I’m a mentor for teams 8888 and 8888c and wanted to share our 2011 Worlds experience with everyone. Sorry for the long post but I hope its inspiring and shows what can be achieved under pressure.
Teams 8888 and 8888c traveled from Pasadena, California to Orlando on Tuesday night with a connection through Philadelphia. Our plan was to arrive with enough time for pre registration, find our pits and then relax and be well rested before the competition started on Thursday. We arrived in Orlando at around 10am on Wednesday morning and proceeded to baggage claim. Some of our luggage arrived including one box containing manuals, joysticks and a few miscellaneous parts. After waiting for an hour neither robot had shown up and we started to become concerned. Representatives of the airline assisted us in trying to locate the robots but, after much checking, they had to admit that they had no idea where either one was. The students were all tired from the overnight trip so we decided to leave for the Disney All Star Sports resort where we were all staying.
Communication continued with the airline throughout Wednesday but the reality was starting to set in that both our robots were lost and we may not be able to compete the following day. By about 4:30pm the airline had still not located the packages and the students and I decided we needed a plan B. I headed over to the event venue with two of our students to see what options we had and if VEX could be of any assistance. Our plan was to construct a replacement robot overnight and be ready to compete.
On arriving at the ESPN wide world of sports we found one of the event volunteers and explained our situation to them. The volunteer connected us with staff from VEX robotics who listened with sympathy and offered to help in any way possible. The VEX store was made available to us and the majority of parts needed were found in stock. The students and I headed back to the hotel with two large boxes containing what we hoped was everything needed for the build.
Back at the hotel, we turned one of our rooms into a workshop and another parent chaperone left for Wal-Mart to buy tools. The build proceeded quickly at first, we had photographs of the lost robot and some design notes but were having to modify the design to use the parts we had. By midnight progress had slowed down and some of us began to doubt that the students could finish. Everyone was exhausted as all had been up for more than 36 hours. The adults were about to admit failure but three of the senior student members of the team pleaded that they be allowed to continue working until they were physically unable. These students they were willing to miss the first day of competition for the good of the team, work through the night and sleep the next day. Around 1pm the rest of the team headed off to bed for some much needed rest.
At 6am on Thursday morning I awoke and went to see how the students had done. To my surprise they had the robot mostly finished and were driving it using the existing software from the lost one. The build team collapsed into bed and the rest of us headed over to the event venue to finish the build and get the robot inspected. Work on the new robot continued all morning, as usual there were small problems that needed solving and we were unable to find much time for use of the practice fields.
While all of this was happening we had continued to communicate with the airline. By around 10am on Thursday the airline informed us our missing robots had been found but were still in Philadelphia. They were going to be put on a flight arriving around lunch time so we had a parent chaperone go back to the airport to try and recover them. At 2pm the missing robots had been picked up and delivered to our pits, team 8888c quickly unpacked theirs and started to prepare for their first qualifying match at 3:03pm, team 8888 however decided that they would continue to compete with the new one they had just invested so much energy into and left their original one packed.
At 4:13 team 8888 had their first qualifying match with our alliance partner team 5678 and won. We managed to finish rank 15 in the math division; team 8888c finished rank 13 in the engineering division. Both teams hoped to be selected as alliance partners in the playoffs but were passed over so our competition was now finished.
The team is extremely grateful for the incredible support given to us by VEX robotics, without their help this would not have been possible. Next year we hope to be at Anaheim, which is only 1 hour from our home base. If any team ever finds itself in a similar situation, come and see us and we will help you in any way possible.
It’s an understatement to say that I’m proud of the kids and what they managed to achieve in such a short time. My thanks to everyone in teams 8888 and 8888c, they made this a trip never to be forgotten