Saturday, January 28, 2012

Guns and Robots: A SHOT Show Weekend

See my article at WON

Last week it seems like everyone and their brother in the shooting world was at the SHOT Show! Sadly, I still have one more year before I can make it out to the show myself.  Luckily, there is no height limit but they do have an age limit!  I hope everyone who attends has a fantastic time. I really, really wanted to go this year; I even got a press-pass! But the age limit overrules the pass. Fortunately, this weekend I didn’t have the opportunity to mope, as I had a Robotics competition about three hours away, and a steel match at my local range on Sunday.
    Yes, when I am not shooting at targets I quench my competitive nature with robotics (the competition was a Vex Robotics competition). Each team has two drivers and a coach; you go against other teams and try to score more goals by placing objects in containers. Most of the robots use claws or conveyor belts to pick up items and drop them into the containers or goals.
       First was robotics on Saturday. It seemed promising. The controls were working, my team mate had programmed the controllers to what seemed like perfection, and we were fixing the little bugs to the best of our ability. Batteries were charged, the keys were in, and everything was plugged in. We were ready to go!
          There were six matches Saturday and I think that I could sum it up rather easily…
          Yes, there were many “arrrgs!” that day. On every match, something had gone wrong. At one point when I was controlling, I pressed the wrong button causing the robot to expand to the point that it tipped over. For our team, it felt like going up to shoot without ammo.  Needless to say, we lost that match as our robot laid hopelessly on its side.  My team found out that though, although we could control our robot accurately and for a good amount of time on the practice field, but on the actual course the robot could only move for about five seconds before stalling out. We tested everything – batteries, connections, wheels, motors. Everything seemed to work fine! It wasn’t until we were about to leave that a teacher from a nearby school gave us a possible explanation to our spaz-tastic robot. Maybe, just maybe, our motors were overheating.  
          That seemed to be the most plausible diagnosis for our little robot. The day was overall very fun. It was frustrating at times, without a doubt, yet our entire team did have a lesson reinforced; perseverance. We had six matches to do, and by the third one it seemed like it wouldn’t make a difference if we went home. Yet we chose to stay and finish the day and try our best to fix the robot. Perseverance drives people to achieve things that others would only give up on. If we didn’t stay we may have never learned what was wrong with the robot!
          The Lack-of-SHOT-Show weekend didn’t end there. I woke up early on Sunday, excited for our Club Steel Challenge match, thinking this would end the SHOT Show blues.  Yep, there was a club match all right.  As I came barreling up the walkway with excitement and my REVOLVER GEAR in hand, Eric Leach was showing me a shot gun shell. We all know what that means! It was a shotgun match. Oops.   
          How was the SHOT Show? I’ll be seeing you all next year. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

The year in review and looking ahead — robotics, shotguns, revolvers, rifles and pigeon searching

Check out my newest article at the WON! 
Just this month, I had the new and exciting experience of shooting Action Shotgun. Straightforward enough, eh? Well, for my stature it took a little bit more energy! At the same time I think that my stature made it more fun. Let me say that shotgun has been one of the most fun things I’ve done in the shooting sports. I was shooting a pump-action, loaned to me by my friend Dave Wilson! Dave is pretty tall, so the shotgun was nearly as long as I was tall! Shooting steel and flying clays while moving AND reloading made for a new dimension of shooting. Reloading was perplexing at first, a new process I had to figure out. Luckily, it didn’t take long at all for me to realize that a shotgun doesn’t reload like a revolver. (Where does the moon clip go again?)
Eric Leech and I spent a long time at the safe table trying to figure out what would be the most convenient way, but when I got on the line I discovered what worked for me – using my leg as a table! It looked kind of funny, but it worked! I might have to change that as I keep developing with shotgun, but I can add that to my list of New Year’s resolutions!
Speaking of New Year’s … this year is almost over! I keep thinking what an amazing year it has been, starting from the beginning with the exciting competition with my S&W 627 revolver at the ICORE Southwest Regional.  Then the NRA Bianchi Cup, where I experienced my first-ever tornado (eeek!) And saw all my friends who I only see once a year, at this match. I was so excited about the IRC (International Revolver Competition) and although I didn’t meet chrono, (so close!) this was a good experience for me, as I learned the importance of checking the chrono before a match! The MGM Shooting camp in Idaho was amazing. I made tons of new friends as well as learned a lot about shooting from fabulous world-class instructors.  The Steel Challenge came next, where I defended my title as Top Lady Limited Revolver! I’m sad to see this match leave California, but I am looking forward to Jim O’Young’s West Coast Steel Challenge. I also went to the Gun Blogger’s Rendezvous and had a blast with all my gun blogging friends.
But my year wasn’t just shooting. I’ve been participating in my school’s Mock Trial and Robotics club! Those are both really fun; in Mock Trial, the case is involving the Second Amendment! How perfect is that? Right up my alley! Robotics has different aspects than the ones I’ve written about before, like all the little pieces and programming, but it has some similarities like patience! The robotics team has had to redo many parts on our little robot, but it’s really paid off! I’ve also started volunteering with the Coastal Discovery Education Center, where I help research and create advertisements for different events going on at the beach or beach/ocean related talks or activities. The highlight of the Discover Center was when I had the task to figure out the origin of a deceased pigeon using its tag. After extensive Internet research and pigeon-search-engines (they have those), I found out that it was from Oklahoma! We still don’t know how it came all the way to California, but I hope it had a chance to enjoy the sunshine!
This past year has really been full of great experiences for me. And now, I have my resolutions for 2012. Of course, I want to get better at shooting, do more shooting, get better outfitted for shooting (new shotgun from Santa, maybe?), make more shooting friends and somewhere in there squeeze in write more – about shooting! I want to do more to raise money for and awareness of Soldier’s Angels. I’m going to have to squeeze in good grades, too, but that’s not too bad because I really like school! What are your New Year’s resolutions?