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For championship-bound FIRST Robotics Team Morpheus, strategy is key

  • Team 5813 “Morpheus” competes in the FIRST Robotics Competition NE District UNH Event at the University of New Hampshire in Durham on Saturday, March 31, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Members of Team 5813 “Morpheus” watch their robot compete in a playoff match during the FIRST Robotics Competition NE District UNH Event at the University of New Hampshire in Durham on Saturday, March 31, 2018. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • Team 5813 “Morpheus,” including (from left) Isaac Miskoe, Daler Kang and Sid Lavu, remote control their robot during a match in the FIRST Robotics Competition NE District UNH Event at the University of New Hampshire in Durham on Saturday, March 31, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Julia Meisser (right) of Team 5813 “Morpheus” gets an autograph from FIRST founder Dean Kamen during the FIRST Robotics Competition NE District UNH Event at the University of New Hampshire in Durham on Saturday, March 31, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Team Morpheus captain Ajay Kancherlapalli (left) confers with a member of their team alliance. Strategy has played a key part in Morpheus’s success.

  • Isaac Miskoe (left) and other members of Team 5813 “Morpheus” receive their awards at the end of the FIRST Robotics Competition NE District UNH Event at the University of New Hampshire in Durham on Saturday, March 31, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Team 5813 “Morpheus” competes in the FIRST Robotics Competition NE District UNH Event at the University of New Hampshire in Durham on Saturday, March 31, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Sunday, April 15, 2018

For the third time in their three-year history, Team 5813 “Morpheus” is heading to the FIRST World Championship, a feat the Concord neighborhood robotics family has been working toward all season.

“From day one we’re always thinking about how to maximize our score, how to score efficiently. I think strategy is what kind of guides our design process, and that also guides our entire season,” said Ajay Kancherlapalli of Bedford, the team captain and design lead, back in March.

It’s a truth for all teams that decide which functions of their robots should take top priority during the build season, but it also applies to game-day planning with the other teams who may end up as playoff allies or opponents.

Scout team

At the end of the qualification portion of the NE District UNH Event late last month, Morpheus was ranked third, putting them in line to captain one of eight three-team alliances that would compete in the playoffs to determine an event winner. It was a leadership role they anticipated and were ready for, thanks to their scouting efforts.

As programmers, engineers and drivers work directly with the robots during a competition, team scouts are busy in the stands observing matches or visiting the pits to collect as much performance data as they can.

It’s a huge task for any team, but especially challenging when your group includes only nine members, as Team Morpheus does, and your event includes 40 competitors, as there were at the Whittemore Center during the three-day event.

Thankfully, scouting lead Julia Meisser, 17, of Weare had a lot of help.

“We’ve been able to work with a bunch of New England teams to get a full set of scouting data, because if you have a few people from each team – even if you’re a small team like us, we can really only contribute like two scouts for the most part – the other teams fill in and help us get all the data and we all share it,” Meisser said.

The group effort call themselves The Green Alliance, and Morpheus is just one member. Together, they split the burden of recording the scoring capabilities of each robot in each match using tablets and sync the information to a sortable online data set accessible to all members.

It’s a game-changer for Meisser, who tackled the grueling responsibilities last year with only one helper back when the team had even fewer players.

“We all don’t have to fry our brains sitting there staring at matches pressing buttons for the entire day,” she said, smiling.

As other top teams sorted through their own scouting records, Morpheus was using The Green Alliance data to run through different scenarios and make a plan as to which other teams captain Kancherlapalli would invite to be a part of their three-team alliance, or what to do if another team approached Morpheus first.

Alliance selection works like a snake-style draft, where representatives from the eight top teams take turns selecting allies, moving from the highest seed to the lowest seed, who selects twice before the order reverses from lowest seed to highest.

“We ended up deciding that if someone who was above us picked us, it would be best to just say yes,” Meisser said, adding that if they declined and decided to form their own alliance, the small pool of top-scoring teams would probably be exhausted.

Team leaders even went so far as to talk with the second seed, Team 138 “Entropy,” before the selection ceremony, plotting the strategy of a hypothetical alliance.

“We had a pretty good idea they were going to pick us. We weren’t positive but we were pretty sure it was going to happen,” said drive lead Isaac Miskoe, 16, of Concord.

Entropy did end up asking Morpheus to join them, and with Team 5506 “Midcoast MAINEiacs” they formed Alliance 2 and battled their way to the playoff finals, where they fell to the top-seeded alliance and walked away with second place. They also left with enough points to qualify for the New England District Championship that took place in Boston last week.

At that event, Morpheus wasn’t selected for a playoff alliance, but still managed to finish with enough points to advance to the FIRST World Championship. They’re in full fundraising mode now and will be making the trip to Detroit for the April 25-29 event.

(Elizabeth Frantz can be reached at 369-3333, efrantz@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lizfrantz.)