The Incredible Adventure of SOURC at Botfest '08

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As I sit here in the car, it seems as if I have been on this trip for days, although it has sparsely been 34 hours. I’m looking out the window at a hilly green expanse dotted with cows, old farm houses and strip malls. Ahh, the I-5 corridor south of Portland. Quite a contrast to the giant skyscrapers and twitching robots that have been the focus of my attention up to 3 hours previously. I am returning from the Southern Oregon robotics club’s trip to Portland for BotFest ‘08, and what a trip it has been.

I met my fellow roboticists in SOU’s physics classroom on Friday, which was yesterday, with a bag of clothes in my hand and my computer on my back. The triple digit temperatures outside promised an extremely uncomfortable trip, possibly dangerous to my sanity, but I didn’t care. I was on my way to mybotfest portland first robotics competition after all, and I had been looking forward to the trip all week. I was pumped and ready to go. The 5 of us who arrived on time waited in the classroom for half an hour for stragglers, and then we were off.

I tried to enjoy the 5 hour car ride even after listening to the System of a Down cd for the 5th time in a row. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits, despite our sweaty backs and tortured burger king filled digestive tracts. The burning freeway air trapped us at mercy of our Kia Sedona’s climate control system, fastened permanently between boiling and freezing. To be fair, there was a temperature dial on the thing, but we couldent figure out how to use it for hours, and once we did, nobody seemed to remember it was there. Fanally, the horrible funny-because-they-arent –funny jokes and painfully nerdy converstation, came to a close once we pulled up to the Dunes Motel, our home away from home for the night.

AGGH! The wireless internet didn’t work. You could practically hear the nerds wail in despaired unison down the dark motel hall. Maybe it was a good thing, because we had to wake up early the next day and it was already 1am.

We woke up in the morning and met at the van, all of us except for one. The missing roboticist was instead rushed away by two wailing ambulances because of low blood sugar. He was released four hours later. Not the morning we had imagined, but still a promising morning nonetheless.

Finally, to even our own disbelief, we made it to BotFest ‘08 at the Children’s Museum in Portland. The floorbotfest portland was packed full of 15 year old kids rushing around our ankles. Robots butted heads in the sumo competitions, became hopelessly lost in the mazes. One humanoid bot tried to start a conversation with me as I walked by. A flock of agitated Pleos cried out for attention in one corner of the madness. Pockets of men conversed around the floor furiously taking notes about each other’s machines. “Transistor”, “Microcontroller” and “C plus plus” could be heard over the noise of servos and and screaming.

Finally, we felt as if we were home. The first event that we entered was the medium sized sumo bots. Silver dragon did alright by beating the robot that was beat by everyone. After that, it was all downhill. Bluedragon never even had a chance, he was swept off the rink like dust. SOURC did fare slightly better in the line following challenge, Twitch was one of 3 robots that actually finished the course. One 3rd place ribbon for us.

After the competition was over came the robot talent show. There were only two entries, an impressive balance bot that was able to stay upright on two wheels like a segway, and a very large remote controlled arm on four wheels that played robot basketball. The judge gave both entries second place because they were so different, though I thought the balance bot should have gotten first because it was a true autonomous robot, and the big arm was RC.

botfest portlandAfter a few hours of mingling, we decided to get pizza and then go home. And that is where I am now. It is pretty much the same drive that we had on the way up, minus the System of the Down. There was enough moaning in the back seat that the DJ decided against it. I’m dirty, smelly and sweaty, and I’ve been doing far too much sitting down. A nice shower and clean clothes sounds better than root access right now!

All in all a great trip, we learned what we have to do to kick butt next time and we are all inspired to make it happen.

I cant wait to kick some 12 year old ass. I don’t care how old they are I will have no pity – Carl