Robotics Tour to Ferris Intermediate

As part of the community outreach efforts for FTC 11242 (ERROR 404), the team visited with the students of all 19 homeroom classes at Ferris Intermediate School individually. This took a total of 4 full days to complete.

As opposed to just “showing off the robot” our efforts centered around working with the 4th and 5th grade girls discussing that gender has nothing to do with ability to succeed in mathematics, science, or engineering.

League Meet #2 – Lessons Learned

FIRST Tech ChallengeWe had our second league meet of the 2016/2017 season yesterday at the Ben Barber Career & Technology Academy in Mansfield, TX.

Team 11242 and our robot (Rufus) performed very well.

At the start of the meet, we were in 2nd place in the standings after only 1 league meet completed. At the end of the day, we slid to 3rd place for the season. However, we were tied with FTC Team 127 (Fighting Pickles) for qualifier points. Ultimately, the ranking points had to be used to break the tie – giving FTC 127 2nd place and FTC 11242 3rd place.

This meet was good as we got to see all 8 teams within the league. At the first league meet, 2 teams were unable to attend and 1 team had to forfeit at the event due to circumstances beyond their control.

Lessons Learned as an Event Coordinator
  • Do not generate the qualifier schedule until robot inspection is completed
    • We had 1 team (FTC 9582) who did not pass robot inspection but the schedule was already created and the first round of the contest already completed.
    • In this case, the team was allowed to compete, but had to remain powered-down and parked. They were “dead weight” for their alliance partners. However, they benefitted from having several strong alliance partners and did not finish in last place.
  • Do not change the order of the qualifier schedule once it’s compiled.
    • We had a few teams who wanted to make some last-minute adjustments to their robots before being called into the queueing area, where they are not allowed to make any changes to the robot. They asked if their rounds could be moved.
    • Once teams receive the qualifier schedule, they start staging resources based upon that schedule. For example, a team may choose to weight to do a quick repair on their robot knowing they are about to be off for a round or two and can move back to their pit.
  • A large screen for displaying the timers and scores is needed.
    • When we hosted the first league meet, we had this on a 21 inch monitor. This was too small.
    • I am going to secure a large projector screen and a projector for the league tournament.
  • The event coordinator does NOT need to be the emcee as well.
    • There are too many things going on at a tournament or meet that the event coordinator needs to manage and emcee duties can hinder this.
Lessons Learned in Regards to the Robot (from Students)
  • Watch for penalties! Use the timers when testing the robot in simulations.
    • We were hit with 2 major penalties during the day for crossing the center line of the field during the autonomous period before the first 10 seconds.
    • The first penalty would not have made a difference in winning or losing as we would have lost by 70 points as opposed to 110 points.
    • The second penalty made a H-U-G-E difference in the day. As opposed to losing by 20 points, we would have won by 20 points. In that round, we against the team we ultimately were tied with in the qualifier points tally. Had we not had that penalty, we would have finished the day in 1st place and been solidly in 2nd place for the season standings.
  • Don’t overcomplicate the game.
    • We have spent the majority of the season trying to determine how to effectively hit the button on the assigned half of the beacon during the autonomous period.
    • We realized the rules allow for an infinite number of button pushes during the autonomous mode.
    • So, we can drive up and just hit the beacon regardless of which button we hit or color we are assigned. We have a 50/50 shot of getting the correct color.
    • At this point, the color sensor will determine if the beacon is the correct color. If it is, we move on to the second beacon. If is isn’t we wait 5 seconds and just ram the beacon again. This will toggle the beacon to the other color.
    • If we have to change the color of the beacon, we’ll make sure to build in a check to verify the color before we move on to the second beacon.
  • A launcher for autonomous can’t be that hard to build.
    • We’ve been struggling to build a reliable intake and launching system for the small particles used in the game this year.
    • We’ve decided to just build a launcher. This will allow us to load 1 or 2 particles during autonomous to score points.
    • We’ll use a servo to push the balls into the correct position to be caught by the launching wheels.
    • These launches will occur at the start of the autonomous period while we are waiting to make sure we don’t get any penalties.
  • Servos stink at pushing beacon buttons.
    • The original design had called for servos to extend an actuator to push the beacon buttons.
    • Unfortunately, the beacon buttons are just a below the height of the game floor walls. As such, the actuator can actually get snagged on the wall.
    • When trying to break free, the servo horn is the weakest point in the system and typically fails. We have now lost two servos this way.
Lessons Learned in Regards to the Team (from Coach)
  • FTC 11242 is an outstanding team!
    • Our programming captain takes charge and can make on the fly changes to the program!
    • Our design and mechanical captain gets everything done on the robot that needs to be done and keeps us operational!
    • Our driver did an awesome job! He even saved another team who had gotten stuck on the base of the center vortex!
    • The members of the team support each other and showed the best of what Ferris has. I am very proud to be their coach!

League Meet #2 Matches

Here are the raw videos of the matches FTC11242 (ERROR 404) competed in at League Meet #2 earlier today.

Match 1 of 511242/9608 (BLUE) vs 11085/127 (RED)
WINNER: RED (141 to 35)

Match 2 of 59608/9402 (BLUE) vs 9582/11242 (RED)
WINNER: RED (60 to 10)

Match 3 of 59402/11242 (BLUE) vs 127/9609 (RED)
WINNER: RED (80 to 61)

Match 4 of 511242/11085 (BLUE) vs 9402/9402 (RED)
Winner: BLUE (76 to 15)

Match 5 of 59582/127 (BLUE) vs 11242/9403 (RED)
Winner: BLUE (90 to 40)

Slipping Pinion Gear

We are using the AM-2964 NeveRest motors on our FTC robot this year. They have worked great for us until yesterday. One of our drive motors would only work going forward. Upon further examination, we realized that the motor would freely spin in reverse and would engage with the motor when going forward.

NeveRest AM-2964 with Gearbox Removed
NeveRest AM-2964 with Gearbox Removed

When the motor was stripped down, the pinion gear was found to be detached from the drive axle. The pinion gear only mounts to the axle in one direction. There is no flat surface or groove on the drive axle and no set screw on the pinion gear. It appears the the pinion gear on these motors is compression mounted on the drive axle.

Following the failure of this motor, we wrote it off as an isolated event. We mounted a new motor onto the robot and resumed testing. During the testing, our other drive motor suffered an identical failure. While the first motor that failed had nearly 20 hours of drive-time on it, the other motor had less than 5 minutes on it!

Short of using Loctite, I’m at a loss on how to secure this pinion gear to the drive axle. Has anyone else has this issue with the NeveRest motors from AndyMark? If so, how did you resolve it?

Making Progress on Robot

We’re making progress on our robot! Speaking as a teacher, it was great seeing the look on my students’ faces when the robot jumped to life.

Our first scrimmage meet of the season is set for Saturday, 19-November-2016 at 8:00am at Kaufman High School.

While it may not yet be much to look at, it is driving in both a teleoperated and autonomous mode! Now, we can get to our actual build.

Our robot has made it for almost 8 hours of off/on driving over 3 school days on a single battery charge. During that same time, we dropped only one set screw and that was early on in the testing. Once it was tightened down, it has held with no problems.

We have had a few issues with the OTG cable between the core distribution module and the on-board phone. We’re in the process of replacing that with a micro-USB (male) to full-USB (female) that will then mate with a full-USB (male) to mini-USB (male). This will allow us to interface with the phone only having to interact with a full-size USB which we hope is more robust than the micro-USB we are working with now.

FIRST in Texas Round 1 Grant Awards

FIRST in Texas Foundation Logo
FIRST in Texas Foundation

The FIRST in Texas Foundation began notifying recipients of their grant awards from the first round of grant application processing on Friday, 28-October-2016.

FTC 11242 (Error 404) from Ferris High School is proud to announce that it has received an award letter from the Texas Workforce Commission for a grant in the amount of 1,525.00 for the 2016/2017 FIRST Tech Challenge Season!

Texas Workforce Commission Logo
Texas Workforce Commission

Texas Workforce Commission is the first official sponsor for FTC 11242 and we are proud to have their support and thank them for their sponsorship.

The grant is set-up to cover the season league fees of $250.00 and can then be used for qualifying expenses for materials and resources. With $250.00 allocated for play within the Citrine League of North Texas, that leaves $1,275.00 for materials and resources.

We will be seeking reimbursement of our $275.00 national registration fee which can then be applied as a credit with Pitsco. We will be using that credit to purchase components where Pitsco is a sole-source supplier.

AndyMark Logo
AndyMark Logo

The remaining $1,000.00 will be used to purchase items from AndyMark such as components of the Velocity Vortex game and parts for the robot.

We are once again, very thankful for the support of the Texas Workforce Commission and their continued support of FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition.

Robotics Parts Are Coming!

PITSCO Education Logo
PITSCO Education Logo

After several weeks and months of preparing for this moment, we now have robotics parts on order!

Our first parts will be coming in from PITSCO shortly and will consist of our TETRIX Competition Kit of Parts set as well as additional TETRIX components that are needed that are not part of the basic KOP.

We also ordered a starter communications bundle from PITSCO which contains two Moto – G Second Generation phones, two Logitech control pads, OTG cables for the phones, and a USB hub to allow for the control pads to interface with the driver station phone.

AndyMark Logo
AndyMark Logo

We also have parts en route from AndyMark, which is providing the upgraded motors for our robot along with some of the competition field materials, such as the beacons for us to practice with for the season.

We are extremely happy to have AndyMark as one of our vendors this season and look forward to working with them in future seasons as we expand our program further.

McMaster-Carr Logo
McMaster-Carr Logo

McMaster-Carr is our supplier for general mechanical parts and fasteners. They are providing all of our nuts, bolts, washers, screws, and hand-tools for the robotics team. All of the parts we are using from McMaster-Carr are stainless steel to replace the aluminum parts provided in the PITSCO KOP.

We were going to use Grainger for these parts, but McMaster-Carr had exactly what we needed and Grainger had some of the exact parts and only approximations of others.

Amazon Logo
Amazon Logo

Finally, we have a our “catch-all” vendor – Amazon. We are receiving numerous items from Amazon that we could otherwise not get from other vendors easily.

We are also using Amazon to purchase all of the Anderson PowerPole products that we need that we cannot purchase from PowerWerx. Unfortunately, PowerWerx only sells products to pre-pay customers. Public school districts are typically post-pay. As such, we had to go with another vendor to get the parts that we needed.

In addition to these Anderson PowerPole products, we are also purchasing battery chargers, safety glasses, fuses, and numerous other components from Amazon for our competition team.

Android Studio Setup for FTC

Robotics Laptops Are Ready
Robotics Laptops Are Ready

Finally got around to setting up the FTC programming team laptops with Android Studio today. We’re using 4 HP EliteBook 840 laptops for programming and 1 HP EliteBook 840 for our design and mechanical team.

The plan is to setup all of the hardware to interface with Github for a common development repository for our FTC programming efforts. Obviously, the programming team will be working with this repository much more than the design and mechanical team will.

Once the laptops were ready, Android Studio was downloaded and installed. The installation went fairly smoothly. The SDK that was installed at this time was for Android 5.0 as this is what our driver station and on-board phones will be running.

moto-g-2nd-gen-dual-sim
Motorola G 2nd Generation

We’ll be running the Motorola G 2nd Generation as both our driver station and on-board phones.

We purchased them as part of the starter kit from PITSCO this year. After the ZTE Speed, the Moto-G 2nd Generation appears to be the next smallest volume phone. As we’ll be fighting for every cubic millimeter of space inside the robot, we need to go with the smallest hardware when possible.

Now, to find CAD files of this phone so my design and mechanical team can build a mounting system to hold this and an OTG cable inside the robot.