Sunday, March 25, 2007

FIRST San Diego 2007

Thursday March 22, 2007 – San Diego

We left Carl Hayden High School at midnight and drove a dozen girls, Fredi, Jim Haugen and my self along with my wife and mentors Jerry and Karen and arrived at the Ipayone Sports Center at 8 am as the doors opened to let teams in to unpack their robots.

This is the first time we have fielded an “all girls” team and the women are taking charge! Angelica is the driver with Yvette the copilot. Cynthia is the human player on the field and Karen is the coach and forth member on the field.

While there are only four team members on the field, ther rest of the team are assigned pit boss, safety officer, power woman (battery management), electrical repairs, mechanical systems, scouting, strategy, etc. They will all be very busy the next two days.

During robot inspection, one inspector spent a lot of time quizzing the girls and “teaching them”. Fredi was going nuts! “We have never had anyone lecture like that before! The guy is just showing off for the girls. Why doesn’t he inspect the robot and let us fix any deficiencies?” I keep catching myself saying “the Carl Hayden girls team” instead of the Carl Hayden team. This is going to be quite a weekend of the subtle sexism that makes it so hard for some women to feel comfortable in the engineering fields.

We ate dinner at the hotel’s IHOP. Haven’t had time for the beach yet, maybe this evening.

Fredi posted pictures at

Friday March 23, 2007 – San Diego

We won two matches and lost six. There will be 3 more seeding matches tomorrow. Around noon, the top 8 seeded teams will pick two other teams to form 8 3-robot alliances. So our only hope to be in the quarter finals is to be picked by another team. So our strategy for tomorrow is to do what we do best – defense. Hopefully, we will be noticed by a team looking to shut down their opposition and will pick the gutsy Falcon team.

Mary Steward is a lady who lives in L.A. and drove down with a friend and young son to meet us. She watched a few matches, including one where our driver, Angelica, was pretty much responsible for the win. Then she spent a lot of time talking to the students in the pit area. Our sophomore girls wanted to know how we knew her and I told them about these emails and that there are a lot of people following their journey. They are amazed that total strangers are interested in them.

Dayna Steele, who is a friend of ours in Texas, has a web site “Smart Girls Rock – because the future has curves” and I’ve been honored as an Honorary Smart Girl. Hmmmm?

I think the experiment of leaving the boys at school is producing some positive results. The girls have stepped up and were working on repairs, driving, scouting, talking to the judges and are becoming a cohesive team. While they lack experience in some of the skills, I think they are ready to be more assertive and will be challenging the boys for more active positions on the team. We’ll see next week when we compete in Las Vegas.

This evening the FIRST team social was at the Space and Aeronautics museum. My cousin met us there and we gawked and talked and had a great time.

As we were leaving, Marina, one of the girls who wrote the Chairman’s entry, and is a senior said, “I’m going to miss this.” I started in on how she can get involved in projects in college that are just as exciting if she throws herself into it with as much enthusiasm as…” and she interrupted me and said, “No. I’ll miss all you guys.” So here is a young lady who came from Mexico, learned English, does very well in high school, mentors at the junior high school, joins the robotics team, contributes to the region’s championship essay, has been accepted into ASU’s Engineering College and credits the people she has met with her good fortune. The FIRST program has done a lot for our kids.

We still haven’t gone to the beach. We plan on stopping tomorrow when the San Diego FIRST Regional concludes and watch the sun set and have a seafood dinner.

Day two pictures at

Sunday, March 25, 2007 – Phoenix, AZ

The Falcon Robotics “Chicas – Leave the Boys at Home” tour is over. It was an experience none of us will ever forget.

We knew going into Saturday’s matches, that with 2 wins and 5 loses, that even if we won the remaining three matches, we would probably not be picked by one of the top eight teams to be in their three-team alliance. So we changed our goals to playing defense. Even if we lose, if we can keep the opponents score low, we will demonstrate our value to the choosing teams.

The driving team, coach Karen, Angelica, Cynthia, and Yvette had a fantastic time! They were relaxed and effective. They our ran, out pushed, and in one match, toppled another robot. Our robot, “Little Jerry”, was built strong and fast. We were playing “our game”. The women now had battle driving experience and were cool and relaxed – and happy, even though our opponents out scored us. As a result, we had to pack up after the seeding matches, but the day was a very positive one for us.

We went to Mission Bay beach about 4 pm. Half of the girls had never seen the ocean before. We parked, walked to the strand, took off our shoes and socks and walked doing to the water. (“Oh, the sand feels so soft.”) You know how it goes: first just the toes, then just up to the rolled up cuffs, then, oops now that the cuffs are wet, just go in as far as the knees… until they are completely soaked, teasing the breakers and laughing, screaming and hanging on to each other as kids have been doing for 10s of thousands of years.

My wife Deb brought kites and bubble makers. We were all little kids again. Karen, inventor and engineer, is redesigning the “fish kite” to make it fly better. Fredi and I are snapping pictures, and the kids are having an afternoon they will never forget. Someday they will bring their children to the beach and I bet they will tell them the story of this day.

Fredi’s pictures:

We ate at Joe’s Crab Shack and then hopped into the vans for the return trip. Fredi and fellow teacher, Jim, had to drive the whole way without relief. We stopped for a half hour nap and arrived at Carl Hayden at 6 am.

Overall, a most successful experiment. We worked on the robot and made many improvements on it. The girls’ skills have made a quantitative leap. During the whole weekend there is a lot of talking, (“How did you meet your spouse?” “What was the hardest part about going to college”. “How did you know what your major was going to be?”) You can see the ladies trying on different possible roles. They are changing their cultural expectations. I don’t think they will settle for doing what is expected of them. We’ll see.

Late next Wednesday night, we take the coed team to the Las Vegas FIRST regional. The boys graciously acquiesced to standing down this weekend, but the Las Vegas will be our last chance to prepare for the International Championship in Atlanta and we have a far stronger robot and team.

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