High-stakes engineering

By Julia DeRogatis

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By Julia Derogatis | Staff Writer

April 10, 2013

Music blasts through the speakers hanging over the heads of hundreds of excited engineering teams. Teenagers in viking outfits, with daisy headbands, weighed down by a multitude of team buttons, or dressed in lab coats prance about as they attempt the complex jumping of Gangnam style. The atmosphere is charged with excitement and hilarity as teams ready for the final rounds of the robotic face-offs.

The place: Vegas. The people: engineers. Lots of engineers. The event: The Las Vegas Engineering Robotics Finals.

On Saturday April 6, the burning Vegas sun mirrored the intensity of the competition as the final matches begin. Being a non-team member, I got to sit back and observe the competition without having to worry about obligations.

Engineering Academy Director Amir Abo-Shaeer intensely watches the robotics competition in Las Vegas, NV last weekend. (Julia Derogatis / Photo)

Engineering Academy Director Amir Abo-Shaeer intensely watches the robotics competition in Las Vegas, NV last weekend. (Julia Derogatis / Photo)

The competitions between the robots were entertaining, yet the people involved were equally engaging. During the breaks in between the matches, music was blasted for all to dance to. And dance they did.

As soon as a danceable song would play, scores of teenagers (and a fair number of mascots) would rush down to the fronts of the bleachers to show off their moves. Whether it was “Party Rock Anthem,” “YMCA,” or “Gangnam Style,” the teams threw their hands up in the air and danced the song away, despite the hundreds of observers sitting in the bleachers.

One of the engineering teenagers even turned out to be a fabulous break dancer. My jaw was definitely not the only one that dropped when he spun on his head and then jumped up and flipped over backwards. It was crazy, and it was a perfect example of the surprises of that competition.

The mascots were another interesting presence in Vegas. They loved getting high fives. Every time I tried to walk somewhere, I would be stopped by at least two different types of birds holding their hands up in demand of a high five.

Despite being in a large open facility, the area sounded like a thunderstorm. Robotics competition is apparently the next sport: the players shake hands before the game, an announcer keeps score, and the crowd goes wild.

The yelling and screaming fans were remarkable; had I not been there I wouldn’t have believed the level of intensity that the supporters on the bleachers reached.

Which brings us to DP’s alliance win. Comparing it to winning a lottery would not be an understatement; the reaction by the three winning teams was inspiring to witness. When the final score appeared, there was a beat of silence and then an abrupt explosion of noise.

The D’Penguineers shot to their feet and thrust their fists into the air, hugging each other and whooping for joy. It was impossible not to get caught up in the fervor of the moment, I was literally lifted a few times by happy team members.

Getting to witness DP’s amazing engineering feat in the form of its winning robot was incredible, as was experiencing the thrill of their victory. Vegas turned out to be very memorable, not just for its lights and hotels, but for the entertaining and inspiring engineering competition that took place on the outskirts of the lucky city.

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