Sunday, December 30, 2012

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas 2012

On Friday (12/28/12) we were invited to demo our FRC robot at the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas as part of an ExxonMobil demonstration. FRC# 57 The Leopards from Booker T. Washington HS and FRC# 624 CRyptonite from Cinco Ranch High School were also at the demonstration with us.

Over 50,000 people were in attendance at the game. We were able to talk to many people about the benefits of FIRST and even got several young students interested in joining FLL teams at their schools. Thank you to ExxonMobil for setting up such a wonderful opportunity to spread the FIRST message to so many people.

For more photos look at our Facebook page.

- Spectrum

"If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas." - George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mentors for a Day 2012

This fall we started a new program to bring engineers and scientist in from our community to speak to our team and our schools. A couple of these guests have already made it up on our blog.

We have had a total of 9 speakers on 8 different days. It has been fantastic to get so many different perspectives from different engineers and scientists. The "Mentor for a Day" program not only exposes are students to professionals, it also exposes the professionals to FRC, VEX and STEM education. Below are the speakers that we haven't highlighted on the blog yet, along with links to videos of their presentations when available.

Sep 28th - Jose Lopez - Mechanical Engineer
- Sr. Design Engineer - Current Product Engineering, Product Services at Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America, Inc
- President 2012-2013 at Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers - Houston Professional Chapter
- ASME Student Liaison at ASME - South Texas Section

Oct 30th - Greg Frank - Civil Engineer at Costello Inc. Engineering and Surveying
- Hydrology and Hydraulics specialist, does flood studies and large drainage projects

Nov 2nd - Allegra Giblin and Tony Torlucci - Geology and Geophysics

Nov 16th John Sallans - Application Engineer at SKF USA Inc.
Spoke about bearings and their applications. From 10 meter diameter bearings used in earth mothers and tunnel machines to mm scale bearings for precision machines.

Nov 30th - Caleb Kemere - Neuroengineering Professor at Rice UniversityProfessor Kemere from Rice University came to St. Agnes Academy to talk to Spectrum about the brain and his research in neuroengineering.

Dec 5th - Brandon Morin - Completions Engineer with ConocoPhillips
Brandon is a Completions Engineer with ConocoPhillips. He talked about what he does on a day to day basis and about the technology used in extracting carbon and gas from underground.

Thank you to all the fantastic speakers we had this semester. We are very excited to continue this program in the future and get more exposure to different engineering and science disciplines. If anyone knows of an engineer, scientist or technology professional or hobbiest that would like to come speak at our school please let us know. 

- Spectrum

“If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” - Fred Rogers

Monday, December 17, 2012

HoustonISD VEX League Day 1

Spectrum is helping organize the Houston ISD VEX Robotics League as part of their UIL Academic tournaments. So far we have helped start VEX Robotics teams at 7 HISD High Schools and we should have two more new schools join for the rest of the league.

The first league event was this Saturday (12/15/2012). It was held at Sharpstown High School. Spectrum organized the event by handling the logistics of getting the fields and the teams to the site. We also provided the majority of the volunteers, along with help from Judy and Josh Bryant, and students from Young Women's College Preparatory and Carnegie Vanguard. Spectrum students handled the reffing, score keeping, and queuing for the event and helped with setup and take down.

The event was a huge success with 11 rookie robots and 7 veterans we did not expect the event to run as smoothly as it did. After only a few matches it was hard to tell the rookie teams from the veterans because they were all very professional and competing well. The matches progressed very quickly with each team getting 7 matches before 3:00 pm. We're very excited to see how these young teams improve throughout the duration of the league.

The results from the first day can be found on the event webpage.

The League continues with two more days of competition:
Jan 26th @ Sam Houston MST
March 2nd @ Carnegie Vanguard

Spectrum is very proud to be supporting the growth of engineering programs at high schools in our area.

- Spectrum

"Success has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It's what you do for others." - Danny Thomas

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Spectrum Mock Kickoff 2012-13

Spectrum hosted the inaugural Houston Area Mock Kickoff this Saturday (Dec 8th, 2012) at St. Agnes Academy. The event is modeled after events that take place in Michigan by Code Red Robotics and Minnesota by MNGoFIRST. The goal of these events is to introduce new teams and new students to FRC and how the design process works. Much of what we went over at our event was the Engineering Design Process, much of it similar to how John V-Neun presented it in this paper.

We had a fantastic turnout to this year's event. We had over 130 people in attendance representing 13 teams. We were very happy to welcome all four of the Houston area rookie teams to this event. 4587, 4589, 4639, and 4689 welcome to FRC we're all very glad to have you.

For the main event of the day we had everyone in the cafeteria. We split up the real teams in to about 20 Mock Teams for the day. That way people were working with people that they didn't know and hopefully they made a few friends during the day. We then went over what happens at Kickoff and also the entire design process. 

We also had 5 workshops choices after our main design workshop. We had an introduction to the electrical system, the mechanical system, How to run an FRC team, Using media to help FRC teams, and we also hosted our Java Beta Test open house during this time. Thank you to Scott Rippetoe (#1477), Kevin Sevcik (#57), Judy Bryant (#57), and Andrew Lynch (#2587) for helping with these presentations.

All of the documents that we handed out at this event can be found on our website. One of the newest things we have is our updated version of our Illuminations document for rookie teams. Please take a look it at; we really think it will help new teams.

Thank you to everyone that helped with event, all the participants, and everyone who has posted resources for teams to use.

- Spectrum

"Be an opener of doors for such as come after thee, and do not try to make the universe a blind alley."  
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Houston VEX Regional 2012

Spectrum was at the Houston VEX Regional this past Saturday (Dec 1st). We had both 3847A and 3847J on hand to compete for the regional title. We also had an entirely Spectrum referee crew for the event (7 volunteers).

The robots had a few nice improvements since we finished up the Houston League three weeks ago. Most notably, polycarbonate plates were added under the drive train to reduce the chance of getting stuck on stacks.

The robots both performed very well. We ended up ranked 18th and 24th because of a few technical issues in matches, but we both robots were picked to go into the elimination matches. Thank you for
Clear Falls 2335 and KAOS 1429 for picking 3847J, we had a great time on your alliance. 3847A was picked by 2587 Discobots and 1412C Road Hazards and went on to beat the 2335, 1429, and 3847J alliance for a spot in the finals. Thank you both 2587 and 1412C it was great working with you and were so proud to bring home some hardware from the event as Regional Finalists. Also congratulations to the Discobots for winning the Excellence Award.

Congratulations to McCallum Robotics 8756A, GONBOTZ - B 6966B (from Mexico), and Cypress Ranch Robotics Team 3335A on your regional victory it was well deserved.

Our VEX season is over for the fall, we may have one more tournament in the spring we'll see how that goes.

Now it's time to gear up for FRC, kickoff is only 32 days away. We have our Mock Kickoff this Saturday. For more information visit:

- Spectrum

"Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is in the doing something else." - Tom Peters, Chicago Tribune, July 11, 1994.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Solarcraft Tour

On Wednesday (11/14/12), Spectrum had the opportunity to tour the Solarcraft Inc. facility. Solarcraft ( is a local company that makes power products for critical electronics equipment in remote areas. They will be assisting us with the manufacturing of our robot in the 2013 FRC season.

Team Photo in front of their laser cutter

Each of the students on the trip was able to operate the 130 ton CNC break. 

Our students were also able to drive the Segway that they had on site.

It was a very informative trip as the students had a chance to see the design and construction process of several of their products. It's amazing how similar it is to an FRC robot build process. 
CAD -> construction -> parts installation -> wiring -> testing

Thank you to Solarcraft for being such generous hosts and we can't wait to work with them more this season.

- Spectrum

"Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have got it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known." - Garrison Keillor

Canstruction Houston 2012

Spectrum competed in the 2012 Canstruction Houston event this year. Five of our team members worked with architects from Wallace Garcia Wilison Architects to design and construct a sculpture out of canned food. The goal of the program is to raise awareness for the problem of hunger in our local community. Over 100,000 cans of food were donated to the Houston Food Bank at the conclusion of the event.

Michaela Lydon, Micaela Williams, Meron Wonderad, Sarah Shaw, Laura Mason, Alex Garcia (WGW Architects)

Our team's sculpture was of a Jackalope. Below you can see the final structure and the initial sketch of the design.

Below is the sign that was displayed next to the sculpture to explain why the Jackalope represents the problems of hunger.

Thank you to Canstruction Houston, Kroger Groceries, A&E- The Graphics Complex and especially Wallace Garcia Wilson Architects for supporting our efforts in this year's Canstruction Houston event. We're looking forward to doing it again next year.

- Spectrum

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” - Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Houston VEX League Finale

The Houston VEX League Finale was this past weekend, November 9-10th, 2012. Spectrum's two robots 3847A and 3847J both competed very well. They ended up seeded 9th and 14th respectively. 3847A was an alliance captain of the 7th seeded alliance and 3847J was the first pick of the 6th seeded alliance captain.

3847J made it to the semifinals and lost to two teams from Pasadena.

Congratulations to Pasadena ISD (231C) for being ranked #1 and qualifying for World Championships and Austin Middle School (1412C) and Awty International School (4128A) for winning the tournament and qualifying for World Championships.

3847J Match 10

3847A Match 23

In the skills challenges 3847A is ranked 16th in the world in programming skills with 45 points and 38th in the world in driver skills with 105 points. The top 30 teams on March 3rd, 2013 in each challenge category qualify for the World Championships.

Spectrum members volunteered as referees and score keepers for this event.

Allen Gregory, our Coach and Head Referee for Houston VEX, was awarded the Volunteer of the Year award for the Houston League.

On a different note we also had a demonstration at the National Society of Women Engineers Conference on Friday (11/9/12). We talked about FRC and the benefits of mentors to educational programs.

- Spectrum

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does." - William James

Monday, November 5, 2012

Community Day 2012

This Saturday (11/3) Spectrum spent the day interacting with our Houston community.

We started the day by volunteering at the Houston Food Bank we helped provide over 21,000 meals to the Houston community. Team members assembled "Backpack Buddy" bags for students that may not have enough to eat each weekend. This food takes the place of the school breakfast and lunch they normally get during the school week. We also helped package food boxes that are distributed to senior citizens at the end of each month. Often these seniors have limited budgets and have to make tough choices at the end of the month, these food boxes allow them to get though the month without going hungry.

After we finished at the Houston Food Bank we stopped by the Last Organic Outpost farm, an urban farm near downtown Houston that is experimenting with building local food systems. We volunteered here over the summer and wanted to see how our work is paying off.

We had a nice team dinner at Irma's in downtown Houston. Irma was fantastic and she made the team feel right at home.

Our last stop of the Day was to TX/RX Labs (, the Houston Hackerspace. They were hosting an open house for Houston FRC teams to show how they can help us during build season. They will be providing access to their tools and free training classes for Houston area teams.

Overall it was an awesome day helping our community and spreading our message across Houston.

- Spectrum

"It's not that successful people are givers; it is that givers are successful people."  - Patti Thor

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Houston Robot Remix 2012

Spectrum had its last event of the 2012 FRC season on Saturday (10/27). The inaugural Houston Robot Remix took place at College Park HS in the Woodlands. Thanks to Texas Torque (FRC#1477) and all the volunteers that made the event possible.

Spectrum had a great time competing with UltraViolet one more time this year. There were only 20 teams at the event so every team got on the field at least 8 times during qualifications. Our drivers weren't rusty at all and came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. In our first five matches we went 4 - 1 and were looking good to be a top seed at the event. The last three matches of the day proved to be a bit tougher and we lost all three of them partly because we had our main breaker malfunction. After a quick replacement we were ready to go for the elimination matches.

We were selected by the third seed in the tournament, the home team, Texas Torque (FRC#1477). We rounded out our alliance by selecting the Shadetree Mechanics from Killeen, Texas (FRC#3999). In our first elimination match we put in place a strategy that involved Shadetree defending and feeding ball back over to our side of the field. Torque was designated our main scorer and we collected balls and fed them to them while they were in place to score. This strategy worked perfectly and we won that match 78 - 1. The next two matches went downhill when our Driver Station laptop stopped recognizing our driver's inputs. We found the problem was a malfunction with the USB hub driver but by that time it was too late and we were down a match to the number 1 seeded alliance in the semi-finals. We put up an awesome fight in the last match but when Shadetree got stuck on the bridge there was too little time for us to work in a new balance and we lost 60 to 65. Overall it was an excellent tournament that introduced a lot of people to FRC and gave a lot of students more experience.

You can watch the webcast archive of the event here.

Thank you to Houston FIRST for sponsoring such a great an event and making it free for local teams. We can't wait to come back next year.

- Spectrum
"Go ahead, fail. Try to avoid mistakes, though.” -Seth Godin

VEX at the Sally Ride Science Festival

On Saturday our team had to split up for the morning. Most of our team was at Robot Remix (blog post to follow) but five of us went to Rice university with our VEX Robots for the 2012 Houston Sally Ride Science Festival. We presented the VEX robots to over 800 5th through 8th grade girls along with several other science demonstrations.

This is the second year we have been a part of the Houston Sally Ride Science Festival. It's an awesome event that sparks an interest in STEM in hundreds of girls each year.

We can't wait for next year.

- Spectrum

"An effort made for the happiness of others lifts us above ourselves." ~ Lydia M. Child

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mentor for a Day - Katie Strausser: Ekso Bionics

Spectrum had the great privilege of having Katie Strausser, a St. Agnes Engineering Team alumnus, visit the team on Monday (10/22). Katie graduated from St. Agnes in 2003 and attended Carnegie Mellon University. She received her BS in Mechanical Engineering (w/ minors in robotics and Computer Science). From there she went on to UC Berkeley for her Masters and PhD in Mechanical Engineering with a focus in Control Systems.

Katie is now developing the control systems for eksoskelton robots with Ekso Bionics. These machines are designed to help people with spinal cord injuries and also have military and industrial applications.

You can view Katie's full presentation to the team on our YouTube Chanel.

- Spectrum

“Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” ― Warren Buffett

Houston VEX League Day 2 - Galveston

This past Saturday (10/20) was day 2 of the inaugural Houston VEX League. The event was held at the Scott Collegiate Academy in Galveston, TX.

Spectrum had both our robots on hand and was ready to show off the improvements we had made of the past two weeks. We also had six of our members volunteer at the event as referees, field support, and queuers.

By the end of the day both our machines were performing very well; the drive train improvements had us moving much faster across the field. Due to the hard work of our team members our sack collection, autonomous modes, and game strategy improved throughout the day as well. We finished the day 10th and 17th out of 31 teams. Below is the only match were both our teams got to play on the same alliance.

You can view the rest of the recorded matches form the event at this link.
Official match results and current rankings from the event our posted here.

Thank you to everyone that helped put on a great VEX event in Galveston. Next stop for the Houston VEX League is Beverly Hills Intermediate, Pasadena ISD on Nov 9th and 10th for the final qualifying rounds and the elimination tournament. The schedule and more information can be found here. Don't forget to watch the webcast.

- Spectrum

"People have been known to achieve more as a result of working with others than against them." - Dr. Allan Fromme

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Weekend of Volunteering

This past week was spent mostly on making improvements to the VEX Robots for the Houston League Competitions. We're working on making our drive train faster and getting in more driver practice so we will be able to perform our match strategies more efficiently.

On Saturday (10/13) we had members of our team volunteered at the North Houston BEST Robotics event. We don't compete in the BEST competition anymore but we are still invested in supporting local robotics programs in all forms. The team worked as referees, time keepers, field rest crew and helped fund raise for the event.

Spectrum is also partnering with the Harris County 4H. Harris County 4H is putting on a robotics competition for 10 Houston area elementary and middle schools. This Sunday (10/14) we worked with a local Lowe's Store to build each of the schools a folding robotics table.

Coming up we have the 2nd event of the Houston VEX League in Galveston this Saturday (10/20).

- Spectrum

"Go the extra mile. It's never crowded." - Author Unknown

Monday, October 8, 2012

Day 1 of the Houston VEX League

Saturday, Spectrum hosted the 1st day of the Houston VEX League at Strake Jesuit College Prep. It was an awesome event with over 30 teams competing. The teams came ready to compete with some excellent robots to play Sack Attack.

The rankings from the event can be viewed at this website. Currently our two teams (3847A and 3847J) are ranked 15th and 16th.

You can view matches of both robots as filmed by our team here.

The archived webcast of the event can be found here.

Thank you to all the volunteers for doing a great job making the event go very well. Also thank you to the teams for cleaning up after themselves at the end of the event it made the event tear down much easier.

The next VEX League event is Oct. 20th at Austin Middle School in Galveston  All the teams are going to get at least 10 qualifying matches so the rankings can change greatly. Look for a lot of robot improvements between now and the 20th.

- Spectrum

"However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results." - Winston Churchill

Monday, October 1, 2012

VEX League this Saturday

We're hosting the first event of the Houston VEX League this Saturday (10/6) at Strake Jesuit College Prep.

We'll have over 25+ teams from across the Houston area competing in qualifying matches. These teams will than head down to Galveston on the 20th and finally to Clear Creek ISD on November 9th and 10th to crown Houston VEX League Champions.

Here is a photo of one of our robots. It's still missing its collector and it needs to be wired up before we can do full tests. The second robot is a bit further behind but should be ready for the competition as well.

We still need to add a few sensors and get the programming together as well but the main goal of the first event is to make sure the robots work than we will have three months to improve everything before the regional on December 1st.

Last Friday we continued our Mentor for a Day program by having Jose Lopez, Senior Design Engineer from Mitsubishi Caterpillar and representative from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, here to speak with us about his engineering projects and why he enjoys engineering.

- Spectrum

"Usually we talk about whatever is the most urgent question right now. Sometimes, especially early on, the most urgent question is to figure out what the most urgent question should be." - Paul Graham, What Happens at Y Combinator, February 2012.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mentor for a Day: Zeb Scoville NASA EVA

We had our 1st Mentor for a Day on Friday (9/21/12). Zeb Scoville from NASA's Extravehicular Activity team came to St. Agnes to talk about the history of Spacesuits and to show us all about the engineering challenges that have to be solved to survive a space walk. He also brought in a demonstration space suit and several of the pieces that make up the suit for us to get hands on experience with the end products.

His main talk can be viewed below.

Zeb also gave an excellent explanation of the Sep 5th spacewalk that required the Astronauts to improvise tools to fix a broken bolt on the Space Station. Video of that portion of the talk can be viewed here.

Photos of the Event can be found at this link.

It was a great experience for the team to get to learn from Zeb. We have several more Mentor for a Day sessions planned with engineers from the community and hopefully the rest of them will go as well.

- Spectrum

"To recognize that the greatest error is not to have tried and failed, but that in the trying we do not give it our best effort." - Foundations of Mission Operations

Monday, September 17, 2012

Moving Along Nicely

We have been progressing nicely on our VEX robots but we only have 18 days to have two completed robots for our 1st event. It's getting into crunch time.

 We are organizing the 1st league play event for Oct 6th at Strake Jesuit College Prep. We have many of the arrangements in place now and we just figuring out all the details that will make the event a success.

The new Houston VEX Robotics Competition is official. Look for it on the volunteer T-shirts for all Houston VEX events this year.

We're also working on a prototype FRC game that we should be able to publish the rules for next week. This is going to be used as a design challenge to CAD robots for this mock game. We hope to build a full robot if time permits in the fall to give some experience to our new team members and to work with some new tools that we have access to.

- Spectrum

“If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is, too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.” - Timothy Ferriss

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

VEX Week 2

Our two VEX Robotics Competition teams have continued their prototyping work for the past few days. We have several collecting systems and a couple lifts in the works. Hopefully we will have initial design paths by the beginning of next week.

We may be doing another fall engineering competition called Canstruction. It benefits the Houston Food Bank and brings awareness to the problem of hunger in our community. You can view some of the past entries in the competition here: It's a large undertaking so we still have to work out a few logistical issues before we are committed.

Planning is in full swing for the 1st Houston VEX League event that will be held at Strake Jesuit College Prep on Oct 6th. If you are interested in volunteering for the event please fill out the form here:

- Spectrum

"I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature." - John D. Rockefeller

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Start of the VEX Season

We've been meeting for about two weeks and most of that time has been spent getting introduced to the VEX robotics system and doing strategy analysis for the VEX game Sack Attack.

One of the ways we do strategy analysis is to simulate the game using members as the robots. It allows you to see a lot of possible game strategies. You can see a sample match below.

We also have several other projects working at the same time as our VEX teams. We have several different programming projects, we are working on an FRC prototype game, we are doing website work, we are working on our business plan and others. We're trying to make it as productive of a semester as we can.

Hope to see everyone at the first ever robotics competition held at Strake Jesuit College Prep on Oct 6th.

- Spectrum

"You can learn more from failure than success. In failure you’re forced to find out what part did not work. But in success you can believe everything you did was great, when in fact some parts may not have worked at all. Failure forces you to face reality." - Fred Brooks,

Monday, August 27, 2012

School is back in Session

We're already into our third week of classes and the team is beginning our fall activities.

We kicked off the year with a parents meeting to get them up to speed on what happened during the summer and how the fall semester was going to work. This is the first year that our two schools will be together as a single team during the fall.

We had our orientation meeting last week for perspective members and had a really great turn out (34 interested students). A large number have already registered for the team. It's going to be a very exciting year.

Today we hit the ground running with an introduction to the engineering design process (presentation) and also we did an overview of the VEX Sack Attack rules.

Tomorrow we will begin our strategy discussion for Stack Attack.

The first VEX Sack Attack matches in Houston will be played in the Strake Jesuit Dining Hall on Oct 6th. The new league play model is going to be very interesting.

- Spectrum

"Knowing how to think empowers you far beyond those who know only what to think." - Neil deGrasse Tyson

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Summer Work Continues in July

We haven't posted in a few weeks but that doesn't mean we have stopped working.

Spectrum Summer Workshop Series 2012

We had a very successful summer workshop series. Here are the presentations from that workshop. They look better if you download them.

Houston FRC Mentor Workshop Summer 2012

We also held the first Houston Summer Mentor Workshop at St. Agnes last weekend. We had 13 mentors from 10 teams on hand for two day to learn more about FRC and exchange ideas. It went extremely well, we had several 1st year mentors on hand that now have a better idea of how they will improve their teams in the next few years.

Robot Improvements

We haven't forgotten about the robot either. We've upgraded the collector to have a third stage to make our shooting more consistent and we have continued work on the vision processing as well. Today we upgraded our drive train with colson wheels in the center on each side.

Texas Robot Roundup is less than two weeks away. These last few days are driver practice and programming improvements. Along with a little bit of wire clean up.

- Spectrum

"As we help others, we cannot help but help ourselves." ~ Ben Cohen (cofounder, Ben & Jerry’s)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Spectrum Summer Workshop Series 2012

Summer Workshop Series 2012

This weeks marks the start of our first annual summer workshop series. We are spending 7 days learning about many different FRC concepts including the control system, programming in Java, and also Autodesk Inventor.

We invited a few other teams to join for these workshops as well. So far we have had members from four other teams attend our workshops.

We have uploaded the presentation files from the two workshops that are now complete. Please fill free to browse them and to send us any questions or feedback.

Control System*
Power Distribution*
*(Note they don't display properly with the online viewer, download them first to view them properly)

We have 6 more days to go. RSVP Here if you are interested in attending.

Engineering Links of the Week

One of our members made it on to HackaDay: 

- Spectrum

"Why not always act as if the other guy is doing the favor?” - Seth Godin

Friday, June 22, 2012

Moving on to Summer Stage 2

End of Summer Stage 1

This week marks the end of stage 1 of our summer project plan. You can view the entire plan at this link:

We are wrapping up our SPECTaculaR Lego Camp today. It's been a great two weeks at the Boys and Girls Club and we have been able to introduced robotics to over 50 children.

We were able to publish our build log on ChiefdelphiWe are still working on developing several other whitepapers to document some of our projects form this year. We should have whitepapers out about our cart construction, how we used the Sharp IR sensors on our robot and also on setting up vision processing on in OpenCV.

We have made a lot of improvements to Ultraviolet during stage 1 of the summer. It's now a fixed angle shooter. We changed our speed setting algorithm for the shooter to give us much smoother and consistent shots regardless of ball conditions. 

We finished our FLL flyer and have sent it to around 15 schools and we should be able to get wider distribution in the next couple months before schools start back up for the fall.

There are still several things on our list that we didn't get accomplished but hopefully we will catch up during stage 2 of our Spectrum Summer.

Summer Stage 2

Planning for stage two is in full swing. We will be hosting several workshops including the first annual Spectrum Summer Workshop Series. We will be going over the control system, power systems, programming, and CAD. If you're interested in coming to any of these sessions please visit the RSVP link here for complete details: We are also collaborating with Texas Torque (FRC#1477) on a Mentor Workshop. Hopefully this helps strengthen the mentor network in Texas and Houston specifically. The flyer for the Mentor Workshop can be found here.

We have several improvements planned for Ultraviolet before we head to Austin for Texas Robot Roundup on July 28th. We will be completely redoing our collection/elevator system to reduce jamming and to improve the consistency of our ball feed to the shooter. We have observed that this has major affects on the shooter accuracy. We also need to tweak a few problems with the drive train. Most of it is just fixing some damage that we sustained during our competitions. Vision processing is our big goal. We can track targets very well but actually being able to act on that information has been the problem, we have a month to get this right.

We are going to be demoing Ultraviolet at several different events during July. Hopefully we will be able to0 spread FIRST to many people who have never seen competitive robotics.

We're planning to tackle the big task of developing a business plan for our team. One thing the Chairman's Award Judges criticized us for was our sustainability plan. Hopefully by the next FRC season we will have a fully flushed out business plan that will guide Spectrum through future years.

We have a few other whitepapers in the works as well and hopefully these will get published in July.

It's going to be a very exciting month for Spectrum.

Engineering Links of the Week

The Invention of the Battery, presented by MIT K12

Sparkfun's online curriculum is a great resource for learning basics of electronics and hobby microcontrollers. A lot of really good information.

- Spectrum

”Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” - Will Rogers

Thursday, June 14, 2012

SPECTaculaR is Underway

Build Log

Quick note the build log from this build season has been archived and uploaded to Chiefdelphi. Thank you to everyone that helped format and get this ready for publication.


This week is the start of SPECTaculaR "Summer Programs Engaging Children Through Robotics." Our Lego robotics camp at the Spring Branch Family Development Center - Boys and Girls Club.

"This is the bestest thing in science." - one of our campers
That about sums it up for me, the campers are really enjoying the experience and we are having a great time introducing them to robotics.

We will be doing this camp all of next week as well. The campers are having to program their NXT robots to escape a room, race around a track, get out of a maze and many more challenges.

This is very good practice for our team members because we are going to start mentoring Lego League teams next year. All of our members are all learning many new things about the Mindstorms kits.

Engineering Link of the Week

Cornell has assembled an amazing collection of online book about different mechanical mechanism. If you need something to move in a certain way or just can't figure out how to build something there is probably a solution in the this library some where. 

- Spectrum

"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Preparing for Camp

Lego Camp Preparations
The last couple weeks have been devoted to preparing for the Lego Camp that is starting next week.

Today we were able to run through a few of our lessons with some guests in our lab (siblings and friends).

We built a field that is customizable to a variety of challenges. Each board is movable to make different configurations.

Moving to VEX
Spectrum is changing our fall competition to the VEX Robotics Competition. We have two registered VEX teams 3847A (Agnes) and 3847J (Jesuit), representing our two different schools.

We also put together a few documents to help rookie VEX teams get started.
Suggested Starter Purchases:
Parts Introduction slide show:

Engineering Links of the Week

Leap Motion

- Spectrum

"Everything in the world we want to do or get done, we must do with and through people." ~Earl Nightingale

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Working on our projects

We are continuing to work on our summer projects.

Here is the draft of our camp curriculum. We only have a week and half before we start and there is still a lot to do.

We have had a lot of requests to help\start FLL teams next year and a few VEX teams as well. We're very excited to be mentoring teams not just in FRC next year. Hopefully we will be able to take Ultraviolet (our robot) on a lot of demonstrations this summer.

We also should be releasing our 2012 build log within the next week or so. (Mostly what was already in the blog but updated a little bit.)

This week is also our end of year celebrations; we had a party last night and paintball tomorrow. Lots of team bonding.

Engineering Links of the Week

- Spectrum

“People who go to work to be a part of the cause don’t go home. They are home.
Now - who wants to quit?” - Simon Sinek

Friday, May 25, 2012

Summer Project Plans

Our meeting yesterday ended up generating this list of summer tasks. Some of it won't get done, but hopefully we will be able to knockoff a great deal of it.

Beginning of Summer (Due by June 22th)

Lego Camp

  • How to build our Cart
  • Vision White Paper
  • Simple guide to using Sharp IR Range Finders
    • How to make the cables
    • the formula David wrote to make the output linear
  • Build Season Log
    • Copy the Build Log into a document so it can be easily published

Promoting Robotics (Starting Teams)
  • Guide to different robotics events (Shows all the different competition in Houston)
  • FLL Flyer
  • VEX Flyer
  • Contact Schools
Improve Robot for Round Up


Middle of Summer (Due By July 28th)
Improve Robot for Round Up

Business Plan (Very Very Important)

Volunteer Project

  • How to build our Pit
  • Setting up the Beaglebone to work with the cRIO (and Raspberry Pi?)
  • Guides to starting teams in each different competition and contact info for that competition 

Mentor Workshop

  • Intro to CAD
  • Intro to Programming
  • Intro to Pneumatics
  • Intro Graphic Design

End of Summer (Due by start of school)

  • Spectrum Construction process (Lots of holes with rivets, same size drill bit, angle pieces attached to flat pieces for angles, etc.) (Ruth and Michael)
  • Public Calendar of Houston Robotic Events, every tournament in one place
    • Online
    • Printable Handout
  • Intro to VEX Design (Start VEX Designs)
  • Other classes/presentations that people want

Begin Work on Mock Kickoff/Welcome to FRC Day
  • Day in November where we invite rookie teams to come learn about FIRST
  • Show them an old Kickoff Video and talk to them about sample rules and how to brainstorm strategies and robot design.

Freshman Orientation

Other Ideas

Engineering Links of the Week
Electronics tear downs

"Good plans shape good decisions. That's why good planning helps to make elusive dreams come true." - Lester Robert Bittel