The advance crew with the robot and pit equipment went north last night, ready to set up for our upcoming FIRST Robotics tournament in Duluth. I'll be going up with the team this morning. 6am. With high schoolers. On a school bus.
In some ways this event has me more anxious than in previous years. As rookies we had no idea what we were doing. With minimal expectations it was just fun to show up and play. And of course to significantly exceed those expectations.
Last year we did two events and were dogged every step by small, probably preventable problems. I call it the "smallest widget" dilemma. No matter how sophisticated, how advanced a machine you build, a ten cent switch or a single bolt deep in the innards can crash your robot. Or even your season.
So I have been fretting. What parts are likely to fail. Do we have spares? Is the paperwork all straight? We have a 120 pound weight limit? If we are over due to scale errors how quickly can we find ways to trim? Will anybody leave a critical connection unchecked at the worst possible moment?
And so it tediously goes.
I suppose I won't be content until we clear inspection and fire it up for our first practice match. When the bell rings and the robot moves I will breath a deep and contented sigh. What the team has built is actually very good work. But, running well two weeks ago counts for nothing.
In an acceptable world I can get back to our rookie season status where my role is just to wander by from time to time and ask: "Is the robot ready?"
Not last year, but the year before and hopefully this year the correct answer spoken in unison by our pit crew is:
"The robot is always ready".
Reports as possible.