Inner District Play Experience from FRC Team 68 - Take me back to Kokomo!

Truck Town Thunder had the opportunity to take advantage of inner district play this year and traveled to the Kokomo District in Indiana. I would like to talk about our experience and encourage teams to post about their experiences here.

It didn’t count for points
This was the key reason we initially decided to travel to do this. Kokomo is only 4.5 hours away from our shop. We did this event first to work out any issues in our design, students got to practice their award work. We do not have space anywhere in our school for a good practice field and could only get to one nearby on one occasion late in the season. It is getting harder and harder every year for teams in Michigan to advance. The competition is really that tough. Not only for robots but for awards as well.

This was a something I didn’t expect! I wasn’t sure if we would be accepted. I had heard horror stories and had experienced some issues traveling in parts unknown in the past. Indiana FIRST was awesome to us. The first thing they did was include our students as ambassadors. This was awesome. Our kids got to talk to Indiana kids about what inspires them to be on our team. We got to visit AndyMark. Our kids had a blast. Andy Baker was awesome to us. Teams there knew our history. They knew about our name change in 2001 and why we had to do it. We got to compete with some of the coolest teams I know. 3940, 71, 135, 1024, just to name a few. There were so many. I joined FIRST after districts were started and never got to experience this. When we go to a competition in Michigan, half of the teams there are Rookie teams and we don’t know anyone on many occasions. This was so inspiring for my kids to get to learn about the history of our team. They got to meet some of the great people in Indiana and came back to Michigan with a newly found passion to do more, improve and just be successful.

Our team was able to win two awards at the Kokomo District, UL Safety and KPEA. Awesome! They came back even more motivated to continuously improve and it paid off. We left Kokomo at the end of the event 30/32 and didn’t even make the playoffs. We did some improvements to our intake, came out to Centerline and ended up 11th and picked onto the 3rd alliance. We also won the UL Safety and DCA. We then came to Lansing, ended up 2nd, picked onto the #1 alliance and won the event. We also won UL Safety and Quality Award. Yes, we did 3 District Events and won 6 awards! Our kids worked their butts off during this time. They were that inspired from our initial competition in Kokomo. We then went on to the MSC finishing 11th after qualifications. Got picked up by 2137, awesome, and rounded out our alliance with 494. We actually had an alliance that had the capacity to go all the way. It was awesome. We didn’t make it out of QF, not a big deal. The kids were on cloud 9! Then we won RCA! That was the icing on the cake. Then we went to Worlds, made the QF, and didn’t win any awards. (I am still trying to figure this one out, How do you win awards here?)

Inspiring side note
My safety captain really inspired me this year. From his efforts out our 3 District Events winning safety awards. Every time I looked beside our pit, I saw him sitting there in a conference with a safety captain from another team. It was awesome. Then at the end of the day! The team we mentored the past two years, (2014 was their rookie year), won the MSC Industrial Safety Award, Go Titanium Tigers, FRC Team 5114. It was awesome and it all stemmed from Kokomo!

My point
Inner District Play was perfect. It inspired my team to do more. It inspired them to push themselves. It is perfectly aligned with the values of FIRST and I am begging FIRST not to change it. Let us go to other District models to play.

So, I will leave you with an inspirational video and the point to my thread. Let us go back to Kokomo:

FRC Team 316 had a similar experience at the week two Pioneer Valley Event in New England. We also decided to try inter-district play to work out the kinks in our robot and strategy. We also wanted to attend another overnight competition if we could. The students always have a blast, and we really bond as a team.

 One thing we hadn't anticipated was the warmth of New England despite all the snow outside. Every minute I turned around in the pit, there was another student or mentor from numerous teams introducing themselves and asking us where we were from and how our trip went. We met so many new friends, and got to experience a fresh atmosphere. 

 We were very pleased with our performance at Pioneer Valley. Despite numerous frustrating failings, both with out robot and driverstation, we ended the qualification rounds seeded 3rd. We and our alliance partners 61, and 663 won the first finals match, but lost the second two matches. Unfortunately, our pickup motor broke and we could only make stacks of two totes without any cans. Even if the motor had worked however, I'm not sure we would have beat 3146, 3718, and 2168. I caught glimpses of their other elimination matches, and they worked beautifully together. We were also able to win the Imagery Award. We didn't even think we were eligible to win awards at the event, so it came as a pleasant surprise. We were also thrilled to win a team award from team 166, who was right across the aisle from our pit.

I also can’t forget to mention that we had the awesome chance to meet a great man at Pioneer Valley: Dr. Woodie Flowers!

Overall, our inter-district play experience was fantastic, and I think FIRST really nailed it on this one. I’m definitely hoping our team does this again next year.