Saturday, January 10, 2009

Legos, Chicken Hats and French Fries

What a day! I have had few looooooooong days since being in the Army. But today surely was one of them. We were out the door at 0530 and didn't get back home until quarter to 10 tonight. Neil's team did really well at the competition. I admire all these kids and their dedication to the Robotics team. They didn't place in the top six so we don't know where they fell overall but they got a lot of great comments from the presentation and technical judges. All of their marks were either good or excellent. They placed 26th out of 56 teams on the table runs which is pretty good.

I can't even describe the intensity of it all, I was so nervous for the kids, silently praying that everything would go smoothly and then cheering as loudly as I could to keep them motivated. Neil was one of two programmers at the table. They could only have two people at the table at any given time. Some teams switched out, but our team kept the same two. They would take turns putting in the codes. I am so impressed at how well Neil stay composed, he was very focused. I just don't know if I can truly convey how proud I am of him and his accomplishments. He worked a good portion of his Christmas break reworking the entire robot. Three of the five teammates went out of town and Neil and another kid worked through the break. That's not me trying to give Neil all the credit but he certainly deserves props for that.

We had a really good time. Driving up we had some interesting conversations going, a lot of giggles. We stopped at a Starbucks on our way out (one of the coaches has a slight addiction) and not being a coffee drinker and never having ordered anything thing from Starbucks before, I will say that my first experience was not a good one. I think I had the worst hot chocolate EVER. Based on that experience I'd have to say that Starbucks is seriously overrated. For the price I paid for a hot chocolate, it had better be good! As we continued on our journey, we followed the car that knew where it was going, or so we thought. I'm not a big fan of following people (and I've learned my lesson to just mapquest directions) but we did get a good laugh at the 50 mph "slight" right turns, I had to pray that the person following ME in our little caravan would understand that it wasn't ME driving crazy. The funniest part was when we pulled up to a light in the furthest left turn lane. The light turned green and there we waited, and waited. Those of us in my car were trying to come up with reasons as to why we weren't moving. We concluded that the person we thought knew where they were going, certainly did not. He finally decides to make his move and would you know that just as he illegally moves over to the right lane to go through the light (and we all follow) a cop shows up at the light. Thankfully he didn't care or notice (I'm sure he did) because we didn't see any flashing lights. We did have a backup plan though just in case he did, we were going to throw the children in as part of our mercy plan!

We got to the school in plenty of time and went and got settled. The school we were at was brand new, it was very pretty. Their bleachers were very hard. My back is still upset at the torture I put it through on Saturday! It was cool watching all the teams come in. Apparently lime was the color of the year and we did not get that memo. There were a lot of teams with lime team shirts, bright orange was the runner-up. Our shirts of course was the coolest, black with silver. (Biased? Who me?) The team had their presentation and their technical first thing. We were not able to go see them as it was closed off from spectators so we were pretty nervous waiting for one of the coaches to come let us know how things went. Like I said earlier they did really well. They had three runs at the table where they had to program their robots to do so many missions on the table, then they were given points on how well that happened. Every robot had to do the same mission. I think the kids did really well. Obviously they weren't the best but they did really well with what they had and 26 out of 56 is nothing to feel ashamed about. Their highest score was 110, and during the pre-competion in November their highest was 45, so I would say this was a vast improvement. I just really enjoyed watching Neil, his confidence. He talked to those referees and fought for every single point. That's not a side of Neil we get to see often so it was a real treat.

After the competition ended and we were a little disappointed that the kids didn't receive any type of award (we were sure they'd get something in presentation) but such is life. We just kept boosting the kids up (well some of us, I really do love our coaches but I will say that two of them really disappointed me that day, they were all about focusing on what went wrong instead of giving the positive about the experience). Each of the kids got a participants medal which is really cool. When I think about the amount of kids in Central Texas and then see how many participated, you know these kids have a lot to be proud of. These are our future engineers and scientists. They are doing awesome things. At 10 years old, these kids have nothing to be ashamed of, I can't say enough about the dedication of these kids, I certainly didn't have it at 10.

After the meet, we headed off to find some dinner in Austin. That was an adventure in itself since we really didn't know where we were going, lol. Again (because apparently I didn't learn my lesson going up there) I followed someone. He tried to kill us! He was trying to figure out where he had to turn and suddenly realized that we needed to get into a right lane but we really couldn't so he was kind of swerving and I couldn't figure out where the heck we were going and I was trying not to get hit by cars streaming by me. We ended up on a toll road, but got off on the one free exit and were safe. It took us about an hour to find a place to eat that would accomodate 9 of us. When we got to the parking lot one of the kids set off the alarm to the car they parked next to. Then she ran into someone mirror. Goodness, if we made it home without being arrested, it would be a miracle. We wanted to eat at Cheddar's but the wait was almost 2 hours. We walked over to Red Robin and still waited 45 minutes. When we finally got to our table we had a plan to order and eat and leave.

Oh my, I'm sure by the time we left, the employees and the customers at the surrounding tables were breathing a sigh of relief. You know the adrenalin was pumping in those kids for sure! Ok, maybe in the adults too. We had a really good dinner and a few of the kids were enjoying their bottomless french fries. We had a decent waitress. As we were leaving two of the adults decided they wanted a milk shake to go. The manager came out and told them that their machine was broken and would they like a smoothie instead since their card had already been charged. So after some debate they said ok sure. So there we are waiting like 10 minutes and the manager comes out and says, ok the machine is working now so we'll get that going . Mind you, the kids have sat long enough, they are bouncing off the walls and we are surely drawing attention. One of the girls realizes she can order more fries and does so. Another 10 minutes or so goes by and still no shake. We decide to stand up and maybe draw a hint. The manager sees us and asks if we got the shakes. We say no and we continue walking to the front door. The waitress meets us there with the shakes and a couple minutes later another manager gives them two envelopes. We leave and coin a new term, "don't let anyone Red Robin you". They open the envelopes and they have received $5 off their next meal. Great, sadly it would cost more gas to drive up for that then it's really worth.

Our adventure home wasn't so adventurous driving wise. But we were all laughing pretty hard, almost to the point of tears with some of the stories being told. I accidently spilt my nasty hot chocolate on one of the kids, so we got to smell chocolate all the way home (it wasn't so bad really). It's quite adventure when you get some of us together but overall we have a lot of fun.

In case I didn't mention it already, I'm so proud of our Cyber Tigers and their hard work! I am off to upload the pics in a slideshow!

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