In April 2017, with the generous support of the University of Auckland and Motion Design, AURA sent six members to Louisville, Kentucky, to compete in the VEX Robotics World Championship. The largest robotics competition in the world, this saw over 1,400 teams from more than 30 countries gather together, to crown a world champion. The 62 university teams were split between two divisions, with the champions of each facing off to determine who would be crowned World Champions.
In this year’s game, robots faced off in a 1v1 format on a 4 metre x 4 metre square field, split down the middle by a 0.5-metre-tall fence. The objective of the game was to toss “stars” and “cubes” over the fence to gain points, in a fast-paced game described as “like volleyball, only with 28 objects”.
AURA finished the qualification matches with 7 convincing wins and only a single defeat, placing our team second heading into the Elimination playoffs. From there we faced teams from Michigan and New York, which we both defeated, landing us in our division finals against a team from Puerto Rico. The Puerto Ricans kept pace with their fast and aggressive strategy, however we took a 2-1 win over them to secure our spot in the Grand Finals.
With a 20,000-person audience and many more on the live stream, we were up against team IFR from Florida in the finals. Our 45 second autonomous routine put us in good stead leading into the second halves of the games, where we simply needed to defend our lead. IFR’s fast short-bursts of scoring were effective against our robot, but our greater capacity was able to overwhelm the Florida team. They changed tactics in the second game, employing a strategy to starve us of objects and use their speed in the final 30 seconds to their advantage, however we pulled off a win despite some technical difficulties in the dying seconds, and for the first time became World Tournament Champions.
In the Skills Challenges, AURA pulled off a great 65 points in Driver Skills, but due to slipping by no more than 2 millimetres, lost 8 points on our high hang in Programming Skills. With those 8 points, we would have become university world champions in the Skills Challenges once again, however with the scores being so tight among the top teams, the 8 points we lost dropped us into third place.
Described as “the most winningest team” by VEX organisers and commentators, the Auckland University Robotics Association is now the first and only team out of over 18,000 globally to have won every major world title. Having been in the world finals twice previously (2012 and 2015), we were particularly pleased to have finally broken past second place and claim the champions’ trophy.
Our thanks go to the University of Auckland and Motion Design, for their generous support in assisting our expenses towards this trip. Without their help, this competition would have been much more challenging for our team to fund.
Videos of the two finals games can be seen here:
A video presenting our World Championship robots can be seen here:
A one hour CBS Sports Spectacular of the 2017 VEX Worlds can be seen here:
Full results from the competition can be found on VexDB here.