We are at the VexIQ World Robotics Competition with our 13 year old daughter. Jackie and her partner came in first place in the NJ State champions back in December 2016 and qualified in two categories for the Worlds.
Our family was beyond proud and excited for Jackie. Team 44J spent two hours every Sunday working on their robot – tweaking, building, programming. The last two weeks before the competition the girls did an extra 16 hours of work to be prepared. We flew to Louisville, Ky. on Saturday to arrive in time for the kickoff, registration and a practice day Sunday morning.
There are over 34 countries and close to 600 teams here competing. It is a huge event and we woke up Sunday morning excited for the experience ahead. In the lobby of the hotel, we saw Chris, the owner of our robotics school. Apparently, Saturday night the trailer that held all eight teams' robots from Robot Revolution had been stolen from the hotel parking lot. The police were called, they watched the hotel security footage. It appeared to be a “professional” job and our kids were out of luck.
The robots needed to be inspected by 10 am Monday morning to compete. Imagine the crushed faces and despair of 16 kids who have worked long and hard since September of last year and they have nothing to show. At first some wanted to pack it in and leave.
Then the idea of rebuilding started to take shape. What if we could find enough parts and build another before 10 am the next day? It would not be as complex but maybe they could participate in the next two days’ activities.
Chris went to Target and got some basic build kits – they only had two. Other teams pitched in extra parts and the Veil CEO had new kits flown in from Texas.
The kids had a plan. They would jointly build two robots with the starter kits and then duplicate them when the additional kits arrived at the hotel that evening.
Once they had a plan – the tears dried up and the kids went to work. 16 kids working fast and furiously together. It was beyond impressive. Two local news channels came to cover the story. They worked late into the night and by 1 am, there were eight robots built. They still needed to program them and practice but they are back in the game.
We thought "Worlds" was going to be great experience before the robots were stolen. Today is a day they all earned. The lessons of team work, passion, drive and a never give up attitude will take these kids far. The future looks bright with these fabulous minds leading the way.
Whatever happens today, these kids are winners!