|2 Bits and a Byte in our basement working during spring break|
before we all left for Detroit
So imagine this - our fates have been linked for years. They carry our stuff to the Worlds on their bus every year. And we will win the World Championship and our friends are making a documentary for school!
|David working in the Marriot ballroom|
on our mini station - we have to move
that 200 pound cart of tools and robot around
everywhere we go.
|All these top teams in the ballroom late into the night every|
night of competition
|The booth - we have always been low key, focusing on the|
work instead of decorations
|Our animal costumes|
The Lexington MA team and Lincoln MA team we had competed with so fiercely and friendly for four years were in our division - and while they would be continuing on, we were retiring. Amazingly we had one match together. Us against them as a combined team. Before a match, the
|The goodbye hugs that interrupted the|
competition flow. What a moment.
We went undefeated - it was mindblowing. That meant we would be the #1 captain and could pick two teams to be our partners having the 1st and 5th choice. As soon as it starts to become clear you will be a captain, teams come around and start promoting their team and trying to show their robots capabilities. There is so much to this 'dating'. As the final choices are early the last morning, you have all night to talk to teams and maybe work together to see how your robots perform. So it is super stressful for both sides. You are trying to look at film to see if their claims are true, figure out what capabilities you need in a partner set and do you work well together - i.e. will they follow directions. You need to have several back-ups because the other captains might choose your choice before you get to the 5th pick. So this goes on all night. Our guys had evaluated many teams and had given suggestions to several to improve their performance - mostly centered around the electrostatic discharge to their robots which would temporarily or permanently disable the bot during a match. That happens and your team will likely loose the match. We had distinguished ourselves by mastering the electrical system and this problem so the kids went around to their potential partners and told them what to fix that night. Next morning at 7am, they would meet all of them on the practice fields and put them through testing. This testing consists of us driving around a lot and building up charge and going over to touch their robot and see if it stops running after being zapped. Some teams follow directions - the Lexington team facetimed David at midnight running around the hotel in celebration of the fix he had suggested working. When you see the video of the kid in the elevator exhausted thinking they might not play that day - that was the next morning as we hadn't committed at midnight. We were still keeping our cards close to the chest.
These away competitions go either 3 or 5 days and so the last night when the stress of the last day is upon all their shoulders, I give a speech at a big dinner to remind them of why we do this and what they mean to each other. It centers them. Last year, the seniors gave tear-inducing speeches in return. So the pressure was on and we actually recorded the kids doing it in Detroit. No dry eyes - my husband was brought to tears by one boy who described finding us and what that meant to him and said "it wouldn't be a surprise to anyone that I wasn't a winner in Middle School, and you turned me into one".
Some teams tried to suggest a old trick that had been pulled on us two years - say you are broken so no one will pick you and then let the team you want pick you. Very dirty. Our guy refused when a team suggested it - the kid said 'you mean you would rather loose (thinking that they were the best choice) than do this?'. Our kid said "Yes, and we have lost before and are fine with it". We obviously didn't pick them.
|Andy running this field and evaluating|
teams as potential partners. Must have been
hard for those guys to take this little kid
giving them the once over and doing
what he asked them to show.
When I arrived that morning at 7:30 am to the convention center - each one of my top drive team had a practice field with teams running around trying out their changes. This picture of my 7th grader made me laugh. You can tell he is holding the cards and is seriously evaluating that team of 17yr olds.
So we choose the BrainStem team from PA as our #1 choice and were thrilled when the Lexington team was available to us at #5 pick. They were loosing hope that they would be picked and absolutely freaked out in the stands. Our fates were now combined yet again. And remember - it was a choice to hate each other or let bygones be bygones. It was the right choice.
A story for the ages.
More tomorrow about the backstory of the event finals. What made the difference.