View Full Version : A different perspective? Perhaps?

Rich Kressly
04-17-2007, 08:28 AM
Let’s remember, it’s not about robots… right?

In light of some other discussions going on here about Championship match outcomes, refereeing, and team play I thought I'd share my Championship experience with you.

On Saturday, April 14, I had the privilege of wearing a team shirt at a FIRST competition for the first time since 2004, back when I was still with Team 103. I don’t say much about this, but those who know me know that FVC/FRC 1712 is “my” team. It just happened to work out that my volunteer and senior mentor duties at the event were all concluded by Friday evening and I was able to join my team for the whole day. I put the shirt on Saturday morning remembering what I always tell all of the teams that I've ever coached (basketball, baseball, robotics). "Wearing the jersey is a privelege, not a right. Cherish the moment, there's no guarantee you'll ever get to wear it again."

To make it even nicer for me, 1712 finished seeded 6th in the Galileo Division, and wound up being an alliance captain with 2056 and 703 as partners. The alliance made it all the way to the third match of the semi-finals. By any account, we were extremely fortunate to be in that position as a second year team.

Before anyone thinks I’m not ‘normal’ I will be completely honest and up front about a few things. I wanted to win. Seeing a whole section of the Georgia Dome cheering for your team is really cool. My team was within a few points of being a division semi-finalist (we would have earned trophies and medals) and we were within three matches of going to Einstein. When you get that close in the most prestigious high school robotics competition in the world it’s exciting, your heart pounds, and you can taste it.

In the end, it wasn’t in the cards for 1712 and its alliance partners this time. Were there some tough/close calls that the referees needed to make in that third match of the semi-finals? You bet. Could things have gone differently? Who knows. Would I trade the experience I had to have a Galileo medal? NEVER…

The bottom line is this … it’s ALL about the people. During the elimination rounds I got to spend time with some of my heroes and best friends in FIRST and I had a blast in the process. Miss Daisy (341) was also in the elims. 1712 wouldn’t even exist without having had 341 support last year and I got to go in the stands and hug Dina Campagna and high five Al Ostrow before the elims began to wish them good luck. As a pit crew member, I was behind the curtain with Paul Copioli from 217 helping make sure ALL Galileo teams had what they needed. 1712 got to make new friends with and borrow tools from 2053 and 703. I got to shake Dave Lavery’s hand at field side and share congratulations (Team 116 made it to the semis as well). I got my picture taken with Jay T. from 229 who is a student I hold the utmost respect for. Andy Baker (45) came over to stand with me and root the 1712 alliance on after his alliance was eliminated. I got to help guide the 1712 pit and drive crews and help repair the robot between elimination rounds. I had the pleasure of congratulating Ken Patton of 65, another hero and friend of mine, after his alliance defeated ours in the semi-finals. Carol Kauffman, the Philly Regional Director came field side to hug me and tell me how proud she was of the team. After my heart rate finally settled down, I had a chance to shake hands and chat with JVN and Karthik who both were also wearing their team shirts and who both were also eliminated in the semi-finals of their divisions. In that quiet moment, although we all would have rather still been playing, we concluded it was a great year for all. I got to meet with 1712 students and mentors after returning to the pits to tell them what an incredible run it was and to get team pictures taken with the battle weary robot.

Is there a tiny little bit of disappointment about not quite getting to Einstein? Sure, but how on earth could I ever replace the wonderful experience I had on Saturday afternoon with a medal or trophy? Lets all keep it in perspective, even in the midst of some personal disappointment. We’re approaching the tipping point that Dean and Woodie are talking about and our students and the world are watching. Let’s make sure we keep the mission in our hearts and on our minds, especially when we are battling it out for Championship awards.

Thank you all for an incredible year. Namaste.

Steve W
04-17-2007, 08:42 AM
Thanks Rich! There are many of us that couldn't get to Championships this year. Your sharing of these times helps us to see what we missed. Next year I will be there, yes I will, I know we can do it (taps heels 3 times).

David Brinza
04-17-2007, 08:56 AM
Well said, Rich.

My team didn't make it to Atlanta this year, but I couldn't miss the event. My younger son is a currently a member of Team 16 and his older brother (a senior CS major at UCSB) is an alumnus of that fine team - they were both in Altanta. I inspected robots in Atlanta, mostly because it gives me a chance to interact very closely with a lot of teams, but also because I want to give something back to FIRST for making this program possible for our youth.

The FIRST Championship is the best celebration in the world for creativity, teamwork and hard work that I know of. Every team that attends is a winner at many levels. I get "recharged" for the next season at the Championship, mostly because I can look around and see how many people are being impacted in such a positive way by FIRST.

I think people who are still caught up in the disappointment and frustration of momentary events in the games will get past their emotions and remember the bigger purpose of FIRST. I've met so many outstanding people in FIRST who are passionate about the program. It's a privilege to be a part of the FIRST community - where else will you find so many people as dedicated and hard-working, yet having so much fun?

Pat Major
04-17-2007, 10:37 AM
In addition to the type of great moments you describe, we also had these special moments.

When Dean talked about the prosthetic arm that his team had developed. We thought....we have had a prosthetic arm of our own design and construction in our pit for the last two years (ours is just a LITTLE less complex) but when demonstrating it we also pick up a water bottle. We visited our local hospital and demonstrated it to the prosthetics department. We also toured and enjoyed a demonstration of their equipment. I commented, more than once, to team members that Jay TenBrink (arm designer) was having a great deal of fun with the arm at this event. It was good to see him relaxing and enjoying himself.

Next Dean spoke about his mystery guest; was I surprised to see that it was the head of DARPA explaining the DARPA Grand Challenge. If you go to the DARPA website and look at the team list, you will find a team called the ďMartian MentorsĒ. Yes, a group of Martian mentors had entered the Grand Challenge months ago. We have a full sized autonomous vehicle that uses an Edubot/VEX controller as an interface, our control board looks just like any FIRST robot, and uses victors and spikes.

It was very strange/rewarding to see two of the things we have been working on, be part of the focus of the presentation.

We renewed many old friendships and made new ones.

We look forward to next year, and the challenges it will bring.

Hope to see you at IRI, maybe we will bring our autonomous DARPA vehicle.

Mark Pierce
04-17-2007, 07:58 PM
Thanks for sharing and giving us a place to put things into perspective.

Our team did great on the field, but that's probably not what I'll remember most fondly about 2007 championships:

Seeing our neighboring rookies 2154 from Hopkins reachng #2 seed and ending #5. Going over to Curie with some of our team to cheer for them was awesome.

A great team dinner. Lots of laughs, good food, and peach cobbler. I was the only mentor at the kid's table. It's a good thing some of the students are fairly grown up.;)

Meeting lots of people at the webhug and elsewhere.

How excited 107 was to be in our alliance. How excited our team was to have 107 in our alliance. Having 386 in our alliance to add all that energy.

How excited our students got over so many things and seeing them do so well at talking about our robot and team. Their efforts in the pits and on the Scouting team were awesome.

Visiting with so many of those other FIRST people I've come to know over these nine years.

Actually finding time to go to some of the conference presentations and the mentor forum.

And many other moments in what was an incredible experience. It's amazing that inspiring students, changing culture, and celebrating the important stuff can be so rewarding and fun. Let's do it all again next year! Well actually there's Kettering Kickoff... Possibly even IRI... Maybe some demos before school gets out... Does it ever really end?:)

Lil' Lavery
04-17-2007, 08:26 PM
Thanks Rich for once again pointing out what should be obvious. Despite ending on a bit of a sour note after our last two semi-final matches, 116 still had our best event ever. Despite coming into the event knowing we were not in the running for the two awards we wanted most (Chairman's and Autodesk Visualization). And not because it was the first time in our twelve year history that we actually made the elimination rounds at Championship (in the alliance era). We interacted more with other teams than we ever have, chatting with our friends from 612, 1002, and 1885, going to Dave & Buster's with other NoVa teams, having Raul walk me through Wildstang's drive system (thanks again), having our long time friends 122 help us out when we really needed a printer (thanks TONS for that guys), playing against legendary teams like 45 (3 matches in a row!), feeling the comradery of all the elimination round teams, talking to WFA winners like Andy Baker, Paul Copioli, and Ken Patten, having one of those WFA's (Paul) helping to repair our alliance partners, hanging out with friends from other teams (and around the country), etc.
Sure, we certainly wish we could have gone further. We wish we could have seen you guys in the finals (as I said to both Rich Kressley [1712] and Tyler Holtzman [2056], "We better see you guys in the finals" as the Galileo quarter-finals began). Unfortunately it didn't happen for either of us.
FIRST is about so much more than what happens on the field, and sometimes we forget that.

04-17-2007, 08:34 PM
Thanks for the kind words Rich. Team 2056 was honored to work with both 1712 and 703.

04-17-2007, 09:14 PM
And thank you Kressly, for doing such a wonderful job. And not just for our team, but for all of FIRST in general. Between being a Senior Mentor, Mentor for 1712, and "doing the other thing" (AKA teaching English), he does a lot. He's helped guide and shape our team and it's members since our team's very beginning. When he's not working with us on the robot, he's usually in his classroom looking at the latest threads on Chief Delphi. He is so deeply involved and connected in FIRST that I'm starting to think that everyone knows him. But those connections and duties also mean that Kressly spends much of his time during matches running around making sure that everything is running smoothly.

To see Kressly along with our drive-team during the elimination matches was amazing. The look on his face was a look of excitement. We got to see the part of Kressly during those matches that showed his true devotion to our team.

And to know that those powerhouse teams that we had been competing with for the last two days were able to recognize us and knew who we were was best of all. Of course it would have been great to win that last match and make it farther, but after talking to other teams and being congratulated on how well we did made up for it. I knew I was not expecting to make it as far as we did knowing who was in our division, but we worked ourseleves up to the top anyway. During our team meeting after saturday was over, we all discussed this greatly. Winning more would have been really cool, but where else would you be able to meet the creator of Youtube and and ask him to watch one of your winning matches? Or talking to some of the greatest teams in FIRST and being told how great a bot you have? Sure we didn't win, but the greatest satisfaction was celebrating with our team over the fact that we went from a barely fuctioning robot the first day of philly our rookie year to having a galileo semi-finalist robot our second year. It brought our team closer than it has ever been before, and that is what FIRST is all about, being able to get people to work as a team. I know that the 12 kids that we brought to Atlanta (as well as the mentors) have all been affected positively by this experience. Each of us was able to come out with something good or an amazing story that we won't soon forget. I know that was the case for me. I will miss my team next year greatly, not because I won't be able to work on the robot, but because I won't be able to share in the amazing experiences that will occur in the future. It is something that I will truly miss going out of High School.

And for Kressly... he is definitely a nutty one, but he's our nut, and we wouldn't trade him for anything.

Alexa Stott
04-17-2007, 09:19 PM
Thank you, Rich, for reminding us about the true meaning of FIRST.

As the very wise NJ senior mentor, Paul Kloberg, always reminds us--FIRST isn't about robotics. The robots are simply a tool for inspiring the thousands of participants. (I am, of course, paraphrasing.)

Jay Trzaskos
04-17-2007, 09:59 PM
***Note, this post may result in an of topic ramble, consider yourself warned***

As Rich mentioned I was down watching Galileo long after the New York alliance of 1126, 229, and 191 was defeated. Was I disappointed? Of Course, who wouldn't be, but the memories I have from AFTER witnessing our alliance loosing to the 1712 alliance are the ones that are engraved deepest in my mind.

Cheering on team 65 and being welcomed with open arms by their pit crew to watch them compete from the sidelines. Finally being able to watch 148 and 177 in action on Newton, catching a glimpse of 121 on Curie and watching one of the most controversial matches of the year on the same field.

Walking the Georgia Dome floor with the likes of Joel Johnson, JVN, Karthik Kangasabapathy, and Paul Copioli. Watching match after match and talking about anything and everything.

Talking to Ken Patton between matches about teams, strategies, and robots before watching Huskie Brigade compete. Having Rich Kressly want a picture with me! Joking around with some of the greatest minds in FIRST about that one time 229 let me plan out our strategy against 65Ö

Being so excited about 65 scoring a spoiler, which eventually decided the match, that I jumped into their cart and cut my leg open. Then holding my wound to stop it from bleeding until the score showed and I could go to the first aid station. Then hearing 2228, Cougar Tech, cheer for me as I walked to the first aid station, trying not to bleed on the Georgia Dome floor.

These are the things that I will remember most about my trip to Atlanta Georgia. These are also the things that remind me why I am a part of FIRST. FIRST is about people and how they work to inspire those around them. Simply standing there on the Georgia Dome floor and being accepted by multiple teams and individuals without question; that is a feeling that gives me chills and a feeling that could inspire anyone.

I could sit here and tell you that Iím disappointed that my last competition on team 229 didnít end as well as I could have hoped and it wouldnít be a total lie. But this competition was far from disappointing. Even though I am not going to a college with a FIRST Program, I already have a few places I may be mentoring. Even if I donít mentor a team, I will always know that as long as I can make it to a regional, there will be a team there that will welcome me to join for a few days.

John Wanninger
04-18-2007, 06:44 PM
Rich, thank you for helping us to remember that FIRST is the people. What an amazing privilege it is to be among so many inspiring folks, both young and old. I only wish there was more time to meet and talk with them, Iím sure there is a great story from every pit, and on every field. This is our first Championship Event as an FRC team, and we are awed by all the great teams and volunteers around us.

As a second year team short on mentors (I was the only technical mentor on the trip), our robot is far from being the sturdiest or slickest out there. Through battle damage and breakdowns, with just a bit of my help, the kids on our team somehow managed to keep us playing. Because our scouts and strategists had spent many evening hours at the hotel poring over data they collected, our drive team could actually strategize with our alliance partners, and I know that paid off for us. When we played, our great alliance partners came through to help us win. Every match was struggle and every match was a story. Being able to partner with and against so many great teams is the Best Thing ever.

As the matches went on, I noticed a funny thing starting to happen. While I may be the team mentor, I became less and less significant, and though I was there and pretended to direct, in some ways I was able to remove myself and just enjoy watching, as my team and their partners did their thing. It was magic. Through preparation, diligent scouting, scrappy pit and drive teams, the fortune of great alliance partners, and a healthy dose of good luck, somehow we were able to advance to become the #1 seed in Curie. Through absolutely incredible rounds of quarter, semi, and final matches against some amazing alliances, we were able to emerge as finalists before succumbing to the great alliance of 330, 910 and 1270. As to having storied alliance partners HOT (67) and Delphi E.L.I.T.E.(48), they provided guidance, comfort and sheer horsepower - it was an absolute blast. Letís just say it was like having a genie with a rocket powered magic carpet. It was a wild ride weíll never forget.

Now I know there are many other teams who had tougher schedules, better robots and great drivers who fought their hardest and didnít get the wins and didnít get picked. That has to be painful. There were so many good teams who were not selected for the finals. There seems to be many a discussion about why so many great teams placed low and how bad the alliance algorithm was, and those discussions are totally valid. Weíve also taken flak and have been labelled Ďrandomí. Somehow in the midst of so many great teams and their histories, you start to question whether you belong. After all itís a privilege just to be playing among these teams.

One thing I have learned. There is a BIG difference between winning and greatness. Greatness comes from excellence over time. Greatness comes from how you treat, inspire and do things for others. It comes from living your faith and devoting your life to others.

As to winning - did we deserve to do as well as we did? I think so. The guys on our team worked really hard, and did all the things they needed to do to win, and Iím incredibly proud of them. This tournament has been a dream come true for our team, and I hope our guys enjoy their day in the sun. I hope every team gets that day. As far as being great, letís not kid ourselves, we are totally humbled by those around us. We have such a long way to go. (But weíre taking notes!)