One of the great things about blogging for a long period of time is that Google has access to your memories, which is how I’m able to tell you exactly how I felt walking into my son’s first robotics tournament with “The Makers” VEX robotics team in December of 2012.
When I saw the scissor lifts, the pneumatic lifts, plexiglass-like shovels and complex machines that we never even imagined, I thought, “This is going to be embarrassing.” Sure, we’d seen some of these bots on YouTube, but still, yikes. The boys were similarly demoralized.
“Remember, we’re here to learn. Many of the teams here have been doing this for years and have a lot of experience as well as a large stock of material from which to build their robots,” I reminded the boys.
We felt so insignificant among the crowd of high-end robots. My scrappy team only had six weeks to build a robot with nothing but the materials in the original kit we received from VEX. They did not place last, which was honestly the best we could hope for.
In 2014, The Makers were absorbed into the high school’s newly formed VEX team, though my son and one of the original Makers, plus two friends they added on in 8th grade, have stayed together as a sub-team (usually 4-6 students). They’re now finishing up their sophomore year and they’re headed to Louisville for VEX Worlds!
The international competition will bring together 1,000 top competitors from middle school, high school and college levels. Add in parents, chaperons, volunteers, judges, etc. and that’s quite a crowd.
I’m so proud of these boys. They had a great season and their robot won many awards along the way. They worked hard to get here. They’ve learned and grown. They’ve laughed and triumphed. And let’s be real, they’ve also navigated through a lot of disappointment and frustration to get to this point. (Oh, and my son broke his wrist last weekend, but that’s another story.)
I started a VEX team back in 2012 because I could, thanks to a grant that minimized our start-up costs. Like so many activities that have truly absorbed my boys, I didn’t push him to get involved. Rather, he pulled me into the experience.
One of the other moms recently thanked me for starting the team and I downplayed her gratitude. “All I did was provide the robot parts,” I explained. Which is true. The boys did most everything on their own. I was near useless when it came to technical know-how and they generally resisted my attempts to help them proceed in an organized, thoughtful manner. “Yes,” she replied, “But without that, there would be no team!” Well, that’s true, too.
In what I’m dubbing The Ultimate Mom Road Trip, I’m heading down to Louisville with another mom or two from the team, so we can see our boys in action. How often does one get to see her child competing on an international level?
In addition to watching my son compete and taking in the international VEX scene, I’m staying in my first AirBnB during the trip. And, Friday night is the start of the Jewish holiday of Passover, or Pesach. I’m planning a related #VEXMitzvah, but I’m not yet sure how it will play out.
Follow me on Twitter or Instagram (@KimMoldofsky as in MOLD of SKY) for updates from the road!