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.🤖❤️

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. ♥

Countdown- 6.

6 days until I’m 18. That’s less than a week!

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2014. The year we lost Robin Williams and Maya Angelou, Shirley Temple and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Two Malaysian airplanes fell out of the sky. Ebola threatened to kill everyone. Justin Bieber was arrested and Flappy Bird was taken from the app store. Russia hacked the White House and North Korea hacked Sony over “The Interview”.

2014. The year I joined Civil Air Patrol. The end of Sophomore and beginning of Junior year. I was actively involved in the Engineering Tech Prep program through Project Lead The Way. When I grew up, I knew I wanted to be an Aerospace Engineer. My heart was set. I was a part of starting the robotics team at my school, and quickly became the team captain. Robotics was such a huge part of my life12079122_964691903572036_9002646432340228083_n. I loved engineering, computers, planes, anything to do with technology. Looking back, I honestly don’t know why I didn’t join the chess club.

Who was I in 2014? I was shy and awkward. I wore my favorite black combat boots everywhere until they eventually fell apart. Seriously, I colored them in with nail polish once because part of the leather got damaged. I was way too attached to those boots. My pants of choice were skinny jeans, and tight shirts were my forte. I wore very little makeup and loved dying my hair; it had been auburn and pink and blue. Later on in the year, I developed a liking for ties and baseball hats.

I loved writing, especially poetry. I started writing a novel, but never really finished it. Every now and then I think about going back to it. I should really find motivation to continue. I loved music, especially marching band. My trumpet playing skills had increased greatly since being third chair in middle school, and I was getting 1 ratings in solo and ensemble competitions as well as being a member of a local youth concert band and playing taps for my high school. I was a member of Drama Club, having taken part in plays and musicals like “West Side Story”, “Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus”, “Wizard of Oz”, “A Christmas Carol”, and “The Trial of Ebeneezer Scrooge”. We took a trip to see “Wicked” live, and it was one of my favorite things.

I went to the Sadie’s dance with my best friend at the time, and we ditched after drinking hot chocolate. I watched a lot of NASAtv, and I especially remember the Soyuz 41 launch. Astronaut Samantha Christaforetti from Italy had a Olaf stuffed animal on board, and it was the coolest thing. Our CyberPatriot team got first in the state. I met USAF Major Caroline Jensen, at the time she was Thunderbird 3. I saw Family Force Five live. I got to pie my English teacher in the face. The only thing I remember about Junior Hoco is going to Dunkin Donuts after. I got to fly a flight simulator and a couple of planes, as well as attending my Civil Air Patrol Basic Encampment at Wright Patterson AFB.

So, all in all, 2014 was a fun year. It was pretty busy, too. But, I couldn’t have asked for anything any other way. Everything going the way it did got me through some major changes. People I’d met through my Engineering program turned into some of my best friends that year. Civil Air Patrol taught me who I was and who I wanted to become. Other cadets I met started to feel like family.

2014. Though I did so much, it was still an incredibly hard year for me. I was dealing with so many things, things no one should ever have to go through. But, because of my friends and family, and all of the things I did that year- I got through it. Not only surviving, but smiling as well.

Dum spiro spero.*

-E.

*While I breathe, I hope. Also a beautiful arrangement for wind band by Chris Pilsner. I had the amazing opportunity to perform this piece and many others with the Stambaugh Youth Concert Band.