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  On Tuesday, April 19th, 2022 at 7:30AM our 4 students, 2 coaches, plus 1 alumni volunteer, team embarked on our journey to Texas with a fire truck escort out of Kelliher and onto Highway 1 west.  From there our team bid adieu to our escort and began our way to the Minneapolis International Airport, with a quick rest stop in Royalton, MN.   Once we arrived at the airport, unloaded, got through security and re-grouped, we had enough time to grab lunch from one of the many eateries located close to our gate for the Spirit Airlines flight to Miami, FL.  We all made it to the boarding call and found our seats aboard our big, bright, yellow, jet.  We took off shortly thereafter and traveled at 34,000 ft. high (+/-)to Miami.  Florida and then Miami started appearing in our windows about 3 hours later (with time zone change).  The first things we saw were the salt marshes, then the suburbs of Miami, then the area around the airport followed by the tarmac and our gate.  Once we got off the plane we had to "hoof it" to our departure gate that was located several sections of the airport away from where we landed.  On route to our next gate we had to go through security again and navigate busy hallways without losing each other.  Once we located our departure gate and dropped our carry-on bag with our team's bag watcher, we only had less than an hour to find supper, bathrooms if needed, and possibly a souvenir shop before our next flight took off.  We had arrived in Miami just before closing time of many of the eateries and shops, but we were all able to find food and other needed amenities.  We then boarded for the last leg of our trip.  From Miami to Houston we had about an hour and a half of oily blackness out our windows that was only broken up by the signal light of our plane and the lights of boats, ships and oil rigs below us in the the Gulf of Mexico.  We arrived in Houston at 11:30PM and were able to get two Ubers to take us to our hotel, Holiday Inn Houston S, for a SHORT night's sleep.  At each airport, we were inundated with people, cultures, languages, sights, sounds, and experiences, but this would be just a TASTE of what was to come at the World Championship.

  Our First Day in Houston, TX started at 6:30AM with a breakfast that our team shared with 3 other teams from our up north area.  They were Thunder Robotics from Northwood, ND, Gator Robotics from Greenbush, MN and team F.R.E.D. from Warroad, MN.  Two of them, Gators and Thunder, were part of our Regional Winning Alliance at Grand Forks, ND.  After breakfast we all loaded onto a charter bus, rented by our fellow northerners, and rode to the Gorge R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston where the World Championship was being held.  About thirty minutes later we arrived at the event center, unloaded the bus and joined a mass of teams, volunteers, and mentors waiting to enter the pit area at the FIRST World Championships.  When the doors opened  and the river of people started flowing through, we were able to get our first look at the new environment that we would be in for the next three days.  IT WAS IMMENSE!  Larger and grander than anything we had been a part of personally or as a team!!  The space was massive, stretching for several football fields in either direction, the roof was several storeys above our heads.  It was held up by numerous, massive maple tree like supports of steel, each with large branches rising up from a concrete base to the ceiling.  These monarch like supports allowed for a massive open floor layout that stretched out before us.  To our left were the stands and the six playing fields, one for each of the divisions that we and 458 other First Robotics Competition (FRC) teams were divided up into.  Then, to the right was Pit Admin, the CITIES OF PITS, and far away on the horizon were our practice fields and the FRC Lego League Challenge pits and match fields.  We checked in at Pit Admin and got our team passes for the event.  We navigated our way to the Turing Division where our pit was located.  Once we reached our pit we found our crated bot and our team number flagging our pit within the city of teams.  We got the bot uncrated, looked it over for shipping damage, and put it onto our cart for inspection by FIRST safety judges.  After we were inspected and given the "good to go", our team went looking for lunch since our first of four practice matches for the day didn't start until mid afternoon.  We had numerous options to choose from.  We found our lunch in the form of The Waffle Bus (chicken and waffle menu), one of dozens of food and treat trucks and trailers that lined two of the main streets outside the event center.  These streets had been closed off from traffic to create a two lane pedestrian way and patio in the bright warm Texas sun.  We ate our lunch on the edge of Discovery Green Park, a beautiful sprawling green space that was right in front of the event center.  After we finished our lunch, we topped it off with cups of Uncle Louie G's Italian Ice, a sweet icy form of ice cream.  After such a good lunch, our team headed back to our pit fired up and energized for our first practice match, which went very well.  We put our first official world stage match under our belt and officially marked the beginning of FIRST ROBOTICS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP for Team 6453!!   With only having four matches to play for the entire day, our team had several hours of down time between matches,  time we did not waste.  Several of us tuned and tweaked the bot, conversed with other teams that came by to scout our team and ask questions about our team.   Then, as we were able we began to explore the other pits, vendors, the convention center and the other activities of the Championship, including the Innovation Faire located on the top floor of the event center.  Right after our last match, the pits were closed signaling the end to a fully loaded day.  We located the other three teams, loaded our charter bus and headed back to the hotel.  Needless to say, we all were exhausted, excited, and anticipating what was to come.  Our last group event for the day was enjoying a team meal of sloppy joes and bowtie salad provided by a cook that the other northern teams brought with from their school's kitchen, and who was able to use the kitchen at the hotel to prepare the delicious food.  After this, our first day at the FIRST World Championship came to an end as each of us headed back to our rooms to sleep and rejuvenate.


  Thursday came earlier than Wednesday!  We had to be in the pits by 7AM and be ready to run shortly there after.  So, we grabbed a quick breakfast and jumped onto the bus to the convention center and on to another day of adventure.  Once again we waited in a wide hallway with other team members and volunteers.  This time in line gave us the opportunity to actually start to realize the scope of this championship. It was more than just a few FRC teams from around the United States getting together to compete like another   regional meet.  It was an INTERNATIONAL gathering of Robotics teams from a wide variety of countries. Once the pits opened, we were hearing many different languages and accents, seeing different clothing, flags, faces, traditions and cultures.  We were basically a part of a miniature United Nations; we were from different countries and regions of the world, but we were brought together by a common bond, FIRST Robotics.  We competed In our first qualifying match at 8:51AM.  The match went well, we were able to move off the tarmac in autonomous mode, deliver cargo to the lower port, and transversal climb the hanger before the end of the 2 minute 30 second game play.  We competed in another match before we took a break for lunch.  During our lunch break we were able to find a Chick-Fil-A on the third floor of the convention center.  There we were able to enjoy a meal as a team, rest a little, and take in a grand view of the park and surrounding downtown Houston in front of the center.  After lunch we went out and enjoyed another Italian Ice in the gorgeous Texas sun and breezes.  Before we went back into the pits, some of us took the time to explore the park outside.  The park took up over three city blocks in width at its widest point and at least two blocks in depth.  It was comprised of two knoll like hills, a grand stage, open green spaces, three water features (two interactive fountains and a large pond/ "small" lake with docks), walking paths, a cool play ground, native trees and flowers, a restaurant and different sculptures throughout.    For being in the heart of a gargantuan city, this park was quite large and spacious, even though it was bordered by high-rises and sky scrapers that poked at the clouds above.  After lunch we competed in three matches before the day ended.  In each match our robot, drive team and our team as a whole preformed to its fullest potential and capabilities.  Our last match, match 60 of the day, ended after 5:00PM.  Shortly after that we were guided out of the pits due to closing time.  Once again we met up with our fellow northern teams, loaded the bus and headed back to the hotel for a Supper of German potato soup and desert bars.    With that, our second day of the championship came to a close, more filled and in some ways more pleasantly exhausting than the day before.

   Friday came right on the heals of Thursday since we were due in the pits before 7:00AM!  So, once again we grabbed breakfast, loaded the bus and waited in line for the pits to open. The first match of our final five qualifying matches we had for the day started at 8:00AM.  Match 73 went well for Team 6453.  In this match we focused on shoveling cargo balls to our alliance members (5460 Team Strike Zone from Michigan and 6586 Tuskin' Raiders from Arkansas), who had the capabilities and accuracy to score in the upper hub.  Along with shoveling the cargo to our alliance members, we were asked by them to play stout defense against key shooters on our competition for the match.  This was due to our robot's robust and sturdy design and the skills of our drive team. Then with 40 seconds left our bot started at the mid rung of our alliance's hanger and rose its way to the top/transversal rung just as the buzzer marked the end of another match.  At the end of this match, we were ranked at 42nd out of the 75 teams within the Turing Division.  Following the match, our drive team was pulled to the side by one of the referees who informed us that our climber mechanism was in violation of a safety rule from the rulebook regarding the bumper zone.  It turned out that the bolt that we used to catch the limiter switch which prevented our climber mechanism from running off the end of the rack gear while climbing, dipped below the bumper of our bot when we pulled the bot up to the next rung, thus going beyond the bumper zone and becoming unsafe for the bots below us.  The referee also let us know that if we would continue to climb with the mechanism in its current state our bot would be "yellow carded" and our points for the match would be null and void.  If we persisted without making changes, we would be given a "red card" and banned from competing for the rest of the event!  With our next match, Match 83, beginning within the hour, our team had to fix and modify a major part of our bot in a short amount of time.  Yet with the help of our team members, volunteers, Northern Minnesota Robotics Conference Representatives and alliance members, we were able to problem solve and implement the fix on our robot so we could keep competing in the Championship.  The fix we chose was the simplest one: we just cut a portion of the rack gear to compensate for the length of the limiter switch catch bolt.  With the fix figured out we sent the rack gear to be cut at the robot shop provided by the event.  This took longer than expected and we were unable to climb for Match 83.  Even though we could not climb, we still did our part in defense and shoveling cargo to our high shooting alliance members.  At the end of this match half of our team stayed in the pit and finished reinstalling the climber while the other half went looking for lunch and to take a break in the fresh Texas air.  During our lunch break our team was invited to join the other FRC teams from Minnesota for a large group picture on one of the green spaces in front of the convention center.  When all of us gathered in front of the grand stage, our Minnesotan collage of teams took up over 50 plus feet of the space in front of the stage.  Along with this sprawling state photo, our small but strong team took its own team photo in the park with the steel and glass high-rises of downtown Houston as the back drop.  After we got our photos taken and our group rounded up again we headed back to the pit for our last three matches for the day.  From Match 97 to Match 114 our bot and team delivered, defended and climbed with style and determination.  Once the last buzzer sounded, and the bot made it back to the pit, our team finished the qualifying matches at 52nd out of 75 teams in the Touring Division.  While we were tidying up our pit and discussing our evening plans, a short awards ceremony commenced at the playing field.  After the the ceremony the pits were closed for what was to be the final time and we were directed out of the pits and the final day of qualifying matches ended with playoffs and the championship matches on the horizon.  Instead of going back to the hotel with the other northern teams, we gathered our members up and headed for the Houston Astro's Minute Maid Park that was only a few blocks away from the convention center.  The reason we were heading for this landmark was because we were going to take in a Houston Astro's baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays as a highlight of our Houston Trip!!  Once we got our tickets for our seats in the "nose bleed section", which to us were some of the best seats in the house, we headed a few steps away to the main gate and joined a throng of fellow spectators that had started amassing several minutes ahead of the gates opening.  When the gates did open our team became a part of a rapid river of fans and spectators that spewed through the security checkpoint, careened through the canyon halls of the stadium, flooded the vendors and stores, and rose to the highest part of the stands and boxes available. Our little team became like a twig in the torrent of people, just trying to stay together and keep each other in sight all the way to our section of the massive sports venue. Once we climbed the almost vertical steps to our seats in the "nose bleed section", we figured out who sat where and settled in.  We started to take in the commanding view of the stadium, the field, and the downtown Houston sky line.  As each of us felt like braving the crowd and steps again, we went looking for our ball park supper.  This ended up ranging from chicken tenders and fries, to foot long chilly chees dogs, to different sandwiches to just popcorn and event food. Some of us also went souvenir hunting before fully settling in for the innings of the game.  What we couldn't see or make out from our vantage point, we were able to view on one of several jumbotrons located around the stadium.  These views ranged from play replays, to cheerleaders, to the team's alien like mascot, to the dance cam, to snippets of the home team's history, to the words to "DEEP IN THE HART OF TEXAS" and other songs for the stadium's version of a community sing.  We were able to stay and enjoy the game until shortly after the seventh inning stretch, since we had to get up earlier than the pre-dawn time we had gotten up today.  So we quickly stepped our way to our exit where we were to meet our lift driver.  On our way we ended up going through The Houston Astro's Hall of Fame.  The hallway was lined with display cases, vertical banners and other memorabilia of the team's past and its greatest players and faculty.  One of the cases displayed a model and information on the team's original home field, The ASTRO DOME that was one of the first fully enclosed sports venues.  (I later found out that the Astro Dome was still standing and was located right behind our hotel next to the NRG Stadium.) Our lift ride was decked out with a karaoke machine, lights and garland along with musical instruments that the driver passed out for us to toy with.  We rode in this "disco tech on wheels" to our hotel, which was fun and interesting to say the leas!  After our crazy ride to the hotel we made our way to our rooms and tried to get some sleep.

 Saturday flew in before Friday had fully landed in our minds.  For the last time we shared breakfast with our northern gang of teams and loaded the charter bus.  We arrived at the convention center before 7:00AM.  The main event for our team was the alliance selection for the semi-finals, which would lead to the Einstein matches in order to determine the top team of the championship!  Like at the Great Northern Regional in Grand Forks, the top eight teams were selected as Alliance Captains who then selected two more teams to round out their alliances, along with a fourth team as a backup.  The captains could choose other captains to join their alliances or as part of their strategy.  So, one by one each captain picked their co-captain and third alliance members. Thunder Robotics and Gator Robotics were both selected by the alliance captains for the semi-finals.  When it came to the fourth team pick, Gator Robotics strongly touted our team's capabilities and our merits to their alliance captain, but unfortunately we weren't selected.  After the alliance selection, and during the prep time for the semi-finals, our team headed back to the pit to start packing our tools, our bot and the take down process of our pit.  Once we got things packed up, we took our pit and supplies to the loading dock zone in the back of the convention center where we loaded them into the back of one of our team member's family's pickup to be taken back to the north country.  Once our pit was disassembled and arrangements made for our bot's transport North, we went outside the convention center to a restaurant called The Rustic for lunch.  This restaurant was a Texas smokehouse meets indoor/outdoor dining themed establishment.   The atmosphere was complete with a bandstand, long horn cattle sculls, picnic tables with vinyl umbrellas and two huge openings to outdoor patios.  We all ate very well and enjoyed the smells, sights and sounds of the restaurant.  After we let The Rustic meal settle a bit, we went back over to the George R. Brown to take a group and NMRC (Northern Minnesota Robotics Conference) representatives photo in front of the FIRST Robotics logo that had been on display in several locations during the event.  Then we found a spot in the stands to watch a few of semi-final matches.  Along with the matches we took in the last of the awards ceremonies and the teaser to the 2023 season's theme.  Before the Einstein matches, we excused ourselves from the event and took a lift back to the hotel to freshen up for our afternoon trip to GALVESTON, TX!!  At the hotel, we changed clothes and organized our suitcases in preparation for our flight home early Sunday morning.  We then met back up in the hotel lobby and arranged transportation to The Gulf of Mexico. While we waited for our lift ride, we were able to watch some of the Einstein matches on the hotel's TV in their restaurant thanks to the tech skills of our fellow northern teams.  A few moments later, our lift ride arrived out front.  It turned out to be a Chevy crew cab short box pickup, with tall, fancy rims and at least a two inch lift kit.  We were warned on our ride back from the convention center that with it being the weekend, road construction and pleasant sunny weather we could expect sizeable traffic delays on our run to the Gulf.  We encountered two time consuming traffic jams that did slow us up some, but it didn't dampen our anticipation for our evening by the ocean.  After the last traffic jam cleared up and we were able to gain some speed again, Galveston and the surrounding Gulf shore region started coming into view.  Before we could reach our destination we had to cross a long, high, bridge that connected the mainland with the island Galveston is located on.  As we crossed the bridge, we got our first unobstructed view of the ocean.  It was a vast space of blues, grays and touches of green water that stretched beyond a person's sight.  It made Lake Superior seem like an oversized puddle.  It was the largest body of open water any of us had probably seen before. Once we had crossed the big bridge we arrived in Galveston city!!! From the bridge we drove down the main thoroughfare through town towards the opposite shore of the island.  This gave us the opportunity to see the town in its entirety, which was a mix of modern construction and historic architecture (Spanish, Victorian and Southern styles) that had been built within the previous centuries. Our road ended at our destination, the beach by Pleasure Pier, a pier and amusement park that jutted out into the Gulf on massive timber pilons.  We were dropped off on the sea wall by the gate of the pier.  Here is where we got our first close look at the Gulf and the ocean.  The breeze was coming off the Gulf and bringing with it waves that curled and lapped at the pale white sandy shore.  Seagulls and other deep water fowl pitched, yawned, rolled and landed along the salty shore, calling out to each other in their distinct calls.  Once we tore ourselves away from the tremendous view, we walked down to the beach, took our shoes off and strolled along the shore in the sand.  We felt the cool surging water and the damp, salty evening air.   We were due at our last Texas group meal at the Saltgrass Steak House at 7:00pm, so we got our shoes back on and kept the Gulf experience going by walking the short distance to our restaurant down Seawall Boulevard.  On our walk to the restaurant, we passed several souvenir shops, beach shops, information displays about the Gulf and Galveston, and were able to see more of the city's historic architecture in the form of a regal, flamingo pink, Spanish/Mission style hotel (The Grand Galvez Hotel) that stood several stories tall over every thing else along the boulevard.  Our restaurant was housed in a true Texas themed building.  When we entered in to the place we entered a Texas version of Cracker Barrel.  With Texas, Houston, and western artifacts hanging from the wall and the celling.  They ranged from posters, to photos of the past, to authentic saddles, to  ranch and cattle tools and other forms of western memorabilia that really enhanced the atmosphere of the establishment.  We were seated in a room that was off the main room where the kids could sit at their own table and the mentors/volunteers could sit at another table close by.  Our server was polite, pleasant, and efficient.  The food was hearty, filling, very delicious and reasonably priced.  The kids all had some form of steak, our mentors/volunteers each had a range of  dishes from the menu, some even including a decadent, Texas sized dessert.  Once our grand meal had settled we went outside to wait for our lift to arrive.  The evening breeze was coming in off the water through the darkness hitting our faces with a damp, moist feel.  All we could see were the lights of the highway, the lights, the colored dancing light of the pier, and way off on the horizon past the shore the lights of the boats and ships coming and going from the port of Galveston.  Our ride arrived and we loaded up and started the night journey 

back to Houston and to our hotel for one last night under the Texas stars. 

  Sunday morning came in before Saturday night had fully left our eyes or our minds. Our Plane was scheduled to depart from the Houston Gorge Bush IAH Airport for Las Vegas, NV by 8:06AM.  So being thirty minutes plus away from the airport we had to leave the hotel by 5:15AM to leave enough time for our team to get through security and find our gate before boarding.  We made it to the airport, got through security and found our gate with minimal trouble.  We made it to our gate with just enough time for our team to find bathrooms and few souvenirs and a quick something for breakfast from the few open eateries close to our gate.  When our boarding time came we got in line with our fellow travelers at the door to our fight's "gate", but once we went through the door of our gate we were in for a surprise.  Once we had went through the door we were met by 3 flights of stairs that we flowed down and then went through another door and then we found ourselves ON THE TARMAC! from the door we were guided to a series of covered pedestrian ramps by fences and staff.  Our team made their way up the ramp and into the airplane's loading door.  This experience actually gave us a feel for what it was like to fly in the early days of passenger aviation.  Once we got through the door and found our seats for the first part of our two flight trip home, the rest of the passengers were seated our plane pulled away from the gate.  It then taxied is way to its cleared takeoff runway.  After that, the plane bolted down the runway, took off and started our climb to the sky.  The maneuvering our plane did as it climbed to its cruising height gave us our last glimpses of Houston and the surrounding Texas land.  Once we reached our cruising altitude our plane was above the clouds and heading NW in another world above our world.  The clouds below us were billowed into mountains, flattened into valleys, rippled into waves and gouged into canyons and crevices.  Some were just jutted, twisted  pulled and stalked like something from Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon, or Wisconsin's sandstone formations. We stayed in the clouds well into New Mexico, From there we either lowered elevation or the cloud cover just disappeared, either way we started to see extraordinary views of the SW dessert below us.  From the vast tans of the sands to the sun baked rust reds and oranges of the buttes and the  plateaus, to the mysterious blacks and grays of the ravines and canyons.  A few moments before we reached the Vegas airport, civilization started coming into view.  First were roads and trailer parks, then came campgrounds around Lake Mead and the Colorado River, after that came the suburbs of LAS VEGAS Nevada!!  As our plane started to make its final decent  we were able to catch glimpses of different parts of the desert's biggest city and where The Rat Pack once called their home.  Once we landed and were taxing to our gate we spotted the tall casinos and hotels of The Strip, of which we got a better look of once we unloaded from the air plane and entered the main gate terminal.  We originally were to have 2hr lay over in Vegas, but once we got there and the flight schedule was updated we only had close to an hour and half in the city of slots, card, and shows.  Within that hour and a half we had to go from our landing gat across a good part of the airport to our disembarking gate before our plane boarded and took off back to The Minneapolis International Airport.  Even with this short time all of us were able to make it to our next gate, to explore a little and experience a little of Vegas within the airport.  Boarding call came for our last flight, the last leg of our journey, so we gathered our carry-on, rose slowly from our seats and once again got aboard our Spirit Yellow jetliner home to the North.  When our plane got to its final altitude, The full realization of what we had been apart of and the amount of energy that had been expended by all of us!  On the flight home we all felt exhausted, and mostly either napped, or zoned out on our phones our out the window of our final flight in the sky.  After a restful three hours in the sky, we started our decent back into our home state of Minnesota.  The next sounds and feelings we had were the squeal of our plane's tires and the slight thump of its landing back on Minnesota soil.  These were followed by the mumbles and shuffling of our fellow passengers, the commotion of the airport out of the gate, and then the chill in the air of Minnesota spring as we waited for our ride out side at the airports pick up spot.  Once we loaded into our schools van that was to take us home, the last highlights of our trip were supper at Golden Corral, a pit stop at Royalton, and the visiting about our trip and experiences with our driver and each other.  We Arrived at the school before 10:00pm, gathered our luggage one last time, dropped a few things off in our robotics room and then went to our separate forms of transportation home, ending our journey to the FIRST World Championships.

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