To love and win is the best thing. To love and lose, the next best.
~ William M. Thackeray
It is many a young boy’s dream to play with robots and build things. It has been one of my son’s dreams since he was five years old. The very first time I heard about robotics from a homeschool list I was on, he started begging me to get involved with it. At first he was too young, then we had trouble finding a group, then we moved and it wasn’t available in our new area. There was always some extra excuse, but mostly the reason we hesitated to participate was because it just wasn’t affordable for us on one income. Robotics kits are not cheap.
I think God knew Kaden needed a helping hand if he was ever going to get involved with robotics. This year He brought us together with a sweet family in our local co-op that had participated in these sort of events before… and lucky for us they were looking for another team member for 2008. They even offered to pay the entry fees and already had the supplies the team needed. I just couldn’t say no. Kaden was beside himself with glee. Finally, his dream come true! He was going to be a part of a robotics team!
The boys created a small team of two and began practice two times a week for an hour or two each time they met. We made it a part of our weekly routine to make sure they had enough time to work on the ‘bots’. Kaden didn’t even use the bot that he owns because his buddy already had two bots out of the box and was already building them. This would be a learning experience for him as his first year in robotics. He hadn’t been previously trained even though he did have an NXT Lego kit that his grandparents got him a year before over the holidays. We were excited that he was going to get to finally enjoy robotics and had no expectations of him winning anything.
Winning in the regional competition was the icing on the cake – and a shock to both us and Kaden’s friend’s parents. Competition was long and hard. The boys competed in two rounds and ended up with a winning score. They won the regional qualifying championships and we had only two weeks to prepare for a trip to the World Championship games in Michigan. After a bit of fundraising and planning, we set out for Detroit. Kaden’s teammate flew and we drove. It would have been easier to fly, but ticket prices and threat of layovers scared us away. With one win under our belt we wondered if we could pull off another win in Michigan.
At 7:30 AM Saturday morning we signed in at the college so the boys could practice. It was a grueling day for Kaden (after only 3 hours of sleep and 18+ hours in the car the day/night before). We got to see a lot of great robots and there were 36 teams competing against our team in the Junior level. They also had an exhibition to show off robots that had won that category of the competitions, a robot fashion show, Sumo-bot (where the robots fight and push each other out of a ‘ring’), and we got to listen to a high-school band play.
The next best thing to winning is losing! At least you’ve been in the race.
~ Nellie Hershey Tullis
Our scores had been pretty high on regionals, so we were disappointed to come in 13th overall in the World Competition. 13th place isn’t so bad when you consider that those were the best teams in the world (3 different countries competed in the Junior division: America, Canada, South Korea). Although the BIG trophy didn’t come home with us, we sure gained a lot of knowledge and experience. We scored an E for effort in my book, and not only did Kaden learn a lot about robots, Lego Mindstorm kits, programming, competing in Robofest, etc. – he also got to drive through a total of 9 states and have a few other adventures along the way.
Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.
~ Auguste Rodin
Who knows if there will be a next time for Robofest or not. Right now we are just savoring the memories. It isn’t every day that you get to claim that you are the regional Robofest champion… and it isn’t every day that you get to travel over 3,000 miles across the USA. We’ll worry about other robot ventures later. We were all just thankful we got to participate! Winning isn’t the important thing anyway… enjoying the journey and being a champion in all you set out to do along the way is much more important.