From a vision standpoint, the FIRST Robotics competition was challenging. I entered the stadium on the upper level and had to walk down the arena steps to get to the seats. The steps were very difficult to navigate. There were handrails sprinkled along the steps, but I had to let go of one and take a step before I could reach the next. I always feel much more comfortable going down stairs if I can hold a railing the entire time. Other than on the game floor itself, the lighting in the arena was very dim. People would come and go, and I had a hard time identifying faces. I could not read anything that was handed to me – programs or brochures or match schedules or menus or newspaper articles. Much of the day was very visually overstimulating. The crowd was just a sea of colors. There was so much to look at and try to focus on that my eyes became really, really tired.
It is a myth that other senses are heightened as vision decreases. If it were true, I would have been on sensory overload. The lighting may have been dim, but the sound system was turned way up. I liked the music, but my ears are ringing like crazy now that I have left the competition. My eyes are tired from seeing too little and my ears are tired from hearing too much.
In a lot of ways, the competition was arranged in a way that was very good for my vision situation. I am fairly good at following movement and motion with my eyesight, so I was able to enjoy the competition. I could not always tell which robot on the floor belonged to the IgKnighters, but since all of the robots in an alliance had either red or blue bumpers, I was able to keep track of our alliance. I could follow the scoring of each alliance, since the tubes that they had to place were brightly colored. I could even usually see the little mini-bots racing up the poles. Our team (including parents) wore bright yellow shirts, so I could always find my way back to my group without getting lost.
Throughout the competition, I used my little point and shoot camera to zoom in on the action so that I could see close-up on the LCD screen what I could not see with my eyes alone. At one point, hundreds of students were dancing in the aisles to “Cotton-eyed Joe.” I could never have picked out my son Benjamin in that crowd, but I was able to zoom in and find his happy face. Using my camera in this way has become a good tool for me.
As a Mom, I loved being at the competition, seeing the fruits of the hard work that my son has been doing, and cheering for his team. I am so glad that I went. Even though I don’t like venturing into new locations, I believed that I would be able to handle this, and I was right. There were parts of the last two days that were hard for me, but they were far outweighed by the benefits of seeing my son so proud of his team. By the way, his team lasted through to the top four and was eliminated in the last match before the finals. It was a very good finish and they can be proud. I am feeling especially wonderful tonight – proud of my son, proud of his team, and (I must admit) proud of myself. All in all, it was a very good competition.