Google Maps will tell you it takes roughly twelve hours to drive from Denver to St. Louis. Google Maps lies.
It takes all the hours.
It takes every single one of all the hours, and by the time you arrive in St. Louis, you're aching from the effort of being in the car that long, and everything seems surreal, and you kind of want to die a little. There would be no good reason to do that, if it weren't for the FTC Championships.
And in that case, I was happy to.
Tuesday morning I headed off, the middle of a three vehicle caravan, to help get Tre's robotics team to World. My car had Tre and the other two seniors on the team, plus one well behaved sophomore and his mom. The truck behind us carried the gear and the robot. The van in front of us had all the kids with poor impulse control. I'm not saying it was their fault we didn't arrive until 2 AM, but it WAS their idea to stop every single time we did. I thought the kids in my car were going to have a coronary. You know it's getting serious when an 18 year old boy suggests that everyone just skip dinner.
But we got here! And after a bracing few hours of sleep, we headed off to the competition. I've been thinking about how to explain the size of this event, and I can't seem to find the words. There are kids everywhere, in costume or matching tshirts. Kids from all over the U.S., sure, but from the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, China, Siberia, and more. Hundreds and hundreds of kids, all aglow with the wonder of being here. They made it to World. They can't stop grinning. It's kind of stunning.
Also stunning is how much STUFF some of these teams have. We goggled at their charter buses and custom vans and personalized trailers. The equipment and tools and costumes. What does it cost to outfit a few dozen kids as pandas in tutus, exactly? Our boys moved in among them, the ten of them dwarfed by teams five times their size. We were suddenly less impressed by the fact that we'd brought ten pounds of atomic fireballs to hand out. It was a little bit intimidating.
At the opening ceremony last night, it was mentioned that this crowd represents the top three percent of robotics teams in the world. In the world.
Yesterday was technical judging and interviews. Matches start today. I'm exhausted and a little queasy from eating food-like substances instead of food. But I tell you what, it's an honor to be here. I mean, the boys are honored to be here, sure. But I am amazed to be able to watch and grin from the sidelines. First match is in a few hours. You can watch the streaming (courtesy of NASA) here http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/robotics/first/st-louis-2014/
We'll be on the Franklin field, I believe. Our robot is 4287.
And we're so happy to be here.