Thursday, February 24, 2011


It's the FIRST day of the team blog (love the corniness or what?) and we'd love to share with you just what it is we're about as a team, as well as accomplishments of the 2010-2011 season, and the beginnings of the 2011-2012 season. It's our pleasure to share with you our goals both large scale and small, and hopefully, if you're not already involved, get you to join in the fun of FIRST.

Officially, we're FTC Team #4666, Sisters Robotics, but most know us as the Loco-Motives out of Nowhere, Oregon. Don't get me wrong, as a small town in Deschutes county's High Desert, we've already made quite a name for ourselves. The world-famous Sisters Rodeo, our tourist-trap worse-than-Portland-traffic inducing Annual Quilt Show, lots of entrepreneurship in business, being home to many famous people, and being the calm relaxing home with a few thrilling secrets many (1800 people) love and enjoy has made us quite the eyeful to anyone passing through. We've got a spotlight on us, and although some would see us as the tiny fake-western town shoved into forest so thick it's a miracle they even got 1.5 square miles clear, we residents know this town is one of great achievement, industry, and fun.

We'll let you judge the product of this town for yourself, though.

We chose the name Loco-Motives, because we are Crazy. Crazy motivated, at least. We are determined at what we do. We know that we'll face problems wherever we go. It's our choice to persevere and work until a solution is found that forces the problems to be solved. As was written in an essay about FIRST, "The greatest gem FTC offers students is the courage and faith that if any goal is pressed at hard enough, it is reachable. Whether this is true we may never know, but we'll most definitely never know if it's never tested. If we never try the impossible, can we really know it's impossible?" Over this last year, we've learned mainly 2 things: Teamwork and Determination. And, using our teamwork, we created a team name about our determination. We have crazy goals. We often have impossible goals. But if we don't at least reach for them, if we don't at least try, nothing is possible.

We've discovered how to truly work together. We're able to spend time together as friends, enjoy our time, and have a great product at the end. We've only learned this from doing it over this year. We've all grown able to contribute and be productive. Instead of spending our time bored playing video games, we meet together to think and do things just a few years ago experts thought were impossible. That's a big thing about us: we do big things! And we learn while we're at it.

We compete, but competition isn't really what's important. Well, it is, but not the one you're thinking of. Once or twice, sometimes three times every year we'll pack up our gear and drive to some Oregonian city to fight to the death, or at least til 3 minutes is up. These are some of the most fun days of the year, yet they aren't our favorite. The real competition is against the game, and against ourselves. It's against the maturity and gain we're yet to unlock. And I'll tell you– we reign victorious every time. Not just on our own power though. Our team motto is "Stamus Super Humeros Gigantum," or in your not-so-Latin language, "We stand upon the shoulders of giants."

So if our sarcasm mixed with seriousness mixed with the world's stickiest cheese hasn't scared you off just yet, you are a brave soul and will be duly rewarded with much more Loco-Motive-ism.

So, in short, as a team we're all about doing big things. We want to inspire because we've been inspired. We want to do the impossible because we've had it proven to us that nothing's impossible. We've learned through experience how to have good teamwork and commitment. We love to have fun with what we do, and we love those who have made what we do possible.

The 2010-2011 season was great. Kickoff happened, Sep. 11, a group of Oregon's geekiest saw the game video and got to classes and game strategizing and theory and wanting to finish robots on the first day. It was a few of us on a Bend team, who weren't even registered as a team yet. 3 more months of great fun in meetings went by, but we wanted more. So, me being the most distantly located member of the team, I split off to create a second team. And thus 4666 was born. In about December of 2010, we were registered. A kit was ordered, lots of phone calls to Sisters students made. We seemed to have no luck with the local scholarlies until one phone call was made that rocked FIRST forever (or at least sure made our team a real team). Brandon Bachmier, an awesome 14 year old 8th grade student at Sisters Christian Academy popped in and became the lifeblood of the team. And... We achieved.

Through teamwork and perseverance, come February, one incredible robot, with only 4 hands to make contact with the beautifully-shiny aluminum, was battle-ready. But we got much more than a really cool robot out of the deal. On the shoulders of giants (God, FIRST, ORTOP, friendly adults, and students), we learned teamwork like we hadn't known before, and we gained a sense of ownership that led us to dedication like few have witnessed before. We put what we could into this, and although things seemed to be against us, I can confidently say we did our best. And sure, when we got to qualifier, we may just have found a problem we'd overlooked, and may just have seeded 24th out of 25 robots because we couldn't fix it in time. But what's a qualifier? Sure, if we would have done better we could have made it to state, maybe even national competition! It would have been thrilling. What would we have gained from it? Boosted self-confidence, probably. Recognition? Chances are good. A fun time? Undoubtably. A couple trophies? Sure! But what is this compared to all we learned over the year, and all we're learning now? Although recognition sounds nice and it definitely would be fun to go on at tournaments, we realize that we've gained something far greater. We are a team. We came together, solved a problem, and learned so much that we are satisfied with not winning. We won more than any trophy could be worth for us. Not only did we learn technical skills, physics, and higher maths, but we learned as we can't stress enough, teamwork, determination, enjoyment, knowledge that we can do something. We learned as well that we're all working toward a common goal here, we learned how to help others.

So the season ended for us with fateful OSU on the 19th. We loved every minute of it, but it was time for the old to end, and the new to begin. So, it did. Although we took a week break from meetings, the new season started faster than you can say technological advancement. Yes. It's cause we're loco remember? But with all reason included, it seems wise to start as early as possible. Kickoff is next September, but we have some things to prepare for before even that.

Roboshock, the ultimate robotics fest at OSU is coming to town this May, and guess just what's gonna be there. A fully rocking FTC challenge setup. Yes, fields, judges, they say it'll be like any other qualifier. What's it mean? We can solve our minor problems and make major enhancements. What? We can even collaborate with our good friends from Bend and fellow rookie team from Marshall HS (4561 and 4596 respectively) to scrimmage and prepare for the Shock? Could it be that we secretly plan to take the competition together to show that not only is FIRST successful at getting students to do crazy things, but that Central Oregon is producing some awesome future engineers? I think both! As we prepare for Roboshock, we also have some bigger plans in mind. This is the perfect time to start talking with schools, organizations, media, students, adults, everyone here in Central Oregon to create a driving force for CO this year. How many students will end up doing things they never dreamed they could through this? Can we really inspire people to know they can try at their goals and succeed? It's like us to say, we'll never know if we don't try. We don't want to just tell people we do big things. We want people to know that this county does big things. That this state does big things. Maybe one day, that this nation does big things. It all starts with some small steps, but our game plan is to see who we can get involved. We want to see what we can start. Who knows what will come of it.

Some quiet discussions with our fellow teams also involve starting some of our own educational and fun robotics competitions. More on that to come... The big unveil there might just be mind-blowing. Or, maybe just some real fun. In any case, if you're in Central Oregon, you should definitely stay posted. There could be some robo-entertainment ahead.

We want to do huge things. This year, we plan to start teams, to get entire cities involved to come and celebrate students who do things. We want to solve some real world problems by creating marketable products this year, and take what we learn from what we do during this off-season and apply it to next season. We want to get well-organized and up to speed so that we'll be prepared when the starting-shot goes off next year. There is so much more we want to do, but for an already disturbingly long blog post, we'll leave you to know this much.

So if you're a high school student, but not involved in FIRST, maybe you're loco too. Okay, we're not going to so quickly diagnose you just yet. But there's a reason why we do FIRST. There's a great reason why we spend our time making machines and learning life skills. It's not just that robots are fun. It's this: FTC is the reason we can do awesome things like this. It's about so much more than robots. When we learn to be members of tomorrow's workforce, and see we've already accomplished so much with just a little dedication and cooperation, we know we'll release an unimaginable force when we put so much more into it. We're learning skills we need for life. Not all of us may be mechanical engineers who build robots for our careers, but we certainly will have gained something great from FIRST before we're adults. We can have fun and do incredible things while learning how to work together as a team, and with other teams, and how to be determined gracious professionals. At first it seemed loco to even join this program. For me, a good friend asked me to come build robots with her. Was she nuts? It sounded like the dorkiest thing I'd do with my life. But when she finally convinced me, I was just hooked. And now, we are the Loco-Motives.

So has FIRST done its job? If they are For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, our team is Inspired. We have Inspired some great technology to solve the challenge. We Recognize the importance of the work ethic we've gained, and we Recognize just what not only Science and Technology can do, but what WE can do through all we've learned so far. So I think they've done their jobs, and far more. Decide for yourself. Come check it out.

So I hope this is a good enough first post! Specifics on our daily work to come soon! You'd better have enjoyed this... That is, we hope you loved it!

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