Monday, April 30, 2018

Durham Programmabulls- 2018 Swarmathon National Champs

We have been participating in the University of New Mexico NASA Swarmathon for the last three years. This year is the last year of their grant so we really wanted to win! We even updated our logo to say, "One last job." (For the uninitiated this is a Fast and the Furious reference.)

Thanks to so many generous donations to our GoFundMe page we were able to afford to take part of the team to Kennedy Space Center for the competition in April.

Thanks to the fact that Southwest Airlines has cheap flights, we were able to bring a big group to Orlando. Thanks to the GoFundMe we were able to shop for deals on Priceline and saved enough money on the rental car and hotel to tack on some extra students. We got into Orlando pretty late on Monday and had a delicious dinner at Waffle House around midnight. 

 We had to be at Kennedy at 7 am on Tuesday. (Yikes!) But we were excited to see what the competition would be like this year. We were pretty sure that we would at least make it out of the first round.

My job as a faculty sponsor is to lift up the students and elevate their thinking and sometimes I take things literally. 

Our first round was late in the day so after all of the welcome speeches we had some time to go explore KSC. Mostly we ran around like idiots while Murrr took photos of us.

We did a great job in the first round and advanced to the next day! We were very excited!

A priority that we had for this year was to take the bus to "Real Kennedy" to see all the cool non-Disney NASA stuff. Unfortunately, KSC seems to be pretty serious about keeping the real NASA stuff far away from the tourists. 

The second day of competition was a bit grueling for a few reasons. 

1. We realized we had a shot to win.
2. A Space X launch was scheduled for the evening so the park was slammed with people.
3. Our round was late in the day and we had no food and were slowly starving to death.

Repping the Durham Tech teams.

Waiting patiently for the round to start. 

For some reason we were all reallllllly interested in vegetables that day.

NC Space Grant tried VERY VERY hard to send pizza to the KSC parking lot for us. Finally our round started and it quickly became clear that we were going to collect a TON of cubes. We got 15 cubes in the prelims.

But we were still stressed because some of the rovers weren't working properly. A strange thing about Swarmathon is that you submit your code a month before the competition...and then you can't touch it. It's loaded on UNM's rovers. You can't fix them if they break. All you can do is watch in agony to see if your code works...or not.

Our code WORKED.

It was very exciting and stressful!!

At the end of the quarterfinals Dan thought that we had captured 22 cubes.

But he was wrong...the judges counted 42 cubes!!!!!!!!!!!1!

We left, elated, and drove to a Publix and loaded up on snacks and salads. After a quick pitstop at the hotel we were back at KSC for the Atlas 5 launch.

Dan couldn't eat on the last day of the competition. 

Our friends and family back home were glued to Facebook live to see how we would do in the semifinals. 

The semifinals had more rovers and obstacles!!


So then it was time for the finals and we were up against last year's winners, SIPI.

UNM had set up what they called The Bug Trap and they were utterly stunned to see how our rovers continued to scoop up cubes and exit the trap.

We were definitely feeling the love from all the Swarmamoms and friends at home.

 At the end of the round the results were so close that they not only wouldn't announce them, but they ran in to try to shield us from counting ourselves!

This meant that we wouldn't hear the results until we were at the banquet. It was gonna be a long afternoon.

We were all pretty nervous at dinner.

But then!!!


And Sanchez WON 2nd for the TECHNICAL REPORT!! 


As excited as we were we didn't get to celebrate very much because we had to be up at 4 AM to make it to the airport.


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