Tuesday, May 3, 2011

We're Home!

Well, what a whirlwind trip! Everything was so fast and furious! Because we didn't have computer access like we thought, we couldn't update everyday... so here is a run-down of what happened...

Arrived in St. Louis around noon Wednesday, 4/27. Checked into hotel and went to the America's Center to set up pit and attend coach's meeting. Pits opened at 2pm, registration took an hour, coach's meeting at 3pm. So while I went to the hour and a half long Coach's meeting, the kids set up the pit - they did a great job, I only helped the last 1/2 hour and the pits closed at 5pm. We went for dinner and swam at the hotel and went to bed early.

Thurs. 4/28 - We had our official robot practice runs in the Edward Jones Dome at 8:55 and 11am (you could practice on practice tables near the pits anytime). I think we only got in the 200s for those runs... lots of little things to fine tune - we were expecting that... Then our presentations for research, robot, and core values began, back to back 12:10, 12:30, 12:50. When we saw that schedule we thought we'd have 20 minutes with each judge... but in reality we only had about 5-7 minutes with each set of judges, so that threw the kids for a loop... also, the judges (3 sitting at a table) were all very somber and formal (very different from the Pittsburgh competition where the judges were having fun and engaging the kids during the judging). And one other thing... when presenting the robot at Pittsburgh you had at least 10 minutes to present your software (how you programmed your robot) and 10 minutes to present your hardware (how you designed and built your robot) - but at St. Louis, you only had 5-7 minutes to present both! So, all in all the kids did pretty well, considering the drastic change in how the judging was carried out - they were quite discouraged afterwards though... they had so much more they wanted to show the judges...

Fri. 4/29 - Official Robot Run Day... also the judges mentioned they might come around to the pits between 10-12pm. Our Robot runs were scheduled 10:35, 12:20, and 2:30pm. Nicely spaced. The kids spent some time that morning running the robot... it was getting 400 point runs 5 out of 6 times... even when the kids tried it on different tables... side comment for future teams... the table variations were atrocious! The mats were placed poorly, lots of waves in the mats, and even some field models built improperly. The competition tables weren't much better! - judges leaning on tables, making them move, mats placed wrong or out of square... There was nothing you could do about that - even teams that got a 400 point official run one time, would get a 200 point run the next, all due to table variations. So, I reminded the children that they worked equally hard on their robot, that it WAS capable of 400 point runs, and they were winners no matter what the end score was! So our end scores were, 245, 300, and 250. A little disappointing but the excitement and just being a part of the whole World Festival made up for that!

In between practicing the robot and presentations, I would send the children to visit other pits/teams - that was a REALLY cool part of the World Festival experience! Most teams from other countries brought items unique to their team and country - foods, spices, crafts, gifts, candy, etc. Where else could you visit with people from China, Malaysia, Peru, Colombia, Germany, Egypt, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and France all together in a couple days? The children had so much fun meeting the other teams and sharing their team buttons and other little gifts we brought...

Oh yeah, the judges did come to our pit on Friday - different judges! And they were cool judges! They were much more like the judges at Pittsburgh... they laughed with the kids, the kids readily engaged with them and were proud to show them all of the hard work they did on the robot and their research - it renewed their positive attitude about the whole judging process - so I was thankful for that!!!

Sat. 4/30 - We spent the morning at the City Museum which is an eclectic, home grown, 3 story playground - a combination of tree forts, castles, caves, and everything in between magical for kids to experience and explore. The kids had a blast there. Then we went for the Awards Ceremony - every kid on the 85 teams involved got a beautiful medallion and we got to cheer for our favorite teams as they won specific awards for robot or research. A lot of great teams and great memories. We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Arch - also an amazing experience!

Here are some of the children's comments...

we had alot of fun going to st Louis and coming back but the most fun was doing the competition - actually running the robot in the matches - Caleb

the competition was really fun, looking around, meeting other teams and seeing their pits and robots, and we really had a lot of fun when we ran the robot in the football stadium - we were on the big screen! - Jacob

My favorite part was seeing all the different robots, both in FLL, and in FTC and FRC. (Proof of creativity!)
I was disappointed with the judging sessions, more so the first ones. We got less than half the time for Hardware and Software judging than we did in Pittsburgh, when we were supposed to have double! (It's kinda hard to show the results of seven months of work in seven minutes. I could spend half an hour explaining my custom motor program, which took me a month to write!) The "callback" judges were much better; although they were supposed to be robot judges, most of the time they wanted to talk about the core values. I am thankful that I at least got to show off my custom motor program to the guys at RE2.
At the competition tables, you can definitely hear them turn the music up higher and higher between rounds! I was disappointed at the competition tables themselves, our first formal run, we missed forty points because one of the mission models was not built correctly.
I think that a lot of teams make it harder on themselves and the team on the opposite table be bumping it so much in their cheering. Overall, it was fun, but disappointing in some ways, in others it was much more than I had thought.
FIRST is looking to start a new branch: FIRST Arial Robotics. They had eight teams preforming demonstrations at the World Festival. Most of the teams were funded by collages, some by big companies like Microsoft. I don't see why they would want to fund these teams, as all they are doing is building big, remote controlled helicopters! It fun to watch, but like FRC and FTC, most, if not all of the game is remote controlled. I would rather do something like ION's Mini Urban Challenge. - James

It was all great! But I think the best part was meeting all the different teams from all over the world! It was very exiting to be able to talk with someone that was Chinese! I became friends with one of the girls from the Egypt team! It was also fun to watch how the other teams made their robots, and what nifty ideas they had come up with! The button exchange was really fun also, we came home with a lot of different buttons! The robot competition was really fun, but they had the music up so loud, my ears rang for days afterward! It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and an overall privilege to be able to go! -Kayla