers, the team headed for the big arch with big dreams for the tournament. “We wanted to at least make it into the elimination rounds in our division,” team President Shawn Van Ness said of the team’s goals going into the event. The team did not let him down.

After two days of qualification matches, PhyXTGears ranked 26th of 68 teams playing in their division. Only 32 of those teams made it to the division finals after the top eight teams each chose three other teams to play with them on a solid alliance. 1720 was chosen as an alliance mate by 8th seeded team 71, the Beast, from Hammond, Indiana.

PhyXTGear's robot, "Spitfire" moves down the field after picking up a gear during a match. Photo provided.

PhyXTGear’s robot, “Spitfire” moves down the field after picking up a gear during a match. Photo provided.

Part of the experience of the competition was competing with and against teams from all over the world. One team PhyXTGears played with was from France. “It was amazing to work with other teams because we got to see what perspectives they had when working with this year’s challenge,” said drive team member Jessica Van Ness.

FIRST Robotics is not only robots. Several colleges recruiting students from FIRST talked to students and offered them scholarship opportunities. Industry speakers also gave seminars about topics such as engineering, programming, media, women in science and community impact.

Students had a chance to have some good, STEAM fun at the competition, too. FIRST had an Innovation Fair with virtual reality games and brush bot making competitions. FIRST Robotics hero and co-founder, Woodie Flowers, also met some of the team’s students. Media student leader Ashley Martin said, “It was really cool to meet one of the FIRST rockstars and seeing how calm and relaxed he was with everyone fangirling over him and it was especially cool having ran into him completely by accident.” She and her teammates came across their hero after walking out the wrong door of the America’s Center where the event was held.

The team qualified for the World Championship by being the top ranked team from Indiana after the state championship and raised funds to pay event fees from individuals and local businesses through a GoFundMe campaign.