I wanted to do an update right away after my post about Z’s big competition.

I had several people texting and messaging me the day of event wishing us luck, sending up prayers, and checking in. I couldn’t believe it! This competition was a big deal for us, but I didn’t expect anyone else to care. I don’t mean that in a grumpy way but it’s just a 5th grade lego robot competition and it’s entry level. For family and friends to actually show interest and support for our son’s hobby makes me aware of how supremely blessed I am!

With that said, here is your play by play of the entire day!

Z and I had to get up at 6:00 am. When we went outside there was what looked like a really bright star next to the moon. Z said “Hey I think that’s Vega” and I had no idea so I just went with it and said, well it must be good luck then. Only, then he started doubting his astronomy and naming off more stars and planets and giving facts about each one. In the end we determined it was probably Venus which is clearly visible right before Sunrise this time of year. Regardless of what the bright speck in the sky was it was a nice start to a space-themed competition.

The competition started off very strong for our team. The kids were standing tall and beaming with pride. They got to practice with the robot and scored extremely high. They had to go before the judges and explain their robot design. They had to be judged on a project that involved space radiation solutions and they knocked it out of the park.

They are even judged on the FLL core values which involve sportsmanship, teamwork, “gracious professionalisms” and more. It was going fantastic and then the robot competition really began and they choked. Big time. All of the mommas were in the bleachers wide eyed with our hands covering our mouths. The dads were cringing and holding their breath. The team had programmed the robot to go through the obstacles. The attachments were built and the technicians were trained but after receiving 121 points in the practice round they finished the first round with a big fat goose egg. ZERO points.

One of the 5th graders burst into tears which made me choke up. I watched my son pull his hood up over his head and try to shrink into oblivion. I followed them out of the gym to catch up with Z for a really brief pep talk. I looked him in his tear filled eyes and I said “It’s okay. You’ve got two other chances to do the robot run. I am here for you. Your coach is here for you. So many people are cheering you on. You need to shake it off and get back in there.” He looked up at me completely defeated and I said “Take your sweatshirt off”. He didn’t respond, but at the time he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt. He had a big floppy hat, and his pockets were full and weighing him down. It’s like it was Z in disguise. Some of the accessories are just part of the fun of the competition but for him it was like he was hiding. I nudged him “Come on buddy, you’ve got this cool shirt that you all designed with YOUR NAME on the back and no one can see it.” I encouraged him to show his name and then I gave him a hug as they moved on to a restricted area.

An hour went by and it was time the team to come back to the gym for the next round. When Z showed up with his team he looked the same as when I left him but next thing you know his coach runs over to me with Z’s sweatshirt and extra stuff. Z had decided to take my advice. They walked over to the table and spent the next round of two an a half minutes absolutely crushing it! Granted it wasn’t my magical pep talk or sweatshirt idea. It turns out there was a battery related error in the first round that caused the robot to malfunction. Either way it was so riveting and thrilling to watch the robot do its mission. We all cheered and went wild every time one was complete.

At the end of a very long day all the teams lined up for awards. The kids were pumped. I had my phone ready to record when their victory was announced. Except the more the awards went out and the fewer that were left, the more the team’s smiles turned downward. There was one certificate for the final remaining slot to advance to the city regional competition and I got my phone ready to record hoping that maybe, just maybe they were that team. Except it wasn’t like in the movies. It wasn’t our team’s name that was called. Everyone was dismissed and there were a few tears followed by lots of hugs.

The team met up afterward for some much needed dinner. The coach got everyone ice cream sandwiches and went over the judges’ score sheets. They talked about how everyone was feeling and what would come next. At the very end I raised my hand because I felt like I had something to say. Their coach and teacher had already poured so much wisdom and encouragement into them I really didn’t have much to add, but I guess my mouth and my heart have a hard time laying low. I was given the floor and I don’t remember exactly what I said but this is the gist of it:

You all know that Z’s sister is deaf right? That means that she can’t hear, except for the fact that she has cochlear implants. Cochlear implants were invented by innovators like you. They are a way of taking science and electronics and technology to give deaf people bionic ears so that they can hear! 30 years ago that wasn’t possible and it’s because these engineers are working on solutions like this the technology keeps getting better.  I was just explaining to one of the mom’s how SJ can swim with her implants now. They also just recently became compatible with the iPhone and it keeps getting better and better. That’s what you all are doing. You are coming up with creative and innovative solutions that make things better. Robotics and programming are fun but it can also change people’s lives! You should be proud of everything you’ve accomplished. YOU are going to be world changers.

And then we all started clapping for our team. They didn’t get far in the competition but no doubt in my mind they are going to go extremely far in life. Although I wouldn’t mind if they did get through qualifiers next year.