70 Degree Snow Day

If you have had any time to see news lately, you have heard about the ice storm and power outages across the middle of the country. I wrote an essay about our team’s experience over the last few days. I hear a lot about snow days, but not 70 degree ones!

*It was seventy degrees in our town yesterday and our schools are out for the fifth consecutive “snow day.” What seemed like a routine, if nasty, ice storm has turned out to be an unprecedented disaster in this mid-section of the country. My neighborhood, my town looks like it has been clear-cut. Where once stood large and beautiful hardwood trees, there is now scarred land and muddy roads. I would estimate that at least a third of our lovely trees have been destroyed and the majority of the ones left are severely damaged.

The electric utility company announced today that half of their customers have power; that means half of us still do not, have not for a week now. There are three hundred and fifty people living in my church and thousands of hot meals being cooked in the kitchen there and delivered to the surrounding communities for distribution. We wake to the sound of chainsaws and sleep to the hum of generators. My children have spent the last six nights sleeping in the living room floor in front of the fireplace because it is too cold in their upstairs rooms. We are fine and comfortable, only inconvenienced. I am hearing stories of elderly people without heat or food for days and I can only imagine the horrors the days to come may reveal.

It is week five of the build season and today we are having our first official Bomb Squad meeting in nine days. A handful of students and mentors have worked many late hours to try to catch up on our robot construction and salvage our season. Most of the people dragging in to our shop do not have power at their homes, but we are all grateful we got it restored to our work area after three days. The Baxter engineers have also been working to get the plant up and running after having no power for days. I’ve never known the plant to shut down except for scheduled maintenance.

All of us have property damage, trees and power lines on our driveways. One of the mentors came in yesterday afternoon after spending the day repairing a hole in his roof. He had his small children in tow because his wife is a nurse and has to work extra shifts and nights in the emergency room. My older children watched the babies. It is dangerous and ridiculous to have toddlers around power tools, but everyone understands how desperately we need their dad there to help. The team leader has become the head babysitter. Although this is not in her job description, there are no complaints.

I try to give a picture of what is going on here, not to grumble, not to excuse what might be one of our less-than-stellar competition seasons. The students we work to inspire and encourage are the ones who will develop the utility technologies to keep this kind of tragedy from happening forever. The team we represent is bigger than our personal discomfort – the most valuable thing a FIRST team can possess is an identity, a history that transcends any single year’s obstacles. In all the frantic discussions of “what are we going to do?” no one ever suggested giving up.

Meredith Novak, Mentor, Team 16*

Meredith… it’ll just make your next trip to Einstein that much sweeter. I have faith in you guys.

Good Luck. Let me know what 148 can do to help.


The Bomb Squad is a super class act. And this just proves it, again. We encountered them at Palmetto and some extreme duck-duck-goose (you had to see it. It was extreme), and went on to almost win that regional.

So much so that we are returning to Palmetto this year, and they are one of the reasons.

Up here in the southern North we have the means of coping with ice and snow, but not what hit Arkansas and the mid-south last week. We got 3" of snow and 1/2" of ice from taht storm, and I even went to work that day. They got what might best be described as sucker-punched.

But throughout it all, they still get it. It isn’t about the robot, or season, or even the babysitting - it is about the people.

I can safely speak for team 1676 when I say that we look forward to seeing you guys again. Stay strong and make do, that’s how we all stay sane.


Thanks John! I am seeing a whole lot of Texas utility crews up here, so I guess you guys are helping;)

Meredith (and all of Team 16) -

The Bomb Squad and the exemplary behaviors the entire team displayed when I first became involved in FIRST back in 1996 are a considerable factor in why my team and many of the NASA “house teams” exist today (see this post). Team 16 set a standard for us all to emulate, and we owe you much. If there is anything we can do to help, please let us know.



I can second that. For many people in FIRST, there are teams that cause you to really get hooked to FIRST. For me, the Bomb Squad was that team. As a member of 967, in 2003, I got to see their team and their robot and wanted to emulate them. The next year, I was privileged enough to invite them to be on our alliance at St. Louis. They were the team that I had no interest in opposing and the team that I knew would work well with us because that was the type of people they were and are.
Since then, I have mentored a team in Minnesota, 1816, who found a similar team in their first regional in Wildstang 111 and am now a lead mentor for a rookie team here in Chicagoland and am greatly looking forward to seeing both Wildstang and the Bomb Squad at the Midwest regional.
To the Bomb Squad, Wildstang, and the countless other teams who have been role models for students, mentors, and teams in the past, thank you.

As others have said, let us know if there is anything that we can do to help.


I like to sit close to the field to get a good look at the robots and teams. The Bomb Squad has always made me feel welcome to sit with them at the World Championship in Atlanta.

That’s a great essay on your early experience with gracious professionalism, Dave. May I reproduce it in another forum (with attribution, of course)?

Thank you so much for posting this. NH went through an ice storm on Dec 12th that left 322,000 customers without power in the state. Andy can probably speak to it better than I can, but he ended up working 17 hour days on storm duty from that day until Christmas Eve to get power restored - and he saw many of the same things that you posted about.

I can not imagine what would happen if that storm occurred during build season, and I applaud your team for doing whatever it takes to keep life normal through such a tough time. I have full faith that this will be another banner year for Baxter.

If you need anything, let us know!

Reminds me of my old team. The local power company sponsored us and one year there was a terrible ice storm. We lost weeks of build time because all of our engineers were out fixing lines and trying to get the power back on. It’s hard to lose build time but it’s harder to see your friends out there risking their necks to bring the power back. Somehow our team pulled through and had a fully functioning robot. We learned a lot that year about how much our mentors really did both on and off the team.

Try to stay positive. I’m sure your team will pull through. Best of luck.

As much as I’d love a day where the temperature was above 50 degrees right now, I can’t imagine the problems that the temperature swing is causing on top of the devastation of the ice storm. At least when we lose power when it is cold, our food keeps longer.

Our thoughs are with the people of Arkansas and surrounding areas. Bomb Squad, if there is anything you think we can do to help, please let us know!

Thank you all for your kind expressions of support. Although about half of us here still do not have power, we are moving forward. The robot construction is “spinning” along. UPS has resumed deliveries. I was beginning to think my name was “did the encoders come yet?”

I can’t wait to see how all this sympathy disappears for 2 min and 15 secs at a time when you all try to beat the tar out of us - and we wouldn’t have it any other way!!!

Dave, I have had your very lovely essay in my “toolbox” for some time. It is one of my favorite “this is why I am so hard on you” visual aids:)

I’d like to add my best wishes to all the others here.

Meredith, during the 2006 “Hanukkah Eve Storm” here in Washington, winds of up to 85 miles an hour – hurricanes start at 70 – caused trees and power lines to topple leaving more than 1.8 million homes and businesses in the Pacific Northwest without power for days, and killing 18 people. I personally was without power for six days and (this was the hardest to bear) without phones, cable TV, or INTERNET for 16 days. My employer (and our team sponsor) was shut down for three days, and they even have their own diesel generators*. At least our storm hit in December and not during build season. God bless you, your team, and the others affected by this event.

  • Part of what we do is data hosting. The generators power the data center, but the rest of the buildings are dark and cold without line power.