This blog post includes many quotes from Posse team members aside from the one who is writing this. Hello, by the way, I’m Rose (the one with short pink hair). When a quote from another team member is included, their name will be in bold.
On Wednesday, March 29, the Posse set out on a road trip to the town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We were traveling to compete at the 2017 FTC North Super Regional Championship, which was an event comprised of 72 FTC teams from 14 states. Because we won the Think Award for our engineering notebook at the MN State Championship, we were invited to compete in Cedar Rapids among the best of the Midwest. This was the highest level of competition we’ve ever had the opportunity to participate in and we couldn’t be more excited.
Since we had to split up the team between three different cars, the car ride was different for everyone. We all got up to various shenanigans as we tried to pass the time on a 4-hour road trip.
“It was a long ride but very fun because we just told old stories and listened to the Posse Playlist!” – Heeral (pictured above)
We spent the night in our cozy hotel rooms dreaming about the adventure we were about to begin.
The next morning, the first thing we did once we arrived at the convention center was set up our pit. Since the pit area was only 9’x9’, a few of us got to work setting up tables and banners while others scouted out the area.
“Trying to set up the pit was stressful. We had never practiced as a group, and everyone had their own idea about how to do it.” – Mrs. Lam (a Posse co-coach/team mom)
Despite some initial confusion, we got the pit successfully set up and it looked amazing. Thanks to Amy and Mrs. Lam’s hard work, it completely fit our brand and also served as a hangout space for the weekend’s less busy moments. It featured a giant Posse logo, photos from various outreach events, 3D-printed parts on display, and big blown-up printouts of Stacy in CAD (created by the talented Sabriyah).
But in my opinion, the best part of the pit was the birthday card for Dean Kamen, founder of the FIRST organization. He has been a huge inspiration to us, not to mention the reason why FIRST robotics even exists. His birthday was only a few days after Supers ended, so we had a wide banner printed for people to sign. By the end of the weekend, the banner had over 100 signatures from teams, volunteers, and other visitors who had no idea who Dean was (but believe me, they do now!). We sent the card when we got back home.
Above: This is what the card looked like by the end of the weekend
Anyway, we got the pit set up and then hurried off to robot inspection. Before teams are allowed to run any matches, everyone’s robot has to go through a series of inspections that covers both hardware and software.
The trickiest part is always making the robot fit in an 18” box. We held our breath as the box is slowly lowered over the robot – but there was no reason to worry! Stacy fit snug within the sizing cube and we all let out a sigh of relief.
Above: Sabriyah and Heeral lower the 18″ box over Stacy
Stacy was then moved to a field, where we made sure all her connections worked and we able to operate without failure. Everything worked perfectly – little did we know the problems we would have later in the day. The volunteer who was inspecting us was pretty chill while we got stuff figured out. We also discovered that there were a few birds flying around the arena and began brainstorming names for them.
Above: One of the inspectors gets a good look at Stacy while she’s tested on the field
After the inspections were complete, the next item on our schedule was the team judging session. Since we hadn’t spent a ton of time preparing, we were a little nervous about this one. We found a quiet place to practice and ran through it for a while before it was time to take the elevator upstairs.
Since the judging sessions were in the convention center’s hotel (weird, right?), there was small lobby to relax in while we waited to be called. The Rubies, another FTC team from Minnesota, was also there. We shared some laughs and took pictures while we waited. It was a great stress reliever.
Finally, we were called into the judging room. It turns out that we had absolutely nothing to worry about. The judging session was very chill and all three of the judges seemed legitimately interested in what we had to say. There was one awkward pause when we forgot what came next in the presentation, but we successfully recovered and laughed it off. Nancy also got to show off the organized and neat electronics hidden by Stacy’s slide-in sides; the first time of many that people would be impressed by her wiring job.
When we were about to leave, one of the judges asked how much Stacy weighed and Amy replied quickly, “She doesn’t like to say.” This was definitely the highlight of the judging session and the judges thought it was HILARIOUS.
Once our judge’s interview was over, we spent the rest of the day hanging out at the pits and preparing for our first robot matches. The pits closed pretty early, so we headed over to Chili’s, which was delicious. After dinner, we went back to the hotel and began the daily tradition of wading in the hot tub and pool to soothe our sore feet.
“My favorite memory was where the posse gathered around the hot tub in the hotel after a long, exciting day and dipped our feet in, just talking and relaxing together.” – Meghan
Our first robot match was bright and early on Friday morning. It was actually a very special one because out of the 4 teams competing, all of them were all-ladies teams and 3 were from Minnesota! This match was one of the highlights of the competition; we got to compete with friends, Stacy did a great job, everything went perfectly, and our alliance won the match. Hooray!
Above: Stacy the robot successfully “caps” the ball on top of the goal! Photo courtesy of Sherry Schons
Friday at Supers is officially Tiara Friday. The Posse had arrived unprepared, but luckily, a team was handing out party store tiaras on the day. We rocked our tiaras all day as we ran matches, talked with judges, and met new friends from around the Midwest.
Above: Impromptu dance party in the pits
After the day’s competition was complete, teams ran back to their hotel to get ready before returning to the convention center for RoboProm that evening. I must say, we have never looked better!
Now, if you know the Posse at all, you’ll know that we LOVE a good dance party. This was no exception. Not only was it a dance party, but it was a dance party with people in all kinds of attire – everything from formal wear to team t-shirts to dinosaur costumes. It was awesome to spend an evening celebrating with all the teams we had met at the competition that day.
“My favorite memory was RoboProm because how can you go wrong with cool friends and yummy food.” – Nancy
“I absolutely loved getting to socialize with all of the teams at RoboProm. Everyone was so kind and fun to hang out with. Midwestern teams clean up very nice and have great dance moves.” – Amy
“My favorite memory was dropping the girls off at RoboProm and getting to eat dinner with the grown ups.” – Mrs. Lam
Though there were some final qualification matches on Saturday morning, most of the day was spent on the elimination rounds among the best teams at the competition. Stacy was having continuous connection issues throughout the weekend that prevented her from performing as well as we’d like. But on the positive side, we made became friends with pretty much all of the FTAs (Field Technical Advisors) in our division, as well as several other cool people who helped us troubleshoot.
Funny moment: “Amy was sleeping under a table at our pit and I knew that she was under there but with the stress of the competition had forgot about it. So, when a FTA was helping us with our robot and he wanted to check our batteries I looked under the table and saw Amy. I was so shocked and almost had a heart attack (and the FTA person saw her sleeping there too so he must think we are a pretty silly team now).” – Nancy
The elimination rounds were a ton of fun to watch. Since this was the first time that the drive team (Heeral, Charlotte, and me) had the opportunity to watch from the stands, we cheered and laughed and ‘ooooh’ed along with the crowd throughout all of the final matches. I found myself thinking, who says this isn’t a sport?
“A very tense and fun moment was during the last 5 seconds of the final match for who would get the title for North Super Regionals Championship. It was as good as, or even better than, the last 5 seconds of the World Cup or the Super Bowl. Everyone was on the edge of their seats as an alliance grabbed the cap ball and was trying to cap it and as the ball rolled into the center vortex at the last second of the match, the crowd erupted and stood up screaming!” – Heeral
After the final matches came the award ceremony – but before they could begin, a dance party was in order. Teams rushed down the stadium steps as the former competition area became a huge dance floor. We grooved, kicked, and sang along with the Cha Cha Slide, Macarena, YMCA, and more.
“My favorite moment was the dance party before the awards and closing ceremony because all the teams came down to the dance floor to have a blast dancing!” – Heeral
Then came the awards ceremony, which was its own kind of party. Whenever a Minnesota team was listed as finalist for an award, we all exchanged delighted looks and looked eagerly at the presenter in anticipation. The best part was when a fellow Minnesota team was announced to have won an award; when that happened, we and our MN friends leapt to our feet and clapped wildly. It’s awesome that our state is so full of hard-working and accomplished robotics teams.
After most of the awards were finished, it was time for the final three Inspire Awards – the most prestigious judged awards of the competition – to be announced. Third place went to the Green Girls, another all-girls Minnesotan team who we have been competing alongside since our FLL days. We jumped to our feet in applause and cheered loudly.
Then, the second place Inspire Award went to… the Ponytail Posse! What?!
“You could just see the shock on all our faces as we made sure we all heard correctly.” – Heeral
“It was kind of funny. The entire team had like a ten-second shock before it even registered and my first thought was ‘Obviously robot isn’t the most important thing’” – Meghan
“I was in total awe and couldn’t believe they called our name. We did it. All of our hard work paid off even more than we could ever imagine.” – Amy
“I was really confused. Like REALLY. But then I realized that our team was worked so hard for the past couple of months and we really care about what we’re doing, so I felt like we deserved it.” – Sabriyah
“We coaches were sitting away from the team, and we were stunned into silence for a minute. Then, we were on our feet cheering our hearts out! It is still sorta unbelievable…” – Mrs. Lam
Above: Photos courtesy of Christine Altenhofen-Sonner and Sherry Schons
I still can’t believe that we won second place Inspire at Supers.
First place Inspire Award went to the Robo Raiders, a snazzily-dressed team from Illinois.
Because we won an Inspire Award, we were one of the first teams announced to be advancing to the next level of competition, which is the FTC World Championship in St. Louis, Missouri. This has been a far-off goal of ours since the beginning… you should have seen the look on our faces when we heard!
After the ceremony was finished, we ran to meet up with our friends, both old and new. We gave and received many congratulations, chatted with the Robo Raiders, and spent a solid 10 minutes just dancing around with the Rubies. Afterwards, we went to Panera (a Posse post-competition tradition) and enjoyed our last meal of the trip together.
“I love my team so much, even more than I did before we went. After spending days with them I realized how amazing they all are and how much I appreciate their friendship. We had a blast eating dinner together, talking in the hot tub, and having dance parties in the pit.” – Amy
“I love traveling with the Posse! They are all great and we are all really funny so I laugh pretty much every 5 minutes when I’m with them.” – Sabriyah
What are your thoughts on the entire experience?
“It is so amazing to be a part of FIRST. I am very sad I hadn’t decided to join earlier because over the one year I have been on this team, I have improved on public speaking, learned how to use many power tools, made contacts with many engineers in the community, helped open career paths, and of course learned so much knowledge about the robot, designing, and 3D printing. And we are all so grateful to have that opportunity and want to continue spreading FIRST throughout our community so more people can be impacted, just like we all have been.” – Heeral
“It was wonderful! I’m so thankful we were able to share our love for FIRST with other passionate robotics teams and judges. Everyone there is so talented and kind and it was wonderful to share our experiences.” – Amy
“It is amazing how the competition can be so intense, yet everyone cheers each other on. From the FTAs who spent hours helping fix our robot, to the kids and parents who all lent a hand when we needed it… everyone there just wanted all the teams to do their best (even if it meant losing to them)!” – Mrs. Lam
“I thought that NSR was a very well-organized tournament with a great venue. I LOVED meeting all the teams and looking at how they think of the challenges on the field. I also love trips with the Posse.” – Sabriyah
“Learning about why the connection system isn’t working and trying out some shooter stuff for worlds!” – Sabriyah
“Where to start? Fundraising, fixing Stacy, preparing for Worlds… maybe a long nap?” – Mrs. Lam
Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible, from our family and friends to our lovely sponsors to the awesome volunteers that we met in Iowa. As this was our first time traveling together since LEGO League, we had an incredibly fun time sharing experiences as a team. It was great to spend every day partying with the Posse.
Until next time, Cedar Rapids. But for now… St. Louis, here we come!
Thank you for reading. If you would like to learn more about our North Super Regional adventure, watch the video below or click here.