Comeback competition


Serena Thompson, Staff Member

Their name was called. The team went nuts. Smiles spread across their face. Senior Kylan Fedje’s body went completely numb when he realized what had happened. The 1024 Kil-A-Bytes robotics team had won state competition and were heading to the world competition that will take place April 24-27 in Detroit.

“This the first time we’ve won state when I was on the team. It feels almost surreal with everything we had to overcome,” Fedje said.

This was Fedje’s third season as part of the 1024 Kil-A-Bytes robotics team.The team consists of mostly Lawrence Township high school students and one North Central student. Their win was very unexpected because they had such a rough start to the season.

“Coming out of qualifications, we were hardly even expected to get picked for an alliance; ranked 31 out of 32 teams,” senior Brennan O’Leary said.

Having a harsh start to the season isn’t a unfamiliar experience for the team. They experienced a similar scenario a few years prior.

“While this is definitely different it’s not the first time it happened. We had the exact same scenario back in ‘09 where we didn’t win a whole lot or we had a rough start,” Robotics Director Jeffery Smith said.

This rough season was caused by losing team members. The team members who left were seniors that were essential to the team.

“We had lost many of our seniors to graduation, many of which were in leadership positions. This meant that this year we had an entirely new drive team and an almost entirely new pit crew,” Fedje said.

Losing seniors wasn’t the only issue the team had as well. The team also lost two of their mentors two weeks into the build season. This was due to an unexpected change in their personal lives.

“Two weeks into the build season, our head mentor and her husband who also mentors the team adopted a child. Meaning they could only be in the shop at infrequent intervals and never at the same time,” Fedje said.

Although this season has resembled past seasons, it was still different for other members. For Fedje, he had to step up and lead the team.

“I also became one of the student leaders this year, so I had to not only learn more about how to design and build a world class robot, but also lead a team in doing the same. This year was full of challenges that we’ve rarely ever faced as a team, but I feel like everyone has stepped up and gave it their all this season to overcome those challenges,” Fedje said.

Despite all the changes, it didn’t stop the team from putting forth their best effort. The team put in long hours of hard work.
“From the start of the build season to the end of the competition, we are in the shop to upwards 20 hours a week. I put in a lot of late nights and a ton of hard work into coding the robot,” sophomore Jenna Rigdon said.

The numerous obstacles didn’t affect the confidence of team members until the end. Fedje began to realize that they were lagging behind.

“The various setback and challenges of this season didn’t shake my confidence too much until towards the end of the season. I started to see how behind we were, especially when compared to what other teams had completed by that time. I was worried we weren’t going to perform well at our first competition,” Fedje said.

Before the team headed to state there was still work to be done. The team went back to add a climbing mechanism to their robot, in order to keep up with other teams. Once they got everything ready to go, the team discovered many glitches and errors within their robot which caused them to be ranked 31 out of 32.

“I wasn’t too dissuaded when I saw we were ranked as low as we were. I felt there was a good chance we would get picked but I was still anxious about the fact that we might end up not getting picked,” Fedje said.

But the team’s chances of winning weren’t over yet. They were suddenly picked to join another team for the final round at the state competition.

“Our team went absolutely nuts when we got picked. I had a feeling they were likely to pick us because I knew someone on their team and they said they really liked our defense. I didn’t know for certain that they would pick us,” Fedje said.

On the afternoon of Saturday, April 13, the team found out great news. They came out victorious at State.

“I am very happy about winning State this year. We had a very rough season with having many roadblocks to get through. It means so much to the team, especially the seniors. Getting the joy of winning the state championship and being able to go to worlds one more time,” O’Leary said.

1024 Kil-A-Bytes sudden victory propelled them into the world competition. Fedje hopes this will be a chance to redeem themselves.

“I look forward to being able to get a second chance to show off what we are capable of. I feel like we didn’t really get to do that at State. I also like being able to see all the other team around the world and seeing them compete,” Fedje said.