At the end of March, I had the pleasure of judging at a robotics tournament.
Now, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science & Technology) is an amazing program for kids. They cover elementary through high school (though what I judged was a tournament for the high school aged kids). The entire program operates around a concept of “Gracious Professionalism” and the kids are encouraged and even rewarded for being kind to each other.
In short, I love this program for the shot of faith-in-humanity boost it gives me. These kids are amazing.
Every year, a different corporate sponsor creates a game. The rules of the game are released to everyone at the same time, and the kids have 6 weeks to design, build, test, and perfect a robot that can play the game. Games vary from year to year, but usually involve manipulating game pieces or balls into a specific space, and an extra spatial positioning challenge for the robots at the end of the match.
Each match is played between two coalitions of three teams each, making it so six robots are on the playing field in a given game. During the qualifiers, the teams switch up constantly. The robot you’re playing against in this match might just be on your coalition in your next one! The teams get to know and respect one another. They help each other. And one thing I’ve noticed when interviewing the teams, if you ask them who they helped, they’ll hem and haw. If you ask them who helped them, and suddenly you’re bombarded with information.
For this particular tournament, I found out that the hosting team had reached out to every school that was going to attend, so they could make sure their Robot Rescue program could have spare parts available for anyone, should their robots break down mid-competition.
Like I said, amazing.
I’ll leave you with my favorite anecdote from the tournament: on Friday, one of the kids approached me, looking nervous. Which is underestandable, I was wearing a judge’s polo, and that marked me as An Adult Wot’s In Charge Of Something, so kudos to her bravery. She said, “Excuse me, this might sound like a really weird question, but…were you cosplaying Vi from Arcane at Comicon last week?”
“Why, yes! I was.” (My hair is cut and dyed for that cosplay, which makes me very identifiable right now.)
Turns out she was in the Arcane photoshoot with me that day at con. It’s a small nerd world. 🙂