27 March 2005

Buckeye Regional

Well, the end of the trip for us, we just returned from a very good showing at the Buckeye Regional in Cleveland OH. I am pleased with the way the team handled itself and the way the machine functioned.

We left NH on Wednesday morning, the plan was to arrive at Cleveland, get settled in the Residence Inn and visit the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame. That plan did happen, although not without incident. The weather in Baltimore, our intermediate stop, was horrendous. Rain pouring and dark and cold. The incoming flight was delayed and so we had to hang around the gate for an additional 45 minutes (as it turned out). Meanwhile, our luggage which had to be unloaded from the first leg flight, sat on the tarmac, collecting water. Apparently my bag was left in a puddle for the duration and that proved to be more than the water resistant fabric could withstand. Everything inside was soaked.

So was all the other stuff we had, spare parts in a plastic mini-tote, my DeWalt cordless drill and several other items. Fortunately, everything was salvaged and all we got from Southwest was "sorry"... I suppose that I shouldn't complain, the fares were relatively cheap, and you get what you pay for.

The Hall of Fame was AWESOME. We spent 4 hours there, and initially, I didn't think there would be enough there to see to consume that amount of time. I was wrong. Between all the visuals such as stage outfits, instruments and written descriptions, there were boatloads of headphones with artists' music playing. As an added benefit, the building is on the shore of Lake Erie, so we got to see one of the Great Lakes.

Thursday, as usual, the pits opened and the tweaking began. Of the 41 teams present, 22 were participating in their 2nd event. That really makes a difference in how you react to the venue. At the Granite State regional, everyone was participating in their first event. Lots of frantic activity in the pits and nervousness over the game and how it's to be played. At Cleveland, you could see that same edgyness in the teams at their first competition. When we packed up for the Buckeye Regional back in the beginning of March, the machine was in good shape and was ready to rumble out of the box. A little dinking with software and a once-over with wrench to tighten everything and we were good to go.

And go we did, putting on a really good show of our ability to score tetras. Our drive coach pushed the envelope and we tried things and every time we tried, we succeeded. Except for once. We tried carring 4 tetras, but were hit and toppled over. The arm was fully extended as was the lift, and so gravity took control and we crashed to the ground. The screams from the stands was unbelivable. The noise came from EVERYONE, not just T166. We made a really good impression on everyone and it showed by the shouts of our team number from the stands.

That has to be one of the best feelings in the world. That sound is music to my ears.

So, in the pits, we discover that two slides were all that were damaged. Changed them out and we were back in business, and didn't miss a match.

Autonomous mode worked too. We were one of a handful of teams with a reliable autonomous mode, and one of a very few who could knock down the magnetic tetra AND cap the corner goal. We did that consistently, and at one point during Friday's qualification matches, we were ranked 6th. By Saturday at the end of qualification, we ranked in the top half and were solidly placed for alliance picking for the finals.

All during the practice matches on Thursday and again on Friday, the team members in the stands were tasked with watching matches and taking statistics on the teams. That data proved valuable to the drive coach who used that information to his advantage when playing the game.

This event has got to be the best one we've ever attended. Everything we upbeat and everyone was working together. Lots of spirit (leaving several members with little voice) and comraderie. I could not have asked for anything more.

After the meet concluded on Saturday afternoon, we arranged to go to the Hard Rock cafe. We were able to get in, had the sense to call ahead, and sat down. That's when things turned a little sour. One of the drive team members was at my booth, and so asked to speak with me about something that happend, more specifically, about something that someone said that ruined that high the drive team was on.

Our match against what turned out to be the winning alliance triple resulted in two losses. The first match, we attempted to score, however, we were clearly outmatched and so decided to shift strategy from offense to defense. We were not going to be triumphant at any stretch of the imagination, so why not... We did not even come close to making a difference in the outcome, and the drive team was down regardless of having done a superb job and getting us to the 1/4 finals. They head back to the stands where they are berated by the faculty advisor. There was no need to add insult to injury, but it happened, and it so affected one of the team members that she had to talk to someone about it.

First, I want to say that I was pleased to know that the team members think enough of me to confide in me about anything. I worked hard at being fair and building the trust of the team members and we share mutual respect for each other. But I certainly didn't want to have to deal with this crap now, given how well they had done. Suffice to say that I felt obligated to inform the people I work with and my company who sponsors the team.

Spoken words cannot be retracted and often cut the sharpest.


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