Tuesday, April 22, 2008

2008 FIRST Robotics Championships

Two days later, I've finally rested up and resumed normal life (even though I missed school because I overslept today). Here goes...

We left Fort Lauderdale around 10:30am. I've flown to Atlanta from Fort Lauderdale like a bajillion times, this was no different. We arrived in Atlanta at exactly 11:59am. We were greeted at baggage claim with:

We also had to wait a while for our shuttle to show up, enough time for some cool pictures

This year when we arrived at The Westin, our rooms weren't ready, so we had to store our bags before we parted ways to explore the city. A few of us went to the Georgia Aquarium, others went to The World of Coke and Five Points.

There is one word to describe the aquarium...amazing. I've wanted to go since it opened last year. The fish were really cool and all, but what I was more impressed with was the methods in which they were displayed. A lot of the tanks were surrounded by glass ~5 inches thick, which slightly distorted the image.

these things were the coolest
who doesn't love jellyfish?
and penguins!
There was also a neat part where you could crawl under and stand in a tube-like structure among the penguins. We were entertained. For me, seeing live penguins was totally worth $27 alone. Don't ask how much I'd pay to see or touch a giraffe.

future Gator?At the aquarium, I also got to pet sharks and stingrays, sit on cool modern furniture, and confirm my thoughts about not eating seafood :). Wednesday was a beautiful day in downtown Atlanta. We cut across Centennial Park to get back to our hotel, and it seemed like a scene out of a movie -- kids playing in the playground and in the fountain, people playing football, frisbee, reading books, tanning. That night we went out to Durangos, a steak house, for dinner. It was...eh. Just an overpriced Applebee's/Chili's/Friday's. This year we were on the 62nd floor (only 10 away from the top!) with an amazing view. It was great waking up and going to sleep seeing all (most) of Atlanta beneath you.

we have taken over!
Taking up the entire Georgia Dome and 3 parts of the Georgia World Congress Center, the 2008 FIRST Robotics World Championship is underway! We met the New Zealand principal that we would be hosting for the weekend shortly after entering the pits. Since there will be an FRC Regional there in 2009, a few teams were asked to host a visiting group of New Zealanders. They wore hats with kiwis on top, thus a possible nickname for their regional and theme for many teams, the Kiwi Regional. It was great talking to him, explaining a bit of FIRST and the way we do things while hearing about other cultures and school systems at the same time. Our practice matches went pretty well, but didn't work out too well since everyone was interested in testing out their own features instead of playing with the alliance...we didn't get the ball much.

That night we went to Benihana for dinner. It was so highly anticipated, but unfortunately sub-par. Still fun, I guess. Curfews suck. I barely got to use the Internet since it cost $16/day for the room, though free in the lobby, and we were forced into our rooms at 11pm.

Let the games begin! Officially, at least. Guess who showed up to support FIRST...

Former President George Bush
During his speech, he made the statement that might just as well be the new motto for FIRST. Team 1649 (who just happened to be our alliance partner in the eliminations) even made buttons with the phrase, and Dean Kamen was wearing one the next day.
"FIRST is like the WWF, but for smart people." - George Bush
Qualifying matches started, though they didn't go too well for us. Our robot performed the best it has ever been, averaging over 40 points per match alone, but not so great alliances murdered our ranking. We lost EVERY single match on Friday, more matches than we'd lost in qualifying ALL season long. The mood wasn't that great on the team, though we knew we were performing well, so we still had a chance.

While I was supposed to be eating lunch, I stopped by Scholarship Row to talk to a few colleges and see about some of the new FIRST scholarships being offered. I checked out WPI and RPI, didn't get a chance to get to the MIT table because it was too crowded, but spent a while talking to the nice representative from Olin. I am in love with this school. And guess what, they have admissions blogs too! I think it's #2 on my list now...right below MIT, but more on that later.

I met up with my cousin, Dorienne, that afternoon for a while before heading off to dinner with the team. AZIO! We've gone to this restaurant every year, and it is a pretty darn good Italian restaurant.

The Saturday of any robotics competition is always the busiest, except at the championships, it x5 more busier, with 4 divisions running eliminations at the same time, all leading up to the finals on Einstein. We played 2 matches on Saturday, finally winning our last match and reversing our previous regional record of winning all but one match.

We were a bit worried about getting picked for eliminations, so right after our last match, we went back to the pits to "sell" ourselves to other teams. In doing so, we realized that alliance selection had already started, so Jhon and I made a mad dash from the pits back to the dome. Jhon could run faster than I could, so he was there to accept if we were picked, which we were! I suddenly received all types of phone calls from people in the stands "WHERE ARE YOU GUYS!?" lol. He arrived just in time. We were the second pick of the #7 alliance with 1649 and 527. The eliminations didn't go too well, we were up against a tough alliance of 33-45-2337. We didn't think we had much of a chance without great strategy and cooperation from all of our alliance partners, but unfortunately that didn't happen. One of our partners was a bit of a ball hog with a really slow ball-pickup method. It slowed us down a lot, I don't think we even hurdled in the first match. The second match was a bit of a mess too. We played to the best of our abilities given the circumstances, but even still our alliance wasn't tight and we made a few bad decisions as to how we scored. We were done for the season. We packed up the crate and headed out to watch the finals. By no surprise, the HOT alliance won.

After the Curie division finals ended, Gustavo and I left to sit in the students' section where two representatives from each team were to sit in case we won an award. These just happened to be the absolute BEST seats in the house, right in between the main stage and Einstein, so we could see the final matches clearly and see the speakers, Dean, Woody, and all the big wigs up close. The finals were intense. The semifinal matches seem so good that they should've been the finals. The 1114-217-148 alliance was the alliance that everyone had been dreaming of since regionals started, and they came together from Galileo and hurdled (quite literally) their way to the top. Congrats to them! It was quite a show.

The fun didn't end there. After spending a good 15 minutes getting out of the Dome, up the packed escalators, through the crowds, and to Centennial Park, I finally got into the social with a few other team members. The rest of our team was faaar behind, being that they were sitting over by Curie. The food sucked as usual, the entertainment was a little interesting, and the bounce houses, carnival games, prizes, glowsticks and lighty things, and FIRST drag race were all fun, but nothing compared to the karaoke tent. Once we found that, we were there until the end. The request list was pretty long, so we didn't sign up to sing, but we still sang along with everyone else, jumping around in the dry fountain. The last song was "Thanks for the Memories" followed by the fireworks. Pretty nice ending. As usual, the fireworks were great, and the reflections off the sides of the various large downtown buildings were even cooler.

Back at the hotel we continued with the party, turning one of the rooms into a rave, complete with glowsticks and techno! It was more of a one/two-person rave, but we all had fun. I had no intention of falling asleep at 12 because I wanted to pack and take more pictures, but fatigue apparently has more power than intent.

So now it's all over, back to normal life (as if I had one). Pictures from the entire weekend are here, here, and here.

HEY I JUST NOTICED....108th POST! w00t w00t!
awesome coincidence.

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