Thursday, February 28, 2013

Post Build Day 8

The posts will be less frequent now that build season is over but don't think that means we haven't been working. We have been working every day to improve our shooting and doing driving practice. We are also still developing our hanger. We know how it works; we don't have a graceful implementation that will let us go under the pyramid and still hang for 10. We'll have something made up for Lone Star but it'll probably change throughout the season.

A couple things that have happened recently.
1. We were selected to receive a grant from National Instruments to support our team. We're very happy to have the support of such an awesome organization that supports FIRST in so many ways.

2. Our mentor Allen Gregory was on Stafford TV for our role at the Houston Mini Maker Faire. You can watch the clip here.

This weekend we are very busy.
1. Ultimate Ascent starts tomorrow there are events around the country and one in Lubbock. Many of our friends (3310, 1296, 2848, 2468, 16, etc.) will be competing there. We're very excited to see the game played for the first time and we wish all the teams competing this weekend the best of luck. We'll be watching webcasts and checking results from all the events.

2. Tomorrow we will be at the Houston Society of Materials Engineers conference spreading FIRST to as many people as we can. Our plan is to invite all of these engineers back to George R. Brown next week for the Lone Star Regional.

3. Saturday we are running the last leg of the Houston ISD VEX Robotics League. We'll finally crown a champion. We'll have a lot of students on hand volunteering as always. We ref, MC, score keep, queue, etc, pretty much all of it is handled by Spectrum students.

4. Preparations for Lone Star. We are finalizing our Chairman's presentation and video, working on the practice bot and getting driver practice (floor collection is amazingly fast). We are putting together our gift bags for the other teams. We are organizing tools and preparing the pit stuff, getting our spirit items together, and putting together our scouting system. There is a lot going on and not much time to finish it.

- Spectrum

"Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted. And experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer." - Randy Pausch

Friday, February 22, 2013

Post Build Day 2

Yesterday was our day off. The only official day off of the entire competition season. There will be a few more, but that is the only one known about ahead of time.

Chairman's Submission
We posted our Chaimrna's Submission on Tuesday, but we didn't link to in the blog.

3847's Chairman's Award Submission for 2013 we'll be entering at Lone Star this year since it's our first regional. We had a large group of team members working very hard to complete every piece of it and we're very proud of what they put together. Also attached is our updated business plan which will be judged for the first time this year as we didn't have one last season.

Practice Robot
We're getting the practice robot back up and running. We found some build errors with he drive train on the practice robot that we are correcting and we are upgrading it's cable carrier system for the lift. The shooter/collector box is still getting improved. We are trying different paddle systems to avoid the slight issue we are having with discs not always shooting on the first try.

We have exactly two weeks of driver practice and we are going to need all of it to be competitive at Lone Star. The field is stacked with fantastic teams that will be bringing great machines to the competition. Our friends down in Clear Lake (118) released their robot today and we have to say it's something very special.

- Spectrum

"You have no control over what the other guy does. You only have control over what you do." -A J Kitt

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


We finished up the official build season today by fixing our bottom hard stop for our shooter tilt and getting in some driver practice. Our drive train is performing very nicely and won't need too many tweaks. Our collection system is still super fast. The lift seems to be under control now and faster than it was before. Our disc feeder into the shooter is working a little better, but it still misses some discs so we'll need to keep tuning that over the next weeks.

We have 14 days till Lone Star and a lot of work to do.

Oh yeah, and the real robot did mostly get in the bag (minus the shooter box and a few other parts we will be bringing in with us).

- Spectrum

"Stay hungry. Stay foolish." - Steve Jobs

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Day 45: Spectrum Showcase

Today was our open house, Spectrum Showcase, for parents and friends to come see the robot that we spent six weeks building. It was fantastic event.
We were building/troubleshooting at show time so some of the parents had the chance to see the team work together to do some problem solving and building on the fly. The first ever power up was at 6:10 for an event that was supposed to start at 6pm. We found a bad PWM cable and a new problem with the Victor 888s that we had to solve. We also had to do a very fast Jaguar swap. All that was happening while The Box was being mounted on the lift. We still have some problems to work, but for a first test Gamma Ray performed well. The drive train is solid and the lift is working well. Collection is still our best system, any disc we drive into gets sucked up into The Box. The lift is working far better now after all the tweaks. We have to move on to small changes on the shooter to make firing faster and more reliable.

We have 2+ weeks with the practice robot to get the wrinkles ironed out before Lone Star on March 7th.

We also want to thank all the teams that came to our Week 0 practice. 57, 441, 2585, 2882, 3335, and 4589. You all were awesome and we can't wait to see on the field at Lone Star. We would especially like to thank 2587, the Discobots, for co-hosting the event with us.

- Spectrum

"Working together works." - Dr. Rob Gilbert

Monday, February 18, 2013

Day 44: Two Days, Two Robots?

18 Hour days and we still have a lot to got on our competition robot.  The competition robot will be wired tomorrow and it will takes it first shoots just hours away from being sealed up on Tuesday night. The practice robot is shooting well, but we need to build in some hard stops for the shooting position. Our collection is super fast which should mean we won't have to make any trips to the feeding station.

Chairman's Essay and Executive Summary are complete. We'll be designing our pictures over the next few days. Our business plan has been updated to include events and changes from this build season. We have drafts of our other award packets prepared and will be editing over the next few weeks.

Good Luck everyone on your last two days of build.

- Spectrum

“Fear will try to stop you. Doubts will try to stop you. You’ll shy away from doing great things, from going on new adventures, from creating something new and putting it out in the world, because of self-doubt and fear. It will happen in the recesses of your mind, where you don’t even know it’s happening. Become aware of these doubts and fears. Shine some light on them. Beat them with a thousand tiny cuts. Do it anyway, because they are wrong.” - Leo Babauta

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Day 43: First Test Shot

We didn't get much driving in today at the Week 0, due to some technical problems we were trying to fix. However we did get the practice robot ready enough to take a few test shots. This is video of the first shot we have taken with the robot nearly complete. This was completely driven from 54ft away and the robot floor collected the disc that it shot.

We had 4 teams at the Week 0 event today. 2587 the Discobots have been helping us run things. 2882, 4589, and 2585 were also here. We are expecting a few more teams as well tomorrow. We have nice goals made by the Discobots and we have a welded pyramid. Any teams in the area welcome to stop by.

- Spectrum

"A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving." - Albert Einstein

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Day 42: Long Long Weekend

We'll be putting in lots of hours over the next the weekend and it started today. A lot of us were here till 2am trying to get the practice bot up and ready to drive by tomorrow. It still has a few problems, but overall it looks like it will be driving and scoring frisbees sometime tomorrow. The competition robot is still just a pile of parts that needs to be assembled.

We have our gym setup for teams to use tomorrow for the Houston Week 0 practice session. We have about 10 teams signed up to come over the next three days.

More pictures and videos as the scrimmage happens tomorrow.

- Spectrum

“Be curious. Read widely. Try new things. What people call intelligence just boils down to curiosity.” - Aaron Swartz

Friday, February 15, 2013

Day 41: Crunch Time

Tomorrow starts are last weekend of  build session. We'll be building pretty much strait through till bag day to get our competition robot ready to be bagged.

That's the state of the practice robot right now with the new lift crossbars installed and the box mounted to the lift. It's going up much straighter now, but we do have an issue with chain tension on the lift that we'll need to fix. Every gap on this robot is so close this year. We have parts that miss intersecting by an 1/8 or 1/16 of an inch. So many of our systems are having to be combined and mounted together because of the size restraints.

- Spectrum

"Facing it, always facing it, that's the way to get through. Face it." - Joseph Conrad

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Day 40: Only 6 remain

We hadn't done much testing of the tilt mechanism until today. It still needs work but it's at least closer than it was yesterday.

We'll have surgical tubing helping it balanc,e but the 100:1 versaplanetary and BAG motor are working perfectly for this application. We would like to thank FRC#3310 Black Hawk Robotics for making us the 1/2" hex shaft coupler that allows the tilting mechanism to be so simple.

The robot is actually on our scale in that video. As shown we are only 85lbs, we still have about 10-15lbs to add but we're still going to be easily 20lbs underweight.

Here is a view of the robot with the lift fully extended and the shooter box tilted up. This is about our ideal shooting position.

We're working on replacing all of our lift cross bars because the intial sheet metal version were twisting too much. We have 1.5"x1" aluminum rectangular extrusion that will be replacing them tomorrow to make them more rigid.

The competition robot begins assembly tomorrow. We should have him running by Monday for our open house.

- Spectrum

"It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through." - Zig Ziglar

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Day 39: Floor Collection Test

Things are looking up again. The solution from yesterday was tested today and it worked perfectly.
Here's a video of our floor collection tests.

We made some improvements to the lift. Moving to #25 chain instead of #35 seems to make it run smoother. We're getting some twisting in the cross bars so we may have to find a better way to reinforce them or replace them with a stronger shape. We're limited on space which is why they were made so small to begin with.

The competition robot is still getting pieces and parts made for it and we should be able to start final assembly in the next few days.

Motor Break Down for this year

  • 6 CIMs on the drive train
  • 2 BAG motors on the shooter/collector wheels
  • 1 BAG motor for tilting the shooter
  • 1 MiniCIM for the Lift
  • 1 VEX 393 for the indexer (Thing that pushes the discs back into the shooter)

- Spectrum

"I never wear a watch, because I always know it's now -- and now is when you should do it." - Steve Mariucci

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Day 38: More Problems, More Solutions

All our powder coated parts came back today. That was a huge positive. We have one week to get the robot together.

Our normal lab space was being used for parent-teacher conferences, so we moved up to our practice field area for a few hours. We found a major problem with our intake system that we had to fix. The discs were hitting the bottom of the belly pan when they were trying to enter the collector because it lifts them up a wedge.

This called for another complete disassembly of this robot. We had to modify the belly pan heavily and raise it one inch to allow for disc clearance. This also meant we had to completely rerun the wires as well.

It's back together tonight; we will test collection again tomorrow.

- Spectrum

"The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing." - Henry Ford

Monday, February 11, 2013

Day 37

Today was spent mostly making pieces for our competition robot. We also had to swap out some rollers on our drive train. We're still having a few lift issues and testing more proposed solutions. It works - it just does not work as well as we would like right now. The shooter/collector is collecting much better and the paddle is shooting out upside down and right side up discs.

We should have the parts back and powder coated tomorrow so we can finally begin assembly of the competition robot.

We also have drafts of our Chairman's essay, executive summary, and presentation put together. We still have to edit them, but they are very close to complete.

- Spectrum

“Passion won’t protect you against setbacks, but it will ensure that no failure is ever final.” - Bill Strickland

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Day 36: Hanging

We were able to put on the pop-up can opener hanging device today. It's still in prototype form but we managed to get directly over the center of gravity on the first try. I guess the CADed weights are right after all.

We did some more changes to the lift to get it more stable and faster top to bottom. We still aren't finished working all the bugs out, but we're getting closer. Currently, it actually likes going up way more than going down. This was the opposite problem from yesterday.

The shooter/collector is collecting well; we still will have some more changes once we get on the actual robot. 

Drive train was having an issue where one side would stall while going very slowly in reverse. We think we found the cause and should have a solution implemented tomorrow.

This is our first year doing the prototype/practice robot 1st. We'll only have 8 days to put together our competition robot. We have most of the parts made and they should be back from powder coating on Monday.

Don't forget to come to our Week 0 Practice if you are going to be in the Houston area next weekend. 

- Spectrum

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” - Albert Einstein

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Day 35: Iterating

We had to disassemble most of the robot today to be able iterate several of the systems. The lift came off so we could double the spring force helping it extend. The electrical belly pan was removed so we could swap in the new sheet metal version. We also put the first pieces of a hanging device on the robot. 

By the end of the day tomorrow we should have all the pieces put back to gather so we can do some full systems tests. 

We dropped off most of the pieces for the competition robot to be powder coated today at Royalty Metal Finishing Inc. We should have them back Monday morning, so we can assemble the competition robot during the last week of the season.

- Spectrum

“It's hard to beat a person who never gives up.” ― Babe Ruth

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Day 34: Sheet Metal Parts Part 2

We received our 2nd run of sheet metal from Solarcraft Inc. today. They have been fantastic about making parts for us. This included our belly pan, shooter box, and disc guides, so we don't run over too many.

Here's a photo of all three versions of the shooter/collector that we have made this season.

We started with hardboard which is very easy to cut and drill. We then moved to a version made of thin sheet metal in house with brackets to hold it together since we don't have a break. The Lexan and wood version in the back was our final prototype that was build to the sheet metal spec out of 1/16" Lexan and the wood was there to make it stiff. The version in the front is what came back from Solarcraft today and will actually be on our robot.

We fixed several issues with the lift and it's running much nicer now. We also finished mounting our upper frame supports that will support our 10 point hang.

We're dropping off parts to be powder coated tomorrow. The plan is to get them back early next week so we can put together our competition robot.

- Spectrum

"It always seems impossible until its done."  - Nelson Mandela

Day 33: Last two week

We're down to the last two weeks of the build season. We still have lot of problems to solve, but that's what makes this game so much fun.

We're working on the outer pieces of the robot that will mount the 10 point hang device.
We are replacing the lift chain guides with a better system which should reduce some of the load on the lift.

We don't have the shooter parts back from the shop yet, so we are at bit of a stand still on this until we get them. We're also planning to powder coat the competition robot if we can get it done in time.

We're hosting the Houston Week 0 Practice at our school this year. For more information head over to CD.

- Spectrum

"The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. They are there to stop the other people!" - Randy Paush

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Day 32

Only two weeks left till we stop building. This is going to be a close one for us. We have a mostly working practice robot, but we are still waiting on sheet metal to make it complete. Our goal is to have the real robot parts powder coated by the middle of next week and then it's a mad dash to the finish line before bag day.

For more discussion about the collector/shooter and lift video from Sunday night look at this CD thread.

We worked on improving the stability of the lift today. There are still some problems but lots of solutions as well.

The collector/shooter is our most critical piece that we will be getting back from Solarcraft Inc. this week.

We still don't have an elegant design for the 10 point hang yet. We understand the concept and requirements, we just have to package it nicely into our robot.

- Spectrum

“The best way to honor someone who has said something smart and useful is to say something back that is smart and useful. The other way to honor them is to go do something with what you learned.
Good listeners get what they deserve–better speakers.” - Seth Godin

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Day 31

We're still testing the systems. The lift is a little wobbly going up and we're also still trying to dial in the right amount of reduction we need on the lift motor.

We got in a couple electronic solenoids from Allied Electronics today that we may be using for pin breaks in our gearboxes and/or to release a few spring based mechanisms like our hanging device.

We did some more shooter testing; the collector works fine with upside down Frisbees, but the current shape of our paddle doesn't like pushing them into the shooter. We're confident that most of the discs will be face up during the match. It's the last 30 seconds we're worried about, but we are confident we can find a shape that works for both disc orientations.

- Spectrum

“It is in the compelling zest of high adventure and of victory, and in creative action, that man finds his supreme joys.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Monday, February 4, 2013

Day 30: Bumper Build + Prototype Videos

Bumper Build
Our 1st annual Super Bowl Bumper Build was very successful. We had 5 teams in attendance (4155, 4280, 4346, 4639, and 4689). It was nice to get to work with so many awesome teams on getting our robots competition ready. We're looking forward to hosting one of these again next year. Thank you to FRC #4280 (N-gen from Sam Houston MSTC) for providing bumper fabric and pizza to all the teams.

We have been more hush hush this year about our design than last. We have shared a few things, but the actual strategy hasn't been publicly revealed until now. Watch the video for our prototype tests. You should be able to get an idea of what we are doing.

Here is a recent CAD Model of the robot. It's not complete by any means. A lot of things have and will be changing, but we think we are going down a pretty solid path right now.

The lift raises and lowers the "The Box" (shooter/collector) from the floor to 76+" from the ground. We're planning on shooting from as close to the goals as we can be. The lift is not for climbing (yet) we will have a 10 point "Can Opener" hang somewhere on the robot to begin with.

We're hoping to get the sheet metal shooter parts back early this week. From there it's actual driving floor pickup and raised shots.

We have two weeks till bag day and a little over a month till our first competition (Lone Star 4/7-4/9).

- Spectrum

"As you make a prototype, assume you are right and everyone else is wrong. When you share your prototype, assume you are wrong and everyone else is right." - Diego Rodriguez

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Day 29: Actually able to test things

We were able to test the drive train and other key pieces of our robot. They aren't perfect, but we can make them better.

Not much of an update tonight because we'll have video in tomorrow's update.

Tomorrow is our Super Bowl Bumper Build. We're really excited to have 5 teams joining us at our school to get our robots ready for competition.

- Spectrum

"If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." - Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Day 28: Picking up the Pace

All our meetings are long, but today's was extra long, leading into an even longer weekend.

We received our first run of sheet metal form Solarcraft Inc. They have been fantastic about working with us and helping in any way that they can.

We have pieces for the both the real robot and our practice robot + a couple spaces in case we damage something.

With the pieces we received we were able to wire most of the practice robot's drive train. We still need to mount the cRIO and run PWM cables before we can start driving it but that should be taken care of tomorrow afternoon.

We also started putting together a lexan version of our shooter since we just sent the sheet metal parts off to be made and we aren't sure when we will get them back.

Tomorrow we should have a few videos to post and show off more of our robot.

- Spectrum

"Failures are the stepping stones to success. Without failure, we’ll never learn how to succeed. So try to fail, instead of trying to avoid failure through fear." - Leo Babauta

Friday, February 1, 2013

Day 27: Last year we had a working robot now

Last year at this time we had a working (driving and shooting) robot.  This year we don't even have a superstructure on top of our robot.

We did get our parts back from the CNC router at TX\RX Labs.

They are the white pieces in the picture. The rest of what this goes on should be revealed in the next few days, once the first parts come back from the sheet metal shop.

We are working on designing more of our parts to be less sheet metal since our turnaround times are a lot slower than we expected.

We did have Team 4689 from Royal High School here today to talk about programming challenges. We ended up moving them to Java because they had students that sort of knew Java already and were struggling to learn LabVIEW. It's nice that teams have options so they can find something that works for them. They'll be back this Sunday for the Super Bowl Bumper Build.

- Spectrum

"If it’s a good idea and it gets you excited, try it, and if it bursts into flames, that’s going to be exciting too. People always ask, ‘What is your greatest failure?’ I always have the same answer—We’re working on it right now, it’s gonna be awesome!" - JIM COUDAL