Today, I had the honor of taking several of my FTC 11242 team members to Ferris Intermediate School for its inaugural Career Fair! We were offered to chance to come over and present about careers in robotics and automation.
Part of our discussion centered around working on a team and interpersonal skills. I presented it to the 4th graders that we were working with in the context of playing soccer on the playground at recess. I also had a few team members speak to the challenges that were faced, but held it at an age-appropriate level.
Our last discussion was centered around the NASA Curiosity Mars Exploration Rover. We discussed the problem presented in the NatGeo clip. In the presentation, I setup what was going on, but then had the participants sit in groups with the team members and work through brainstorming ideas for how the rover could traverse the rocks that were damaging the rover. The groups were given only 4 minutes to brainstorm.
When their time was up, we came back together and quickly presented the ideas. I then discussed with them that what they had just done was a brainstorming session – the same type of thing that NASA did when they discovered the problem.
In both of our presentations, we had 2 groups whose faces lit-up when they saw that the solution NASA ultimately used was the one they had come up with in the brainstorming session!
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.
We 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!