Sunday, December 9, 2012

FTC MAGIC - It Does Exist!

Have you ever been frustrated with FTC? Like, really frustrated?? Ever ask yourself: “WHY doesn’t the robot work?”; “Are we REALLY ready for the tournament?”; “How important is the engineering notebook? Do the judges read it anyway?”; “FTC is not making a difference in MY life!”

(Yes, the judges do read your notebook!!)

Trust me, I have been frustrated too, but its more because of the mounds of paperwork (processing Memo of Agreements, making qualifying tournament assignments, collecting subaward agreements, establishing POs for 100+ teams, receiving and processing quotes from vendors, reserving vehicles, reimbursing qualifying hosts, processing registration fees, etc.). I’m not complaining -  but sometimes I just need to see a little MAGIC to get me through a long day.

So, here are five stories of FTC MAGIC, happening this season, that have inspired me and hopefully they will inspire you.

FTC MAGIC -- A Student’s Life
During the Awards Ceremony of the Nov. 17th Cedar Valley Qualifier, the emcee was stumbling a bit while reading the award script for the Connect Award. He said “Love. Peace. And....” stopped. One of the students in the audience, stood up very proudly, and shouted “Love! Peace! And, chicken grease!” The audience erupted in applause while the team from Mason City, Iowa came down to accept their award.

This team is a rookie team from a district with 54% Free & Reduced Lunch. It is only because of the funding from the Rockwell Collins Rookie FTC grant and the STEM Scale-Up grant were they able they were able to start a team.

It was after the event when I realized how much FTC has impacted Johney, (a.k.a Mr. Love. Peace & Chicken Grease).  On Monday, Nov. 19th, I got an email from his coach saying that Johney said that the day was “the best day of his life”.

If we can make a Saturday the best day of a student’s life, then its all worth it.
As a “Thank You!”, I’d like to say “Love! Peace! And, Chicken Grease!”

FTC MAGIC -- Never Too Small
On Sat., Dec 8th Team #6583 only had a student and a coach.  For whatever reasons, the other  teammates could not attend. Put it simply: The student rocked. The coach rocked. Team #6583 was selected during alliance selection and made it to the semi-final matches.

A team is never too small to be loud and impressive.

FTC Magic -- Last Ranked Team
FTC tournaments are very unique. Regardless of where your team is ranked at the end of the qualifying matches, they still have the potential of advancing.

After the qualifying rounds of the Dec. 1st event in Solon, the teams were ranked and alliance selection process made the event VERY interesting. The first ranked team picked the second ranked team, which essentially moved the fifth ranked team, Team #367, into the fourth position -- and could make a selection. (Game Manual 1 - Section 2.6.8: Alliance Process) Because they had done fantastic scouting, Team #367 picked team #5143, which ironically, was ranked last. Team #367, #5143 and their alliance partner #3866 developed a great strategy and ended up winning their semi-final and final matches!

Many of our qualifiers advance five teams. (Game Manual 1 - Section 2.8: Advancement Criteria) As we advanced five teams, we arrived at the #5 Criteria: Winning Alliance, 1st Team Selected. Simply put, team # 5143, the last ranked team, Advanced to the FTC-Iowa Championship!

“The students have been re-energized and are working non-stop on the robot” said #5143 coach, Barb Miltner. “It was a great example of Gracious Professionalism!”

FTC MAGIC -- Inspiring a Volunteer
FTC Events are long, no doubt about it. Sometimes after a long exhausting week at work its hard to get the motivation to leave the house at 5am and drive to the venue, set up and be ready for doors to open at 7am.  However, during the day - and being with amazing students, sponsors coaches, mentors and volunteers - it evolves into a motivating and energizing event.

Craig Martinson, a FTC volunteer says that he helps because he sees how it has impacted his daughter and the students of his community. “I see how it motivates girls to go into engineering. I see how kids work together, even if they are on competing teams. I see how much value FTC gives students working and problem solving with others.”

Again, these events are motivators. I go home and I’m wired. At the end of a long tournament day, despite how exhausted my body may be, I feel like I did something positive to change the world. That’s FTC magic.

FTC MAGIC -- Connecting Around the World
FTC students are doing some amazing things -- and making the world a smaller place. Team #3550, Beta, from West Des Moines has developed a way to remote connect with a robot half way around the world. The magnitude of this is just awesome - the technical elements I just cannot comprehend. Controlling the robot from Des Moines, Iowa and the watching the robot move in Moscow, Russia or Sydney, Australia? Wow.

That is FTC MAGIC.

**Team #5975: Continue On and Be Strong. 
Your mentor would have wanted it this way.**

Again, regardless of how frustrated you may be for the short-term, please remember, there is a thing called FTC MAGIC and it gets us through the tough times.