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Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

Robotics Competes at FTC Central GEMS League Tournament

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  • Making adjustments to their robot, juniors Shruthi Srikanth and Akaash Reddy prepare to compete. Tomahawk finished third in the GEMS league, one that includes most schools in the Austin area.

  • Making final touches, Alistair Ivanov ’26 positions Slingshot’s robot in preparation to test its autonomous code. Slingshot advanced to the Semi-Area competition, being second pick on the Finalist Alliance.

  • Looking to his robot, team Tomahawk driver Abraham Lira ’24 concentrates. In the last two years since its founding, Tomahawk did not advance past League Championships, meaning this is their first year advancing not only to the Semi-Regionals division, but to Regionals.

  • Announcing the winners of a match, Adam Menezes ’25 enthuses the crowd. Westwood hosts the GEMS League competitions, meaning students such as Menezes step up to host.

  • Consulting his team, Demian Medve ’27 edits code for his robot. Beaubots wore matching fedoras with lights.

  • Selecting a team MegaKnyte pin to show support for team Tomahawk’s alliance, Jadon Lee ’24 prepares to compete. Tomahawk has spent five months on the design of their current robot.

  • Concentrated, Abraham Lira ’24 programs Tomahawk’s robot for their competition. Tomahawk hopes to advance from the central Texas leagues to state, and from there to internationals.

  • Looking to their robot, Alistair Ivanov ’26 and Alexander Bui ’24 take observations. Bui, a driver, maneuvers the robot during their competitions.

  • With attention to detail, Jatin Aggarwal ’26 inserts a battery. At this competition, Tomahawk won the Design Award for their robot’s functional and aesthetic design.

  • Discussing as a group, team Tomahawk creates plans for their upcoming match with team MegaKnytes. Tomahawk and MegaKnytes scored a combined total of 233 points, winning by 20.

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Making Westwood history, six FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) teams competed in the FIRST in Texas Central GEMS League Championship and three advanced to the next level. Team Tomahawk, ranking third overall, advanced straight to the First in Texas Central Area Championship, skipping the semi-area tournament. Team Slingshot and team AtlAtl, ranking 7th and 10th overall respectively, advanced to the FIRST in Texas Central Semi-Area Championship.

The GEMS League Championship followed a different structure than previous FTC competitions. Each team played 5 qualification matches, with rankings based on wins, losses, and total points scored finalized at the end of the qualification phase. Next, alliance selection took place. Rather than randomized alliances, the top ranking teams chose 2 other teams they wanted to alliance with for the semifinals. 4 alliances of 3 teams each competed in the semifinals, with 2 teams from each alliance competing in each match and the third swapping in between matches. 

The tournament began with a less than ideal match for Tomahawk, with a 106-106 tie. Ties are extremely rare in FTC matches, increasing pressure among the team significantly.

“There were many stressful moments and poor communications,” Tomahawk driver Akaash Reddy ‘25 said. “We made a lot of mistakes, and after tying one of our first matches after a ton of things went wrong, tensions were high.”

However, Tomahawk was able to successfully regroup, winning their next match 283-54. With scores of 168-65 and 107-60 for their third and fourth matches, the semi-finals were in sight as their final qualification match approached. Currently in third place, with team MegaKnytes from Hill Country Christian School in 1st and community team The Qubit Bot in 2nd, Tomahawk needed to win their final match to gain the best chance of being selected to compete in the semifinals.

“This competition, I wasn’t nervous other than for the first match, it being the first match of the day,” Tomahawk driver Abraham Lira ‘24 said. “After that, I went into every match calm. Part of it was confidence because I knew our robot was better than everyone else’s in the league, and apart from that I just got used to the stress.”

Allianced with community team Eclipse, Tomahawk faced off against their fellow Westwood teams Boomerang and Slingshot for their final qualification match. With a decisive 192-68 victory, Tomahawk entered alliance selection. Two Westwood teams were selected to participate in the elimination matches. Tomahawk was chosen by team MegaKnytes as the first pick, with team Eclipse as the second pick. Slingshot was chosen by team The Qubit Bot as the second pick for their alliance.  

“When we got picked, it was definitely a very proud and very happy moment,” Lira said. “At that moment, we knew that we had a chance of winning the whole competition.”

Cruising through the semifinals and not losing a single match, Tomahawk’s alliance prepared to enter the final stage. With 2 alliances of 3 teams playing 3 matches, the first to win 2 of 3 would win the championship. With Tomahawk and MegaKnytes teaming up once more, their alliance won their first finals match 233-213. For the second match, Tomahawk was subbed out for team Eclipse. If their alliance won this match, Tomahawk would be first pick of the winning alliance, sending them straight to the Area championship.

“It was insanely stressful,” Lira said. “During the match, I was going back and forth running, testing our robot, going and seeing how the match was going, running back to the robot.”

At this point, the tournament had been ongoing for nearly 10 hours, heightening feelings of trepidation amongst the teams.

“It was pretty intense,” Reddy said. “I don’t think I got a break longer than 5 minutes throughout the tournament, and my driving partner, Abraham, had it even worse.”

With an incredible victory, MegaKnytes and Eclipse triumphed, winning the final match of the day 224-222. 

“I was scanning the field, recalculating the score in my head and trying to find something the referees might’ve missed, and finally, after the scores were finalized, and I saw that we won by a single pixel, I was ecstatic,” Reddy said. “I jumped over the caution tape and ran over to our alliance to celebrate.”

After elimination matches concluded, the award ceremony took place. Eight awards were given to various teams. Tomahawk won the Design Award, for their robot’s functional and aesthetic design. The tournament champions were also recognized, with Tomahawk gaining the title of Winning Alliance First Pick and Slingshot the title of Finalist Alliance Second Pick.

“It felt great to advance straight to Regionals,” Reddy said. “That secured us 4 weeks to work on our robot instead of just 2 as well- definitely needed as we’ve almost never made it this far before, and there’s a lot to do and a lot to prepare.” 

Team Tomahawk will participate in the FiT Central Area Championship on Saturday, Feb. 24.

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About the Contributors
Avi Rajesh, Reporter
Class of 2025
Hi! I've always loved photo and video editing, and I'm super excited to be a part of student press. A couple of my hobbies involve cooking, baking, and robotics. In my free time I love to listen to music, play the cello, and drink bubble tea!
Chloe Oakley, Campus News Editor
Class of 2025 Looking forward to another year as a part of Student Press, I am especially excited to be serving as Campus News Editor for an organization I so cherish. Beyond an obvious love for writing, my primary interests include literature and music. In the rare moments you find me outside the newsroom, I am likely hiking, fulfilling my love for coffee, or escaping into a thriller novel.

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