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Reflections on the year of Robotics

It was just under a year ago that I was sitting down with Andrew, the Dean's List Finalist for the North Bay Regional and his mom in St. Louis.  We were there for the FIRST Robotics Championships.  At that moment we were writing down the different tasks we wanted to accomplish with our robotics team the next year.  Looking back I'm amazed at how many of the tasks were accomplished and the growth I have witnessed in our team.
Camp Big Canoe
At the core of our team are the leadership team - Andrew as captain, Sam as Build Captain and Alora as lead outreach.  Doug as past captain works with the group as well.  We started off with a retreat at Camp Big Canoe.  The time at the camp set the stage for a great beginning.  Team building, learning about FIRST Robotics, learning skills, exploring new technologies and getting to know each other.
Throughout the year this team has stepped up to deliver - volunteering at craft sales, recycled metal drives, running our Techno Girls program.
In January we had the kickoff, I keep flashing back to my first season where we opened up the bins after kickoff and scratched our heads as we tried to figure out what the different components were.  This year, we understand all the different components.  The merits of the new types of motor controllers are discussed at length.
Build season progressed as it normally does, but there was a new spark.  We had a plan going in (which was tweaked as we tested), prototypes were made, game pieces were built to test with.  At the end of the season we knew we had a decent robot.
And then the competition started.  My goal was simple at the beginning - improve upon last year's standing.  We succeeded but then we went farther.  All of a sudden we were seeded high enough that we had a good chance to be in a strong alliance.  It was exciting to be part of the quarter finals.  We quickly worked with our alliance to install a more efficient rope climber on our robot.  Just in time we got onto the field for our first quarter final.  Dejection was felt as our robot obviously could not drive with one side.  After the match we brought the robot to the pit and quickly identified the problem - bolts had been over tightened when we had been working on replacing a bolt on the motor. Simple job to loosen the bolts and quarter final 2 was won.  Next thing we knew we were in the semi finals.
In the semi-finals and the finals we realized that we were a contender.  Often the third pick in an alliance is the weakest part.  Turns out we were just as good and scored multiple points for our team.  In fact we ended with a higher score in the final match, only to lose by a penalty caused by the human pilot reaching down.
Team 4152 awards from Georgian 2017
North Bay was our next tournament - we aimed to win seven matches.  Turns out we won eight.  Once again we were in the quarter finals.  During one match we sustained damage when an opposing robot rode onto our frame.  The extent of the damage was discovered during the next match - once again our robot could not drive on one side.  Thankfully our team came together and eked out a win.  The time in the pit after that match is my proudest moment.  The pit crew led by Sam worked non-stop with a crowd of onlookers from our alliance.  Wires had been pushed too close to the motors - they melted together and short-circuited frying our motor controller.  At the last moment we had the robot back on the field - the damage repaired and our robot fully operational again.
Even though we lost the quarter finals our team showed grit in the face of adversity.  We came through when it mattered most and most importantly, we never gave up.  Winning the Gracious Professionalism award was the recognition we needed to appreciate what we were able to accomplish.
Tomorrow we start a new chapter, we are heading to provincials.  I'm so excited to share this with the senior members of the team and can't wait to see what heights our younger members reach to now that they've tasted this success.
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