Growing up, there were certain activities I enjoyed like marching band and singing. I knew nothing about T-Ball or baseball or football until my oldest boys started playing. They were quick to correct me when I asked how many points they got in an inning of baseball. “It’s runs, not points mom,” they’d respond. My kids are constantly embarrassed by my ignorance, but I enjoy learning the sport and seeing them try something new. As a working mom in my 30s, I vicariously live through my children when it comes to trying new things, encouraging them to step outside their comfort zone.
At the beginning of this school year, my fourth grader brought home information for a robotics team. He attended meetings and practices, and was one of 15 fourth and fifth graders out of 85 who made the team. I was so proud of his bravery and was so excited for a new adventure with him! His courage, confidence and abilities impress me. He still managed to participate in the activities he normally participates in, like music lessons and sports throughout the school year, but he would stay after school to practice driving the robot he and his team constructed and programmed.
I think back to when I had a three-year-old trying out T-ball and how lost I felt when I started pulling into the ball park, but let me tell you…the ball park has nothing on robotics VEX competitions. Trying to determine the objective, the lingo, how points are calculated, what it meant when they were driving with other schools…was a lot. I won’t go into the ins and outs of how the competitions work, because, again, it is a lot, but I will say how exciting it was to see my oldest son in this environment. He rocked it and watching him dive into something he enjoys so much is the best!
Robotics tournaments are held year-round in hopes of making it to the VEX Robotic World Championship. Teams design, build and program robots to compete. Showing up to the first competition was fascinating, to say the least. I have grown accustomed to ball parks, grabbing my double stroller to get everyone from the van to the field with my tote full of snacks, waters and my big chair. None of that was needed for the robotics event, however. I will shamelessly admit that this was way, WAY over my head. I knew nothing about robotics; I didn’t even know it existed.
While I had no idea what we had signed up for, after watching my son’s first competition, I knew whatever this was had his name written all over it. VEX promotes problem solving and critical thinking, things he has enjoyed since he was a tiny tot. As a toddler, he would take apart his toys, attempting to see how they work, before putting them back together. As a young new mom, I couldn’t understand why my son was seemingly tearing up his new stuff. Once I slowed down and took the time to observe him, I realized just how curious he really was.
We just got back from Dallas, where my son’s school competed at the World Championship.
His team ranked 30 out of the 75 teams in their division! They worked with a team from Morocco and a team from Hong Kong, overcoming language barriers to strategize to be able to run their robots together in teamwork. Saying I’m proud is an understatement. All the teams did so great.
His team, GL Robotix is the #1 team in the state of Georgia out of 93 teams. They are ranked #11 nationally out of 4,448 teams and #106 in the world out of 5,562 teams. This is mind-blowing to me.
VEX Robotics has been an amazing adventure for my son and for me! I think he will stick with robotics. He has learned so much and has been exposed to skills like communication, partnership, and time-management in a unique, enjoyable way.
I wanted to play softball growing up, but my parents were worried I would get hurt, so I was not allowed to play. I think this is a huge part of my parenting today, but I’ve learned that just because I may not understand something or because I am worried about the possible scenarios, does not mean I will hold my children back from trying new things. I encourage my kids to try anything at least once to see what works, what doesn’t, and to enjoy the adventure!