Blue Banner

At St. Joseph, on the shores of Lake Michigan, the beaches were calm on this wintery March weekend. A block away, however, an electric atmosphere filled with die-hard robotics fans could be found at St. Joseph High School. 39 high school robotics teams from around the state of Michigan brought their robots to compete in this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition game, Charged Up. In Charged Up, robots race to pick up cones and cubes and score them on poles and shelves as well as balance on the end game platform with other robots. The game is filled with excitement as robots crash into each other and try not to tip over. 

Hemlock’s Gray Matter competed at St. Joseph for the first time and had a tremendous time. During qualification matches, teams are assigned to random alliances consisting of 2 other teams/schools and they compete against another alliance of 3 robots. Hemlock’s Gray Matter competed at a very high level throughout the qualifying rounds and ended in 8th place.

Following the qualification rounds, the top 8 teams do a snake draft where they can select the two teams they would like to compete with in the playoffs. Hemlock’s Gray Matter was selected by Team 3620 The Average Joes, from St. Joseph to begin forming the 3rd Alliance. Team 5843, Flurb, from East China, joined us as well to finalize the alliance. The double-elimination playoff format is intense and heavily rewards consistency. Alliance 3 faced off against Alliance 6, led by the Globetrotters from Zeeland,  first and narrowly escaped with a victory after a team member tip over, but Alliance 3 survived the 2v3 affair. Next, Alliance 3 faced off against Alliance 2, led by  Team Lance-A-Bot from Stevensville, which ended in a comfortable Alliance 3 victory. Next, the biggest test of the tournament; Alliance 1 stood in Alliance 3’s path. Alliance 1 consisted of the events #1 and #2 ranked teams, ZooBOTix from Battle Creek and Stryke Force from Kalamazoo, who is a former world champion. This semifinal match was a fierce competition and Alliance 3 ended on top, dropping Alliance 1 into the Loser’s Bracket Finals and advancing Alliance 3 to the Finals. Alliance 1 was victorious in their Loser’s Bracket Finals and advanced to the Finals to rematch Alliance 3. The Finals format is best 2 of 3 and Alliance 3 found themselves behind 0-1 after the first match, needing a win to stay alive. In match two, the Alliance 3 teams fought especially hard and tweaked their strategy to tie up the score 1-1. The finals would come down to a tiebreaker between Alliance 3 and Alliance 1 and after a nail-biter of a match, Alliance 3 came out on top to take home the St. Joseph District Blue Banner. 

Ana Rodriguez, Hemlock High School Junior and Hemlock’s Gray Matter Driver said, “I’m so proud of the teams' performance this early in the season and I’m very impressed with the teams' maturity and graciousness after graduating several senior members last year.”

Hemlock’s Gray Matter also took home the Team Sustainability award which celebrates and recognizes a team that has developed a sustainable program in order to define, manage, and achieve the team’s ongoing objectives.

The team will compete next in Midland at Dow High School on March 23rd-24th. 

To watch our matches from St. Joseph, view them here:

For more information about this or other positive happenings at Hemlock Public School District please call (989) 642-5282 or visit us on the web at