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Greybots Win World Championships again!

The Greybots, Team 973, are all smiles after winning the Orange County Regionals, which paved the way for their World Championship win in Texas. Photo contributed

The expressions on the faces of the hardworking Greybots tell the whole story of a victorious journey from the regional competitions to becoming World Champions once again. Photo contributed

The Atascadero High School Greybots Team 973 returned home in April as World Champions for the third time since 2011 after facing tough competition against some of the best robotics teams in the world. The Greybots won the FIRST (For Information and Recognition of Science and Technology) World Championships in Houston, Texas that lasted from April 17 to 20.

Team 973 is now one of only four teams to win three robotics world championships, advancing them into the elite class. They went to the world championships with high expectations. For the first time, AHS offers an Engineering for Robotics class this year, taught by Mr. Taber, who also serves as the faculty advisor for the team. In the past, all robotics activities have been extracurricular. The Atascadero Unified School District has also recently implemented robotics classes in the elementary and middle schools within the district to prepare students to keep the Greybot legacy alive after the accomplished high school students graduate.

At the start of every robotics season, teams are issued a particular challenge that allows them all to compete on the same level. This year’s challenge was to design and construct a robot capable of loading a “cargo rocket” on Mars. In other words, the robot had to pick up dodgeballs and place them into different goals of various heights. It should also be able to pick up hatch panels with velcro on the back and attach them to the rocket.

Confidence was high throughout the season, right up until the end of the competition in Houston, when the Greybots questioned whether they might not secure the championship. That last minute worry made the victory even sweeter. Mr. Taber said, “ The Championships in Houston were amazing. Of more than 400 teams that were invited from around the world, we went to the top of our division, with a record of 16-1-0 and were ranked #1. We then competed against all the other division winners, and went into the finals with the rank of #2. We knew we had to win two out of three, but lost the very first one. Miraculously, we made a comeback and won both the final matches!”

The road to the World Championships began in Costa Mesa on Feb. 27 when the Greybots competed at the Orange County Regional competition and won that competition. In addition to getting first place, the team earned the Autonomous Award from Ford for their aim assist feature on their robot, which helps their robot be as accurate as possible. Their victory in Costa Mesa secured the team a spot at the World Championships.

Fresh on the heels of that victory, the team traveled to Sacramento on Mar. 20 to compete in another regional tournament and perfect their performance. They won their first, second, and third qualification matches; both quarterfinal matches; and both their semi-final games. The Greybots were ranked based on their record of 12 wins, three losses, and zero ties. They ultimately ended up in second place and again won the Autonomous Award. According to Kaitlin Lynge, “We did not think we would get as far as we did.” Luis Velasco also added, “Despite going against the best team in the world at the time, we only lost by 19 points.”

This most recent World Championship was not the only time the Greybots have earned that title. The team won the World Championships in 2011 and 2017. The robotics team is made up of students from all four grade levels. The high school members are freshmen Xitlalic Velasco, Tanner Striegel, Marvin Velazquez, Luis Velasco, Lena Faria, and Jack Suarez; sophomores Owen Fang, Mason Rushing, Jacob Worthley, Ethan Lundberg, Bruce Berg, and Ben Robasciotti; juniors Jose Velasco, Jayce Langford, Elijah Pywtorak, Chris McComb, Chris Lawson, and Ben Lipper; and seniors Rivaldo Guerrero, Mitchell Moore, Kyle De Matias, Kaitlin Lynge, Drew Daner, Andrew Murach, and Aaron Walcott. All of these students play important roles in making their robot function.

There are five stations that handle the robot at competitions: drivers, pit crew, scout crew, strike team, strategy team, and volunteers. Drivers navigate the robot on the field, the pit crew make sure the robot is ready in between matches, the scouting team record data from other teams to evaluate potential partners, the strike team works with partners to make sure everything is fixed and ready for the matches, and volunteers fill in any leftover jobs.

“The journey is the best part of robotics,” said Jacob Worthley. The experience and the people are amazing. They are so helpful in our everyday lives.”

To celebrate the accomplishments of these talented students and their support team of parents, volunteers, and faculty, the Atascadero Unified School District Board of Trustees acknowledged the team at the board meeting on Tuesday, May 21, with District 5 County Supervisor Debbie Arnold on hand to congratulate the team, as well as a representative from State Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham’s office. Then on Wednesday, May 22, the City of Atascadero celebrated the Greybots at Farmers Market at the steps of City Hall by issuing a proclamation. The band played and the Cheer and Stunt Teams also performed, while the Atascadero Fire Department offered a ride for the team in celebration.

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