Robotics Finishes Among Top Teams in the World

Rockhurst's Robotics Team, the Jesubots, won the Greater Kansas City Regional Competition in April and qualified for the FIRST Robotics World Championships in Houston

Earning a spot in this elite competition has become a standard for the program; this was Rockhurst’s third consecutive World Championships appearance, and fifth time since the program began in 2016. Heading into the competition, Rockhurst ranked 207th out of 3,474 teams worldwide.

The top 600 teams, about 17%, across the world qualify for the Houston event. There are more than 50,000 attendees and representatives from 50 countries.

Even among the best in the world, Rockhurst’s 15 team members were motivated to outperform their 207th ranking.

In this year’s competition, CRESCENDO, the Jesubots had their best performance at Worlds in program history. The game is themed around music and involves two alliances consisting of three teams each competing to perform various tasks, including shooting rings known as notes into goals, and hanging chains at the end of the match. 

This year’s robot (named “fulcrum”) was completely designed, fabricated, programmed, and driven by Rockhurst students, and had the ability to throw 14” wide foam rings (notes) into a target that is more than six feet off the ground. Its ability to consistently perform this task would determine this season’s success at the highest stage. 

The last two years that Rockhurst competed at Worlds, the team was not picked by a higher-seeded team for an alliance to participate in the elimination tournament; only 192 teams have the opportunity to play at this level. But Hawklet team members noted that this season’s robot was the best that the Rockhurst program had ever produced, and heading to Houston they were very optimistic about being picked for the tournament.

“We were confident that we would be selected for an alliance, and after our matches, we were 100% percent sure we were going to be selected,” recalled Alex Manis ’26. “And once we were selected, we put in the effort to go farther than we had ever gone before.” 

Rockhurst was indeed selected for an alliance. It included “Bear Metal” from Maple Valley, WA, “Nerd Herd” from Carson, CA, and the group’s fourth pick, which could alternate with any robot in the alliance for strategic or mechanical reasons, “The Lindblom Electric Eagles” from Chicago. 

With their 8th-seeded alliance, the Jesubots kept winning matches, including three consecutive upsets over higher seeds. Their alliance eliminated the first-seeded one, which included the reigning World Champions, in an exciting 151-121 game. The group finished 3rd in their division before losing to a Massachusetts/Netherlands alliance that won the division.

The Jesubots ended the season with a top-72 robot in the world, finishing among the top 2% of all teams. 

“It was an amazing experience to be able to go into Worlds with a real hope of being competitive, and then actually going really far. It was quite gratifying,” said Kiernan Donohue ’24, a four-year Jesubot team member, and team lead for 2023-24.