Inside the FIRST Robotics Championships: Rookie Team Captain Shares Her Experience

FIRST Robotics St. Louis

Jessica Desmond, a recent participant in FIRST Robotics, interned this summer at PTC. I caught up with Jess to ask her about her FIRST experiences. In the second of this two-part interview, Jess talks about her team’s experience at the FIRST national championships in St. Louis, MO.

Was the team excited about traveling to the FIRST Robotics finals in St. Louis?

When the V.I. Kings first started our rookie FIRST season, we knew our only hope for going to championships was the Rookie All-Star award, and luckily, that’s just what we won at the Boston regional competition.

Our school would only allow the team to take seven students to St. Louis and one of the requirements was that an administrator had to come along. With all the excitement and anticipation throughout the season, we unfortunately neglected our financial responsibilities and didn’t raise enough money to send everyone. For the seven people who went, most of the trip came out of their pocket.

On the day of our flight, we arrived at the school with our bags packed and ready to go, all of us, except our one programmer. He was sick! The disadvantage of having such a small team is that if one person gets sick and misses the competition, you don’t really have a replacement.

So, after accepting this hiccup and narrowly making our flight, we were on our way.

What was the first day in St. Louis like?

As we arrived in St. Louis, it looked like an invasion of smart kids! Everyone was walking in a group with matching shirts and the hotels were infested. Since we couldn’t enter the pits until that night, we spent the day exploring the city.

Once the team got to the Edward Jones Dome, the place was packed with other teams and mentors bustling around. However, after we set up our pit area and saw people unpacking their robots, we began to wonder where ours was. Apparently quite a few teams didn’t get their robots until around 10 o’clock at night because the truck was running late. Luckily, FIRST allowed us to work on our robot until 11 o’clock.

On the first day of the practice rounds, everything started to become frantic. Robots were breaking. Some, like ours, weren’t connecting to the fields, and other teams had already begun with their strategizing and scouting. I had thought Boston had been full of excitement, but watching these teams—the best of all the regionals—anyone could see the passion, gracious professionalism, and cooperation, core values of FIRST Robotics.

Did you have any problems with your robot?

Unlike the regionals, we didn’t end-up creating a robotic slingshot. However, we did have troubles connecting to the field a few times. Not having our only programmer really hurt us and we ended up having to amputate the arm altogether. Besides these setbacks, we left that competition very proud of ourselves. The team had worked so hard to win the Rookie All-Star award to be able to attend championships and those of us who could go had an amazing time.

Also, we noticed improvements in our robot on the field and were particularly proud of one moment when we helped our alliance win a match against an undefeated team.

What did you take away from the St. Louis finals?

Our team motto was R.O.B.O.T.S. (Respect, Outreach, Believe, Organization, Teamwork, and Success). By living by that motto, we got to experience a FIRST Robotics Championship, meet new and elite teams, as well as interesting new people. The competition was fierce and exciting, but I definitely learned that if you set your sights on something and unite everyone to that common goal, you’ll make it and it will definitely be worth it.

Learn more about how you can become a mentor or sponsor of FIRST Robotics.

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