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Robotics - the heartbreak, the sublime

So hi! I've been wanting to tell you this story for a week, but two things happened: first it snowed. I mean IT SNOWED. Last Sunday we got about a foot of snow, which sadly only netted Tre a late start for school on Monday. School administrators have no heart. And I was fine with all the snow, because if you're going to have snow, it's best to have a good amount, or it's just a mess without the fun. A foot of snow is fun. But then, a few days later, it snowed something pitiful like three inches, and my head exploded. 12 inches + 3 inches = seventeen feet of snow. I can't explain the math on that, but trust me. And with the second snow, the roads iced up and Tre spun off the road (he's fine; I stayed in my warm house while Clay and my dad pulled him to safety, yet I barely survived the event). So my head exploded again.

And the other thing that happened was that a friend of mine casually mentioned that her family had had the worst winter ever for colds, with someone sick every week for the last five months. And I (foolishly, unthinkingly, madly) said, "Oh we've been lucky. Hardly anyone has been sick at all."

Yeah. So within a day the cold started grinding its snotty, coughing, feverish way through the family. And I ate something bad that left me...erm. My inside parts? That deal with food? Violently rejected anything I ever ate, ever. And then Sophia developed this weird red, puffy, painful rash. So within 24 hours of my ill-advised statement we had the plague, the crud, and leprosy. Kindly remind me to keep my mouth shut.

Anyhow! I don't know if I've mentioned it, but Tre is somewhat involved in his school's robotics club. When I say "somewhat involved" I mean "wildly, insanely, suck up every minute of his life involved." It's been good. They would meet every day after school and on Saturdays. Do you know what would have been required to get me to school on Saturdays when I was in high school? I...can't imagine. Cash prizes? A gun pointed at my head? The mind boggles.

But Tre has been doing this ALL SCHOOL YEAR. And this totally makes sense, because it's his junior year, and the AP classes, plus the honors classes, plus the fact that he drives 40 minutes each way to school - it all adds up to PLENTY OF FREE TIME. And he spent every spare scrap of a minute in that stuffy robotics room, fussing over their robot.

Well, last Saturday, the day finally came. It was competition day. Time for their baby to shine. 


(An aside: can you see the guy in the upper left of the picture, dressed in homemade armour? Their whole team dressed like that, a bunch of knights and a very few princesses. There were also Minecraft characters, and one team with caution signs on their t-shirts that lit up with LED lights. The nerdery was strong and beautiful. But one of the princesses from that particular team offered Sophia an extra princess hat. And even though it wasn't Tre's team, it Was A Princess Hat, and it was also Purple, and Sophia had woken up that day obsessed with purple, and so:


The nerdery. It is catching.)

So the way these robotics competitions work is that the robots are given a task. This year it was picking up rings and hanging them on a rack. Each round has four teams, and each team has an alliance in the round. Points are assigned for achieving the task, and for optional actions like picking up the other robot (with your robot). You and your alliance team win or lose together. Hush. This is interesting. *I* spent all day Saturday WATCHING IT while sitting on bleachers and trying to keep Sophia from declaring war on...everything. 

Actually, it was interesting. Because the boys' robot? DOMINATED. One round? They and their alliance team got the whole entire rack covered with red rings, and OH it was so exciting. I can't quite explain the anxiety of these contests. Robots are finicky beasts, and you never know when one will tip over, or freeze up, or just turn off, leaving the kids who have poured their hearts and souls into it standing on the sidelines, frantically mashing buttons while all the hope drains out of them into a puddle at their feet. It was so hard to watch that at one point I declared to Clay that football, boxing, and MMA have NOTHING on robotics for sheer violence. OH. 

Throughout the day, it was looking good for Tre's team to go to finals. They were consistently in the top 5, and the top 4 get to compete in finals. But then - the very last round? - HEARTBREAK. They were in 2nd place, going into the round. But their alliance decided to knock the opposing teams' rings off their racks. And that turns out to be against the rules. They were penalized 50 points for each ring, wiping out all the 150 points Tre's team got on the board. And with that they dropped to 11th. 

BUT! Each of the four teams going into finals got to choose two alliance teams! And one of the teams chose Tre's team! AND THEY WON IT ALL!

State champs!





Congratulations to Tre! How awesome for him! (My baby went to His ROTC unit's Regional Drill Team meet this weekend. I did not even GO. But just HEARING about it wore me out. So Congrats to you, to, mama!)


Congrats to Tre and his team! I know all too much about the time suck of robotics. My HS junior son is also deeply involved in robotics - your description sounds eerily familiar, except for the winning part. My son's team is doing the FIRST robotics, not the tech, so a different challenge (this year the robots are playing frisbee). As they were finishing up their robot, they spent 4 out of 5 nights running at the school until almost midnight - 10 am to midnight for 4 days of their winter break. I certainly didn't have that sort of dedication back then...


These are the really expensive physicists and engineers of 15 years from now.


For college, you need to send him here, where I work:

SO MUCH FUN TO WATCH. And my kids are not now and never will be among the participants. The only problem is the place is always so crowded, it's hard to see what's going on. Nerds unite!


Frisbee Robotics in this house. Last year my son's team was in the international finals (like the finals finals - they lost the last round :() in St. Louis. We watched on the computer. It nearly killed me. Anyone walking by the house would have wondered at the screaming. Who knew robots playing basketball was so thrilling?

I love that my nerdy kid has a place to celebrate that nerdiness. Because of his amazing teacher sponsor (I kiss her feet on a regular basis) the team has been really good for over a decade, and truly, they rule the school. They are called the Pink Team (none of the boys showed up to the meeting 15 or so years ago when they named the team, so the girls took their revenge) and the entire school supports them. Never would have happened a thousand years ago when we were in high school. What a great thing for all these kids. And any engineer I've ever met says that robotics is one of the best things kids can be involved in to prepare for college.

Congrats to Tre!

Pamela L

Congrats to Tre - that is so awesome!!

Also, what a beautiful, purple princess to support him ~


Congratulations to Tre!!! As I am spending my weekend having my heart ripped into shreds and put back together by the boys and girls basketball teams that my daughter cheers for, I can only imagine how hard a robotics competition would be.

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