Cleveland 2009: The Rest of It

The rest of my Cleveland trip was just as fun as the first afternoon. Lets call cover it in parts:

We're team 677. In the Center.
There is a lot to be said for being a spectator and not actually a member of the team. Although, most of it involves being able to skip out on most of the opening and awards ceremonies without setting a bad example. Although I later felt a little bad blogging through one I did go to, although; I did finish before Mr. King, Dublin FIRST teacher and mentor extraordinaire won the Woody Flowers award. As far as the rest of the competition results are concerned Dublin and Homeschool both lost in the semifinal round. That is, there was a 75% chance (ignoring skill) that one of OSU FIRST’s three teams would be in the finals and the other 25% happened. CSG came in 48th of 59 teams, but I have confidence they will do better in Torronto. I’ve told EC I’ll go to Atlanta for nationals if they team wins the chance. By told, I mean I said yes when she asked if I would.

Binary Note
Thursday before lunch one of the girls, Lauren, received a note in binary encoded ASCII from a boy on another team. The boy, had overheard how much she liked his teams button, which included something in binary on it; although, I never got a good enough look to figure out what it was beyond what appeared to be a 24 bit number with at least bits 0 and 23 set (meaning its not a team number). This reminded EC of the troubles we had a few years back with some girls who were at the competition primarily to flirt, but that was clearly not the motive here so we helped Lauren decode the message. Unfortunately we did have to call someone to look up what the values for ‘A’ and ‘a’ were. I remembered 65, but I forgot what base that was in, and well as if it was for ‘a’ or ‘A’. It said “Hey What’s up? I’m from team ” which was significantly more benign that we were expecting. Some girls from the boy’s team came and explained/apologized to our team, and Lauren, as far as I can tell refrained from humiliating the poor guy. Hey, at least his note got read; cause, yeah, that’s unlikely to happen even at the segway/geekfest that FIRST competitions are.

Good Answers
The Robot in the Pit
Josh and I visited the pit once on Friday afternoon. This is in stark contrast to our years on the team, when I lived in the pit, and even last year when we helped the girls do some real time debugging. We went down and found about 5 girls preparing to work on the robot, which had just finished it’s last match of the day, if I recall correctly. Josh and I corned a freshman, Ann, and started asking questions. The following is like how the conversation went:

Me: What’d you do on the robot?
Ann: Software, but for the JV robot
Me: Oh, how is the software for that robot different from this one?
Ann: They are the same
Me: How does that work?
Ann: They use the same mechanism and controls. We designed it that way.
Me: How do you deal with constants related to the motors themsevles or other bits that do vary from robot to robot?
Ann Well, we’ve actually got two copies of the software each with the different tweaks, but otherwise they’re the same.

I was impressed. I’m pretty sure that the robot controller doesn’t have a use accessible file system, so the only next best idea I could think of is impractical. So, not only is it a good design for something that is not actually a robot problem, but a meta problem caused by having two robots, but one of the freshmen was able to speak intelligently to the design and implementation.

Team Dinner and Nightlife
At the team dinner I sat near EC and three other freshmen girls from the team. These girls were huge Gilmore Girls fans; much larger than me. This served a good conversation starter, although; they did not like my answers to the standard questions. I think they are pretty good answers, I didn’t like theirs either. I guess its somewhat comforting that I’ve got a different outlook on it than they do. Moving on from that topic, it was a really fun dinner, and talking to the girls all night brought back at lot of the vibe I remember from being on the team. After dinner the mentors went out to a posh bowling ally/ bar on the same block. The previous night we’d bowled a few games there. I came in second until we had to finish the third game before they closed the lanes down in five minutes and things got sloppy. These reminded me of the great team parties we used to have, and complimented the vibe I had from dinner.

The Only Nice Block in Cleveland
My college room mate George, who loathes living in Toledo every day, came to see Josh and I in Cleveland for a three hour reprieve from looking outside and seeing Toledo. He made it just in time for the final match of the competition, which I’m sure made the trip more exciting. Afterwards we skipped out on the awards to grab a bite to eat before heading back to Jersey. We again went back to the one nice block of restaurants on 4th street for dinner. Before we left, I forgot to give EC back her phone charger, which had been left in our hotel room along with her chap stick, which was returned successfully. Over a text conversation during dinner we decided she’d simply have to come to Boston to get it back…

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