Tragedy in LA

A 16 year old high school girl, Shaunakaye Williams, drowned while at a FIRST Robotics competition in LA last Friday. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends.

Here is the news article :

I hope all teams stay safe at the upcoming competitions.

I join you in thinking for, and praying for her family, friends and team… It has to be a horrible feeling being the coach for that team…

I found a number of things about this report to be troubling; most notably, that Shaunakaye must have been alone for this tragedy to occur.

Some suggestions for traveling teams:

Teams, I urge your to put together a “buddy” system, if you don’t already have one in place. While pairs are better than being alone, clusters of 3-6 hanging together are better than pairs. With the proliferation of cell phones, it shouldn’t be too hard to make sure that each cluster is accessible by phone so that the team leader/mentor can make contact with any given student at all times.

Students, please don’t be afraid to “rat on” your teammates if they walk off or get separated from the group. One year at a wrap party, a student saw her teammate leave the party in tears. She immediately found me, and we located the student, who had returned to the hotel room. I spent the rest of the evening with her – total time alone, less than 10 minutes.

With the teeming masses at robotics tournaments, there are some who seek solitude, but there should be clear guidelines on where and for how long a person can go. Reading/napping in the room or finding a deserted corner of the coffee shop – no problem, as long as the person can be found when needed. Walking the city or swimming alone – not good. I’m a fairly strong hiker and swimmer, but I NEVER hike or swim or alone, not even in a hotel’s hot tub. If I were to slip and hit my head, I would want to know that someone else was around to call for help.

While some may feel that having to be accountable/accounted for is being treated like a “kid”, it’s really about being a member of a team. Unless you’re attending a robotics tournament alone, your actions will greatly affect your teammates in many ways. As a matter of safety for yourself and courtesy to your teammates, stay connected.