Cal Poly Robotics Roadtrip

At the last minute, I decided to join my boyfriend in his weekend plans. It was Open House weekend at his alma mater, Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo, and also the twentieth anniversary of a robotics competition he once helped run. This is a good time to apologize for all of the details of this wonderful experience I mess up, there was so much to take in and it was all new to me! As always, I will write what I experienced but keep in mind that this weekend was all about Sean and I was merely an observant bystander 🙂

Friday morning we hopped in the car fairly early to push through LA traffic as quickly as possible. We had a few close calls with fellow drivers in a hurry to escape for the weekend, and even had to call 911 to report an accident that happened right in front of us, but we arrived unharmed in the early afternoon. We didn’t have too many set plans for the weekend, so we started off with a walking tour of the town of San Luis Obispo. I thought it was adorable with its winding creek, local coffee shops, and great weather. It helped that we had lunch at Firestone Grill, which is known for AMAZING tri-tip sandwiches. I can confirm this, 100%. The pulled pork and seasoned fries were exceptional as well! After walking off our full bellies, we checked into our hotel in Pismo Beach before heading to the first planned event of the weekend.


So in college, Sean was vice president of the IEEE Computer Society that hosted a competition every year. Teams built robots to perform a particular task, which changed over the years, and then competed during Open House weekend each spring. Most teams were composed of Cal Poly students but there were a mix of computer science, mechanical engineering, etc. majors who participated, many for their senior projects. Anyway, this was the twentieth year so the alumni were invited back to check out the event. Friday night, the participants were allowed to practice on the course and make any modifications necessary to get them ready for the next day. We enjoyed light refreshments while catching up with other former club members and while looking at the projects. Then a few of us headed back into town for a drink and to continue hanging out. It was really fun for me to hear some stories about Sean back in the day and to get to meet several of his college friends. There were even a few classic photos shared 🙂


Saturday morning, Sean and I wanted to get in a long(ish) run to help shake out our legs in preparation for the La Jolla Half Marathon we have coming up this weekend. We did a fairly hilly six miles through Grover Beach before calling it a day. Our legs are still both having a decent amount of pain as we adjust to new training plans and try to nurse our injuries. Then it was back to campus for the main competition and I have to admit that I was really excited! I had picked out a few favorites from the night before and was interested to see what the other teams we hadn’t seen would bring to the table. The task this year was to move as many rings from horizontally mounted posts across the table and place them on vertically oriented posts. It was a head-to-head, double-elimination bracket with three minute rounds.



After nice introductions from the Dean and President, competition was underway! We watched the entire first round of battles before needing a stretch break, so we ventured out into the courtyards in search of food. More tri-tip was consumed in the sunshine before heading back inside the gym. There were tons of booths set up from various engineering clubs, organizations, and majors so we looked through those as well. The student MCs did a great job commentating the battles, so even non-engineers like myself had some idea what was happening and why certain robots were or weren’t doing what they were programmed to do. Some spun in circles, others lost wheels, but overall the robots were really impressive while completing their tasks. It was interesting to see how the teams chose to attack the task at hand and the top robots were super stream-lined and efficient! We were a little disappointed that a company team ended up winning, but the students did an outstanding job as well.


The rest of our Saturday was spent exploring campus, checking out new buildings, driving through areas that Sean hadn’t seen before, and spending some time in the Engineering alumni beer and wine garden. Again, the weather was absolutely perfect and it was really relaxing to just go with the flow and not really have a set plan. At the same time, I got to see a new college campus and hear tons of stories from Sean about his time spent there. Saturday evening we drove back to Pismo after saying good-bye to his friends and enjoyed a nice seafood dinner at Brad’s Diner. Everything was really fresh and delicious and the icing on the cake was having Trivial Pursuit cards on each table to entertain us while we waited. Between our run that morning and walking all over campus that afternoon, our legs were quite tired from the 20,000+ steps we’d already taken, so we called it an earlier night and went back to the hotel to relax.


Sunday we were up early again to hit the road, but we lucked out with traffic through Santa Barbara and LA, making it home in just enough time to suit up for our kickball double header. The only downside to this weekend for me was that it made me miss Charlottesville and my UVA family, but in a good way. Maybe I’ll have to bring Sean to Reunions Weekend next summer to show him around, lol. As with most weekend trips, it seemed like too much time driving and not enough time at Cal Poly. But we have already decided that another trip to SLO will need to get on the books, because there are some great hikes, beaches, and wineries we want to check out and some other friends we missed seeing this trip. Overall, I had a blast and learned a lot about Sean (and robots), so I deem it a success! Have a great Monday and hopefully I’ll be able to write again this week 🙂


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