Robotics has changed so many students outlook on academics and life. It has shown them that there is something out there other than sports. Robotics has changed my life in so many ways. Chief among these is that I am capable of doing much more than just sports. I remember sitting in geometry as a freshman and our teacher, which happens to be the robotics lead coach, told us that our school would have a robotics program next year. As a three sport varsity athlete I literally said “I would never join robotics!” That first year the robotics team qualified for the District Championships in Portland. My family traveled to support my brother, who was a member of the team. There I had my first exposure to what robotics and FIRST robotics really was. The next year I joined the team and have been in love with it ever since.
This last weekend at West Valley reminded me why I love robotics, my team, and everyone in our community. I got to have an experience that I will never forget. Six weeks of designing, building, and countless hours of effort finally paid off for our robot Sir Jono.
With 35 seconds left, Sir Jono heads over and positions to scale the tower. Now, there is 20 seconds left in the match. We extend our climbing hook. The hook hits home on the tower rung and the crowd is starting to take notice. It starts climbing, but slowly. Everyone in the gym is going crazy; the announcer is yelling into the microphone, “4980 is attempting to scale the tower!!” It’s so loud in the gym I can’t even hear myself thinking. 3-2-1, the final buzzer sounds. As the judges inspect our climb, everyone is on the edge of their seats. We soon get the news that Sir Jono was a couple inches short of making a successful scale. We are crushed, but we don’t let that get to us. Knowing we have the ability to scale now, we rush back to our pit and start making changes to be successful. We add two new air tanks and double the amount of surgical tubing to increase our climbing speed. As the team is frantically working to get these new modifications finished, the volunteer, the “Queen of the Queue” arrives and informs us it’s time to go. We head onto the field and get set up. The match starts. We start crossing and destroying defences as fast as we can to ensure there is enough time to scale the tower. Fifty seconds left. We cross the last defence, and head toward the tower. I look up and see 20 seconds left; it is time to start scaling the tower. As we hook onto the tower, I know that this time we are going to make it. Our team is yelling, “Go, go, go, go.” The entire gym is cheering for us. The time is running down. 5-4-3-2-1, the final buzzer sounds. The gym is even louder than it was during our first attempt. The judges enter the field and check to see if Sir Jono made it. The team is silent, holding each other’s hands. The judge looks over at the score table and put his thumbs up. WE SUCCESSFULLY SCALED THE TOWER! The team, crowd, and judges are going crazy, yelling, jumping up and down, screaming! Sir Jono had reached his goal.
One of the perks of coming from such a small close knit community is that everyone knows and cares for each other. Late in our build season this year we lost a young teacher to a complication from surgery. A friend. A loved one. This was very difficult for our entire school. As a way to honor his memory and with the support of his wife, family, and the community, our team named the robot Sir Jono. Jono’s wife, Stephany Esvelt was over the moon when we told her that we wanted to name the robot Sir Jono. Her response was, “I think Sir Jono would be very appropriate and maybe Jono will be able to help you out in competition!” As we scaled the tower successfully for the first time, I knew Jono was with us smiling and laughing with his very big laugh that we all remember.