Best experiences in FIRST

Recently a thread popped up about people’s worst experiences in FIRST. I found this kind of demoralizing as I read all the posts. So why not talk about some of the best times people have had in FIRST?

Being on Einstien when the confetti comes down.
Twice for the win as the final pick in the division.
Once for the loss as the first overall pick in the division.

This is only topped by…

The several full ride scholarships won by our students , because frankly I’m more proud of those kids and what they’ve done than with any of our on field exploits.

For reference this happened right before the photo posted above which is why that was such an amazing experience.

I’d have to say my favorite robotics experience thus far was Battlecry 2012. Battlecry has 16 alliances in eliminations instead of the standard eight, and we ended up being the 11th seed captain. We picked teams 175 and 716, and proceeded to upset the 6, 3, and 2 seeds on our trip to the finals, where we came up short against the powerhouse 1 seeded alliance (1519, 2168, 125).

I’m not sure if this qualifies as “best”, but certainly most exciting.

Championship 2012, Curie Field, Quarterfinals.
Our first time ever playing in eliminations at the World Championship.
We lost our first match by 2 points. Our alliance regrouped and won the next 2 matches by 1 point each.

Watching my autonomous code allow the robot to score in autonomous for the first time.

In 2013 we came into the Queen City Regional with a lot of changes to make after the first time building a practice bot for after bag day. Believed we had everything we needed to succeed, including our multi-disc autonomous. Then, everything went terribly wrong between the transition of our withheld shooter and floor pick-up from practice bot to competition bot. After cancelling the plans with no practice matches on Thursday and stripping down to be just a cycle bot, we headed to the hotel thinking we didn’t have a good shot at winning.
Friday, we came in got on the practice field to make sure everything was working, and everything seemed to be fine. During the first match everything went horribly wrong when we lost communications after running into an opposing team going to start cycling. We figured it was just from the bump, but it turned out it was larger than that and we were dead our next two matches. After getting it fixed we were doing well, but not what we think we needed to be doing because our shooter wasn’t as accurate as it needed to be. We played a few more matches, and then went to our hotel after trying to fix the accuracy problem. We realized that although we were ranked in the bottom half, we had an OPR in the top 5 so we might have a chance.
Saturday, we played our last few matches, and remained in the bottom of the rankings with a high OPR so we figured we might get picked by a team with good scouting. After going through the first 13 picks, it looked like our weekend was going to end, but then we were picked by our friends 379 (who had picked us in 2012) and 1985. We won every single game in eliminations with our only close match coming in game 1 of the finals. This was my team’s first regional win in 13 years of existence, although we had been close MANY times, and it showed us that all it takes is being good at one thing, and a lot of luck. Although this weekend looked like it was going to be one of the worst in my FRC career, it ended as the best, and I will never forget it.

There are so many this is tough to just narrow it down.

As a student on a team I have 2, first one was in 2006 the game was Aim High. We had not build the best robot, the robot we shipped was not at all the best we could do. We got to the Pittsburgh Regional and it was not going well. Our shooter made one ball all morning, and we could not fine tune it. As a team we made a decision to do a rebuild, tear the robot down to the frame, use what we had and make a dumping/ defensive robot. Well long story short, 4 hours later we walked back on the field with a new look. We ended up ranked 9th out of the 30 some teams there. The rebuild was well worth it.

With the same robot we went to the Philadelphia Regional, luck was not on our side. We ended up ranking 39th out of the 42 teams there. The team went to the alliance selections with our heads low, we figured we had zero chances of being picked. Well rounds 2 of the alliance selection started, it got to the number 3 alliance, 291 they had already picked 177, and all of a sudden we here 306. Team whole team was quiet for a few seconds, we could not believe what we had heard. Then we jumped up and cheered, and ran to the pits because the last match of the day we had gone all out and the robot needed repairs. Long story short again, the alliance ended up winning the entire regional and got to go to Nationals, because of the combined power of all 3 teams 291 offense dumping, 177 shooting and defense, and our very powerful defense.

Another experience that is probably my favorite was 2007 Pittsburgh Regional. We went home with 2 awards that year, and one of them was the Woodie Flowers Award.
Andrew Blair and myself, had decided almost last minute to submit Mr Ken Morrison for the award, we had a small team and focused on the robot first then rushed the other awards. When we submitted it, back then students couldn’t you had to be logged in under the mentor, so when he left the room we rushed to upload it secretively without him knowing.
Well when they started reading off the award we new instantly we had won, it was all we could do to hold back . I will never forget the look on Ken’s face when his name was announced, we knew he was shocked and proud. We also knew from that point on he would never forget our team. The team jumped up and cheered him on, along with our sister teams from Erie pa. The award was 9 years past due for such an amazing mentor. That day is one that I will never forget.

I’ve only been on the team since 2012, but my personal favorite experience is winning the Regional Chairman’s Award at the North Carolina Regional in 2013

By far my best experience was winning Chairman’s in Oregon in 2013. As soon as the announcer said ‘Team 1540,’ all of the work that I had put in over the winter suddenly became worth it. It was one of the best experiences of my life so far.

Personally, my best experiences come from seeing/talking with former graduates from the team. Having them talk about their engineering classes, or about the technical internships they got, or about their new engineering jobs is something that completely validates all of the effort I’ve put in over the past 7 years.

Oh, and seeing one of our students win Dean’s List at Lake Superior last year. The impact the award had on her is something I’ll probably never forget.

Being the only Israeli team on the championship elimination round. Going to the field with the Israeli flag on my back in something that most of the teams will never understand.
Oh, picking one of my favorite teams (111) at the champs, 3 years after we were their last pick.

I’ve got two:

First one is also from 2010, back from when I was a freshman. The feeling that you get from walking through the tunnel in Atlanta for the first time and into the Georgia Dome to see all those FIRST fans cheering for their teams like there’s no tomorrow is something to behold. It really gets you going.

Second one is the entire Razorback Regional for 2013. While we didn’t quite take the regional with us, boy was it a lot of fun. Seeing all the robots that came from KC improved, including realizing a new, much more effective strategy for our robot, and getting to meet some absolutely amazing people down there too. (And possibly because so many people down there were like “Oh, you’re team 2410? Do you know CalTran?” “Yeah, I know him…”:rolleyes:) Topping off the regional would be getting invited to the second alliance, captained by our favorite KC team, The Kuh-nig-its (1939), as well as the “host” team, Baxter Bomb Squad (16), was the absolute best way to have ended my FRC career as a student.

Without a doubt, Peachtree Regional 2011 with 2815.

I suppose I should preface this with a little backstory. 2815 was the third team I’ve been involved with over the years. I had coached for a season and a part with 1293 as a college student, then moved over to 1618 for three seasons until they folded after 2009. In all of this, only once did my team reach eliminations (and that was quarterfinals in 2007 after being the beneficiary of The Algorithm; those who were around will remember.) 2815 started off with much better results with Stephen Kowski coaching, reaching the Palmetto finals in 2009 and semis two other times.

2011 had been a year of upheaval for the team–Kowski had graduated, other supporters had shifted away from the team due to job changes, and the robot that year had a very different look compared to the sheetmetal-tastic designs of the two years prior. Oh, and all of our non-teacher mentors but myself were stuck back in Columbia with a pop exam the Friday of the regional. So it’s two teachers and me.

We kept making little hardware and software improvements to the robot on Thursday, to the point that we were in that straggler group where they start the practice match, run about twenty seconds of teleop, and then foghorn the match to make sure you talk to the field. Nothing seemed too far out of whack, so we left at pit closing feeling pretty decent.

Friday of the regional was easily one of the five worst competition days I’ve ever had in my ten years. Six of the seven matches saw a robot calamity of some sort or another. We kept grinding through them, chatting with other teams and sharing what was surely the worst luck a team could have in FRC. We had Palmetto the next week, so the dread wasn’t there…but man, it would’ve been nice to start the season on a high note right? We relaxed that night, spitballed over things while eating some peanuts, and hit the sack.

Saturday morning, we had another issue–don’t remember what it was. Then came our second-to-last match, where we played alongside 2415, the #1 seed. Before the match, their drive team comes up to us and starts looking at the drivetrain (4-CIMs, wedgetop, 6WD–nothing too fancy that year). They asked how fast it’d go (“About 14”), how our driver was (he drove since we were rookies)…could we play defense? I looked at Cameron and said “Sure, we’ll give it what we’ve got.”

We go out there, and the clouds parted for two glorious minutes of defense to shut down 1311 and company and get the W. We were feeling pretty good at that point, mostly since it was the second time we’d lasted two full minutes on the field.

Then came our last match, where our digital sidecar came unplugged. D’oh.

With the writing surely on the wall, we were in the pits discussing changes we could make that afternoon before crating up for Palmetto. After the last qualification match was played, we sent our programmer Stacey out for alliance selection…and I snuck up to the stands to watch. 2415 was the #1 seed, and they picked #3 seed 1771. That right there was pretty much the ballgame; someone would have to break or an idiot partner would have to draw red cards for them to lose the regional at that point. The draft went down to 8 (still unpicked, no surprise), then back up to #2 (still no surprises), then the announcements before everyone broke for lunch. If you ever saw Bob Barker cut away from the price tag saying whether you’ve won the car or not, you know the feeling here.

Finally, the moment of truth. “Teams 2415 and 1771 would like to invite team…” At this point, Stacey (now at CalTech) has put his foot back and is ready to walk back to the pits, and even I’m thinking there’s no way on earth.


I was the only person from 2815 in the stands, but apparently I covered for my teammates with the jumping up and down and cheering until Stacey got there and accepted for us. (Heck, I’d have been happy to be in eliminations at all, let alone playing with them!) I zipped back to the pits, where it took a little convincing–no this is not a joke, yes we really are picked, yes we are on the #1 alliance, yes we need to get ready!

We jumped into work fast as we could, knowing we were picked for defense. The robot was ten pounds underweight, so we decided to ballast up. Coming up dry in our spare parts and toolboxes, we went over to 1771’s pit and asked if they had anything that might work. They loaned us a lead hammer, which we covered in electrical tape (safety first, after all) and zip-tied to our frame in the front where it’d stay out of trouble.

All through this, I’m thinking “don’t screw this up, don’t screw this up, don’t screw this up”. Quarterfinals went through easily (114-2, 128-0), with us just herding tubes and starving the other side while 1771 and 2415 covered the grid in logos before nailing the minibots. We killed the autonomous code to play it safe (it was just a bottom-row routine), and the claw only came out to snatch a tube from the wall. Other than that, block the middle, shuffle tubes our way, and stay out of trouble.

The tempo got faster in semis, new territory for me (remember how I said I’d never gotten out of quarters as a coach?). We were posted up in a corner of the arena now, all three robots and drive teams just staying loose and checking everything. Our batteries weren’t getting topped up in time, so our partners spotted ones off their cart. (I’m talking a library book cart with batteries and chargers here, people!) Semis came and went with relatively more struggle (114-36, 92-23), but holy crap were in the finals.

I remember that 1771 was trying to fix their minibot between semis and finals, but the crew rushed us onto the field for Finals 1 before they really had it 100%. I tried to calm them down–2415 had theirs, we were running miraculously, and we’ll just push on through. We counter-defend 1649, our partners get three logos, and 2415 gets first place in the minibot race. 84-53, red alliance. Blue calls their timeout (more time to breathe and fix that minibot), then handshake time. Check the iPhone, people are tweeting and Facebooking me left and right from the webcast. Zip-tie the battery in, check everything one more time, and it’s go time.

1771’s back up to full speed, and we execute the routine just as we had five times previously. Two ubertubes for us, one ubertube for blue. (1649, like us, didn’t run autonomous; 1261 missed.) Both our partners load the top rack up, but I see we’re slowing down. Look at the Classmate, and sure enough our battery is starting to go on us with about 45 seconds left in the match. Get to about 30, and 2415’s stopped moving (one of their digital sidecars apparently blew out). We have the big screen directly in our view from that end of the field, and we’re up about 30…but we need 1771’s minibot to put it away. Ten seconds left, the race starts. It’s on the pole as the clock hits nine, but it’s not going. They shimmy a bit, then it starts going up at 4. Blue never gets one away, but ours gets all four lights on the top with two seconds left. The webcast cut to our player station, where we’d already started jumping up and down with all twelve of us going nuts (plus queuer extraordinaire Sue Wayman sneaking in to tell us to get our robots). 67 seconds later (yes, I played the tape back to recount this story), the score goes on the screen. For our driver and operator that’d been together for three years, it was a long-overdue taste of gold. For me, it was the end of seven years of almost, of woulda-coulda-shoulda, of wait-til-next-year, of is-it-ever-gonna-happen?.

I still have that driver badge at my desk, clipped to the medal from that day. There are three others with it, two of them gold, but that one remains the most special not just because I coached but because two really great teams saw through all the crap we were working through, liked working with us in quals, and took a gamble by passing on the 24 other robots left in the field to pick us.

Years may pass, drivers graduate, you might move on to another team, but you never forget the first time you hang a banner.

That’s funny. I used Razorback 2013 in the other thread. Y’all were a lot of fun to work with. It was just frustrating not living up to our alliance’s potential.

Wait so students on your team got full rids because they got onto einstein?

I would have to agree with this one.:cool:

Watching one of my best friends win his first regional.

No. Re-read the post: He’s MORE proud of the students getting the full rides than he is of racking up 2 Championship wins and 1 Championship finalist (or any other on-field performance). The two are not related.

There are a number of full-ride scholarships offered to FIRST students, and even more scholarships that are for a given dollar amount. Apply to as many as you think you want to.

My best experience… Too many. I’ll have to think about it. There are a few that jump to mind, but it’d take too long to list them. I’ll probably be back some other time to fill in a couple.

No completely unrelated. They earned those on their own based on the scholarship requirements. However had they not been part of FIRST they would not have been eligible for the scholarships.

I’d have to say our first ever Regional win at Peachtree this year (Thanks 4026 & 4080) on the day of my son’s 18th birthday. His fourth year in FRC, and serving as Team Drive Coach.

His comment “Best…Birthday…Ever”.