Happy about Field problems & people management & severe weather @ Championship

After reading the threads about the technical problems with the fields at the Championship this weekend, I have to start a thread to let FIRST management know that I’m happy about how they managed the final hours of the event.

Our vehicles were in an open parking lot between the Dome and Busch Stadium where someone was KILLED by the weather while we all sat watching the matches. One of our dads had left early & texted us about this so all the adults in our group kept one eye on the matches and the other on the deteriorating weather conditions.

Because we’re experienced with this type of weather, we moved our team from the nose-bleed seats down to an inside hallway away from the windows. I slipped out on the arena floor and brought our two team reps to the hallway to wait with the rest of the team.

Yeah, we all missed seeing the final matches. Yeah, we missed seeing officials looking stressed.

*But has it occurred to anyone who is complaining to think about how stressful it is to be responsible for a stadium full of people in the midst of a severe storm that showed signs of turning into a tornado? *

Those of us from Missouri recognized the danger. Our team lives 40 miles almost due east of Joplin, Missouri. Joplin was destroyed by tornadoes last year. We saw the debris cloud pass over our homes. Look up the before & after pictures if you want to see why event officials were sweating.

Sure, our team also didn’t do as well as we expected and we believe it was because of field issues. As second year rookies with non-engineering mentors we recognize that some of our problems were ours.

Several arena technicians came to our pit and showed us how to check out our systems. And they did this politely & patiently as we asked rookie level questions. We learned a lot of stuff that we should have learned at home but they never made us feel slighted at all.

However, since we won our way to the championship by being picked at GKC by Teams 16 and 1986 AND because we crated the robot and sent it directly from GKC to the Championship and the only electrical/programming change made before playing was to add a servo to the camera…and we had multiple people with more experience & better credentials than ours check it out…well, you see where I’m going with this.

**My “remembering mind” is happy with how Saturday turned out. If the event had ended earlier and crowds of people had been caught trying to load-out the pits or put kids on busses during the hail, it could have turned into a tragedy.

Sure, we’ve got some hail damage on our vehicles and we’ve all experienced real-world issues with technology failures, but in the giant scheme of things we’ve got to be happy that no humans were injured.
Peggy Painter
Robotics Program Director

Team 3784/Bit by Bit 4H Club
2012 Championship, Galileo Division Coopertition winners
2012 GKC winners (thanks to Teams 16 & 1986)
2011 GKC High Seed Rookies
2011 GKC Gracious Professionalism winners
2011 GKC winners (thanks to many, many other teams)

I appreciate your point of view about knowing tornado dangers, we’re from Florida where you get days of warning about your weather problems, I was honestly shocked about all the hail damage and that someone had died, just sounded like the rain we were used to. When they told us we were locked in I thought it was overreacting, but knowing what I do now I think that was the right call.

My son was on the Eistein field when one of the mentors received a text that there was a tornado on the ground just a few blocks away. They and several other drive teams ran to the bathrooms for shelter.

Based on the reaction of the FIRST leadership and officials to their mad dash, I don’t think FIRST was aware of or properly appreciated the severity of the situation.

I’m not sure exactly how the announcement of a shelter in place came to be. It was better than nothing, but if the tornado had hit the dome, sitting in my seat on the top deck would not have provided much protection.

In fairness to FIRST. I really don’t think they knew the weather situation, and they were trying to deal with their single worst nightmare scenario on the field.

It was very, very stressful and emotional for them. I felt at the time, and still feel today, that they held up admirably well given the situation with the knowledge I believe they had.

I think we can all be thankful that the dome was not hit by a tornado. There could have been many, many severe casualties.

While we’re all dying to get some answers for the communications issues.

I’m glad no one is really dying while we get answers to the communications issues.

I’m sure FIRST would have taken action if they were notified that a twister was indeed inbound. It’s hard to prove because obviously no twister actually touched down in that dome, but I do know that everyone’s safety was their first concern.

Imagine trying to evacuate the tens of thousands of kids, after they know about a tornado. It’s likely that there would be more casualties from that than from any inclement weather. You also can’t forget the idiots who would run to the windows to watch the tornado.

If it seemed at all like the staff and volunteers were more focused on the field than the weather at the time, this quote is the exact reason why. The people on the floor were well aware of the situation, and a plan was in place in case of any danger. The workers stayed focused because panic is as big of an enemy as anything else was. Thank you to all of the volunteers and staff who worked quickly to assure the safety of everyone in the building.

Exactly, though we knew there was inclement weather in the stands (and what happened at Busch Stadium), I had no idea there actually was a tornado. How would I have reacted if I knew that? Panicked and freaked out. Yes, that’s not the best reaction, but I can guarantee thousands of others would also do that.

And for anyone who says FIRST did absolutely nothing other than the announcement, at one point just about all the safety judge green shirts hurriedly ran(well, not running, but you get the point) out of the stands.

I appreciate your support of the staff and volunteers. I think FIRST handled it well, considering the last thing we wanted was panic.

I can vouch for Andy’s statements. As someone sitting in the front row on Einstein, I was very, very quietly alerted in private that there was severe weather in the area.

Some of the people on the floor only heard the announcement. I was separately alerted because as a seasoned volunteer, I was asked if I would be willing to stay back and and help evacuate the VIP and Student Award sections as calmly as possible if the need arose. Of course, I agreed - once I was positive someone was going to be able to take my grandmother, father, and uncles - and keep them safe for me.

Like Andy said, if they’d said anything other than the announcements that were made, there would have been a great deal of panic. Panic would have created even more problems. The Dome staff assured us that the stands was one of the safest places to be. Their concern with the people on the floor was the rigging that held up the lights and curtains, hence the evacuation plan for if it got worse.

On a slightly lighter note, someone mentioned this to me - if Dean hadn’t spoken for so long/we hadn’t replayed the matches… people could potentially have been outside, walking to their buses or hotels when the weather started. Maybe there was a slight silver lining to the Einstein issues…

Behind the stands, the staff at the arena was aware of the situation and they were preventing people from going near the windows during the storm. There were quite a few people that found out about the weather and were trying to get pictures and stand near the windows to watch it. Thankfully everyone in the arena was safe and the staff was able to keep the small group of people under control and away from the windows.

We had a group that was in the airport when the storm hit and they ended up holing up in the bathrooms. Everyone ended up being safe but that’s how we found out about it.

On a slightly lighter note, someone mentioned this to me - if Dean hadn’t spoken for so long/we hadn’t replayed the matches… people could potentially have been outside, walking to their buses or hotels when the weather started. Maybe there was a slight silver lining to the Einstein issues…

Libby, that’s a great point that we should all keep in mind!

I was working security on the floor, checking badges and wristbands, Keeping the photographers and videographers in their pens, when the storm started to erupt.

The Dome staff brought people from the streets inside for their protection.
Unlike Atlanta, The Jones Dome is made of structural steel, and was considered safer than the outside hallways with their large glass windows (shards!)

Unfortunately, there were some intoxicated baseball fans. One even went up to the judges and “greeted” them.
We enticed the others out of the immediate arena, and the show went on. I don’t think many people noticed this.

The sound of hail on the roof was distracting, but the show went on.
FIRST staff was very concerned, and as Libby posted, were communicating precautionary measures to us on the field.

The prolonged event was a blessing in disguise.

I am glad that we didnt panic. I was texted by a friend that said we are in a tornado warning and then I was told that the other team representative and I need to get up to the stands (we were on the floor watching Einstein matches). We walked over where a group of people were standing and glanced outside. The weather was insane! A weather lover like myself, who has an obsession with storms and all that jazz, was in complete awe! We ended up getting in the stands by going near the Galileo field. I could hear the tornado Siren over the music and the hail didnt help.

With the technical issues Einstein was having, maybe the frequency from the lightning caused some of these issues. I think thats something we should all consider. I liked how they dealt with the issues. They waited for a little bit and then said we are going to start with a clean slate. I dont recall anymore issues but I know Robonauts and other teams were having issues for the longest time.

With the frequency of the lightning even Wi-fi and etc has issues! (coming from Florida, my home’s wireless has issues when we have a lot of lightning in the area)

I am extremely grateful that we didnt have a twister on the ground. That wouldve stressed everyone out to the extreme.

Also how everyone handled the Finale party, was awesome! The City Museum was so COOL but extremely claustrophobic! lol

While I wouldn’t necessarily use the term “happy about field problems”, I get your point. Given the situation it doesn’t seem like there was much else FIRST could do.

I would also like to thank the teams that played on Einstein for their gracious response to the unforunate situation that resulted from the field failures. I know what it is like to have your playoff run cut short due to an unexplained error that you could not replicate on a robot than ran perfectly throughout an entire event (admittedly, it wasn’t on Einstein, but it was significant to us). When that happened to my team, however, it was easily passed off as a robot failure (maybe they were right… who knows… the tournament moved on and no one investigated). I think that has happened several times and to several teams over the years at several events. It is only now that the problem has occurred on Einstein that FIRST has to admit that either the field had issues, or that the very best teams on the planet can’t figure out how to get their robot to work reliably.

So thank you to the teams on Einstein… you had to sacrifice some of the most exciting matches of your lives… but maybe that will finally cause the root cause of the problem to be solved. I suspect that when it is, we will discover that Einstein was not a fluke and that there were warning signals leading up to it.*

Thank you to the people volunteers and FIRST staff who worked so hard to get those systems running. Thank you to FIRST for being up front, identifying that there was a problem, and doing everything you can to (finally?) get it fixed.

So yeah, I wouldn’t say I was “happy about the field problems”, but I will say that I will be overjoyed if this means that we come closer to having a perfectly reliable field/robot communication system.


*and is that ever a good engineering lesson… many catastrophic failures have been presaged by minor, niggling concerns that were easy to overlook

Our drive team was backstage Einstein (backup bots) and witnessed a couple of these doofuses walk up to Dean Kamen and ask them and I quote “How much would I have to pay to get up on the field and flip the bird to all of America”. Kamen replied “$250,000”, and these guys actually got out their wallets and started counting. When they started hassling Dean, a couple burly querers escorted them out.

When they told me this, I didn’t believe that anyone at a FIRST event would do such a thing. Now we know why these guys got let in. Though we can now laugh it off as a bunch of idiots, I’m glad it isn’t a bunch of dead idiots that wandered into the path of a tornado.

Dean was down on the field trying to get ahold of all the problems with the field and these two jerk in Brewers jerseys got past me chanting “1114! 1114!” and got all the way to the scorers table and bumped into Dean. I thought at first they were part of the show but after concluding they weren’t me and my crew started to remove them. One guy got really belligerent and started woofing at us "DON’T TOUCH ME! DON’T YOU TOUCH ME! WHY CAN’T I BE DOWN HERE LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE? He starts talking trash to the Team Que trainer for FIRST David Ferreira and Dave says “Let’s go talk about it outside” and he, me and Tom Nader walk him and his buddy towards the door. He keeps talking crap about “calling his lawyer” and all that and we shove them out he door. After that the weather issues started. Later I hear that they came back in and were wandering the pits messing around with team’s stuff in the pits. Pit Adman confronted them and called the cops and the idiots got arrested.

It was GREAT working with you Ed … Again!!! Glad we were able to keep a lid on those two fools. I am sure they had a great time in the cross bar motel. Hope to see you at one or all of the Michigan offseason Events.

You and Dave did an awesome job keeping a cool head with those guys. I was worried that one dude was gonna deck Peter but Dave stepped in just in time. It was a great handling of a bad situation that truly hope I never see again at a FIRST event.
I’ll be at MARC for sure with my team in tow.