What an amazing tournament; thank you to all the event supervisors, directors, volunteers, and countless others who put so much effort into putting together this National tournament. I was lucky to have all my events be very well run. Undoubtedly an unforgettable experience not only for me, but for the whole team, who I cannot be more proud of considering everything we did this year just to have the chance to compete.
As for the events:Astronomy
(4): This was one of my favorite tests of all time, but perhaps I am biased considering that Astronomy is also my favorite event of all time. Although my personal performance on the test left a lot to be desired, I am incredibly proud of my partner for sightreading all the DSOs and can genuinely say that I had a lot of fun while taking the test. I thought the test was excellently written; it was far longer and more difficult than MIT over the past two years and had some very challenging questions. Some say that the test was on the easier side, but I personally felt that it was quite difficult (although I am not quite as good at Astronomy anymore). I especially liked the conceptual nature of the latter half of the test, which seemed to emphasize understanding the topic instead of mindless calculations, complete with cool questions on spectral lines (Saha equation!!), binary system physics, millisecond pulsars, and more. And as always, all of the supervisors were extremely nice and helpful and did an incredible job in running this event well. I love this test, these event supervisors, and practically everything about Astronomy. 7822/10Hovercraft
(4): I woefully neglected the test portion of this event this year, instead focusing solely on the device, the painful memories of my state tournament only too fresh in my mind. Luckily for me, my partner, Justin72835, is far better than me at physics and managed to complete the majority of the test in the ~10 minutes I was gone to test the device, leaving us with plenty of time to double and triple-check our answers. I felt that the build portion was run exceedingly well, complete with well-built tracks and competent, understanding volunteers and proctors (although I was lucky to have an afternoon slot, and by then, usually everyone knows what they're doing and there's no hiccups). The track was a bit tough to work with because of how smooth it was, but such is the nature of the event, where adapting to different surfaces is merely another part of a very difficult build portion. The test was slightly on the easier side, but I think that's mainly because the event supervisor wanted a spread of easy, medium, and difficult questions. However, some of the questions of the test were reused from the year before, which I generally don't prefer, but it is a small matter in the end. In all, the test seemed moderately difficult, but nothing too hard or out of the ordinary.
If there was anything I would change about how this event was run, it would be the impound process. From my past experiences with Hovercraft impound (e.g. MIT this year), I tried to arrive very early so I wouldn't spend an inordinate amount of time waiting and risk missing part of my first event. However, impound for both divisions was run in the same place, and many other teams had the same idea as I did. I arrived at the room at about 6:45am, a full 15 minutes before impound even started, and there were ~40 teams in front of me. In all, I ended up spending ~50 minutes for impound (although about 15 of those were spent fixing some mesh stuff the event supervisor wanted me to correct). I don't know if there is anything that can really be done about this; there's simply a lot of teams (120 for both divisions) and the device has a lot of construction parameters, which means that impound for Hovercraft is inherently a time consuming process. Furthermore, there's only a finite amount of volunteers, and everyone is only trying their best. In the end, it's a small matter and doesn't detract from the quality of the event. 8/10Optics
(2): My time doing Optics has been one filled with countless failures, so having one triumph at the end was perhaps the most satisfying part of my nationals experience. The LSS was run perfectly; I can't think of a single way it could possibly be improved. The mirrors were perfectly made, the base was magnetic, the walls were straight, and the proctors were incredibly knowledgeable and methodical. One thing I especially liked was how they handled the covers for the mirrors: you were allowed to place the mirror on the LSS without the cover as long as you put the cover on immediately after. A lot of the time, the covers can interfere with being able to place the mirrors accurately, so this appeared to be a fair solution that still prevented teams from cheating by looking in the mirrors. The test was straightforward and covered a lot of physics, not trivia. I think the test could have been much harder (and could have had a lot more trivia, but I only say that because I especially focused on trivia stuff after getting destroyed by it so frequently), but overall, it appeared to separate the teams well enough. 9/10WIDI
(1): I have competed in WIDI twice at nationals and both times, it has been run impeccably. There is nothing I would improve about this event at all; the event supervisors are incredibly competent and do an amazing job of running this event, which can be quite challenging logistically. A few of the numerous things I liked about how this event was run:
- The structure was HARD, although admittedly much easier than the 2016 structure in my opinion. It undoubtedly favors accuracy and technical skill over speed.
- We received the writing in folders, preventing doers from reading the instructions beforehand and gaining a bit of an upper hand there
- Although the writers and doers were told to meet at a certain room, the actual writing and doing were done in other rooms, preventing other teams from hearing about what was going on/inadvertently glimpsing the structure and possibly gaining an advantage
- While waiting for the writing, we were given the chance to mess around with the materials and make sure we had everything
My partner is far better at WIDI than I am; in the four years he's done this event at nationals, he's only gotten a non-gold medal once, which was in 2016 when I did it with him (4th). I'm happy that in our senior year, I was able to get him back to first place, where he belongs. 10/10