April 03, 2005

Leaving Las Vegas

We're back after three days in Sin City watching the regional matches of the FIRST Robotics Competition. Why were we there? Because Alex is on the team from High Tech High, and he's been spending late nights and weekends getting the bot off the ground. We stayed way way way off the strip... 20 miles away in fact, at a place that June immediately recognized as being similar to the island the Prisoner woke up in: MonteLago Village Resort. When it's completed, it's going to look like a Disney version of a seaside village in Italy. For now, it was pretty but eerie, and it made us glad to have seen the real Italy. For the short drive, though, we got ourselves a large suite for half the price of a single room on the strip. The kids from High Tech High, on the other hand, were stacked four to a room in a Best Western.

The competition was held in the arena at UNLV. Words can't really capture the experience of watching six 120-pound wheeled machines lurching around a basketball court, lifting up tetrahedrons and dropping them on top of larger tetrahedrons, while simultaneously trying to block the opposing team from doing the same thing.

The design of the game was ingenious, requiring strategy, cooperation among teams, and of course, an able robot. The competition went on for a full day of practice runs and two days of matches, all accompanied by a very loud soundtrack aimed at 17 year olds... pretty good music I thought. High Tech High ended up just under the middle of the 38 team pack and made it through the quarter finals.

Things like this make me optimistic about the next generation.

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