After a pretty tiring weekend, the New Zealand Nationals are over! A lot of effort was put in by a lot of people to get everything running and going, with 45 high school teams in attendance from all across New Zealand.
The competition was fierce, as each team played 13 matches over the two days in qualification rounds. At the end, Free Range Robotics (Home School, 2921) stood clear leaders, closely followed by teams from Lynfield Robotics (2915) and Binary Blitz (Avondale College, 2911). Both the robot skills and programming skills were hotly contested, with a highest score of 90 posted by Binary Blitz during robot skills qualification. The two playoffs for these awards were both played by 2921A and 2911A, and they both took away one award each – Free Range Robotics with the Programming Skills and Binary Blitz with the Driver Skills. With twenty-four teams in eight alliances of three, the elimination rounds included a large variety of teams. Over the course of an hour and a half, which was also televised live on TV, we saw some of the best robots in New Zealand battle it out to get to the finals, using a variety of strategies. Rings were scored (and then descored and hoarded), goals were dumped, and ladders were climbed as teams sought to gain as many points as possible.
The final matches saw the first ranked alliance, comprised of 2921A and 2921B (Free Range Robotics) and 2931C (Prime Robotics from Pinehurst), against the second ranked alliance of 2911A (Binary Blitz), 2915A (Lynfield Robotics), and 2919A (K-Force from Kristin School). The finals saw no less than 6 goals dumped under the ladder over the two matches, and one match included both Free Range robots high hanging at the end of the match. After two rounds, the first ranked alliance took out the National Championships, making the home schoolers three-time back to back national champions. Free Range also took out the Excellence award, with the rest of the judged awards given out to a variety of deserving teams. Only two new teams qualified to travel to Worlds this weekend, as many teams had already qualified at Regional competitions as well as 2921A and 2919A travelling to defend their World title from 2010.
For the College teams, NZ Nationals was a mixture of good and bad, with lots of unexpected changes and faulty equipment that plagued our weekend. Twelve of our members attended over the weekend, where our first surprise was a rescheduled match, which gave us very little time to prepare. Unfortunately we lost to Massey University in two matches over the two days, mostly due to Vexnet and drive train failures. We spent a lot of time working over the weekend and the majority of our issues are now sorted, including but not limited to drivetrain, descorers, lifting, and Vexnet. Testing on the fields late Sunday afternoon confirmed that we finally got our robots working properly, but unfortunately it was too late as we didn’t have any more matches. We’ve all certainly learnt a lot, and will be putting that to use over the next couple of weeks. We’re now focusing on getting our robots redesigned and ready to compete at Worlds in mid-April.
Our weekend also included helping out with the competition! Over the two days we also fielded volunteers from our team to help run the matches, mostly handing out crystals to teams as they competed. We also spent a lot of time with our high school teams as mentors, mainly Team 2915 from Lynfield College and 2919 from Kristin School, helping out where we could to try and make their weekend as successful as possible. Even though it was pretty tiring, a good time was had by all, as the strong NZ Vex Robotics community came together to celebrate another season of work done well.
Congratulations to all the teams that won awards, and thanks again to the Kiwibots for organising and running the NZ Nationals!