I recently read the book The New Cool, by Neal Bascomb. The book relates the experiences of three FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams during the 2009 Lunacy game. It primarily focuses on team number 1717, the D’Penguineers, but mentions the ThunderChickens, Heroes of Tomorrow (HOT), and 2Train. I learned a lot about the FRC experience in this book, and am excited to share it with you.
The D’Penguineers come from Goleta, California, a town west of Santa Barbara. Led by their mentor Amir Abo-Shaeer, the all-seniors team from Dos Pueblos High School competed in three tournaments throughout their ten-week season, including the FIRST World Festival. The book begins with the team’s early-morning drive to Los Angeles to hear the simulcast of the kickoff, and follows their successes and failures throughout the season.
The journey made by the team members of the D’Penguineers was remarkable. They went from disliking and/or fighting with each other, to a unified team in the course of only ten weeks. Learning to work and get along with others is a valuable skill, which the team learned throughout the season.
What amazed me most though while reading this book was the limited time allowed to build, program, and test the robot with. Ten weeks is a short time, even for less involved robotics leagues like FIRST LEGO League and VEX. Although they didn’t complete the robot as early as they could have, even finishing such a task is an extraordinary feat.
How a team who just met each other could create a washing machine sized robot is beyond me. But I guess that is what makes this story so noteworthy. A team of over 25 people who didn’t know (or necessarily like) each other all working together in a short amount of time to accomplish a single goal- to win. And they did, in addition to learning a lot in the process, not just about robotics, but about teamwork, time management, and hard work. I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in robotics, whether experienced or novice; we can all learn something from this team.