After weeks of building and months of qualifying rounds, three winning teams and their robots left the FIRST Robotics Competition in St. Louis victorious. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.
If it was college basketball, the final day of the FIRST Robotics Competition would be like having the Sweet Sixteen, the Final Four and the Championship all play out within a couple of action-packed hours. The field of more than 300 teams was down to 96 by noon.
"Just Exhilarating. So exciting, so many teams. To even be picked in the first time around is so incredible," said participant Alan Davis of Potsdam, N.Y.
Among the semi-finalists was Team 694 from Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, and even though they did not advance further, they said they gave it their all and they got plenty in return.
"I learned so much. It's been a lot of really high stress and I'm learning how to stay calm and work with the others and just relax and have fun," said Alejandro Carrillo of Team 694.
The stress was not just robot-related. Nothing teaches grace under fire like playing a high-stakes game in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans.
"I've been to sports games and such but you don't find the energy and support you find here," said participant Xavier Weisenreder of Rochester, N.Y. "I can't think of anywhere else that I see this kind of positive energy that emanates everywhere."
Meanwhile, in the pit, eliminated robots were crated up to be carted home. For the students, the competition was not the end, but just the beginning.
Blaise Barra of Clifton Park, N.Y. will go on to study Engineering at Clarkson University, thanks in part to a $12,000-a-year scholarship.
"Financially it will make things a lot easier and I'll be able to attend the university in a program that I really like," said Barra.
"Without FIRST, I don't know where I'd be right now. I probably wouldn't be going to Stanford [University], that's for sure," said Elliot Williams of Rochester, N.Y.
In the end, one alliance proved strongest. The perennial favorite, the Cheesy Poofs from San Jose, Calif., joined forces with some fellow Californians and a team from Illinois to win their first FIRST championship title.
"We've been waiting a long time for this to happen. It's finally come and it's all paid off," said Nagy Hakim of the Cheesy Poofs.
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