FIRST Championship in Houston, TX – Counselor Highlight

As an Admission Counselor at Harvey Mudd College, it is no surprise that I have read my fair share of robotics essays and have seen the word “FIRST” or the acronyms “FRC,” “FTC,” or “FLL” in the activities list of a students application. I thought I got the gist of it- students build a robot… right?

First logo outside of the venue

Every year, teams (and teens) from across the world venture to Houston, TX for the FIRST Championships hosted by FIRST!

So when I was tasked with attending the FIRST Championships in 2022, I thought I knew what to expect – boy was I wrong! The world of FIRST was so much bigger than I have anticipated! I was blown away… so much so that I forgot to document anything that I was experiencing (ahem, a rookie mistake if I do say so myself). So, when I got my Spring travel assignments and saw Houston, Texas on my list – I knew I would do my social media duty and BLOG! So, if you have ever been curious about the life of an Admission Counselor, are interested in FIRST, or (my personal favorite) are a foodie… this blog is right for you.

Day One:

First things first (lol get it), I have to take a flight from CA to TX! I typically fly Southwest so I get to watch movies on the plane! On the flight over, I watched The Whale and A Man Called Otto – and cried on the plane (#powermove). Once I landed, I got a Lyft to the hotel and got some great food recs from my driver! I walked to a food hall near my hotel for dinner and then walked to another food hall for dessert.

Dinner from Mexicology.

Ice cream for dessert!

Day Two:

I started my morning by visiting a coffee shop for breakfast before heading to the George Brown Convention Center for the college fair.

Avocado toast and coffee.

Breakfast at Common Grounds Uncommon Coffee in Houston!

FIRST hosts a college fair at the Championships and since Harvey Mudd has a partnership with the organization (see our FIRST Scholarship) we get a spot!

My table is ready for visitors!

The college fair takes place throughout the event, which allows students to check out colleges in between competing or during breaks. While I stayed at my table for most of the fair, I was able to walk around the venue and take in the excitement of the competition happening all around me! When it was time for lunch, my voice was feeling sore so I visited a near by grocery store and got a soup/sandwich combo. The college fair went from 10am – 4pm. I met with quite a few students who had never heard about Mudd before, and some who are planning on attending this fall!

Delicious sushi from Fukuoka Sushi Bar and Grill.

Cookie truffle from Tiff’s Treats!

When the event closed, I walked back to my hotel before figuring out what to do for dinner. I found Houston to be a pretty walkable city (despite the humidity). After some scrolling on Yelp, I decided to walk to a sushi place that my Lyft driver recommended – it was really good! As some may know, I have a sweet tooth- so I had to get dessert after dinner.

I found a sweet shop a few blocks away from the sushi restaurant. I walked to pick up some goodies and headed back to my hotel room for the night.

Day Three:

On the second day of the fair, I had to check out of my hotel room before heading to the venue. Luckily, my hotel let me store my suitcase until my departure so I didn’t need to carry around my luggage all day. Before the fair, I stopped for a matcha at a local coffee shop and finished the leftovers I had saved from the day before. My booth had a good amount of visitors on the second day, so I was pretty busy from start to finish. I ended up running out of materials to give to students right around the time I needed to pack up for my flight- so it worked out very well!

Quick airport dinner before my first flight home.

Once at the airport, I did my laps and searched for something to eat. Houston’s airport is huge – with 4 different terminals that are connected by a Skyway. Each terminal has different shops and restaurants, and serves different airlines. I eventually settled on PizzaHut – which I was not expecting, yet met my craving. I finished my meal just in time to board my first flight. On my way to Las Vegas, I finished A Man Called Otto and watched The Photograph.

Airport snack before my final flight – Jamba Juice!

Finally, I was on the final stretch. One of my favorite airport snacks is Jamba Juice smoothies. I had been to the Las Vegas airport before, and knew exactly where I needed to go on my short layover. I got a pomegranate smoothie, a waffle, and headed to my gate. I had a few moments to charge my phone and recharge via snacks before my last flight home.

And there you have it – FIRST, food, and some fun in Houston!