Between finals and Expo, a few of us (led by the intrepid Ash Walker) volunteered at ConnVex, the first Vex regionals in CT. This involved a 5am drive by Andrew Tsang, who is also responsible for the pictures that follow.
Ash was one of the refs; I was the... "field reset attendant," which means I got to scurry around the field stacking neon yellow softballs between rounds. Andy was the photographer, and Matt Roy handed out crystals (and fielded a heck of a lot of questions from people coming up to his table).
If you ignored the continuously pounding rock music, it was a lot of fun, and we got to see a good number of inspired robot designs - things like using zip ties as "fingers" to rake in the balls or putting two small pegs on the bottom of a "ball shovel" that the robots later used as hooks to pull itself up onto the bar with. The kids seemed genuinely thrilled to be there, and screams and shouts erupted during the bouts as loud as any I've heard at a high school basketball or football game (the few I've been to, anyhow). Gives me hope for the future generation of engineers - the best folks at a job are the ones who think it's a ton of fun.
It was a little weird to be on the other side of an event with kids involved. When the adults gave their requisite lecture on safety and sportsmanship, I fought the urge to roll my eyes; I still felt in part like a kid such diatribes are usually directed towards. At the same time, I understand why the adults have to say such things. It's just that a half-hour "Don't Do Drugs!" skit, a little one-page worksheet on racism, or a 45-second lecture on sportsmanship will just skid right off our consciousness unless a deeper framework has already been laid.