Robots Rule: The Fighting Unicorns Take Home High Honors

The Fighting Unicorns made a tremendous showing at the FIRST Robotics Buckeye Regional Tournament at the Wolstein Center March 17-19.

The team’s innovative tri-wheel design earned them the Excellence in Engineering Award, an award that “celebrates an elegant and advantageous machine feature.” The wheels, designed by Rosalie Phillips ’17, allowed our robot to traverse all of the game obstacles with ease, while many of our competitors’ robots got stuck or flipped over when trying to get across.

Team Captain Hanna Keyerleber ’17 was named to the FIRST Dean’s List. Only two students at each regional tournament earn this honor. It is the third time that one of our Unicorns has made the list (Sam Santoscoy and Gracie Phillips are the other two). The judges specifically mentioned Hanna’s long history with FIRST and FLL, as well as her tech theatre/stage crew experience.

I cannot say enough about how well the team handled the challenges presented during this competition. Here are the highlights:

  • During our very first practice match on Thursday, a software issue caused all of the teeth on one of the gear to snap clean off! Our pit crew disassembled the robot, reconfigured the whole layout to accept a new (larger) gear, and put it all back together again. (In just a few hours, by the way.)
  • During a match on Friday, our driver station laptop took a header onto the concrete floor when another robot rammed into the wall in front of us, so our robot was immobilized for most of that match…yet our alliance still won, and then the kids fixed the computer!
  • In our final match on Saturday, both of our alliance partners’ robots died on the field…so we single-handedly scored 52 of our alliance’s points in a 62-76 loss.
Thank YOU for all that you do (and have done) to support the team in the classroom and beyond. Many of the kids on the team caught the robotics bug while in Prime or Middle School, so the Fighting Unicorns are not a product of the Upper School alone. Beyond stellar technical skills, success in FIRST also requires creativity, communication, leadership, poise, and a whole lot of grit. Our students develop those abilities all over HB’s campus.

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The Fighting Unicorns topped their Buckeye performance with an amazing weekend at the Queen City Regional in Cincinnati March 31-April 2 (pictured above). Our robot impressed the judges, the crowd, and our 55 opponents, racking up a win-loss record of 6-3-1 in the qualification matches and landing us in the Top 8 for the first time in team history! We progressed to the playoffs as an alliance captain, which allowed us to choose our partners for the afternoon matches.

Teamed up with Metal Cow Robotics from Bloomington, IL and the Hard Working Hard Hats from Logan, WV, the Fighting Unicorns took on the third-seed alliance in the Quarterfinals. Although we were eliminated in the Quarterfinals, we did force a tiebreaker!
The team finished the season ranked 12th in the state out of 57 teams. (We were invited to the State Championship tournament, however, it falls on the same day as Prom.)
At the awards ceremony on Saturday, the team was again recognized for the robot’s unique wheel design with the Creativity Award, sponsored by Xerox.


Nicole Trombetta is the Middle School Science Department Chair and Eighth Grade Science Teacher at Hathaway Brown School.

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