It is with great, great, great pride and also some sadness that I announce that The Brainstormers are the World Championship Finalists* for 2017! This is just an astounding accomplishment... there are 5,200+ teams in the world. Depending on their path, they need to be usually one of the top 1-3 teams at a competition of 32-72 teams to move to the next level, having gone through five levels now. At each competition, they will play between nine to 18 matches and come out as elimination winners in the last nine. Because of the narrow number of teams that can move on until the super regionals, we certainly saw some amazing and great teams fall by the wayside and not move on because our state is a powerhouse that can't send all the world class teams on from the state because we are a small state.
|Working on the practice field and explaining features to
another team watching
This year with the splitting of Worlds to a North and South to double the number of teams who could attend because of expansion of the programs, there was a decision to give a percentage of spots to lottery because the logistics of expanding the super regional level had not occurred on schedule. So that meant that teams who had never progressed to Worlds on merit were allowed to put their name in the hat and get a slot by lottery. But that meant that some partners weren't as strong as others. The kids did great during the qualifiers, almost overcoming some partnerships with teams that only scored five of the 250+ points our alliance put up. We all felt good, the robot was working and working well. Teams would stand and watch them practice, that felt good to be admired by their peers.
It was a nice experience as my brothers came as well, driving from Michigan to see their nephew compete for the first time ever. Part of the reason they came was that the team 'grandpa' and my brother who makes their shirts at his screen printing business, had decided to surprise the kids with a set of special commemorative hockey jerseys that would be something they could wear and keep for years past these experiences. They included an American flag patch and a special 2017 Worlds St Louis patch they designed on one arm. It was a great night when we got the kids together to have him give a speech on how they had inspired so many people they didn't know and give them the jerseys. They were just blown away!
|This is how they move around - together. No one is 'out of it'.
They are attentive and in the moment and on point.
|The new jerseys!
My son was trying to hold it together and not cry and as soon as I sat down, the first senior stood up to my surprise to say some words. And one by one the three of them stood up and gave the most inspiring speeches, each about a topic. Ethan, only on the team for two years, talked about Family. How John and I had invited him into our special extended family, made him feel part of it within days and how that made him feel. Then Ben, an original Brainstormer starting when he was nine years old, got up and gave a long talk about Trust. How the arc of being on the team had taught him to trust others, trust in their collective abilities, trust others to do their job, and trust that all would be good in the end no matter how dark and horrible some situation looked at the moment - no matter how broken the robot seemed to be he could trust that somehow they would figure it out and get it running in the 5, 10, 30 minutes they had. It was an amazing speech, of course I remember each of their personal journeys from wanting to control a task because they didn't trust another child to do a good job to today, when they could give up control and inherently understand that they were all on the same team and how talented each was and hardworking and so trust in each other. An amazing journey and something that Ben said they would all take forward in the future in how they treated others they worked with.
So the next day luck went our way and we ended up partnering with our 'dream partner' in the alliance selection. The matches were tough and fast paced (I heard that several of you watched - WOW). Two divisions play simultaneously and the winners of each vie for the championship in a final set. That is the first time the teams from the divisions meet in competition during the five days. At the point we won the division, I lept out of the stands and ran down towards the pit and was hugged by each of the kids - most of them squeezing me so tight I almost couldn't breathe while I was crying. At that point - the worst they could do was be the World's Finalists and take home a big trophy. They were all crying.
I am not sure exactly how to express what happened next. We won the first match by more than 150 points, lost the second by the other team making a mistake and preventing our big ball from scoring (questionable call), and it was all down to the third match. During the last match, one of the opposing teams collected our balls and scored them in their vortex, an explicit major penalty of 40 points and seen by all - all but the referees apparently. Upon review, the team did it at exactly the same time stamp in the first final match as well - at a time when one team from each alliance was lifting the big ball and the refs would be looking in that direction. You can imagine how we felt upon review of that video. It was the first and only instance in competition that this was done worldwide that anyone knows of.
So the kids were sure they had won as the penalty would put them over the top by quite a bit. Instead, the scores were put up - we lost by the two of our balls scored by them and no penalty. What?? But in a situation that we now know was an innocent mistake, the organizers had brought the trophies onto the field and as soon as the scores were shown, they thrust them at the winners. Now, there is a process for disputing scores or calls and that is a marked out box - but it was covered by photographers, and some organizers who were trying to keep the area clear actually held our kids in the driver box and refused to let them out to get to the box which is the only way they are allowed to challenge. Apparently there will be a huge rule change for next year now.
|One of the boys having Dean Kamen,
co-founder of FIRST, sign his special
jersey. Signing shirts is a 'thing' and he was so excited that
Dean showed up and he was able to get signature.
|Beginning of the fateful last match.
I thought robot season was over but as one of the top teams in the world, they were saved a space at a top-teams only invitational in Maryland at the end of June. I am taking them as I just can't let this be the ending to an amazing season. They need to get back up on the horse and ride again together.
At the beginning of the season they declared that they would be World Champions and worked their fingers to the bone to get to that point. Their arc has gone from starting out as the worst team of 64 at their first FLL competition when they were only 9 years old. Today they are considered by their peers (we keep getting messages) as the champions.
And they really are... I am so amazed and proud.
|The whole crew the weekend after with all the trophies they earned this year - Champions in my book