Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dream it, design it, build it! :: FIRST in My Heart

I believe in the vision of FIRST:
"To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders."
Dean Kamen, Founder

I believe in the goals and aspirations of 2102 Team Paradox.

... and I believe going to Atlanta, Georgia for the 2010 FIRST Championship was beyond awesome.

A lot of people ask either, "Did you win?" or "How did you place?"

And I understand.

A contest, a competition is for winning, for doing your best, but regardless, my first impulse is to answer, "Yes! Yes, they won."

They came in FIRST. For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.
They started a team.
They inspired growth, and lasting commitment.
They dreamt it.
They designed it, and built it.
They played Breakaway in San Diego, and they came home with an invitation to Atlanta, and the award for Inspiration in Engineering.
They played again, in Las Vegas, where they earned their third Team Spirit award.
And then they rallied to prepare and organize for the honor of going to the Championship in Atlanta... they intently raised funds and spirits, making it possible to bring thirty students across the country, along with almost twenty more Paradox teachers, mentors and family members. The lasting awards of all they accomplished makes 2102 Team Paradox first in my heart.

I came home re-energized to promote FIRST and to celebrate the brilliance of young minds... they are worthy of so much more support, and more opportunities to fulfill their potential. Hey. That is saying a lot! It has been a long and intense journey, so declaring my renewed determination to get the whole world spirited for science and engineering, for the students who inspire me... means Dean Kamen must have hypnotic speech powers. I just cannot get out of these red pants!

Coopertition... students from around the world meeting to compete and cooperate, to talk about math, science, and robots!

FIRST is for everyone, from everywhere. Meet 13400 Team Dragonbots, from Santiago, Chile. They are a FIRST LEGO League team.

FIRST is for alumni-mentors, founding members who keep coming back for more. Matt and Amy, forever Paradox.

This man is FIRST. He teaches it, lives it, exudes it, and his students love him for it.

Gracious Professionalism is part of the ethos of FIRST. It's a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. Thank you Team 11, Marauders.

2102 Team Paradox is in the house, cheering for robotics, cheering for math and science, cheering for Mark Leon, cheering for the underdog...

... cheering for FIRST, cheering Team San Diego, cheering with Code Red Robotics.

Cheering for 2102!

Wish you were there... no matter what time it is, or where we are, we always remember Team San Diego and The Midnight Mechanics.

FIRST is for mentors, they squeeze in time whenever they can, because sharing knowledge is the best... it's an re-awarding exchange.

FIRST is for art, science, boys, girls, math, robots, leadership, ingenuity, outreach, and team spirit. 2102 is FIRST

FIRST is for families. Grandparents, cousins, sisters, uncles, aunts, brothers... robot families, like these fans of FIRST LEGO League's Cyborg Kitties of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

FIRST is for designing, building, and driving your robot, for making alliances, and playing as a team in the arena, in the stands, and in the community.

A Paradox must dance. Here we go... Down, down, do your dance, do your dance...

To the right, to the right, to the right...

Now walk it by yourself, now walk it by yourself

2102 loves sharing their team spirit all over the place.

Spread the news: 2102 Loves Robotics and Robo-Spirit!

Thousands of students, hundreds of teams, months of work, years of dreaming...

... the team has big aspirations, generous intentions, and a solid future.

I believe in keeping our expectations high. Never give up, never surrender! 2102 believes in learning, teaching, sharing, growing, and coming back to play again.

2102 believes in Team San Diego, in mentoring new teams, like 3128, Aluminium Narwhals

2102 Team Paradox is celebrating a super robot season, and always being FIRST.

Here is one more video link for a fun and fast overview of FLL, FTC, FRC, and 2010 FIRST Championships.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Friday, March 12, 2010

Faith, Family and FIRST

So, I am still on the Robotic high. I still get choked-up and emotional when reflecting on the magnitude of the awesomeness of all that has come to pass for this Team, but I think it is safe to say I am mellowing. A bit. I still blare I Gotta a Feeling at seven a.m. But the compulsion to raise my arms and shake pom-poms* has eased off. Either I am exhausted, or I have taken a calmer, more philosophical path.

*Personal side note: Pom-poms raised over head are an excellent distraction from my ahem "dancing."

Yeah. I got bit by the 2102 Team Spirit Bug, and it's swelling.

I don't know what blog traffic is doing here at Chickenblog. I do not monitor the statistics. I do know that comments took a nose dive. Oh my poor ego. So, I got a bit down about that, but then I see a link in Nikkipolani's blog, and I am blown back on course, bolstered, because someone gets it. And I read the emails and comments that have come in, and I open Beckie's sweet card... and I get psyched up again. You guys, and you know who you are, are good people. Good people say "hi." It's that simple. I know I am a bit crazed. My good friend Mark said... (hold on let me find it... ah, here it is:) "Jeeze, someone let a crazied hen loose on this issue. It's fun to see the fighting side of Natalie." I laugh out loud... he is right, though. I am like a hen on a junebug, fightin' for what I want. Feels good. So, I'll try not to let my tender ego get in the way of my hopes and goals. I'll keep trying to learn the Cha-Cha slide.

So, what are these pictures about, and what's this about "Faith, Family and FIRST?"

Well, these are a few images that exemplify a feeling... a feeling that we who support 2102 Team Paradox, who know FIRST, are privileged to enjoy. I have faith that we have made the right choices, for the Team, for our family. I have found that my family extends beyond the walls of our home. I love that because of 2102 Team Paradox and FIRST, my world has broadened.

I love that what began in kindergarten, and at home with Lego, grew. Robotics... it's been an interest and theme, a home school subject, a family pastime, for quite some time. And we have found a challenging, interesting, and active place to explore robotics... to be supported and supportive.

I love that we get to do this together... that we have time, or make time, or whatever... I love that. It does get hard. We do get tired and discouraged, but we can hold each other up, and catch our breaths.

I love that new people are inspired to participate, that they quickly realize how inspiring the Team is. I love that 2102 Team Paradox celebrates real skills, and homegrown spirit.

I love that 2102 Team Paradox and FIRST makes sisters in art and science, math and engineering.

I love that Maria wants to build a "Finding Robot," and that she wants cousin Izzy on the team too.

I love that someone will come forward to feed the team. Moms and dads that want what's best for students, and for their teachers and mentors, who give beyond the call of duty.

I love that a metal shop parking lot is a fine place to hang out on a Sunday afternoon... if you're building a robot, troubleshooting the design, grilling burgers...

I love that I get to live here, near my friends, in a beautiful community. The connections I have made here are more precious than I had dared to admit.

I love that FIRST and 2102 Team Paradox, are so good and worthwhile that even graduates will fly in for regionals, to mentor and cheer. I love that a dedicated team mom shows her faith by sticking with FIRST and the team she helped foster.

And now, laundry. Don't ever worry about me getting fancy... laundry, and other domestic perils, will always keep me humble.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, March 07, 2010

This Is Big

photo credit to Denise B.

Welcome to Chickenblog. Today I want to use this space to recognize, celebrate and promote FIRST and Team Paradox, of Team San Diego. If you regularly read this blog, then you know I love Robotics and all things Geek. If you are new to Chickenblog... welcome to our family scrapbook, where for almost eight years, I have been chronicling our ups, downs, ins and outs, my deepest thoughts and other musings. This has always been a personal space, that has slowly expanded and grown. Now I want to go to another level in communication and outreach. I need your help to achieve my goals.

In the last twenty four hours I have learned that dedication and heartfelt spirit can take a Team a very long way, but to get to the next level it takes daring faith and a willingness to reach out to the world for that extra push. I want to make the push. I cannot contain my emotions, or my determination to get 2102 Team Paradox to the next level.

At FRC, this weekend, Team Paradox played Breakaway with diligent, tireless determination, and courage. Our robot held together and we are already preparing to breakout at our next regional competition.

Were we discouraged not to make it to the final rounds? Yes, but we were not defeated. In the arena, across the grandstands, no one could miss the team that never sat down, that never stopped cheering, that never surrendered. Team Paradox cheered for the underdog, for the math, for the mentors and parents, for the kids from across town, out of state and across an ocean. We cheered for the love of working together to build a robot and to build relationships with our families, our schools, our community and the world. And we did not stop until the end... and not really even then.

We cannot ever lose, because there are so many ways to win, when you are a part of FIRST.

This journey began when the team started over three years ago. Many of those founding team members have graduated and gone on to universities, but they have not moved away all together. Team Paradox has a lasting and supportive core of members that return to mentor, support and stay with the Team. When Alex joined last year, he was coming from another school in the district. He was warmly welcomed. Last year, in San Diego we got our first taste of how amazing FRC is. The regional competitions have no equal for sporting-engineering fun. Wild, intense, fun.

This year we have more new members than ever before, and the team is as strong as ever. The energy and determination of the freshmen class, combined with the experience and dedication of the rest of the team is a winning combination. We have mentors that are as steadfast and focused as the students, willing to step in, or step back. The mentors have staying power. The team is supported by teachers, parents, siblings, the community, and some great sponsors.

Last year we broke new ground and became an award winning team. In San Diego and in Phoenix, Team Paradox 2102 won the Spirit Award :: "This award celebrates extraordinary enthusiasm and spirit through exceptional partnership and teamwork." We believed we had as good a chance at earning this award again... no kidding, you have not seen spirit until you have been with us through sixteen hours of regional competitions!

Back to this year's FIRST Regional Competition...

We did not make it to finals.
We did not win the Spirit Award.
It was getting down to the wire, wrap up time.
Then something wonderful happened.

This year's Regional Engineering Inspiration Award to 2102 Team Paradox!

I think we experienced all of the emotions last night, but mostly joy and shock. We were over the moon to be there. We were totally stoked to take home such a distinguished award. But the biggest news of all spread slowly. We were a bit confused actually... things got kind of surreal as it very slowly dawned on us that the "Regional Engineering Inspiration Award" includes an invitation to Finals in Atlanta, Georgia.

One more time: The Regional Engineering Inspiration Award includes an invitation to Finals in Atlanta, Georgia.

Check. Double check. Confirm.

Can this be for real?

Well, it can be for real. We can go to Atlanta and compete in the FIRST National Finals, but we are going to have to redouble efforts that have already been extreme. The students, teachers, mentors and families have given their best and it has paid off. The design team excelled. The build team excelled. The marketing team excelled. We gave 100%, so we could excel... we just didn't know it would take us this far!

Team Paradox is about outreach, in our families, in our schools, in our communities, in FIRST.

Team Paradox is about experienced members guiding and encouraging new members, so that our future is as strong as our foundation.

Team Paradox is about believing in science and math, art and community, believing in our students, and loving all of it!

Team Paradox is about supporting and nurturing everyone on the Team.

I will never forget the power and awesomeness of these last few days, and I do not want to stop here. I do not want our memories to be a blur. I do not want to pass up an amazing opportunity. We need help to get this Team to Atlanta, to the Olympic Stadium. Our resources and energy are nearly tapped. We have one more regional to get through. These are huge events that take a lot of money, time, effort and brain power to coordinate. Please help us.

I need your help to achieve my goals. All of this is going on while the students are in school. They have homework, testing, classes... the works, and unfortunately the school does not support the Team as "a team." In the eyes of the school we are "only a club." No disrespect, but "teams" get a lot of attention and support from their schools, and we need support. Our mentors, the teachers work their day jobs, and then they give all of their "free time" to Robotics. This next level, that we are so hopeful to reach, needs more support, for us to attain it.

Chickenblog has a few readers out there... right? Hello. Hello? If you are out there, please leave a comment today. Please say "GO ROBOTICS!" Please move a ton of traffic here. Please suggest ideas and give advice. Please give me contacts and suggestions. Please step forward with your skills and connections. Please help us raise funds, get sponsors, and bring a winning team to Atlanta. We need you. Anything might help.

We stood and cheered for all forty eight teams in the arena, today I humbly ask you to cheer for us.

Thank you.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hello Chickenblog

For an entire week I could not focus on what to post to my poor neglected blog. It was not due to a lack of subject matter. I think I had reached a point of sensory overload, and this was before we headed to Comic-Con! I have been existing in polar opposite states of mind and emotion, simultaneously, and consequently taking care of a lot of important things and neglecting a lot of important things. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah... whatever!

Things are looking up!

There is still tremendous opportunity for sensory overload and even physical exhaustion, as we have begun something new in our lives... something that will certainly require a new Label. It will be a new chapter in Chickenblog.

I can almost hear readers saying, "Spit it out already woman!" But I need to take this slow. I have to mark my words and be sure of myself. You cannot see that my hands shake, that my heart beats a bit faster, that there are fears to suppress. Plus, you try making a separate and momentous announcement in a post about thundering nerds, geeks and comic-book joy... this is hard and weird. I kind of like it though... it gives me something to fiddle around with and hide behind while I subtly and cautiously share our news.

***Geoff read this and said "Everyone's gonna think you are pregnant."
I am not. Or am I? Just kidding. Honest. I really am not pregnant. Not even a little bit.***

Dear Comic-Con, I love you. You are strange and creative, you are the released energy and joy of thousands of talented and enthusiastic souls who gather together to share their passions and labors, their zaniness and zeal. You are overcrowded, loud and offensive. You are inspiring and hilarious. Comic-Con you are fun. Thank you for being your true self. Love, Natalie (Who wants to return next year in her own super-heroine costume.)

From left to right: Spongebob Squarepants, Mister Crabs, Plankton and Emily! Emily is the designer, engineer and builder. Using a very limited supply of LEGO's Duplo blocks she brought these comical characters to life. Regular readers know we are devoted LEGO fans. My views on Spongebob are worthy of a separate post! Emily's creations were awesome and LEGO staff and other Conventioneers were stopping to admire and appreciate her sweet skills. Which brings me to another thing I love about Comic-Con: There are celebrities there and sighting famous people is fun, but the real stars are Emily and the sixty year old woman dressed as AliceIn Wonderland and the guy who made a cape out of a bathroom rug and called himself "Budget Man," a superhero for the economic downturn?! So called "unknowns" steal the show and get to shine when they release their alter-egos on humanity, when they build things and make things and share things in a place that celebrates imagination and skill.

LOL... Maria wasn't sure where to focus, since there are about 42 distractions per square foot! I hope Emily keeps designing and building. I hope she retains her engineering super joy all her life.

Guess who we found!

Okay, so it wasn't too hard to find Waldo, but can you find Stan Lee? I did! Seriously, I am not sure why I recognized this comic book legend. I knew he is the creator of Spiderman and Ironman, but I had to read a bit to learn that he also created Thor, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Hulk! I must be a bigger Geek than I realized.

Ah, here's Ironman now! More fan love... just like Tony Stark, this guy made his iron suit. So cool.

Still BIONICLE fans. Still LEGO enthusiasts. Alex, Max, William and Maria appreciate the set up Lego has at the convention, and so do I. Back home, at Garage Mahal, we have enough bricks to open our own convention and yet there were no objections to hanging out, building, seeing what's new and enjoying the sights and sounds of Lego hoopla.

Spur of the moment contest... a prize to the first person to name these two women... full names and where they appeared! Maria recognized that they were "Pretty and nice," which is why she rushed over to meet them.

Besides walking the convention hall floor, buying robot stickers and having a refreshing lunch at Bondi, we also made sure we got seats to see and hear Ray Bradbury. Legend. He had some stirring and inspiring things to say about life, something he loves, and he also moved me to tears when he spoke about hope. They played footage of Walter Cronkite introducing him and Mike Wallace interviewing him forty years ago, the night of the lunar landing! I loved his passionate beliefs and ideas about education and fostering a love of reading in the youngest children.

I think it was during his talk that I became impassioned myself. Our family has been on a difficult path... one created by circumstances and fate, by our beliefs and choices. We have been waiting to buy a home of our own. We passed on fraudulently absurd loans and homes priced like gold. We endured harsh criticism and unsound advice. And I whined. It's true. Chickenblog has been witness to all of my anger, frustration, grief, embittered wrath, tearful woes and rental rants. Some of it was not nice. All of it was challenging to live through. We have been ripped off and we have been disappointed.

The sore points and the injustices are real and obvious, but something else has been happening. Something silent, yet pervasive. Something hiding out in the open that has been tripping us up and causing incalculable damage... we've learned to be doubtful, suspicious, unhappy, sad and without hope. It's not that we are entirely without hope and happiness, but we have become too accustomed to feeling and acting like victims, to anticipating the next sad event, the next unfortunate outcome. Sometimes this behavior comes in the guise of wisdom and prudence, and experience. So, we have gained a lot of wisdom and prudence and experience and I do not doubt that we made the best choices we could with what was available. But now we need to turn up the hope, believe in the possibility of things turning out good. It is possible that everything, or most things, will be alright. Right? This is going to take practice.

We are in escrow. It just comes out in a whisper. It feels fragile, delicate. Like it could fall apart and blow away. The Blue House may become our home. Very soon I hope to say more, to say it louder and more confidently. This step in the process, on the path, is not easy, because we have grown too accustomed to doubt and trepidation, but we have taken the next step and the next one after that and we are going to keep moving forward and it is possible that everything, or most things, will be alright. Hopefully.

So many readers, friends and family have been beacons of light and hope on this path... thank you. Thank you for kind encouragement and gentle consolations. Thank you for believing this day would come.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,