Programming a Robot

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
FIRST robotics is thrilling and exciting. It is also demanding and difficult. Sometimes, it's just too much.

Submitted: September 16, 2013

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Submitted: September 16, 2013

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Programming a Robot

The music pulsed, shouts filled the air, and tension was high.  Trapped as I was in a ten by eleven foot cell, accompanied by the rest of my team and a robot bigger than me, I was exhausted. There was no room to move and every time someone tried, there was another injury to deal with. I had been relegated to a back corner, halfway underneath a worktable, crouched between a portable saw and yet another toolbox. In my heeled boots and pirate hat, I tried to make myself as small as possible as I worked on the team’s laptop. I was lead programmer for robotics team 1359, the Scalawags, we were at regionals, and we were in a crisis.

“Kayren!” shouted Barb, “C’mere!” I startled up from the haze I had been in, whacking my head on the table I was under and looked up.

“Yeah?” I questioned as I maneuvered myself out of my hidey-hole and jumped over one of the mechanics working on our nonfunctional brakes.

“We need you over here! We’re trying to sort out scouting duties and could use a team councilman!” she yelled over the chaos as I performed my acrobatics.

“All right. I’m here,” I panted, ducking under someone’s arm. “What was it you needed?”

“Scouting duties. We’re stretched pretty thin and aren’t sure how this is gonna work.”

“Let me think... well… Tanner’s on the drive team, and the mechanics team, so he won’t work…Andrew’s going to have to stay here in case judges come by…Will’s going to be busy with the minibot and the malfunction going on with the minicomputer…what about Tyler?”

“I think we can spare Tyler. We really need more than just her though. She’s going to have to take breaks, and she won’t be able to keep track of six teams at once.”

“Well… Maybe J.T. would be willing to help? I know he’s a mentor, but I’m sure it’ll be fine. And…during my breaks I can go ahead and do some scouting,” I offered.

“Okay. I’ll go let everyone know. Also, before I leave, how’s the imagery stuff coming along, Miss Spirit Coordinator?” Barb asked.

 “Kayren!” Buzzy interrupted before I could answer, “I got us some time on the practice field and we need to polish off your code. Let’s go!” he barked as I scrabbled to follow him, waving goodbye to Barb.

The team moved to the practice field, and we watched as the robot failed to hang the triangular tube on its post time and time again. After half an hour of it, we were all a little stressed and frustrated.

“Kayren! I thought I told you that I wanted the “hand” to be clenched at the beginning!” Buzzy yelled.

“And I told you that’s impossible! The pressure won’t have built up by then, whether I program it like that or not, it’s just not going to work!” I cried, exhausted and headachy.

I hadn’t wanted to do autonomous at all, had argued against it, but I had made a commitment to my team, and they wanted an autonomous, so I’d do my damnedest to get it for them. I had been working on it every second I had free, running myself ragged and growing to resent the team, the mentors, and myself. Still, I worked and I would continue to do so until autonomous was fully functional.

“Kayren’s right. We’re just going to have to figure something else out for that. In the meantime, why don’t we work on trying to fix the timing of the robot?” Will soothed, interrupting my musings.

And so we tried again. And again. And again. For the better part of an hour, we tried, working almost robotically ourselves. Until one time, we got it. None of us were really expecting it, wearily watching our robot traverse the length of the field one more time, when unexpectedly, the tube was put on the pole. Not believing it, we reset the robot and tried again. Once more, the tube was put on the pole.

In awe, everyone began to celebrate. They shouted, danced, hugged, and punched their fists in the air. The team around me was ecstatic. They were thrilled beyond belief. This was what would set us apart from the other teams. This was what would get us into finals. This autonomous that I had programmed, was what would make our team winners.

I stood in the midst of the celebrations, still. I accepted high fives automatically, and smiled thinly when people gave me congratulations, but I wasn’t a real part of the excitement. I wasn’t excited. I was, at most, relieved. I no longer had the constant pressure on me to finish, no longer had mentors such as Buzzy yelling at me, demanding to know how far I was in the code or why I wasn’t working on it right now. This was a great weight off my shoulders. Instead of feeling excited, or even happy about it though, all I felt was relieved, exhausted, and home sick.

Two weeks later, I resigned from the team, knowing that I had fulfilled all my commitments, and that robotics wasn’t for me anymore. Never once did I regret having joined the team two years ago, becoming lead programmer, or even going to regionals. Robotics gave me a place to belong, something to do, and it made me who I am today.

Robotics gave me the confidence to stand up for myself, to speak for myself, and to try, even when you don’t think that there’s any chance of success. I will never regret my time spent there and, even now, after all the work and stress of it, I’m still drawn to it. I still keep up to date, offer my help, and sometimes think of rejoining but I know I never will.

I won’t because robotics stopped being something fun, or even something good for me. By the end of my time there, I was letting myself get too caught up, too self-sacrificing. I did what people asked of me, but I no longer enjoyed any of it.

 Robotics was something great for me, until the commitments became too much and I overloaded myself. And that’s not something I’m going to let myself do again. So I’ll sit back and preach about the greatness of robotics. I’ll mean every word. But I won’t rejoin. I won’t let myself be programed again. I can’t.


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