Omnicats Reach Finals at FIRST Robotics Competition

Windward Communications

Congratulations to Windward’s Robotics team 1452—Windward Omnicats—for ending its 10 week First Robotics Challenge (FRC) season on Sunday, March 19 as a tournament Finalist and as the sole recipient of the Gracious Professionalism Award at the L.A. Regional FIRST Competition! This was the best showing by the team since 2016 and arguably ever in its history. 

Over 1,300 high-school students from Los Angeles, Arizona, Turkey, and Chinese Taipei had the opportunity to showcase their hard work after intense months of designing and building an original robot. The Upper School students spent months in the Windward’s Robotics Lab building and perfecting their robot for the competition, which took place March 18-19 in El Segundo. Windward was among 44 teams to compete in the L.A. Regional FIRST Competition, one of the biggest and most competitive robotics competitions in the country.

Since the beginning of January, students have been brainstorming, designing, debating, prototyping, building, and coding their robot, named ‘Robobot’. In addition to working directly on the robot, students revitalized Windward’s outreach program and worked to redesign the pit (a space at tournaments containing all necessary tools where the robot is worked on between rounds). The team comprises 40 students ranging from 7th to 12th Grade, with 9th through 12th Graders allowed to participate in the FRC program.

The year’s game was a fun, interactive affair consisting of a 3-on-3 contest with lots of fast driving, picking up, and the placing of traffic cones and inflatable cubes while balancing on a three-robot-wide see-saw.

Over the past few weeks, team members put in tremendously long hours, often staying at school until 7 p.m. and working Saturdays and Sundays on their robot. The results were outstanding—a solid robot with consistent performance. The team demonstrated grit, perseverance, and grace throughout the entire tournament. At the end of qualifying rounds, the top teams select their alliance partners for the subsequent Semi Finals and Finals. The Omnicats were selected by the #2 seed and went on to win three consecutive rounds in the Semis. When the Omnicats went up against the #1 seed, they lost and were transferred to the losers bracket, but they fought their way back and ended up in the finals against the #1 seed again. The Finals were a best of three series. The Omnicats won the first match handily, demonstrating serious defense and balancing skills. The Omnicats lost the second round and it all came down to the last match. In the final seconds of the match, the Blue Alliance was ahead 118 to 117, but they failed to balance on the see-saw and were bested by the #1 seed. It was a terrific end to the season.

In addition to reaching the Finals, the Omnicats were awarded the Gracious Professionalism Award, which celebrates outstanding demonstration of FIRST Core Values, such as continuous Gracious Professionalism and working together both on and off the playing field, all while demonstrating a positive, can-do attitude. During the first day of competition, Windward’s local neighbor team, the Culver City High Bagel Bytes, suffered catastrophic damage to its chassis. Two of Windward’s mentors snapped into action and helped the team re-shape their drivetrain. This willingness to lend a hand, coupled with our Windward students' constant positive and gracious manner, garnered the team the coveted Gracious Professionalism Award. 

The team is led by co-captains Justine Ludden '23 and Reed Farkas '23. In addition to this leadership role, we have a stalwart group of system leads including Charlie Van Hook as System Engineer, Connor Mollinski at Code, Andy Balasa, Rex Gavsie, and Lany Hill at Mechanical, Christopher Robson and Natalie Behrendt at Electrical, and Maddie Rogers as Quartermaster. These students organized the activities of the team and kept us working to achieve their goal throughout the season.

In addition to students, the Omnicats are supported by a team of adults including teachers at the school - Head Coach Simon, Becky, James, and Tri - and by mentors including an engineer from Boeing, Murat, an artist and Windward alumni parent, Aaron, two independent consultants, Rich and Joan, and a current Windward parent, Linda.