Team Bios 2009-2010
Videos 2009-2010

Planning

Okay, so as far as planning goes, we were a bit disorganized. Many parts of the robot were being completed around the same time, so we kept having to alter our design in order to be able to to fit components of the bot together in a way that allowed each component to work properly, ie. ball shooter, sweeper, gears. Our chassis was built in the definite shape of a square and the DC motors were attached. So that was really our basis for the bot. It seems like everything else kind of fell into place as we continually modified the design of our bot. Yes, our chassis was not the most aesthetically pleasing and kind of looked warped, but it worked and was pretty efficient at doing its job.

In regards to programming, we were all over the place. If any aspect of our engineering was neglected, it was definitely the programing portion of the design. I think that we didn't really pay much attention to this because programming doesn't really matter when your bot isn't even physically constructed yet. SO.. we went to the competition with no autonomous mode. Everything else was under control because the bluetooth/remote controls are fairly simple to configure.. or so I hear.

On another note, upon arriving at the convention center on the day of the competition, our bot was not in working order. All systems were not a "go". But with the help of other roboticians, we were able to figure out our programming difficulties, and our bot took on life!

Building

The first project we had this year was the chassis project. We all had to come up with simple chassis designs. We explored different shapes and ideas and ended up building a simple square. We ended up learning that the more simple it is, the better. The more simple it was the easier it was for us to imagine different functions for our bot in our head, and put those to action. We built our robot so that it was very compact. Also, stability was important to us so we (mostly sydney) double and triple checked that the screws were all tight. Our original sweeper design was actually a scoop until we realized the sweeper would be a lot more effective. It worked out very well because the zip ties we used stayed stable on our bot an the sweeper was able to sweep many balls into our bot at one time. We ran into a few programming problems but after we fixed a glitch on robot c, our robot was up and running perfectly (or, close to it). Lindsay mostly designed the shooter and it worked well for the competition, shooting the balls right into the goal. After the competition we were able to modify this so we got a closer angle for the ball to enter the goal, we placed a piece of plexi glass over the shooter and this gave the balls more direction. Towards the end of our bot building, many of us worked in close quarters around the bot trying to perfect every aspect of it. This was difficult because sometimes there just wasn't enough space but we worked as a team and eliminated each task at a time.

Integration


As I’ve previously documented, integrating the shooter, wiring components, and sweeper with our square chassis, was a very scattered and informal process. As a team, we did not spend enough time on developing a design, and building prototypes. We, by far, spent the majority of our time building in a trial-and-error manner, that was a really inefficient process, not to mention frustrating beyond belief.

As a team, we were aware that we had to build to the FTC 2009-2010 dimension specifications, which were basically the guidelines to what we could and could not construct.

I would describe the improper process of constructing a robot as “winging-it” and this is exactly what we did. Just because we were scattered and inexperienced did not mean that we had no chance for success, however. We were very successful, and actually received the PTI design award. I believe this was for our persistence, teamwork, and logical reasoning skills.

As for next year’s team, here is some helpful advice, believe me, I am not trying to humor you:

It would be amazing to have a finalized design and numerous prototypes prior to constructing your finalized design. This includes prototypes of specific components, plans for wiring, placement, and overall integration techniques. I’ve heard that Mr. Alexander might have a 3-D modeling program, which would be great if you can put that tool to use.

Anticipate complications. Do NOT assume that your design is ingenious, and everything will work properly. Last time I checked, we don’t live in an altered state of reality.

Finally, and most importantly; Spend 95% of your time thinking, conversing, communicating, planning, and developing. Spend 5% of your time actually constructing the “bot”. Yes, this work is tedious, but if you follow this logic, your “bot” will be so much more advanced, accurate and efficient than any bots made in years prior. You have big shoes to fill!


Peace.

Tournament

The day of the tournament was such a whirlwind experience. In the morning, I got lost on the way to the competition. I had to pull over several times in order to talk to incompetent gas station attendants that were actually located less than 1/2 mile away from the convention center, and had no idea where it was. Finally, I went to a Hampton Inn where I met a hotel clerk who had a striking resemblance to Robert Pattinson. He was really " hot" as dsalincoln would say. This fine young gentlemen gave me directions, and I arrived only 10 minutes late. It turned out being okay though, because only Mimi and Frances were already there.

SO. First we had judging in which we took out (uncompleted) robot up to the judges, presented them with our engineering notebook, and explained how we constructed the bot and who was responsible for which aspects of the engineering. This is where we truly shined, and ended up winning the PTI Design award, which we found out later in the day.

Next we headed off to measurement and testing stations so that the officials could make sure that out bot fit the size and safety requirements of the FTC rulebook. After passing these exams, we headed off to work a bit more on finishing our bot and getting the programing sorted out.

At this point, the day started to move really quickly. We practiced with our bot on the practice field for about 20 minutes, fiddled around, and then we were thrown into the pit where members of other "more experienced teams" spoke down to us. This was our experience in our first alliance. We lost this match.

Then we partcicipated in about four more matches and had great success. We ended up shooting some balls into the high goal and we got lots of balls into the low goals, resulting in successful alliance partnerships.

When everything was all said and done, about 7 hours had gone by (8-3), and we were exhausted. We were not picked as an alliance for the finals, so we all packed up and headed home with an interesting experience under our belts.


Post-Tournament

For next year, I think that a practical first tip would be to get started on the robot for the competition a little bit sooner. We dealt with some serious time crunches which added stress to the process and also possibly took away from more effective, but also more time consuming methods that could have been used. I also wish that we had spent more time on programming the bot and making sure that everything was written correctly. This would have allowed more time to physically move the bot around before throwing it into the middle of a competition! Using the joysticks definitely takes practice, which we could have used more of. On a similar note, I think that having some sort of a mock field would definitely be beneficial. This would allow the members of the team to each be able to try controlling the bot, and it would also allow the team to figure out approximately where the robot needs to be at certain times which would be conducive to a successful competition. I also think that it would be helpful to explore more ball shooter options next year in terms of gear ratios, positioning of the wheels, etc. which would possibly allow for a more effective shooter than we had this year. Lastly, a good idea for next year would be to allow a mentor to come in and help a little bit earlier. Having the maintenance help us on the bot reduced the time we wasted on easy or unnecessary tasks. While it is important that the robot be the work of the students, a mentor who is familiar with tools and building can definitely save valuable time that can be used later in practicing, programming, etc.