Friday, April 23, 2010

Top 10 Indicators You Need a Break From BREAKAWAY

I do not want a break from BREAKAWAY and robotics, but there may be a few indications that we need a break.

The closing ceremony of FIRST Championship games in Atlanta included a Top Ten list of "Indicators You Need a Break From BREAKAWAY," and there were some funny ones. OKay, I admit some were funny, and some were true, so I had to reflect for a moment to realize that they are kind of humorous... like: "Build workshop is primary residence." Well, part of the build workshop has been in our primary residence since January, and I have often referred to the school's metal shop as a second home. This isn't normal?

And when I saw indicator #2, I thought, "Cool. I could totally go for that. I painted the RV in team colors. And I have seriously been thinking of pimping my ride with some sweet details. Why not bumpers?" This isn't normal?

And "Yes. Yes, I have been thinking about St Louis. Can we get there? What will they build? How many more T-shirts should they silkscreen? Which FRC events should we they elect to go to? Is there an aquarium?"

I think it may be time for me to reflect on my own Top Ten Indicators I Need A Break from BREAKAWAY.

10. We are exhausted. Yes, I still feel the energy and love robotics and FIRST, but we have been worn a bit thin, by the intensity of these work-school-laundry-robotics schedules. I need a nap. Several naps.

9. We are still trying to move in to our home. We have made great progress, but there are still unpacked boxes and empty walls. We need to reapply ourselves to being moved-in.

8. Every time someone does something well, or needs encouragement, my arms spontaneously shoot up and I pump phantom pom-poms.

7. That thingy, in my leg, that makes the muscle hang on... it's still not hanging on. Don't tell my mommy. She worries.

6. Maria has been tagging every clear surface with 2102 and Paradox illustrations.

5. I think I can dance. This one is embarrassing. I know I cannot dance, but for some reason I do not let this fact keep me from doing the Cha-Cha slide. In public. Before cameras, and people whose respect I hope to earn.

4. Every post about robotics has been a detrimental blow to Chickenblog readership. Actually, this reason sucks. I will never take a break from posting about robotics! Hence the new header.

3. The house is a mess. Oh boy. This one is serious. I used to at least pretend that I was trying to be a domestic diva, but I gave that act up. I love robotics and 2102 and FIRST, and given any excuse I will write, photograph, sew, and beg for this team... especially if I can get out of mopping and dusting.

2. The house is a mess.
I said that.
That's okay.
I think it bears repeating.

1. From Blogger: "FTP publishing will no longer be available after May 1, 2010
You currently have blogs that are published using FTP. You must migrate your blogs to a new custom domain URL or a blogspot URL."


Uh-oh. This one is a doozy.

Chcikenblog Chickenblog is going away. All the deep thoughts, and flowers, and hencakes, Betty, Chango, Joe, Benjamin Franklin Thunder Cat, and the Ratty-Rats, the quilts, Geeks... all of it.

But not for long.

I hope.

Geoff? Will this take long?

Geoff is taking a break from BREAKAWAY, so he can do... he can make... he can... you know... make Chickenblog come back slicker, and shinier, and bloggier than ever.

This may take a few days. This may get glitchy. This may make me really nervous. It will confuse me too, but I am familiar with that sensation. Mostly I just hope we don't make you nervous and confused. And I hope we don't *poof* leave the Interwebs, forever lost in cyberspace.

While Geoff is banging his head and sitting on hold with someone named "Josh" in Bangalore migrating the blog to a new custom domain URL or a blogspot URL,
I will be reassuming my role as a domestic diva, *ahem.*
Pray for me. For us.

For your viewing pleasure, I would like to leave you with an original work of art, torn from Alex's english notebook. (The very same notebook where he is supposed to be writing English notes.)

"Dostoevsky Esky Esky Esky" by Alex V2"

He's reading Crime and Punishment.
It's done in pen. The teacher took a picture of it with Flat Stanley.

I love this blog.
Please look for us on the other side.
We will be back.

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!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dream it, design it, build it! :: FIRST in My Heart

I believe in the vision of FIRST:
"To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders."
Dean Kamen, Founder

I believe in the goals and aspirations of 2102 Team Paradox.

... and I believe going to Atlanta, Georgia for the 2010 FIRST Championship was beyond awesome.

A lot of people ask either, "Did you win?" or "How did you place?"

And I understand.

A contest, a competition is for winning, for doing your best, but regardless, my first impulse is to answer, "Yes! Yes, they won."

They came in FIRST. For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.
They started a team.
They inspired growth, and lasting commitment.
They dreamt it.
They designed it, and built it.
They played Breakaway in San Diego, and they came home with an invitation to Atlanta, and the award for Inspiration in Engineering.
They played again, in Las Vegas, where they earned their third Team Spirit award.
And then they rallied to prepare and organize for the honor of going to the Championship in Atlanta... they intently raised funds and spirits, making it possible to bring thirty students across the country, along with almost twenty more Paradox teachers, mentors and family members. The lasting awards of all they accomplished makes 2102 Team Paradox first in my heart.

I came home re-energized to promote FIRST and to celebrate the brilliance of young minds... they are worthy of so much more support, and more opportunities to fulfill their potential. Hey. That is saying a lot! It has been a long and intense journey, so declaring my renewed determination to get the whole world spirited for science and engineering, for the students who inspire me... means Dean Kamen must have hypnotic speech powers. I just cannot get out of these red pants!

Coopertition... students from around the world meeting to compete and cooperate, to talk about math, science, and robots!

FIRST is for everyone, from everywhere. Meet 13400 Team Dragonbots, from Santiago, Chile. They are a FIRST LEGO League team.

FIRST is for alumni-mentors, founding members who keep coming back for more. Matt and Amy, forever Paradox.

This man is FIRST. He teaches it, lives it, exudes it, and his students love him for it.

Gracious Professionalism is part of the ethos of FIRST. It's a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. Thank you Team 11, Marauders.

2102 Team Paradox is in the house, cheering for robotics, cheering for math and science, cheering for Mark Leon, cheering for the underdog...

... cheering for FIRST, cheering Team San Diego, cheering with Code Red Robotics.

Cheering for 2102!

Wish you were there... no matter what time it is, or where we are, we always remember Team San Diego and The Midnight Mechanics.

FIRST is for mentors, they squeeze in time whenever they can, because sharing knowledge is the best... it's an re-awarding exchange.

FIRST is for art, science, boys, girls, math, robots, leadership, ingenuity, outreach, and team spirit. 2102 is FIRST

FIRST is for families. Grandparents, cousins, sisters, uncles, aunts, brothers... robot families, like these fans of FIRST LEGO League's Cyborg Kitties of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

FIRST is for designing, building, and driving your robot, for making alliances, and playing as a team in the arena, in the stands, and in the community.

A Paradox must dance. Here we go... Down, down, do your dance, do your dance...

To the right, to the right, to the right...

Now walk it by yourself, now walk it by yourself

2102 loves sharing their team spirit all over the place.

Spread the news: 2102 Loves Robotics and Robo-Spirit!

Thousands of students, hundreds of teams, months of work, years of dreaming...

... the team has big aspirations, generous intentions, and a solid future.

I believe in keeping our expectations high. Never give up, never surrender! 2102 believes in learning, teaching, sharing, growing, and coming back to play again.

2102 believes in Team San Diego, in mentoring new teams, like 3128, Aluminium Narwhals

2102 Team Paradox is celebrating a super robot season, and always being FIRST.

Here is one more video link for a fun and fast overview of FLL, FTC, FRC, and 2010 FIRST Championships.