December 18, 2011

Prior Lake Middle School Robotics Competition 2011

Prior Lake Middle School Robotics Competition 2011

Shortarmguy's Diary Update for December 18, 2011

On Sunday night, we went to the Outback to celebrate Grandma Linda's birthday.  Poor thing is getting so old that can she can no longer sit up at the table by herself.  Luckily her boobs still have enough grip to keep her braced up against the table, so at least she has that going for her.

On Monday, I chaperoned the boy's Ski Club at Buck Hill in Burnsville, Minnesota.  It was unseasonably warm at about 40 degrees, but they've been making snow so the ski conditions were still quite decent.  Made for a pretty fun night of skiing.  Even if I was surrounded by pre-teens all night.

On Wednesday night, I went to the Minnesota Wild game with my co-worker, Steve "Cuds" Cuddihy.  Because if there's anyone I really like going Wild with, It's Steve "Cuds" Cuddihy.

The Wild have had a great start to the season and were leading the NHL in points the night of the game.  The team they were playing, the Chicago Black Hawks, were in second place.  The game was an epic battle and the Wild tied the score with less than 5 minutes to play.  The teams then went into overtime and finally a shootout to settle things.  Unfortunately for the home team, the Black Hawks smoked them pretty quickly in the Shootout, but it was a great game none the less.

The rest of the week was pretty much spent on final preparations for the 2011 Prior Lake Middle School Robotics Competition.  16 teams spent 9 weeks building, programming, and testing their robots to compete in the squared circle at Prior Lake High School.  The competition was exhilarating.

The competition was sponsored by the high school team, King Tec.  Their team has won numerous awards and competed recently in the World First Championship.  They sponsored the competition which gives Prior Lake one of the only middle school robotics programs in the state of Minnesota.

Joe Passofaro is the parent volunteer who has given countless hours in to building an incredible program that emphasizes themes like Gracious Professionalism and honors teams that help others rather than just ruthlessly trying to win.  He continually stressed that the victory is in the experience and the education gained from the process rather than just being about the team with the higher score at the end of the tournament.  He and the high school team created such an incredible program, I can honestly say that it was my favorite educational experience I've been involved with as a parent.  

Way to go, Joe!!

Of course, Joe didn't do it all by himself.  His incredible wife, April Passofaro, was with him every step of the way, busily working behind the scenes to make sure the program was flowing like it should and that the participants all had the parts that they needed.  

What a neat couple!

There were 16 teams in the matches and they all had clever names and cool T shirts.  The Bots in Black were one of my favorites along with the Angry Nerds.

The tournament was an all day affair with 28 preliminary rounds.  Luke and Avery were part of Team # 4 aka Real Steel and competed in 7 of the opening matches.  There were four robots on the field during each match which created a lot of chaos for their mechanical players.

The matches consisted of a 30 second "Autonomous" period where the robots had to perform based purely on what had been programmed into their brains and then followed by a 2 minute tele-operation where the team members controlled the robot with what looks like an XBOX style joystick.  There were several ways to score including carrying the comets (orange footballs) to the alliance side of the field or into the high goal.  Possession of the large yellow sun ball also counted for a whopping 25 points so it was important to keep an eye on this thing as well.

The matches were fast paced and quite exciting.  With 4 robots and balls flying everywhere, it was sometimes hard to keep track of who was winning, but cheering loudly always seemed to help regardless of what was happening on the field.

Parental involvement during the competition could be grounds for disqualification, so our team parents decided to watch most of the matches high above the field.  They may look calm in this picture, but we were all chewing our fingernails pretty much throughout the entire day!

All that stressing out seems to have paid off, because our team made it to the finals!  They selected team 12 to be their alliance partner because they had an incredibly unique robot that could actually throw the footballs to the other side of the field without rolling anywhere!  There were balls flying all over the place!!

Although our alliance didn't win the final round of the tournament, we were lucky enough to win the coveted Chairman's Award!    

I just can't tell you enough how proud we are of our team.  They worked so hard the past 9 weeks to make their robot work and in the end, their efforts really paid off for all of them.  

Here's a short video I made featuring the clip where they won the award:

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