Could the undermanned Pinewood Robotics group PWRUP, competing among massive, heavily sponsored teams, defy the odds and clinch the first place spot in the large CalGames robotics tournament? The PWRUP’s members will always wonder this; they were disqualified from the CalGames after winning the semifinals.
The challenges in the CalGames, a large robotics competition that takes place outside of the regular robotics season, vary each year. This season, the robots performed tasks centered around castles. Robots pass through special defenses and score points by shooting foam

“boulders” into holes in castle towers.
“We never do incredibly well. We usually have less funding than the other teams and our team is tiny, so we weren’t really expecting much,” senior and team driver Helena Merk said.
Despite the team’s low expectations, PWRUP, co-led by seniors Kevin Duan and Matthew Marsland, quickly climbed up the ranks and was listed as first seed of the day two preliminary rounds.

“I remember after we finished driving our third match, somebody told us that we were placed as number one. I don’t think I stopped smiling for the rest of the day,” Merk said.
PWRUP and their alliance, a group of three teams who joined forces to play together, easily navigated the elimination rounds, advancing to the semifinals. The winner of a best-of-three match would continue onto the finals.
Despite the anxiety felt by the drive team before the tiebreaker match, PWRUP’s alliance scored enough points to win the round. However, when the final scores appeared on the projector screen, PWRUP’s score was listed as zero. The announcer explained that one of PWRUP’s alliance members – not a member of the PWRUP team – illegally stepped over a barrier, incurring a yellow card from the referees.
At the beginning of the tiebreaker match, another alliance member did the same thing, resulting in another yellow card and disqualification. The opposing team won the semifinals by default and continued on to win the championship.
“I was really disappointed, but then I realized we couldn’t have done anything else. It was just some other team who stepped over the boundaries. We followed the rules, and I was really proud of our team,” junior and drive team coach Carolina Rodriguez-Steube said.
Some members even found a silver lining in the results of the competition, reasoning that PWRUP could very well have won if they had advanced to the finals. Despite the disappointing end of CalGames, the team is still hopeful for the next robotics season starting in the spring of 2017. Though the next tournament season is far away, one thing is certain: PWRUP will take on the next season’s challenges just like they climbed through the CalGames ranks.
“I feel like we’ve shown people that we can win and that we’re going to win,” freshman Ryder Heit said.