A time for reflection as we approach 2005

Again, I know this is way way way past the limit of a readable post in the Chief Delphi forum, but I had the urge to write it all out. Yet another writing experience of mine that’s much more enjoyable than finishing the piece itself. So feel free to ignore this whole thing, and move onto other threads. I am just grateful I have a place to post this. If you fall asleep ¼ way through this post, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

“Over 900 teams, 12 remain. Looking for that championship 2004 FIRST Frenzy raising the bar.

The questions, will it be Archimedes, Curie, Galileo, Newton? Today, as we’ve done in the last century, many of these great scientific questions we turn to Einstein for the answer. We are going to move these teams out, lets go get ready!”

-Dave Verbrugge, Championship Event 2004, Atlanta, GA

Of all the season in the year, fall is the most relaxing for me. As Tom Schindler said in one of his spotlights, “There are only 4 seasons of the year my friend, build season, competition season, post-season and pre-season.” This time of the year is pre-season, which means no headache from the new game, no sleepless nights before competitions worrying about the scoring system, no 25 hours day at IRI hanging out with friends, and no off season event to plan.

It is the time of the year to contemplate why I am still in FIRST. You see, for an old timer like me (well, not very old compare to the 6.6% members who are older than I am), it gets easier to be more involved every year. There are simply too much to do in a program with constant rate of growth.

I am convinced they added a little something in the donut dlavery and minions give out at regionals, but that’s a whole different topic ;-). Seriously though, I just can’t seem to figure it out. Every time I get tired after teaching a workshop or burnt out after Cal Games, I told myself it’s the last time. But sure enough here I am watching the championship event video in Soap108, getting ready for the coming season!

Most would say it’s the people that keep them coming back every year. Deep inside I’ve always thought there is a second answer. Something fundamental that keeps drawing me back.

Maybe a better question to ask: What makes FIRST right for our time?

In a period of tremendous technological growth, we human beings are struggling to catch up with advancements that otherwise would’ve taken decades to happen in the past. We didn’t have the time to absorb all these changes into our culture.

FIRST is giving us a chance to work with robots first handedly, allowing us to create meanings to substances and principles that often would be alien to our lives: science and technology. Suddenly Newton’s law of motion isn’t so strange and awkward anymore; using a power drill is like writing with pencil; a multimeter like forks and knifes. Every day we are building a set of vocabularies that helps us incorporate new knowledge and tools into our everyday lives.

For a competition designed to inspire you about science and technology, it is amazing that you might choose to use the latest software to design your robot, or simply use e-mail to coordinate which parents is bringing pasta to an evening work section. It doesn’t matter what you are doing or how you do it because you are always finding new ways to improve your quality and efficiency to be more successful, and that’s the key to the “inspiration and recognition” part of FIRST. Mental bridges are built every minute between things you learn and things you do, connections are made between problems and solutions.

In other words, this program is helping us to develop as problem solvers, and that’s what we are, beginning as early as when we learn to fight this invisible force call “gravity” and walk on 2 feet. Every day we strive to grow beyond the sum of all our past, and this program give us the tools to do it as individuals, as teams, and as a community.

There are always fellow teams to give you guidance; resources left by others to teach you learned lessons. Hence the concept of teamwork and community: we build a robotics team assuming none of us is good enough to succeed alone, and we build a community so we can support each other.

That’s why FIRST is always bringing us back together, because one of the best way to learn is from each other, and that’s the reason I keep coming back to the competitions…

As we approach kickoff, lots of teams are prepping themselves for the coming season. Off season events, workshops, team activities… Just come up with any idea and sure enough there is a team out there doing it. It doesn’t matter how big or how small a team is, they all strive to do well in the coming season by preparing as much as possible.

In a robotics competition restricted by the kit of parts and scoring objectives in the game, it is remarkably opened in letting you use whatever means necessary to make your team successful. You can build a robot with wood and simple power tools, or a 50 members chairman’s award team helping the program grow nation wide. There is no single recipe to guarantee success, yet many teams have shown the capability to build incredible programs every year. The truth is… There is no single standard to measure your achievement in FIRST.

Some say being champion means success in this program; others say winning is not important. I think winning is important, but not in the sense that most people understand it. Most people say “winning” to mean beating others to the champion or other awards. But the way it really works is that the level of competition is dynamically setting the bar for you to push higher. The game and other teams are there only so you have ways to prioritize what you want to do, what you can do, what you need to do, and how you do it.

So by “winning”, what you are really doing is raising your own standard higher than every competitor and pull it off successfully. Something very unlike “winning” by preventing your opponents from achieving the same thing you are. But that’s my opinion…

The important thing is through hard work and determination; we grow a little every year and learn to understand ourselves and each other a little more. Every step of the program is a learning experience all to itself. It only depends if you choose to see it that way.

Ultimately the only one you have to beat is yourself. And when you win that battle, everyone benefits from it. As Patrick Wang said in one of his spotlight, “…we are all winners when people come out of this program and strive to make the world a better place.”

Well, enough “thinking” for this fall. I hope the rest of you are as excited about the coming season as I am. FIRST is always doing its best to bring us a great game, all the regional staffs working their hardest to bring us quality events. There are bound to be controversies no matter how well the competition is prepared, so let’s keep our cool, and make this coming season the best since 1992!

If any of the all-powerful FIRST staff is reading this, as your humble servant, I have 3 tiny requests I wish can be granted:

  1. I want an inflatable playing field so 2 people can setup the competition in one hour at every event. I want it to fit in the back of my car.
  2. I want a scoring system small enough to fit inside a floppy disk, using a single button to a. Start a match, b. stop a match.
  3. Last but not least (actually the most important of all three). Please please please please please! No names like “Co-Opertition FIRST” for the game anymore.

About 1000 teams across the country… A little more than 2 months to go… Let’s get ready for the new season!

Work hard at school, get enough sleep, spend some time with your family, read an interesting book! See you at January!

Great insight. A positive and reflective look on the purposes of FIRST. A must read for all teams.

Not boring at all. A very good post. If you love FIRST robotics and you are passionate about everything that happened in 2004, then this is the post for you. It’s the truth behind FIRST and what it stands for. A great read.

stands**applauds Ken, you are the kinda of person that keeps me coming back. Such devotion and dedication to others than yourself.

You know Ken, I’ve always found that you can express my thoughts on FIRST better than I ever could. :smiley: Good job.

Thank you for your support everyone.

When we get into build period in January 2005, things are going to get stressful and difficult. It is very easy to get caught in the moment and let your emotions carry you away; all it takes is a spark to ignite them. It is my hope that this piece of writing will remind you why you are involved in the first place. If you keep that in the back of your head, it might calm you down at the most unlikely time.

At the very least I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as when I write it.

Even though I am no longer a regular Chief Delphi Forum poster, it continues to be my wish to connect with the FIRST community through my writings. These long posts give me both the chance to practice writing English since I learned it as a second language, and the time to think.

For a post that “only” takes half an hour to read, it took more than a few days to organize the thoughts and put them into writing. Makes me in awe every time I wonder how others write volumes of books in their life time. Thanks again to Chief Delphi for providing place for me to post yet another bunch of my mindless thoughts.

P.S. If you haven’t already done so, you should watch the video where the quote at the beginning of the post comes from. It is on Soap 108’s website: http://www.soap108.com/2004/movies/cmp/index.cfm, titled cmp_awards01.wmv.

They say practice makes perfect, and you’ve done a good job of learning our tricky language. Then again, you’ve had lots of practice writing these long posts. :stuck_out_tongue:

Ken, again you’ve come out with a very well thought out post.


Bravo! Totally catching the true essence of FIRST, which is so hard to do.

By the way, what is this ‘sleep’ that you all speak of? Must be new to me… :stuck_out_tongue: :wink: