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The trip to the First Tech Challenge World Championships in St. Louis was a new experience for the Highland Robotics team, so obviously the team didn’t know what to expect.
As a result, the team came in with very simple expectations.
“We didn’t think we were going to compete very well against the other teams. Our goal was to not let our alliances down,” Business Manager Jack Streb said. “We have never seen anything like it, the robots there were so cool and clean. You could really tell that they belonged there. We focused on letting everyone know that we also belonged there.”
While the team did acquit themselves well, finishing 42 out of 64 teams as a wild card selection, the more lasting impact may be the connections they made with other participants.
At the hotel, the team connected with the FIRST Lego League out of Greece.
“We showed them our robot and they showed us theirs and they thought we were very cool, we let them drive it around,” Streb said.
“We even discussed with their coaches that they do not have FTC in Greece and they plan on making a team and they asked us to help them start a team and mentor them via email.”
The opportunity also allowed the team to observe some of the other divisions of FIRST that they don’t compete in or see, outside of the FIRST Tech Challenge. Of particular interest was getting to experience the youngest competitors as part of the Junior FIRST Lego League and the FIRST Robotics Challenge.
“It was cool to see how good these little tiny kids (6 and 7 year olds) in Junior FLL were at public speaking and presenting their solutions to their challenge,” Streb said.
They even garnered a following from the local Junior FLL team, who became part of their cheering section after giving their presentation to the Highland students and talking to the Highland team about their robot.
“FRC was definitely the most exciting for us because FRC is the division of FIRST with the biggest robots,” Streb said. “They play on basketball court sized fields and they are very cool to see because of their size and how good their drivers are.”
Just being around the top teams from around the country and the world, gave the team a lot of good examples to think about and follow. The team got to be around the top robots and pits in the world, giving them more ideas about the tactics and amount of work that is necessary to take the next step and be able to run with these better teams.
After getting their first taste of this level of competition, they’re hoping this isn’t a once in a lifetime opportunity. The team is definitely hungry for more.
“Now we can take what we learned by seeing the best teams in the world and hopefully use it to earn our way back to the Worlds Championship again in Detroit,” Streb said.
Even with the eye on the future, the team wanted to take one more opportunity to thank all those who made such an incredible experience possible.
“We want to thank our coach Tim Surine for taking us,” Streb said. “He did a lot to give us this opportunity and we appreciate that.
“We also want to thank all of the people and businesses that supported us by donating their money to our team. We could not have went without it. The support we got from the community was very mind blowing and we are very appreciative for that.”