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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Zebracorn Road Trip

Zebracorns Pose Under the Arch in St Louis
Replica Cabin at Lincoln State Park
Spacious Campsite at Lincoln State Park
Edward Jones Stadium
You Can Never Have Too Many Tools
Robot Parts
Arch Peeking Out Over Our Van at the Stadium
Zebracorn Robot in Action
Edward Jones Stadium with Eight Fields for F.I.R.S.T. Robotics
No Mistaking the Team Camera
Guist Creek Campsite only $22/night
Guist Creek Marina
Pipestem State Park Campsite
Blueridge Mountains from Pipestem State Park
Cableway to Bluestone Gorge
Pilot Mountain, NC 
The Knob at the Top of Pilot Mountain

We planned to drive the 800 miles over three days to break it up into smaller parts. On day one, we drove from home to Milton, West Virginia where we camped at the Foxfire KOA near the freeway. It had friendly staff, clean restrooms and a view of the freeway for $44.39.

The second day we were climbing a mountain when error lights came on and the cruise control stopped working. It was a frustrating day because we had called Mercedes-Benz roadside assistance and the first dealership they sent us to didn’t service vans! The next dealership, Louisville Mercedes, was very accommodating, but after five hours realized they didn’t have a good part to get us going again.  They said it would be safe to drive, so we moved on towards St. Louis.

Lincoln’s Boyhood home was just a few miles south of the hotel where the team bus stopped, so we decided on the adjacent state park as a stopping place. This is where he lived from age seven in 1816 until he was twenty-one in 1830. The campground had a reproduction of the house built by the civilian conservation corp in the 1930’s. We definitely recommend Lincoln State Park, a bargain at $20.33 for a paved, pull-through spot.

The next morning we picked up one of the team mentors and pushed on to St. Louis. Hundreds of other teams descended on the Edward Jones Stadium that afternoon to unload all the  tools and parts needed for the competition. It is always easy to find our team with their distinctive stripes!

The competitions were exciting, but our robot didn’t do very well. Every team played ten rounds and were then ranked. We were ranked 75 out of 76 teams at the end of preliminaries, so thought we were done.

On Saturday morning, the top eight teams selected the teams they wanted to play on their alliances. We watched carefully and were thrilled to be the very last team picked, but by the top alliance!  Our alliance went on to win the field (there were eight fields playing in the stadium), so we received a championship  banner! It also allowed us to go on to the quarter-finals where the winners from each field played each other. The photo above gives a little idea of what it looked like with thirty-thousand people in the stadium cheering for the teams. Our alliance came very close to winning the whole thing, but were defeated in the semi-finals by 1.66 points. It was a great experience for the students and everyone was thrilled to get that far. There are about 2,900 FRC Teams and 607 made it to St. Louis. To be in one of the top three alliances was quite an honor!

Sunday morning had us packed up and ready to roll back to the dealer in Louisville, Kentucky.  We camped at Guist Creek, just outside of town and left the trailer at the campground so we would have the van ready to go on the lift.

The campground was geared for fisherman, but had lots of open room at this time of year and had no objection to us leaving the trailer there for part of the day. When we arrived at the dealer they were ready for us, had the new part, and we were on the road again in only two hours. The problem was a wheel sensor, and when they replaced it all the error lights were cleared and we had cruise control again! Many thanks to the staff their for getting us repaired under warranty.

By nightfall we were in the West Virginia mountains at Pipestem State Park. There were only a few other campers in a beautiful park. We figured out why there weren’t many campers when it got down to 39 degrees overnight. The heater sure came in handy.

Driving around the park there were some beautiful views of the mountains. Later in the season there is a tram that takes visitors 3,600 feet down into the Bluestone Gorge. From there we headed down the mountain to our North Carolina home. 

We could tell we were getting near as we sighted Pilot Mountain in the distance. The last two pictures here show the distinctive mountain shape and then a close-up of the rocky knob as we reached the landmark. 

It was good to be home after driving 2,277 miles for the team.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Robotic Support Vehicle

If you know us at all, you've heard about the Zebracorns. They are the robotics team which has been a passion for our high school son for the last three years. The team was part of the alliance that won the North Carolina Regional last month, so has the opportunity to go to the World Finals in St. Louis this month. We get pretty excited about the team as well, so volunteered to tow a trailer full of robot parts, batteries and tools from North Carolina to St. Louis.  The van is also a great base for feeding the students.  Between those two uses, it qualifies as a Robotic Support Vehicle.

The F.I.R.S.T. Robotics program is a tremendous opportunity for students and the Zebracorns are a great group of students, mentors, and parents. Find out more about them at

Maneuvering the Empty Trailer

Almost Full

Ready to Roll

The Rental Trailer is Almost as Big as svIntuition

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