Pre Kickoff blues

Well it’s that time of the year. Kickoff is among us. Usually I’m as giddy as can be. Kickoff is like a second Christmas to me except this year is different. I’m just not feeling it and to be honest, I really just don’t care. Is this normal? Is anyone else feeling this way? Is this the COVID lifestyle talking? I’m sure I’m not the only one.

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Yup, you’re not alone on this one. Just knowing before hand that there won’t be a new game revealed (not saying that FIRST should have had a new game) and brainstorming all of these crazy ideas the night of kickoff, designing, prototyping, all that fun with the rush that comes with the start of the season is kind of just gone this year. In my short time in FIRST, I loved the kickoff strategy meetings, how we can optimize to win and do it quickly, and just whiteboarding all of these crazy designs that would never work on the field. Talking with my friends about the best way to approach a certain challenge, the interest of seeing what top teams robots are gonna look like by the end of the season, etc. made kickoff really interesting. Sure, there’s the game design challenge and the other one but we could’ve started that 5 months ago if I wanted to, kickoff doesn’t really mean anything in regards to that.

However, not all hope is really lost if your team is still participating (even if you’re not registered) and maybe missing out on this one will make next year’s even more exciting (except for the seniors…). I’m glad that there’s at least something rather than nothing this year where everything is a little different. I’m glad that I can still go to meetings even if they are on zoom and having the time to slow down and work on some long term projects that have been on the back burner for a while. I’m glad that we can focus more on training, organizing, iterating, etc. that we haven’t really had the time for in the past.

I think it’s completely normal and what most people are feeling right now.

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In a world that has had entire seasons of professional sports, collegiate football, BattleBots, and now talks of the NCAA March Madness tournament, I’m optimistically bullish on the idea of having small, safe, in-person robotics events.
These will probably look quite different from what we’re used to, and even one event might be quite unlike another, based on local restrictions. But I’m convinced we can creatively move forward in a safe way, promoting scientific achievements without promoting viral spread.
Crossing my fingers that we will definitively find out one way or the other on January 9th.

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Quoting a famous stuffed animal when asked how long before we can play with our robots again…

“Days. Weeks. Months. Who knows?”

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I share the same sentiment. Normally I’ve been doing parts orders the past two months in anticipation of build coming up and I’d be editing presentations for the local kickoff workshops this weekend. This year I hadn’t checked CD for the past month and seeing threads pop up about Ri3D teams was a sad reminder that we’re going to go a full year without touching an FRC robot. We’ve been 100% virtual since the day before our week 3 Regional was cancelled last year so their really hasn’t been much to look forward to without the ability to work in small “pods” or pivot to making PPE as others have done. (to be clear even if our district did allow us to meet we’d be unlikely to do so given the jobs our mentors and their spouses work in and our comfort level as a result)

At this point the goal is survive and advance. If we can get a virtual entry for this year’s challenges in and have half the students return next year I’ll take it. I’m not expecting to get much from FRC this year and just want it to be around for when we can feel joy about it again.

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Speaking from my volunteer role, I too am not as excited. I am interested to see what they will tweak in the game rules.

Since I’m not with a team, I will have very little interest in the virtual alternatives that will be released. And I’m not sure if we will get enough vaccinations done so we can have traditional events in the normal timeframe.

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I think the massive lack of enthusiasm can be linked to where your country, state & locality is at in the battle against COVID right now. The US isn’t doing so hot at the moment, for a number of reasons. I’m not sure anyone is jumping to run out and crowd into a packed venue with hundreds of other people and that’s a reasonable way to feel. Many of us feel this way.

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It’s a great opportunity to find other outlets for what you like to do, and more opportunities to find new things you never knew you liked doing!

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oh I 100% agree with you. I recently started working on a 3lb. combat robot so I’ve kept pretty busy. New hobbies are exciting yet also terrifying.

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If for nothing else, COVID-19 has been a great reset. A moment where everything comes to a pause, giving you the opportunity to take a step back and reexamine everything.

Personally, I’m really looking forward to getting back onto chairlifts and gondolas in the endless quest to find Gnarnia.

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My energy levels for Kickoff are definitely down compared to any other year, but I’m also usually running at least a workshop at Kickoff (last year, I was the Kickoff coordinator, ran a quick build, and ran a workshop).

But our seniors are down for the cause, and that’s more than enough for me.

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I think my excitement starts in November and just grows from there. When I get the vouchers and start going through First Choice options. Then we start seeing new products etc. That’s just pre build season activities that we didn’t get this year. I did enjoy the extra time but I am ready for some robots. I think kick off rules changes, First Choice and Ri3D on Fun will bring us out of this slump.

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They may only dress 5 players, but I’m still Looking Forward to the Cleveland Browns’ kickoff. First time in 18 years and all. Best kickoff ever.

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Have you all looked at the new Romi support in WPILib? You can have your students each build an inexpensive mini robot and hold whatever local competitions you want, regardless of how the official season unfolds.

Lockdown is just another opportunity to develop new methods.

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We are a team that is not going to “play” this year. Even if there are events in MN and WI the logistics would be daunting. The team voted to take the year off.

It’s hard to gauge enthusiasm but no doubt it is much reduced. We hope to restart in person school in late January and have a meeting or two per week through the rest of the year. As a mentor I really like the concept of recruiting, training new people, prototyping things that have challenged us in the past. Sort of a longer time frame. I was always a fan of the six week build season. I have come to terms with the 8 to 10 week build. This is just going to be a 13 month season for us.

Unfortunately we are also juggling a move from off site into the school, so there’s all that stuff as well. In many ways it is a near total reboot of the team. How much can our very talented seniors pass along with the time available? One of course would not blame them for having one foot and parts of both brain hemispheres already out the door!

Better times ahead for sure. But a tough road connecting point A and point B to get us there…

T. Wolter

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Same here! Followed a day later by OSU in the championship… it’s a fun week for football!

TimeEnough

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Almost all of the teams are in pretty much the same boat. Feel for our seniors who will not get to compete in their junior or senior year. FIRST canceled our first competition the week before our meet ME. This too will pass but the ride sure has sucked. Just hoping we didn’t lose too many future prospects because of the state of the world. We have to keep our spirits up and an eye on the future. First year our mentors or team members have not been in NH for the live kickoff event. Enjoy the virtual kickoff!
Go Power Surge 4-H Robotics 2712!

Post-Season?