First off, my apologies to all the great teams and robots I didn't notice or get to watch. I was chasing six teams around the two fields, plus miscellaneous team support (I was the only technical mentor supporting 34 students -- and I am eternally grateful to the other mentors and parents who helped), so I can only give a one-person review.
- The Latin American teams were awesome. I loved the singing, dancing and costumes. Terrific.
- Safety yellow t-shirts make it really easy to find our students in a crowd. I think we'll stick with them.
- There are some dynasties building in VRC. Aside from FRC teams the Robo Wranglers, Cheesy Poofs, and Simbotics who are doing as well in Vex as they do in FRC, there are some programs that either don't do FRC or do FRC but aren't "legends of FRC." Some of the programs (schools or clubs) that are in this category are the Steel Eagles, ACME Robotics, Gladstone, Green Eggs, and Free Range Robotics . I don't understand how or if the Chinese teams work together, but Shanghai Luwan Teenagers Activity Center was very strong this year, too. (Feel free to add your favorites to this thread -- like I said, I only noticed certain teams and programs.)
- The tournament operations were great. Nearly perfect in every way.
- I frequently saw students on teams that were playing matches wandering into "VIP" areas to watch. The students (and mentors) usually just showed up, watched, and left, and I never saw anyone being hassled for being in the "wrong place." This was terrific behavior by the tournament staff. If crowding had become an issue I imagine they might have cleaned off the field, but the way they just let it slide was considerate and polite. This was extremely refreshing.
- I worked as an inspector and I came away very impressed with the overall quality of the robots. I also managed to see every idea we had thought of for playing the game in the steel, so to speak, which happens to me at every robotics event.
- Adults and college students -- volunteer for a few hours at your next tournament. It really adds to the experience. I probably inspected 50 or 60 of the 260+ robots that were there, and consider it a privilege to have gotten to chat with so many students.
- The pits were spacious, the facility was big enough, and the hotels were close. Thumbs up. The only negative is that there really isn't much cheap food in the area, so our kids spent a fortune on meals. The food at the closing party was only $10 (including entertainment!), and was the good deal of the week.
- IFI invited Botball, Best Robotics, and FIRST to have booths talking about their programs. They also had some educational materials companies and an on-the-spot custom shirt printer doing souvenir shirts. Two thumbs up, and an extra thumb for inviting the "competition" to their event. (I haven't seen a Vex booth at any FIRST events this year, have you?)
... more as it comes up in my exhausted memory.