The Cascades Academy robotics team took their robots on the road to take part in the Madtown Throwdown competition in Madera, CA on November 9th and 10th, and did they ever show up! Competing in a field of 31 teams and 48 robots; including 7 past World Championship winners, the team from Cascades Academy, called Mystic Biscuit, rose all the way to the competition finals as members of the 3rd seed alliance, and took second place along with their alliance partners The Greybots (Atascadero, CA) and Citrus Circuits (Davis, CA).
Madtown Throwdown is an off-season FIRST competition event organized by local teams in Madera, CA and draws mostly California teams, many of whom have risen to world-championship level competition in the past. When students from Mystic Biscuit told Paul Snape, their Robotics Coach, that they wanted to take part in this competition and build a new robot in the weeks leading up to it, he knew it would be down to the wire. "We are a small team in only our 4th year, and building a new robot in the first two months of the school year is a huge endeavor given the other responsibilities and activities that students have,'' said Snape. But the students convinced him that they could do it and started working on the new robot at a feverish pace as the competition deadline approached.
A rock-solid work ethic is nothing new for this team. Coming from a small high school, they have always had to give it their all in order to compete against other larger teams. When funding for their team started to dwindle, the students created a sponsorship packet to present to local businesses and reached out to explore donor and sponsorship options. They worked with Caitlin Ciannella, Director of Advancement at Cascades Academy, to create a professional presentation that they could use with potential sponsors. "These students were so focused and diligent about creating this presentation," said Ciannella. "It was such a pleasure to be able to help them put this together and then see them experience success." The team's goal was to raise $15,500, and they raised more than twice that amount. "I chose to donate because it was the kids asking, not one of their teachers," said one donor. "I was so impressed with the work they had put into their presentation and with how sincere they were." The team is grateful to all of their sponsors: Subaru of Bend, Autodesk, The Boeing Company, Cascade Insulation, Jackson's Corner, The Wonderful Company, First Tech Credit Union, Hooker Creek, Lonza, ASI Wealth Management & Consulting Services, Tumalo Express, Knife River, and Brix Law.
After having competed in the FIRST Robotics competitions for the last three seasons, the group was excited to compete in Madtown Throwdown, despite an eleven hour bus ride each way. Less enthusiastic teams might have been daunted by all of the blue, first place competition banners the other teams have collected, or by the fact that their robot's steering system malfunctioned in a key match, but not the Mystic Biscuit team. "I was moving the joystick, and the robot wasn't budging," said Patrick Ronan, the team's co-captain and driver. "Then when it finally moved, the joystick wasn't steering in the correct directions; it only went backward and right, so I had to keep manipulating it different ways to play defense." He did an excellent job determining the problem, kept calm under pressure and adjusted to the driving constraints in order to continue to play defense and contribute to the alliance's efforts.
The name "Mystic Biscuit" was coined in the first year Cascades Academy had a team. One of the team members did a search for "cool names," and "Mystic" jumped out at him. They rhymed Biscuit with it and started calling their robot the Mystic Biscuit. Eventually it became the team name, with each year's robot gaining a related name. Last year, their third year of competing as a team, the robot was dubbed the "Triscuit."
The team is also fortunate to have a member who has his own photography business, and he created this video of the Madtown Throwdown Competition (video credit to Jackson Junkin). Jackson documents all of their competitions through his photos and videos.
Now the Mystic Biscuit team is setting their sights on the upcoming FIRST Robotics competition season, which kicks off on January 5. Local teams come together early on that Saturday morning to watch the livestream release video, which is taking place live on the east coast. Once that event has taken place, the teams have six weeks to design, build and test their robots before heading to the competition. The schedule is intense, with team members spending upward of 15 hours per week working on the robot.
"We are so proud of these students," said Julie Amberg, Head of School at Cascades Academy. "Our program places a huge emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and on giving students opportunities to work through challenges and learn from them. This team certainly has the tenacity, work ethic, and collaborative spirit to be very successful."
Combining the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. We call FIRST Robotics Competition the ultimate Sport for the Mind. High-school student participants call it "the hardest fun you'll ever have." Under strict rules, limited time and resources, teams of students are challenged to raise funds, design a team "brand," hone teamwork skills, and build and program industrial-size robots to play a difficult field game against like-minded competitors. It's as close to real-world engineering as a student can get. Volunteer professional mentors lend their time and talents to guide each team. Each season ends with an exciting FIRST Championship. For more information about FIRST, visit www.firstinspires.org.