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The 2020 FRC Season, In Review

So this school year, I decided that I wanted to be more involved in school activities, and I had decided to join the robotics team, as invited by another team member. I talked to the coach and was informed of the pre-season meeting date. I pretty much went into robotics blinded, having no idea what I was doing. Although I knew I came in knowing I wanted to be a programmer, that soon changed.


A few pre-season meetings commenced, and then it was already the first practice. It was very evident that we had a lot of new programmers, and our lead programmer was more involved at first, but then I found myself mentoring the new ones after the first few weeks. Now keeping in mind that Java is not an easy language to learn, and I understand the struggles students may face jumping right into it with no prior programming experience. Doing as un-suggested by a coach, we started them on Codecademy and one-to-one sessions. The lead programmer would do more of the complex topics, while I would help answer simple questions and reword things and break down more complex topics. Some weeks, our lead programmer would be gone, and I would find myself having to explain most things myself, which I did not mind. As the season had progressed, more and more kids started branching out away from programming to the other sub-teams. Very quickly, it was just us three, the main programmers.

Many weeks went by with no programming because, in reality, the robot had to be designed, tested, and built first before any real programming could happen. So I found myself doing other tasks. I helped out with putting the team number on shirts from the school coffee shop, I managed the team Twitter, did some outreach work and got us a sponsor, and I did some more organizational work. During the end of the season, I had worked on the bill of materials and some other prerequisites for our Duluth Regional. I guess you could say I can do just about any task on the robotics team, give or take a few. By doing all these tasks and having multiple roles, I really learned my true strengths and weaknesses, working with a team of people. By the last practice, I had learned the following about myself and made the following discoveries:
  • I enjoy mentoring people and like teaching topics to others
  • I am fairly good and better at verbal communication as well as written communication
  • I learned that maybe, I am not really an introvert or that quiet kid in the back
  • I learned that communication is essential between a medium-sized team. Make NO assumptions about anything, and always ask questions first before doing anything major.
  • You will most definitely fail at things the first few times, but if you are diligent and keep trying, you will succeed in the end. This is the best part of robotics, as some say "it is the hardest fun you will ever have."
  • I learned that there are some things you just have to do yourself; others will not do things for you ;) I'm not saying I am lazy, but it is very easy to give up when things get hard.
  • You should always come to practice prepared and organized, ready with a list of things to do
  • Sometimes, you just need to decompress and take a self-care day, away from the team. Maybe catching up with homework, or even taking a nap.
  • Coming to extra credit/other robotics events that are optional is a great thing. You get to connect with other teams, strategize, and exchange brilliant ideas.
  • It is very possible to ace your classes and still be in an extracurricular activity. Though it may be harder, you can still be successful academically. 
With all of the things I had learned, I tried to bring them to the Duluth Regional that we competed at. I went in blind to this, knowing nothing about the structure of competitions, and how they work. Quickly, I had learned the run down and how things work. I had to make so many runs to the pit, back to the stands, going to the field, and other laborious tasks. I knew that all my efforts were hopefully, contributing to the team. Being 1/15 in the team, even the smallest things were accounted for through the tasks I did.

During the regional, there were some things I learned to like, though hated at first:
  • Scouting, pits, and robots:  I thought this was really boring and had no idea how to do it at first. Through a little role-play, I was all good to go and was interviewing other teams, asking questions, and gathering all the data we could ever need. 
  • Spreadsheet management: Laborious, stressful. Since Wi-Fi was not allowed in the arena, we had to get creative. In the end, we ended up merging some spreadsheets with scouting info and it went far from smooth.
Though I may have missed some things in this article, I had definitely learned a lot during the 2020 robotics season, learning the things I liked, the things I didn't, and had developed essential professional skills and picked up some new talents. Working with new people, and making new connections was a great experience for me and I learned so much! I will definitely join robotics next year.

*This article was written at 12:30 AM, so I'm promising you that the grammar and wording are not perfect. Corrections are always welcome!

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