Dobyns-Bennett's Cyber Tribe, Crockett's Rat Rods compete in international robotics event

Rick Wagner • Apr 24, 2019 at 12:09 PM

Dobyns-Bennett High School’s robotics team ranked 19th of 68 teams in its division over the weekend, finishing in the top one-third in one of six divisions in the “worlds” robotics competition in Houston.

It marked the team’s first appearance at the international competition. The event — Thursday, Friday and Saturday — was part of FIRST Robotics — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

The Cyber Tribe Team 4020 ranked 19th of 68 teams in its division and participated in the quarterfinal round. The other Tri-Cities team, the Rat Rods Team 5022 of David Crockett High School, ranked 62nd in the same division. 

D-B teacher and robotics team coach Angela Conrad said the 22 students represented Kingsport City Schools and Tennessee well. The competition included more than 400 teams from around the world, including Canada, China, Turkey and Brazil. All told, 19 countries and more than 10,000 students attended.

David Hrivnak, a volunteer mentor of the team, said that although D-B ranked 19th in the division, individually it could be ranked at fifth in the division. However, the competition is based on alliances, and he said the three-way alliance D-B was in had one team’s robot fail and another team’s robot fall during a climbing attempt. Before those two events, he said the alliance was ranked ninth.


“The top eight teams picked team to be in the alliances, said Cyber Tribe team captain Matthew Espeland, a senior.

The eighth-place team picked D-B and two other teams, Texas Torque Team 1477 from Conroe, Texas, and TriKzR4Kidsz Team 4063 from Texas, with Flying Legion Team 3653 from Georgia as the alternate. That alliance went up against the first-place team among the eight and its chosen teams, meaning the alliance with D-B had a strong opposing alliance.

“We knew it was going to be a tough match,” said Espeland, who after graduation in May plans to pursue a degree in architecture from the University of Notre Dame.

The D-B team participated in two regional robotics competitions before the Texas event. At the Palmetto Regional in South Carolina, it won first place for the first time in seven tries at a regional competition. The team also won the Autonomous Award sponsored by Ford at Palmetto. It also won second place at the Smoky Mountains Regional competition in Knoxville.

Espeland said the Cyber Tribe and Rat Rods supported each other in the competition, and the Washington County team transported the Cyber Tribe’s pit area to Houston on a rented box truck.

D-B senior Christopher Lowe, who worked on the robot build team and as a technician carried the robot onto the field of competition, said many of the other teams had 50 or 60 members and considerably more resources than D-B’s team. Lowe said he wants to become a mentor for a FIRST team and that his future college major and career of mechanical engineering at the University of Tennessee grew directly out of the robotics program.

“This is the best choice I’ve made through my whole high school career,” Lowe said. “This has made me want to be a mechanical engineer.”

He said he also may participate in a college-level FIRST Robot in 3 Days team while at UT.

The D-B team’s website is dbcybertribe.com/, the Crockett’s teams Twitter is https://twitter.com/dchs_frc?lang=en; and the FIRST website is firstinspires.org/. Inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST in 1989.

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