Robotics Team T-Shirts

Here is a preliminary design that we have for the team t-shirts for the two robotics teams at FHS.

FTC 12645 and FTC 11242 are looking at different ideas for their team t-shirts.

We want to have the team name and/or motto on the front of the shirt, along with the team number, game logo, and teams in the league.

On the back, we want to highlight our sponsors.

Currently, we have grants from Texas Workforce Commission for both teams and from FIRST for FTC 12645. We also have a placeholder logo on the back if a pending grant is awarded.

Finally, we are waiting on the logo from the t-shirt production company who is providing the shirts and printing to us as no charge.

A final design will be selected in the next week or so once we have a final team number from the last team entering the league and we know about the status of our grants.

El Dorado League

Tonight, we had the El Dorado League of North Texas coaches meeting. We had representatives from the majority of the teams present in addition to Dave Davis who was the former affiliate partner for North Texas.

We had a very productive meeting and made many good decisions for future years.

El Dorado League Map

Direct Map Link

The El Dorado League consists of 11 teams spanning a total area of 2,204 square miles!

We have the following teams in the league:

  • FTC 127 – Fighting Pickles
    • Ben Barber Innovation Academy – Mansfield, TX
  • FTC 5443 – Synergy
    • Harmony School of Innovation – Ft. Worth, TX
  • FTC 9402 – CyberSwarm
    • Henderson Junior High School – Stephenville, TX
  • FTC 9403 – Hive of Steel
    • Henderson Junior High School – Stephenville, TX
  • FTC 10143 – TBD
    • Harmony School of Innovation – Ft. Worth, TX
  • FTC 11085 – MHS
    • Mansfield High School – Mansfield, TX
  • FTC 11242 – ERROR 451
    • Ferris High School – Ferris, TX
  • FTC 12645 – The S.C.R.E.W. Ups
    • Ferris High School – Ferris, TX
  • FTC 12650 – Cannot Compute
    • Ferris Junior High School – Ferris, TX
  • FTC 12992 – RoboGladiators
    • Italy High School – Italy, TX
  • FTC 201701690 – Eagle Bots
    • Faith Family Academy – Waxahachie, TX

For the season, we have the following schedule:

Saturday, 21-October-2017 @ 9:00am
  League Scrimmage / Workshop
    Ben Barber Innovation Academy – Mansfield, TX
Saturday, 18-November-2017 @ 9:00am
  League Meet #1 of 3
    Ben Barber Innovation Academy – Mansfield, TX
Saturday, 09-December-2017 @ 9:00am
  League Meet #2 of 3
    Henderson Junior High School – Stephenville, TX
Saturday, 13-January-2018 @ 9:00am
  League Meet #3 of 3
    Italy High School – Italy, TX
Saturday, 20-January-2018 (LOCATION UNCONFIRMED)
  League Tournament
    Mansfield Center for the Performing Arts – Mansfield, TX

FTC Team Names

We now have team names for both of the FHS teams! One of the teams arrived at their name fairly quickly. The other has been debating a team name for the past two weeks!

Here is what we have for the 2017/2018 season.

  • Team: FTC 11242
  • Name: ERROR 451 – Not Available For Legal Reasons
  • Motto: Primo Victoria (First, To Victory)
  • Team: FTC 12645
  • Name: The S.C.R.E.W. Ups
  • Motto: Succeed, Conquer, Repeat Every Week

The graphics design students, under the leadership of Mrs. Hartman are creating tee-shirt designs for both teams to consider for the upcoming season!

FTC Relic Recovery

FIRST-FTC-RelicRecovery17-18-Color-840x700OK. I swear that I did not know anything about the game this year. I wrote a post on May 19th brainstorming what the Relic Recovery game could be. While my guess was off, one of my team building efforts (All Aboard) was pretty close to the balancing stones and the fact that we need a good strong manipulator arm.

This game looks intense at first, but after you decompress it, it’s not really that bad.

We’ve been able to ascertain that this game is not so much about speed of the robot in driving but about its ability to remain balanced with an arm reaching a considerable distance and the ability to build an arm that can accomplish the assigned tasks.

After we all had our “Oh My God!” moment, we started brainstorming and came up with some pretty good ideas. Now, it’s time to start prototyping!

FTC Team Building Efforts

This year I decided to dedicate a considerable amount of time to team building efforts. We start team building at our second meeting and ran through today.

Build a Burger

In this team building exercise, each student has part of a hamburger (printed on paper) taped to their back. They do not know what they have on their back. Some students have a top bun, some a bottom bun, some a beef patty, some are lettuce, some are tomato, one lone students is pickles, and some other are cheese. The purpose of the exercise is to line-up so that you are in order from top to bottom to build a hamburger.

The desired outcome of the exercise is that a leader emerges from the group to take charge of the situation.

Engineering Notebook Conundrum 

In this team building exercise, the students are introduced to a Google Doc which consists of a cover sheet for the team engineering notebook and a second blank page. The doc has been shared with all students they are all instructed to login, go to the second page, and enter their names. All students have editing rights. A completely chaotic environment emerges as students are typing over others and someone will accidentally or purposely delete some or all of the document.

The desired outcome of the exercise is similar to Build a Burger. It forces a leader to emerge from the group to take control of the situation.

All Aboard!

All Aboard - FTC 12645In this team building exercise, students have been stranded across a chain of small islands in the middle of the ocean.

As luck would have it, on the first island, which only has 1 students on it, there is a lifeboat. The lifeboat is two wooden pallets stacked on a center pivot elevated about 3 inches off the floor.

The lifeboat is considered “good” if all corners and sides are off the floor. The first students will be “picked-up” one-by-one on the lifeboat. Each time a student gets on, they must work to balance the lifeboat.

The desired outcome of this exercise is to foster open lines of communication and respect of ideas, regardless of whose idea it is.

Paper Tables

Paper TablesIn this team building exercise, students have to build a table that can, at a minimum, sustain the weight of 10 50-page engineering notebooks. For a challenge, the table should be able to hold the weight of a student.

The constraints of this project require that the base of the table be elevated a minimum of 4 inches from the ground and that the table be constructed of only paper and a limited amount of tape and hot glue. The time constraint is that the table must be built and tested within a single 90-minute class period.

The desired outcomes of this project are (1) foster open lines of communication and respect of ideas, regardless of whose idea it is and (2) solve an engineering problem given limited resources, including the resource of time.

Island Jumping

Island Jumping

In this team building exercise, students start at one location on “dry land” and must “hop” from island to island to reach the “promised land” on the other side.

The islands are made of 5 different pallets spaced at irregular intervals. Some are only 6 feet apart while others are 20 feet apart. Students are not allowed to touch the “water”, which is the floor tiles. If anyone does, the ENTIRE team has to go back to the start.

To help, the team has been given two sheets of poster board, which they can use any way they choose.

The desired outcome of this project is that team members ask questions about “gaps” in the rules. In this case, the poster board can be used to keep the feet of the students out of the “water”. To cover longer distance, the poster board can be torn.

This directly relates to a question that came up in the Velocity Vortex game in the 2016/2017 season. In the end game, teams received points if the cap ball (a large yoga ball) was off the floor. A team asked if you could just push the ball up one of the corner ramps. The national rules committee decided that this was “off the floor” and therefore was eligible for points. Had nobody asked, nobody would have gotten the points.

Split Robotics Teams by Day or Seniority?

FIRST Tech ChallengeFor the past two days, I have been asking both groups of robotics students how they want to be split up.

Currently, I have one stacked robotics class that meets during 3rd period on A-Days with 24 students enrolled in it and I have a second stacked robotics class that meets during 3rd period on B-Days with 25 students enrolled in it.

Ferris High School has two FTC teams (FTC 11242 and FTC 12645). At discussion is whether to have one team be assigned to A-Days and the other team be assigned to B-Days or to have half of the students on each day be assigned to one team and the other half assigned to the other team.

I see advantages and disadvantages to both. If both teams are split half-and-half, it will force them to completely document their process, which was a major problem last year. However, having the entire team together will help build cohesion within the team, which was another problem we had last year.

I have ultimately put it to a vote to the two groups and was surprised with the results.

A-Day Voting
A-Day Voting
B-Day Voting
B-Day Voting

I was genuinely surprised. The A-Day group had 54% apathy for the vote and did not care on the outcome. 29% wanted it split half-and-half. 17% wanted it split between days.

In contrast, the B-Day group had 0% apathy. Everyone voted! 88% wanted to be split between days and 12% wanted it split half-and-half.

So, the decision is to split between the days!

FTC 11242 will be housed on A-Days.

FTC 12645 will be housed on B-Days.

Proposed FTC Season Events

FIRST Tech ChallengeI recently got a message that the North Texas area for FIRST Tech Challenge will focus on qualifying tournaments this upcoming season as opposed to league play.

I have sent a message to our new affiliate partner to determine if we can get the majority of the teams in our league to commit to league play, could we proceed with leagues as opposed to qualifiers.

My concern is that many teams may only have the resources to pay for a single event. If that is the case, their robot is only guaranteed to drive 5 times the entire season in qualifying play. In contrast, they’re guaranteed 20 different times to compete in league play.

I am proposing the following season schedule for the league…

  • Kick-Off Event – 09-Sept-2017
  • League Scrimmage / Workshop – 21-Oct-2017
  • League Meet #1 – 18-Nov-2017
    • SAT is on 02-Dec and ACT is on 09-Dec
  • League Meet #2 – 16-Dec-2017
  • League Meet #3 – 13-Jan-2018
  • League Tournament – 27-Jan-2018
  • Last Chance Qualifiers – 02-Feb-2018

2016-2017 Year In Review

Well, here I am – the last day of the 2016-2017 school year. It’s been a great ride this year.

June 2016

I had the experience of attending my first Advanced Placement Summer Institute! This was to prepare us for AP Computer Science Principles (AP Computer Science I).

This particular APSI was different from others in that it was not run by College Board, but by the UTeach Institute at University of Texas through the National Science Foundation.

July 2016

After learning about Computer Science in June, I shifted gears to learn about FIRST Robotics. I got to attend a week-long hands-on workshop with Freid Elliott of Dallas ISD and Dr. Patrick Michaud of University of Texas: Dallas.

This training was invaluable in preparing me for the launch of our new robotics program at Ferris High School. Without this workshop, I couldn’t even guess as to how long it would have taken us to get our robot moving.

August 2016

For the first time since August 2012, I had the opportunity to start a school year in a high school! I was very happy to be returning to high school for a full-year.

In August of 2013 and August 2014, I was teaching at The Art Institute of Dallas and in August 2015, I was teaching 4th grade at Ferris Intermediate School.

This year, I taught 1 section of Computer Science, 1 section of Robotics & Automation, 1 section of Principles of Technology/Physics, and 4 sections of Business Information Management (BIM).

September 2016

Now that the school-year was fully underway, I got started on teaching material.

In Computer Science, we hit the ground running with programming in JAVA. In Principles of Technology, we built pressurized soda-bottle rockets and launched them!

In Robotics & Automation, we had the reveal of the game for the 2016/2017 season – Velocity Vortex! It was exciting to see the gears turning as my students started planning how to address the challenge of the game for this year. They were very excited to start designing and building the robot for the game!

My robotics class had the opportunity to work on the Finch robots that were loaned to us from Carnegie Mellon University.

October 2016

Now that we knew the game for robotics, we started having “Come As You Can” (CAYC) workdays on Saturdays for students to come up to the high school and work on the robot.

Here, students were encouraged to come up to the high school to work on the contest robot. I would have the lab open and it was a self-paced workday. Each CAYC workday was typically 8 to 12 hours.

In addition to the robotics CAYC workdays, I had fun with my Principles of Technology class with an egg drop experiment. Here, they had to create a rig that could cushion the fall of a raw egg dropped from a considerable height.

There were 3 rigs that no matter the height, the egg survived again and again. I was very pleased. In the follow-up, the groups had to calculate the force their rig struck the ground with.

November 2016

The robotics team did the majority of their hardware work during this month. This was the month that we got the robot moving!

This was also when we had our only season scrimmage for robotics.

This was our first experience with one of the guiding principles of FIRST Robotics – “Coopertition”. This is the idea of cooperative competition. While this was a scrimmage in that we were able to see what the robots of others teams were able to do, it was also a workshop for us to be able to refine our skills and the build of our robot.

During this month, Principles of Technology worked on creating mouse trap racers.

They had the chance to demonstrate their ability to mix-and-match parts to maximize their designs.

The parts for this project were donated from Donors Choose over the summer in preparation for the school year.

December 2016

As we began to wind-down the 2016 calendar year, the robotics team arrived at their first of 3 league meets which was hosted at Ferris High School.

The robotics team performed very well in their first outing and assumed 2nd place in the season standings. This was an outstanding way to start our inaugural season of FIRST Tech Challenge robotics!

UIL Computer Science also kicked off this month with its first virtual meet. Back in the 2015/2016 academic year, the UIL Computer Science team advanced on its own to UIL Regional competition as a student-run after-school club!

January 2017

This month saw two robotics league meets. Both of these meets were at Mansfield Ben Barber Innovation Academy.

In addition, between the two league meets, the robotics team presented at Ferris Intermediate School addressing the disproportionate representation of girls in STEM fields.

The various members of the robotics team had an enjoyable time working with the students at FIS!

February 2017

This month was really “hot” in multiple ways. The robotics team hosted the league tournament at Ferris High School.

ERROR 404, the FHS robotics team, entered the tournament in 4th place and by the end of the day was solidly in 3rd place.

The team performed very well and had a strong alliance partner as they advanced into the elimination round of the tournament. Unfortunately, we saw the season come to an end in the blink of an eye when a spectator turned on a WiFi hotspot on their phone, which caused our robot to stop.

The Tuesday following the league meet, the month got even hotter when an experiment in my Principles of Technology class went very wrong!

Just 4 days after that fire, the Computer Science team performed in its only face-to-face invitational meet in Mabank. The team from Ferris High School finished in 1st place at the invite!

March 2017

As robotics shifted into off-season mode, and I was looking to regain footing by retooling some experiments in Principles of Technology, March was all about Computer Science.

In late-March, the UIL Computer Science team competed in the UIL District Tournament where they finished in 1st place and advanced to the UIL Regional Tournament!

I was extremely proud of how our team captain performed at this tournament and his decision to hand over the reins to his successor so she could gain some experience in the role she has shadowed for the past two seasons.

April 2017

As we had “played with fire” in February in Principles of Technology, I elected that water would be much safer for us to play with.

So, in mid-April, Principles of Technology built water balloon launchers and launched to strike targets at 20, 40, and 50 yards. To make this more fun, the targets were Mr. Mack McClesky (FHS Assistant Principal), myself, and Dr. Kevin Dixon (FHS Principal) respectively.

Students had to calculate maximum range, height, and launch angles in this experiment!

In addition to getting soaked, this month was also the UIL Computer Science team appearance at the UIL Regional Tournament at Texas A&M University: Commerce.

The UIL Computer Science team had a bit of a rough performance at the UIL Regional Tournament. I believe this was in-part due to over-preparing.

I appreciated with enthusiasm of the team members, but I think they over-worked themselves and succumbed to “brain drain” and fatigue ultimately did them in and they were just overwhelmed with information as they went into the test.

While we did not perform as well on the written test, the team demonstrated outstanding growth on the hands-on test. In 2015/2016, the team solved no hands-on problems at the UIL Regional Tournament. In contrast, the team solved 3 hands-on problems at the UIL Regional Tournament in 2016/2017!

On a personal note, April was when I said “Goodbye” to my home of 9 years in Forney.

For two of my children, this is the only house they really remember. Over the past several years, we have seen Forney grow from a semi-rural community to a suburban community where possessions and materialism have taken over and you are solely based upon what you have and how much you have.

We elected to move to the community where I teach in and where my oldest daughter elected to attend junior high at – Ferris.

It was a bit of a shift to go from a home that we built and was only 10 years old to a home that is over 100 years old. Our new home was built in 1894 and is now 123 years old! The pace of life in this community is wonderful and I would not go back to the suburban rush ever again, if I can have any say in it!

May 2017

Now, we have come full-circle. It has been a year! Both Robotics and Computer Science are in off-season mode and preparing for next year.

Principles of Technology finished the year with a project similar to the one we started the year with, using the 2-liter soda bottles. Unlike the project at the start of the year, students had to create an air foil to achieve non-projectile motion flight with the thrust provided by the pressurized 2-liter soda bottle.

I am looking forward to seeing my graduates walk across that stage and close one chapter in their lives and open the next new chapter! I am excited to hear how they continue to mature, grow, and develop.

I am very excited to see the programs and teams that were launched this year continue to develop next year.

In 2017/2018, we will be launching 2 new engineering courses:

  • Principles of Applied Engineering
  • Engineering Design & Problem Solving

In addition to those two new courses, we will be streamlining the robotics courses:

  • Robotics I
  • Robotics II

We will also be expanding our Computer Science program:

  • Computer Science I (based on AP Computer Science Principles)
  • Computer Science II (based on AP Computer Science – A)

I am extremely blessed to work for a school district and on a campus that supports my out-of-the-box teaching style and methods. I look forward to continuing to work in Ferris and with the children of this community.

Relic Recovery Brainstorming

FIRST-FTC-RelicRecovery17-18-Color-840x700We got our first glimpse of the 2017-2018 FIRST Tech Challenge game last night with a 30-second teaser video posted onto YouTube.

As soon as that video was posted, the speculation began on what the game would be. As an FTC coach, I have no access as to what the game will be ahead of time. The only information I have, beyond the teaser was released in e-mail communications to coaches and mentors.

On May 16th, we received an e-mail from FIRST with the following excerpt:

2017-2018 Season Game Update:
In preparation for the 2017-2018 season, we would like to advise our teams that the 2017-2018 game will not be using the beacon that has been used the past two seasons.

On May 18th, we received an e-mail from AndyMark with the following excerpt:

FIRST Tech Challenge Field Pre-Orders Available

Whether you're a veteran FIRST Tech Challenge team or dipping your toe in the water next year, one thing is certain: you're going to need field elements! We've been proud to supply official game fields for FTC for several years now, and we'll be doing it again with the 2017-2018 game, FIRST Relic Recovery!

Like last year, we're taking preorders for delivery in September; your field elements will arrive early in the week after the FIRST Tech Challenge Kickoff on September 9th.  This year, the game allows us to offer a quarter-field option in addition to the usual half-field and full-field options.  This means that you can have official field elements for practice starting at $150!

We've also got you covered with official soft tiles and field perimeters to create a full, official playing field. And you know we can't talk about FIRST Tech Challenge without mentioning the competition-proven NeveRest gearmotors and TileRunner drive system that makes it easy to get up and running with a top-notch drive system.

What is of most interest in the AndyMark e-mail is the 2nd sentence of the 2nd paragraph:

This year, the game allows us to offer a quarter-field option in addition to the usual half-field and full-field options.

This indicates, at least to me, that major scoring components are limited to each of the corners of the game field this year.

Guessing the Game

Here is the video that was posted on May 18th:

So, I have no real clue as to what to expect in the autonomous period. I am going to guess that there will be some set of tasks to complete in the mid-field area.

For the main portion of the game, I envision that each corner will have a pedestal for holding a single “relic” or multiples “relics” from a specific historic period. The relics will be “broken” into 2 to 4 parts and scattered on the center of the game floor. They are possibly placed or dropped there as part of an autonomous task.

The goal will be that teams must retrieve parts of a relic, assemble it, and place it onto the correct historical pedestal.

I am going to guess that more complex relics are worth more points or there may be lower, middle, and higher positions on each pedestal to place a single relic at a specified level.

For the end game, teams will likely have to “climb out” of the archaeological site by grabbing onto a cross bar placed somewhere on the field, possibly at mid-field.

Countdown Timer:

What do you think the game will be?