There’s a little-known CA event that has occurred around the third Tuesday of every February since 2014. For Varsity Robotics it's officially called ‘Stop Build Day,’ but more commonly known as 'Bag and Tag Day,' or simply ‘Bag Day’.
Varsity Robotics competes in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), where students build 120 pound robots designed to conquer the challenges set forth in that particular year’s game. The game is announced on the first Saturday of January, giving teams just six weeks to design, build and test their robot. This six week build time was designed to ensure parity so that all teams had the same amount of time to build, regardless of whether they compete at events in week one or week five of the tournament season.
So, every year since the inaugural FRC season at CA, the varsity team has worked in the CA Makerspace after hours, frantically trying to complete their build. While FIRST rules state that teams have until midnight, CA coaches set an internal deadline of 10pm, for the sake and sanity of all involved. Some years we fell short, being snowed out more than once, other years we didn’t make the deadline, only to have to lights go out, resulting in a slow scrambling around the Makerspace guided by our cell phone lights.
Consistent every year, however, was camaraderie, excitement, stress, pizza, good decisions, not-so-good decisions, the thrilling feeling of ‘breaking rules’ by being in the building so late (on a school night, no less) and the ceremony of bagging and tagging the robot.
To an outsider, Bag Day might seem like a mundane task of finishing up and putting a robot in a big bag, but to those of us involved it is ceremonial. It marks the end of build season and the beginning of competition season. It’s a chance to take a breath, step back and look at the machine that was born from collective efforts in design, engineering, creativity, sweat, compromises, hard decisions, duct tape, zip ties and lots of snacks.
Sadly, this was our last bag day. Cary Academy will still compete in FRC, but FIRST has decided to eliminate Bag Day, as it no longer meets its purpose of parity. Removing this restriction will give smaller, less established teams more time for proper drive practice, and the opportunity to perfect their programming and designs; something that larger, more established teams were managing because they had the means and resources to build two robots, bagging one and practicing with the other.
It is a good rule change and one that makes sense, however, I’m sure I’m not the only one who will miss the ceremony of Bag Day. We’ll still have plenty to celebrate and we’ll still have the magic of being an FRC team, because robots rock our world.
Want to experience the delight of robots?
- Catch our JV (FIRST Tech Challenge) teams in action on February 23rd at the Trinity School of Durham and Chapel Hill. Matches run from 10am – 5pm.
- See the Varsity (FRC) team compete on March 9 & 10 at Holly Springs High School Matches run from 10:30 am – 6 pm.
- Guest Post by Besty MacDonald, Upper School Design, Programming and Robotics Teacher
Congratulations to Cary Academy's State Champion girls' and boys' Varsity Swim Teams! An astounding THIRTY TWO different boys and girls made it to the Finals and scored. This marks the girls' third consecutive State Championship title.
Congratulations to everyone (parent supporters and volunteers included) who contributed to two tremendous State Champion wins. We had our share of first place finishes and oodles of personal best swims – most of which were crazy drops in time. But, most of all, congratulations on being two great teams and One Big Family! You swam and cheered to near exhaustion. Your support for one another all season long in inspiring and led to a special evening.
Special Congrats to:
- Charlotte Hook with TWO State Meet Record swims in the IM (1:59.84) and 100 Butterfly (:54.63) and a first place, individual State Champion finish in the 100 Butterfly
- Nisma Said with an individual State Champion swim in the 100 Backstroke while lowering her own school record time to 56.24 seconds
- The Girls 200 Medley Relay State Champion team of Nisma Said, Amy Chang, Charlotte Hook and Helen Chen with a school record setting time of 1:47.25.
- Jack Todd for being an individual State Champion in the 200 Freestyle with a time of 1:47.14
- Will Newman setting a new school record in his 2nd place swim in the 50 Free at 21.70 seconds.
- The boys 200 Medley Relay team who placed 3rd and smashed the old school record with a time of 1:41.81; Kevin Chen, Alex Lim, Nate Alexander and Will Newman
- The boys 200 Free Relay State Champion team of Constantin Zodl, Quinn Vaughan, Oliver Wang and Will Newman who set the tone for the 2nd half of the meet
A full breakdown of times and finishes will be available soon.
On Tuesday, December 4, nine CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) students visited the Raleigh Police Department's Special Operations Facility. The Special Operations Facility houses all specialty units for the police department, including the bomb squad, SWAT, K-9, and motorcycle unit, as well as performing other administrative functions.
Students were treated to two presentations and Q&A sessions. Captain J.A. Taylor and Detective J.T. Heinrich of the Hazardous Devices Unit (aka "the bomb squad") presented on two robots used to handle and contain potentially-explosive materials, discussed suspicious package handling and x-ray techniques, and demonstrated a variety of personal protective gear used on the job.
Lieutenant S.M. Gunter of the Selective Enforcement Unit (aka SWAT) offered an in-depth look at how SWAT officers train and provided a hands-on demonstration of how specialty equipment--like battering rams--are used in the field.
In both instances, students got a chance to interact with a variety of protective gear and tools of the trade. Altogether, this opportunity offered students a unique behind-the-scenes glimpse into the world of high-stakes crisis and emergency response careers.
The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program trains students to prepare for emergencies in their communities. CERT students also help with non-emergency projects that improve the safety of the community.