Winning isn't only thing for robotics team in Duluth from Chicago
Mar 11, 2011 (Duluth News Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Jackie Moore laughs at the notion that the Chicago Knights are in Duluth for an easy win.
"No way! Are you kidding?" said Moore, who with her husband, John Moore, founded the robotics team on Chicago's South Side five years ago. "The teams in Minnesota were well-organized and well-supported from the beginning. They are in no way an easy match."
The Moores and two other adults who made the trip from Chicago were looking on as their charges -- six of the 12 high school students on this year's Knights -- labored over some unexpected issues in their robot on Thursday afternoon. Forty other teams were going through a similar process in Pioneer Hall at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. They hadn't seen their robots since they were loaded in crates in mid-February.
That's the way it is in FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics. There's six weeks to build a robot from a parts kit, several weeks to wait, then a frenetic day of testing, inspection and practice -- Thursday -- followed by two days of robot-versus-robot competition.
For the Knights, competing in Duluth meant getting on a bus at midnight Wednesday, driving through the night and arriving at the DECC about 8:30 Thursday morning. They figured they'd be with their robot until about 8 in the evening, then have two full days of competition before heading back to Chicago on Sunday.
But it wasn't because they spied a new regional and thought their team could coast to a win, the Moores insist. Instead, they saw there would be a number of first-year teams in Duluth, and they wanted to help.
"We like to try to help the new teams," John Moore said. "It's the concept of gracious professionalism."
Jackie Moore added: "For us, first of all, the robot game itself is not the prize," she said. "It's the change in the kids."
The Moores started the Knights six years ago because they saw what it could mean for their two daughters -- now graduated from high school -- and their son, John Moore Jr., now 15.
"My son is a hands-on learner, and I need activities for him to be successful," Jackie Moore said. "I looked around and I found FIRST, and it met most of the needs that we had."
They could have sent their kids to an established team, but they saw a need for it where they live. Theirs is one of the few teams that isn't linked to a specific school, although the Knights have spawned several school teams.
"We were looking for opportunities in the city, and we couldn't find this in the city," Jackie Moore said. "So we started it."
Maggie Derosena of the Chicago suburb of Skokie was looking for similar opportunities when she met Jackie Moore last year. Her son, Dominique, 16, had been interested in all things automotive since he was in kindergarten and wants to be a mechanical engineer. "You find out what your child loves to do and you have to feed it to them," Derosena said.
So Dominique is on the Knights for the first time this year, and he has embraced it. "He's in track and cross country, but this comes first for him," his mom said.
Helen Lyons' sport is swimming, and it kept her away from the Knights for the past two years after participating in seventh, eighth and ninth grades. But as a senior, the 18-year-old from Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood is back.
Lyons, a student at the prestigious Latin School of Chicago who wants to be an engineer, said she likes the robotics challenge. "It was the first time I'd ever done anything really engineering like this, where you're building and you're programming," she said. "And there's no guidelines. You're given parts and then you're just released to build something."
She glanced around the busy pit area and was glad to note it wasn't a male bastion.
"My mentor, Duane, was telling me that when he was in college he was in computer science, and in his classes there were no girls," Lyons said. "And now, looking at this, there are girls everywhere. We're really shining through."
To see more of the Duluth News Tribune, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to
http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/. Copyright (c) 2011, Duluth News Tribune,
Minn. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more
information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information
Services (MCT), visit www.mctinfoservices.com.
[ Sports Techy's Homepage ]