I just spent a week at the RECF VEX World Robotics Championships. Imagine spending 7 days with thousands of 12 to 20 year olds who are passionate about robots, engineering and programming. It’s like the world’s largest hormonally driven nerd fest! (Please note that I use the term “nerds” lovingly – I count myself a nerd, too!)
The venue where the event was held was massive and there were teams there from all over the world, although the American teams certainly dominated in number. Teams were organized into 8 divisions. Each division had around 73 teams in it. Each team played 10 games within their division and then, through a system of choosing alliances, the best teams moved to their division playoffs. The winners of each division’s playoffs moved to the finals in what is called “the dome” – a large amphitheatre type of setting with crazy lights, noise, fireworks and hype!
From the outside, our teams did well! 3 of our 4 middle school teams made it to their division playoffs and two of those made it to division finals. In addition, the teams won several extra awards, including one for top 3 skills score in the world! Two of our four high school teams made it to their division playoffs, with one of those teams losing the finals in a heart-breaking best of three series. Again, the teams won several extra awards as well. And as I type this, our middle school and elementary teams are now at Worlds, testing themselves against the best of the best.
From the perspective of an observer, things look pretty good!
What I am really most proud of though, was everything that went on behind and around the competition. The things that spectators might not see or be aware of. Our students met, made alliances with and negotiated with other students from all over the world. They respectfully spoke with officials when there were disputes and they eagerly shared their knowledge with judges.
Every one of our teams struggled with a variety of stressors – lack of sleep, being away from home and the pressure of competition being just a few! At times the teams handled the stress admirably well. At times they didn’t and the resulting disagreements, meltdowns and game failures became part of the learning process each team went through. Some teams were able to resolve their issues on their own, others turned to older students for help and still others turned to teachers or parents. Regardless of where and how they found help, all of our teams manages to pull themselves together and complete the tournament play to the best of their ability,
From the outside, people saw a team of students who were confident, hard-working, successful and positive. From the inside, I saw a group of students who struggled through trials and came out the other side stronger, more experienced and more cohesive. Even though we didn’t come home with the ultimate trophy, I know we came home winners!