Carter stood in the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis and whistled. Below him was the organized chaos of the eight fields of the FIRST Robotics World Championship. “If geeks played a sport, this would be it,” he said aloud.
Juan chuckled. “Impressive, isn’t it?”
“That’s one was to say it,” said Carter.
“You don’t like it.”
“I don’t get it. I mean, what’s the point of all this?”
“Not everyone likes sports, you know,” replied Juan.
“Sure, but I hear the game changes every year. It’s confusing.”
“That’s part of the challenge. All these teams start from scratch. Except for the stuff they learn from year to year.”
Carter stared blankly at Juan.
“Principles of robots, that sort of thing,” explained Juan.
“Alright, sure,” conceded Carter. He watched the beginning of a match. “Who’s playing?”
“In this game? The blue alliance is the Cheesy Poofs, the Fighting Pi and Metallic Clouds. The red alliance have the Thunder Chickens, Flaming Monkeys and TrikzR4Kidz.”
Carter glared at Juan. “You’re messing with me.”
Juan chuckled and raised his hands in defense. “Seriously. There are some awesome team names. There’s Exploding Bacon, Children of the Swamp, and my personal favorite, Robot Dolphins from Outer Space. I’m tellin’ you, it’s a lot of fun.”
The two watched as robots flew over defenses and launched grey balls at towers. A trumpet sounded and the robots scrambled to the base of their opponent’s fortresses. One robot extended arms and pulled itself off the ground. Juan joined the crowd that cheered wildly.
“What just happened?” asked Carter.
“That ‘bot just scaled. The tower’s been taken. Isn’t that incredible?”
“How’d it do that?”
“What do you mean? The team built it that way.”
“High school kids did that?” asked Carter, scratching his head.
Carter’s eyes narrowed and he looked at Juan. “High schoolers.”
“With the help of mentors,” said Juan.
“Mentors are like coaches.”
“All this from high school students?” asked Carter, skeptically.
“Don’t take my word for it. Ask them. Any of them. They’re all great kids. I have to admit, I love cheering for them,” said Juan.
“Amazing,” mumbled Carter. “Who are you with?”
“I’m just a proud dad. My daughter’s with Celt-X robotics. FIRST tells them they’re the future,” said Juan.
Carter’s eyes widened. “They’re wrong. These kids are the present.”