Up at 6:30, met the kids around 8:30 in the Bronx… right after the opening ceremony, we were up for the research presentation. The kids went in discombobulated, unprepared, and nervous, and came out elated: It was perfect! They said they can’t wait to see our musical! Then it was directly to our first robot performance match, where we scored 24 points with the programs misloaded onto the RCX. I saw the scoreboard before our second match: we weren’t last – but only no-shows were below us. I decided that wasn’t the moment to point out the team rankings to the kids. Off to the technical presentation, again the kids came out feeling proud of their conversation with the judges. Coaches aren’t allowed into those events, but I’d love to have been a fly on the wall! Second match, zero points. I think we were DQ’d for a misunderstanding of the rules. Third match, after a breather and some adjustments to the robot (one of our motors had zonked out), sooo much better, 88 points, a bunch of missions completed although mostly by accident. The robot was overpowered and crashed into the walls and everything else, but we put some points up on the board! Fourth match, power level turned down and the two robot operators confident and with a revised plan, we completed five missions and scored 128 points and vaulted up to 23rd place (out of 42). This time I let the kids notice the scoreboard. We’re going to win!! We’re going to win!! Trying to be positive while still managing their expectations so I wouldn’t have tears after the awards ceremony… This is the best we’ve ever done and all the kids are having fun and staying engaged and cheering on their teammates. Fifth round, I don’t know what we scored but it was even better, six missions completed and nearly seven. We cleaned up our pit table and grabbed seats in the bleachers to watch the Lehman HS cheer team perform. Another teacher from school showed up and the kids mobbed him to tell him about their day. The announcer had us all do the chicken dance, the YMCA, and then invited all the kids down onto the gym floor for a 500-strong Cha-Cha Slide. Going into the awards ceremony, our kids were so sure they’d win something, it kind of broke my heart. I figured we had a small chance of a judges’ award, possibly teamwork, but that was about it… still, I was so proud of them because they’d learned a ton, worked hard, and stayed positive… so I told them that and crossed my fingers. The little boy next to me asked after every award how many were left (um, one fewer than the last time you asked…). I have to give them credit, they were really disappointed but didn’t sulk or make unpleasant comments about the winning teams. We talked about next steps, I asked who had a good day, every hand went up, and I sent them off to their weekends.
My weekend continued, as I dragged a suitcase full of LEGOs and laptops to Arthur Avenue for cappuccino, cannolis, and dinner at Dominick’s. Laughter, stories, a couple of new friends… randomly, one of my friend’s friends turned out to be a fellow Fulbright Teacher Exchange participant whom I had met in DC last summer and not really stayed in touch with, but was excited to see again and swap stories. Fantastic night.
Home again and with my party and the tournament behind me, pretty ready for some time to myself.