Tne end of VRC 438

This week marks the official end of VRC 438 as a competition team – the team has made the decision not to compete (for the second year in a row), but rather, to serve as judges and volunteers at local events for reasons of time and finances, with no intention to “re-start” in future years. This is our way to stay in the game, without having to be at the top of our game.

VRC 438 isn’t well-know on the Worlds circuit, but has a long history – it began in April 2005 at the pilot event as FVC 38 and qualified for Worlds in 2007 (under the auspices of FVC/FTC), 2009, and 2011. At those events, one of the team’s functions was to make other teams feel good about their rankings :). While technically not at the top of the heap, the team’s philosophy was, “What we have, we share.” The outcome of that philosophy was a number of documents, including “Vex for the Technically Challenged”, “Robot Recipes”, “Vex Machinations”, and “A Clueless Coach’s Companion”, intended to prime the pump of learning in the early years.

The other primary strength of the team was its ability to incorporate students from “non-traditional STEM populations.” Over the years, its composition has had significant proportions (30-60%) of students who are female, Hispanic, low-income, and/or special needs. For some of these students, VRC opened windows of opportunity and exposure that may not have been available otherwise. A number of students have been the first in their families to achieve significant milestones, including high school graduation, and some have gone on to attend (and graduate from) universities as STEM majors. Several have managed to connect engineering to people they have a heart for, with one developing a Google Glass app for deaf people, and another designing everyday products with accommodations for the manually impaired in mind.

We are grateful to the folks at Vex/RECF for providing an outstanding platform for technical exploration and competition. These years have been a wild ride!

You have had a noble run. Sorry to hear we will be losing you as a competitor but very happy to hear you will remain in the game as volunteers, etc. As Vex continues to grow by leaps and bounds, it’s comforting to know that people who were involved from the beginning are still around. Thanks.

We salute you TEAM 438!

Hi Yolande,
I’m sorry to hear you guys are “done” but glad to hear you’re not “done.” I’d be interested to hear more about the reasoning – feel free to reach out if you’d like to chat about it.

Best Regards,
-John

Our reasons for leaving are mainly related to our individual situation. We meet as an after-school club, but never found a teacher to coach so I (as a parent of a former member) have filled in the gap. Except for a team parent who helped with administration and transportation for 2 years (and has since moved on), I hadn’t been able to recruit any other adult help, leaving the team vunerable to my schedule.

At our last competition in the Sack Attack season, the team was not satisfied with its performance, and we asked, “What would it take to move up?” After surveying the successful teams, we realized that we would need to triple our monetary expenditure, but more importantly, would need to quadruple the time spent on the robot. This would require a much greater commitment from the students, who realized that realistically, they would need to give up other important extracurriculars. When asked, “Is it worth it to you?” they concluded that they liked Vex enough to give up other activities every other year, but not every year. The decision was to take off the year of Toss Up and come back to compete this year. We volunteered at a local event and met occasionally to build “just for fun”, but a large number of medical emergencies with my elderly parents required me to cancel most of the meetings, as there were no other team parents to keep the meetings going.

When it was time to make this year’s decision, a number of factors came into play:

  1. The students had decided that judging was a lot of fun! (and we can be objective when we’re not competing).
  2. The students won’t have as much time this year as they had hoped. Now that they’re juniors and seniors, they have less time than 2 years ago, not more.
  3. It’s hard to start up again, after losing so much momentum.

Perhaps the real question is not, “Why is the team ending?” but, “Why did it last so long?" I’m not much of a competitor by nature, and the team really could have used a “real” coach. When my son graduated from high school 5 years ago, it was my intention to graduate with him. However, there were younger students on the team, and I hated to leave them in the lurch. Students continued to recruit underclassmen in grade clusters about every 2 years, leading to 4 “generations” of teams. While I’d like to blame it all on the students, perhaps the best explanation for my delayed retirement came at one of our meetings this year, a very hard year in many ways. Geeky music was playing on the computer, students were scribbling random and remotely sciencey drawings, and a 6-bar lift was being lazily (and unsuccessfully built). In one of those “magic moments, “ I was swept by a wave of well-being, and a student expressed it best: “I feel happy when I’m in this room.” Which is perhaps also a good explanation for why we’re not competing.

Yolande