Monday, October 20, 2014

Shelly Gaydos - This Is How I Work

Shelly Gaydos is a mentor who is very dedicated to her team and spreading the word of FIRST. Gaydos is geared towards bringing new ideas and projects to get kids more interested about engineering. She began an FRC team at the high school where she teaches and has been involved with FIRST ever since. She has even started robotics classes at her high school to get kids more interested in robotics and prepare them for the FIRST season. She’s also lead her team to win the Chairman’s Award during the 2013 and 2014 season.
[Responses from August 5, 2013; updated on October 6, 2014]

Name: Shelly Gaydos
CD Username: N/A
Current Gig/Job: Pre-Engineering Teacher, Hammond High Magnet School
Alma Mater/Degree: Southeastern Louisiana University BS Math Education ME Secondary Principalship
Current Team(s): Torbotics Team 2080
Former Team(s): N/A
Location: Hammond High Magnet School, Hammond, Louisiana
Hobbies: Robotics, Swim Team, Football

What inspired you to do what you do? Tell us a story.

I had been teaching math and physics for 21 years and was looking for new and exciting activities to bring into the classroom. When our principal showed me the FIRST Robotics information, I had no idea how it was going to change my life and the lives of so many others. I started by walking down the hall and telling some of my students to stay after school for a meeting. We did not know what we were doing, but thankfully there were FRC mentors just a phone call away. We finished (survived) our first season, and I was finally able to sit down and reflect over the chaotic rookie season that had just come to a close. I realized that FIRST Robotics was the solution that I had been searching for all of these years. I am inspired by each of these students as I see how they can accomplish things that they never thought that they were capable of doing. These moments can be anything from a student picking up a hammer for the first time to the excited screams at midnight when we shoot a basketball. My inspiration is the sound of lives changing one moment at a time.

What is your day job, and how’d you get there?

I am a teacher at Hammond High Magnet School. After our first two seasons with FIRST Robotics, I started a robotics class. The program has now expanded, and our students have the opportunity to take Engineering Classes starting with Intro to Engineering, progressing to Engineering Design I and Engineering Design II and finishing with Robotics.

What is your favorite story to tell about robotics?

I could write a book about my favorite robotics stories. Anyone who is involved in FIRST Robotics can tell you that it is always an adventure. My favorite story begins two years ago at the 2012 Bayou Regional. Everything was going great, and team 2080 was in the top twenty going into the selection process on Saturday. However, for the first time since our Rookie year, we were not chosen to play in the Championship Tournament that afternoon. We were devastated and shocked. I went with the drive team to return the robot to the pits, and I prepared myself to go help my students deal with the disappointment. When I came around the corner and looked in the stands, I found my students all on their feet cheering for all of the other teams who did get to compete that day. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to work with these teenagers each day! The story does not stop there. Instead of anger and bitterness, these students came home with a new passion to become a better team. They began to brainstorm on the way home that day. I am so proud to say that their passion paid off at the Razorback Regional 2013 and the Bayou Regional 2014 where Team 2080 won the Chairman’s Award both times. These students truly understand what FIRST Robotics is all about!

What's your favorite robot that you didn't help build?

My favorite robot was the Logomotion robot built by Team 456.

What's your workspace setup like? (Work/Robotics/Home)

We were fortunate enough to be able to renovate the wood shop in our school to our Engineering Lab. It has machines capable of working with wood and metal. We are able to build our robot completely in our own shop.

What do you listen to while you work?

Country music makes me happy, happy, and happy!

What’s your schedule like during build season?

We work 6 days a week. We do not work on Sundays to allow the students to go to church and be with their families.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

I guess it would be time management. I have a weird way of being able to predict exactly how long it will take us to complete a task.

What's the best advice you've ever received?

Don’t try to do it all!

What is your favorite guilty pleasure?


Fill in the blank. I'd love to see     Maureen Politz     answer these same questions.

I was the Woodie Flowers Award winner for the Bayou Regional 2014.

“Education is not the learning of the facts, but the training of the mind to think.” - Albert Einstein

Monday, October 6, 2014

Glenn Lee - This Is How I Work

This week we are featuring a revered mentor who’s been with his team since their inception, Glenn Lee. He’s led his team to become a Hall of Fame team, IRI champions, and winners of many regional competitions. There isn't an FRC team out there who doesn't recognize the Hawaiian Kids in their signature flower patterned shirts. He helps the robotics community, by holding grant writing workshops to help teams fund their programs. He also raises thousands of dollars for his team every year, so that his team can travel to regionals. Recently, he had an appearance on Behind the Lines, which is a new show from the makers of GameSense and FIRST.

[Responses from Aug 13, 2014]

Name: Glenn S. Lee       
CD Username: waialua359 (formerly a student’s account which I took over during the 2005 season).
Current Gig/Job: Waialua High & Intermediate School STEM Learning Center Coordinator, Career-Technical Education (CTE) Coordinator, Robotics and Design Technology Instructor.
Alma Mater/Degree: Leilehua High School, University of Hawaii @ Manoa B.S. in Electrical Engineering, Minor in Math, Master’s in Business Administration.
Current Team(s): Team 359-The Hawaiian Kids since inception in 1999.
Former Team(s): N/A
Location: Waialua, HI
Hobbies: Hiking, Bike Riding, Golf, Collecting Memorabilia, Traveling, Fantasy Sports, Old School Toyota Cruises and Family Time.

What inspired you to do what you do? Tell us a story.

Team 254 just finished their rookie season in 1999. Mark Leon, a member of the Cheesy Poofs with NASA Ames, had ties with Art Kimura, a STEM leader in Hawaii. Mark and Art arranged for members of the Poofs from Broadway HS to come and showcase their robot and explain what FIRST was all about. Jason Morella of the REC Foundation, was the lead teacher of the Poofs at the time. From my understanding, they approached both us and Team 368 because of our involvement and successes with racing Electric Vehicles since 1996. I can still recollect my first impression of what I saw when I stepped into the library where the demo took place. I was totally amazed, excited, and reluctant all at the same time. I never could have imagined that over 15+ years later, I am still heavily involved.

What is your day job, and how’d you get there?

I worked briefly as an intern Electrical Engineer at Hawaiian Electric Company and the State of Hawaii as a Quality Control Engineer. I quit both jobs to pursue a career in Education as a Science/Math teacher at Waialua High & Intermediate School in 1994.

What is your favorite story to tell about robotics?

2010 was one of the worst build seasons our team ever had. Our robot didn’t work very well when it was time to pack and ship our robot to our Week 1 Event. After shipping our robot, it gave us very little time to prepare for both a Week 1: San Diego and Week 2: Arizona events in the Mainland. When we arrived in San Diego, one of our students realized he forgot the driver station laptop at home in Hawaii! Luckily we were able to get it as a check in luggage the next day because we knew someone from Hawaiian Airlines. Of all the FRC events we ever attended, this was the only event where we didn’t get inspected on the practice day because our robot had too many issues and because we had to pick up our driver station at the airport that day.
Ironically, we went on to have the best season ever winning 3 FRC regional events and IRI that year. Our robot during the entire season still could not kick a soccer ball nor could it climb a pole for the end game points consistently. Better to be lucky sometimes than good!

What's your favorite robot that you didn't help build?

Definitely Poi Pounder XV this 2014 Season. Our new equipment, a Flow Waterjet, did most of the work. J It was easily the least amount of construction our team had to ever do during build season.
What apps/software/tools can't you live without? (Work/Robotics/Home) IPhone and IPad.
What's your workspace setup like? (Work/Robotics/Home) *see pics.

What's your workspace setup like? (Work/Robotics/Home)

What do you listen to while you work?

I’m a total 80’s music fan listening to both Soft Pop and Hard Rock during that era.
What’s your schedule like during build season? I used to spend the most hours at school during build season 7 days a week, till almost midnight. With a family now and our program with much better facilities, equipment and mentor support, we normally work no later than 8-9pm on most days with a few Sundays off.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

I enjoy Grant Writing and raising money for our Robotics Program. Over the years, I’ve spent countless hours learning how to best utilize our limited resources in acquiring more of it, so that our students have ample opportunities to experience STEM via Robotics Competitions.

What's the best advice you've ever received?

Life is short. Live each day like it’s your last. **Words I’ve lived by for sure.**

What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

Spending money on useless things. I’m a sucker for items on Craigslist, Ebay and Amazon.

Fill in the blank. I'd love to see    Paul Copioli     answer these same questions.

Anything else you want people to know about you?

I’ve worked part-time at the Honolulu Country Club as a Banquet Waiter the past 25 years.

“Everything in life should be parallel and perpendicular” –Unknown 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Last Week in FRC: Sep 22nd - 28th

Short post this week. We are working on the new lab and haven't had time to get much done.

All the information can be found here.

Now that the most important stuff is finished, on to the rest of the post.

Behind the Lines

Glenn Lee, Colin Fultz, & the Game Sense team did a great job on Behind Lines last Wednesday. If you missed it watch it here and download the presentation as well. FRC Behind the Lines

Registration Happened

Literally nothing to talk about, registration went just about perfectly. 

If you haven't noticed the Dallas Regional is STACKEDDDD this year, 118, 148, 624, 987, 1477, 2468, 2848, 3310, and we probably missed some . We sadly won't be participating but we'll be cheering on a whole lot of our friends, it's going to be some intense eliminations matches.

2nd Event Registration opens Oct 23rd. We're planning to register for Arkansas as our 2nd event, we are already registered for Bayou.

roboRIO Expansion Port Explained

The roboRIO Expansion port rules were cleared up a bit this week. Read the blog post for all the details.

Off-Season Events

The Fall Classic, IROC and RoboFest were this past weekend.

Full results for the Fall Classic are up on TBA. Congrats to 3476, 330 and 3476B on taking home the hardware.

Fall Classic Day 2: From FRC#3476's Twitter

- Spectrum

"Having an aim is the key to achieving your best." - Henry J. Kaiser

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

This Week in FRC Sep 15th - 21st

Regional Dates and FRC Registration

Most of the regional dates are now official and FRC Registration opens on Thursday (Sep 26).

For Texas teams here are the important dates:
Here is a list of the Texas Events and dates
Week 1 - Dallas Regional Feb 25th-28th
Week 3 - Alamo Regional (San Antonio) Mar 11th-14th
Week 5 - Hub City Regional (Lubbock) - Mar 26th - 28th
Week 6 - Lone Star Regional (Houston) - Apr 1st-4th

Other event that Texas teams are likely to attend.
Week 2 - Arkansas Rock City Regional (Little Rock) Mar 4th-7th
Week 4 - Bayou Regional (New Orleans) Mar 18th-21st
Week 5 - Oklahoma Regional (OKC) Mar 26th - 28th

Behind The Lines

Our friends over at GameSense have been very busy. They have partnered with FRC Headquarters to bring a new series called Behind The Lines. This series starts tomorrow so be ready at 8pm ET / 7pm CT. You can watch at

Wednesday Night = FRC Night

With Behind the Lines at 7pm CT, and Simbot Seminar Series at 8pm CT, Wednesday nights are now officially FRC Nights.

Inter-District Play

The big announcement out of headquarter's last week was Inter-District Play will be in for the 2015 season. This only affects the District teams but this is a move in the right direction.

Off-Season Events

There were 6 off-season events around the country but not much in the way of videos or results have been posted.

Of the 6 only the Capital City Classic has results on TBA. Congratulations to the winning alliance of FRC#1678, FRC#2122, & a pre-rookie team 9073.

Robowranglers 148: #X009

If you haven't checked out the Robowranglers prototype drive train document, it's worth a read. JVN and team have been documenting their entire design process and it's extremely insightful. You can read the full document here. They're currently integrating the Beta test hardware into their design.

- Spectrum

“The very thing you're seeking only exists because of the whole. We can't deny the difficult parts, we have no choice but to embrace them.” - Seth Godin

Monday, September 15, 2014

This Week in FRC Sep 8th-14th 2014

Simbot Seminar Series

The Simbots are an amazing team. So amazing in fact that they are going to teach everyone else how to be amazing. Karthik Kanagasabapathy and several other Simbotics mentors will be hosting Seminars each week on various FRC topics. This is absolutely huge for the community. Karthik's strategy talk has been standing room only nearly every time he has given it at FRC Championship.

The seminars start October 1st and will last through the fall. Check out this CD thread for all the details.

If you just can't wait till the 1st, how about (re)watching Karthik's Effective Strategy talk from Championship 2013.

Gateway Robotics Challenge 2014

The inaugural GRC was this past weekend at Hazelwood Central High School in St. Louis, MO. 

Congratulations to the event champions FRC#2481, FRC#1985 (the host team), and FRC#3397.

Winning Alliance (Courtesy of 2481)

The finalist were Team Titanium FRC#1986, FRC#4256, & a pre-rookie team.

We haven't been able to find any video of the event but check out the rest of the photos posted by the Roboteers.

CD Threads of The Week

OCCRA Rules Release

What is T-Boning? (explains the concept of a friction pin, ways teams are preventing it, and ways teams are using it effectively.)

Web Hosting Services

FRC Blog

Safety Superheroes & Comic Con
If you're interested in the safety animation, make sure you submissions are in by December 11th.

Friends Don't Let Friends Miss Event Registration
Another reminder that both you main and alternate contacts have to pass Youth Protection Training before you will be able to register for events.

- Spectrum

“It sounds obvious to say you should only work on problems that exist. And yet by far the most common mistake startups make is to solve problems no one has.” - Paul Graham

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Jason Ball - This Is How I Work

Mr. Ball graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.S. in physics, and he later graduated from Rice University with an M.S. in physics. Mr. Ball is currently in his second year of teaching at the Academy of Science and Technology, where he teaches  Pre-AP Physics, AP Physics, Electronics and Robotics. Mr. Ball has been with Texas Torque from the day he taught at the Academy of Science and Technology, he​ and has tirelessly worked to contribute to the team ever since.  Mr. Ball is passionate and inspires youth to explore STEM fields and become positive members of their communities. Through his involvement with FIRST Robotics he has had the amazing opportunity to influence fellow students in positive ways​.
- Reagan Spexarth from Texas Torque 1477

[Responses from August 13, 2014] 

Name: Jason Ball
CD Username: J_Ball
Current Gig/Job: AP Physics and electronics teacher at The Conroe ISD Academy of Science and Technology
Alma Mater/Degree: University of Michigan (B.S. in physics, 2010), Rice University (M.S. in physics, 2013).
Current Team: 1477 Texas Torque
Former Team: 573 Mechwarriors represent my old high school, although I was never a member.
Location: Spring, Texas
Hobbies: Reading, video games, electronics projects, watching sportsball (especially University of Michigan and Detroit sportsball).

What is your day job?

I’m a physics teacher. I teach basic principles of mechanics and electromagnetism to high school juniors and seniors. I also get to shop at Toys ‘R’ Us for Nerf guns to use in class, build fruit batteries, launch water balloons across the parking lot with a homemade slingshot, talk with students about black holes, the standard model, and the LHC for hours after school, find new and interesting ways for students to break the Java applets used in my virtual labs, light snack foods on fire to measure their caloric content, and generally have fun at my job.

Jokes and fun aside, science and physics education are things that have become very near and dear to my heart. Taking AP Physics B in high school was a dramatic turning point in my life – before that I was leaning more towards majoring in psychology or possibly history. That course frankly blew my mind and every new topic we covered became the new coolest thing ever. From then on it was never in doubt what I wanted to do with my life. It always saddens me when I tell people that I am a physics teacher and they cringe and tell me how much they disliked it. I strive to get the opposite reaction out of my students. I want the STEM fields to flourish and I want them to be a part of that. I want them to see that the laws of physics can be beautiful simplicities or intricate puzzles. I want them to appreciate the inconceivable nature of nature, as Feynman once put it. I live for the moments when my kids "get it" – when the proverbial light bulb goes off in their heads – and  I find it much more rewarding than anything I can possibly measure in the lab myself. 
In short, I love my job.

What is your favorite story to tell about robotics?

Apparently after the first time I met the students on Texas Torque they decided that one of the current students and I were so similar that I must be a version of him sent from the future. That single joke spawned a whole life of its own and resulted in multiple running gags and at least one picture posted to Facebook of him and I both wearing our Torque shirts.
Welcome to Torque weirdness.

What’s your favorite robot that you didn’t help build?

Texas Torque 2014. Just kidding, somewhat. I also really liked CRyptonite’s robot this year.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Whiteboard markers. I’m old-school when it comes to, well, school. I don’t care much for PowerPoint – instead I enjoy drawing all manner of ridiculous diagrams and problems on the board. Legal pads and lab notebooks for scribbling down all my lesson and experiment ideas whenever they happen to come to me – creativity doesn’t just turn on like a faucet! Physics textbooks from 1939 with problems that you can’t look up on the internet. My TI Nspire CAS calculator, it just does so many cool things and I’ve barely scratched the surface.

As far as techie stuff goes, I recently obtained a Kindle e-reader and it’s helped me accomplish my goal of reading more books and checking the news more often this past summer. On the flipside of that I made the mistake of pairing it with my Roku at home and that has definitely NOT helped me read more. I like the Chase Bank, eTrade, and apps for the Kindle (I am kind of paranoid about my finances).

Other random things I would have a hard time subsisting without include Netflix, Amazon Prime, Steam, the Roku mentioned above, Pandora, Urbanspoon, Wolfram Alpha, Georgia State’s Hyperphysics website (even teachers need to brush up occasionally!), and Pretty Good Physics, another teacher resource site.

What’s your workplace setup like?

I have a BIG classroom – it houses around 30 desks and 6 lab tables for doing experiments as well as lots of storage for random physics toys. Digging through Mr. Rip’s old stuff more often than not resembles an archaeological dig and I still occasionally find things that I never knew were there. The lab tables usually become pretty cluttered with physics and electronics equipment and trying to keep it separated becomes a real pain (not to mention trying to keep the physics students, robotics students in particular, from playing with the electronics setups and vice versa). In contrast I try to keep my desk clean but it inevitably becomes littered with papers and random junk as the year drags on. I keep my computer in the front of the room but I’m rarely seated at it unless the students are working on a test. One day last fall I felt like doing something different so I rearranged all the desks in the room from rows to a more college lecture-hall type format. It’s going to stay for the time being – no one will be hiding in the back of the room this year!  

What do you listen to while you work?

I have a fairly eclectic taste in music. Let’s just do a random iPod shuffle to illustrate this. Seventies hard rock? Check. 80s thrash metal? Check. Instrumental shred guitar? Check. Weird droning anti-music? Check. Flamenco guitar? Check Half-hour long southern rock jams? Check. Death metal? Check.  Electronic bleepy-bloopy stuff? Check Pretentious prog? Check Video game music? Check Synthpop? Check Primus? Primus. Dubstep? No. Friends don’t let friends listen to dubstep.

What’s your schedule like during build season?

Wake up at 5am, be at work by 6. Have an hour or so of prep time before students start rolling in. Work from 7:20pm-2:35pm, trying to get as much done as I can. Attend Torque build meetings from 3pm-8pm. Go home and prepare for the next class day. Try to be in bed by 11pm. Saturdays we also meet from 8am to late. Sundays I prepare lesson plans for the upcoming week and do all my cooking for the week – I cook 3-4 meals Sunday afternoon and keep them all in Gladware containers in my fridge.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

Writing physics problems involving Justin Bieber, One Direction, Miley Cyrus, Mario, escaped cats, lazy boy scouts, and refrigerators.
I can kick your butt as a Medic in TF2 or as Snake in SSBB.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

To hold our tongues when everyone is gossiping, to smile without hostility at people and institutions, to compensate for the shortage of the love in the world with more love in small, private matters; to be more faithful in our work, to show greater patience, to forgo the cheap revenge obtainable from mockery and criticism: all these are things we can do.”
- Hermann Hesse

What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

I am fond of Ke$ha’s music.

Anything else you want people to know about you?

The picture above is OBVIOUSLY photoshopped.

"The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing." - Socrates

Sunday, September 7, 2014

This Week in FRC: Sep 1st - 7th 2014

FRC had a relatively slow week. Nearly all teams are back in school and there weren't any off-season events this week. We do have some CAD Tutorials for you and news from a few other major robot competitions.

973 RAMP CAD Tutorials

FRC#973 Greybots and their mentor Adam Heard are back it making their RAMP CAD tutorial videos. These are the best FRC design tutorials out there. Adam does a great job of explaining his design decisions and walking you through how they would design features into their robots. If you are new to CAD this is a great place to learn. Much of it is designed for teams with limited machining resources. 

Their latest release covers the design of a completely COTS (commercial off the shelf) single jointed arm. They show you several simple ways to improve the robustness of the arm.

FRC Season Calendar

Much of the FRC season calendar was flushed out this week with the release of the district event dates.

For more discussion on these dates and venues check out this now very long CD thread.

FLL & FTC Games Released

We're a bit behind on the FLL announcement as it happened last week but we'll play catch up today. Here are the game video for the the 2015 FLL Challenge World Class and the 2015 FTC Challenge Cascade Effect

VEX World Championship, Louisville, April 15-18

VEX announced that they would be moving the 2015 World Championship from it's prior home in Anaheim to it's new home in Louisville Kentucky. This move also allows them to put the event on the weekend before the FRC Championship so teams that compete in both events won't have to decide which to attend this year. The new venue will allow for more teams and it also moves the event closer to the center of the country making travel easier for many of the US teams. 
Here is the announcement video.

FRC Blog

Youth Protection Program and the New 2015 Control System
Just a reminder about the new Youth Protection Program and it's impact on registration and a look at some of the Beta teams like 1114 who have been posting videos and images of the 2015 RoboRio control system.

Who's at Salt Lake Comic Con this Weekend?
Teams are doing a large demo at the Salt Lake Comic Con. We demoed at the Houston comic book festival, Comicpalooza, and it was a huge success. You can see some highlights here. If there are any events like this in your area we highly recommend you get in touch with the organizers and try to get FRC a presence. They are a great opportunity to introduce FRC to more people.

CD Threads of the Week

BunnyBots 2014 Rules Release: A Fall robotics competition for the PNW.
Operation: Code Clash: An online programming competition.
[Ri3D] Robot in 1 Weekend: A group doing a weekend FTC build.
Bronc Botz FTC - 48 Hour BUILD BLITZ!!: Another group doing a weekend FTC Build

- Spectrum

"People seldom refuse help, if one offers it in the right way." - A. C. Benson

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Broadcasting FRC Events

There has been a bit of discussion about how to broadcast FRC events recently.

Frank talked about it in his Frank Answers Friday piece. A huge amount of praise was given to the Chezy Champs and Game Sense crews for their terrific broadcast of their event this weekend.

We wanted to look at some of the recordings from various streams so people have an idea of the various ways groups are streaming events.

FIRST Championship Einstein

Here is how FIRST broadcasted the 2014 Einstein Finals.

Chezy Champs + PNW Video Equipment + GameSense Crew

Here is Chezy Champs Finals Match 1

Detroit Public TV Michigan State Championship

Here is the Michigan State Championship as it is broadcast on Detroit Public TV

EngiNERDs Michigan Districts

Here is a simple GoPro Recording of MSC Finals 1. This is how many of the Michigan districts are streamed. This setup was pinorred and often setup by The EngiNERDs. 

PNW District Video Crew

This clip is from IRI 2014. This year the crew from the PNW District did the broadcast for the event. Notice the use of multiple cameras during the match.

Citrus Circuits

Another awesome group doing live streaming of events is team 1678 The Citrus Circuits. In the video below you can see their full field coverage plus custom video overlay for match scores and teams.


We use a system inspired by The EngiNERDs but add in the score overlay directly from the FMS. This is a very inexpensive system. Total cost is under $500 plus a laptop to run it on. For more information on our setup see our draft version of a white paper on the subject.

There's more than one way to ______ a ______* 

(we couldn't decide so see the bottom of the post for some possibilities)
We're sure there are probably more examples of teams and events doing high quality streams of FRC events but these are all we can think of right now. We love what Chezy Champs was able to do with their stream but that may not be possible for every event. However it should be possible to get HD recordings of every FRC match. The budget requirement isn't that great and the volunteer support required is minimal.  Hopefully this will be useful to groups looking at adding a live stream to their events. Teams have even streamed events from the stands with a web camera and a cellular hot spot.

- Spectrum

"Any good broadcast, not just an Olympic broadcast, should have texture to it. It should have information, should have some history, should have something that's offbeat, quirky, humorous, and where called for it, should have journalism, and judiciously it should also have commentary. That's my ideal." - Bob Costas


  1. Eat a Corndog 
  2. Throw a Frisbee
  3. Wear Denim
  4. Accept an Alliance Request (graciously or otherwise)
  5. Build a Robot
  6. Win an Event
  7. Make Bumpers
  8. Pop an Aerial Assist Ball

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

This Week in FRC Aug 25th - 31st

With two off-season events this was one of the busiest weeks of the fall for FRC.

Chezy Champs

The inaugural Chezy Champs was an unbelievable success. We spent Sunday watching the live stream and enjoyed one of the best FRC viewing experiences ever. Chezy Champs was prodiemetly California teams with a few from the pacific northwest and our friends FRC#148, The Robowranglers, made the journey to Bellarmine College Prep as well.

The GameSense crew was doing pre and post match commentary along with Karthik as the MC, and Paul Copioli as the announcer this event had one of the largest and best commentary crews of any FRC event.

Congratulations to the champions of Chezy Champs 2014, FRC#1678, FRC#254, & FRC#973. That was most likely the most dominant alliance we have seen all season. The biggest surprise was just how well the #2 alliance played them in the finals. FRC#846, FRC#971, & FRC#2135 went cycle for cycle with them in Finals 1. If you only watch one match, watch this match.

All the elimination matches can be seen on The Blue Alliance.

Chezy Arena is the system that was used to run all the matches, provide video overlays, and more. This is a wonderful system and the developers will be releasing the source code soon.

Red Stick Rumble

Spectrum was out in Baton Rouge this weekend for the 2nd annual Red Stick Rumble. Daniel Eiland and the rest of FRC#3337, Panthrobotics, do a great job of hosting a fantastic event. It's the only off-season event for teams in the Bayou region.

We ran the webstream for this event and have all the matches archived on Youtube and The Blue Alliance.

Congratulations to the Champions FRC#2587, FRC#4587, & FRC#1818 and also the finalists FRC#364, FRC#1421, FRC#4978. These two alliances took the finals to 3 matches and the third match was decided by the tie breaker rules. Again, if you only watch one match Red Stick Rumble make it this one.

FRC Blog

The FRC Blog had a pretty busy week as well. They announced an FRC Tools Developers Conference which will lead into a new API for the Field Management System so tools such as TheBlueAlliance, FRC Megaphone, FRC spyder, scouting apps and more will be able to get better data for all of us to use. This is a very good thing and we are very happy that headquarters is taking action to improve this.

There was also a dual Frank Answers Friday. He talks about the open and reserve capacity at regional events. To summarize, Regionals are now holding 15 spots instead of 10 for local and rookie teams. He also discusses the quality of video coverage at events. This was before the beauty that was the Chezy Champs coverage. We all have a lot of work to do to get to their level.

CD Threads of the Week
Team 254 Presents: Chezy Champs

Engineering News

- Spectrum

"Fix your eyes on perfection and you make almost everything speed towards it." - William Ellery Channing

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ty Tremblay - This Is How I Work

With Chezy Champs just around the corner we thought it fitting to introduce one of the members of the GameSense crew that will be doing commentary at the event. Ty Tremblay has a long history in FRC. Ty's story reads like a promotion for FIRST and introducing students to STEM. Like many people he was introduced to FRC in a "unique" way and was hooked throughout high school. He attended a university that is heavily involved with FRC and mentored team 190 while getting his degrees in Robotics Engineering. He's now an engineer for a robotics company and he returned to mentor his high school team. You can't write an FRC success story better than this. Be sure to read the rest of his article and listen to him and the rest of the GameSense crew this weekend on the Chezy Champs webstream.

[Responses from August 14, 2014] 

Name: Ty Tremblay
CD Username: TyTremblay
Current Gig/Job: Manufacturing Engineer at Symbotic, GameSense Co-Host
Alma Mater/Degree: Worcester Polytechnic Institute – MS in Robotics Engineering
Location: Quincy, Massachusetts
Hobbies: Diving, Reading, Robots

What inspired you to do what you do? Tell us a story.

While in high school, I was dead set on becoming a professional chef.  I would leave my school early every day to take a bus to the local vocational school.  The vocational school has a restaurant and a full kitchen, and it was there that I was learning how to prepare and cook food.  I loved it and looked forward to cooking class every day.

One day in December, I was running late.  The bus was going to leave me and I was going to miss my favorite part of school.  My path to the bus was a winding one due to the Industrial Arts room (woods, metals, etc.) being in the way.  I took a shortcut through the IA room that day because I knew the teacher well.  What I didn't know was that it would change my entire life’s path.

Mr. Hikel was there with FIRST Robotics Team 319 and their 2003 robot, driving around.  As soon as I opened the door, the driver lost control of the robot and I was directly in its path.  The robot backed me against a wall and nearly hit me before the team could stop it.  “Ty, meet Bob.  Bob, meet Ty,” Hikel said.  I never went to culinary class.

I joined Team 319 that day and it’s been robots ever since.  I found out about WPI through my involvement with FIRST just as they were introducing the first ever Robotics Engineering Bachelor’s Degree.  I applied, got in, got my Bachelor’s Degree, got my Master’s Degree, and now I work at a robotics company on the forefront of the robotics revolution.  Cooking is still a major passion for me, but I’m glad I don’t have to do it for a living.  Robots are much more fun.

What is your day job, and how’d you get there?

I am a Manufacturing Test Engineer at Symbotic, LLC where we make warehouse automation technology.  I love the job because it’s different every day.  One day I’ll be writing software and the next I could be designing complex mechanical systems, or developing a circuit, or even travelling across the country to support a customer.  Robotics is an incredibly multi-disciplined field, and my job lets me take advantage of my multi-disciplined education.  In the past, I’ve worked at iRobot on the PackBot team and at Hologic, a medical devices company.

I also have a night “job” in that I’m a host on the new FRC web show GameSense.  We’re a group of alumni and mentors that get together on Wednesday nights with experts from all over FRC to discuss the game, upcoming and previous weeks’ events, and other FRC topics.  We’ll also be kicking off our live event coverage with GameSense @ Chezy Champs at the end of August!

What is your favorite story to tell about robotics?

Despite it being about me, see my inspiration story.

What's your favorite robot that you didn't help build?

You’re really going to make me pick one?  No, I refuse.  I’m going to pick 4 (in order) because they all made everyone in FIRST say the same thing.  One of my dreams in FIRST, and in my engineering career, is to develop robots and mechanisms that make people say one simple phrase.

“Why didn’t I think of that?”

1.     71 (2002) – I’m sure this has been said before, but it deserves to be repeated, and repeated, and repeated.  This robot is the epitome of excellent strategic analysis meeting superior engineering.  Beatty developed a machine that, if it accomplished its match tasks, literally couldn’t lose.  Interesting caveat for that year, however, is that rankings relied heavily on points and 71 didn’t sore many of those.  As a result, 71 was rarely in the top spot despite winning almost every match they played.
2     469 (2010) – The ball returner strategy was attempted by very few teams, but still a few more than 71’s 2002 Beast.  Regardless, no one pulled it off as well as 469 did.  They had to be in a certain spot in order to execute.  “So just prevent them from getting there, right?”  Wrong.  They had a ridiculously strong drive train that you couldn’t push around.  Oh, and they got there in autonomous anyway (even after scoring 2 balls).  “Okay, we’ll just push them out from their spot.”  Wrong again.  They locked in to place so that no one could move them. (Side thought, what would happen if you pitted 71 from 2002 against a locked in 469?).  “Fine, we’ll just block the balls they return.”  Nope.  They can choose which goal to score in.
3.     254 (2014) – This one is a little more subtle because it did almost all of the match tasks in a similar fashion to other robots.  What sets 254 apart, however, is that they did everything much, much faster.  Oh, and a 3 ball auto and almost couldn’t be blocked. 
4.     190 (2004) – The best way to score points is to hang from the bar?  Let’s do that.  Only, let’s do it and then prevent anyone on the other alliance from hanging.  And let’s do it in autonomous.  What’s the second best way to score points?  Oh right, the doubler.  Let’s take that away from them too.  This is the most 190 bot of all 190 bots.

What apps/software/tools can't you live without? (Work/Robotics/Home)

Solidworks, Visual Studio, Google Drive, Gmail, my Nexus 5.  I have all of the same software on all of my computers, and Google Drive to sync everything. 

What's your workspace setup like? (Work/Robotics/Home)

Two monitors at work, two monitors at home.  I’ve always tried to be neat in that I have a place for everything, but nothing ever seems to get back in its place once I get distracted by something else.

What do you listen to while you work?

My favorite thing to listen to while I really need to crank out the work is Chillstep. 

What’s your schedule like during build season?

I live and host GameSense in southern MA, work in northern MA, and mentor my team in central NH, so my schedule can get pretty hectic.  During build season, I work 9 hour days on Monday through Thursday so I can leave after lunch on Fridays.  This usually puts me at Team 319’s school by the time the team meets on Friday.  I then work with the team through Sunday night, and do the 1.5 hour commute to work from NH on Monday morning. 

Once competition season starts, I’m usually taking vacation time on Thursdays and Fridays so I can go to events with 319 as well as volunteer. For GameSense, we have a tech call with our expert on Tuesday nights to prepare for our show on Wednesday nights.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

No matter how good you are at something, there is always someone better.  Always.  The thing to take away from this is that there is always someone you can learn from and there’s always someone you can strive to be as good as.

To somewhat answer the question, though, I’d say I’m good at looking at a robot and very quickly understanding how it works.

Oh, and I can cook a mean steak. 

What's the best advice you've ever received?

“Want it?  Get it.”

It’s a deceptively simple phrase, but it’s been a driving force for me since I started college.  Very little in life (read, almost nothing) is going to be given to you unless you deserve it.  If you want something, you need to work for it.  Sometimes, that work is as complicated as years of effort to get good grades so you can get into that college you want.  Sometimes, it’s as simple as asking someone for help or advice.  If you want that new car, you save up for it.  If you want a blue banner, you build a team and a robot that can get you one.  You won’t always get what you want, but you’ll have tried, and you’ll have bettered for yourself. 

As surprising as it may seem, the phrase “Fake it ‘till you make it” is actually good advice.  You’d be surprised how far you can get, and how much you can learn, by portraying confidence even if you’re lacking it. 

What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

Video games, Magic: The Gathering, and TV.  Being a robotics engineer can be stressful work, so anything that helps me shift into another frame of thought, or turn off my brain completely is a welcome distraction.

Fill in the blank. I'd love to see      Art Dutra (148)       answer these same questions.

Anything else you want people to know about you?

If you have any questions or advice, please feel free to email me at

"Those without dreams are without ideals.
Those without ideals are without beliefs.
Those without beliefs are without plans.
Those without plans are without actions.
Those without actions are without results.
Those without results are without happiness."

- Unknown