This year my 3-year-old niece had the opportunity to attend her first FIRST Robotics Competition. She loves robots, also known as “bo-bots.” We’ll make them together out of blocks. Mine is on the right, her robot is on the left. I believe she was trying to make TARS from Interstellar?
She enjoys watching robot reveal videos when I visit (I live on the other side of the country) and is a big fan of watching the live Twitch streams of the competitions. She always roots for the red alliance, and her meme (grandma) roots for blue. If red wins, she’ll shout, “Yay, I won!” If blue wins, she’ll shout, “Yay, Meme! You won!”
This year, wearing her brand new purple safety glasses, she was able to attend her first competition in person. She LOVED it! Special thanks to all of the amazing teams and people at the Mid-Atlantic District Championship who went out of their way to make her first experience special. Special shout out to teams 365, 6897, 4287, and 1676 (she loves the coloring book you gave her)!
I’m amazed by how her mind took all of these unfamiliar sights and sounds, and found a way to relate it to terms she’s familiar with. She called me afterwards and made some of the cutest observations:
- She doesn’t yet understand the concept of an alliance, but the three robots working together reminded her of a family. So when she was telling me how excited she was to witness a triple balance, she described it by saying that the mommy, daddy, and baby robot were all able to balance at the same time!
- To her, the game involved all the robots needing to pick up all of their toys (cubes and cones) off of the floor and putting them on the shelves (grid). If they do a good job, they can all play together by trying to balance.
- She noticed that some of the robots were struggling with balancing, so she went down to the pits and talked to the students of different teams, telling them that “it was ok if your robot can’t balance because balancing is hard. You do it like this…” and then she proceeded to balance on one leg.
- Going to the pits was like trick-or-treating for her, with all of the cool buttons teams were giving out. I asked her what her favorite button was, she said “the one with the cat.”
On the drive home, she asked if she could go to another competition. Her meme tried to explain that the next one was going to be far away and that you would need to ride an airplane to get there. She thought about it for a second, and then said, “Sounds good. Let’s go!”
I know that the FRC season can be stressful, but I hope by hearing about one little girl’s experience, it might put things into perspective. Thank you to all of the wonderful people that make FIRST awesome!