MODESTO, May 27, 2022 - Between April 20 and April 23, members of FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Team 4135, The Iron Patriots, were conspicuously absent from their headquarters of Beyer High School’s robotics shop. Instead, they were over 1,860 miles away in Houston, Texas, where they represented Modesto in the 2022 FIRST World Championships.
Approximately 30,000 students, mentors/coaches, volunteers, sponsors, media members, and community supporters were present, representing a total of 800 student-led robotics teams from 49 countries. Students competed across each of FIRST’s three main divisions: FIRST Lego League (FLL), FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), and FIRST Robotics Competition. 4135 participated in the latter division alongside 449 other FRC teams.
The Iron Patriots found a home in the Galileo division - one of six playing fields that teams could be assigned to upon qualifying for the competition. The atmosphere was full of energy and excitement. Chants of “Gali-leo!…Gali-leo!” rippled through stands, intertwining with the rustle of pom-poms and the deafening roar of electronic music (Darude’s “Sandstorm” was, as always, a fan favorite). According to our sophomore programming sub-team captain, Matthew Davis, “the anticipation and excitement of the entire crowd… it just made everything seem unreal.” On the field, students had the opportunity to observe innovative and creative engineering up close. They watched the jumping robot’s impressive climb, noted the advantages and disadvantages of various drivetrains, and competed against members of the winning alliance.
The Iron Patriots did not solely compete at the championship event, but used the opportunity to engineer friendships with teams from around the world. Upon attending a conference on increasing student leadership in FIRST, team co-captain Gracie Maldonado-Roberts met the Vice President of Team 3749 Optix, Kevin He, marking the start of a positive relationship between our two teams. Meanwhile, wiring sub-team captain Blake Bicek participated in a shirt and email exchange with the wiring captain of Israeli Team 1690 Orbit. Some members of 4135 were even invited to dinner with Team 1671 Birdbrains.
Perhaps the most notable development, however, was the sense of comradery built within 4135 itself. Between four long plane rides, shared hotels and cars, joint meals and coffee breaks, and hours spent at the George R. Brown Convention Center, the Iron Patriots spent an abundance of time together over the course of the competition. According to Taylor DeBerry, a first-year FIRST participant and a member of the programming sub-team, “By going to Worlds and spending time with everyone, I feel that I have another family.” She was joined in this sentiment by mechanical sub-team captain Matthew Stank, who noted that “I learned more about these people in 4 days then I have in the past three years”. It is safe to say that FIRST is more than robots; FIRST is Friendship; FIRST is Fun; FIRST is Family.