Houston is “No Go”

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Ag Robotics event is this upcoming weekend (03-March-2018).

Ferris High School had all intentions of competing in this somewhat new event at HLSR this year. Regretfully, we’ve got a student scheduling conflict with UIL Solo & Ensemble and will be unable to attend the HLSR event.

In addition to being down a student, we are honestly not genuinely prepared for the event. While the build would be arguably easier than an FTC build, the programming is infinitely more complex and would rely on numerous bits of sensor data.

Due to the overlap between the FTC season and this event, I was not able to give this the attention it deserved and we were not able to really start working on it until just two weeks ago. That is just not enough time to build and program a competitive robot.

If I had been able to give it the attention it needed, I would make every effort to pull in an additional student to allow us to have a “full” team. However, the loss of one of the students just served as confirmation to me that we were not meant to do this event this year.

I am thinking of doing an “agricultural robotics event” as a possible FFA/FTC Robotics fund-raiser for next year. May look at something similar to the HLSR game or may go a completely different direction.

Robotics at Fish Camp

Fish Camp 2017Today was the first Fish Camp where FIRST Tech Challenge and our Robotics Program was highlighted.

The freshman were broken into 6 different groups and rotated through different stations. We were housed with the various clubs, organizations, and programs in the cafeteria.

J. Vega (Senior) was the student who visited with the freshman as they came through.

A Real Final Exam: Robotics & Automation

Well, since entering K-12 education in the 2004/2005 school year, I have now written and administered my first “real” semester exams!

While I have always given exams at the conclusion of the semesters, I have never really given a genuine exam “experience”. There would be a test. That test usually consisted of 50 questions. 25 of the questions were True/False and 25 were Multiple Choice. The students were given a single sentence review guide of “Always Be True to Yourself”.

Now, with that as the review guide, I think you could safely guess that the answers were “B” and “True”. Your guess would be correct. Sadly, I did have students fail that test.

The test was not a “give-me grade” since there was usually a major end-of-year project that the majority of their semester grade was based upon. This final was created so we could simply check a box that said we gave a paper final.

This year, I opted to write and administer a genuine rigorous exam as I was not using any major end-of-year projects.

Robotics and Automation (EOY) Final Exam – Test

Robotics and Automation (EOY) Final Exam – Answer Key

Robotic Classification Systems Notes

As you can see, this is a bit more rigorous of a test. In fact, all of the questions require a calculated answer.

Once the tests are completed, I will analyze student performance in another post.

Spring Exam Exemptions

It is that time of the year again. It’s time for spring semester exams and ’tis exemption season! This is the season when students start seeking if they qualify to be exempt from having to take the semester exam in a given class.

Each school I have had the opportunity to work at does this process differently and each school has used different criteria to determine eligibility for exemptions.

Exemptions (Spring 2017 Finals)
Exemptions (Spring 2017 Finals)

Here, you can see that I have a total of 146 students. There are 88 students enrolled in Business Information Management (BIM) across 4 sections. There are 15 students in my single section of Computer Science I. There are 25 students in my single section of Principles of Technology. There are 18 students in my single section of Robotics & Automation.

As you can see in the chart, 51 of the 88 BIM students are eligible to be exempt from their spring semester exam. This means that 57.9% of my BIM students are eligible to be exempt from their exam!

In Computer Science, that percentage rises to 66.7% are exempt and in Robotics and Automation is continued to climb us to 72.2%!

Unfortunately, in my Principles of Technology, the percentage plummets to 48%. This has been due to poor grade performance because many teams elected to not submit required documentation with their projects throughout the semester.

As Computer Science, Robotics & Automation, and Principles of Technology are stand-alone single-section courses, let’s take a quick look at how each of the BIM sections performed individually.

BIM Exemptions (Spring 2017 Finals)
BIM Exemptions (Spring 2017 Finals)

Here is the break-out of the 4 sections of BIM that I teach.

While the average for all 4 sections of BIM was 57.9%, 1 section performed well above that average, 1 section section performed well below that average, and the other 2 held pretty close to that average.

  • 2(B) has 10 of 23 students qualifying for exemptions, which is 43.4%.
  • 3(B) has 14 of 23 students qualifying for exemptions, which is 60.8%.
  • 4(B) has 14 of 19 students qualifying for exemptions, which is 73.6%.
  • 4(A) has 13 of 23 students qualifying for exemptions, which is 56.5%.

Compared to past years, this is close to what I have experienced as far as exam exemption qualification is concerned.

Robotics to FIS Career Fair

FIRST Tech Challenge

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.

Afterward, our discussion moved to careers in robotics and automation. We first looked at Amazon and the use of the Kiva Robotics systems in order fulfillment. We discussed how the old system was setup and how that compared to the new system and the jobs that is created.

nasa-curiosity-patchOur 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!

FTC Kick-Off Event Planning

FTC 2016-2017 - Velocity Vortex
FTC 2016-2017 – Velocity Vortex

Each year, FIRST Tech Challenge reveals the game for the new season on either the first of the second Saturday of September. This past year, the kick-off event was held on Saturday, 10-September-2017.

This year, our region held a kick-off event at University of Texas at Dallas in Hoblitzelle Hall in Cecil Auditorium. That lecture hall is able to accommodate a few hundred, but was at capacity. Some teams had to be turned away to ahead-of-time to other events that had to be organized to handle overflow.

For the 2017-2018 kick-off event, Ferris High School will be opening its doors to host teams from across the North Texas region!

Panoramic Image - Main Gymnasium
Panoramic Image – Main Gymnasium

The plan would be to house teams, three covered game floors, and the emcee in the main gymnasium during the kick-off event.

Panoramic Image - Auxiliary Gymnasium
Panoramic Image – Auxiliary Gymnasium

Depending on how many teams attend, we may also have 3 additional game floors in the auxiliary gymnasium.

When we have hosted FTC events in the 2016/2017 year, the main gymnasium was where the single game floor was placed and spectators were seated in the stands. The auxiliary gymnasium was used for the team pit areas and practice floor(s).


Robotic Systems Classifications Exam

We have spent the past 2 weeks covering 5 different classification systems of robotic and automated systems.

We have covered degrees of freedom, drive technology, kinematic structure, motion characteristics, and workspace geometry.

Robotic Classification Systems Notes

At the conclusion of this unit, students were given a review guide and an exam.

Robotics Classifications Exam

Robotics Classifications Exam Key

The results will be posted following the administration of the exam.

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.

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.