Sunday, June 17, 2018

Trip Update #4

After the Explore Science competition on Friday, we headed to Rockenhausen for a 24 hour robotics competition. While the Germans didn’t join us for Explore Science, the German Robotics team did join us for the 24 competition. We were all divided up into teams, and each team had at least one German on it. 

The challenge was to design, build, and program a robot that could complete a maze and drop colored blocks on their corresponding colored paper. It seemed easy enough, but we were limited by our supplies as we didn’t know beforehand that we could bring our own supplies in addition to the EV3 kits that they provided us with. 

At first, everyone was fairly optimistic. Within the first hour, most people had a solid idea and had started to build their robot. However, this optimism soon faded as the hours ticked by and more problems were discovered. 

Personally, my team had a hard time programming the robot so it wouldn’t run into the wall. (And spoiler: we weren’t ever able to actually fix it unfortunately.)

To keep ourselves awake, we all chugged coffee and energy drinks. As the sleep deprivation set in, our night was filled with a lot of conversation and talking. Even though we might have complained at times, the competition turned out to be a great way to interact with new people and grow closer to those we already knew. 

When asked about his experience, Hunter Schaefer said, “It was rather fun; I expected it to be boring and tiring, but it was very fun—one of my favorite things I've done in Germany this far. I also got to meet some new people and socialise with friends I already knew. The challenge was well thought out and unexpected. It seemed to be the perfect difficulty for everyone participating.”

The competition came to a close at 3pm when we finally got to test our robots. Each team had two tries, and it was really cool to watch all of the other teams’ robots in action and observe how they decided to tackle the challenge. 

While my team only took 9th place out of 12 teams, the overall winner of the competition was one from our group. 

Despite all the fun we had, by the time we left, we were all glad to be heading home to comfortable beds (at the competition we slept on the floor) so we could catch up on all the sleep we missed during the competition.

Sunday, we went to Hambach castle and toured Neustadt an der Weinstra├če. It was a lot of fun to learn about the history, but it is something that speaks better through pictures, so I’ll leave some I took below.

We’re heading to France now, and I will update you about the trip once we get back. Until then, goodbye. 

(My connection is being spotty so I will upload the pictures later once I get the chance.)

Friday, June 15, 2018

Trip Update #3

On Thursday, we went to Mannheim for Explore Science, and we competed in the tennis ball launcher competition (I can’t remember the actual name of it right now). And I didn’t think to take pictures of our different groups’ projects or to take pictures of the actual competition (sorry) so I’m going to try my best to explain it without visuals.

Basically, at the start, we were given specific distances and heights where a stand with cans on top would be placed. There were two rounds, and each round has a different placement of the stand. On each stand, there are 10 cans stacked, and the goal is to knock as many cans down as possible. Per round, each team got three attempts. Each can that we successfully knocked off the stand was one point. 

Immediately, one group hit a snag after realizing the tennis balls over here are different from the ones in the USA that they had based their machine off of. Luckily for my group, we had made a catapult with a holder that could work for various sizes. 

Unfortunately for us, our projects just could not compare to the sturdy, powerful projects that the other teams had. The most one of our teams were able to hit was four, and my group hit two cans. Other than that, we kept missing (except for when on our third attempt for the second round we hit the cans but not with enough force to knock them off). 

Regardless, it was a lot of fun to walk around the park, do some sightseeing, all the while seeing the ingenious solutions other teams came up with to solve the challenges. (Plus we got snazzy Explore Science shirts. I will include a picture of them later.) 

The competition ended at four, and then we headed back to Kaiserslautern for the rest of the day. 

On Friday, we had the cosmic vacuum (ping pong ball collector) competition for Explore Science. Once again, I didn’t get any pictures, but this time, it was because there was a time crunch as we had to leave the competition (which officially started at 11:30) at 12 so we could get on the train to Kaiserslautern to pick up the German robotics students before heading to Rockenhausen for a 24 hour robotics competition. 

For the ping pong collector, we had three minutes to move around a field to collect as many ping pongs as possible. There were a hundred on the field, and double points were awarded for autonomous. The best a West team was able to do was 27 balls. So not great but considering the restraints we had as we had to fit the projects in our suitcases and then rebuild them in two days, we’re all pretty proud. 

Right now, we’re at the 24 hour robotics competition, and I will update you all after it gets over tonight. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Trip Update #2

For this update, I thought it would be nice to get some different points of view. After all, I am only one of the 15 students on this trip, and I cannot speak for everybody.

As I mentioned in my last update, on Saturday we took a day trip to Trier and Luxembourg. One of the other students was nice enough to tell me a little bit about his takeaway from the trip while also sharing some of the photos he took. Hunter Schaefer wrote, “Triar is a very beautiful city, with lots of religious landmarks; there are churches and a saint atop a fountain that I particularly found interesting. One of the churches I entered was extraordinarily large inside and acted as a sort of religious museum.

“In Luxembourg we took  a tour of the city and saw some high cliffs, a bit of the castle, and the parliament house from the outside.”

On Sunday, we had time to spend with our host families. As a result, everybody did different activities, and a few people were kind enough to tell me about their day. Mason Hancock said, “This past Sunday I visited the Battenburg castle, a 1300 year old fort overlooking the valley. To get there, my family and I hiked approximately 16 kilometers there, stopping once at a small lake called ‘Monster Lake’ to get refreshments. Afterward, we hiked to the top of the mountain, then proceeded to walk along the top to reach the castle. Once there, there was a restaurant actually in the castle, allowing us to dine on bratwurst and salad. After eating, we walked to the top to view the valley, which was a spectacular sight. Once finished, we hiked back, passing through vineyards ripe with grapes for wine, eventually leading to the back garden of my host family's house.”



He wasn’t the only one to visit a castle either. Michael France “went to a pretty neato castle.” When asked more about the experience, he said, “The castle is called Eltz castle and was originally owned by three different families. The castle is still owned by a descendent of the last family to have kept ownership over the last 1000 years. This is also home to the last remaining renaissance bed in all of Germany.”

Brittany Vick went on a boat tour of the Rhine river. “So for me my family has taken me on a tour of the Rhine and we got off the boat at the Rheinstein castle where we hiked up to the castle and participated in the quiz the castle offered like a scavenger hunt. The quiz showed the cultural history of how Germany was. Such as taxes they took on the river to allow boats to go through. After that we hiked down the hill and went through the local village and ate at a local restaurant. There I had speatle (might be spelled wrong ask mom) with cheese which tasted very similar to the equivalent American Mac and cheese. The portion sizes were larger than in America and it tasted much healthier. The grape I had there was made local and tasted fresher and more amazing than welches. I was very surprised to see that in Germany refills costed. Proceeding from that we went back on the boat to go home. The boat ride overall was roughly 4 hours from the ride there to bsck with the ride bsck being the longest. On this tour I got to see all types of old building. Mainly being castles and bishops. Information was told about all of the building and their historical significance. One story I found interesting was a specific hill where it was said that the German equivalence of a siren/mermaid used to trap sailors and cause them to smash into a rock leading to their death.”

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Trip Update #1

I would just like to start off this by saying sorry. I meant to get this post up yesterday, but I accidentally deleted the only copy I had of the post and fell asleep before I could rewrite it.

We arrived at the airport around 4pm on Wednesday and since our flight didn’t take off until 10:35, we played games to keep us busy. Two of our mentors were unable to board the flight because their passports expired in September and to fly to Germany, they couldn’t be within three months of the expiration. Thankfully, everybody else was able to board the plane with no problem. Since it was an over night flight, I slept for most of it. Though I did get a few breathtaking pictures of Chicago and Germany from above.


We’ve been here for a few days now, and it is very different from the USA I must admit. However, everybody over here has been so nice which has definitely helped the transition. On Thursday, our flight landed in Frankfurt a little before 2pm, and we arrived in Kaiserslautern at HHG (the school) after 4pm. There, we met up with our exchange partners and families. As part of our welcoming, they had various foods for us to eat and try; they also had Apfelsaftschorle which is apple juice mixed with carbonated mineral water (and it was actually pretty good).

After that, we left with our exchange partners. I can’t speak for anybody else on this, but my exchange family has been very welcoming. Upon arriving at their house, I was given a tour and shown where I would be staying for the trip. It’s a lot different from what I’m used to for sure, but it is very nice.

I was planning on posting an update that night to inform everybody that we made it safely, but after playing some games with my exchange partner and eating dinner, I was too tired and fell asleep almost immediately.

The next day, Friday, was a school day. HHG is a very big school, and they have very different schedules than what I am used to at Davenport West High School. The teachers were very welcoming and happily allowed us to sit in on the classes. And school got done at 1pm which surprised me as I figured it would until 3 at least since that is what I’m used to.

That night, I got the chance to accompany my exchange partner to Ludwigshafen to see her boyfriend’s orchestra concert. I even got to ride the train which was a cool experience. We didn’t get home until midnight, and even though I had a lot of fun, I was dead tired so I went straight to bed because I knew we had a big day ahead of us.

Yesterday—Saturday—was our trip to Trier and Luxembourg. We started off the morning by meeting at the school. Much to everybody’s delight, the two mentors were able to sort out their passports, and  they made it to Germany and were able to join us for the trip. Originally, the plan was to leave at 8am; however, due to unavoidable problems, our bus was delayed and we had to wait around 30 minutes for it to arrive. The ride from Kaiserslautern to Trier was over an hour which allowed me to relax for a bit as I was very tired from lack of sleep.

In Trier, we went on a guided tour through some of the major landmarks, and after the tour, we were allowed to explore and shop in small groups for around an hour. During this time, I was able to take a lot of pictures, try some new foods, and buy some souvenirs. It was nice to experience the different culture and landscape.

After Trier, we drove to Luxembourg where we were once again given a tour. However, despite th initial delay in the morning, we arrived early and waited a bit for our tour guide. Once he arrived, we drove around part of the city as he explained the significance of what we were seeing. Then, we parked the bus and we walked through the city with the guide. It was pretty hot, and it involved a lot of walking. By the end of it, my feet hurt and my back aches from carrying my backpack around. But it was definitely worth it. After the tour ended, we explored in small groups. My group stumbled across a guy with a RTL sign advertising free hugs, and after a group hug with him, he was kind enough to give us directions to a souvenir shop.

We left Luxembourg around 5:30pm, and it took us around 2 hours to get back the HHG. During the ride back, it actually started to rain heavily and it was rather foggy in some parts. After all the walking (I walked well over 10,000 steps), I was very tired. I tried writing this post on the bus, but as mentioned early, I lost the copy shortly after finishing it. I tried to start rewriting it, but I could not keep my eyes open nor could I focus. Consequently, I decided to wait until today so I could get plenty of sleep.

Now it is Sunday, and this day is purely for spending time with our exchange families. It is still morning as I am writing this, but in a few, my exchange family and I are going to go into Kaiserslautern (they live in a small village) to do some sightseeing. I am very excited to see more of Kaiserslautern as we haven’t had the chance to do much sightseeing there yet.

On a final note, don’t worry—I will upload some more pictures that I have taken so far in a little bit once it’ll finish loading the rest of my pictures. Hopefully, I will also be able to post more in the following days as I try and learn the ins and outs of blogging.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Preparing for Takeoff

Well it’s officially the day before we leave which means a lot of last minute packing and stress. But there is still an undeniable excitement in the air.

For the past few months, we have been working on projects for the Explore Science competition we will be participating in over there. It’s one of the many activities we will be doing as part of our youth exchange with Davenport’s sister city, Kaiserslautern. In fact, as a part of this exchange, we will be taking part in many STEM related activities while in Germany. The hope is that this trip will help reopen the youth exchange between the two sister cities.

This trip is very unique because only around one third of the 15 students going have taken German as a foreign language, and this is new territory for GAPP (German American Partnership Program). Nevertheless, Herr Kohl, the German teacher at West High School and one of the adults going on this trip, has been giving basic German lessons to everyone going. For those who have taken German, this is an opportunity to practice speaking it; for everyone--regardless of what foreign language they study--this is a once in a life time opportunity to build relationships and broaden horizons while also learning about a different culture and landscape.

For more information on what we will be doing while we're there, I have inserted an image of the current schedule as of June 4th below.

Trip Update #4

After the Explore Science competition on Friday, we headed to Rockenhausen for a 24 hour robotics competition. While the Germans didn’t joi...