January 6, 2013

2013 FIRST Robotics Competition Kickoff in Mankato, Minnesota

2013 FIRST Robotics Competition Kickoff in Mankato, Minnesota
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for January 6, 2013

Last weekend, we went to the Mall of America to connect with our old buddy, Krazy Kory, and his daughter, Harley.  We ate at the Rainforest Cafe which was really fun until the check arrived.  I always forget how overpriced that place is!

The Mall of America seemed really crowded for some reason. It wasn't until we were right in the middle of things that we learned that there was a large gathering of Native Americans there for a protest. They were making a ruckus to protest Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, who they say has made a decision to violate all of the treaties by taking the land and resources that belong to the Indians in Canada.  I don't know much about all that, but I do know these people can bang drums really, really LOUD!

The people who run the Mall of America didn't seem to like the loud drums much, either!

I was under the understanding that it was a peaceful protest until I saw this lady.  I wasn't sure what she meant, but I thought it was a sign that it was probably a good time to get out of the Mall!

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to join the Prior Lake High School Robotics team as they traveled to Minnesota State University in Mankato for the annual FIRST Robotics Competition Kickoff meeting.

There were 18 FIRST robotics teams from Minnesota in attendance at the event.   The excitement level in the room was quite high as the teams would soon find out the rules for this year's competition.  After they found out about the game, each team would then have just over six weeks to build a robot to compete in it.  Here's what they learned about ULTIMATE ASCENT:

Prior Lake's team is called KING TeC.  Joe Passofaro's sons are the founding members of the team and he has been the adult mentor for it since it's inception in 2007.  They have won many, many awards at both the state and national levels.  Joe gave the opening keynote motivational speech to the teams and as usual he inspired the heck out of me to get my kids more involved in robotics.

Part of the core values of FIRST is for competitors to embrace Gracious Professionalism and help others to learn how to build robots as much as they try to defeat them in the competition.  KING TeC always seems to do a great job at this.  They were all over the kickoff meeting hosting technology demonstrations and giving classes on different aspects of robotics including programming, game strategy, drive trains, and design.  Considering the team was the state champions in last year's competition, they have a lot of good information to share!

I was so impressed with the team members as they hosted students from other teams and their adult mentors in the various presentations.  I spent most of my time in the basic programming session, but it didn't help me much.  That stuff goes way over my head!

On Saturday night, we went to the Bollig's house to watch the Minnesota Vikings surprising trip to playoffs.  Shortly before we arrived, we learned the sad news that the Viking's quarterback, Christian Ponder, was injured and wouldn't be able to play which pretty much made the game un-watchable.  But it was still a heck of a season for the home team who finished 10-7 on the year after going only 3-13 last year.  If we see similar improvement next year that would pretty much mean a trip to the Super Bowl!

At least when the game was getting too out of hand, we could go take out our frustration on the Bollig's Zip Line.  I'm sure some of the Vikings players wish they could have been out there with us!

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