December 16, 2012

2012 Prior Lake Middle School Robotics Tournament

2012 Prior Lake Middle School Robotics Tournament
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 16, 2012

The week started with Minnesota's first blizzard of the year.  Miss Sheri tried to drive up our driveway, but couldn't quite make it because it was just too slippery.  The boys and I quickly grabbed shovels and tried to start building her a path, but apparently weren't doing it to her liking.  She barked at us to "Just go inside and I'll take care of it!"  Which we did and then she got out the snowblower.  She later told me she didn't want me shoveling the driveway while wearing shorts, but I think it was really because she doesn't like my technique.  Who knows?

Wednesday night brought us to the celebration of Grandma Linda's 70th birthday.  It's hard to believe she hit that milestone!  I swear she doesn't look a day older than 69....

Thursday night brought us to Jackson's house to work on the boy's robot.  They'd been getting together 2-3 nights a week for the past two months with the hopes of being able to dominate in the Prior Lake Middle School Robotics Tournament.

 Our team name was S.W.A.T which represented the 4 members of the team luke Swank, jackson Walters, Avery swank, and Thomas ngyuen. The boys woke up bright and early on Saturday morning. The tournament went all day from 8am to 4:30pm and Team S.W.A.T. wanted to be there ready to roll! 

We needed all the extra time we could get.  Although the boys had re-built their robot countless times and had replaced every part they could, they were plagued with mechanical issues that would cause them major problems all day.

9:30am rolled out very quickly and the first match was set to begin!  Joe Passofaro and members of the high school robotics team KING TeC explained the rules to the participants and their supporters.  Joe's son founded the high school team and he is retiring after this year after having teams win multiple awards at both the state and world championship levels.  He and his family have helped build an incredible robotics program in Prior Lake and their contributions will be greatly missed after they retire.

Joe turned over the responsibilities to Joel Volm and Mike Lins this year.  Things started off a bit crazy as they learned the ropes, but the program really didn't miss a beat and was every bit as great as it was last year.  These guys really deserve a round of applause because even though they were light on preparation time, they grabbed the ball and ran with it.  The kids were lucky to have them step up and take over the program!

Grandma Linda, Grandma Leona, and Uncle Jerry all came to the tournament to root on the boys!  We sure were happy to have them in our corner!

The boys competed in 7 qualifying matches throughout the day.  Unfortunately for them, it was 7 matches of complete frustration, but we were proud of their positive attitudes and extensive efforts to resolve the issues they were experiencing.

The concept for their robot was very solid.  It could suck up balls with the best of them and it easily lifted them into the fire-pit to be scored.  The problems they experienced was the dang thing just wouldn't run consistently.  It would go for 10 seconds and then stall for 30 seconds or longer.  So they spent the majority of their matches just sitting still and watching the other robots run circles around them. 

But because they could score several balls at once, they somehow scored third place in the qualifying rounds.  This allowed them to be in a position to select another team to align with and compete in the semi-finals!  But unfortunately their stalling problems caught up with them and that was as far as they were able to go.  But despite their problems, we have zero regrets.  The boys learned so much through the experience and had an incredible time being part of this program.  They kept positive attitudes throughout the process and had a ton of fun!!  So that's a good thing!

I never knew there was so much dancing at a robotics tournament!  But those kids could Gangham Style with the best of them!

During the tournament's intermission, the high school team's robot came out to entertain the crowd.  I was told this robot competed at the world championships in St. Louis and could shoot a basketball more accurately than 2500 other robots that were there!  Pretty impressive!! 

The tournament ended and our old friend, Thomas, was on the team that won this year's championship!  He was on the boy's team last year and we were happy for him and his team!  They executed very well and had an incredibly exciting match to win the big prize.  Way to go, Thomas!

The Prior Lake Middle School Robotics Program is one of the largest in the state of Minnesota.  Although it can be pretty intense at times, the experience it provides to these kids is invaluable!  If you ever have the chance to get your kids involved in a program like this, we highly recommend it!

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