St. Louis and Worlds

The World Robotics Championship is where the best robotics teams from around the world compete against each other on the grandest stage of all.

The journey to St. Louis was tiring but exciting at the same time. To be honest, I had underestimated the bus ride. I estimated it would take from 13 to 18 hours of travelling but I didn’t think much of it. Luckily, I survived, but I came out of the bus with a sore and aching body.

I was relieved once we arrived at St. Louis. We finally had the chance to escape the cramped spaces of the bus and enjoy some breakfast. Before we went to our hotel we stopped by the City Museum. The place was bursting with creativity and excitement.  There were slides in every corner (one of them was 10 stories high), staircases to climb, smalls spaces to crawl through, and objects to hang from. The place was packed with kids of all ages. Adults were having fun too. The RoboLancers weren’t the only robotics team in the building. I saw plenty of other teams having fun before the start of the competition.

The next day was the start of the qualification matches. I’ve been to many robotics competitions in Philadelphia but they were nothing compared to the World Championships. Everything was bigger, better, and more exciting. Teams from all over the world such as Australia, Mexico, and Israel arrived to compete. The stands were filled with people rooting for their teams. The team spirit I witnessed during Worlds was unbelievable. People were chanting, yelling, and dancing around the place.

While we were at the Edward Jones Dome/America’s Center, I got to roam around for a bit with my friend. While we were travelling to the Pit area I saw a bunch of people crowding around someone. Curious, we went over to see who they were talking to.

It was Woodie Flowers.

The first time I came close to a famous person was last year during the summer. In my mind I knew that this was a rare opportunity and that I shouldn’t let this chance pass me by. People were getting his autograph and taking selfies with him. My friend was anxious to go to the pits since we were on a tight schedule but I absolutely refused to leave until I got a signature from Woodie Flowers.

And I did.

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I met Woodie Flowers and got his autograph. This was something I never thought would happen in my life. I went on to brag about this to my other team members but I stopped when two of my friends met him the next day and took a selfie with him.

We later then went to the pits where we went crazy hunting for team pins, wristbands, and other cool toys. We were at Worlds and we wanted to experience everything as much as we could.

Later in the day the opening ceremony began. It was a paper airplane extravaganza. That’s the best way I can describe the opening ceremony and the rest of the competition. Never in my life have I seen so many paper airplanes being thrown in the air. They were quite impressive.

The competition continued for the next few days. Finals were around the corner and we competed with all we had. We ranked in 54th place in the end. Unfortunately, we didn’t get picked during Alliance Selection so we couldn’t compete during the Einstein Playoffs. However, we didn’t let that dampen our mood. The ending ceremony arrived with a concert and everyone enjoyed themselves during our last day in St. Louis.

Going to the World Championship was an experience I’ll never forget. I got the chance to meet people from all over the world, go to the Gateway Arch, meet Woodie Flowers, and collect team pins in the pits like a madwoman. I want to thank all of our sponsors for supporting the RoboLancers and helping us with our trip to St. Louis. This would never have happened without your support.

We went to the World Championship twice already.

I’m hoping for round 3.

FLL Fun

What is more fun than working with robots?

Working with kids and the robots, of course. My job was to make the sure the rules were being followed, not to make the kids cry.  The scariest thing that happened to me in the morning when I overslept the clock, and came out with my ID, and toothbrush in my mouth. As I got off of the Broad Street Line, I met up with XYZ, former member of RoboLancer, as I dashed down the hill to get to the Event.

As I walked into the GYM, I was automatically reprimanded by Sabrina for being late, and not being aware of the rules. As I grabbed my referee shirt, I listened to the head referee, Jim, explain the rules to the referee. As I was half listening, I quickly analyzed the  arena. I noticed automatically, the arena there was more fun, and interesting object. As my job did not start until at 1:30, I  ran around as an errand boy, and casually officiate some of the practice games. As an errand boy, I learned each teams core value, and hopes were often were very different because one might to be score as much as possible, while the next team over might not want to score as much, but to act as a strong building block for the future to come and overlay on.

As the clock neared 1, I was almost constantly sent about to find this team, or relying messages as to what, and where something is happening. To make it even more comical, I even called somebody to inform them of the situation instead of walking up the stairs. When the clock dawned 1, I knew it was either make or break time because if I was not ready before the practice matches, I knew I sure won’t be ready right now. The first match was a mix of fun and nerves for not only the kids, but me also because I knew if I screwed up a game in this line up, it might mean whether they will be able to go to States or not, and I do not want to be the cause why they could not go to States.  However as the game progressed, I noticed either A) the teams wasn’t there or B) the referee watching over the game was somewhere else. As it was my duty to monitor the games, I picked up many games here and there, but lost some of the games here and there also. As the day dragged on, I began to feel increasingly tired, but I knew it was worth it, and the kids will be appreciative in the future.

Saturday at Springside Chestnut Hill

Today, Saturday January 17, the Robolancers were given the wonderful opportunity to work with Springside Chestnut Hill robotics team, 1218 Vulcan Robotics. Today we just wanted to test out our mecanum drive, something the Robolancers have not used since 2010, out on regulation FIRST carpet. Mecanums have a bad reputation, for not being the greatest if you do not practice often. We came to Springside just to test out our drive, and 1218 helped us out the entire time. First, they gave us the opportunity to explore their amazing machine shop. We were instantly amazed; they had a lathe and even a CNC mill and they told us that we were allowed to use it whenever we needed to. Next they showed us their swerve drive that a few of their kids worked on for their senior design project, and it was truly inspirational knowing that students designed and built a fully operational swerve.

Talking about the swerve, we were able to gain insight on mechanical design, FRC sensors, and even programming expertise. Everyone on their team was extremely welcoming, sincere, and graciously shared advice for this current build season. This was probably one of our best days in the build season because we got to see our drive work and had the opportunity to work with one of the best robotics team in MAR. Thank you Springside Chestnut Hill for allowing use to work with you guys!

(1218 Beautiful swerve drive we got to see)
(1218 Beautiful swerve drive we got to see)

[Crimson] [Mech/Prgm] FTC Meet at Temple (Viwing’s PoV)

We had our First Tech Competition today and it was extremely nerve-wracking. Firstly, the day before competition, we noticed that the design of the robot did not match up with the programming. The reason being is because when the robot moves during the tele-op phase, the manipulator drags on the floor and impedes the robot from accurately moving. Another reason is because the manipulator moves backwards a little too much and the heaviness of the robot’s back causes it to fall backwards.

In conclusion, our team as a whole decided to take off the manipulator for this competition and focus on defending. Another problem arose when the two female driver, Raina and I, were not comfortable with the controllers because during practice, the battery kept dying. However,  we were too excited in the moment and neglected the fact that our robot’s back was too heavy. And so, we tipped over when we moved backwards on the ramp.

Not only that, we were also penalized for touching the rolling goal’s tube during the autonomous phase. Aside from the exciting and nerve-wracking atmosphere of our First Tech competition, a lot of problems were identified.The things we need to work on includes our autonomous code, balancing the weight of the robot, charging the batteries (which is a silly mistake), and utilizing our practice field so the drivers can get comfortable.

There were many regretful things about the competition, knowing that we can definitely do better, but overall, it was a meaningful experience where we could find our mistakes and work on it.

[Crimson] [Prgm] FTC Meet at Temple (Michael’s PoV)

On December 11th, 2014, the RoboLancers that were going to the competition met in 95, and received their team tshirts. The whole team left, but when they noticed the kid in the wheelchair was missing, everybody stopped and wondered where the kid was at. Furthermore, as the wheelchair kid got on the subway’s elevator, the whole team left without Mr. Johnson and the wheelchair kid as they watched the train doors close before them. That kid was me.

Things got better when we got there, though. As both Crimson and Gold traveled (nervously) to Temple University’s Engineering building to compete in our first FTC meet. The experience of the meet as a whole was amazing. Despite not being fully prepared, that did not discourage nor stop us from doing our best. Our first instinct when we got there was to put the finishing touches on the robot. Crimson went to one table and gold to another and we immediately went to work. Crimson immediately panicked because they have realize that we didn’t have a supply list and the manipulator didn’t turn out as expected.

As the competition went on, Crimson realized that their robot was back heavy, and had to reprogram the robot to make it effectively. As some people worked on the robots, others went to scout the competition From the interviews, we learned a bit about the teams that were there. Based on what we witnessed that day, we saw flaws and strengths within teams. This also made us realize our own flaws and strengths as well.

Our teleoperated code seemed to be defective when testing even though it worked before, when suddenly, Armond, programming Lead, came around and read through and noticed that the controller was defective and our code was actually”A-Ok”. The programmers there, Viwing and I, had a nervous breakdown when we thought our autonomous code did not work, but the answer to the problem was a quick fix. We just needed to activate the code by selecting it in the NXT Brick.

As we went into the matches, our batteries were always scarce and hardly available due to the high demand from Gold needing the batteries for their match when we were practicing it. In the end since there was only one battery, but they relied on us and we pulled through that match with a close win.

Drive It! [Marketing]

This is my first year being a part of the team and I’ve never been to any of the events for Robotics. It was my first time at Drive It! and my first time at any Robotics event so I didn’t really know what to expect. When I got there, our team was carrying in boxes and setting up the field. As a member of Marketing, I didn’t have a clue of what the others were doing. The Marketing team and I set up the food stand along with our sassy security guard.

Once our food stand was completely set up and our fabulous signs were taped up, the first chapter of our business began. Our first customers were our team’s members. All of them bought the same thing and that was the Mountain Dew Throwback. After risking frostbite to look for those Throwback cans that were in such high demand, a few more customers appeared. They were unfamiliar faces which indicated that some of the others teams had arrived. Luckily, they requested donuts and hot chocolate(which we didn’t even have at that moment). Other customers appeared after seeing people eat those delicious donuts that were purchased from our food stand. Our thanks goes to Dunkin Donuts for selling us the donuts. We made a lot of money because of them.

Of course, my attention was not only directed to the food stand but also the teams. Since I didn’t know any faces other than the faces of our team members, I directed most of my attention to our own members. The most notable one was Henry Dang. As I was tending to customers’ needs, I watched as he went from table to table. During that time, I was a bit confused and I was wondering why he was at another team’s table. I started to notice that other teams’ members were at our team’s table. That’s when I realized that the teams were helping each other’s robot. They were helping each other so that the team’s could drive their robots hence, ‘Drive It!” At that moment, I felt like I had just discovered the meaning of life. After a long day of rummaging through trash bins for soda cans that were buried under a ton of ice, my day had finally come to an end. On the bus, I wondered if that whole day was a complete waste of time. I opened my bag and picked up the completely forgotten, complimentary Twix bar I got for running the stand and concluded that Drive It! was totally worth it.

Marketing Materials

Today I attended Marketing Materials, which is a class that is part of Spring Training. The class was taught by the RoboLancers’ Assistant Coach, Mrs. Conrad, and Thomas Davidenko, a member of the RoboLancers. They were excellent teachers and because of them I learned a lot about Marketing.

In the class I learned all of the important aspects of Marketing such as finding sponsors for our team, how to impress potential sponsors, and various skills that will be needed in making the RoboLancers successful. I payed special attention on how the RoboLancers could impress potential sponsors. Mrs. Conrad gave us tips on how we could accomplish this task. One of the tips was having a good elevator pitch, which she told us was an important skill to have.

During the class Mrs. Conrad and Thomas decided to do a small activity and broke the class into small groups so we could practice on our elevator pitches together. We had to come up with a topic and had to impress Thomas and Mrs. Conrad on our topic in less than 30 seconds. I was in a group with Justin and Wendy. Our first topic, “Cat Sponsors” was suggested by Justin. He had been very excited about it.

“Cat sponsors! Cats will support our team! Black cats, White cats, Tabby cats, all cats will support the RoboLancers!”

I was too stunned at his enthusiasm to respond. However, Wendy wanted to change the topic to “Buy a cat” and we all decided to stick with that.

In the end of the class Mrs. Conrad told all of us an amusing story where when she was little she would practice her elevator pitch in front of the bathroom mirror. She then suggested that we all do that at home. I would do it, but I’m afraid that my parents will be wondering if there is something wrong with me.

Chestnut Hill FRC Regional

Hi all, it has been a while since my last blog post.

The RoboLancers recently participated in the Springside Chestnut Hill FRC District competition on the 14th and 15th of March. I have previously been a part of the drive team for off-season events – Ramp Riot and Duel on the Delaware, however it was my first time being part of the drive team for an actual qualifying competition. My position was the coach of the drive team. This experience was exciting and a little stressful. Being able to strategize with other teams and being up front and watching the robots competing on the field was amazing. After this competition, I am very looking forward to the Lenape-Seneca regional this week. Hopefully the team will be able to yield better results this competition.

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Chestnut Hill District Competition

On March 14th and 15th the RoboLancers attended the FRC Chestnut Hill District Competition. In the previous year I was able to attend this competition, however, this year was my first time as a member of the pit crew. I had the opportunity to work on the mechanical aspects of the robot, repair various complications that had occurred with the robot, and prepared the robot to compete in the field.

Last year I was able to see the competition from a different perspective. I witnessed the different teams and robots compete out on the field and the illuminating spirt that was rendered through the teams. This year I was allowed to participate in the action that occurs behind the scenes. Pit crew was chaotic, everyone scampered to ready the robot for the matches. The mood was high paced and stressful. When in the pit, one is able to ultimately understand that the robot is never thoroughly complete.

Although our robot did not function to its full potential. I have to admit that being a part of the pit crew was one of the most extraordinary experiences I was able to be a part of. I am optimistic about the improvements that our team has decided to make on the robot and am excited and looking forward to attending next week’s Lenape-Seneca Regional Competition.

– Melissa