Saturday, April 29, 2006

FIRST Nationals 2006 Saturday Final

Atlanta 2006, Final results

Our hotel is about a mile and a half from the Georgia Dome. The morning walk up and over a hill and the early day’s chill gets the heart pumping- as if we needed more stimulation.

Our spotting crew had a lot of intelligence on our opponents and we were teamed with mediocre allies for our first match, but we had all night to plot a strategy for our toughest game. Karen, Luis and the spotting crew told Jerry, Pablo, Marco and Jorge how they should attempt to score and defend. It was the most exciting match we played. However, we lost 19 – 17. It was a real cliffhanger. Even though Pablo piloted the robot around the field and held two of the highest scoring robots to 19 points was exciting, realizing how much of an advantage the “intelligence team” gave us made this almost victory a real team effort.

We lost our final match and our record was 3 wins, 3 losses and 1 tie. We were hoping to have a winning record, but at least we did not have a losing one.

There was a little disappointment, but it was short lived as championship matches played out. We knew we did not have a robot of the caliber of some of those in the final matches. As we all sat in the stands, the kids were coming up with ideas to make a better robot next year!

We waited patiently for the end of the games when they would announce the big award, the Chairman’s Award. Award after award was announced and then the final presentation. We were all SO EXCITED! They said there were three runner ups and in team numerical order they were 365, 503, 842. Team 842 is us. The kids were shocked. We really thought we would win the top award. Team 111 was the winner and as they read their accomplishments, it was apparent that the team had been doing great things for many years. With only five years of seniority, we are still newcomers to the FIRST league. Elizabeth spoke for all of us when she said, “I felt like the world came crushing down on us, smothering our hopes and dreams. I felt especially bad for the seniors.”

(All results can be found at: )

The kids worked all year for the Chairman’s Award and they were disappointed. The trudge back over the hill to the hotel with our equipment was actually therapeutic. There is a final party at the Olympic Centennial Park, and with some prodding we all went. After some exercise and some food, we were all in far better spirits and we were already proposing plans for nest year.

We will have to spread the message of FIRST which is to increase our society’s awareness of the role science and technology plays and how important it is to expose our young people to the rewarding careers available to them. We can’t do anything about the seniority of other teams, but we will do more to motivate our students and the young people we affect. The 2007 season has begun.

Sunday we went to the Atlanta Aquarium and we will have our “blow out” dinner at the Hard Rock Café in the evening. Our new friend Anita is taking us to her video production facilities Monday morning and then we will return to Phoenix in the evening.

When we return to school we will focus our efforts on our underwater ROV and get ready for the MATE underwater remotely operated vehicle challenge at Houston’s Johnson Space Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab.

Just like the kids we work with, we are a relatively young team maturing at an accelerating rate. We heal fast and we seem to thrive if we are kept active. And we have a lot of great people watching over us.


Friday, April 28, 2006

FIRST Nationals 2006 Friday

We gulp down a cheap breakfast and go to the Georgia Dome as soon as it opens to get good seats and to make sure the robot’s batteries charged during the night. Opening ceremonies conclude and the games begin.

We won our first match! Four more to go today and two on Saturday morning.

All the while, thousands of people are wandering around the pit areas and the kids are handing out buttons and smiles and conversing with everyone. There are kids here from all around the U.S. and many from Canada, Israel, Brazil, France… It’s a real education. The Falcons are meeting a lot of new friends.

One lady, Anita, who we knew from email messages, came by to see us. What a treat. She has her own video production company and wanted to meet all the kids and see what FIRST was all about. I think she had a great time. We enjoyed her company.

Well, one of Anita’s clients is the Hooter’s restaurant chain. (See the Wired article or the Reader’s Digest Article for the connection). She and her husband treated all of us to dinner. She even had Cristian and Lorenzo sign their magazine article and it may soon be on the wall of the Las Vegas Hooter’s. Lorenzo has finally received his wish and we have met a new friend!

Anyway, we lost our second game 75 to 72 and the kids were a little disappointed, but then again, we really didn’t think our robot would do real well at the national level. We came to win the Chairman’s Award.

We tied the third gam3 and won the last two of the day. We have a 3-1-1 record and are currently ranked 17 out of 86. We are doing very well indeed.

Annalisa, Luis and Daniel went to the interview room for their Chairman’s presentation and interview. They feel they did very well. We’ll see tomorrow.

This has been the year of the new kids. They are really “hauling their weight”. Jorge has become the tool man. He knows where everything is and keeps the pit area ship shape. He is always lending tools to other teams (“Gracious Professionalism”) and he always gets them back. He’s a godsend.

Our mentor Karen and senior Luis are in charge of scouting all the other robot teams. Five other girls on our team sit in the stands compiling reports on every match. How any points each robot scores in autonomous mode, how effective they are on defense, etc. They Have been very diligent and their “intelligence” is making a difference. I think that is why we have been doing so well as the games go on. We know how the opposition will act. We have never been so organized!

Fredi is posting pictures and they can be found at:

Tomorrow morning we play our last two seeding games and then we will find out if we are in the division quarter finals. We know we have some tough opposition in the morning, but we are contenders.

Late in the afternoon the final and most prestigious award will be presented. We are contenders for that one too.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

FIRST Nationals 2006 Day 1

Thursday, April 27, 2006 – Atlanta, GA

Yesterday sixteen students and four teachers left Carl Hayden High School and flew to Atlanta for the FIRST international robotics championship.

Today we went to the convention center and Georgia Dome and uncrated “Karen”, our robot who we have not seen since the regional competition in Arizona last month. Our ‘bot survived the shipping and storage, although her batteries were not charged. We were also joined by our mentors, Jerry and Karen (the robot’s namesake). Their batteries WERE charged!

We passed inspection and we participated in three practice rounds which went very well. Our robot is designed to shoot balls in a goal 8 foot above the field, all by herself in the first 10 seconds of the game. We were nailing 4 balls in the goal which earns us 12 points. After that, the team gets to drive the robot for the remaining 2 minutes of game play. We feel the robot is living up to her potential.

While seniors Cristian, Lorenzo (of La Vida Robot fame) Annalisa, Luis and Juana “know the ropes”, the younger students, Pablo, Marco, Daniel, Jorge, Jesus, Marco, Cynthia, Angelica, Yvette, Rebecca, Airreal and Elizabeth have been phenomenal and are the “A team” crew. Since we felt we did not have a killer robot this year, we decided to give the younger team members experience.

Our main goal this year is to win the highest award, the Chairman’s Award. It is given to the team that has promoted math, science and engineering education and has changed the culture. With all the presentations we have given this year (50) and the publications we have been in and with all the positive TV coverage we have been fortunate to receive, well, we feel we are frontrunners. President Annalisa and Luis and Daniel will make a 15 minute presentation to the judges and we will visited by everyone in the pits tomorrow and Saturday. Awards are Saturday afternoon.

Friday and Saturday’s competitions are being televised over the NASA channel and also webcast on their web site. There are four divisions and we are in the Curie division. Watch for us.

In a few minutes the pizza we ordered will arrive and we’ll all be talking about what we hope to accomplish tomorrow. The kids really understand what they have done for our school and neighborhood. They have taken the image of an “underperforming” school which is now being considered to be a model for all schools to emulate.

Juana was commenting on how so many good things have been happening to her during the last year. She is looking forward to college next semester. She has a tuition scholarship for Arizona State University. She’s worked very hard and she’s extremely talented. It’s really an honor to be around these young adults. Good things have been happening to all of us!

We would not be here without our sponsors who have given so much:

Arthur M. Blank Foundation
Ira A. Fulton
Wells Fargo, Phelps-Dodge Corp.
Southwest Fastner

And all the teachers, parents and friends that have given their support. It is really paying off.

… and to all the people who send us words of encouragement via emails and notes. We read them to the kids and it really means a lot.

Tomorrow will be something..

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Reader's Digest

We are in the May issue of Reader’s Digest.

Joshua Davis's "La Vida Robot" article in the April '05 Wired Magazine has been "condesnsed", re titled and published in the May 2006 Reader's Digest.

Reader's Digest is one of the most successful publishing stories in the history of global magazine publishing. It now appears in 48 editions in 19 languages (Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Indonesia Bahasa, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Thai) with just under 100 million readers every month.

The electronic English version is at:

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Politics & Publicity

The Robot kids at Carl Hayden have been very busy. Our FIRST robot was shipped from the Arizona Regional Competition to Atlanta where the kids will see “Karen” again on day before the national competition, April 27-28. Although Karen the Robot has been gone, there is no slack time.

We are constructing our underwater robot for the 2006 MATE competition in June in Houston. It’s amazing how skilled and competent the seniors have become. Since beginning learning about underwater robots three years ago, they have become masters. They are on the phones daily talking to marine suppliers, picking the brains of engineers thousands of miles away and reading everything on the Internet.

The kids are now involved in politics. They helped a local congressman write a bill that would help with extra curricular science and technology projects in Arizona public schools. They testified in Arizona House committee hearings and their bill passed to the House with a 7-0 bipartisan vote. Annalisa, our president, now has a dozen legislators that asked her to keep them informed. We hoped we would increase students’ interest in Math, Science and Engineering, but we never dreamed the teens would become “players in politics”!

Over the last 12 months, the team has made over 45 presentations in Arizona and elsewhere. One such presentation was delivered at FermiLab in Illinois. Usually they pay for one speaker’s expenses, but they invited both Fredi and myself to speak. Although none of the kids went with us, Fredi and I filled in for them. FermiLab tapes their colloquiums and ours is now on their webpage. It is at

It takes about an hour to see the whole thing, but unlike the “real deal” presentation, you can fast forward pause and stop!

In the Rumor Department: It is not official and the whole thing my not even happen, but look for the “La Vida Robot” story in the May issue of Reader’s Digest. They claim they have almost 100 million readers. I told the kids, if it is published, they will be immortal because the Reader’s Digest issues stay in doctor’s offices FOREVER.

To all those who have sent emails of encouragement, we read them to the kids every Friday. This has all grown so big, yet they are still the nicest kids to work with. When we read emails like, “All of France is cheering for you”, or share some of the personal stories you have sent, it gets very quiet and brings home to them that it is a big world, but they have a big place in it. They are rising to challenge. Maybe its time to start a “Fix Global Warming Club.”