Thursday, January 31, 2013

FIRST Diary Entry 1: Craming for the Qualifier

I interviewed almost a month ago.  I mean I know I was busy, had the big school fundraiser of the year event, Mom and Dad came for a visit, I was organizing Dr. Baird's Wilderness History collection - oh my gosh was that awesome reading!  Yeah, I totally blew off the thank you note.  I had been up all night reading historical documents and letters to Senators before the interview.  They said they needed someone right away, and I talked too much... I always talk too much when I don't know what to say and feel responsible for carrying the conversation.  I still feel like a little kid at the "grown up table" for the first time.  So, it was with great reluctance that I announced at the PAT meeting that I probably didn't get the job.  I accepted it.  I didn't really need more work, I had two jobs and a good hobby.  Maybe with my free time I could even make a hobby or two pay as well.  Ok, my husband wanted me to bring in a bit more, but pttthbpt I didn't care anymore.

So when my phone rang interrupting the raptor club presentation (and scaring a poor falcon) on the all school field trip to the University where Orcrist works.... well I was not expecting a job offer!  We'll let you know by the start of next week had become nearly 4 weeks.  I quickly called back, worked out a few details (probably not nearly enough), and jumped in with both feet, starting just days before my daughter's birthday and the opening of the Hobbit - for which I'd been arranging childcare for over a year and a half (only to have to scramble at the last minute //sigh)

I guess I should step back a minute.  I guess I'd kinda known about LEGO robotics for a while.  My husband had done the IT support for the 4-H extension office as part of his job at this University.  He'd talk to them about the cost of the Mindstorms, the program a bit, and getting started.  Our friend's kids went to Denmark to represent the state (and country?), and we'd done the we-do stuff in Cloverbuds.  Yet, I didn't really know anything about FIRST© until GeekGirlCon this past summer.  While at GeekGirlCon I decided to take the kids to see the FIRST panel where some girls from FTC and FRC were talking about the program.  Unfortunately, someone felt my 2 year old playing ipad was too distracting and I was kicked out of the panel.... even though there were only a handful of people there and I sat in the back.  I didn't give up though!  I really wanted to know about this stuff.  The ladies there would tell me much.  Probably because they didn't know anything about the younger kid divisions and didn't really see me being in charge of this thing (disclaimer:  I'm not actually in charge, my supervisor is.  But, he's a pro at dumping the responsibility on everyone else!)

So I had just started the new job with the historical documents and I really didn't want more work, but I saw the advert come through my email for the 4-H robotics program..... It's been a long time since I've applied for a job that I just wanted to do and didn't need to do something.... like this may be the first time.

Well, I went in on Friday and talked to the team.  All these strange people sizing me up and hoping I'll fulfill the role they need me to do with the limited hours they have to offer me.  It was too perfect for me though.  I don't want a full time job, I want to see my kids and work the school and have some flexibility.  So I don't get health insurance, but I do get to be the Mom I want to be, and I get to play with LEGO.  That's a mega win!

I started the next Monday, I got my own office (complete with a mess of papers, files, notes, bins and bins of LEGO, and well a mess).  I also got a brand new box from LEGO.  It was a field setup kit and I needed to have the giant 3" three ring binder of instructions understood before Saturday and the kit fully assembled.  I also got to borrow a huge stack of compartmentalized trays to sort the bricks into!  It only takes between 10 and 12 trays to sort a field set up kit and the packs are not numbered like a regular LEGO set, it's all or nothing!

Where have these babies been all my life?  I'm in love!
So why the rush.  I mean I had to take off most of Wednesday because it was my daughter's LEGO themed birthday party (boy did those awesome trays come in handy!), and Thursday I left mid-morning to get ready for the midnight release of the Hobbit.  But Saturday was going to make up for those missed hours, because it was going to be my first taste of a FLL tournament.  Oh, and that field setup kit needed to be ready to go.  And, I needed to be ready to be a robot design judge.... no pressure!

Somehow I managed to make my way through the week.  I took time for my daughter's party, and a day and a half to enjoy The Hobbit (well worth the midnight IMAX experience, even made some new friends).  I got my field setup kit finished in time to take it to the Saturday tournament, not that it got used.  I crammed the coaches manual and the judges materials in time for Saturday morning. Where, after driving 2 hours to the game site,  I helped set the tables, setup the scorekeepers laptop, then faced the frightening prospect of judging all 9 teams at the qualifier.  I survived being one of the only two robot design judges.  I handed out trophies and medals, and I took a deep breath.  At least with the holiday break I had a week to organize my office and finish my training materials, then two weeks off.  Only thing I had to do before I left for Christmas..... Get together all the previous volunteer contact information and start rounding up volunteers for the two State Championship Tournaments..... I was going to be the volunteer coordinator AND the judge advisor, but not until after the new year.

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