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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 FTC Team Westwood Tomahawk Makes RRISD History

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  • Inspecting Tomahawk’s robot, Abraham Lira ‘24 adjusts the intake mechanism in preparation to test the robot’s programming. Tomahawk frequently tested the robot on the practice fields to ensure it performed properly during matches and to account for unforeseen errors.

  • Focused, Jatin Aggarwal ‘26, Abraham Lira ‘24, and Akaash Reddy ‘25 perform last minute checks on Tomahawk’s robot and its programs before the start of a match. The team participated in ten qualification matches before entering the elimination rounds, winning 7 and losing 3.

  • Gathered around the practice field, Jatin Aggarwal ‘26, Jack Chubick ‘25, Abraham Lira ‘24, and Reet Sinha ‘24 discuss their strategy for their upcoming match with team “R2045” from Depok, Indonesia. Over the course of the competition, Team Tomahawk competed with or against teams from Thailand, Indonesia, Romania, Nigeria, Australia, and more.

  • Concentrated, Jatin Aggarwal ‘26 inspects a drone for quality before loading it into Tomahawk’s robot before a match. Tomahawk’s drone launcher featured a novel design, allowing the team to consistently launch their drone for maximum points.

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Stepping into the George R Brown Convention center in downtown Houston, thunderous applause and cheering deafened the competitors of the 2024 For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Championship. The prestigious robotics event hosted nearly 50,000 people and 18,600 students across three competitions: the FIRST Robotics Competition, the FIRST Tech Challenge, and the FIRST Lego League. Team Westwood Tomahawk was one amongst the 224 FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) teams, hailing from 28 different countries, who found themselves at the culmination of a grueling 34-week season. The journey to “World’s,” the name given to the competition by its attendees, took months of late nights preparing, hard work, and intense dedication. Across six competitions and over 60 matches, the members of Team Tomahawk gave it their all throughout the year in hopes of achieving their collective dream.

I don’t think there was a moment better than succeeding with my team.

— Tomahawk Hardware Lead and Driver Akaash Reddy ‘25

“I knew it would take a lot of hard work and dedication from not only me but the rest of the team, but in my heart I knew we could do it,” Tomahawk Team Captain Jatin Aggarwal ‘26 said. “I knew our experience and dedication would allow us to excel and be the best we can be — [and] even though our season started off less than ideal with 4 losses at the first competition, I knew that despite this, it was still possible to reach World’s.”

Team Captain Jatin Aggarwal ‘26 spent countless hours working towards his dream, ranging from organizing his team’s structure to playing a pivotal role in the robot’s design process. 

“It had always been my dream to make World’s since the day I started FTC in 8th grade,” Aggarwal said. “It was a dream come true, and it was amazing to see the hundreds of hours I put in lead to something remarkable.”

Over the course of their season, Team Tomahawk competed at three different levels before advancing to World’s, beginning with the local GEMS league tournament before attending the regional and statewide championships. At the GEMS League Tournament, Team Tomahawk went through a series of qualifications, eventually advancing to the elimination round where they won the tournament. In addition to being crowned league champions, the team also won the Design Award for their robot’s functional and aesthetic design. Moving on to the Central Texas Area Championship, Team Tomahawk competed alongside 48 teams from central Texas, going on to become division finalists and advancing to the state level due to their high ranking. At the Texas State Championship, amongst the 72 teams competing to advance to the world championship, Team Tomahawk finished the event as state finalists, advancing them to World’s.

“The main thing we did to give ourselves the best chance [in competitions] was to spend too many hours on robotics,” Tomahawk Software Lead and Driver Abraham Lira 24’ said. “I think our team performed very well, and there were a lot of things we did great- it was overall a [good] season.”

As software lead and driver, Lira’s responsibilities included both handling the robot’s software as well as being one of two people operating the robot during matches. 

“As software lead, it meant many hours spent programming the autonomous program, as well as making sure the code we ran during the driver-operated period of the match and the overall software worked,” Lira said. “As a driver, I just needed to make sure our team got to see our robot perform well out there and make sure they felt proud.”

Tomahawk’s robot, named ‘STAGEFRIGHT’ for its orange and black design, evolved throughout the season based on analyses of other teams’ robots, prototyping, and working together as a team to develop the best design. 

We constantly watched other regions and teams, and saw what they did and how they performed, and [chose to] integrate some [of those] designs and techniques into our iterations to improve our robot,” Tomahawk Hardware Lead and Driver Akaash Reddy ‘25 said. “For example, for the state championship, we [redesigned our robot’s outtake mechanism] to make scoring more efficient.”

Only 12 out of nearly 800 teams qualified for the World Championship from Texas — Team Tomahawk is the first FTC team in RRISD history to qualify for the state and world levels.

“The moment we learned we were advancing to World’s was an incredible moment,” Tomahawk member Jadon Lee ‘24 said. “If you had asked me at the beginning of the season where any of the [Westwood teams] would end up, I would never have anticipated that we would make it that far in FTC — that was the highlight of Tomahawk.”

Arriving in Houston, the team was overcome with excitement, especially three team members who were in their final year in robotics.

“It was unbelievable, we couldn’t stop smiling and going crazy at how surreal it was,” Lee said. “World’s was the most exciting moment of robotics for sure, [during] my three years in the program.”

Looking back on the thousands of accumulated hours spent working towards their goal, the members of Team Tomahawk agree that the FIRST Championship was the highlight of their season.

I knew it would take a lot of hard work and dedication from not only me but the rest of the team, but in my heart I knew we could do it.

— Tomahawk Team Captain Jatin Aggarwal ‘26

It was an amazing feeling to be surrounded by over 3000 students sharing the same passion for robotics as me,” Aggarwal said. “Starting from competing with just local teams at the Westwood competitions to [seeing] teams from around the globe each excelling in their own way was an amazing experience, and I hope to go again next year to meet and learn from so many more people.”

Furthermore, Team Tomahawk was extremely successful at the world championship, as they were crowned division champions and Motivate award finalists. The Motivate award is given to a team who successfully makes FIRST known throughout their community, through a variety of outreach activities such as workshops and mentorship. As division champions, Team Tomahawk gained the title of World Semi-Grandfinalists, ranking them among the top 12 teams out of 224 at the world championship and 8000 across the globe.

“My proudest moment this season was winning the Edison Division alongside teams ‘The Disruptingly Robocephalic BrainSTEM Robotics Team’ and ‘KookyBotz’,” Aggarwal said. “We prepared throughout the night before, and division finals went smoothly, and we won these matches to earn the title of Edison division champions.”

Team Tomahawk is proud to have made a tremendous impact on their community, beginning with a single high school and stretching across the entire school district. After incredible successes at every level of competition, the team looks back fondly on their inspiring season.

The highlights of this season were every competition we went to; playing in our matches, winning and losing, and ultimately eventually making it to the next level every time has been incredibly exhilarating,” Reddy said. “I don’t think there was a moment better than succeeding with my team.”

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About the Contributor
Avi Rajesh
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!

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