Brazil! Global Reach: Carrying
the FIRST Message to Brazil
So there I sat in my room, staring at my phone.
I had just received a phone call from Andrew, captain of
Team 75, which Iâ€™ve been part of for three years.
I had been told that FIRST was sending me to Brazil. Little
did I know that I was about to embark upon an incredible
experience, an experience that would carry the very essence
of FIRST and its message to the world.
Several weeks went by, filled with paperwork
and emails, at the end of which I found myself at JFK International
Airport. Three teammates would join me on this adventure.
The first one was Andrew, the team captain who had called
me to give me the news. Besides being my partner-in-arms
as the second of two robot controllers, he had spent the
past few years helping with the yearly animation, which
had won numerous awards. The second member was Johnny C.
As our chief mechanic, John lived and breathed the robot
and was capable of taking apart and reassembling any part
with ease - blindfolded! The last member of our adventurous
group was our team adviser, Mr. O, a statistics teacher
at the school and one of the two leaders of Team 75.
At the airport, we met a second group of students
of equal valor, representing Team 555 from Montclair. This
group of six was soon to become our best friends as well
as our most challenging competition. The total travel time,
including baggage, connecting flights and customs, was about
twenty-one hours. We arrived at 10 am in Porto Alegre, Brazil,
quite exhausted; however, we had no time to rest. After
short introductions with our Brazilian welcoming party,
we were rushed off to the Globaltech arena.
Globaltech is a large building crammed with
the latest technology shown off by various organizations.
Everything from race cars to Segways was on display. At
the very center of the building was a FIRST playing field.
We were the center of it all, the main attraction! I found
it incredible that FIRST should be at the front and center
of all this technology. It all starts with FIRST. The place
was crawling with businessmen in suits, billionaires, and
celebrities. According to the emails about the trip, there
were inventors, scientists and professors from Argentina,
Austria, Australia, Germany, Italy, Korea, and the USA.
We unpacked the robot and got to work. It
had suffered some minor damage during shipment, and we diligently
worked on repairs as crowds of people stopped by the pit
to watch us work. It was clear that we were the main attraction.
The match was started when we gave control of our robots
to four important representatives from Brazil. They drove
our robots to the center of the field to signify the start
of the exposition.
We spent the next couple of days touring the country. During
this time our team and team 555 became the best of friends.
Local Brazilian teams gave the tours, leading us to several
high schools and to the Granados Falls. It was a wondrous
experience, and so different from the United States. We
became good friends with one particular Brazilian team,
Team 383, and ended up going to their robot house for pizza
and soccer, which they call football.
The next day, the competition really got started.
This was not like your traditional FIRST competition where
you get to play four or five rounds. Because there were
only nine teams competing, we were in practically every
single match, with little or no time to rest or repair.
In addition to this nonstop excitement, we found ourselves
competing against our American friends almost every round.
In a way, they became our rivals and, because of this, we
felt a great necessity to beat them. Once the buzzer sounded
and the match ended, however, we would rush over to each
other to help with the robot, shake hands or replay the
events. Team 555 was our biggest competition yet our best
friend. This was FIRSTâ€™s gracious professionalism
at its best.
We broke for the night and came back the next
day. Due to an unfortunate turn of events, Andrew came down
with the Brazilian flu, so Johnny C. took up the task of
driving. A member from Team 555 graciously volunteered to
play as our human player. Playing through the day, we worked
hard. The Globaltech arena was no longer filled with celebrities,
but with busloads of local high school students, all of
whom gazed in awe at the robot race in front of them, which
involved furiously stacking the tetrahedrons that lay scattered
across the field. The cheers of excitement ran through the
building. It did not matter in the slightest that the language
being shouted was not one that we could understand. We could
feel the excitement in the air.
Later that day the match came to a close.
Leaving the arena, we hugged all our Brazilian friends and
said our goodbyes. Driving away from the arena, we gazed
at the dozens of school buses parked outside. We were reminded
by Anna, one of the two directors of FIRST for NJ and NYC,
as well as a main planner for our arrival in Brazil, about
the purpose of this little trip. We were in Brazil to inspire
the advancement of science and technology. It was amazing
to understand how we may have single handedly sparked that
interest throughout the country. As we took off in the plane
bound for home, we could feel the energy in the air. FIRST
is a living entity that we humans need for the advancement
of knowledge and for a brighter future.