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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Enthusiasm is just another word for 'working your tail off'

Guess I made up for those three posts in one day by not posting all week!  School is wrapping up, for which YAY. But I'm going to miss my math class....

Our plans to start a FIRST Lego League [FLL] team at our school are progressing epically. All week I've been sending emails and plotting and talking with faculty and running around school with a clipboard.
Sarah [another robotics geek] and myself have been meeting at school, hashing through fundraising and other plans. It goeth well.

Tuesday we had a particularly productive day. We talked to several principals [high school and elementary] and obtained permission to officially have homeschoolers on the robotics teams...all the teams...and we now have a Robotics Department at Santiam [school], pretty much. We'll be starting a Jr.FLL team, and at least one FLL team. This means students will have a robotics program available to them from 1st grade all the way through high school.

We were also the happy recipients of a generous donation by one of the elementary teachers, of a sizeable quantity of legos, and several RCX lego kits. Nowadays FLL uses NXT systems, but these will be useful for us mentor-types to learn on....

At one point we [we being my dad the robotics and art teacher, Sarah, and myself] were striding determinedly through the school, three abreast. In the middle, me, armed with clipboard and feeling like we were out to save the world. In a way, we are.

FIRST is not about robots. It is about inspiration. If our young people want to be engineers, if they have a burning desire to succeed at something other than sports [to take a common example], we will have succeeded.
When I was at Championships in Atlanta, I had the feeling a few times that if everyone in the Georgia Dome felt the way I did, we would change the world. Thing is, feeling a certain way doesn't do much. Even enthusiasm [much as I hate to admit it] can't do everything. Maybe the difference is, for me enthusiasm is a code word for dedication, hard work, obsessive research, and a certain willingness to scream your lungs out at Regionals.

I know how FIRST has influenced me, I was thinking about this in assembly at school yesterday. In how far I will go to support people, my team or whatever. This was my third year at regionals and things are so different than the first year.  Now, I cheer at every full stop. The reason I had a sore throat for days afterwards was because whenever our team was on the field, I was yelling. At our end-of-season team party we watched a video that one of our mentors took at regionals: at one point the audio is completely distorted, the volume levels are maxed out because I was shouting a few seats over. I don't even scream like a girl, it's a YELL.  When the first round of awards was being given out on Friday evening, I wound up standing and clapping and cheering for each team that received an award. Our team was sitting at the top of the stadium, no-one stands up at the top of the stadium. I did....this coerced part of my team to do the same.  I meant it: I was happy for those teams.

When our team was called down for the Xerox Creativity Award....that was one of the best moments in my life. Running down to the floor of the stadium, past dozens of teams....down at the bottom, where the enthused teams stand, people had their hands out giving us high fives. You have to experience it, to know what I'm talking about. That was success.  Of course writing an essay at midnight was also success, but a different kind.

This sounds self-centered, but the best way I can describe FIRST is to tell what it's done to me.  Now I care about what other people have carries over into other things. I start a standing ovation for my friends' play, I cheer at ballet concerts [ballet concerts are very QUIET usually], I started the audience clapping in rhythm during the can-can piece [which the dancers like], I cheer at tiny robotics scrimmages.  FIRST hasn't been responsible for all this: it's just made me think more about how much effort people put into things, and want to recognize that effort.

I took the SAT again last Saturday.  I did a shameless promotion of FIRST in the essay.

Trigonometry final exam today: first part of two-part final, this with a partner. Tomorrow it's by ourselves, no calculator. That went very well. In fact things went along swimmingly until we got to the last problem, which involved working through two nasty trigonometric equations to prove that they are equal. Always requires oodles of work and sometimes one will pop up and kick your tail.

This one kicked our collective tails. My partner and I spent a good 45 minutes, and 3 pages of scratch paper, working out that one problem. We went down a lot of rabbit trails: as partner complained to the teacher, we had 45 minutes in which to go down as many rabbit trails.

The class period ended. Break passed, still we scribbled frantically. The next class period started, the teacher approached us to say 'The time has come...' but just a moment before that I had gotten off down the right path at LAST and scrabbled down the last box round the answer just at that moment.   ADRENALINE. High-five with my partner, who mentioned the fact that I dominate at math, and out the door, shaking from a combination of caffeine and adrenaline. Another WIN moment :)


Anonymous said...

Bethany ROCKS!

To think of all the people you are inspiring all the time. It is great that you take initiative to encourage those you may never meet, know, or even encounter, through your efforts in so many arenas. Keep going.

Bethany said...

Thank you so much. You have no idea how encouraging it was to read this :)