Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dear Atlanta, I Think I Love You

Maybe it's only a crush. How well can you really know someone, or a place, after four days? But I think I am in love just a little bit with Atlanta, Georgia. Some might take offense, if I said, "I cannot believe it," or "I am surprised," so I won't go that way. But Atlanta kind of did exceed my expectations.

Of course I am not sure I had actual expectations, other than a much suppressed desire to see Rhett and Scarlett pushing a pram down Peachtree Center. Fiction. I know. But I cannot deny that my mind is impressionable, and I actually even enjoy the irrational generalizations that I harbor.

Dear Atlanta,

I think I love you. We were met by friendly and courteous people, and a big, yet easy to navigate airport. And it just kept getting better...


We felt the welcome right away. And it helps... we came across a lot of country, to a new city, but seeing FIRST banners with Atlanta's message was like a warm smile from a stranger. And the smiles were everywhere... the hotels, and visitor information booths, in the restaurants. It felt like the city took a genuine interest in FIRST and making everyone comfortable and appreciated. Nice.


For the most part our time was all Robo, all the time. We were robocentric, but on the walk between the hotel and the Georgia Dome we enjoyed beautiful views, urban color, and lots of things I think we would love to go back and enjoy... like a carriage ride.


Speaking of the Georgia Dome, wow. I mean Wow.


Comfortable access, easy on the eyes natural lighting...


... and really, really, really big. Seriously big.


Georgia Dome is impressive.

In regional events the team pits are on the other side of the playing fields, but those events have between forty and fifty teams. I believe Atlanta was hosting five hundred FLL, FTC, and FRC teams. Ten thousand students + mentors, coaches, referees, judges, volunteers, moms, dads, media, brothers, uncles, sisters, aunts, grandmas and grandpas, CEOS, CIA, vendors, and robots. In Atlanta the six playing fields were in the Dome, and the hundreds of team pits, vendors, universities, and corporation booths were in the Georgia World Congress Center, Building C. Did I mention we walked a lot?


Alex and I want to fill the seats of the next FRC arena, whether it's in San Diego, or St. Louis. This is a huge ambition, but Dean Kamen spoke to us, and we are under his hypnotic influence. We believe in FIRST, and we believe everyone should care about education, technology, Coopertition, Gracious Professionalism, robotics, and the students who are our world's strength and hope. We hope everyone will share our love and respect for thoughtful, intelligent, motivated students, and make the time to support them.


"Famous people"... what is that all about? We give so much time and glory, so much money, to people that are mostly about consumption and superficiality. My heroes are teachers, mentors, and volunteers, and my investments are in students... they are changing the world, they will turn the economy around, cure diseases, find answers, fix problems, and they need to know that we believe in them, that we will support them, that we respect their worth.


I get so pumped about FIRST!
It's easy to do.

Being in a robotics club is hard work. The intensity of the build season, when students and the men and women that support them, make tremendous sacrifices, both at school and home, can be painful at times. Lost sleep, tensions, anxiety, blood, sweat, and tears... these go hand in hand with getting to FRC. Speaking for the team I know best, the students are intelligently designing and conceptualizing a machine that must perform to the specifications of their goals and the rules of the game, and then they take their plans in to a metal shop, where they manufacture parts, assemble those parts and test them. Then there is wiring and programming... making everything work as planned. And the marketing side of the club is just as industrious, doing all they can to financially and emotionally support the build team, and to meet the requirements and expectations of FIRST, keeping documents, forms, and outreach in order.

It is serious. It can be serious fun too. But anyone that does not recognize and appreciate the high caliber of intelligence, dedication, and seriousness of robotics and FIRST teams is a total bonehead. (CNN, shame on you and your trivialization of your superiors).

Oh. Excuse my little tangent there.
But hold on. This is still about Atlanta, because for the most part Atlanta respectfully received FIRST, and the city definitely helped us enjoy some hard earned fun.


Meet Reginald. He took our lunch orders for three days, and he was such a sweet and friendly guy, we feel like we have a friend at the Georgia Dome. Thank you Reginald. You are awesome!


And Centennial Park... what a lovely treat to walk through here every morning and evening. This is also where FIRST hosted a big end of competition party... a grand finale, where everyone could celebrate another successful year in robotics.


We got to watch as the preparations for the party were steadily building up, and by Saturday afternoon we could see the carnival-like attractions awaiting the celebrants. Even Atlanta Fire and Rescue was ready to keep the evening fun, and safe.


There was only one time when... okay two times... when I wish we had a stroller for Maria in Atlanta. She's grown a lot since we carried her sleepy body around Paris and Amsterdam.


She was so wiped out, and heavy, it took Geoff, Alex, William, and Me taking shifts to get her back to the hotel.
Poor Maria. She wholeheartedly gives herself to supporting her team, but keeping up with teenagers and adults is hard on a little one.


Where do you go after a long day passing out chocolate Paradox eggs, cheering, and following Breakaway matches? How about the top of the world, on the seventy second floor, in the Sun Dial Bar? Steve and Geoff, build mentors extraordinaire, relaxed, and revolved. William, Alex, Max, Maria, and esteemed metal shop teacher, Jason B., were there too, and we mellowed with the setting sun and fantastic views of the Atlanta skyline.


The lounge makes a full revolution every sixty minutes.
Look! There's Centennial Park, and beyond that Georgia World Congress Center, and Georgia Dome.


We didn't make it to Ted Turner's grill, but check out the tip-top of our revolving hotel. It was nice in there.
Lisa S., and all of our travel team did such a good job of securing rides, beds, and food. Go Travel Team!


I like to think that Andrew Young would love to party with FIRST.


I must blame thank Matt for this one.
Let's see... we have Dennis, Chris, Matt, Andrew, Nate, Wayne, Jason, George, Natalie, Maria, Max, Alex, and Geoff... and more at the other bar! We were all at the Georgia Aquarium (more on this amazing visit later) and we were having a wonderful time, but we were also amazingly hungry. Don't be hatin', but seeing all those fish, well, we were sort of inspired to eat... you know... fish!

So. Yes. It is true that we left the private, invitation only, Aquarium party to go out for a seafood dinner. And thank you Matt for this suggestion. We skipped a very long burger line, and instead enjoyed fantastic views, great conversations, excellent service, a delicious meal, and re-entry to the Aquarium with happier tummies.


I call this the Legal View. Legal Sea Foods was not only a good choice for our dinner, it was beautiful, and no one gave us a hard time about coming in our work clothes. I'm not sure all establishments would be as welcoming to a huge team of red pant wearing, face-painted, robo fans, but by the end of the evening the manager was promising to come to the next day's matches. Definitely caught robo fever. Sweet.


I think Jason B is enjoying FIRST Championship benefits. Well deserved, Jason. Salud!


And this... this deserves a whole other post. Maria is like a one girl Commissioner of Paradox Spirit, spreading good will and robotic diplomacy wherever she goes, and the sweet women at the bar of Legal Sea Food were totally game! Service with a smile was never more awesome.


I love MARTA.
I love the Olympic ring fountain in Centennial Park.
It was fun having a small dose of the outlawed Freaknik... how low can you go?
I should have known Atlanta would be cool, since I do know some very cool people that hail from there.


I hope we can return to Atlanta some day, but ironically all that we learned as a team about visiting Atlanta may not serve us the next time we make it to a FIRST Championship, because 2011 FIRST Championship, 2012 FIRST Championship, and 2013 FIRST Championship are in St Louis!

(Alex, we need to get busy if we are going to fill the sixty-six thousand seats in their stadium!)

Thank you Atlanta!
Go robotics!
Go FIRST!

6 comments:

  1. So cool to see a post about the city I moved away from - it's neat to see someone else's post of view on it. The Freaknik thing made me laugh - the first time I went to Atlanta was in high school when I lived in NC and my Explorer scout troop went there on a fieldtrip there and ended up in the middle of Freaknik. It was wild. I didn't now it was now outlawed... And seeing the sign for Ted's makes me hungry - they have awesome burgers! If/when I ever live in Atlanta again, I'm going to be sure to check out the Robotics competition. It sounds like a great experience to see.

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  2. Oh Natalie. What a wonderful overview of your time in Atlanta. I can see why you love the city -- so many friendly people :-) Thanks for sharing the trip with us.

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  3. So much fun... so much excitement! I've not been to Atlanta before--it looks wonderful! Maria will sleep anywhere... LOL! LOVE the red pants worn by all! ;o) Happy Days ((HUGS))

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  4. I love the photos and the overview of your wonderful, wonderful journey! Glad, too, that Legal Seafoods did right by you, given that it's a Boston institution....

    Hurray for FIRST, for family, for friends....

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  5. East coast rocks! East coast rocks!

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  6. w00t! Awesome review, and glad you all had such a great time!

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