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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