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


  1. Big suggestion re: hand vacuum cleaner - get the one that goes with your rechargeable battery drill set, if its available. I have porter-cable drill/drivers, and the porter-cable hand vacuum that uses the same battery is the best I've ever had.


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