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News - Free Range Robotics
Christrmas scrimmage was help at Auckland University and graciously hosted by AURA. Teams were encouraged to dress their robots aswell as themselves. 17 teams competed in a tightly fought end of year battle. Congratulations to an alliance of 2941 (Oatemoetai College) and 2900 SymbiOHSis (Onehunga High School) who won the competition and narrowly beat our A robot which was alligned with 2915A (Lynfield College). Sorry Lynfield, it wasn't our day this time. 2915A (Lynfield College) won the best dressed robot competition. Great fun was had by all.  A special thank you to 2915A (Lynfield College) who helped our A robot get to the finals.

A special mention for our youngest teammate, Aarone, who did really well driving in his first scrimmage. He finished 5th overall.

On the 11th of October the gate of the Cloud opened up for the Robot World Cup in Auckland City, New Zealand.
The competition was spread over 3 days of intense pre-decided alliances competing over the $10,000 prize.
Teams from all over New Zealand and also 11 teams from Mexio entered the competition.
Both Free Range Robotics teams 2921A (with 2915A) and 2921B (with 720P) made
it through all the qualifying matches with considerable resistance.
In the end both teams had a great success and made it through to the finals, with tight fought matches
on either alliances forcing it to a third tie breaker match.
It was an exhilerating match with the 2921B alliance just winning through in the end. Whichever alliance - it was a Free Range win!

Both teams hope to have great results at the New Zealand National competition and then head over to the World Champs in Los Angeles in April later this year and bring back the world title!

Hi everyone,

Today, Monday 18th, was our visit to the Kennedy Space Centre. We spent nearly 11 hours there, it was a fantastic place to go. We saw alligators and Southern Bald eagles on the way there, and millions of hungry mosquitos - the space centre is surrounded by a vast wildlife reserve. The Endeavor Space Shuttle was sitting on the launch pad waiting/preparing for launch (now 29th April) - so it was amazing to see that. We also saw the Atlantis shuttle in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) being put together with the rocket boosters on the mobile launch pad. We saw the Saturn 5 rocket up close, and touched moon rock, and experienced the g-force of take off and leaving the atmosphere. There were amazing displays showing the history of the space program, an interactive star trek show, and the most fantastic 3D film showing all the images collected by the Hubble Telescope.
It was a truly inspiring day - and a wonderful memory to carry home!

From Isaac and the rest of the mosquito bitten kiwis in Florida

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Hi everyone,

Apologies for the delay in communications. The team has been up at 6am and dragging themselves back to the hotel by 9pm and collapsing into bed straight after dinner, so the updates took second place to sleep!

Friday in Orlando was the main day for the qualifying rounds - the day started with a parade and opening ceremony at 8am, then straight into competition games for the rest of the day - 9 relentless hours of matches. This was also the day the judges for various awards came to visit the teams in their pits, for interviews.
The day was plagued with issues on the match fields in our two divisions. With VEX going over to WiFi, the fields were vulnerable to interference. There were scores of games where at least one robot lost power signal and had connection drop outs due to internet interference, and dozens of games where both teams in one alliance were disabled by loss of signal on their frequency. Unfortunately this appeared to be deliberate and malicious targeting - with internet sites called "hahahahah" and "youcantcatchme" and "goNZ" being set up during matches. Games that suffered from loss of power or any power issues were not re-run, so if you were targeted it was too bad. This made reading of the Ranking System and Leader Board challenging - as you really had no idea if a team was in a high position because they won fair and square, or because of the internet sabotage.
There was also a lot of dirty play in the games - some teams did play hard and fair, but others engaged in deliberate damaging of opponents robots - ramming, pinning, and sabotage were common and the referees for the most part were lax with how they interpreted or enforced rules. We were somewhat disappointed by the broad interpretation of the concept of sportsmanship in the World Competitions - it was more like robot wars than what we understood VEX to stand for. Skill didn't seem to matter as you could take out a robot by breaking it.

Saturday was the most pressured day, as the last qualifying games were played, and then as soon as the final games were over, the alliance selection was begun. Negotiations for alliances had to happen within a 15 minutes space, even as the last information on ranking placement was still being posted. Because of the WiFi interference, the information on the ranking board wasn't reliable - so alliance selection was a really tense time. It would be so much better if there was a proper lunch break and the teams could have a chance to eat, and to think and negotiate, especially as many teams from overseas don't speak english, so negotiations can be time consuming!

The 2921b team ended up aligned with a lovely team from Hawaii for the finals of their division. They were rammed repeatedly by the opposing alliance and their robot was disabled by damage, and the Hawaiian team's robot was also attacked and the electrics (cables and connections) torn out by the opponents, who didn't even attempt to score any points until they had disabled them. Seems such a waste to spend all the time and money to get to the worlds competition and get wiped out by bully tactics, not skill. The team was naturally gutted by the manner of the loss, and that the tactics were permitted.
2921a was in an alliance with a team from China, and another from Columbia - so we had interpreters with us on the field to help communications. Both teams were great sports, and very gracious - we enjoyed playing with them. The team won the Engineering Division Finals - so we have a trophy to bring home for NZ, but in the last game one of the opposing teams tore at our robot as we did a hang on the ladder and damaged the hanging mechanism. (in fact both our teams hadn't done a hang on the ladder in most of their previous matches due to the fact that attacking the hanging robot was permitted and we didn't want to risk damage) We didn't have time to fix that mechanism as we went straight from Division Finals to the Championship Tournament semi finals. The high strength motors (which we have had trouble with anyway) had also suffered as a result of the ramming and smashing tactics employed during the division finals. So by the time we went into the semi finals, with a battered robot, we were not in good shape. The team and their alliance partners put up a good fight but were eliminated from the competition at the semifinals. We would have loved the opportunity to play against the gorgeous Green Eggs robot, and see how we might have done, but it didn't work out that way.
The 2921a team also won a trophy for the programming in the autonomous part of the game - a "Think" Award.
It was great to see Lynfield College do so well in the Math division - all the way to the finals. Palmy Boys did really well in the Engineering division - they also were in the finals of the division. MARS were strong on the leader board and Pinehurst held their own in the competition matches. Kristin had major mechanical issues to begin with but got them sorted and were a strong contender. NZ had a strong profile in the VEX competition, and were were proud to have represented our community of NZ teams alongside everyone else who traveled to Orlando.

Of course the awesome win by the aMEss Massey team was such a terrific outcome. World Champions! Well done, and well deserved!

Sunday was our first day since arriving that we have done anything recreational - so it was a lovely relaxing day at Sea World Orlando. What a fantastic place! Entertaining and very polished shows, and some raging roller coaster rides - perfect change of pace ofter so much focus on robots! Tomorrow we head to the Kennedy Space Centre, which we have been looking forward to.
We'll send another update in a day or so.
Thanks to all of you for your support! Big hello to our team members holding the fort at home: Ben, Melissa and Aarone. Looking forward to catching up with you soon and brainstorming the new seasons game!

Isaac and the rest of us here in the USofA

Hey everyone,

Yesterday we got up early, tested the breakfast buffet, had a swim in the pool and spa and then went in to the The Wide World of Sport centre at the Disney World complex.
The venue was open early for teams to set up their pits and get their robots ready for the competition.
We registered our team, passed inspection and spent several hours practicing driver skills and refining our programming.
We received our new team t-shirts which we absolutely love! The rooster logo has really crisp colours, and having our team number on the back is great as we can see each other from far away, and people know who we are as we walk away from a field. Thank you Rakon!
Today was the first day of competition, a super early start as we ferried the team in two trips to be at the venue before 7:30am.
We saw dozens of hot air balloons taking off over the Kissimmee skies as we drove to Disney ESPN Sports World.
It was quite spectacular. We have one robot (2921b) in the Maths Division competing against 103 other robots, and the other (2921a) in the Engineering Division competing against another 103 robots.
There are also two other divisions (science and technology) each with 104 robots - so there are 416 teams competing from all around the world for the Tournament Championship.
The one winning alliance from each of the four divisions compete in the quarter/semi and finals.  The pressure starts to rise as we had our practice matches and first two rounds of qualifying matches today.
Every win, and every score, is added to place you in a ranking system.  Both of our teams won all the matches we played today, so we are in a good position so far.
George and Richard's programs in autonomous worked perfectly which is great, and the drive teams have been able to stay focused and calm.
We finished up at 7:30pm and have all collapsed back at our hotel.  Thank goodness for microwave meals! Our hours will be long, and energy levels need to be conserved so we can do our very best. Watch this space :-)

Isaac and the team.

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