Posted in The Blog on March 9, 2016 by frc3840

Unceremoniously, the weekend came. We all knew that the competition was just around the corner, but nobody had the epiphany that after nearly two months of hard work, it was finally the time for our robot to compete.

We did not have all of our team members together on Wednesday, as we only had to unload our robot and all the parts we needed. On Thursday, as all of our members had arrived, we were assigned roles. Some members worked on the robot, some members stayed at the team’s work area, answering the questions of those who were curious, and some members scouted the pit area – not to gather information, but to reach out towards other teams, as one of our mentors had stressed several times, “in a few years, the fact that you have won a regional means little compared to the hearts you could have touched.”

But how did our robot do? It went okay at first. Thursday was the day before the actual competition started, and was used to let teams do practice matches. Our performance in the first practice match we had was unimpressive. But after a few more matches, the first one didn’t seem so bad to us. For some odd reason, our RoboRIO started having problems, and as a result, we were unable to control the robot, as it was basically the mini-computer of the robot. It took us, and many helpful volunteers of which we are very grateful to, the entire day to figure out the problem.

Friday started off with an opening ceremony. Although a bit disappointing to some of our members, quite a few of us stayed at the stands where they served as the team’s scouts. The rest of us hurried back to the pit area, and began testing our robot after borrowing a RoboRIO from the spare parts area. To our delight, we did pretty well, and won several matches in succession. We also broke our record, as for a brief moment, right after we finished a match, our team came in #1, out of nearly seventy teams in the regional. However, things took a turn after the lunch break.

After throwing a track which eventually costed us the match, we decided to put more bearings so as to help the tracks from going astray. It did not work out, and we lost another match. Since we were one of the few teams who got to compete earlier than most others in the morning, it was only expected that our rank would drop a little. After the other teams caught on with the number of matches they had competed, we realized our two consecutive losses costed us a lot more than we had initially thought, and towards the end of the day, it took us a short while to find our team number in the charts.

Saturday was pretty much the same as Friday. It started with an opening ceremony, and half the team went back to the pit and the others stayed behind as scouts. We only had two matches on Saturday, so it was important to make both of them count. Although we won the first match, we did not gain the three ranking points as we had hoped, and it started to be apparent to us that we might not make it to the finals. Nevertheless, we fought the good fight. We did quite well in our last match (and actually, our final match on Friday as well). Although we lost the match ultimately, we were able to prove that our robot was quite capable to play the game well.

At the conclusion of the two competition days, an awards ceremony was held. Although we did not win anything, we were glad to see that various teams had their efforts rewarded towards the end of the competition. We did have a small celebration though, and went to the Lazy Bear Grill for supper, traditionally the place to go after a competition for our team.

Week 6 update, part 2

Posted in The Blog on February 27, 2016 by frc3840

Even after the robot was finished, we still had plenty of things to do.

First of all, we went to a scrimmage event on Saturday. It was quite the eye-opener for our rookies, as most of them had not been to such an event before. It gave them a taste of how the competition would be, but I quote the words of our mentor Dean: “The competition is ten times crazier.”

At the scrimmage, it was apparent that not all the teams were exactly ready. Some robots would tip over obstacles, some robots would have trouble shooting balls, and some robots would not budge at all. Of course, that included our robot as well. We faced issues with our shooter, and most of the time it was on the floor, and we could hardly go anywhere as a result. Thankfully, things improved as time passed, and teams, including us, were able to fix most of the problems they had been facing.


But driving the robot was not the only thing our members had to do. Our rookies also scouted for the team. Scouting was not something that we would focus on, as we did not have enough people to scout while working on the robot. As we have several new members this year, we sent them to scout as other teams competed against each other. After being shown how, the rookies took turns sitting at the spectator side, taking notes on the robots’ performances.


We also asked one of the inspectors to come over and take a look at our robot. Our mentors had the rookies to answer most of the questions asked, as we want our members to be able to answer any questions people might ask during the actual competition – and in fact, several teams sent out scouting teams and asked us questions even at the scrimmage. But that was not the only reason why we wanted our robot to be inspected. It is always a good idea to do things ahead of time, and by having our robot inspected during the scrimmage, we could have more time to fix problems. We did not have any major issues, though; we had a few questions answered however, one of them being concerns about the robot’s height as we drive the robot, and we are glad to have them answered.

We continued to practise driving in the next three days. We made minor modifications to the robot on Sunday, and brought it to the town hall for practice. On Monday, we held an open house event at the same town hall, inviting people to come and see how the team was doing.


And they enjoyed our demonstration.


On Tuesday, we brought the robot to Cambridge-Isanti High School. As we could not fit the high goal into the town hall, we couldn’t really test out our shooter on it, and therefore we are very thankful to CIHS and team 5464 Bluejacket Robotics, who lent us the field to practise.

IMG_1967 IMG_1981

Shout out to these awesome guys!

Towards midnight, there was also one thing we had to do: the bag and tag process. Basically that means we have to put our robot in a plastic bag and wrap it up, so that we could not work on it anymore, until we go to Duluth where the competition is held.


That marked the end of the build season for this year. But that doesn’t mean we have nothing to do before the competition….

Weeks 5 & 6 update

Posted in The Blog on February 23, 2016 by frc3840

In the past two weeks, we focused on testing and improving our robot. Although it could run and it could shoot, in most situations there will always be issues that come up whenever something gets done, and it was no different for our robot.

By driving our robot, we realized that the robot might tip over when it crossed obstacles, the treads would come off in certain situations, and that there were issues that caused the robot to not execute commands the way we wanted it to. To deal with these problems, we tightened the chains connecting the motors to the treads, we added wheels near the robot’s center of gravity, and we rewrote some of the code, in addition to rewiring parts of the electronic board.


We had to take away our electric board and our pneumatics board to fix issues with the shooter.


Taking apart the treads.

We also had to undo some of the progress made in the previous weeks. Our bumpers were incorrectly made, and we had to redo them. Our first idea for the door opener, which was more than halfway done, was scrapped, forgoing the arm in exchange for more time to focus on other aspects of the robot.


Work in progress.

On the other hand, we have done a lot more test driving. Mentor and founder of the team, Andrew, had designed a drive course for us, in which we have to drive around chairs in a 8-shape. It was not an easy task for all of us, as the robot drives in a manner that is unlike any other robots we have built. But eventually, some of our members got the hang of it, and were able to make less mistakes than before. At this point it still presents a challenge to some members, but others are growing confident in driving the robot, and that is well.


Setting up obstacles at the local town hall.


(PS: We bought a new trailer to carry our stuff around. It’s going to look great.)

Week 4 update

Posted in The Blog on February 13, 2016 by frc3840

In the last week, we completed a couple of things. First of all, our robot is finally driveable! This means that our members can practice driving the robot, including how to cross the obstacles efficiently.


Weighing the robot beforehand.


Testing the robot.

Secondly, our shooter is completed. It’s not attached to our robot yet, but the shooter per se is functional.


Thirdly, an important project was completed and submitted, called the Chairman’s Award.

So what is the Chairman’s Award? It is described as “the most prestigious award a team can win at a regional or at the championship, more so than even winning the competition itself.” It is not about winning the competition of the year. Rather, it judges teams by how they demonstrate commitment to spread their passion for science and technology.

So what’s in it for us? Winning the Chairman’s Award would induct the team into the FIRST Hall of Fame, and would be invited to the Championships every year regardless of performance. But to be honest, winning the award means that we would be recognized by FIRST, and that already is the reward.

In other news, remaining parts of the robot were being worked on, such as the bumpers, and the door opener, which allows us to get past some of the obstacles. But aside from that and small improvements here and there, our robot is in good shape.

Week three update

Posted in The Blog on February 5, 2016 by frc3840

In the third week, the remaining obstacles were built, the electrical board was completed, and the gearboxes and the associated motors were connected to the board.  Some robot code had also been written. So far, we are able to get the motors run in both stages of the game, the autonomous and the teleoperated stages, so that it can move on its own, but can also receive commands from the human drivers. Aside from that, the image processing code was also being worked on, so that we can later see from the robot’s point of view when we drive the robot. Lastly, work has begun on our ball handler, and the robot frame is nearly completed. We expect to begin driving the robot in the middle of week four.




One of the completed obstacles.


Printing out a piece with a 3D printer.


The drive train, nearly completed.

Update! 2016 build season, weeks 1 & 2

Posted in The Blog on January 30, 2016 by frc3840

It’s been a while! But I am happy to tell you that a new season has started, and the team is going strong! We owe this to our sponsors – a big thank you to all of you who has supported us, as this wouldn’t be made possible without your support.

This year, we have ten members in our team, which is twice the number we had in last year; one of them is an exchange student from Hong Kong.

Kickoff & week one

The six-week build season started off with the kickoff event in early January. A video was shown to teams, introducing us to the game this year, called FIRST Stronghold. It is a co-op game, with six randomly-chosen teams drafted into two bigger teams. The objective of the teams is to, unsurprisingly, defeat the other team by crossing the enemy’s defenses, laying siege to the enemy tower and scaling it, ultimately capturing the tower. After watching the video, we as teams went to different rooms so we could discuss strategies. The time we spent in Buffalo where we attended the kickoff was not enough, however, and we continued to discuss the tactics to be used in our usual meeting location after the event.

Early in the week, we had to make decisions quickly so that the team could start working. In other words, we had to decide our team’s strategy to play the game. At our second meeting, we reached a consensus regarding the strategy we are using, as well as the type of drive train we are using: the tank drive. As obstacles play a major role in the game, tank treads can help us to tackle them. Team members then set off to work. We began working on prototypes as well as obstacles, which we built out of wood. The senior members of the team also worked on the design of the robot, using 3D modelling software.


Team members discussing tactics.


Our team members and mentors studying the parts given to us.

IMG_0940An unconventional way to test a prototype.


Week two

In the second week, we continued to work on the obstacles and the robot frame, in addition to the electrical board, the gearboxes, and our standard and flag. By the end of the week, we finished building nearly all of the obstacles, and the gearboxes were assembled. Parts of the robot frame has been assembled, and the electrical board is mostly wired. Overall, it has been a productive week.

IMG_0972Putting the base of the frame together.

IMG_0980A mentor giving out instructions to a rookie on building the obstacle.

IMG_1165The electrical board, about halfway done.


TNT in the News

Posted in The Blog on February 25, 2015 by frc3840


week 3 & 4 update

Posted in The Blog on February 3, 2015 by frc3840
The update this time is for the past two weeks.
WEEK 3:  The solenoids were mounted, wired,and tubing connected to the air supply completing the  pneumatic system.  The team then started the lift design and assembly.  The lift design resembles a fork lift and after realizing that the design was overly complex, the team did some more brainstorming to come up with some ideas on how to simplify it.  The team also learned some valuable lessons when a voltage regulator was overloaded causing it to burn out.
I thought you would be interested in what this year’s cadet (8th grader) and our first girl on the team learned during week 3 in her own words.  This week we got a lot done.  We got our robot to work with the new kind of wheels.  I got to learn how to update the blog.  I learned how to work with the boys.  I learned how to make them go fast on a shopping trip.  That is how the week went for me.  🙂
WEEK 4:  During the week we problem solved the pneumatics by locating and fixing the leaks, and tested the solenoid programming.  Construction on the lift was finished, was mounted and connected to the motor.   It uses two sets of linear slides and a series of pulleys to raise in two stages.  A motor connected to a shaft winds up a rope which is fed through the pulley system.  We are now working on finalizing the gripper design and have started building the final part of our robot.
We hope to be finished building by the end of week 5 so that we can focus on driving practice and program tweaking during week 6.
The robot will be sealed up in a bag on February 17, not to be touched again until we get to competition in Duluth.  We would like to invite you all to come to the competition at the DECC February 26-28.  The best day to see the most action would be on Friday, February 27.
Thank you again for your support, the kids are working hard, learning much, and having fun at the same time.

Week 1 pictures

Posted in The Blog on January 24, 2015 by frc3840
Cecelia learning how to wire up the electrical board

Cecelia learning how to wire up the electrical board

Danny and his homemade 3D printer

Danny and his homemade 3D printer

The 3-D printed hub fits perfectly

The 3D printer hub fits perfectly

John working on the chassis

John working on the chassis

week 2 update

Posted in The Blog on January 21, 2015 by frc3840
Hello everyone,
We have finished our second week of build and the students have been working very hard.  At this point they have most of the core operating systems finished.
This year it was decided to utilize four omni wheels on the drive train; two aiming forwards and two aiming sideways.  Omni wheels have edges lined with rollers at 90 degrees so that the wheels can roll in 4 directions.  Having two wheels aiming sideways enables the robot to be driven in any direction.  With this system being completed, preliminary drive train testing was begun in order to work out any bugs in the system.
A good portion of the pneumatic system was installed.  This system will be used for the forklift actuator.  Next on the list is to finish the pneumatics and to start building the actuator.  A good prototype was worked on during our first week and that design will be put into use in the final actuator being built and tweaked during the next couple weeks.