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Chelsea Robotics Awarded FIRST Creativity Award

Courtesy photo. Chelsea Robotics Team with its FIRST creativity award.

By Jay Zatkovich

Chelsea Robotics team 1502 – Technical Difficulties – has completed its regular season with its last district qualifier event of the 2024 FIRST robotics season at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, MI – the last of two district qualifier events in which Chelsea will participate.

Over the two-day long competition 40 Teams, some from as far away as Iron River, MI, were present. The event is structured so that each team initially participates in 12 separate qualifier matches to determine overall team rankings. The results of these rankings determine the 8 alliance captains, and after some alliance picking strategy, 24 teams will then take place in a playoff tournament on the last half of the final day.

In tandem with the competition, throughout the event, judges roam the pits, interview students, and observe the teams asking questions to determine awards, which are announced at the event’s completion.

Courtesy photo. Robot “Hammerhead” heading to compete.

The robot named “Hammerhead” and now fondly referred to as “Hammy” by some, found its true form in this competition and the team did everything it set out to do. Some favorable alliance matchups, a robot operating to design spec with reliable consistency, accomplished programming, and a drive team holding to its strategy meant that on day one the team was able to complete 8 regular matches ending with a dominant 7-1 performance in the overall ranking number 6 spot.

Brendan Garrow and Austin Tackett looked sharp as the driver and operator with noticeable improvements in ability. When lead engineer Emily Gagnon was asked how she felt about how the robots programming performed she commented “I would have liked more time beforehand, but I always want more time. We as programmers performed well. We easily modified and created new autonomous programs that were effective and quick.”

That evening team revelry was at a seasonal high, but with the dawn of a new day came a changing of the tide. The team was quickly humbled by some difficult alliance pairings prior to the playoffs going 1-3 on their last 4. Qualifier matches concluded with an overall 8-4 record, and the team falling to 9th in the total team rankings going into playoff selections.

As the finals commenced, Hammy’s earlier success was recognized, and earned a 1st pick position on alliance 4, which was captained by team 8286 – Farwell Robotics – from Farwell, MI and their 2nd pick alliance partner team 7826 – Zetabotics – from Marquette, MI. This alliance came out strong winning their first match with a solid score of 92-38, but fell short on their next match, losing 67-72 and falling into the lower bracket.

Now swimming upstream, the drive team was able to put up another good fight and win the next game 80-57, but ultimately was landed when they lost their fourth match 69-79 and finished the playoffs with a familiar 2-2 record and another semifinal finish.

After the conclusion of the robotic competition, the team was the recipient of the FIRST Creativity award. This award celebrates creativity that enhances strategy of play and was intentionally designed and not discovered. The award grants the team 5 ranking points, which are valuable in terms of global rankings and showcases the unique aspect of the team’s climber mechanism – which is now utilized in the team’s end-game strategy.

Courtesy photo. Aiden Kidd was the recipient of the FIRST Tech Challenge Dean’s List semi-finalist award.

In addition to the team award, Chelsea student engineer and high-school junior, Aiden Kidd was the recipient of the FIRST Tech Challenge Dean’s List semi-finalist award.

Each year, two students are nominated from each team and interview with judges during the event. A single student is chosen from the event and earns the FIRST Dean’s List Award status as a Semi-finalist. These young engineers are great examples of student leaders who have led their teams and communities to increased awareness for FIRST and its mission.

It is the goal of FIRST that these individuals will continue, post-award, as great leaders, student alumni, and advocates of FIRST. When asked what winning the Dean’s list means, Aiden said, “My friends, teammates, family and mentors believed in me.”

The team will now root Aiden on as he interviews at the state championship for the chance at a finalist award.

Overall, the robot went deep into the event showing excellent drive team cohesion, a consistent and reliable robot design, had another semi-final finish, won the creativity award, plus a student was chosen for the Dean’s list award – making this yet again a very impressive weekend for team 1502.

The next event will be traveling to the state championships in Saginaw, MI on April 4-6, and then they will travel to Houston, TX for worlds should they qualify.

You can follow the team at There, you can cheer the team live as they compete or re-watch the matches from prior events. 

If you are interested in sponsoring the team, or would like to donate please find us at

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