FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii (Dec. 26, 2013) -- The ShafterBOTs sat on the floor of the Neal Blaisdell Exhibition Hall as teams from across the state of Hawaii were presented with awards ranging from "Most Promising Rookie" to "Most Innovative Solution."
Of the 25 possible awards, 23 had been announced, and 48 teams along with their coaches and supporters sat silent and crossed fingered as the emcees stepped up to the podium to announce the 2013 FIRST Lego League "Nature's Fury" state champion.
But before we get into who won we should tell you how we got to this point.
The 10 of us are actually one of two ShafterBOT teams. You can call us the Disaster Masters. Our other team, the Platinum Firebusters, practiced, researched and competed alongside us all the way through the district tournament at Kalakaua Middle School, Oct. 26. They came in third for the robot mission competition that day, and fortunately, the Disaster Masters earned a spot as one of four teams from the Kalakaua tournament to be invited to the state competition.
One of the sixth grade team members, Timothy Karbler, 11, described the unexpected invitation as "shocking and exciting." He went on to say that "it was great because it meant that I could learn more about what robotics is and meet new teams that I hadn't met before."
The invitation also meant another couple months of after school practices and research to go along with our already stressful workload. You know how it is being a student, but we trudged on anyway.
After weeks of preparation, pounds of consumed snacks and a few headaches (at least on our coaches part), we were convinced that we were ready for states.
The morning of Dec. 7, we arrived nervous but excited for the eight-hour tournament ahead of us. The first half of the day would be split into three judged presentations: project, where we would present an informational skit about our innovative solution to battle the effects of a tsunami; core value, here we'd demonstrate our team's ability to collaborate and accomplish a task; and finally, robot design, where we would present our NXT and explain its features. (By the way, an NXT is an autonomous robot designed to accomplish missions created by FIRST Lego League.) These missions are worth points and are the fourth and final portion of the competition.
After completing the presentations and finishing fifth overall in the robot missions, we had nothing left to do but wait and hopefully hear our team announced as champion.
Unfortunately, we fell short of our ultimate goal of being state champion. But don't feel bad for us. Instead, we earned the 1st runner-up Champion's Award, which was still far more than we could've hoped for.
Although we aren't the state champions this experience was always about more than winning and losing. Our teammate Nathan Preston, 11, summed it up best when he said, "Without robotics, I would've never met half the people on the team. It's allowed me to make memories and have experiences that I'll remember even after I leave (Hawaii)."
It's said that Dec. 7th is a "day that will live in infamy," but for us, Dec. 7th is a day that will live in our memory -- not with negative connotations, but with pride and honor.