Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Working on our projects

We are continuing to work on our summer projects.

Here is the draft of our camp curriculum. We only have a week and half before we start and there is still a lot to do.

We have had a lot of requests to help\start FLL teams next year and a few VEX teams as well. We're very excited to be mentoring teams not just in FRC next year. Hopefully we will be able to take Ultraviolet (our robot) on a lot of demonstrations this summer.

We also should be releasing our 2012 build log within the next week or so. (Mostly what was already in the blog but updated a little bit.)

This week is also our end of year celebrations; we had a party last night and paintball tomorrow. Lots of team bonding.

Engineering Links of the Week

- Spectrum

“People who go to work to be a part of the cause don’t go home. They are home.
Now - who wants to quit?” - Simon Sinek

Friday, May 25, 2012

Summer Project Plans

Our meeting yesterday ended up generating this list of summer tasks. Some of it won't get done, but hopefully we will be able to knockoff a great deal of it.

Beginning of Summer (Due by June 22th)

Lego Camp

  • How to build our Cart
  • Vision White Paper
  • Simple guide to using Sharp IR Range Finders
    • How to make the cables
    • the formula David wrote to make the output linear
  • Build Season Log
    • Copy the Build Log into a document so it can be easily published

Promoting Robotics (Starting Teams)
  • Guide to different robotics events (Shows all the different competition in Houston)
  • FLL Flyer
  • VEX Flyer
  • Contact Schools
Improve Robot for Round Up


Middle of Summer (Due By July 28th)
Improve Robot for Round Up

Business Plan (Very Very Important)

Volunteer Project

  • How to build our Pit
  • Setting up the Beaglebone to work with the cRIO (and Raspberry Pi?)
  • Guides to starting teams in each different competition and contact info for that competition 

Mentor Workshop

  • Intro to CAD
  • Intro to Programming
  • Intro to Pneumatics
  • Intro Graphic Design

End of Summer (Due by start of school)

  • Spectrum Construction process (Lots of holes with rivets, same size drill bit, angle pieces attached to flat pieces for angles, etc.) (Ruth and Michael)
  • Public Calendar of Houston Robotic Events, every tournament in one place
    • Online
    • Printable Handout
  • Intro to VEX Design (Start VEX Designs)
  • Other classes/presentations that people want

Begin Work on Mock Kickoff/Welcome to FRC Day
  • Day in November where we invite rookie teams to come learn about FIRST
  • Show them an old Kickoff Video and talk to them about sample rules and how to brainstorm strategies and robot design.

Freshman Orientation

Other Ideas

Engineering Links of the Week
Electronics tear downs

"Good plans shape good decisions. That's why good planning helps to make elusive dreams come true." - Lester Robert Bittel

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Our Early Summer Priorities

We have four priorities right now.

1. Lego Robotics Summer Camp
We have our 5 Lego Mindstorms NXT kits that are loaned to us by FRC#2587 the Discobots and their non-profit organization Mentor Search. We are working on organizing the kits into containers so they will be easy to build with. We also are working on figuring out the curriculum and will be developing that further.

Some of the camp details
We will be running a two week long camp at the Spring Branch Family Development Center Boys and Girls Club. This camp will include 4 sessions of 16 students each. The camps will give the students a good idea of several engineering concepts focusing on sensor and programming development of the NXT robots.. Each student will have approximately 15 total hours of class time. We will also have roughly 8 team members at the camp each day so we can have a lot of one on one interaction with the students. The camp will be held June 11th-22nd.

2. Helping Start New Teams
This is a project that will be on going for a very long time. Our goal is to grow robotics programs at more Houston schools. Our main focus is on First Lego League because there are a huge number of elementary schools and the resources that you have to devote to an FLL team is much smaller than a larger high school program.

We are also hoping to grow VEX teams in high schools that may become a FRC teams in future years. We want to make sure that any FRC team that we help start will be sustained for many years.

If anyone has interest in starting a robotics team in Houston (or the surrounding area) please contact us or if you would just like us to come demo our robot and talk about engineering we would be happy to do that as well.

3. Improving our Robot for Texas Robot Roundup
We have several students who are working on changing several access of the robot to improve it before we compete at Texas Robot Roundup on July 28th.

Our biggest priority is to make our shooter consistent. We learned a lot form teams at Championship and we have several plans for improvements. Including changing our software, our hood design and our conveyor system.

4. End of Year Party
We discussed more of our end of year party plans today.
We decided that we will be having our social on May 29th.
Paintball will be on May 31st.

Those are the main things we are working on right now, we have a few other summer projects but those are moving along a lot slower right now.

Engineering Links of the Week

U.S. Heavy Press Program
- Spectrum

“If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.” ― Yogi Berra

Monday, May 7, 2012

After Action Meeting (Where we go from here)

On Friday we held our After Action Meeting. This is where we talk about things we could have done better as a team during the year. (After championship is sort of like end of the fiscal year for a business).

Here is the link to the presentation that was put together for that meeting from the responses to both our member survey and our parent survey.

First we looked at what we did well.
•Came together as a team
•Had Running Robot in 4 weeks 
•Completed Two Robots in 7 weeks 
•Volunteered at 4 Robotics Events 
•Illuminations and Engineering 101 
•Three FRC Events including Championship 

Overall we had a very successful sophomore season.

The majority of the meeting was spent on improvements both our robot/design process and our outreach and documentation efforts (Chairman's).

It will be easier if you just look at the presentation above for a full list of places we have to improve.

It was also brought up that we have to work to expand the involvement of the parents of team members to make the team stronger.

One of our major outreach activities is going to be a camp at a local Boys and Girls club to teach younger children about robotics. This is going to be led by several of our raising seniors in the middle of June.

Summer Dates
The summer is going to be pretty busy for Spectrum

•June 11th-22nd Robotics Camp at Boys and Girls Club
•June 15th-16th Ozark Mountain Brawl –We aren’t competing here
•July 28th – Texas Robot Round Up, Austin, Texas (Our only off season event of the year (unless we get into IRI)

We did a lot of things right this year but there are still plenty of areas for improvement and we plan to work extremely hard to strengthen those areas.

- Spectrum

"Excellent firms don't believe in excellence - only in constant improvement and constant change." - Tom Peters

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bringing The Blog Back

We stopped updating at the end of build season but we want to get back in the habit of having an easy public source of updates about our team. People may be interested in our off season work as well. These won't be every night, but we're planning on weekly updates.

First let's catch everyone up on our season.

Competition season was amazing for Spectrum, we spent the 5 weeks leading up to Dallas-West working on the practice robot, and preparing for our 1st competition as Spectrum.

The robot work mostly revolved around working on the software and getting used to the robot. We did several things to improve collection but we were never really able to get our shooter consistent since we didn't have an easily accessible practice field. We were able to drive the practice bot at 118's facility on the Saturday before Dallas-West. That was a fantastic experience and we learned several things that we needed to fix on the robot. We also planned the installation of a magic jack on the robot to assist with the triple balance.

The competition planning took up a huge amount of our time; because we had to acquire all the things we needed for a quality pit and put together all of our spirit and logistics items. Also we were planning and rehearsing our Chairman's presentation.

Pit Before and After

Dallas-West was a really great regional, it was awesome to have nearly 80 teams in one venue but still get to play 11 matches. Our robot performed very well and we ended up seeded 8th at the end of qualification and then the 6th seeded alliance captain. We partnered with 456 and 3735 both fantastic alliance partners. We lost to the eventual regional finalist but we played two great matches. Awards ceremony was all that was left and we had entered our Chairman's entry here, going in we didn't think we had much of a shot but the judges saw things differently.

We won the 2012 Dallas-West Chairman's Award as a sophomore team. Very few sophomore teams have ever won this award, by our count only 12. It took a tremendous amount of work by every member of the team to be able to transform and build this team so quickly but it was completely worth it.

We had many more problems at Lone Star than we did at Dallas-West. Thursday was very relaxed but Friday was very stressful because we had to replace our cRIO twice before we were running at the level we were during Dallas-West. This meant that many of the changes were planning to implement never happened as time was spent on fixing cRIO issues. We worked very well Saturday but we fell through the cracks and weren't picked during alliance selection.

We earned a spot at the Championship event because of our Chairman's win. The competition was extremely competitive and due to a very bad match schedule (playing 4 of the top 5 teams in our 9 matches). We were only able to walk away with a 4 and 5 record, no small task with a schedule like ours. However one of those wins was against the 2011 World Champions 254: The Cheesy Poofs. Video of that match is below. We executed our defensive strategy perfectly and were able to prevent them from easily out shooting us.

Thursday and Friday Highlight Reel:

Overall we played very well at Championship and made a great impression for a second year team. Hopefully we will be back in the near future.

Our next update will talk about the area's we plan to improve as a team and our off-season plans.

Next Competition: July 28th Texas Robot Roundup - Anderson High School, Austin, Texas.

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” 
- Johan Wolfgang von Goethe