Monday, November 30, 2015

November News

FLL, Jr. FLL, Build Season
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FLL Tournament This Saturday

Our biggest event of the fall is this Saturday, Dec 5th. We will hosting the Spectrum FLL Qualifier.

This event will take place in the Strake Jesuit Dining Hall.

We Need more Judges
We are still in need of a few more adult volunteers to help with judging at the event. If you can volunteer please sign up here. Students are also welcome to sign up as well. You don't need any training to help with judging, we will send out documents for you to go over and train you the day of the event. Judging lasts from 7:30am to 3pm.

Event Volunteer sign up

FIRST Volunteer Management Sign up 
If you are volunteering please register with the VIMS by going to this link. Creating an account and registering for the Spectrum FLL Qualifier.

More information about the event can be had on our website


FLL Jr. Championship

Spectrum is hosting the South Texas FLL Jr. Championship on Dec 12th. This is event is more like a science fair for 40+ elementary school teams from around the state.

This event will be happening in the St. Agnes Cafeteria.


Build Season

Build season starts January 9th. That means we will start meeting a lot more and for longer hours as we work to build a successful robot. That means we will also need parent support in bringing in food, helping with building the field elements, and helping at events.

Sign up on the spring sign up list for events like kickoff, your planned build season hours, and which events you are planning to attend. I know this is a long way out but it helps us plan transportation and things if we can know early.



Allen on Behind the Lines

Allen is going to a guest on FIRST's Behind the Lines program this Wednesday. He will be discussing shooter designs as part of a panel of experts talking about transforming prototypes into functional robots. Watch live Wednesday night at 8pm CST

Spring Dates

  • Jan 5th - Solarcraft Tour Tentative 1pm-4pm
  • Jan 9th - Kickoff
  • Jan 17th 1-6pm - Boot Camp Build 1 (Helping other teams)
  • Jan 31st 1-6pm Boot Camp Build 2 (Helping other teams)
  • Feb 7th 1-5pm Superbowl Bumper Build (Helping other teams)
  • Feb 20 & 21, 10am-6pm Houston Scrimmage in Strake Dinning Hall
  • March 16-20 Bayou Regional
  •  Apirl 7th-9th - Lone Star Regional in Houston
  •  April 26th(PM)- 31st(AM) - FIRST Championship event in St. Louis
There will be more dates added, but these are the ones we know about now.
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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Spectrum Solidworks CAD Library

We have been working on a parts library for a number of years.

It currently includes most COTS items from standard vendors like AndyMark, VEXpro, WCProducts, and more.

Many sections are still incomplete but we will be updating them as the season goes on.

Very little of this content was created by Spectrum but instead it's a curated collection of freely available items. Thank you to the many people and organization that have made and released CAD models such as Solidworks, VEXpro, AndyMark, Team 610's Part LibraryMVRT CAD Library, McMaster-Carr, Andrew Lawrence's gear library and various vendor websites. If we forgot someone whose files we complied into our collection please let us know, we have been building this for several years so a few people/groups have probably slipped through the cracks.

Spectrum Library

- Spectrum

"Energy and persistence conquer all things."  - Benjamin Franklin

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Grab Bag: new driver station, color coding allen wrenches, etc

There are a lot of little things we do or discover through out the year that don't really justify a full blog post. Here are few items we purchased over the past few years that have come in very handy.

New Driver Station Laptop
We purchased a Dell Inspiron 11 from MicroCenter. We had been looking for a new driver station to replace the class mate we had been using from 2012-14.

Features we were looking for
- Small & light
- Good battery life
- Fast enough to run the driver station but didn't need it to do anything to complicated
- Touch screen is a plus but wasn't required
- 11"+ screen
- Multiple full size USB ports
- Ethernet Port
- 5 GHz wireless

The Dell Inspiron 11 doesn't meet all of these requirements but for $300 it was a good deal. The only two things it's missing are the Ethernet port and the 5 GHz wireless. These are both easily fixed.
- USB Ethernet port
- 5 GHz wireless

Here is a good review of the laptop and it's features from HotHardware.

Power Strips
12 outlet server power strips allow you to plug in all of your batteries and other devices when you are at events. The plugs are spaced far enough apart for large power bricks to be plugged in.

We have two of these
Tripp Lite RS1215-RA Power Strips

They don't cost that much more than a standard surge protector but they are worth it. They also each have a 15 foot cord so they act like an extension cord as well. Their own internal 15 Amp circuit breaker will prevent you from tripping the breakers at any of your venues as well. Look on eBay if you want to find some inexpensive used models.

PA Speakers
If you run any events (Off-seasons, FLL, VEX, etc) at some point you are going to need a sound system. We found the Harbinger Vari V2112 to be great speakers for these types of events. We purchased ours on sale for $130 each over Labor Day in 2014. Pair them with a couple speaker stands from Amazon and you have a very nice sound system that can fill a regular basketball gym. You can pick them up from Guitar Center here.

The VS2115s are a bit bigger but you can get them on sale some times from $150. We've heard good things about them as well.

Hand Vacuum
We bought  Black+Decker BDH2000PL MAX Lithium Pivot Vacuum on sale and it has been a great addition to our tool kit. Keeping this around in the pit at events allows us to easily and quickly clean up shaving and drilled out rivets, etc. We used to bring a full sized shop vac to events but that was far to cumbersome. This little 20 volt vacuum is a lot easier to handle so it gets used more often.

Color Coding Allen Wrenches
Finding the right size allen key has always been a frustration on the team. You find one the correct size but then finding the 2nd one for someone else to help takes just as long. This year we solved that problem by adding a small piece of heat shrink to all of our allen keys. We didn't have enough colors for every size so we settled on allowing a large, and small of any color. That way you at least only have two choices if someone says grab a red one and if you know it's for a small bolt you can grab the correct one every time.

This is the heat shrink pack we bought to do this. There are probably plenty of other options available as well.

Below are a few charts that make finding the right wrench even easier.

- Spectrum

"The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious." - Marcus Aurelius