FIRST Diary of an Innovator: Team 20789 Season Wrap Up

Students from FIRST Tech Challenge team 20789 surrounded by balloon arch that says

During the 2023-2024 season, we joined 4 FIRST® LEGO® League, 4 FIRST® Tech Challenge, and 4 FIRST® Robotics Competition teams from around the world as they shared their season experience and the culture of innovation their team has created with our FIRST community. 

Learn about the FIRST LEGO League Diary of an Innovator teams here, and the FIRST Robotics Competition Diary of an Innovator teams here

This is the final set of blogs posts you’ll read from each team over our CENTERSTAGE presented by RTX season.  In this post, hear from Team 20789, Paranoid-Androids-On-Steroids from Riverdale, New York, USA.

As we wrap up CENTERSTAGE, our team reflected on our favorite moments from the season. While everyone loved hosting the Mayor at our event, we all agree that competition days were our favorite. We enjoyed sharing our projects and robots that we've spent months on and discussing with others who share this passion. This season we were delighted to advance to the NYC Championships for the first time in our school's history, among three teams. We found it incredible to be among the top 24 teams in the city, a very competitive region. Every match at the championship was higher scoring and more exciting than what we had seen in the prior levels, with each team having a unique design and strategy. The Championship was our best performance yet, with a high score over 130. As a team, we realized the caliber of teams at a championship event, and although we were at their level in some respects, we realized how much more planning time we need to spend on our robot next year.

FIRST Tech Challenge participant Charlotte, Dean's List Finalist, at FIRST Championship.We learned some fundamental lessons from talking to other teams at the NYC Championships and FIRST Championship, where our co-captain, Charlotte, was honored as a Dean’s List Finalist. Firstly, we realized the importance of a strong and consistent autonomous mode. We found that the teams who had an upper hand in the autonomous period almost always won their match, because the autonomous often put them significantly ahead of their opponents. We also learned more about the significance of driver practice and coding automation for improved driver efficiency. In essence, if certain actions are performed repeatedly, it is much easier to code the entire thing into one button than to have the driver repeat the moves.

We also learned more about team structure. We found that the teams that functioned best had each member working on a design aspect that they felt proud of. This meant that each team had collaboration while individuals were able to improve, learn, and feel responsible for a certain team accomplishment. We found that there are cases where smaller groups are better, such as when working on a part of the robot, but that bigger groups can be awesome as well, such as in outreach events.

Ultimately, we realized that the ideals of FIRST are to get inspired and inspire others in STEM, and if we are always learning and teaching then we are constantly bettering ourselves as a team.

Even though our team did not advance to FIRST Championship this year, we continued team-building and inspiring as the off-season began. As is our tradition, the team went for dinner after the NYC Championships to celebrate our achievements this season. We visited Google in NYC to see their offices and hear more about their cyber security work. We participated in FTC team 18’s STEM fair where we got to scrimmage with other teams from the NY-Excelsior region. We are also looking forward to attending our second SASA NAC in June.

FIRST Tech Challenge participants in front of a "Google" sign.As we look forward to next year, with lots of new team members, we are very excited to be implementing a new season calendar so that we can brainstorm and build on a schedule. This is in order to decrease stress and also to have a routine with our various experts and mentors for when we need them. This will also allow us to have a lot of time to code and practice driving our new robot. We cannot wait for a water game!

Written by Team 20789, Paranoid-Androids-On-Steroids and FIRST Tech Challenge Staff