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 http://frcgamesense.com/

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 Mint.com 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