Robotics A-team places 5th at state

Cal’s two teams built robots to compete with best in California


Ryan Syms

Cal High’s robotics A-Team perfects their robot before competing in the state competition.

The ‘Tipping Point’ for Cal High’s Robotics Club this year  made school history.

Both of Cal High’s robotics teams were honored at regional competitions this year, allowing them to compete at the Northern California VRC High School State Championship for the first time ever.

Cal’s A-team took fifth place overall and received the Judges Award, a special recognition after the judges interviewed the team. Cal’s B-team earned 33rd place out of 36 total teams at the state competition on March 5 in Milpitas.

Each team received Excellence Awards at regionals, allowing them to advance to the state finals. Regional competitions opened in September and provided multiple opportunities for teams to advance to the state competition.

The robotics team’s official name is Team 1516, or The Fighting Grizzlies. Both A-team and B-team make up Team 1516, with six students in each sub-team. 

The teams are part of Cal’s Robotics Club, which is advised by John Reed. The club has more than 50 students, including 12 in the competition teams.

Senior Ramyasree Kaja, the A-team captain, said the teams can participate in as many regional competitions as they want, but they have to qualify and receive an award to advance to state.

Excellence Awards, which are an overall assessment of team performance in multiple matches, are a way to advance to the state tournament.

The A-team was awarded the Excellence Award on Jan. 29, while the B-team won the same award on Feb. 21. 

Kaja said every year, the robotics teams build robots from scratch and work on them for months. VEX Robotics, the company that provides materials and hosts the robotics competition, makes a new challenge for the robotics teams to solve. 

This year, the competition was ‘Tipping Point’, where the robots had to lift goals from a field to a designated platform and try to score more points than their opponents in various ways.

Teams are judged on the design of the robots, completion of the objective and teamwork.

 Cal attended state for the first time, but teams qualified in 2020 when the competition was canceled because of COVID-19.

Attending regionals allowed Kaja and her team to make the adjustments needed before competing in state. 

“I had a lot of fun doing it,” senior Bhavya Pandey said. “It was nice exploring a different side of STEM. [The robotics competition] was a fun experience overall.”

Despite their success, both teams faced many challenges this year on their road to state.

“We didn’t have many materials,” said Kushal Dave, who co-captains the B-team with fellow junior Ketan Mittal. 

Kaja said the Robotics Club is not funded like they are at a lot of other schools.

“We have to fund it all ourselves through fundraisers, donations, and sponsorships,” Kaja said.

When students join they club, they’re divided into different groups based on skill level. 

“We teach basic robotics, and then test them after a few months to determine if they are ready for competing for the team,” Mittal said.

The competition team plans to form a third C-team and raise more money to fund the program next year to build on this year’s success, Mittal said.

“We have a good sense of what we need to improve on for the coming year,” said freshman Kadon Liang, who is on the B-team.  “That will hopefully get us past states next year.”