One of the blogs I follow regularly is that of John V-Neun from Team 148 the Robowranglers, a team that many in FRC are very familiar with. People like to think that all of the powerhouse teams just magically come up with a robot that works, or, heaven forbid, have a robot that is designed/built by the mentors and not the students themselves. No struggles, no difficulties, it just works. But if you read JVN's blog, you find that this just isn't the case. Higher caliber teams face many of the same struggles that even the most basic team has, and these struggles often parallel those we face in the engineering world.
JVN's most recent blog last week talks about the constant "two steps forward, one step back" pattern that is inescapable when working through the development process, and how disheartening and frustrating it can be. You show up to work or to the meeting with exactly one goal to accomplish for the day. And by some stroke of horrible luck, that one singular task does not get done, or worse, fails spectacularly. For JVN and his team, this was exactly what happened on Day 31 of the build season (for those not counting, that was February 5th). And believe me, both 5679 and 2655 have had their fair share of Day 31's this build season. I've definitely had my fair share of Day 31's in the 3 years I've been with ADI.
Think of all of the great accomplishments that we have seen in our lifetime... We have seen the revolution of IoT. We've witnessed the dawn of a new age of space exploration. We put the Juno probe in orbit around Jupiter! We saw SpaceX successfully land two booster rockets simultaneously, side by side. We sent a TESLA ROADSTER...TO MARS...JUST because we COULD! Think what would have happened if anyone in any of those accomplishments would have just given up after having a Day 31. None of these things would have happened. (JVN points to the countless failed rocket return landings from SpaceX before they had any successes, just as an example.)
One of the most important lessons any engineer can learn is to stare at failure in the face, laugh, and carry on looking for another solution with your head held high. If FRC doesn't teach that lesson to students I don't think there's a program around that will. It's the proverbial trial-by-fire of Day 31's. But darn it if all of those struggles don't make the successes that much sweeter when they do come.
This blog is part of a series covering the 2018 season of the FIRST Robotics Competition, FIRST POWER UP. Stay tuned for more updates, including coverage of the Championship Events in Houston and Detroit at the end of April! Get to know the ADI teams, learn more about our donation boards, and meet the employee mentors that make it all happen!