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.🤖❤️

Not Going Through the Motions Anymore

I was never very popular in high school. Back then, I was quiet. I went along and got decent grades. I graduated with a decent GPA. It wasn’t the best, but neither was my effort. I spent my time looking for excuses to spend time in the band room with my best friend and the band director. All I wanted was to be around the field I knew I would end up in- music education. I was so passionate about music, and that’s where I was the most social. I wasn’t afraid to get up in front of a group of students while job shadowing a local band director and talk. I wasn’t afraid to mentor my peers on sight reading- or anything altogether. I participated in bands and ensembles outside of my high school and met a bunch of new people, several of them who would be around for quite a while and leave a large impact on my life.

Nevertheless, in high school people didn’t know me. I was that “band girl”- if I was anything to them at all. A few of the more “popular” people knew me because I did track and field. That was it.

I used to look back and wonder what I did wrong- why I never fit in with them. Everyone was friends with everyone in third grade, why didn’t that last?

In high school, I constantly stressed about college. I -hated- math, and I’d be damned if I ever had to take another math class in my life. I didn’t think I was smart. I didn’t think I could do it, in all honesty. In a way, being a music major was my soft landing. I was comfortable there. I knew EVERYONE I would be going to college with. Did I really want that? I thought I did at the time. I was incredibly passionate. I really was.

It was a hard decision, and not an easy one to make. Many blog posts, late night talks, self reflection, a bit of self loathing, and a lot of self love helped me make the decision I did.

Today… it really hit me. I made the right choice. 

I’m in a place I’m happy. I’m doing better than I ever did in high school. My GPA for this semester so far is a 4.0, and I’ll be damned if that goes down. I love college. So many people told me it’d be tough. That it’d be scary. That I wouldn’t meet new people. That it sucks for shy people. Well, they were wrong. This is a whole new world. A whole new place of opportunity. Is it a lot of work? Absolutely. But I love it more than anything. I love where I am today.

Yesterday I helped someone with some ridiculous algebra class’s homework and I HAD FUN WITH IT. I took a moment to reflect on that. Here I was in high school, ready to bash my head against a wall because I hated math so much. Because I thought I was bad at it because I wasn’t the valedictorian. College is so much different, and by god I love it.

I have plenty of friends. I guess you could consider me popular, these days. It’s nice. I still have the few people that I’d trust with my life over anyone else, but it’s nice to have a group to walk to classes with. It’s nice to see smiling faces in most of my classes that will actually enjoy sitting with me. College is so much better than high school, and I’m so glad I chose the path of getting a STEM degree.

I couldn’t be happier.

~E.

Countdown- 2 (the senior one).

TWO DAYS YO

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It’s Monday. On Wednesday, I’ll be 18. Yippee! (Right?) 

Yes, yes, I know in reality turning 18 *isn’t* such a big deal. A bunch of people have done it without some big fuss- and I feel like that’s why I’m blogging about it. I want it to be a big deal for me, so it’s something to do- something to remember. Over here in what my friend calls “the cave”, turning 18 isn’t some big milestone. You get to drink distilled alcohol and pay your own insurance (among other things). Side note: No wonder you are able to drink distilled alcohol, I might need it having to deal with all of this. Pass me the rum. Or something.countdown-0-3

So- senior year. What was senior year like?

Three words: “Stress“, “Music“, and “Senioritis“.

Stress because, well… High school. Music because dude, music became my life. I played in the Honors Band, Stambaugh Youth Concert Band, Jazz Band, Marching Band, a quintet, Tuba Christmas, my High School’s Wind Ensemble,  did a solo for a competition,  and participated in a Festival of Bands. I was also accepted into the School of Music at one of the leading music schools in the USA (whose admission I deferred, along with CU Boulder and another) and I received the Director’s Award at my Senior Spring Concert. Outside of everything I participated in, I loved going to local concerts. I was a regular at the W.D. Packard Band concerts, and I would occasionally attend community band concerts. My friend and I lived in the band room all school year. The office became our locker, our cafeteria (even though food or drinks weren’t allowed in the band room- district rules), and our place for hanging out. I’d often skip lunch to practice or re-organize things. We’d often pick what we played in class- and often were hated for it. My friend picked out a beautiful arrangement- To Tame The Perilous Skies– and no one could play it. We’d pick out our favorite pieces and bribe our director to play them. I got my Holst pieces, he got his Carnival of Venice solo. Lastly, “senioritis“. Likely, anyone tseniorhat is a high school senior or has been a high school senior can attest to this one. Senioritis is accurately described by this definition from Urban Dictionary, except for perhaps the clothing thanks to the dress code (and absences for me… I couldn’t afford to miss my AP classes).countdown-0-4

What else did I do my Senior year? Oh man, so much. I was the robotics team captain for the second (or third…ish?) year. I was a member of two new clubs at my school- the Speech and Debate team, and coding club. I did Congressional Debate, and I loved it. I wish I could’ve had more time to do it. I did the Bridge Building Competition, the Ohio Attorney General Teen Ambassador Board (which was absolutely amazing and I’d highly recommend to any High School Junior/Senior in Ohio), I was a thrower in Track and Field, throwing Shotput and Discus. That one was new for me, as I had traditionally been a distance runner in track. I was a volunteer at the local Vacation Bible School as well as Fellowship of Christian Athletes group leader. And of course, I was a member of Civil Air Patrol.

All within Civil Air Patrol, I was a Flight Commander and Cadet Commander at my squadron, Bravo Flight Sergeant (and Honor Flight Sergeant) at the 2015 OHWG Encampment, Team Co-Captain at the 2015 Cyber Defense Training Academy, Ohio Wing Conference Cadet Staff, and Cadet Advisory Council Group Primary Representative. I was awarded the Billy Mitchell Award, Squadron Cadet Officer of the Year, OHWG Cadet Officer of the Year, 910th Airlift Wing Armed Forces Day Awardee, and Commander’s Commendation. Upon graduating, I have been the 2016 D-Day Ohio Cadet Commander, Alpha Flight Commander (and Honor Flight Commander) at the 2016 OHWG Encampment, Cyber Defense Training Academy 2016 Staff and a student in the Advanced Course, and I have received the Amelia Earhart Award for promoting to Cadet Captain. I have flown a Cessna and a glider, and have been a member of my squadron’s CyberPatriot team. 

Senior year was pretty amazing. I do miss a few teachers, and I miss the familiarity of knowing what would happen every day (as I had forecasted in the yearbook) , but I absolutely don’t miss High School as a whole. I’m so glad I graduated.

Hang in there, y’all. 

-E. ♥

Good, good, great!

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I considered posting happy thoughts. (Side note: I just got distracted trying to find a specific Fetty Wap song that was stuck in my head from sophomore year. I don’t even like rap. I guess I really don’t want to type happy thoughts).

Think happy thoughts.

  1. Soccer. Soccer was cool today. I taught a ten year old, and she was really cool. It was the first human social interaction I’ve had with someone around my age in two weeks. And she was 10.
  2. Food- as much as it hurts my stomach and gives me heartburn, it does taste good and I’d missed a bunch of it.
  3. Healthy. Healthy? Healthy! Bike riding here will help me lose weight or something.
  4. Uh, well, drinking is legal here at my age… I can make fun of 16-year-olds getting smashed. And that’s about the extent of that one.
  5. I’m really excited about the house we’re getting. And my room. I get to do it however I want and that’s really awesome.

Oh man- interruption! Just Skyped with my CyberPatriot team and had a Cadet Advisory Council conference call. Now I’m procrastinating on this post…. Don’t believe me, just watch. Crap… now the numbered list starts over. Oh whale. 15 more.

  1. Family. I love being close to my family.
  2. I can make money here on my year off from school.
  3. I get to play with big boy cameras here. That one’s fun. Shout-out to my grandfather.
  4. I haven’t gotten a mosquito bite here [yet]. That’s a positive.
  5. My brother is enjoying it. He already has a few friends.
  6. I have time to write blog posts!
  7. I get to see things I don’t really remember from when I was 6.
  8. My cat is here! ♥♥
  9. It’s fun to go places, and absolutely no one knows you. It’s weird running in to people who recognize you but you don’t recognize them, though.
  10. This has brought me and some of my friends in the US closer together. I found who my true friends are and who cares about me.
  11. You can drink tap water without wondering what’s in it (chlorine wise.. or chemical wise… or anything). It’s neat.
  12. It feels like things are cheaper here. You can go to the grocery store and buy 2 days worth of food and drinks for about 8 Euros. I could be wrong but it feels cheaper. I don’t know. Let me think it.
  13. I can completely avoid all the asshats in the US here!!
  14. I can get some cool clothes here. And I already got pants!
  15. There’s Cat Cafes here. Like literally; Coffee shops with cats.

And, I mean, I have lots of time to plan my return trip in December. And June. Heh…

Well, that was my effort for today’s blog post. It’s 0350 and my chest hurts. Maybe I should sleep.

Good night guys, and keep finding reasons to smile.

-E.

Graduation and the Future

A cat in a cage becomes a lion” ~Indian Proverb

I guess you could say I was a cat in a cage. Constantly being told what to do, what to wear, how to act, and forced to do things like ask to go to the bathroom. The days of school lunches, waking up early, and annoying human beings pretending High School is everything are behind me. I was in that cage for far too long, but this past year I realized who I am. I realized my passion for music, and teaching music. I realized that no matter what people say, I will follow my dreams. I am going to college to major in Music Education, and minor in Special Education. Now, it may not make the most money according to some people- but I will be happy. And I will be the source of happiness for others.

Without music… without band in my life, I wouldn’t have made it to where I am. All the time spent in the band room, talking to my director while being an emotional wreck.. all the times spent cramming in hours of practice that don’t exist in a day for Solo and Ensemble competitions… The friendships I’ve made… The memories I’ve made… I realized- this year, I became a lion. I wasn’t the cat in the cage anymore. I wasn’t going through the motions anymore. I was happy. I stood in front of sixth graders and conducted a song for them in class- something I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do even a year ago. I was a member of multiple performing groups, including the local Honors Band and a quintet. I’ve performed Taps at least 5 times… Probably more. I was the echo for another phenomenal trumpet player, who is also going into music education. I learned to play every other brass instrument, and am starting to learn flute, clarinet, and ukulele this summer now that I will have more time. I played along with multiple other grade levels of bands in our school system- on various instruments.I got a card at the Senior Band Picnic from a freshman trumpet player I befriended. I swore I wouldn’t cry about being a senior… I wouldn’t be THAT person. But her card made me cry. She thanked me for helping her get to the level she’s at. It was the first thank you I’d gotten… and it hit me hard. My favorite 13324269_1112002138841011_1442581514_oband memory that I used at the picnic when asked by the Band President was being able to share the love of music, and help people. I realized right then and there I made the right choice. My boyfriend is into music education as well, and I can’t wait. Both of us constantly working on some variation of music? I can’t wait.

So, graduating was nice. I’m  ready to move on in life. No longer a timid cat, but a lion- ready for anything.

-E.