I’ve been competing in VEX for three years now, since Skyrise. In those three years, robotics has become an integral part of my life; I spend more time on robotics each day than I do sleeping. It’s fitting that this, my 1,000th post as a member of this community, comes just days before I compete with the best teams in the world, the most difficult competition in all the land. But I would not be here without one person.
When I joined my school’s robotics club three years ago, I was a parts monkey. The club had existed one year prior, but they did not compete. We set our sights on a scissor lift, and struggled to finish it before our first competition. As it neared, we realized that I, the parts monkey, was the only one available that day. Realizing that I alone would be representing the team, my mentor tried to convince me that the competition was a fruitless endeavor, that I had better things to do that Saturday than embarrass myself with a heap of scrap metal. The Friday before realized something had gone horribly wrong with the cortex. Our drive no longer worked, as our joystick could not connect to the cortex. I went home, determined to fix it.
At home, I spent hours swimming in a mess of outdated forum posts and firmware downloads. I eventually updated the firmware, fixing the problem, then set about finishing the lift. I fell asleep, against my will, at 3:30 the following morning, in a bed of keps nuts and steel c channels, the bot still unfinished.
My family drove me two hours out to the competition, only to find that we had no pits. My mentor, assuming that I wouldn’t actually compete, had withdrawn my team from the competition by email. Fortunately, the event was a small one, and they were overjoyed at having another competitor. I worked frantically to get my scissor lift working. Seeing the opening ceremony approach, I went to talk to who I thought was the EP. I told her that my bot wasn’t working, that I was there alone, that it was my first competition, that I was better off just watching and learning. She did something I am still grateful for.
She refused, denied me. She insisted that I compete, pointing out several who would be glad to help me pass inspection, loan me parts, check my code. I ended up competing, going 2-4 in qualifiers ending up at 11th out of 17. Picked in the 6th alliance, I was eliminated in quarterfinals. However, I did one skills run, a 2-line programming skills that drove forward. By chance, it scored 1 extra point, bringing me to a score of 5, and second place. I went home dejected, but on Sunday I received a forwarded email from my mentor informing me that my team had qualified through skills for the state championship. After that, I was team captain.
It’s just one sentence on one day mid-January in 2015, but without Patty Smith, the regional RECF correspondent at the time, I would not be posting this. I doubt I would have stuck with robotics past that year.
If there was any other person who helped my team as much, it would be @JustinM. As long as I’ve known him, he’s been willing to go out of his way to help out and give advice, even helping us above his own teams. He’s bought parts for us, contacted EPs and officials on our behalf, and has answered every single Q&A I’ve asked long before it got an official answer. Without him, I’d still be doing robotics, but I very much doubt I’d be taking a trip to Louisville in a week.
The year that Patty Smith refused to let me quit, we went to state. The year after, we went to the US Open. And now, we’re going to worlds.
At the beginning of this season, I told my team that we should name our bot “The Charm.” I told them that we were going to worlds, after all, third time’s the charm. I was mostly joking at the time, but it turns out that I was right. We’re going to worlds. 5 days. 5 more days, and we’ll be there. 5 more days to prepare for the toughest competition.
So thank you. Thank you for giving me this opportunity. Thank you for showing me this new world of aluminum and wires. Thank you, to everyone who made this possible, @Patty_Smith, @JustinM, for changing my life.
Now, I continue what you started. Now, The Charm is coming.
Reveal coming by Monday.