As our week of gardening ended, we then approached this week in which we were all exhausted from our extensive work. Monday and Tuesday this week, we did not have school due to primary elections that were being held at Munster High School. In turn, many of our senior members traveled to the polls to vote for candidates that support their ideals. Because we did not have access to the school those days, we came back on Wednesday to prepare for the coming season. We organized all our papers, files, and binders from previous years, and we began preparing for officer elections the following week.
On Friday, May 4th, we went to one of our local elementary schools, Eads Elementary, and started a garden which is located behind the science lab. Under the hot sun, we revived two existing garden beds that hadn’t been touched in years. We pulled out weeds and old roots, found the skeleton of a small animal, connected with some of the kids and staff at the school, and most importantly, planted some new vegetables. We planted tomatoes, bell peppers, cayenne peppers, and eggplants. In addition to the vegetables, we re-located some of the existing tulips and bushes. As a FIRST team, we appreciate the aid of powered tools, but a day with hard labor in a garden showed us just how hard life is for many people who do not have the means to access these tools to complete their own jobs.
Through out this week, now that we are done with our competition season, we continued to fix our old robots because they are all part of our important history seeing as we are now approaching 10 years as a team. On April 28th, we went to the local middle school to help out at a LEGO sumo (SUGO) competition. Here, we watched some matches, were asked to be commentators for the completion, explained what FIRST Robotics is, met with one of our sponsors from the Booster Club, and promoted an interest in STEM and our own high school program.
This week started as a relaxing break after an intense, consuming competition. However, it soon came to our attention that off-season isn’t exactly an “off-season”. After build and competition season comes outreach and repair season. We are now consumed with the tasks of cleaning and organizing our entire work space, repairing a few of our robots from 2014-2016, reaching out to another school with the potential to start their own FRC team, and continuing to develop with our 21st century garden.
This week was the Indiana State Competition. This competition was very bittersweet. While we may not have done our best, the competition was thoroughly enjoyed by our whole team. Our graduating member were sad to leave the field as students for the last time. However, our lack of a great performance still drives our returning members to do much better the following season. While our scores weren’t the most positive, we showed new signs of growth on the field. We filled the vault faster, played better defense, and had developed the ability to pre-load a cube. Behind the scenes and off the field, we had won the Judge’s Award. This award is given to a team that is unique and stands out either on or off the field. The FIRST Judge’s award may be given to a team in order to recognize a team’s unique efforts or performance which demonstrate the principles of FIRST. Our team was awarded the Judges award in special recognition of the team’s unique design of a 21st century garden and rainwater collection system and for their robots collapsible lifting mechanism.
Seeing as the state competition comes up next week, this week was a reflection and review week. We analyzed our performance at the last competition in order to perform better at the next. Many of our members watched competitions all around the world to gain inspiration and find new playing techniques. Upon much analysis, we decided to focus on improving our autonomous performance. However, because of our outstanding performance at the last competition, we did not find it necessary to make any mechanical changes to our robot. We realized the best cure to any of our hindrances was to take a break to refresh our minds from the stress of the last competition so that we could apply ourselves better the following week before the state competition. Stay tuned to see the team’s performance at the state competition in Kokomo.
During this week, the team attended the Tippecanoe Regional. Here we were widely recognized for our speedy robot that took only 40 seconds to fill the vault. After qualification rounds, we were picked by the 4th alliance including Teams 71 and 5010. As an alliance we made it all the way to semifinals. Our performance greatly excited us for the state competition seeing our great improvement since the first competition, and during this competition, we secured our spot for the state-wide competition.
As we head into a competition the following week, we have made our final touches to the robot as we are also heading out for spring break. We still expect all members that are available to be working in the workshop during break until competition at West Lafayette. Earlier this week, this website was hacked so we have been continuously working to get the website up, running, and more secure to prevent this situation from occurring again. Thursday, March 22nd, we had a couple of our members head to our local elementary school to promote our up and coming gardening project. We have created partnerships with many teachers to plant seeds in their own classrooms. We hope this will inspire kids to garden at home. We hope to inspire them to also help those around them who don’t have all the same privileges as themselves, and we explained this food will go towards people in food deserts, hoping to ignite this candle to brighten the darkness that has engulfed part of Northwest Indiana. We also discussed with the administration and principle the concept of reviving the garden behind the school that once flourished during our own time at the elementary school. We came to realize much of the faculty had the same connection as ourselves to that garden.
After a competition last week, we found this more as a reflection week. It was a slower week when we could work out a few technical difficulties and reflect on our performance. We realized we need to make ourselves more available to our community. In order to address this, we powered up our website that is public so that our society can see our progress, learn more about us, and be able to communicate.
This past week, we had our first competition of the season, the St. Joseph Event, at Penn High School in Mishawaka. We brought 15 members, of which 8 were new members, serving as a great learning opportunity. Our team and robot were faced with many hardships, but outstanding teamwork helped overcome these issues. At the end of qualifying rounds, we placed at 17 out of 40 teams. We then went on to be presented the Team Spirit Award for our enthusiasm, humor, community involvement, spirit, and gracious professionalism.