Sonic Squirrels Charge to Victory at the Robotics Qualifiers


Kayce Manzella, Web Editor

We are charged up! That is one of the many cheers you may have heard last weekend from Friday, March 3rd to Sunday, as robotics members and fans alike rallied together to cheer on the Sonic Squirrels to victory during the first robotics qualifiers of the season. But it wasn’t just fans of the Glacier Peak robotics team that were there; Glacier Peak had the honor of hosting the first qualifier games, and thus the school was practically buzzing with excitement as people gathered in the gymnasium to watch the robots face off against each other, or walked around the pits in the commons where the teams had their own tents set up, allowing spectators to see the robots up close when they weren’t in use (as long as you wear safety glasses, of course).

Before the games begin, the robotics teams have to create alliances with two other teams, who they will be playing with during the entire competition. By the end of the long weekend, the Sonic Squirrels had achieved a triumphant victory over all the other teams at the event, accompanied by Team 2910 Jack in the Bot from Henry M. Jackson High School, and Team 1778 Chill Out from Mountlake Terrace High School. They won in succession both games necessary to take home the gold, defeating the opposing alliance 154 – 111 in the first match and 118 – 100 in the second.

Every year, FIRST Robotics changes up the playing field for the robots, and therefore what the robots need to be coded to do. This year, the robots are required to pick up cones and cubes to place them up on hooks and platforms within a certain time limit, before moving to an unstable platform that they can attempt to balance on for additional points. The more robots that balance on the platform, the more points that alliance gets. “This weekend’s matches felt more exciting than last year’s, probably because of the wider variety of robot designs and stronger need for specific strategies with this year’s competition,” Mia Manzella said, who is a member of the programming sub team.

The drive team is a large part of what makes the Sonic Squirrels robot, also known lovingly as Rober, such a powerful contender in these competitions. They work closely together during the battles and have to be able to strategize on the go in order to keep up with other robots, expecting the unexpected. “The first competition, at first I felt really nervous and somewhat confident in my driving abilities,” Ana Valencia said, who is one of the drive team members. “But after a couple of matches I’ve learned to adapt to the general playstyle of the game, and how each team will work, like different strategies, so now I’m feeling pretty confident.”

The games on Saturday and Sunday lasted from early in the morning to late in the evening, but that did not constitute a lack of enthusiasm from our energetic robotics team. A large part of what makes up Sonic Squirrels culture is the many cheers, signs, and dances the team participates in throughout the competition to keep spirits high. Along with their squirrel hats and bright orange shirts, team members can often be seen wearing orange tutus or waving around orange pompoms. “I think what’s most fun about the games is the constant spirit and enthusiasm, especially considering how many new team members there are this year,” Manzella said.

While this is the start of the season, that doesn’t mean the end of improvements to the robot and driving strategies. The team continues to work on their robot throughout the season, making edits as they see fit when observing the robot’s performance during games. “There is always room for improvement on any robot, but our team is looking to improve the durability of it over the next few weeks, and also working on the auto-adjusting system to score quicker goals,” Manzella said.

As the event comes to a close, the robotics team will resume their weekly meetings and works on new ways to improve the robot, but as they did so well these first few matches, there won’t be much to observe until the next competition starts. “There are things that can be improved for week three, yes, but not currently– I think we have a pretty robust robot that can adapt to a lot of different scenarios,” Valencia said.

The Sonic Squirrels will be heading to Bonney Lake High School over the weekend of March 17th, going head-to-head once again with robotics teams from all over Washington.