Written by Shannon Carey
Much like the way an athlete might aspire to go to the Olympics, the pinnacle of achievement for a FIRST robotics team of any kind, age, or experience, is the FIRST World Championship Competition. For our team, Worlds had always been a distant dream; something we smiled to think of going to, but never really expected. So when we received an invitation to attend and compete, it was an honor we were excited to accept.
Though it may seem the obvious choice, our team actually had quite a quandary to face as to whether or not to accept the invitation. Despite our impressive fourth and fifth place rankings in the districts, our lower ranking in the regionals meant two things; that we were not expecting an invitation, and that we were only informed about five hours before we were expected to respond. This meant that we were not prepared to go, and had little time to make up for that. We would of course be ecstatic to accept the invitation, but the logistics- how to get there, whether there would be hotel space, and most importantly, did we have the money- were significant considerations. In the end, thanks to our many generous sponsors and our school board, who paid our $5,000 entry fee, we were able to afford it. Thanks to our wonderfully resourceful mentors, able to find room and board not far from the event venue. In under a week, we set off for St. Louis, Missouri.
The travel itself was the first, last, and possibly greatest ordeal we all had to slog through. About half the team, around twenty students, volunteered to go. We traveled alongside the Billerica Bionics (team 4909) in a pair of fifteen person vans, with many of our tools and materials beside us. The drive in total was calculated to be a full twenty four hours each way, with a stop over in Ohio on the way there and back. We are all amazingly thankful for our saintly, self-sacrificing mentor/drivers. In the end, we arrived in St. Louis with the same number of people as we started, ready to compete.
Our team was assigned to the Carver division, one of eight sub-competitions of the World Championsip. Of these eight, the top team of each was allowed to choose their own alliance to compete against the others in a final arena, which would conclude the competition. Though our drive team and robot were as fully functional as ever, the calibur of competition meant we did not come anywhere close to qualifying for finals. This was not the disapointment one might expect, however; our goal in coming was not to win, but to simply learn as much as possible, so as to grow stronger and hopefully return to worlds again next year.