Cranleigh’s Robotics Team won the title of National Skills Champions at the VEX Robotics UK National Championships. The “Skills” element is one half of the VEX Robotics Competition, a close-fought affair where teams showcase their programming and driving skill. The team of Luke D., John L. and Tom M. qualify for the VEX Robotics World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky next month.

They qualified for the Nationals at only their third ever event, by winning the Robot Skills competition at regional qualifying event held at Brunel University. They set a then UK high score of 27 points by scoring 11 points with their autonomous program and 16 points in the 60 second driver control period.

The team travelled up to the International Centre in Telford to compete alongside the best 56 teams in the UK over the course of two days. The boy’s had their sights firmly set for the National Skills title and after setting the UK high score they were the team to beat heading into the finals. In the Skills element, teams have three attempts to set a programming high score and three attempts to set a driving high score, both of these top scores are then combined to give the skills score.The other half of the competition focuses on teamwork as teams compete against an opposing alliance with their own alliance partner, trying to outscore their opponents. Each teamwork match starts with a 15 second autonomous period with 4 bonus points on offer before the drivers take over control of the robots for the remaining 45 seconds. Both elements of the competition run side by side and teams compete in both.

The National Championship got underway at 9am and by lunchtime the Cranleigh Robotics Team had asserted their control on the skills competition by setting a personal best programming score of 13 points. It wasn’t all plain sailing though as the team spurned their first attempt as their firing mechanism malfunction causing a triple twist in their main axle. The boys did not lose their composure however and managed to repair the damage and try again beating their previous best and topping the table after a 13 point autonomous run followed by a 15 point driver run.

After setting the score to beat the team turned their full attention to the teamwork side of the competition and after a shaky start began to build momentum with their alliance partners. Five matches in the team were sat in 7th place in their 28 team division with a 4-1 win-loss record. Two close matches followed with one going the boy’s way and the other a narrow loss which allowed the team to climb up to 6th overnight with a 5-2 record. Things were beginning to heat up in the skills competition too with a number of teams closing in on the 28 point target set by Cranleigh.

After a nervy night’s sleep the team were back at the venue ready to defend their skills position and improve on their teamwork placing. Cranleigh were up first on the teamwork competition and posted another win to climb further up the ranking. However, It didn’t take long for teams to close the gap on the Cranleigh team in the skills competition with a number of teams posting huge 22 point driver runs with all their programming runs remaining. The boys recognised the threat and put in another driver running pushing the overall score up by another point to 29 and again breaking their own overall UK record.

With 1 driver and 1 programming run left, the Cranleigh team decided to wait it out and keep an eye on other teams before using their final attempts. With their focus back on the teamwork competition the team extended their win streak on the day to 3 from 3 and were now battling it out for the top three positions in their division. With their confidence at an all-time high the team went for their final driver run on skills and were aiming to stretch the gap further. A strong and consistent driver run going right to the wire allowed the team to rack up 19 points, moving them on to a total of 32 points and pushing their UK high score even higher. Combine this with another 2 wins in their final 2 matches of the teamwork competition the team were off to a flyer! At lunch on the final day, Cranleigh Robotics were P1 for both Skills and Teamwork.

Topping the teamwork table in their division allowed Cranleigh Robotics first pick of their alliance partner for the knock out rounds which would culminate in the crowning of the division champions. Cranleigh formed an alliance with a team from Stowe School and waited patiently for their Quarter Finals opponents to be decided in the round of 16. After a nervy autonomous period went against the Cranleigh alliance, they were on the back-foot heading into the driver period and had some work to do if they were to make up the lost points and progress to the Semi-Finals. Some expert driving and scoring from both teams closed the gap with the final score going the top-seed’s way by 3 points.

It was now on to the Semi-Finals against the 4th ranked alliance. The match was close and full of drama with the top seeds progressing after a technical disqualification early in the match. The Cranleigh Robotics team had now made it all the way to their Division Final and collected a second trophy for their efforts! The team faced strong competition from the 2nd ranked alliance who ultimately proved too strong for the Cranleigh-Stowe partnership knocking them out of the competition just one match away from the overall title.

Before the Grand Final took place, it was time to crown the National Skills Champions and with a programming run to spare the team were crowned Champions by 2 points! It was at this point that it was officially announced that the Cranleigh Robotics team had also now qualified for the VEX Robotics World Championships which will be held in Louisville, Kentucky at the end of April.

A huge congratulations to the team consisting who have certainly exceeded expectations in their first ever season. Good luck at the World Championships!