FIRST Championship- Finale

World Robotics Championship- Finale
Kiana Wright

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Improvement makes everyone feel nice inside, no matter how big or small. For us, we improved A LOT in the competition compared to last year.

This year, we finished the qualifying rounds in (drumroll please) 9TH PLACE! That night, we were feeling pretty good about possibly being picked to be on an alliance. Of course, there was also the possibility of us forming our own alliance - our drive team scouted the other teams just in case. Due to our level of excitement, most of didn’t go to sleep until around 11:30. On a normal day, this would’ve been okay, but we had to wake up at 5 AM in order to get to the Convention Center before 7:30 for the awards ceremony (EPIC FAIL).

As you could imagine, we were drop-dead exhausted in the morning, but we didn’t focus on that for too long. Why? Things didn’t exactly turn out the way we imagined. As our chances dwindled for a spot on an alliance, our nerves sky-rocketed. Would we be picked? Our prayers were answered when alliance 7 picked us to be their 4th robot (cue us cheering in the stands)!

Most of the time, the 4th robot doesn’t get the opportunity to play. But, due to an oddly convenient turn of events (the alliance captain decided that we would be better at defense than the chosen team), we got our opportunity in the spotlight. I didn’t get to see our first quarter-finals match, but I was told that we lost by ONE POINT (are you kidding me!?)!  With nervous-excitement, our team awaited our next match. If we lost the match, we would be out of the competition; if we won, there would be a tie-breaker match to decide who continues to the semi-finals.

Thankfully, we won the second match and made it to the tie-breaker round. At this point, I’m pretty sure our entire team was just a nervous bundle of energy. We probably could’ve powered the entire city of Houston with our anxiety. For the length of the whole match, we cheered, shouted and prayed in hopes that we would make it to the semi-finals. As the match concluded, it seemed as though we had lost, but when the rockets were shown, the blue rocket (our alliance color) flew higher than the red.

WE MADE IT TO THE SEMI-FINALS (in our division)!

I’m not sure about anyone else, but at this point, I wasn’t concerned about us winning our division. We made it a lot further than we did last year and that’s all that mattered to me (I later found out most of my team members felt the same way). We did end up losing both semi-final matches, but that was perfectly okay. After watching the finals for our division, everyone except the drive team went back to the hotel to rest. One of my roommates and I took a nap, and may I just say that it was the best nap I had taken on the trip.

After a few hours of relaxing, we finally got up to attend the REAL finals at the Minute Maid Stadium – the two best teams in the world going head to head. Minute Maid Park was practically bursting with energy and enthusiasm. You should’ve seen the thousands of people dancing in sync to the Macarena. It was like a rainbow waving to the music beat!

We first got to watch a brief awards ceremony involving all the FIRST competitions held at the Convention Center. To announce the winner of the Woodie Flowers Award, Woodie Flowers (a renowned mechanical engineer from MIT) himself appeared to speak and give the award! That’s not even the best part. Dean Kamen (the founder of FIRST and inventor of the Segway) came out and gave an inspiring speech to the tens of thousands of people in the crowd! Saying that it was an honor to be in the same space as Woodie Flowers and Dean Kamen might make me sound like a fangirl, but it’s how I feel.

Seeing the winning team cry tears of joy as they embraced each other tugged at my heartstrings. It made me emotional because it reminded me of all the reasons why I love robotics. Everyone is friendly and you can learn so much. There are various opportunities in robotics including being able to make new friends. But the best part about robotics is forming a family with your teammates and rediscovering what it means to have people who love and care about you.

Being there with my teammates is something I wouldn’t trade for the world. I may not say it often (or at all), but I love each and every person on my team, no matter what conflicts may have occurred between us. Joining the team is the best thing I could’ve done in my life and I’m so thankful to have met such amazing people.

After my second season of robotics, I’ve also learned that robotics isn’t just about the robot you build or your performance in the game. It’s about working together with people who may have otherwise never talked to before. It’s about coming together to solve problems and being there to support each other. It’s about having self-discoveries and realizing talents you never knew you had. I could write a book on this topic, but for the sake of this entry, I’ll leave it at this.

As we watched the firework finale together, we got to relax and act like teenagers. We sang out loud to our favorite songs and didn’t care if we sounded horrible. We also danced like there was no tomorrow and just enjoyed each other’s company for the evening

We were all tired when we arrived back at the hotel, so I’m sure most of us went to sleep immediately. Especially considering that we had to wake up early to arrive at the airport (ugh, flying!). Thankfully, the flight wasn’t downright awful (our mentors kept me distracted) and at the time of writing this, we are on a bus back to Smallbany.

Going to Houston was so much fun and I hope to have the opportunity to return one day.  We would like to say thank you again to our sponsors for believing in us and helping us to get to Houston. Without you, it simply would not have been possible for us to go.

It’s hard to describe in words how grateful we are for the trip. We worked hard the whole season to prove that a small team from a little city can be just as great as a big team from a large city; it showed well because we participated at the world stage with the best teams from around the world. Though the future isn’t guaranteed, we will try our best to make it to Worlds again.

It was an honor to write these blog entries, but I guess this is the end.

Until next time, have a nice day!

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FIRST Championship- Day 3

Day 3 – Robotics World Championship
Kiana Wright

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This entry is a bit longer than the others, but there was a lot to write about. 

Everyone likes to look nice every once in a while. Even if you don’t feel your best, sometimes you just want to look good. 

Before the Team Social, I wasn’t quite all together. So, I decided that if I wasn’t going to feel well, at least I would look the part. For the people who know me well enough, you know I don’t wear dresses, skirts, or anything girly for that matter (I hate them more than I hate flying). However, for once in my life, I didn’t want to feel confined in a pair of pants. 

Putting on a flowy skirt and salmon shirt, I should’ve known my team would do the absolute most. They are my #1 fanbase and support group; even though it gets on my nerves, I guessI love them for it. 

Moving on to the Team Social, there was so much going on. There were different games you could play including (but not limited to) beanbag toss, football, giant Connect 4 and ping-pong. On two different stages, you could either do karaoke or watch a concert with a live band. If you were hungry, there were plenty of food trucks with a variety of foods from different countries to fill you up. 

My partner and I, along with a few boys, went to check out the concert for a few minutes at the beginning. The boys didn’t look too into it, but my partner and I were singing along to some of the songs we knew. Afterwards, the boys wanted to play arcade games, but nothing interested them, and we ended up observing the scene for a while. 

Skipping over that bland period, my partner and I ended up at the Silent Disco. I know what you’re thinking: how can a disco be silent? I’m glad you asked! At the entrance, the volunteers hand you a pair of headphones set to play whatever song the DJ decides on. No one outside the headphones can hear a single thing, so it looks like a group of people jamming out to silence. My team and I had the BEST time there and almost didn’t want to leave. But all good things must eventually come to an end.

The next day, you would not BELIEVE what happened. I, Kiana Wright, was social again (*gasps*). I interviewed two people (one from Mexico; one from China) about themselves and their robotics experience. 

Rodrigo Pazarán is from team #5526 (tCATs); he’s a 15-year-old from México. His hobbies include robotics, art, writing and chess. In school, he is studying hard in his academics. Since he is a freshman, he will graduate in 2022. To him, the most challenging thing about being in high school is balancing school, his emotions and academics (Amen, brother). He thinks the world competition in Houston is amazing for a few reasons. To begin, he likes meeting new people and getting the opportunity to polish his English skills as he is the translator for his team (In my opinion, his English is already great). In addition, he’s a rookie to robotics and this is his team’s first time coming to a world competition. From his perspective, FIRST is like a salvation for some people; they are getting involved in robotics and they know what they want to do. He also likes FIRST because he gets to hear so many amazing stories.  

Moving on, Vicki Wang is from team #7529 (Mulan); surprisingly, she’s a 21-year-old from Shenzhen, China. Her hobbies include robotics, traveling and photography (I bet she’s amazing). In college, she is majoring in Mechanical Engineering as she graduated from high school in 2017. For her, the most challenging thing in high school was communicating and making new friends. She had just moved from China and didn’t know how to speak English well which posed many challenges for her. Fortunately, she now speaks beautifully fluent English. Just like Rodrigo, Vicki believes that this tournament is amazing with the different countries and cultures together in one place. According to her, FIRST gives kids an opportunity to participate in different experiences, fix mistakes and “steal” (consider) other’s ideas and maybe incorporate them to their own robot. 

I had a fun time interviewing Rodrigo and Vicki (well, my team member interviewed Vicki). I not only got to work on my social skills, I made two new friends who ended up wanting to read this entry. If you guys are reading this entry, I want to thank you for allowing me to conduct an interview on you. You guys are amazing people and I loved talking with the both of you. I’m giving you both credit for showing me that I can be introverted and still enjoy communicating with people. 

As of the end of the qualification matches, we finished 9thplace out of 68thin our division which quite is impressive for any team, especially a second-year team. I can’t wait until tomorrow! Our whole team is hoping we get picked to be in an alliance, although our chances are good to become an alliance captain! 

Who knows? Maybe we’ll even make it to the finals!

Kiana Wright is a sophomore who is in her second year at the 4C Academy.  She is in the Information Technology pathway at 4C and has been a robotics team member since its inception.  Ms. Wright is a sophomore at Westover High School and enjoys reading, writing and learning languages.  She has a career aspiration to become a Psychologist.

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First Championships- Day 2

Day 2 – World Robotics Competition.  
Kiana Wright

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Communication and people are NOT my strong suit. I’m typically horrible with both, so you’d be surprised with how I managed to get members from other teams to take a picture with me.

 After the rest of our team arrived at the Convention Center, Mr. Hatcher announced a contest where (if we chose to participate) we had to take pictures with members from other teams around the world. There would be two winners: one for the best selfie with another team and one for a selfie with a foreign team furthest in distance from Albany. At first, my partner and I weren’t going to do the competition, but our competitive spirits weren’t having any nonsense. 

 We had another team member to join our quest for photos, but he later ditched us. Fortunately for him, it was for a drive team meeting, so he didn’t have to face my wrath. Anyway, with about 409 teams – from 24 countries and 42 states – and over 8,000 team members, my partner and I figured we’d have a good shot at winning the contest. There was just one problem: we’re both bad with people. 

 There was a tiny disagreement over who would talk to the members, but it was quickly decided that I would be the one doing the talking while she took the pictures. In the beginning, I was anxious about asking other team members for a picture and by the end…I was still anxious, but I had gotten better at communicating. We got to meet people from Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, Columbia, China, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Hawaii. Thankfully, everyone was super amiable and generous about taking pictures with us. 

 Coming from Smallbany, Georgia, meeting members from other countries and being a part of all of this is astounding. It’s not everyday that you get to meet someone from China and trade social medias with a girl from Turkey. With a melting-pot of people together in one building, it’s a delightfully over-whelming event we’re experiencing. 

 During the Qualifying matches on Day 3 in Houston, we unfortunately lost our first match (28 – 85). However, we managed to come back and win our second match (58 – 42), third match (91 – 52) and final match for today (56-54). Currently, we are in 9thplace out of the 67 teams in our division and for a second-year team, this is astonishing!  We will have five more qualifying matches tomorrow.

 Later tonight, we will attend a Team Social and participate in activities with other team members. Hopefully, we’ll be able to make more new friends and learn about other cultures in the process.  

 Tune-in tomorrow for Day 3!

 Kiana Wright is a sophomore who is in her second year at the 4C Academy.  She is in the Information Technology pathway at 4C and has been a robotics team member since its inception.  Ms. Wright is a sophomore at Westover High School and enjoys reading, writing and learning languages.  She has a career aspiration to become a Psychologist.

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FIRST Championships- Day 1

Day 1 – World Robotics Competition.  
Kiana Wright

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I hate flying with a deep burning passion. However, in order for our robotics team to reach the world competition in Houston, Texas, flying was the only option. 

 Day 1 started very early.  We met at the 4C Academy at 6:15 in the morning; well, most of us. Two of our team members, who happen to be twins, were still sleeping causing a slight delay in our travels. We boarded bus 6919 for a smooth four-hour drive to the Hartfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta. There, we only had to wait about ten minutes to get through airport security and bag checking, which should’ve been a quick experience but, some of our members were searched and one even lost her shoe (she later found it)! 

Boarding the plane for Houston, there was another slight delay as one of our members left her bag in the airport. Thankfully, our mentor was able to retrieve it and we took off with no further mishaps. As far as flights go, I was told ours was a smooth one, but to me, it felt like we were skydiving as we landed in Houston. After gathering our bags and suitcases, we boarded an airport tram (which some of our members thought of as an amusement park ride) to an area where we could board a bus.

In Houston, you quickly learn that getting around mainly requires the use of public transportation. Needless to say, the bus was pretty crowded with more people getting on than off. Unlike Albany, in Downtown Houston, many people walk to get to where they need to go. It helps that everything is packed close together. Another observation: the pigeons are bold and are only concerned about their next meal. After taking a small walk around Downtown Houston and eating at Bombay’s Pizza, we ended our first day in Houston welcoming rest with open arms.

 While awaiting the opening ceremony on Day 2, we decided to visit the Museum of Natural Science to pass the time. Personally, I’d never been to such a detailed and beautiful museum in my life. There was a Native American and an Egyptian artifact exhibit as well as the Death by Natural Causes exhibit where we viewed animals clustered together in forms of art. There was even a gem exhibit full of various, literally blinding (I saw stars) gems that looked too alluring to be real. 

 Now, let’s get to the purpose for our trip. Our pit crew is currently setting up our pit and getting our robot ready for practice matches being held later today. The rest of our team will meet them soon and hopefully get the chance to communicate with some of the numerous robotics teams from all over the world. 

Our robotics team is grateful for a chance to participate in such an amazing event from the performance of our team and our robot at the Georgia competition. We are eternally thankful to our sponsors for supporting our team in everything we do and helping us reach for the stars.

Tune in tomorrow for another entry on our adventures in Houston and Day 1 of the World Robotics Competition.

Kiana Wright is a sophomore who is in her second year at the 4C Academy.  She is in the Information Technology pathway at 4C and has been a robotics team member since its inception.  Ms. Wright is a sophomore at Westover High School and enjoys reading, writing and learning languages.  She has a career aspiration to become a Psychologist.



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