Friday, August 10, 2018

What we bought - July 2018

We often get asked what we purchase to prepare for the season, etc. So we thought we would run down some of our July 2018 purchases.

WEN 3410 3-Speed Remote-Controlled Air Filtration System

This was added to go along with our laser cutter to cut down on some of the smells from cutter plastic and wood on the laser cutter. It should also help with some of the 3D printer fumes and the general dust that is generated in the lab.

IWISS Crimping Tools for Dupont
We needed a new crimping tool for crimping PWM connectors and the latching PWM connectors that we use for our CAN cables. This seemed to get very good reviews and was reasonably priced. 

We need some extra countersinks and this set seemed go enough for what need it for. A few different sizes and enough that we can some lend them out or lose some and not worry about it.

Mophorn 1800W Electric Brushless DC Motor Kit 48V
This one isn't FRC related at all. The plan for this is to start testing it for using it for the Power Wheel Racing Series. The idea is to build a couple small Go-Karts as a fall project to prepare the team for building FRC robots. We can use a lot of the same build techniques that we need for FRC in a fun way.

OTG Safety Glasses and Cleaning Wipes
Just some restock for the coming the year.

Fire HD 8 TabletWe already mentioned these in a previous post but we bought Fire HD 8s to use for scouting next season.

We also purchased a USB Charger Station for that them as well.

Aibecy Intelligent Biometric Fingerprint Password Attendance Machine
Simple way to keep track of team hours. It has a learning curve but we were able to get all the names loaded in and then start loading finger prints. We also made a quick google sheet to take the text file we can download off the machine and view everyone's hours. You do have to pull the data off with a thumb drive every time.

TinaWood SSR-40DA 40A Solid State Relay DC to AC 40A
This is for a project that will likely get it's own blog post. We converted the heated bed on our Airwolf 3D printer to us an AC Heater. That lets us dramatically reduce the time it needs to heat up letting us print parts faster.
A couple other items from that project 
5 PCS SF214E SEFUSE Thermal Cutoffs
10 Amp Glass Fast Blow fuses 5 X 20MM

We want to be able to have better photos and also back grounds for when we do event casts. So we purchased.
- LimoStudio 10Ft Adjustable Backdrop Support System Stand
- Green Screen
- White Screen
- Black Screen

Gigabyte Geforce GTX 1050 Ti OC Low Profile
The computer we use for streaming events and sometimes for CAD work needed a new graphics card. It's in a low profile rack mount case so we went with a Geforce 1050 TI low profile. It's enough power for what we need at a reasonable price, we got it as an Amazon Warehouse deal which are normally just damaged packaging or returned items but usually work well. 

Aurum Ultra Series - High Speed HDMI Cable (50 Ft)
At some point this year we lost our other two 50ft HDMI cables so we needed to get replacements at around $20 each these seemed like a good price for a well reviewed cable.

DJI osmo mobile 2 Handheld Smartphone Gimbal
We have had some issues with shaky video footage in the past and wanted to help solve that. The DJI gimbal is pretty cheap and with the quality of smart phone video now its easy enough to use one instead of a DSLR on a stabilizer or a much more expensive gimbal. 

These will be used when we have commentators on live streams or when doing any other skype calls or shows. Also used for recording voice overs.

- Spectrum

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Scouting Tablets and Storage

Amazon Fire HD 8

Spectrum is moving to a digital scouting system next year. We purchased 9 Amazon Fire HD 8 tablets on Prime Day for around $420 total.

We worked on a quick system to get all the software installed on the tablets and configured and a storage solution for them as well.


Install Script for APKs

We wrote a quick batch script to install all the APKs located in a folder using ADB (Android Device Bridge).

Here is the link to our folder of APKs, the necessary ADB files, and our script.
You can download any other APK and have it install on your device as well. For us we installed the Google Play store and necessary dependencies, several FRC scouting apps, Google Drive, Excel, etc. We also installed launcherhijacker and Nova launcher to make them feel more like stock android tablets. You will need to make sure you enable USB debugging in the developer options of your table. 

Building the Dividers with the new laser cutter


You can download the CAD model for this assembly here.
Grabcad link

We laser cut the wood on our new ThunderLaser laser cutter and assembled it. The parts fit nicely together and we didn't even need wood glue since it won't be under much load.

We spray painted it black and we also laser cut some carpet/felt to line the dividers to protect the screens.


We used spray adhesive to keep the fabric on to the sides of the dividers.

The dividers all fit inside a 15 Qrt Sterlite bin


We are going to add a 10 port USB charger that uses an external 12V power adapter so that we can charge the tablets using that power supply or by making a cable to connect it to a FRC battery while we are in the stands at competition.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Spectrum - This Fri and Sat - FRC All-Star Game

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Indiana Robotics Invitational July 13-14

Watch the action live:

Event Results and Matches: The Blue Alliance

Spectrum is heading up to Indianapolis for the 2018 Indiana Robotics Invitational, 70 of the best teams from around North America will be attending. This Spectrum's 3rd appearance at IRI and we are excited to see and compete with so many great teams.

The action will start at 9am Friday and Saturday and wrap around 5pm both days. 

Follow along on social media (links below) for updates, photos and videos from the event. 

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Service/Outreach Opportunities

Getting students excited about Robotics is one of the most important things we do! 

Summer is the perfect opportunity for new students to join the team. If you know someone who might enjoy being on the team, have them come help out to TRI and our outreach activities. Great time to learn!

Sign up for the Summer Events Here a great way to get service hours for NHS, etc:

  • Solarcraft Tour and Demonstration: June 19th Sign Up
  • Collaborative Partnership between Microsoft & Spectrum 3847 -  Throughout the summer. The Championship judges recognized our work with Microsoft. This year, the students will help teach programming with an Ohbot, a programmable robotic head,  that encourages children to experiment with making, computer programming and interacting with their environment through technology. 
  • SPECTaculaR - First two weeks of August (tent) Two week free summer camp benefiting the Boys & Girls Club. Since 2012 our students have designed and implemented a curriculum for SPECTaculaR, a summer robotics program at the Spring Branch Boys and Girls Club that teaches engineering principles to children in the third to eighth grades.
2018 Season Highlights

Summer Tournaments:

  • Indiana Robotics Invitational - IRI. The 2017 Indiana Robotics Invitational is Friday and Saturday, July 14 – 15. Leaving Jul 11 (wed) returning Jul 15 (Sun). Trip will be $350 please pay as soon as you can. It's possible that it ends up being $400 if we don't fill out the bus with enough people.

Need for Summer Socials:

If you would like to host a bbq/pool party, please let us know. We have done these every summer but we need a host for this year. We could also have a parent plan some type of activity like bowling/paintball/ice skating, etc.

Thank you!
If you have any questions, please contact us.

Allen Gregory IV
Spectrum 3847 Engineering Coach/Mentor

Jacob Walker
Spectrum 3847 Mentor

Suanne Bouvier
Spectrum 3847 Marketing Mentor

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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Projector Speaker Stand Mounts

As we prepare for our off-season event we are updating part of our AV system. One of the things we really like is being able to easily mount our projectors on to speaker stands so that we can adjust their height and angle quickly. We make custom mounting solutions to be able to do this.

We start by CADing the whole pattern for the mounting screws on the bottom of each projector.
This mounting pattern also includes holes to mount it to a TV Wall Mount. We route the pattern into a piece of 1/2" plywood using our CNC router. We use the TV wall mount to give us some angle adjustment on the projector.

TV Mount
Here is the TV Wall mount that we use.

It has worked well for us for the past 3 season of events.

We secure the small mounting plate of the mount to the wooden plate. The large portion of the mount is bolted to a speaker stand mount. 

Speaker Stand Mount

This lets us quickly put our projectors on to speakers stands and adjust their height and angle. With some lens shift and keystone adjustment we are always able to be get a good angle to the screen using this setup.

Here are the 3 projectors that we own.

We mount them on large speaker stands so that they have a stable base and get extra height if needed.

Here is the projector mounted for the 2017 NTX Off-season

Here is a picture of the complete setup in action at the 2017 Remix event.

- Spectrum

"Much ingenuity with a little money is vastly more profitable and amusing than much money without ingenuity." - Arnold Bennett

Monday, April 9, 2018

Alamo Regional Champions

Gold medal awarded to Spectrum 3847, the St. Agnes and Strake Jesuit engineering team, at FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Alamo Regional Competition in San Antonio. Team advances to Championships.

Houston, TX, April 9, 2018 - - Spectrum 3847, the St. Agnes and Strake Jesuit engineering team, FIRST Robotics Team Spectrum 3847 won the Alamo Regional Competition held in San Antonio. The team is now heading to the World Championships for the fifth year.

Spectrum 3847 competed against 51 other teams from across Texas and some from Oklahoma and as far as away Beijing, China. The competition was fierce and intense, but the students did an amazing job. Of the 52 teams competing, Spectrum 3847 was ranked 1 with a record of 15-2-0.

As the #1 Alliance Captain, Spectrum chose San Antonio’s Team 3481 - Bronc Botz and Team 5726 - RHUMBOTZ. The alliance remained undefeated through the quarterfinals and semifinals. They went on to win two of three matches in the finals, crowning them Winners of the 2018 Alamo Regional competition. The regional win is the first for Spectrum. Also, Spectrum was awarded the Industrial Design Award sponsored by General Motors. The award celebrates form and function in an efficiently designed machine that effectively addressed the game challenge.

“I am so proud of our team for winning the FIRST Alamo Regional Competition. They worked so hard on our robot Infrared 2018. We look forward to the global competition at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston from April 18 to 21, 2018. It’s free admission. Over 30,000 people from around the globe will travel to Houston for the world's largest robotics competition, celebrating STEM and innovation.” said Spectrum 3847 Coach/Mentor Allen Gregory IV.

Upcoming Competitions
  • FIRST World Championships is April 18 to 21 , 2018 at the George R. Brown Convention, Houston, TX.
  • Texas Robotics Invitational - Jun 28 - Jun 30, 2018 Spectrum 3847 will be hosting the off season tournament.

About Spectrum #3847

Spectrum is a FIRST Robotics Team #3847 from Houston, Texas. The team is made up of high school students from St. Agnes Academy and Strake Jesuit College Preparatory two Catholic college preparatory schools in southwest Houston, Texas. St. Agnes is all-girls, and Strake Jesuit is all-boys. and They work together to spread engineering to others, build robots, and have fun. The team is recognized for their hard work, community outreach, teamwork, and promoting Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) through robotics workshops, service, & mentoring in Texas and China and their use of social media: Instagram, Blog, Tumblr, Flickr, You Tube, Twitter & Facebook.

The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting Mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership. FRC is a six-week competition program for high-school students to build 120 pound (54 kg) robots with help from their mentors, both teachers and engineers from a variety of companies. The students learned about engineering, programming, marketing, media, teamwork, cooperation, and much more. Each team is organized like a small business with many different tasks for students to do in addition to robot construction. Teams have only been working on their robots since January 6, 2018 when the game was revealed to all the teams.

It’s a gold medal! Congratulations to Spectrum 3847, St. Agnes Academy and Strake Jesuit College Preparatory high school students, for winning the Alamo Regional Competition. They are advancing to the Championships at the George R. Brown Convention Center, April 18 to 21, 2018.

Spectrum 3847’s “Infrared” robot for the 2018 FIRST Robotics Competition


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Practicing and FIRST $10,000

We have been getting in a lot of practice with the practice robot. The arm is faster now and we are getting better at controlling everything and stacking.

Practicing our Switch Game

Getting Better at Stacking

New Organizers from Amazon

We are very excited that Amazon now has these, so that we can stop buying green and yellow organizers. These seem to solve multiple of our problems with some of the other cases, and don't appear to come with any annoying stickers on the clear covers. We will be buying many of these throughout the year. 

FIRST $10,000

We have began working on improving our FIRST $1000 document by adding on a FIRST $10,000 which is the idea of what tools would we buy if we were starting a new team and had $10,000 to spend on equipment.

Spectrum FIRST $10,000

Hopefully this will help some teams find tools and equipment to get them started. This is still a living document so it may be updated regularly. 

- Spectrum

"Once you start a working on something, don't be afraid of failure and don't abandon it. People who work sincerely are the happiest." - Chanakya

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Pre Lone Star Central Update

Quick update, the robot design has stayed the same we have just been finding things to fix and getting subsystems tweaked and ready.

Lone Star Central

We compete next weekend (March 15-17) at the Lone Star Central Regional. It's nice that's its only a few hundred yards from our lab. Infrared will be ready for the big weekend and we are happy to be able to welcome so many of our friends to our campus for the competition. 


The tailgate is out for now, probably won't be made until after championship. It will be fun lifting partners in the off-season but for now we are going to focus on climbing around our partners.

Visit to 118

We got to take the practice bot to 118's shop the weekend after bag day. It was our first time driving it around the full field. It showed some promise, but it definitely need a lot of tweaks before it could reach it's potential. 

Dallas Regional

We split up this weekend with some of our team heading up to the Dallas regional to learn how the game is played and the other half staying at our school to run our Spring Fling Maker Faire and demo our robot.

The Dallas regional is awesome we got to see a lot of friends including 118, 148, 1296, 2848, and 3005 who we won't get to play with this year until South Champs. Congrats to all those teams for awesome performances this weekend. 
We took almost 1500 photos at the event so if you're team was their or you just want to look at cool robots have a look through the gallery. 

Spring Fling Maker Faire

This was our 2nd Annual Maker Faire at our school's Spring Fling Scholarship Faire. We had fun demoing the robot, making art robots, and we also had a police robot to come demonstrate as well.

Robot Demo

Art Robots


The puncher tests have been going well. We should be able to shoot most of the first layer of cubes and it will also help speed up autonomous cube scoring. 

Notes from Allen

Take aways from watching Week 1

  1. This game is about scoring cubes fast, it seems obvious but it's now backed up by match play.
  2. #NoParking, it's 5 points don't park for 30 secs when you could put more cubes in the vault or take the switch or scale for 5+ secs. Also don't park/climb all three when you have levitate, it makes you look foolish.
  3. Partner climbs seed you high they don't win you the event. It's only 30 points (compared to a solo climb) if it takes 30+ secs for 2 plus robots to do it, are their better ways to get those 30 pts during playoffs? If there isn't have you already won the match and now are you risking breaking something by dropping a robot? If we see partner climbs get way faster, this is a completely different story.
  4. Auto is king, again obvious but now backed up with actual match play.
  5. Defense will get interesting but like most years, very few teams will play it well and Einstein will still be won by the best offensive robots but smart defense can turn matches. Stopping a team from scoring a cube is almost as effective as placing another cube that keeps the scale/switch on your side for that same amount of time. Possibly more so if your scale plate is full.
  6. Some penalties just don't matter, assume you are going to get some penalties every match. Pushing multiple cubes into the exchange, a five point penalty that immediately gets you more than that back. Also few matches are won or loss by 5 points. It seems impossible to know what is actually being called for a large percentage of penalties and they aren't being called consistently (yet, hopefully)
  7. 7. All omni drive train seemed to work pretty well.

On that note, Robots I liked this week. (Didn't watch a lot of video since i went up to watch Dallas)1. 7179 was an absolute blast to watch, very sad they won't be at champs. If anyone isn't happy with their robot and wants to rebuild I think this is the model. The thing weighed less than 60lbs, you could probably strip the COTS and carry the whole thing in as withholding. If every 3rd was like this robot, this game would be crazy. They scored 16+ cubes in at least one match. That number is breaking scouting sheets.2. 3538 Robojackets (played at Southfield district) built an awesome robot, we had sketched the side lift, with 180 degree wrist, early in the season and just didn't think we could build it. I'm very glad someone did and got it working well.

- Spectrum

"If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking, eventually you'll make progress." - Barack Obama