2012 VEX Robotics World Championship

2012 VEX World Championship

VEX hired me to photograph The 2012 VEX Robotics World Championship and I’ve returned with hundreds of photos. This year’s championship was held at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, CA. Last year, VEX cohosted several other events including BEST competitions, a Coast Guard robot contest, and a Boy Scount merit badge event. This year it was all VEX, all the time. The special guests were Nobel Prize winning physicist Dr. Douglas D. Osheroff, Dave Lavery of NASA, and Miral Kotb’s dance troupe, iLuminate. Read on for more photos and coverage of the event.

The opening ceremonies included the announcement of a new VEX Hall of Fame and some initial inductees were brought out on stage. There was also the usual parade of teams from all over the world. This year’s championship included over 10,000 participants. 600 teams from 20 countries qualified for the finals. That’s nearly 100 more teams than last year’s championship. The Anaheim Convention Center proved large enough to handle the crowds without the need for the additional temporary buildings used at the 2011 championship. Expect to see the 2013 VEX Championship held here again.

The entertainment during finals was provided by iLuminate, a dance troupe founded by Miral Kotb. The group performs in complete darkness wearing suits covered in EL Wire and LEDs. You may have seen them perform on the reality television show America’s Got Talent. This was also the year of pyrotechnics. The VEX Dome was constantly exploding in sparks, flames, and smoke. Almost any time someone walked on stage or won a match there were explosions. And there were so many stage hands moving portable pyro kits around, it was hard to get photographs of the action without backing into a fire zone.

As always, there were plenty of awards to spread around. Despite attending several VEX Championships, I have to admit that I still only have a vague grasp of how all the alliances and awards work, so I won’t even attempt to describe who won. If you’d like to see the full breakdown of who won which awards, check out the official VEX news release. It includes a list of winners and more details about the event.

A few other observations: the last two years, mohawks and blue hair were all the rage but this year it was all about hats; big hats, strange hats, and multiple hats. Mascots continue to turn up here and there, several were actually robots. Once again there were more all-girl teams than the previous year and there were more girls on all teams. It almost unusual to see an all boy team these days. It’s really nice to see this kind of change happening in just the few years I’ve been going to the VEX Championships.

For more, see my Flickr photo gallery of the 2012 VEX Robotics World Championship covering every aspect of the event. There’s also a smaller gallery of Miral Kotb and iLuminate’s performance at the VEX Championship. The Robot Events site also has a video summary of the championship.

Waiting for the Plane

I’m at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, Terminal C, gate 14, waiting to board a flight to Santa Ana, California. I’m headed to the VEX Robotics World Championship event in Anaheim where I’ll be shooting photos. It’s also the first time I’ve flown in nearly a year.

As usual, I forgot to eat breakfast this morning. There’s a Wendy’s directly across from gate 14, so I walk over and order a breakfast sausage biscuit; Wendys’ version of an Egg McMuffin. The Wendys is chaotic. There’s a guy dissasembling a deep fryer, pulling out a grunge-encrusted pump. There are several people running around behind the counter preparing orders. A manager is training someone at the register. Orders are taking a long time.

I finally get my Wendy’s McBreakfast thing and hunt down an unoccupied seat at a row of tables. Like the Wendy’s itself, the sausage biscuit is suprisingly random. McDonalds Egg McMuffins are precisely shaped, each identical to the one before and the one after. But this looks like someone literally fried an egg in a pan and plopped it onto a randomly shaped biscuit. I drink my tiny plastic cup of orange juice to cut through the greasy fast food taste left from the biscuit.

There’s no recycle bin. Nobody recycles at airports. Everything is trash; the paper bag, the plastic cup. Maybe they sort out the recyclables later? I doubt it. I pick up my laptop bag and the new camera bag I’m trying out. I bought it at Fry’s last night. It’s a backpack style bag. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll return it when I get back to Dallas.

I’m assuming I’ll get back of course. I think about statistics. The odds against winning the lottery are millions to one but when the prize is big enough, we buy a ticket and hope to be that one in a million. The odds of dying in a plane crash are also millions to one but, when we fly, we hope we’re not the one. Being lucky doesn’t always mean beating the odds. Just to be safe, I buy one of those inexpensive travelers insurance policies.

On the way back to gate 14, I see a newstand and decide to check out the books. I usually take a book or two along on flights but didn’t have one handy this morning. It’s been a while since I’ve been in an airport bookstore. I’m disappointed to see there’s no science fiction. There are lots of supernatural/fantasy books about witches, wizards, and vampires. The only thing that’s even close to science fiction is The Hunger Games. I saw the movie a couple of weeks ago, so it doesn’t interest me much. I make my way back to the gate without a book. The plane should be here soon.