A Lion’s First Quarantine

What a time we’re living in right now! It’s March 2020, and three months into this year it’s already been insane. Australian Wildfires, we lost NBA Star Kobe Bryant, and now the Coronavirus, known as COVID-19.

My, how my life has changed since last year. I’ve only blogged once since March 2019, and I do miss it. I’ve just been so insanely busy. I guess I’ll do a quick recap.

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October – I took the Spaatz Exam for Civil Air Patrol the second and third time. I passed everything but PT, and ended my cadet career on my 21st as a Cadet Lieutenant Colonel. While the feeling was disappointing, I am so proud of how far I’ve come. Also in October, I attended the Alpha Lambda Delta National Conference in Niagara Falls. It was over my birthday weekend, and it was amazing to be in one of my favorite places on earth. I also got to volunteer as FTAA at the Curiosity Open off-season robotics event, something I thoroughly enjoyed and learned a lot from.

November – In November, I coordinated the first Orientation Flights for the cadets at my squadron ever. It was a really good feeling as a brand new Senior Member to do something the cadets wanted, that no one else would do for them.  I also volunteered as a Core Values Judge at a FIRST Lego League tournament, and it was so much fun. Last, I went back to counseling. After at least five years of swearing it off, I made the leap to go back. It’s been… nice.

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December – December brought an end to the Fall 2019 semester, and I once again finished on the Dean’s List. I went to a work bowling party, and had a really nice time. It was the first time I’d ever been into a bar, and I guess it wasn’t too bad. It was kind of dak and sticky, but enjoyable enough. Disclaimer, I’m no fun; I volunteered to be the designated driver. Yeah yeah, your resident 21 year old isn’t huge on alcohol.

I spent the rest of December with my family in the Netherlands. It was amazing to see them again. 

IMG_20200104_143818January – In January, my second season as lead coach of an FRC team officially began. With Kickoff on January 4th, a new build season was underway. The Spring 2020 semester began on January 13th, and I started some classes I was really anxious about. January consisted of lots of robotics meetings, lots of work, and school. I also volunteered as a Robot Inspector at the FIRST Tech Challenge Kent Qualifier. I learned so much here, and gained so much confidence.

February – February started off with a military ball with my lovely boyfriend. We got dressed up, had good food, and danced a bit. It was a great night. The next day, we rescued three guinea pigs, that needed to travel to The Pipsqueakery. We babysat them until the early hours of the morning, and they were absolutely adorable.

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February continued the roll of lots of work, school, and robotics. On February 16th, I decided to get into volunteering with a local rescue called Oshie’s Tail Wagon Rescue. They specialize in transporting dogs out of kill-shelters. I transported an amazing senior German Shepherd named Marley. Sadly, my beloved Volkswagen Jetta, Sven, decided that it was done being a car that day. Lots of panic and waiting later, I was towed back home. I spent the next two and a half weeks without a car.

IMG_20200216_131346That didn’t stop me from doing all the things I love, though. I started attending the Kent Citizen Police Academy, an amazing course to learn more about the local police department, police processeses, law, and more. I got to tour AT&T’s central office in Cleveland. I also attended Kent State’s production of the musical “Parade”. It was an amazing musical and story.

February concluded with the Miami Valley Regional. Attending a week one regional for the second year in a row proved to be tricky. It was almost like being rookies again for myself and fellow coach Dave, running the team without a teacher. While we finished very low and definitely had some hurdles to overcome, it didn’t stop the students from learning a lot. Their enthusiasm returned, and they talked to other teams and focused on the future.

It was also a leap day, which I guess is cool.

MVIMG_20200310_081645March – Here we are now. The first week of March I bought a new car! Yay adulting. It’s a Buick Encore Premium. She’s got all wheel drive, turbo fancy things, heated everything, working air conditioning, a backup camera… yeah. I’m lucky. I love her. I still own Sven, and I’m putting off dealing with that shenanigan. Am I too attached to that car? Entirely possible. Oops. We also had a Game Night for robotics, where middle school students spent time with us playing board games and learning about the robot. It was entirely planned by the students, and was a huge success!

The week of the 8th is when everything got weird. Daylight Savings Time began. On Monday, a great thing happened though! My boyfriend was notified he received word that his dream would be coming true- he was selected to be a pilot in the US Air Force. Boy, am I proud of him. On Tuesday, all classes were cancelled and were moved online until April 13th. On Thursday, it was announced that classes would be online for the rest of the semester. Then came Friday the 13th. It was probably the most uneventful of the days.

Since then, everything has been canceled. It’s like life came to a grinding halt. FIRST canceled both Houston and Detroit championships, and postponed every other event. The Citizen Police Academy was canceled. Doctors appointments are online now, for the most part. Grocery stores have weird opening times. People stocked up on food and toilet paper, the shelves in the stores are empty. Mail should be quarantined. Lots of people are jobless and applying for unemployment. We’re under a stay at home order from Governor Mike DeWine. I really wish people would take this seriously. As I’m writing this, there have been over 1,000 confirmed cases in Ohio alone. There have been 19 deaths. It’s not just “old people”. It’s not just “pre-existing conditions”. It’s healthy people. It’s your friends and neighbors. Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and STAY HOME.

00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200325190645899_COVEROh, and, meet Evangeline. I adopted her on Wednesday. She’s the cutest cat, I swear. She’s a five year old Dilute Tortoiseshell cat who loves cuddles. She doesn’t jump much, and her meow is the cutest little squeak. She’s a tad annoying at 4 a.m. when I’m trying to sleep and she just wants to cuddle, but we’re getting better at that. I bought Evangeline the cutest cat tree, and so far she likes it. She really likes just laying on my bed though, which is nice because that’s really all I’ve been doing in quarantine. Yesterday we sat at the window for a little bit and listened to a resident of the apartment complex play her marimba outside. It was nice.

Everything is pretty strange and a little apocalyptic right now. Students left in campus housing all over the country are unsure of their future. My boyfriend is one of these unlucky people. International students, students without a home, students with parents far away, and students in any other situation have all been left without a thought. It’s infuriating. Will they be able to stay in their homes? For some universities it’s clearer than others. Kent State has been doing a great job. Wright State, on the other hand, has not.

IMG_20200227_145804Robotics meetings and classes are online now, and it’s the weirdest experience. Dogs barking through lectures, figuring out a different platform every week, and we’re still having meetings that could’ve been emails. Power keeps going out. Time spent on social media has skyrocketed. The world is full of stress and anxiety. No one is sure of anything. But there is hope.

Me? I’m just trying to keep going, like things in the future are still happening. Encampment is currently still happening, and I volunteered to be the Admin Officer. Everyone’s on a planning hiatus right now though from what I hear, because honestly, everyone expects it to be canceled. This year’s IACE got canceled, and I feel awful for the cadets that worked so hard and will never get another chance. I’m trying my best to focus on school. To do what needs to be done. My days mostly consist of hanging out with Evangeline at home. Having her around has helped me cope. I don’t feel as lonely.

Kent’s already announced that Summer Classes will be all online. I don’t take summer classes, but that makes me wonder when this will end. When life goes back to “normal”. I miss hugging people and hanging out with my friends. I miss driving buses and fixing computers. I miss going to lectures in person. I will say, I don’t miss my networking lab. And cheap gas is pretty cool, but no one is going anywhere. I don’t enjoy the uncertainty. Because at some point, everything is going to crash. Will it be my financials? Will it be the entire economy? Will someone I love get sick? I’m not ready for any of those scenarios. I just wish life was normal again, and I don’t think I’ll ever take mindlessly leaving the house to go to class or to the store or to the gym or to a concert for granted again.

Something I used to frequently write about on my blog was my goals. I’ve done decently on my goals, I suppose. Scrolling back to previous posts, it looks like I accomplished the majority of my “monthly goals”. As for my 2019 goals, well. Here’s what they were:

  1. Achieve the Carl A. Spaatz Award in the Civil Air Patrol. I guess this didn’t happen. But that’s alright. I learned so much about CAP in the process, and I learned so much about myself. I tried my best all three times, and I’m just not a very athletic person. It’s okay. There’s always the disappointment of “I could’ve tried harder”, “I could’ve started sooner”, or “I should’ve done this differently”. Yeah. It’s there. Trust me, I beat myself up, I won’t lie. But I’m happy where I am. I’m happy as a First Lieutenant, and I’m happy doing my operations work.
  2. Obtain my CCW. Man, guns are expensive. I don’t want to do this one until I can comfortably afford my own gun, a nice holster, and proper storage. Yanno, be responsible or something. 
  3. Get a computer certification (CCNA, CompTIA, etc.). This one should hopefully be happening after this semester. I passed my final in Networking Hardware 1 with a high enough grade to get the test discount, but our professor decided to wait since all the standards are changing and the course I’m in now will help us build on our skills.
  4. Obtain a General Class HAM Radio License. Yeah, no, that didn’t happen. I haven’t really touched ham stuff. I went to an amateur radio club with a friend in January and that was kind of neat. And my license plate is now my Call Sign. 
  5. Go scuba diving. It’s cold in Ohio, man. And where am I supposed to go? The flammable Lake Erie? Nah, but really. I’ve been playing with the idea of doing rescue diving. It sounds fun and right up my alley. Just don’t really know where to start.  
  6. Save $1,000Hey look! One I did! Of course, I spent it all on my new car. 
  7. Stop apologizing all the time. I think I’m getting better at this one! It may just be the lack of people I’ve been around lately, though. 
  8. Read at least one book per month. Nope. Didn’t happen. I watched a lot of Netflix though. And I wrote down all my dreams. And I read a lot of robotics documents. Does that count?
  9. Stop looking down on myself and gain some confidence. Working on this one. It’s actually going pretty well. Except for when it isn’t. But hey.
  10. Don’t blame myself for everything. Same for this one. It’s going pretty good, I guess.

So, there you have it. That’s what I’m up to these days. Maybe with my newfound spare time I’ll be around a bit more. I hope to get back into regular blogging anyway, I really miss it. I’ve been catching up on everything on my to do list, and maybe I’m getting my life together. We’ll see. I’ll be back.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and wash your hands! 

-E. 😷

Rookie Recap: Destination Deep Space

img_20190117_165011.jpgThe FIRST Robotics Competition is an incredible experience. I’ve mentioned it before on this blog in little anecdotes or goals, but never to the extent I am about to go.

This year, myself and a fellow FIRST volunteer named Dave decided we were going to bring the FIRST Robotics Competition a little closer to home, and started a team at a local high school with the help of science teacher Mr.F.  

It all started on the first Saturday of January, known as “Kickoff”. January 5th, a group of students got on a bus to Girard, Ohio to analyze this year’s game, and pick up the kit of parts.

This group of students had, for the most part, never worked together before. They also had very little clue on what this “FIRST” thing even was.

Throughout the six week build season, this group of students became smaller and smaller, eventually steadying out at 13. Six weeks to build a robot? How’s that possible? Well, these students accomplished it. The picture above was from January 17th, two of the six weeks into build season. And that’s not a robot.

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Four and a half weeks into build season, we had a driving robot, strictly from the kit of parts.

February 5th was the date of this milestone, and it gave the students some renewed hope. Maybe they’d get something they can put on the field, after all.

Of course, there were so many obstacles we had to overcome, and we could not have overcome them without outside help. The teams in our area, specifically team 2010, really stepped up to help us and mentor our students in ways myself, Dave, and Mr.F could not.

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February 15th. Four days until Stop Build Day, and the day we have to put the robot in a giant bag.

We had a structure on top of our robot! It was starting to look like something. Again, major shout-out to the designer from FRC Team 2010.

It was simple. We had pneumatics at the front to push out a platform to “grab” the hatch panels, and were going to add a box on top for cargo.

A sturdy robot that promised consistency, team members were starting to realize the time commitment that the FIRST Robotics Competition called for. Two days a week for two hours was simply not enough, and there were several days leading up to Stop Build Day where the students would stay until late at night to finish what they were working on.

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Stop Build Day finally came on February 19th, and we put this guy in a bag. I was going to say “little guy”, but at 80 pounds and a perimeter of a little under 120 inches, this was no “little guy”.

Stop Build Day didn’t come without its own challenges, however. Finishing the robot, and then driving it for about an hour were our goals. Both of those were met- and then a problem met us. Our robot stopped driving. Lights were flashing red, and errors were coming up left and right.

After extensive troubleshooting and messages exchanged on community FIRST platforms, we got our robot driving again. We put it in the bag right away.

Two weeks of waiting, and our team would be attending the Miami Valley Regional in Dayton, Ohio, as its first ever regional event.

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A little over three hours away, our group of nine students got on a school bus at 4 o’clock in the morning on Thursday and headed to the Nutter Center.

I wish it went as smoothly as that paragraph made it sound. Our robot and tool cart didn’t fit on the school bus, and Dave had to drive down with those. After taking the wheels off the cart, laying the robot on its side, stuffing the robot cart into my car, and putting Dave’s spare tire on the bus, we were set for a crazy 4am drive.

The drive itself was incredibly uneventful, other than simply just being exhausted and following a school but that was going… quite fast.

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We got to the Nutter Center, and unloaded the pit and robot stuff from the three vehicles. Students were speechless at the size of the event… It was unlike anything they’d imagined.

A drive team meeting kicked off the day, and practice matches would soon follow.

We only made two of our practice matches, as we had a lot of stuff to do on our robot. We added the box (which turned into a triangle) for the cargo on top, and we finalized the bumpers. There was also lots of fun troubleshooting and coding that came along with being at our first ever competition.

But, after only one formal practice match, the students did it. On Friday, we were in the first qualification match of the day, and we won. It was a rush of excitement for everyone. img_20190308_133359.jpg

Several hours spent on the practice field in half hour increments, adapting the code to fit the needs of the drivers, and learning how to manage stress while still driving effectively were the key parts of Friday, and these students absolutely nailed it.

For the majority of Friday, we were seated in the number one position, of 60 teams. That’s… incredible for a rookie team.

On Saturday, we made it into alliance selections, and eventually were the Captain of the #5 Alliance. Selecting teams 3484 and 4027, we went into the playoffs.

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While we lost 0-2 to the #4 Alliance, I saw our students display enthusiasm and leadership like I had never seen before.

The quiet students really broke out of their shell, and while stressful, the drive team made several tough decisions with the team and alliance.  

It was a crazy experience of ups and downs, but the students absolutely had the time of their lives. We ended up being awarded Highest Rookie Seed, as well as the Rookie Inspiration Award at the 2019 Miami Valley Regional.

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I’m so incredibly proud of all the students on the team. It was a crazy weekend, and I learned so much as well. Patience, stress management, communication… being a mentor is no easy thing, but it is one of the most rewarding feelings in the world.

Seeing the drive team work together and communicate, and witnessing the students break out of their shells were the highlights of my weekend, perhaps even more so than any award meant to me.

I can’t wait to see where the next few years bring us.

-E.🤖❤️