Alamo Regional, Part Two

And so we went. On Wednesdays at Nolan we get out at 2:25. The goal was to leave by 3:30. The massive packing effort was led by Kyle Griffith and Joe Piña, and we certainly owe them a great debt for that – they are the reason we had all the tools we needed in our pit. I admit I can’t say much about the bus ride (I drove down a few hours later due to a choir rehearsal (it’s really an interesting anecdote, involving getting lost and the untimely death by impact of an armadillo), but that’s a different story). But it was on a charter bus, and even with all the cargo we brought everyone was comfortable.

By the time I arrived at the hotel Wednesday night, sometime after 11PM, everyone was settled in, and there was just a little room left in the day to have a quick meeting regarding our strategy for Thursday. Our goal was to get settled in our pit right after 8, get the robot inspected ASAP, and attend as many practice matches as possible. As you’ll come to see soon, not all of those things happened. But anyway, that’s what we decided. At that point everyone shuffled off to bed.

We awoke the next morning for a quick breakfast meeting before heading off to the convention center. The breakfast meeting was unfortunately delayed (and sorta completely derailed) by two things. First, a certain someone who leads the team and is 6′ 3″ with poofy hair is incapable of waking up on time (I don’t want to name names but his initials are Zach Wempe); Second, we all realized there was made-to-order breakfast and proceeded to the omelet line!

About an hour later, we emerged from the hotel and boarded the charter bus, settling into our various stages of food comas. At that point we did get a little discussion done regarding loading in to the pit. Here comes the cool part. When we got to the convention center, we drove around to the loading docks, and got everything off of the bus. When it was just a few minutes to 8, we picked everything up and headed in.

I must say – I was totally unprepared for the sight I saw. I’ve seen big convention centers. The Irving Convention Center, the Fort Worth Convention Center, but this is different. You walk in and it’s just so long. When we first entered you could see all the way to the other end. The big dividers were down. It was indescribably big. Just pillar after pillar after pillar, far off to the opposite wall. Some kids (typical robotics kids) were flying drones around! It was really awesome.

We walked through the big empty space of the first three rooms, and into the fourth, where all the FRC and FTC stuff was. Eventually at some point Thursday they closed off the other rooms, so the sense of space grew a little more contained. Anyway, enough about big. Let’s talk little. If you haven’t been to a robotics competition, you probably will have some difficulty visualizing the pit. So I want you to do this. Go to your bedroom, which is probably no more than 12’x14’ or something close to that. Now sector of a square section that looks to be about 10’x10’ (that’s the size of a pit). Now let’s start adding things. Stick a robot in there, and a battery cart, and tool bins, and electronic bins, and chargers for laptops, and laptops, and notebooks, and a table, and a jack, and some backpacks, and promotional material, and then about 6 people. Then attempt to move – it’s hard, right? Yeah, pits are cramped. There’s a lot of stuff, and often a lot of work going on. Luckily, some forward planning, with good organization and careful attention paid to who should and shouldn’t be in the pit (if you’re not working, you’re taking up space!), the pit can be a manageable and useful space.

Once we settled in, we unbagged the robot and began work. A little disassembly was required to switch out the frames and attach the shooter. Time sorta blurred for me at this point. Everyone worked quickly, and efficiently, and in a focused manner. We didn’t pay much attention to anything else. Our parents and scouting team staked out a section in the stands from which to watch practice matches and rest when we weren’t working. Eventually we were ready for inspection. Preliminary inspection went well! To our relief, we passed on both weight and perimeter. It was in the next part of inspection that things went a bit awry…


This is the second in a series of posts about the Alamo Regional that will be published daily after 3/15/16 until the story is complete. (Apparently I put a little too much trust in WordPress’s auto posting feature…or I just set it up wrong. Sorry about that. Anyway, Part 3 should come tomorrow). Thanks for reading!