Sunday, December 9, 2018

Getting Ready for Worlds

So we had made it through and now they were working to perfect that aggressive autonomous program where the robot would be able to find the cubes and put it in the box.  Now remember that most of the team had done all of this while keeping all A's in AP classes in school and doing totally overwhelming numbers of college application essays.  It was tough.  So now the kids were in the time frame of acceptances and running around the country trying to make their final decision on colleges.

So the weekend before Worlds I was in Ann Arbor with my son at the campus visit weekend for University of Michigan.  In the morning, we were waiting for the session to start and he got a FaceTime request from his younger brother who was home with the robot running programming testing to discuss some changes.

What happened next was a microcosm of what this team is about.  Rob - the other team captain was in Florida and texts and joins on FaceTime on David's phone.  So there are two open FaceTime streams in my hotel room.  Andy has his phone on the field floor and is allowing the two boys to watch - David direct and Rob who is looking at the screen through David's phone.  He would run the robot - tell them what he was seeing.  David had the code up on his screen and would make a change and use this cloud based version control system used by all professional programmers called GitHub. Once he committed his changes to the cloud, Andy would download them in Massachusetts and load them on the robot and run it again so they could all see the results.  This went on for over an hour.

On the computer is Massachusetts, the phone kid is in Florida and we are in Michigan.  They are programming and debugging the robot from three states.

They don't take no for an answer.  All the seniors are in different states on the last weekend to do work?  That doesn't matter.  We will work on the robot remotely and collaborate across three states.  It just blew my mind so I had to take a picture.  This is one of the reasons they win.  They 'do whatever it takes', which is a line in a song by Imagine Dragons that all robot teams like to use for their robot reveal.  But these guys really take it to another level.

I recall how many of you who I have met through the years have asked if the kids 'really want to do this', implying that I am forcing them to work on robots.  You can't make anyone do this kind of thing - it comes from the inside.  You can guide them and enable them, but you can't make them.  They have to want it.  And they wanted it.


  1. You can tell from what you say that they are self-motivated. I enjoy these posts so much. Partly because this is something I know nothing about, so find interesting. Secondly, because having spent years in education, I love it when you see kids engaged in what they are doing. My own kids show this level of engagement in music (classical) and sport. I see how much their characters build as they work through the difficulties, learn to work with other people and deal with failure in competitions. You are doing fantastic work in giving them the soft skills which will enable them to use their hard skills in so much more an effective way. Well done to you and them!

  2. It is hard for us to work with the younger group after living with the older group and getting them through all the rough patches. Now we get to live that all over again and as my husband said yesterday (when we took them at a much less prepared level than we would want to a scrimmage) - we can't take failure away from them. But it hurts to watch them go through those lessons. And yes, didn't go the way they wanted yesterday and by the time we were done, the kids had developed a plan to work again starting this morning (yes, they showed up) to start over again. I stayed far away from the discussion to allow them room to take charge.