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