Robotics joins FIRST


Alex Lee/Chronicle

Members of the Upper School Robotics Team and Mathematics Teacher and Robotics Coach Andew Theiss gather around their robot before it competes at the Central Valley Regional Tournament.

Saisha Kumar

The Upper School Robotics Team competed in the Central Valley Regional Tournament in Fresno on March 11 and 12.

This year, the robotics team transitioned to For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), a specific style of robotics in which teams must build a robot that plays a game chosen by FIRST. The team attended the tournament in attempt to qualify for the FIRST World Championship Tournament held in Houston, Texas and will attend their second regional qualifying tournament on March 17-19. They placed ninth in the qualification matches and made it through the quarterfinals and to the elimiation bracket. During the first elimination round, the robot’s motors failed and the team was forced to withdraw from the competition.

Robotics Team member Matthew Ahn ’25 said the team has been preparing ever since the tournament game was released.

“We have been preparing for the tournament since Jan. 7, but have been preparing and learning to use new machinery since the start of the school year,” Ahn said. “Last year we built a robot for last season and attended a postseason tournament to learn the ropes.”

Robotics Team member Riyan Kadribegovic ’25 said there were many steps involved in developing a robot for the competition.

“Our first step was to create a design for the robot, which took place over a few days, and then [we] started building,” Kadribegovic said. “In the past few weeks, to prepare, we’ve been fine-tuning wiring, coding the intake and the arm as well as practicing driving it.”

Kadribegovic said the team benefitted from the tournament.

“We learned a lot and grew as a team,” Kadribegovic said. “Since this is Harvard-Westlake’s first FIRST tournament in six years, this tournament was a huge learning experience for us.”

Kadribegovic said rival teams also developed relationships with each other.

“[The team] branched out and met new teams that we hadn’t previously known,” Kadribegovic said. “We connected and forged bonds with lots of other teams also present at the tournament.”

Ahn said despite their robot’s malfunction, he enjoyed participating in the tournament and he is excited to compete in the future.

“We had a great competition,” Ahn said. “My favorite part was seeing the robot work as intended for a few matches. Sadly in the later portion, four out of the six motors that drive our robot failed nearly simultaneously due to a firmware defect. We will replace these with a more reliable model, and feel confident in our ability to compete next week.”

Member of the Robotics Team Benjamin Ren ’24 said the team hopes to qualify for the FIRST World Championship at Los Angeles Regionals on March 17-19.

“I have high hopes for [Los Angeles Regionals] because last weekend was the first ever regional that we’ve been to, and we did really well for our first time,” Ren said. “I think for Los Angeles, we’d be more prepared, and I think we definitely will be qualifying for Texas or Worlds this year.”