Finally a few minutes to breathe…
This has been an extremely challenging year for me. A new career, a new team, a new home, and new responsibilities. After 10 years of being involved with team 188, I decided take a giant leap. In the Fall of 2009 I officially ended my career as an engineer and entrepreneur, and was hired on as a computer studies teacher at Runnymede Collegiate Institute in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
And so began my new adventure…
Runnymede is the home of team 1310, a team that has been a model of consistency, making to the semi-finals at Waterloo and GTR for as long as I can remember.
It has been a thrilling and humbling experience being with this team as we attempted to grow and take that next step. We wanted to build a team - not just a robot - that would excel both on and off the field.
Looking back at Waterloo, I think we accomplished that.
Our robot was pretty good. We were happy with it. Very happy with it actually. IMHO it was the best robot this team has ever produced.
But when you look back on a season, don’t just look at the robot. There are so many more important things to see:
You see the students in the stands scouting every single robot in every match for the first time in team history
You see a dedicated group of students waiting for you in the parking lot of the school at 5:30am everyday, just so they can be first in line when the doors open
You see your grade 9 programmer spend an entire regional in the pits, masterfully manipulating a mecanum full-time drivetrain PID, encoder-driven variable power kicker, and light-sensor ball detector, until he finally nails a 3-ball autonomous
You bump in to your strategy students, huddled in the corner of a local Tim Horton’s at 9pm on Friday, feverishly and aggressively arguing the pros and cons of picks 20-24. It isn’t pretty. You can’t help but smile anyways.
You were just eliminated for the umpteenth time by 1114 and 2056 in the finals of a regional - something that has happened to you so many times that you’ve lost count. You feel you were close to beating them, “but not really.” A little bit exasperated from the failed attempt, you turn and start to walk away from the driver’s box when one of your drivers pulls you aside and says: “Sir, you have no idea how unbelievably happy I am right now.” The huge smile on his face is contagious. Your other driver of course is too busy to acknowledge either of you, because he’s too busy cheering harder than he’s ever cheered in his life - even in defeat.
To 1114, 2056 and 296: We are privileged to be able to compete against world-class teams in our area. Powerhouses inspire and push us to become better. Two former world champions (don’t forget 296 was the first Canadian team to win a Championship in 2006, and yes they were the Alliance Captain during their Championship run), and a winner of 7 consecutive regional competitions - that’s every regional they’ve ever competed in. Understand that it will take another world-class alliance in order to beat this one. That’s a challenge to the rest of us to step up, and we are almost there - but not quite.
To 1305: You don’t need me or anyone else to say anything more, or to pat you on the back on a job well-done. Your team’s excellence on and off the field begins and ends with this amazing statistic: 6 Engineering Inspiration Awards in 7 years of existence. Ridiculously inspiring.
To 3190: Rookies are making a splash this year. I don’t recall seeing a year where so many rookies were able to step in so quickly, and show the vets how it’s done. There’s a good chance that at any given event, a rookie with a robot that can cross zones, kick and score will slip deep into the second round. The challenge will be to find them. Our alliance found ours =).
Thanks to all the amazing volunteers that make this event happen. Not only is it my favourite event to compete in, Waterloo is simply a critical piece of the FIRST puzzle in Canada. I can think of no better place for a team to go to improve. It’s small, intimate, less hectic, and you are surrounded by teams, resources, and an environment of people who “get it.” It’s the perfect place to perform at your best, or if you’re far from it, to make huge strides.
Simply put, if you’re a Canadian team who isn’t going to Waterloo - you should be.