Team 589 is Regional Champ

Team 589 Falkon robotics team, with members of 1678 Citrus Circuits and Team 4414 High Tide, surround the 2022 Hueneme Port banner.
Photo courtesy of Molly SHELTON


Crescenta Valley High School 589 Falkon robotics team recently competed in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) competition in Port Hueneme – and came home regional winners.

“It’s completely chaotic but it’s really fun,” said Ethan Lee, a freshman and member of 589.

He was speaking of the competition that hosts teams from all over the world.

At the beginning of each year, FIRST shares the details of the game for that year’s season. High school robotic teams then work for six weeks to create their robot that will play that game. It’s not just about getting the robot to throw a ball or climb a wall. The teams have to work on strategy of how they will play the game; will they work more on defense than offense, for example.

During the pandemic the team had to cope with being virtual and is still learning some new FIRST rules while team members work hard to design, build and drive their robot.

There are regional competitions throughout Southern California. At each game there are alliances composed of three separate teams. Two alliances face off during competition on a field that is designed by FIRST specifically for that year’s game. Alliances are put together randomly during the competition until the final rounds when the top teams are able to choose their own alliance. It was during this final round that the number one ranked team, 1678 Citrus Circuits from Davis, chose 589 Falkons to join them and Team 4414 High Tide on the field that led to their regional win.

“It was super, super exciting,” said Easan Hamkins, freshman and 589 member, of being chosen to compete. “A lot of us hadn’t expected at all to be chosen. This was their last pick and there were so many other teams that [ranked] ahead of us.”

“It was crazy,” Lee added. “We were just all in the mentality that we were not going to get chosen.”

Lee said the team was resigned to the fact they would be watching the competition from the stands and waiting for the final awards to be given out.

“We were all kind of feeling down, then once we were chosen we were completely jumping. We had just heard them say the first two numbers – 58 – and before they said the last number we were standing and jumping,” Lee said. “I couldn’t believe it at first.”

But as is the history of this CVHS robotics team, excitement immediately turned to determination and the team started preparing to play in the last rounds of competition.

“I felt we made a good impression during the match with [the number one ranked team],” said Connor Dickson, senior and member of 589. “Our robot was very good at playing defensively.”

Dickson worked on the robot’s software and was a technician on the drive team. Lee was placed on the drive team and was also a technician. Both he and Dickson made certain everything was ready prior to the start of each game. Hamkins was also on the software team and was a co-driver.

They attributed their success to their defensive talents of their robot and also to its ability to climb. At the end of each game a robot can earn extra points by hooking itself to a bar and pulling its entire body off the ground.

“We were consistent with climbing,” Dickson said.

They achieved every climb they attempted, 100% of the time, Hamkins added.

But there are other aspects of the robot team that are equally important to the FIRST competition including visual presentations and community service by team members.

Senior Ellen Kim is a visual strategist for the team.

“A lot of times we will do something that will tell the story that fits the theme of the year,” Kim said. “This year 589 [highlighted] transportation and cargo.”

Kim said they had a big sign at their booth that asked other teams, “What is your cargo?”

Team 589’s “cargo” included what the team does for their community, from volunteering at many events to hosting drives for food and face shields.

“We try to help the community,” Kim said.

Judges go to each booth to not only look at how each team presents itself but will also judge on how well the team members articulate their team’s theme.

Kim said she loved being a part of team 589 because of its inclusive nature.

“I started out with visual strategy and was in it one year. Then COVID hit. This is my first year back. I am the last remaining [original] visual strategist,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot of leadership in [589] – how to think on my feet – and a lot of creativity. I also learned how to work with others.”

She added she was a bit hesitant at first to join the robotics team because she thought it was just about coding and mechanics and that was not her “forte” but then she found out about visual strategy.

“I was intrigued and I like to [now] spread the message that robotics is not just about robots; it’s also about being a team and finding your place,” she said.

Kim is also in choir and, for the first time in CVHS history, auditioned to sing the national anthem at the robotics regional competition.

“I got it and I sang at [the competition],” she said. “I am very proud of that.”

Lee echoed the importance of teamwork that is shared among members of 589.

“What I like [about 589] is that we are all working together,” he said, “instead of one person working an entire hour and [the rest of us] just sitting around.”

He had been part of a team in the past where upper classmen did most of the work.

“I wasn’t able to express myself, [which] is something I love about this robotics team,” he said. “If you have ideas you can just say them. It’s good to know that your voice is heard.”