Lightning Blue Lizards, more than just competitive


Pablo Arango

TCS Team 7403’s robot (right) competing at the FRC competition at Palm Beach, Florida March 1-4.

The Columbus School’s Lightning Blue Lizards (LBL) robotics team finished 10th at the South Florida Regional of the FIRST Robotics Competition that took place March 1-4 in Palm Beach.

11 TCS students along with Coach Julian Zuniga and Counselor Ana Isabel Garcia traveled from Medellin to compete. This year’s competition consisted of a game where robots moved both cones and cubes onto a grid under autonomous and radio-controlled operation. The Lizards won 9 out of 12 matches in the qualification rounds and were chosen to move on to the finals for the second year in a row.

“This is the first time that team has the potential to be competitive and be the leader in each of the alliances we were part of, this is a huge step for the team and we are proud to finally be winning most matches,” Santiago Restrepo, LBL driver, said.

The improved performance was a result of the introduction of new upgrades to the robot including a faster and more maneuverable drivetrain, more precise autonomous operations, and new pneumatic systems.

“This season we spent a lot more time optimizing the mechanical design of the robot while also incorporating a swerve drivetrain and heavily improving our programming to enhance performance, ” Julian Zuñiga, LBL Coach, said.

Despite the new upgrades, the team faced various reliability issues during the competition which prevented them from getting an even better result.

“I believe there were matches in which we could have done a lot better if it wasn’t for the mechanical failures we faced, in the future, we will work on identifying them before the competition,” Zuñiga said.

Another challenge for the team was the need to travel with the robot, which complicated the design process. The robot had to be designed to be disassembled in order to transport it to the U.S. where it was then rebuilt for the competition.

“We had a huge challenge as we had to pack the robot in our bags and put it back together at the competition, this not only complicated our design but also resulted in unexpected failures that we had to solve,” Emilia Quintero, LBL team member, said.

In addition to their success on the field, the Lizards won the FIRST team spirit award and were also recognized for embracing equity and inclusion through their efforts to recruit team members from public schools in Medellin.

“These awards show that the team understands and embraces the core values of FIRST such as gracious professionalism and coopetition while encouraging a diverse and inclusive environment,” Zuñiga said.

The school’s robotics team is now looking forward to working on the pre-season and hopes to use this year’s experience to challenge for the championship in upcoming years.

“This year we were a lot more organized when designing and planning which gave us a competitive advantage, if we continue working like this I believe we are going to be one of the leading teams at the regional,” Restrepo said.