I love this photo from Saturday's FIRST Tech Challenge meet at St. Louis Community College, Wildwood MO. Looking at this photo, and especially scanning the faces in the crowd, I see the realization of many of the things we imagined for this robotics season, and hope for even more.
Saturday's FTC meet at STLCC Wildwood was the first of four that we helped schedule, and the host teams for this meet were the Cyber Ducks and the iBots. Our idea was that we would do the part that is so difficult for teams, i.e. the early advanced planning, and then let the host teams step in and do much of the work when the event approaches. And the teams did great, providing the student volunteers to run the field, manage check-in, sell concessions , and bring in adult volunteers for the key positions. Our two referees were an especially great team, and ran a tight ship.
We hope that every robotics competition can be a community event, and I think we made a small step in that direction, by demonstrating to the staff of STLCC how much fun and inspiring a robotics competition can be. The student life director has already asked if we can do it again next year and make it bigger.
The community connection is a big part of our mission, not just because community support is needed for students to have places to work and parts to work with. The community participation in the competitions makes the game matter more, which in turn makes the teams try harder, which in turn makes the learning deeper. In my photo from Saturday, you cannot see the teams operating the robots, because it is the view from the team side of the field. This is what the teams see when they play. You can imagine how the teams feel, to see engaged, cheering spectators like these.
We call our events BotShows, and there are three more BotShows this season, each one having at its heart a "meet" of 12 FTC robotics teams. The FTC competition system is much larger than just the game you see in the photo; the system also incorporates a set of core values, which the kids are expected to learn and exemplify, as well as awards for excellent engineering practices and community outreach, among others. So the meets are only a small part of the whole experience for the students. But in a meet, you do get to see the rubber meeting to road, so to speak; all the design decisions and hard work of the team pay off with the robot performance on the game field.
We hope that each BotShow will be an even better community event than the last, culminating in the final BotShow at the St. Louis Science Center in February. Our next BotShow is January 14, at the Gary Gore Education Center in Jennings, MO. Come and see for yourself!
Jan 14 Gary Gore, Jennings
Jan 28, Girl Scouts Service Center, Maryland Heights
Feb 4, St. Louis Science Center