Thursday, January 9. 2014
From summer, to pre-season, to build season, our team is been busy all year. All throughout summer there were CAD building sessions to help our newest (And some returning) students. Summer ended to start the school year with the beginning of the long, endless pre-season. We spent our time building funny contraptions such as a filtration container, a wind turbine, and the notorious marshmallow and toothpick bridges. We practiced on old robots and played around with new designs for a drive train. We helped host the FLL and FTC championships and raised a lot of money in Ruckus.
Yet, of course, the easy days had to end. January 4th, the whole team lined up outside our school at 8 am. We arrived at the Kodak Theater on the Ridge, excited and fidgeting, and got ready to watch the short video that would control our lives for the next six weeks. The video had a few . . . technical difficulties, and once had to buffer in the middle of the game run-through. There were many shouting students in obvious distress.
Finally, the game loaded, and we watched.
This year’s game? Aerial Assist. It’s all about teamwork, and in order to make the maximum points, the drivers have to utilize all three teams on the alliance. This time, FIRST has outdone itself. This is taking coopertition to a whole new level. Teams will have to cooperate, communicate, and of course, compete.
The goal is to get 2 foot diameter exercise balls into large goals almost seven feet off the ground, or into square goals on the ground. The more robots that handle the ball, the more bonus points you get. The robots can have pieces to them to help them catch, dump, drive, throw, catapult, and more. We thought last year was going to be hard. This is going to test our team, our communication skills, and our cooperation skills. But that’s alright.
We got back to the school and immediately did the most important thing first: We ate lunch. Then, we got down to business. We broke up into small groups and reviewed the game rules. With three different color highlighters, we broke up the manual until there was nothing but questions left. And let me tell you, this team never runs out of questions.
When we got back together, we broke it down. Auto, Tele, Assists, and Scoring. Which is most important? How would we achieve the most points? What exactly are assists? To settle the questions and the few heated discussions, we decided to act out the game. I got to be a robot! And then a pedestal. Take my word for it; it was more fun to be a robot.
When that was all done, we tried out different strategies and counted up the points. What sequence would help us win? What would hinder our opponents? Are goalies even worth the loss of an entire robot in assists?
We continued the day with dinner, and after more food, strategy plus extras met to talk about possible designs and strategies. They met again on Sunday, and prototyping began the same day. Now, as we’re almost through the first week of build season, the pressure starts to build.
This is Rolling Thunder’s tenth year, and I can honestly say I’m proud to be on the team for this momentous occasion. We’ve made it to Championships the last ten years, and we intend to keep going for ten more.