March Madness is here, when stunning upsets in the NCAA basketball tournament sweep the nation.
And while the term is typically reserved for that tournament, the Cinderella storyline could apply just as easily to what happened Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium in the robotics state championship.
Bow Tie Bot and the other two Triton Central High School robotic teams knew they were entering in the underdog role heading into Saturday’s state championship round in Indianapolis.
With a talented and deep list of competing schools from around the state, advisor Keith Starost and his students realized how difficult it would be to bring home the school’s fourth state title in five years.
And yet Bow Tie Bot, with team members Adam and Trent Tomamichel, Kenny Gipson, Andrew Nelson, Andrew Spegal, Noah Robinson and Grayson Goul, came away with the massive trophy at the end of the day. They did so after overcoming an early deficit in the championship round, tying the third and final match and winning a tie-breaking fourth round.
The team was disqualified in the first round, meaning Triton Central’s alliance with Iron Pride 574D, a team from Wawasee High School in Syracuse, Ind., had to win the next two to win the state title. They won the second, setting up a championship-deciding third round.
That round ended in a tie, forcing a championship-deciding extra round.
“(It) was just insane because ties are very rare, and to have it happen on the third match at the state title, it was definitely more nerve racking than what we were hoping for,” Starost said.
As his brother drove the bot during the championship, Trent Tomamichel calculated the team’s score using a phone app. When they reached a point in the fourth round where they were confident they had
secured the title, Trent flashed a thumbs up to his brother and the rest of the team, and Adam stopped driving.
The team had to wait for the official score to flash on the scoreboard for confirmation, and once it did, it showed Bow Tie Bot’s alliance won by five points.
“We went insane,” Starost said. “It was something else.”
Two factors went Bow Tie Bot’s way to come away with the school’s fourth title.
First, they qualified for the world competition at the start of the day, considerably reducing the amount of pressure team members placed on themselves. The team’s goal entering the day was first and foremost to qualify for worlds.
“That took an immense amount of pressure off (Adam Tomamichel),” Starost said.
And when the top-four ranked teams were knocked out in earlier rounds, that opened the door for Bow Tie Bot to advance and form an alliance with Iron Pride.
The psychological impact of not facing those schools was immense.
“When we got to our alliance against the other schools, that made them a little more calm,” he said of his students. “We weren’t playing against people we had played all year.”
R.A.L.F. (Robotic Automated Life Form) reached the quarterfinals and finished in 17th. The third team from Triton Central, Colossus, finished in 35th.
Middle school teams also compete at Lucas Oil
Shelbyville and Triton Central’s middle schools also competed Saturday, with both finishing in the top 10.
Triton Central, with team members Nick Riggins, Layton Morgan, Derreck Uhls and Tucker Hutchinson placed seventh, scoring 110 points in the finals. The team averaged 107 points, advisor Sara Roberts said.
“It went really well,” she said. “It was the best performance all year. They really stepped up to the level of competition. We couldn’t be more proud.”
Shelbyville competed for the first time at state, finishing in ninth.
The team of Aiden Alton, John Barker, Deuce Blocher, and Mylez Clark qualified for finals in its division, which had 55 teams.
This was Shelbyville’s first year of competing in VEX IQ robotics competitions and its second overall, advisor Luke Lockridge said.
“(Advisor) Scott Harper and I couldn’t be happier with how the team represented SMS and how well they competed,” Lockridge wrote in an email.