Saturday, May 23, 2015

World Championship Series: Part 3 "The Fields of Science"

The competition was held in the Edward Jones Dome, home of the Rams, with the pits in the America's Center. Our first challenge was offloading all of our tools and getting inside to set up our pit. Just like at every smaller competition, each team would get a 10 by 10 by 10 foot cube of space to set up a mini workshop called our “pit” where we would keep our robot in between matches and do any necessary repairs. Normally, the pits would fill a high school gym. Here, with 600 teams in attendance, we filled the America's Center. The only way to describe the size of this building would be to say that it took a good fifteen minutes to walk from one end to the other.
First World Championship 2015
Edward Jones Football Stadium filled with eager competitors
 But nothing would compare to the size of the “Dome.” Eight different fields, eight different divisions, inside the Edward Jones Football Stadium. Each one named after a different famous scientist from history: Newton, Hopper, Tesla, Archimedes, Galileo, Curie, Carver, and Carson. Each field had its own massive LCD screen hanging above it where the match data would be displayed. Each field also had its own section of the stands where all the members of all the teams in each division would sit and cheer. Each field would be played on by the best teams from all around the world. We were no longer in a high school gym. We were at the World Championship. This was what it meant to go pro in FIRST.

Part 2 "Journey to St. Louis"
Part 4 " Glory Road"

Thursday, May 21, 2015

World Championship Series: Part 2 "Journey to St. Louis"

We didn’t really start to realize this year was different until we got to our second competition in Kokomo. For the first time in my memory we were not only easily hold a spot in the top 8 during qualifications but we were fighting neck and neck for first place. We didn’t win at Kokomo, but we more than qualified to go to State Championships. We qualified in the top ten teams in Indiana.
State Robotics Championship
The PhyXTGears at State
At State, our good fortunes continued. New robot upgrades and two competitions worth of practice paid off as we found ourselves easily holding the top 8 again and contemplating the possibility of being picked by the number one alliance captain. Still though, it didn’t seem real that we were going to St. Louis until they called our name and I went down to the field to get my picture taken with the other team representatives. We were going to Worlds. And I wasn’t day dreaming this time.
Phyxtgears State Championship
The team after learning that they would be going to Worlds!
The competition was in just a couple of weeks. We needed money, organization, and did I mention money? We had pulled together as a team to raise more than enough to go to State but World’s was another matter. Still, I don’t think anyone was very worried. The common opinion among everyone was that if money was the only thing standing in our way we would do anything necessary to raise it and that was that. The entire couple of weeks leading up to World’s was a blur. We did everything from buying a trailer and decorating it with custom vinyl graphics to writing a team “Bible” which every mentor would have a copy of for rules and general team information. We also owe a big thank you Tony Soverns and Scott Ray, mentors on team 447 out of Anderson who came to speak to our team about what we needed to know once we got to Worlds.
On the bus to Worlds
All team members are eager to arrive in St. Louis
The morning of Wednesday April 22nd, we loaded everything up on a truly massive double decker bus and set off down the highway. On the bus we played cards, video games, and even got to hear stories from our head mentor, Mike Koch, who spoke about his life experiences that brought him to be where he is today. Then, in just short five hours, we entered St. Louis.

 Part 1 "The Senior in St. Louis
Part 3 "The Fields of Science"

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

World Championship Series: Part 1 "The Senior in St. Louis"

Three weeks ago today our team was getting ready to go to the FIRST Robotics Competition World Championships in St. Louis Missouri. We would be gone for four days, three nights, and experience what would be a once in a lifetime event for me. My name is Ryan Spangler, I am a senior this year and so this is my last year in FIRST. I also happen to be the driver of our robot this year. When my team asked me to write this blog post summing up what it was like to be at the World Championship, it took some time. This year was significant for me in several different ways and I wanted to do it justice. In fact, I spent a good deal of my down time at competition just trying to figure out exactly how I was going to describe something as big and as amazing as this event to everyone back home. I guess we’ll see how I do.

FIRST World Championship 2015 St. Louis PhyXTGears
Ryan is all smiles after a successful round at the FIRST World Championships
Up to this point, the World Championship was something that students might hear about in passing during their first years on the team but wouldn’t really give much more thought other than just that it existed. It always seemed like a dream that was so far removed from the level at which our team competed as to be unachievable. Maybe in ten, twenty years our team would get good enough to go to St. Louis. We weren’t being pessimistic.Going to the World Championships for us seemed about as likely as a high school football team winning a shot to play in the Super Bowl. But, something changed this year. I’d like to say that it was obvious from the start and our team had this amazing build season where everything went right and our robot was perfect from the get go, but that isn’t how it works. FRC is “the hardest fun you’ll ever have.”

Leaving on the Light Rider bus and heading to World's
Leaving on the LightRider bus and heading to World's!

 Check out --> Part 2 Journey to St. Louis