|Hours before snow starts falling - time to kick out some of|
these kids for the blizzard so the team on the couch with
laptops has exclusive access to test the robot. Notice it is
|Working throughout the blizzard - about nine inches outside|
at this point and hour eight of coding.
Part of the food shopping - pounds of flour and sugar and chocolate chips. There must be warm cookies. Dozens of them. My husband and I do tag team - one of us in our office if we have to be and the other down there. Sometimes I can embroider, answer emails, chart something, post but sometimes it is just too chaotic for me to get things done.
We got to where we wanted to be. Loaded in the car and off. Day 1, judging and inspection and running in the practice fields. All going great. Got the match list and did the analysis and figured out the driving teams. We were in Match 1 on Saturday morning. That was when all hell broke loose. Match 1 started as soon as the opening ceremonies ended. They wanted all the robots on the field ready to go. Asked for them an hour beforehand on the field. We checked to see if they would let us replace our battery just before match and got a yes. These types of batteries drain fast after unplugging from the wall and if your system is sensor/control system heavy it really depends on battery voltage. We had one ready - and at the last minute after the droning speeches, the field tech refused to allow us to change it. We lost automatically as the robot wouldn't move well. Top teams passing us by told us they knew every second the talks went on the batteries were draining on the field and it would be a devastating match for the few top performing robots sitting there on the field as they use all the systems and rely on consistent top battery voltage. And that was the match that the judges all stood around to verify if all the talk in our judging session about the robot and its performance was for real. Very, very, very bad luck.
|You can't even see the robot as all hands are on it working|
rapidly as possible.
|What is the error???|
|There really isn't a lot of room in a hotel room|
for this - but they made do! Eight of them
working at once in that space.
|Testing in the hallway late night. Funny how|
many MA teams on floor (3 other ones) and
we were all up and working jabbering with
I stood up and gave a speech in tears - the kinda speech that simultaneous wraps up a season and also tells them that they should never be counted out - it was halftime and time to show everyone what they are made of. Right back to the hotel and they all showed up immediately in the room where the robot was. I hung out in the chair and played devil's advocate for every decision made while my husband reviewed all the matches on video looking for clues to what was going wrong. The kids stripped that robot down and decided to do some major surgery on two things - making the assumption that the USB connector on the sensor module was flaky and loose now. It was something to see - 11pm and they are throwing modules across the room to be reconfigured by a computer programmer, kids labeling wiring so they can put it back in the right way. And the tests in the hotel corridor to see if every system was working and hoping they found the problem (lucky every room was a robot team - understanding people on the floor).
Back the next morning for our early morning final qualifying match. It was the most important one match they had ever run. The pits open over an hour before any matches start and the team decided to all go in that extra early hour. Up at 6 am and loading the 300 pound cart/robot into the truck. They ran it over and over testing it and showing people that we had fixed the system. One pair of the team assigned to go find the top ranked teams and drag them over to show them it was fixed and ready to rumble.
I couldn't watch the match. Their entire season depended on winning it. The team arrived in the pit before the match score showed in the pits. But their faces and arms in the air proclaimed that they won it -- and it was obvious without scoring it. Crushed it in fact. There was now a slight chance they would live another day. We moved up to 9th. It was now possible.
They were selected by the third captain to make an alliance and then another team was chosen to make the three team alliance (Only two run per game). Then the unbelievable thing happened. A captain is allowed to run in each of the three matches in a bracket level (it is best two of three games). The captain went to the ref and declared us captain of our alliance to allow us to run in each game. It was an incredible show of faith and tremendous character on their part. Our first game - we won and missed the world record by 10 points.
In the end - in a series of six matches - we became the division finalists. Barely loosing the entire thing. This morning after reviewing the video - we realized it wasn't because the autonomous didn't work, the beacon it was supposed to be pressing on our side wasn't set up correct for the match by the field resetters. Guess we have to add that to the checklist I had wanted them to use (another lesson learned).
|They are beyond team mates and friends -|
they are family. This pair has been tight
since 1st grade.
So when they announced our name - they burst into a mix of screams and tears - all those big 6 foot boys. And the many, many teams we have made friends with over the years cheered too. When we left the stands, I turned left towards the pits - but they turned right. They went off to shake hands to congratulate other teams, thank ones who had faith and partnered with us, and commiserate with others who weren't as fortunate to make the cut and live another day. I looked back at it and realized they were all grown up. We ran into our high school team in the parking lot and there was so much raw hugs and emotion that we were going to be both going and sharing the big event together.
Half the team got in my car for the long drive to Boston. The most laid back of all the kids was literally screaming that 'they had never worked a day in their life and it was all starting NOW'. It was like the inside of the vehicle was a huddle for a big football game. They have six weeks and will be tearing the robot down to its bones to fix any moving parts, sensors and wires, rebuilding and reprogramming non-stop. There will be an entirely new autonomous strategy. They have a tremendous amount of work planned - because they are never satisfied with their performance and have learned from their own mistakes.
I always would like them to win - but winning isn't always getting the actual trophy. I think of the trials and tribulations they will face in the future. Disappointments in college admissions, heartaches, job loss, illness, and all the things that are life; I believe that they have been learning to believe, breath and problem solve and keep their eyes on the long term; that what ever is happening now is just a course adjustment on the path to what they want. A bump to be run over with their size 13 feet. I was talking to one of the kid's mom a few weeks ago about what they had been learning; grit, speaking, etc. Her son is one of the original kids and she said 'no Tricia - its 'everything' about life.
You can never count them out - as they never give up.
Gotta make more cookies.