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Monday, April 19, 2010

Tales from Atlanta

Yesh, well, picking up where I left off!  The plants.....they are awesome....when I was in England a few years ago I was bouncing with excitement over the different trees and shrubs and so on, here as I said EVERYTHING is different, it's the way hearing a foreign language would be for some people. 

Epic times finding the hotel:  Our group of 20+ people wandered over Atlanta for about an hour. There was some question with the directions....then the hotel shuttle came for us but only had room for half the group, the rest of us walked. Lead mentor was joshed about abysmal navigational skills by the other mentors.
 'I'm like a cat, I just know where to go....' with what I can only describe as a Chuckly Look. 
There was recrimination 'You get out of the MARTA, two feet down the street and you ask for directions!'

Calls were made to the rest of the crew at the hotel: 'What do you mean by a Hard Right?'   'OH. It's....behind the Home Depot?'  
We set off in the prescribed direction. There was a lack of sidewalks.  'Look, there's a path!' Mentor: 'Yeah, a goat path! I'm not a goat!'  

Finally found the hotel. I just never stopped having a good time, lol. Checked in and went to the pool, nice and relaxing after a day of travel. 

Thursday: Did not get enough sleep ^.^    Took the subway to the Georgia Dome at an early hour. It is odd to be at robotics but not doing much except filming. The whole place is huge, the walk from pits to the field takes fifteen minutes or so. Consider that we made that walk 4 or 5 times, not to mention sundry trips hither and feet were in agony. I am feeling rather beat up: the travel yesterday took care of bruises! Big heavy bag banging against me leg for umpteen hours, there's an impressively comprehensive bruise on my thigh. The bag strap is also making my shoulder pretty sore. 

[Sunday night: did not get a chance to update blog since Thursday.]

We did pretty well in our qualifying matches on Thursday and Friday. Thursday was INSANELY brutal, I don't know why but the first day of robotics competition is usually that way as far as exhaustion.  I believe I have been called a Stoic and it certainly fits, there was some major agony that day. Survived.

Worried early on that my camera's battery would not last so well as I had hoped but it actually held up pretty well, so long as I left it charging at the power strip when I wasn't using it.  

Championships is pretty intense: most regionals have about 40 teams: the Oregon regional is larger than most, with 60+ teams. At nationals, there are 4 devisions of over 8o teams EACH.  Each devision [randomly assigned] has its own playing field on the floor of the Georgia Dome. [We played in Archimedes field....the others are Curie, Newton and Galileo.] The winners of each devision compete on Saturday afternoon on Einstein field. 

I pretty much stayed with the drive team and the robot, went out on the field whenever we were competing, and otherwise stayed at the pit to get footage of random wrench-turning, judge interviews, and the like: also 'schmoozing' with other teams in attempts to form alliances. 

Overall I like the Oregon regional better, it seems like there is actually more energy there, because even though there are more teams at nat'ls overall they are more spread out between the different fields. 

We had some tough matches on Friday, had communication problems which turned out to be a loose cable [the only one that had Not been double-checked by the team.] 
Friday night our lead mentor declared 'Meeting poolside, 9 PM!' which was hailed with approval by the team, most of whom were IN the pool during the meeting. Mentor [quite the personality] announced around 9: 'Okay everyone!', and when he had everyone's attention did a nice cannonball into the water. Fun times, we had a quick meeting and then there was a lot of goofing around which proved great fun for the videographer. 

The transportation in Atlanta is the MARTA subway system. It also involved a lot of walking to and from the fact, the whole expedition has been one long trek. 

Sidebar: even as I type [on plane from Denver to P-town] I can hear one of our students explaining FIRST robotics to a fellow traveler =D   That happened a lot on the trip, people think it's really cool :)  

Wednesday and Thursday night I was lucky enough to get a decent dinner at Sweet Tomatoes, awesome salad bar/buffet restaurant which was thankfully close to our hotel. Certainly better than regionals, where one night we went to Denny's [ergh] and the other night we fended for ourselves for the most part. Anyways, a plentiful salad bar hit the spot after a hard day of traveling or racing around after the robot. 

Friday night I was UNLUCKY enough to more or less miss dinner. Our team split up into a few groups and I was swimming in the pool [that WAS rather epic] and missed the boat. By the time I discovered that happy fact, I refused to bother anyone to go with me anywhere [we had to be with an adult at all times], and besides was in that unpleasant state of being too tired to do anything about the lack-of-dinner.  As I stated to a horrified friend, after all I HAD had an energy bar and was too tired to be hungry, nevertheless I contemplated skulking down to the hotel lobby in search of sustenance around 11 that night. Wound up merely waiting til brekkers next morning.  

It was up at 5:30 or so every morning, and almost impossible to get to sleep before midnight or so each night. I was most embarrassed, as I pride myself on my invulnerability to lack of sleep, to find that I was beyond exhausted for most of the time. It was most amusing to notice the general scenery seeming to turn slightly around me. I fortunately avoided falling over however. Most of the nights I also had to upload a large amount of footage to my laptop in preparation for the next day of filming. That took an hour or more, and there was always the question of whether to just leave it to putter away at its own pace all night. 

Oh lovely, I just realized it's after midnight Atlanta time O.o   Our flight doesn't get in til 11 Oregon time, so I won't get home til prolly 2 or so. Still deciding whether to go to school tomorrow, I rather think I will because I hate to miss math class and I AM just that crazy. 

I was very impressed with the team over all, there are a lot of stressful situations at robotics but they all handled things with Gracious Professionalism, TM. 

OODLES of footage of harried scouts entering data in laptops, drive team taking the robot on its cart out on the long trek to the field, drive team waiting nervously on the sidelines, drive team taking the robot on the field, drive team driving the robot, drive team fixing the robot at the pit, and so on. 

The weather was lovely the whole time, so nice to go outside and not huddle oneself up against cold weather. 

Between the pits and the Georgia Dome there's a large grassy area, with fountain, food stands, music stage, what became known to our team as 'the grassy knoll' where we invariably met for debriefing and so on. Everything thronged with robotics kids. Nationals isn't just the high school FRC competition, but also FLL [FIRST LegoLeague] and FTC [FIRST Tech Challenge] which are respectively for middle school and high school students. Bright team shirts, banners, mascots, face paint in team colors, the works. I submitted to having blue stripes painted on my arm on Saturday, a lot of the team had war paint more or less, on their faces, hehe. 

There is nothing quiet about FIRST: to quote [I believe] Dean Kamen, this is not a science fair. There is cheering, yelling, franticness.  

Friday we had a few matches that didn't go too well, partly because of the communication problem: however when we weren't dead we were scoring sixteen to the dozen. 

Saturday we had bad luck in our first of the day's two qualifying matches. We weren't ranked too high [I believe our final ranking was 46th out of 86]. However our last match went really well, I think the whole team was satisfied with how we did.  Sadly we did not get into the finals, but really I think we have reason to be proud, individually our robot was one of the top fifteen or so [impartially judged, hehe].

Packed up our pit stuff, packaged the robot in crate to be shipped back home and then watched some of the final rounds on Archimedes field. After that we attempted to get seats for the FINAL rounds on Einstein, but here is the really disappointing part, there WERE no seats to be had, they were either VIP seating or were closed. There were plenty of screens we could have watched it on, but the final rounds are interspersed with a few hours of awards and by that time we were wanting to get back to the hotel. 
Later learned the the infamous team 469 did Not win. They were thwarted by a rather ingenious strategy which I have yet to actually see, I intend to look up archived footage on Youtube very soon because I hear it was epic. 

Saturday evening it was off to the after-party at Centennial Olympic park, which would have been more enjoyable had the lines for everything been less long and we all been less tired. Nevertheless we were treated to the sight of aforementioned lead mentor racing another team member through a bouncy-castle, and were told that yet another mentor did rather well at karaoke. Also free food and drinks which was a huge boon after three days of paying through the nose for EVERYTHING. 

Today we slept in, not quite so late as we all would have liked, because it was requisite to get into the pool and start relaxing as soon as possible. I went swimming first thing and then had breakfast by the pool, good times. Our group then split up, I went with the majority to a large mall nearby. Nice just to wander round and not worry about anything except what to have for lunch. Oh, and I got some rather toothsome chocolates :)   

At 4 we boarded the MARTA for the last time to head to the airport. The trip home has gone pretty well, though I have not yet managed to sleep. I have trouble sleeping on airplanes. Am just trying to subsist here, got me hood pulled up in time-honored tradition of hapless traveler trying to protect herself from the elements. Sleeping now is almost impossible, I have an aisle seat and will get a crick in my neck if I attempt to lean over on me shoulder.

I did seriously consider buying a Scarlet Tauren [red bull] in the airport but decided to postpone that interesting experiment to a Later Date, hehe. 

It has been a hugely epic trip, I think the team feels happy with how we did, I feel happy with the footage I got [not so happy with the amount of editing I have to do], and yeeeahhhh it's been great :)   

Now on to the next project. 
I am tremendously ENTHUSED for robotics now. I refuse to let our team die next year from lack of funding or lack of interest. We will energize the existing students, we will get our claws into the incoming freshman class, we will leave no stone unturned for funds. The power of FIRST is the power of the students. I'm not an engineer. I probably won't be able to get up to speed in programming to be able to help much. I still wonder what exactly a lugnut is. 
But none of that is going to stop me, I will write grant-essays and plan fundraisers and edit videos and ENTHUSE people and join NEMO [Non Engineering Mentor Organization] when I can't be a team student any longer, if through any horrible chance our team should fold I will join the CHS team officially, I don't want there to be another year I'm not involved with robotics.   THIS IS FIRST. 


Einar said...

Whoot! Enthused clawing of freshmans!

Team 469 was beaten? SEND VIDEO when you find it!

Aye, parties and potlucks are lifesavers for impoverished travelers, And half the time you can get away with free food even if you don't have an invitation! Just need to know where yer towel is....

I have yet to try a Scarlet Tauren meself, but I PLAN TO SOMEDAY!!!

Yer Mentors sound like someone I know, an older fellah at our church that organizes outings and BBQs and such fer the teens. He has a rather famous habit of waiting till everyone is engaged in some activity or other at aforementioned social gathering, calling for all attention to himself, and then declaring: "So I guess ya'll are wondering why I called this meeting..."

And the bouncy castle thing (Rat Race here in the South)is EPIC, our resident "Mentor" does that as well, but I am proud to say that I am currently the reigning champion for the Rat Race whenever our Church has Family Fun Day.


DON'T LAUGH! Those six through twelve-year-olds are FAST!

Tragedy101 said...

Lugnut: nut that goes on a lug. Similiar to a wingnut or locknut, but not intended for onetime use. Some people have the impression these are for multiple time use, but it is untrue.

Lug: that thing I break regularly taking off the lugnut. Much harder to replace.

Does that help?

Glad you survived!

You are really good at the descripting stuff. Goat path LOL!

Thursday said...

The lugnut's connected to the lug bolt, the lug bolt's connected to... to... not sure, ask again later?

Also, if a lugnut goes on a lug, I assume wingnuts go on wings?


I've never really been involved with robotics much, but this really makes me wish I were...!

Bethany said...

Einar: Yush, I have still to find videos....I hear tell that it was some of the most epic final matches ever.

As to the Scarlet Tauren, if I ever get out there we will have to try the infamous drink, I have a feeling it will help with ENTHUSING lol.

Hm! The mental image of Einar, ferocity intact, racing teh 6 thru 12 year olds through a bouncy castle is AMUSING to say the LEAST =D

Tragedy101: aha, hehe yay for lugnuts....the entire build season was made up of amazing [to me] little discoveries, such as exactly how nuts and bolts hold things together: Drop-in nuts are rather epic.

hehe, we're ALL glad I survived, this blog wouldn't be the same without me :)

Hah, thanks, I hope I was able to convey a little of the sheer epicness of the trip!

Thursday: LOL! we really use drop-in nuts more than anything, during build season.

Yes, robotics is definitely one of the best experiences available to students these days. I don't want another season to go by that I'm NOT involved with FIRST to some extent.

Einar said...

Wait, what happened to yer epic little sidebar full of funny quotes? I hope you saved it!

Bethany said...

eh-heh....the sidebar died a few months back, I couldn't get to be IN the side, it would sit down at the bottom. Not to worry though, it's ALL saved on Eddie >:D