Out of the many challenges our team goes up against in the course of the season, recently we were faced with something none of us expected. On Friday, November 30th, a massive 7.0 earthquake shook Alaska, originating less than 10 miles north of Anchorage, where our team is based. This was a struggle for each of us in our own lives and homes, as well as being a hurdle for the team. The building at the University of Alaska Anchorage where we meet was closed for five days due to possible structural damage, and sustained cosmetic damage in several places, with drywall broken and ceiling and floor tiles broken. Other buildings had been impacted with water damage from broken pipes.
However, UAA did not get the worst of it. All schools in the Anchorage School District were closed until Monday, December 10th, as a result of the structural damage and necessary repairs. As such, FLL and FTC competitions were forced into cancelation, leaving only one FLL qualifier in Anchorage and the first FTC competition in 2019, at the beginning of the FRC build season, which will cause complications for the many students that are involved in both FRC and FTC.
The damage to the schools and the closure had other adverse effects too. Students could not enter the buildings to work on robots, and at Dimond High School, an entire computer lab is down to water damage and a band saw was broken during the violent tremors. At Polaris k-12 School, one science classroom lost all of their glassware, and a large crack appeared that crossed the entire school. As well, all classes at every school are behind, due to the week of missed school.
Be that as it may, students faced the greatest problems at home. Several roads were entirely shattered, most of the population of Anchorage lost power, and due to water pipe breakages, an advisory was released telling residents to boil all water before drinking because of possible contaminants. No one was exempt from having their house made into a horrific mess, as items, many of great personal and sentimental value, fell off of shelves and shattered or broke. In some parts of town houses were literally coming apart, and several houses burned down, although thankfully no one was injured. Additionally, aftershocks reaching as high as 4 or 5 on the Richter Scale continue to regularly shake Anchorage, and are predicted to due so for the next two years. Already, there have been thousands of aftershocks, each one heightening the stress and anxiety that many of us have been feeling.
Despite this, we have come together to help each other and our fellow residents to get along and to rebuild and recuperate after the disaster. Like every other challenge our team has faced, we have and continue to conquer it and grow from our experience, and help others in the process. At first glance, the earthquake seemed to bring bring only pain – but we have used it build strength and bring our community closer than ever before.