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2014 Season…

I don’t even know where to begin.

This season has, without question, been the most incredible season in Ninjineers history in every way possible.

This year, we emerged finalists from a regional for the first time, meaning we’re tiny steps away from qualifying for World Championships on our own merit. Wow.

This year we entered for all awards for the first time, receiving valuable feedback and encouragement from judges to propel us forward in seasons to come.

This year I watched my freshmen, my beloved little people, grow into outstanding student leaders, shining in their own merit and showing me a brightly lit path into 2383’s future.

This year will be a year forever ingrained in my memory as one of the most incredible experiences of my life, a breakthrough moment for my team, my family, and my life.

Now, Brian has given you a wonderful frame-by-frame account of both Virginia and South Florida Regionals, but I’m going to be a little selfish and tell it how I felt it.

Being a member of the drive team for the first time was a absolutely incredible experience. I’d like to sincerely thank my team and the seniors for trusting me with this fabulous opportunity and my fellow drive team members ad I will cherish this experience forever. We created a fabulous dynamic within ourselves to handle the situation, and I never once felt afraid or lost on the field- Damian’s constant “loosy goosie”s and Andrey’s terrible jokes and Prajesh’s frequent bathroom visits kept the mood light and excited and I enjoyed every single moment of it.

And of course, Dean’s List. The award belongs to every single member of my team- everyone that has supported me, guided me, helped me- and allowed our team to blossom into the incredible organization we have become. Dean’s List is for student leaders, but I couldn’t lead anything if you weren’t an unparalleled group of people willing to work hard and together, and to shape and mold me into the person I have become. The best part of receiving the award wasn’t hearing my name, or shaking hands with Dean Kamen’s mother (WHAT?!), but the resounding cheers and avalanche of hugs I got from you guys. Your love and support is the greatest recognition I could ask for, so thank you. The entire experience is completely surreal, and I’m not sure it has sunk in yet. I honestly can’t put into words the love and gratitude I have for my perfect family.

So, this was a year of fantastic new beginnings, but also a year of goodbyes.

Many things have changed since I joined robotics my freshman year, but one thing has remained comfortably constant. The seniors leaving us this year aren’t just any old graduating class- they were the beginning of the beginning. Their freshman year started the change and as they grew into their instrumental roles their sophomore year, led us to elimination rounds for the first time. And WOW have we grown from there. This incredible group of people- Cody, Michael, Bri, Ricky, Ryan, Brian, among others- stepped into the forefront from the very beginning, and have defined and formed the Ninjineers family into what we are today. I’ve worked closely with them these past three years, and they have grown into some of my closest friends, and have come to symbolize 2383 to me. This year’s goodbyes will be particularly difficult.

So here’s a short tribute:

Cody- LOOSIE GOOSIE?! What have you done? Stay awesome and come visit often please!! I’ll miss you tons and tons! (Did we ever get the robotics environment “quote” on tape? XD)

Ricky- seriously ricky=robotics. Despite your civil wars (with the all-powerful XD) you remain a beacon of encouragement and positivity- if anyone has faith in the future of our club and our potential, it’s you 🙂 maybe you’ll have my dad at FIU and I’ll get to see you often! 😀

Ryan- Thanks for sticking by me through the fun times and rough patches! You have a bright future ahead of you 🙂 Please continue to drive me nuts for years to come <3

Bri- ANOTHER GIRL?! Remember when there were like 3 of us in robotics? It’s been so much fun rooming with you and messing around and just laughing at the boys’ antics. Good luck and I’ll miss you a lot!! Keep in touch 🙂

Michael- hey prom drama is almost over! XD and so is this year…. </3 I’ll miss you and your judgments so much :)) Please keep talking to me 😛

And last but not least Brian: you aren’t just the most amazing co-president I could ever ask for (covering for me, doing the work when junior year was less than merciful, etc.) but also the most amazing best friend. In every situation (robotics and otherwise) you have been there for me and supported me through all of the changes we made this year. If I’m a good leader it’s because I have you at my back and I honestly can’t thank you enough for the edits, backup, and memories from this year.

Thank you Team 2383 for a year full of incredible experiences, victories, lessons, and memories- now for a bigger, brighter 2015!!!

I love you all.

-Mayuri

2014 South Florida Regional

This will probably be more of a recap of my last four years than just this weekend. Because this wasn’t just the end of a weekend, or a season. This was the end of four years of our team becoming what it is today.

On Thursday, we gathered and drove to the Broward County Convention Center with our eyes on the prize. All the seniors would be taking a lesser role at this competition, due to Grad Bash being on Friday night. This included forming an all new drive team. Obviously, I had my reservations about how these younger students would perform. They were all extremely capable, but they had little in-game experience and I didn’t want a repeat of our performance at Orlando. We tried to get as much practice as possible on Thursday to finalize the drive team. In the end we pinned Andrey as driver, Mayuri as coach, Prajesh as operator, and Damian as human player.

Friday morning began the real test for this new crop of drivers. We barely scraped by with wins on our first two matches, but they were wins nonetheless. After these, the seniors had to leave for Grad Bash. It was weird saying goodbye to everyone in the middle of the competition. It was like we were graduating already, and handing off the reins. But for everyone else, the day wasn’t done. With the seniors cheering on the team while watching the livestream on the bus, we finished the day 5-3. There were some amazing matches, and some terrible matches, but we were extremely proud of these rookies for their performance. And on Friday night, we took home another Team Spirit Award. For the older kids, it seems pretty commonplace to win these now, but I love winning them because it is an effort mostly led by underclassmen. It really signals the passion of our members and the bright future we have!

On Saturday, we had a decision to make. We could continue with the younger drivers or go back to the seniors for our last competition. The underclassmen took the first two matches of the day, and we took the next two. After similar performances, we decided that the seniors had more experience and should take the elimination rounds. We were picked by teams 3410 and 539 for the 8th-seeded alliance. Unfortunately, we were pitted against the eventual champions in a rough quarterfinals that ended our competition. It was a sad moment as I got our cart from the sidelines for the last time, and rolled the robot off to the pits.

This was our last competition. This was really the end of an era. During my freshman year, I was just looking for clubs to join and I joined this club because I wanted to be an engineer. The first time I saw one of our robots driving, I thought it was so cool. In the past four years, our team has gone 58-50-1, won 8 awards (including 5 Team Spirit awards), made the elimination rounds in 6 out of 8 regionals, and competed at the World Championships. Before the class of 2014 started, we had zero awards and zero elimination appearances. We are on the brink of becoming an elite team, and I know it. This year we were so close to qualifying for the World Championships on our own performance. While our team won’t be in St. Louis this year, one of our members will be.

Yesterday at the awards ceremony Mayuri, our co-president, won the Dean’s List Finalist award. This award is given to two students at each regional who exemplify the principles of FIRST and have a great impact on their team. It is an honor to even be nominated by your team, and we were absolutely ecstatic with Mayuri’s win. One of the components was an essay nominating the student. I had the privilege to write the essay nominating one of my best friends. From the essay:

“[Mayuri] is an influential leader on the team and has inspired countless students. She has helped grow our team beyond the robot, because FIRST is not just about building robots. She has helped make our team into a family where students of any interest can come and find a place immediately. Her passion and commitment to FIRST are clearly evident in the long hours she puts in willingly to make our team and students better. Mayuri will be a lasting influence in FIRST for years to come, as I am sure that she will mentor teams in the future. When I asked a few students what she did to help them grow, they replied that ‘she did everything.’ I think that sums her up influence well.”

Mayuri will now be competing at the World Championships for a spot as one of 10 Dean’s List winners.

I don’t think I’m really ready to move on from robotics, but it’s time. I know that the team is in good hands, and that it will continue to be better every year. Mayuri winning the Dean’s List Finalist award just reinforces this feeling, as she (and others) will continue to impact our team in the future.

Thanks to everyone who has been a part of the Ninjineers. Thank you to the mechanical team. That’s where I did most of my work, and became close with my best friends like Cody, Michael, Ryan, and Bri. Thanks to my awesome Co-President, Mayuri, for doing a lot of the stuff I didn’t want to and always being a friend to talk to. Thanks to Damian (because I know he’d be mad if I didn’t mention him) for all the crazy ideas and shenanigans and a great website. And especially thanks to Massimo. Because of him, I’ve learned so much about engineering and life. The team would not be anywhere close to where it is without him.

This team has been my greatest second family during high school. All of the long hours and hard work has been absolutely worth it. I’ve become friends with the greatest peers and mentors. I’m so thankful for everyone that I’ve interacted with in these past four years. Even though I’m moving on, I’ll always be a Ninjineer and I’ll always be a member of FIRST. I want to continue to help our team grow in any way possible, and I want to inspire students in the future. I know that the Ninjineers will be better than ever next year and every year after that, and I’ll always be a part of that.

-Brian

 

2014 Virginia Regional

Oh, what a difference a week can make.

On Wednesday night, we met up at the Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport for a late flight into Richmond, Virginia. Already, our mentors Bill and Mr. Gregor had driven most of the way with a 24-foot trailer carrying our supplies, robot, luggage, and a Fiat. This was our first out-of-state regional, and we were ready to make some noise.

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The competition got off to an incredible start on Thursday. We had ditched the mecanum drivetrain we used in Orlando for a more traditional tank drivetrain. Ricky performed incredibly with this, and was a defensive force to be reckoned with. We won all of our practice matches, and began making new friends with other teams. We had a great time practicing with teams 1629 and 1533, among others!

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The actual competition started on Friday, and we had a lot to prove. We performed extremely well the day before and hoped to avenge our poor showing last weekend in Orlando. We won our first 5 matches, and ended the day 5-1, ranked 6th. Everyone on the team was doing their part, from the drive team to the scouts to media. Things were looking up, and we capped off the day with dinner from Chipotle (including Christian eating a burrito in less than four minutes) and a strategy session for the next day.

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Saturday morning didn’t go as well as we hoped, as we went 1-2 in our remaining qualification matches. However we ended ranked 14th, and were super excited for alliance selections. Since Friday morning, we had been in talks with team 1418, Vae Victus, about the elimination rounds. We played with them in match 12 and in a replay of that match (due to field error) and handled the matches easily both times. With complementary strategies, we would make incredible partners. With the second overall pick in alliance selections, team 1418 selected us! Rounding out the alliance, we picked team 435, the Robodogs.

The quarterfinals got off to a hot start. In our first match, our alliance scored a perfect 75 autonomous points. Our main strategy involved a double assist with 1418, but that changed when their robot tipped in traffic about 30 seconds into the match. Team 435 quickly assumed their role and we cycled the ball with them, leading to an incredible score of 206 to the other alliance’s 160. Our alliance continued with incredible chemistry and advanced into the semifinals for the first time in our team history.

Semifinal match 1 came to us as more difficult than expected. We lost that match, putting our backs against the wall. Win the next two or we were done. We evened the series in our next match, winning 215 to 152. In the rubber match, both alliances went slower than normal, and as the buzzer sounded we looked up to see a loss of about 40 points. Dejected, yet proud, we gathered the robot, ready to exit. However, the referees were gathered to discuss the final score. When the announcer stated that a technical foul was deciding this match, hope shot into us. The score flashed, and we had won! Immediately, all of us exploded into hugs and shouts. We were going onto the finals for the first time ever!

But, this wasn’t time for too much celebration. Our drive wheels had worn down from so many matches, and we needed a quick fix. Our alliance took its’ timeout and Cody got to work, replacing the wheels efficiently. Then, it was finals time. It was a surreal moment as we stepped out onto the field to shake hands with the other alliance’s drivers. I had watched this formality happen so many other times, but I had never been on the field as a part of it. We were ready. The first match was neck and neck the whole time. Down by 8 with five seconds left, we scored a quick truss shot to gain the lead. As the buzzer sounded, the other alliance scored a double assist ball, and we lost 175 to 157. In the next match, we were racing from behind the whole time after missing our autonomous, and lost 150 to 112.

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It was a bittersweet experience. I am so proud of every member of this team. During some of those elimination matches, we couldn’t have been stopped by anyone. But, I wish I could go back and change those last two matches. All of us should be proud of our performance though. We proved that we are a top team, that one bad weekend does not define us, that we do not crack under pressure, and that we are not going away. This was possibly my last real competition, as most of the seniors will be at Grad Bash during the South Florida Regional. I am confident that the underclassmen will continue with excellence in that competition, and hopefully get us a ticket to the World Championships. But regardless of what happens, this year has been a culmination of years of hard work from everyone involved. The drive team has 20 combined years of participation alone. No matter how our next competition plays out, this year has been such a success.

Don’t expect us to back down yet.

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-Brian