Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2010 Season!


I hope you're all excited about the upcoming season -- this email (sorry for the length...) will outline some important dates/general information about the team.

-Anne sent all team members a spreadsheet earlier tonight asking for contact information for you and your parents. Please do fill it out whenever you have a minute.

-Kickoff is Saturday, January 9th, 12-4. A few team members will be going to receive the Kit of Parts and the challenge information early that morning, and then we will all meet at noon in the Choral Room to share the challenge and begin brainstorming. As we start to design, brainstorm, and unpack all the good gadgets and gizmos, there will be a parents meeting, so please encourage your parents to come.

-We'll meet Sunday the 10th and Monday the 11th from 11-3. The juniors arrive back on Sunday.

-The team will work daily in the evenings after school, and weekends, to design, prototype and build the robot/cart, develop the programming that controls it, and other various roboticsy activities. Find the project that interests you most, work hard and HAVE FUN!

-Some people have asked about choosing between build v programming -- the choice is entirely up to you. You can certainly wander between both for a few weeks, and you will probably naturally gravitate to one subteam or the other.

-As it is a school rule that we have chaperones at all times, we do ask that parents help provide supervision and meals.

-Ship date/final deadline is February 23 2010. This is the week after February break, unlike previous years. In my experience, the days leading up to ship, this year throughout Break, have been the most involved and most exciting. If your family has not already made plans, I definitely encourage you to stay through break -- it's amazingly fun.

-March 4-6 is Portland Regional Competition. About fourteen team members will go. In previous years, we've been in the seventh seeded alliance.
-March 18-20 is the Silicon Valley Regional at San Jose State. All team members participate in this exciting competition. Last year we won the Xerox Creativity Award and were, once again, the seventh seeded alliance.

-Should we qualify to go onto Nationals at either Portland or SVR, we will get to go to Atlanta for the Nationals, April 15-17 2010. We obviously don't know if we'll qualify, but those are the dates. Once again, about fourteen team members will be going.
-We'd love for the whole team to go to the out-of-town competitions, but unfortunately that is not financially or organizationally feasible. Team members will qualify to attend the out-of-state tournaments by hard work and dedication to meeting the goals of the team and through their "gracious professionalism."

Oof! Thanks for making it through to the end of this email.

To summarize: Fill out the spreadsheet. Kickoff January 9th, noon. Working in the weeknights from roughly 5:30 onwards, weekends tba. Drills. Programming. Designing. Food. Much goofiness. Fun.Thanks so much! We're so excited for this season.

Our website is and picasa site with pictures is

Sherri Billimoria

Team Lead


Caroline Abbott

Technical Lead


Sunday, March 29, 2009


we're back from davis!

it was a hectic and crazy three days, as always. while the tangible results might not show it, we did really well. i'm proud.
summary version: we ranked 15th, but did not get chosen for an alliance. [ironic! when we're 44th out of 48 we get chosen, but not when we're fifteenth?] and we didn't win any FIRST awards. although, team 100 bestowed upon us the "radical resourcefulness" award, which was fun :)

quick recap of each day...

- set up new driver's station
- as tends to happen with our tempermental paddle, code decided to just Not Work. it completely bypassed the "opening state" and wouldn't do anything. so we switched to a timer based code, which was effective although sketchy.
- the front brush gearbox literally fell apart. we superglued it back together.
- discovered one set of chain was absurdly loose, tightened it by taking off skateboard wheel and removing a link or two.

- everyone else arrived!
- karlin showed up how to use a flat sequence structure to make the brains wait before checking the limit switch again, so the paddle would actually work. but it didn't, really...
- so half an hour before our next match, karlin erin caroline and i decided we HAD to add another limit switch. frantic drilling/soldering/coding/ziptying resulted in our winning that match! it was very exciting.

- we won 4 out of 6 matches! we were ranked 11th at the end of the night.
- chairman's interview went well
i can't remember what else happened...

- we won one out of our three matches, ranked 15th at the end.
- didn't get chosen for an alliance, but were the second alternate
- had judges in our pit all day, chatting and interviewing
- after alliance picking, we packed everything up and took all the crates out to the car, crated up sadie
-only to have an event volunteer come over to us tell us we had to get the robot out NOW because we were ON DECK. frantic uncrating and bumper attaching resulted, and then we were told, no, you're not on deck, you're just the alternate. so if ANOTHER robot fails, then maybe you'll be on in fifteen minutes. HA. well, i suppose it was a good drill. we now know we can uncrate and be ready to go in five minutes flat!

all in all, it was a great regional. hope everyone else also had a great time.

before atlanta: fix the paddle. yet again.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

saturday at svr!

quick update of the rest of the competition...

we added some sheet metal to the paddle and rewrote code (now with four states) before our last two qualifiers. we lost both matches, but all the parts of sadie did work when they were supposed to! yay!

so it came as a complete surprise to us to be chosen for the 7th seeded alliance by 115 (monte vista) and 1120 (milpitas). i think it's funny that we ALWAYS end up in the seventh alliance - at least four times since my freshman year!

the first match did not go well - at first sadie wouldn't turn on. then when i tried to swap batteries, they wouldn't let me because we hadn't technically called a time out... eventually, the robot eventually turned on but connection kept flickering, and she would randomly stop during the match... it was bad. turned out to be a combination of a bad battery and bad battery lead which we quickly swapped before the next match
...which we also lost, apparently there we continued to have some wireless issues, which we need to test out on thursday of davis (the driver's station still read 12V throughout the match). but in general, we did well in that match. as in, all the parts moved as they were supposed to, anndini's driving was good... we lost, but ah well, even getting chosen was far more than expected!

jimmy will be helping us to make a larger circle for the paddle by davis.

all in all, it was an amazing weekend - while we did not do particularly well if you're looking at rankings/matches, i'm really proud. considering the numbers of mishaps we've had (especially electronics! eek! driver's station AND crio AND analog breakout AND battery problems...), sadie performed remarkably well. hell, we hadn't tested everything together until our first qualifier friday morning!

and we've still got davis and atlanta!

thanks to the huge number of people who arrived to support us! we had quite the green group of supporters.

Friday, March 13, 2009

svr friday

first thing - we won the xerox creativity award! i think i speak for the team when i say that we are delighted and surprised. the xerox creativity award recognizes a particularly innovative or creative mechanism. our pushbrooms, the subjects of many a bad joke, won us this award!

in light of the results of our matches, the award was especially exciting. because the matches didn't go fabulously...
-our first match went well and we won
-second match - the paddle got stuck and the buttons wouldn't work. however, before 3rd match, we added a "merde!" button that overrides limit switch code and just moves the damn globe motor.
-third match - we lost, but the robot itself worked well. the difficult part is getting close enough to a trailer
-i think my match numbers are off, but there was one match where we couldn't deposit any balls because the damn moon rock managed to get itself LODGED ONTO the paddle. so "merde!" button or no, we couldn't get any balls out of the tube.

however, all in all, it was a good day. and we've still got davis and atlanta! the xerox award's a pretty good way to start off :)

tomorrow - we attach sheet metal to the paddle to make the circle larger, and therefore ensure no balls get stuck on the paddle. that's the makeshift solution - larger welded circle planned before davis.

hope to see you tomorrow!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

match schedule!

match # time
6 10:05 581, 987, 1641 1700,115,192
14 11:01 359,670,1868 841,1280,1700
20 11:43 2135,604,3013 1700,254,3045
25 1:28 2643,649,1516 253,2159,1700
39 3:06 846,1700,8 1120,971,2035
43 3:34 1834,2628,675 2141,1700,668
55 10:26 2489,1700,1868 114,2813,3022
60 11:01 2473,1700,2367 766,1458,1351

hope to see you there,

thursday at svr

oof. it's been a long, long day.
but FINALLY at 7:58pm, as we were being kicked out of the pits, we have FUNCTIONAL CODE that incorporates everything!

we never did manage to make it to a practice match. tomorrow will be a very exciting day! i'm confident that it will all pull together, somehow. i'll post the match schedule next.

quick summary of the day
-soldered up limit switch, attached tube, e board, etc
-discovered driver's station ethernet port didn't work, attempted to fix ethernet port, gave up
-got spare parts driver's station - we must return this on saturday.
-coding difficulty ---> lunch
-went through inspection
-reimaged crio, came back to test code and it would not work
-spent literally TWO HOURS with the nice people at the desk trying to figure out why we could no longer download code. it turns out that while they reimaged the crio, the didn't reimage the laptop. heh.
-discovered limit switch was having ISSUES. resoldered. discovered that the true state is the open state of the switch
-programming marathon led to FUNCTIONAL GATE CODE! it's written in three states, stopped, open, and close. button 8 opens the paddle, button 9 closes it. it's not perfect code, but it works for what we want it to, and it actually stops when we hit the limit switch

see you tomorrow! it's sure to be an exciting day.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Encoder Operational

So, after I plugged things in the wrong way a couple of times, the encoder works! We scaled it so that it measures degrees. The encoder thinks that 250 is one full revolution, but we wanted it to think that 360 was one revolution, so we told it to scale by 1.44. Karlin explained code writing for the encoder and how we could use it to turn the ball-dumping motor. There is some nice "pseudo-code" on the whiteboard in the programming room. We will plan on meeting in the near future. (ideas for times anybody?)

Jimmy is working on a mount for the encoder. He made the ball stopper larger so that the ball doesn't get stuck on the metal thing (like what happened on ship). I am going to drop off a globe motor to see if the shaft on the back can be extended to make a mount for the encoder.

Also, Nan, Anne, Anna, and Shifrah worked on building a beautiful new cart today. We bought some casters at ACE to mount on an 80-20 a and wood frame.

Just a reminder, If you have any outstanding reimbursements, please e-mail them to Ms. Mourad asap so that you can be reimbursed. Also, remember to turn in your permission slips to Ms. Mourad by tomorrow. These need to be signed by you and a parent. Next week is the Silicon Vally Regional, March 12-14. All team members are expected to attend a MANDATORY TUESDAY meeting next week to discuss the competition, preparation, and what to expect. All team members (unless you have already talked to me) should plan on being at the competition Fridayand Saturday. You will need to fill out an absence form for the classes you will be missing on Friday. Please feel free to invite people to come watch us at SVR. We would love to show more people our team and how fun FIRST is.

Friday, February 20, 2009

status of cRIO

the new one is on its way and i've boxed up the old one, to be sent back first thing monday morning.

i am not shipping back the breakouts/bumpers/whateverthey'recalled. i tried to call NI today to ask them about what exactly gets shipped with the new one, but couldn't get through to anyone particularly helpful. one woman told me to only ship the base, so that's what i'm doing. i figure worst case scenario, we end up with two sets of breakouts.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

both chairman's and woodie flowers essays have been submitted!
judging for them at davis regional.

and she's OFF!

at 3:00 yesterday afternoon, after some crating difficulties, sadie was packed into her bright green box and loaded up into the fedex box.

maybe it's just because this is my third time through shipping, but it felt so much less stressful this year. even with, yknow, the broken cRIO and everything. we made it, guys! and sadie is beautiful. and when she works, she works gorgeously.

we have three weeks before SVR. and plenty to do before then...
-ida and i will be submitting chairmans & woodie flowers tomorrow
-ida, erin, and i are meeting the packard foundation tomorrow
-code documentation! i'm not 100% sure how to do this in labview. i guess just like maps and zoomed-in boxes?
-return the cRIO
-pray to god they ship the new one soon. and that the cRIO was the only issue.
-box of spiffy stuff to show judges, like we did last year
-check that the tube/globe motor is all ready to go
-finish up the bill of materials
-autonomous code?
-pack for svr [can we try to pack stuff in 50lb crates already, and then just follow the list for davis/atlanta?]
-bits of pvc wire covers
-letter of rec from seton
-kpcb annual report

can anyone think of anything else we need to do?

this is unrelated, but annie has volunteered to lead the new crate effort for next year. i say we start on that as soon as competitions end.

HUGE thank you to our support team: beth o'malley and marsha abbott, doug for his crazy electrical knowledge and retail therapy tendencies, karlin for just always being there for us, jimmy for his machinist prowess and ability to make a motor mount in one hour flat, brian for helping out with the servo, mr. rockman for being there on ship and making us that delicious chocolate pie, everyone who we begged to open doors for us and did... we've got a long list. THANK YOU. we appreciate it. [and i'm really very sorry if i've forgotten someone at the moment.]

we made it through season, guys! and so much more smoothly. let me/erin know what you're interested in doing on the list of stuff above. i'm sure there's more that i've forgotten, too.

but for now, go sleep.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

just a few hours to go

with the truck arriving in possibly four hours, we have hit a standstill.
late last night, in the midst of testing code [which did work! yayyy!] we got the error message no comm. that's happened before, and usually you just wait it out and then it's fine. but this time, it was not fine. upon further inspection, we discovered that the cRIO had no lit LEDs. checking voltage across the board, it was 24V at the input [correct] and 24V on the other end. but the thing just won't work. there's nothing we can do about - after scouring the forums, chief delphi, etc, we determined the only thing we can do is call NI, talk with them, and get a replacement. similar problems have occurs, resulting from a blown fuse within the cRIO (!)
the good news is that we do not have to ship the robot with the control system - so we'll call NI in a couple hours, and unless it's a quick fix, take off the control system and ship dear sadie off to svr.
i'm really relieved that we do in fact know the code works. there's nothing we can control at this point.

other "updates" that feel like ages ago
servo failed miserably at gating the orbit balls - after various reinforcements, we decided to use a globe motor. god bless jimmy and his motor-mount-making-magic. the plate extending from the motor still needs to be larger, but the globe is wayyyy better than the servo. we were able to suck spin and dump balls successfully last night. before the damn thing decided to break.

i have faith that somehow, things will work out. it's not likely that we'll get a functioning cRIO within the next five hours, but at least our first competition is a half hour away this year. we'll make it work.

thank you so much to everyone - we've had amazing support this year. when we are getting waffles made for us in the middle of the night, and mentors rush back to castilleja for programming "crises" that turn out to be us being done? we know we're well taken care of.

Monday, February 16, 2009


now we just have to test code... HA!

after ship, pre svr

we made a list of stuff to do after tomorrow but before competition
posting it here before i lose the paper it's written on

-SIGNAGE. there's plenty of space to make legit gorgeous signs this year.
-pvc wire covers - we just need some 4" bits of pvc cut
-extra servo mount
-coding documentation
-kpcb award essay thing
-letter of rec from seton
-POSTERS (both carboard/science fair one as well as fabulous emily-esque poster)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

status of sadie

that's right, she's named. sadie! and she's beauuutiful.

-both the top brush and the corkscrew work! it's amazingly exciting. and so so pretty!
-as of 10:30 tonight, the tube was not finished - anndini were doing some serious math to figure out angles/heights/etc.
-the tube has, however, been painted gatorbotics green
-electronics board. HA. well, we found out the black board was not polycarb. so jimmy gave us some new material to work with. which, it turns out, was also acrylic. joy. so we've gone through three electronics boards today. but jimmy mounted the final version
-battery mount and crio mount and kill switch all done
-woodie flowers and chairmans are on their way to being done.
-we started writing our names on the corkscrew and front brush - if you haven't get, be sure to.
-weight is not an issue. it's so relaxing to be able to say that.

see you tomorrow. we're so close, i can feel it.
we appreciate everyone's support so much - i've had multiple conversations just today about how much more smoothly this year's gone.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


she's alive

let's name her


the tower's delilah.
and i am delighted that she works!

two and half to go!

sunday, monday, and then we SHIP! almost there!

i don't have a complete idea of all that happened today, since programming/electronics remained at school while build was at ideo - BUILDING! i do know that the center brush for the corkscrew is done and works! so that's really exciting.

we wired up the actual electronics board. it's beautiful. even erin approves
drew out some shapes on lexan for a electronics board cage
reimaged the drivers station, after some difficulty.
bill of materials

things to do, off the top of my head.
-finish up the Essays
-bumper holes
-amber blinky light - where's it going?
-mounting of eboard + kill switch
-battery mount [i know we can't until the towers complete]
-test code, obv
-do we need to move the bars in the crate?
-let ms lonergan know when we want to be in the gym.

meeting at 10 tomorrow.

thank you to malaika's mom for chaperoning all day, and beth o'malley for delicious strawberries and cream, and jimmy for his machining prowess, doug for general Knowledge, brian for his servo-ing, and karlin for her ability to Make Stuff Work.
we're almost there! and the corkscrew WORKS! see you tomorrow at 10.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

functional driving!

no pun intended...

karlin sent us a test drive VI which did basically what we tried yesterday to put inside the formula node. but in this code, the formula node only set the state, and then there was a case structure inside of which we actually told the motors what function to do in any given state.
for whatever reason, this totally works. we're not sure why (that shouldn't have solved our time delay issues) but we're just not going to question it. yay for working code.
but there are severe button coding issues which we'll address tomorrow.
autonomous technically works. one of the things that labview makes extraordinarily easy.

sallie and divya painted all the bumpers

anne and nandini and annie and anna and erin were at ideo - the tower is welded and back at castilleja. tomorrow they plan on finishing the tower, including brackets [to be riveted on] as well as all the funny pipe.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

wednesday [FIVE DAYS LEFT.]

i fear these posts will become progressively more incoherent as the number of days grows less.

-we tried that piecewise thing, first using a whole mess of case structures and such. it semi-sort-of-maybe worked, but in order to add PID loops, we had to add 4 or 5 of them. and something went badly wrong there - the robot just would not stop on time. it seemed like we'd added a lead time rather than a lag time (or maybe i've got it backwards). either way it DEFINITELY didn't work - after you pulled the joystick back to center (0,0) it would take many seconds for the motors to actually stop.
-so we attempted to use a formula node rather than uglygrossmess of case statements, as karlin suggested. the formula node essentially allows you to type code in c (!) into labview. as most of you can guess, this feature makes me really really happy. except then, the robot COMPLETELY did not work. at all. somehow, the motors received their values at different times. so if you moved the joystick really really quickly, then one wheel would start spinning, and almost as soon as it stopped, the other motor would start. they just weren't aligned, time-wise. although the control on the front panel thought they were getting the motor speeds at the same time. we tried to add a bias, which kind-of worked but not in a good enough way. according to karlin, there are Issues with the formula node.
-so tomorrow we attempt to write subvis which we can just place into robotmain. essentially, the subvi will take joysticky and joysticks and the output will get fed into the motor speed. that subvi will likely be the mess of case statements. although karlin says she thinks that there are smart ways to do it.

jimmy should be done welding tonight.

5 days. keep your chin up, we're almost there.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

tired tuesday

apologizes if this is completely incoherent - as many can attest, i am not at my most alert tonight.

-i saw the chassis drive! it's actually really demented - the turning has funny spots and when we turn backwards (ie if the y coordinates are negative in normal coordinate systems) it doesn't actually go according to plan/how we would like.
-while it would be possible to drive the robot with the ArcadeDrive function FIRST provides, it wouldn't be the best idea because of issues listed above. we want driving to be as intuitive as possible. so...
-we're writing our own code, in a sort of "piecewise function" way. we divided the joystick axes into different regions and are writing different equations for each region. we only actually coded up the "band of straightness" and the... band of turning? anyway, i believe it spins well when the joystick is pulled either direction on the x-axis and the straight/fwd bwd part was fine.
-we know what we want to do for the rest of the regions, too. there wasn't time tonight to actually code it up, but our fingers are crossed that it will work tomorrow.
-we realized that we don't have a model of any drive code that's 100% functional - because benji never needed to go backwards, and when he turned, he generally strafed. and scotty? uhhh we didn't document code that year. nevertheless, with karlin and doug on our side, i'm confident we'll figure it out :)
-re: jrock's comment below, no talismans/rabbit feet/goat entrails were necessary for successful downloading tonight. amen.

[obv this is not the complete version...]
-bumpers! the long ones were made and the shorter ones redone. allie served as inspector, and except for one that should not have passed inspection, they're all good. i think erin's going to get us the paint soon.
-erin and i did an alan steel run after school. the man definitely recognizes erin by this point. anyway, the tower tubing is here and will be delivered to jimmy tomorrow.
-brushes were attached to the tubing for the vertical corkscrew thing. apparently it spins really really fast.

-chassis weighs 62 lbs with the battery and assorted wood/clamps. meaning we are at 46 lbs with motors and gearboxes on. obviously we'll be keeping an eye on weight, but i think it's safe to say that we're in pretty good shape, weight-wise. we have 70 pounds left. in order to simulate the actual robot, we strapped 2 20-lb weights onto the chassis.
-woodie flowers and chairmans are on their way to being written.
-we plan to put sponsor signage on the output tube, and 1700 signs on bumpers as in the past.
-NAME IDEAS?! the robot's alive, let's name her. definitely a her this year. name suggestions thus far: remmy, gracie, lily... i personally love both gracie and remmy. but keep the suggestions coming!

thank you to the amos family and mukherjee for food - double booked! as well as karlin and doug for infinite patience wisdom and good humor.

Monday, February 09, 2009

We're driving!

So, we're driving. The chassis is all done, and all we need to finish is the tower! Sounds easy... wrong. The drive code is mostly functional, however, the PID loop delay is making our turning while driving forward/backward a little difficult. The delay causes the wheels to respond slower, so this means that when we're turning (which is usually for a short amount of time) the wheels that are going more slowly don't even start turning before we're done with the turn. Once we brought the robot back from IDEO and had more space to test we could get the slower wheels to turn a little because there was more space to practice in.

Speaking if IDEO, Jimmy had been working away on the tower. I picked up some more materials from alan steel this afternoon, so we have almost everything we need for the tower construction. I will be picking up some more stuff tomorrow. Jimmy made a nifty thing around which to construct the tower, which will theoretically prevent it from warping when he welds it.

Build worked on constructing the center brush, but without a drill press, it was hard to center the holes, so they are going to try again tomorrow in the wood shop. I am going to buy one more broom for them to attach as well.

We have eight more days until ship (feb 17th) and we will be working furiously until then!

Sunday, February 08, 2009



Finally some successful programming :) After about three days of messing with it and trying to figure out the system, some success:
currently, all the drive code, button code for the brushes, servo code, and acceleration control are downloaded ON TO THE ROBOT! YES! there is also autonomous code downloaded, which successfully runs in autonomous mode. Although i havent yet figured out a fail safe method for downloading the code, i have a nice long list of suggestions to try when it wont download. here they are:
1. check to make sure code in another LabView project is not set to run at startup. To do this, go to Build specifications in the project explorer window, and right click on each real time application. Select “unset as startup”
2. disconnect from the cRIO, then try again. It is possible code is still running on the cRIO, but not on the front panel of LabView. To do this, go to the project explorer window. Right click on RT CompactRIO target, and select “disconnect”
3. re-build the real time application, then reset it as startup. To do this, right click on the real time application, click unset as start up, then click build, then when that is done, click run as start up (NOT set as startup).
4. WAIT FOR AT LEAST ONE MINUTE when you get the “cannot connect to the cRIO” error message. If it still doesn’t work, then click ok, and try again.
5. if the code does not work once you download it, make sure that the PWMs in the “open motor” VI front panels are set to something other than “invalid”; as long as the pwm constant on the block diagram is set to the correct PWM, I don’t think that it matters exactly which one its set to.
6. If you make changes, and want to run the code, make sure nothing is set to run at startup. If you make changes and want to download it to the cRIO, YOU HAVE TO REBUILD IT, then follow the appropriate steps for downloading.
7. if none of this works, im really sorry. Turn off the robot, close LabView, unplug the wireless router and drivers station, and panic. Just kidding. Unplug it all, restart it all, and calmly try again.

if these steps really actually dont work, then that is not good... but so far, this has worked to download all of the code today :)

-bumpers are getting made! yay. w chassis design, we can now choose where to put the bolts
-more things (tubing, clamps etc) have been dropped off at IDEO. After some chatting with Jimmy, we know more about the chassis. The wheels are at the front, close to the outside of the robot. We are still determining where the gear boxes will go (likely way towards the front), and the exact position of the tower. Jimmy has made cool chain tensioning mechanisms, which are kinda tought to explain bc i havent seen them, but basically they make the chain cover more of the sprocket.
-allie has been working on drawing up the chassis in solidworks, and working with nandini to create drawings of the chassis

however, we will be meeting strict goals each night, which will be completed before leaving.

NINE DAYS until ship.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

saturday of [in]sanity

-shifrah divya sallie and allie made bumpers. and did some interpretive dance.
-caroline spent a lot of time trying to things to download correctly - we finally figured out the correct wiring which is now labeled nicely. please don't change the wiring without checking - things work for now at least. :) we also learned that we have to "disconnect from the crio" rather than simply stopping the code like we've been doing. we then have to remember to connect the next time. also, do not try to run anything while there's code set as the startup code. we're not sure if this is the root of the problem, but it has been not working when we haven't done this. i'm kind of worried about how to truly program if we keep having downloading problems on a daily basis. hopefully, we've finally figured things out once and for all, but we've got to figure out a foolproof method.
-anne nan erin talked tower? i don't really have details, sorry.
-ida and i spent a lot of time writing chairmans/exec summary/woodie flowers/editing website. we'll continue doing that.

tomorrow: 11-5.


Thursday, February 05, 2009

10 DAYS.

ten days to go! with no moving chassis and no tower, i'm beginning to descend into the panic stage. but i know, somehow, we'll make it.

tonight's progress:
-coding took a look over the accelerometer/encoder stuff from yesterday. there's some scary math involving integrals and derivitaves that i totally do not understand, but i do know that essentially we're just making the encoder and the accelerometer speak the same language - that's the "value" i talk about below. what we're trying to do is compare the encoder values [speed of wheels] and accelerometer value [speed of robot.] if we are slipping, then the encoder value will be higher than the accelerometer value. if the difference between the two is above some constant, then we want to slow the motor down.
-so caroline wrote the code to do that BUT in the process of testing it we realized the accelerometer was not working...
-which led us to the discovery, after some serious frustration, that the analog breakout circuit board [what you plug analog sensors into on the crio] is BROKEN. there's a diode that is essentially falling off. and the entire thing was incredibly hot after only having power attached for all of ten seconds. eek. we called doug, our electronics expert, who came down immediately and has taken the board home to see if it can be salvaged. he worked some serious magic on the gts last year, so if anyone can fix it, it's doug.
-if not, we've asked ms mourad to order another analog breakout ASAP.
-nandini and anna put the weatherproof tape in the crate. anna's our resident tarping expert by now :)
-nandini made a detailed drawing of the tower/corkscrew/etc
-we started to make a to-scale prototype of the corkscrew with supports out of 80-20. karlin [and i] worries that the tall part of the supports will be too shaky to actually be supportive. we didn't manage to make the prototype the correct size, and were balancing the hose awkwardly and it was late, so we decided to pick up work tomorrow, but we definitely want to finish the prototype to ensure that the concept will actually work. the idea is to fasten the hose to the supports [probably 1-by-1 tubing] with L-brackets.
-sallie divya and tobi started making a bom for bumpers.
-tanya came by today, so allie and annie were solidworksing. perhaps they blogged about it?

infinite thanks to both karlin and doug for their energy and patience.

another round of chassis drawings!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

pr blog is BACK

the pr blog is back in business. ida's promised to update it regularly.
check it out

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A Successful Day

So, today was a productive day for the build team. Right after school, Anne, Nandini and I went over to IDEO to talk to Jimmy about brush options and construction of the chassis. Yesterday, Doug purchased some large brooms of varying bristle stiffnesses for us to prototype with. We showed these to Jimmy and then returned to school and prototyped with them. It looks like we will be using the softer-bristled red broom. We split the broom in half and put the pieces back-to-back with a pole in the middle, which was then attached to the drill. This was surprusingly effective at moving the ball up the full-scale prototype ramp we created. From this prototype, we learned that we will only need one front brush to bring the balls in. We also fine-tuned the dimensions for the ramp so that when the chassis is done we can start working right away on the construction of the ramp/brush device. Tomorrow I am planning on heading over to Home Depot to buy some more brooms.

As for programming, Karlin explained traction control and how we can implement it on our robot using encoders and an accelerometer.

A lot of people have been wondering about going over to IDEO. This year, since Emily no longer works there, we will be going over a lot less. We will be doing most of our work at Castilleja. However, we will need to test code and install the electronics board at IDEO, so a few people may go over then. We will work out a system so that everyone who wants to see the shop can go over at some point during the season.

That's all for now. See you tomorrow at 5:15.

Monday, February 02, 2009


check out the spiffy blog that annie and allie created!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

A Successful Programming Day


Today we solved some of our programming problems from yesterday... so yay!
first, yesterday the code would not download to the cRIO. We could run it from the laptop, but couldnt turn on the robot and have it work again. We followed all the steps again, and Karlin helped us check they were correct against another copy of FIRST documentation. After patiently waiting through the computer finding the cRIO, we managed to download the code to the robot.
second... Erin, Caroline and Karlin added an acceleration control to the drive code. Remember when we would put the joystick all the way forward and the robot would spin in place? well, now it ramps up to full speed w a small time delay to prevent it from spinning in place. We added a filter to the joystick inputs (a handy feature of labview hahaha), and put a time delay on it.
third...Divya and Tobi coded up the front brushes with buttons for two speeds, and the roller for the tube (anne and nan have decided to add a roller since we cant get as close to the trailers anymore)
fourth: Divya and I made a table of the PWMs and buttons, to keep things straight and easy to reference
fifth: Divya, Tobi, and Sallie straightened up the wires on the electronics board (under erins orgainzing guidance), since they were super messy and likely dangerous before.

Solidworks: Annie and Allie modeled the corkscrew for raising the balls, and a brush thing to go with them

anne and nan have been working on prototyping the corkscrew. They also went to ACE with erin and brian to search for materials for the corkscrew and look at brushes. Also, they have been trying to figure out what to do with our new chassis design so we dont have to alter our game strategy and can still dump balls. I dont know exactly what else they've been up to, so maybe more information to come from one of them.

This week:
meeting 5-8, however, we will be going past eight when there are things that have to be done and finished since we are entering the second to last week.

To Do:
-find a place for the encoders in the gear boxes
-write encoder code -- traction control
-autonomous (we dont want ppl to find us and dump balls in during the autonomous period, therefore, the "avoid" strategy)

-choose materials (corkscrew, brushes, dumping tube)
-construction of corkscrew (discuss w jimmy)
-choose motors
-lip on dumping tube

see you all tomorrow!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

chassis, revisited

the new/actual chassis design
first of all, maybe other people know about this website but i did not - and i'm really excited about it. it's basically a compilation of all the best videos of first teams. there's a cool one of a helix which leads up to a shooting mechanism.

in other news today
-tobi divya and sallie got the new encoders set up [we're still waiting on two of them]
-we finally tested out drive code on a moving chassis! the given code works fairly well, although if you move the joystick too far forward it tries to accelerate too much. jessa and karlin suggested an acceleration capoff type thing, which we're hoping to try tomorrow
-downloading issues... we can run the code from the laptop and step through it, so that's good for testing. but it won't actually download the code properly. we're hoping to fix that tomorrow.
-build: i know there was some prototyping and redesigning, but don't have details, sorry. we decided to square off the ends of the chassis' u-bits. basically, imagine last year's chassis but without the middle bar in the front.
-ida and i discussed all the various essays and documents we're submitting. so glad we're doing this earlier this year!

11-3 tomorrow

Friday, January 30, 2009

e board READY TO GO

during p6 and briefly after school, erin caroline and i finished up the wiring on the electronics board and tested to see that code downloads etc
MEANING we can now test out the given ArcadeDrive functions from FIRST as well as write our own drive code! and we can test it on a real live robot [albeit not the one we'll actually end up using.] but let the real programming begin!

meeting 11-3 this weekend, as usual
see you tomorrow

Thursday, January 29, 2009


-took electronics board off benji, put one for new control system on. caroline and i will finish up the wiring tmrw.
-spent about an hour trying to figure out how to put the dumb wires in the dumb wago. finally figured it out.
-a wiry cage thing for the corkscrew was built
-more brush bits were cut and annie and anna epoxy-ed more brush bits onto the tube
-we discovered our chassis design will be illegal - the first games committee didn't approve a design v. similar to ours. :( so we'll still have a U, there just won't be angly bits. anne will email jim tonight and let's hope he hasn't already welded it, although i think he has.

we did show benji to the kids at seton and they were really excited about it :) pictures to come.

sorry not more detail tonight - exhausted.
enjoy your DAY OFF tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

wednesday, january 28

(first part written by divya)

today in programming, we (tobi, malaika, and i) velcro-ed the electronic components onto a practice board. ok...yeeeeeeah that's kind of all we did.


(now written by anne)

today build was uber exciting :)

the sophomores and freshmen made an amazing prototype of a "curved ledge" for the spiral corkscrew in the middle.

we also made a ghetto prototype of the brush for the corkscrew (made out of pvc and brushes epoxy-ed onto it). we powered it with a drill and tested it with our foamcore prototype of a tube with ramps and it works! yay! this could mean that we can make our own brushes instead of buying the $400 and 30-lb. cylindrical conveyor brush from mcmaster. (however, we already bought a 20" brush...)

jessa came today and we did tooooooooooons of fizzix and math... and we realized that we'll need lots of POWER for the brush in the corkscrew. we don't think the globe motor will provide enough power, and it's the strongest motor we have (other than the cim motors). which leaves us with a tough decision, because we can only use a maximum of 4 cim motors on our robot.

sooooooooo... we've decided that we will use a tank drive instead of operating the 4 wheels independently. that way, we'll only use 2 cim motors for the drive train and we can use 1 cim motor for the brush in the corkscrew.

also we got another moon ball today! which brings the grand total up to 5.


p.s. anna and shifrah made QUADRAPUS out of duct tape. go to picasa for pix :)

picture of chassis

chassis design as of 1/26 - this is the design that jimmy is welding for us. except for the top right wheel, everything else is to scale. 
thank you anne for uploading pictures to picasa!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

mellow tuesday

again, a lowkey programming night - until we can see the given drive code to see how well/badly it drives, we don't have that much to do. writing the code for corkscrew/servo gate is going to be a snap [let's hope i'm not jinxing it by saying that]. we've basically done it already - using a joystick button to control a motor.
-shreya, divya, and tobi wrote simple code of their own! yay! button 2-->arcade drive, and also servo stuff. :)
-we were having wireless issues. again. but then we changed the main battery and things were happier. so maybe the wireless gets more finicky the lower the battery?
-divya grounded the driver station - according to a FIRST update, you have to do it. it wasn't really that exciting, but anyway it's done. basically just wiring a pwm from the gnd endings to this random screw. there were diagrams, she followed them...
-jimmy stopped by with one of the mutant gearboxes! both the axle for the wheel and the motor are on the same side, just like we want :) he's begun to cut the metal meaning we are well on our way to having a chassis!

i have a promise from anndini that one of them will actually blog tonight.


to find pwmdeviceref - double click the servo icon, control + t, and it's right there.
[because we keep forgetting.]

Monday, January 26, 2009

orbit balls

3 orbit balls have arrived from north carolina!
thank you to sallie and her grandparents!

monday 1/26

programming had a fairly lowkey night, at least so far - we got motors turning off joystick buttons. for the first time, we didn't use the prewritten drive block which baically has everything already done. you just tell it the right speed and the left speed. but today we stepped it up and used a basic motor setup. meaning that you have to open it outside of the while loop, and then set the speed, and then close it... bah so annoying. but it works!
we also got the servo to turn with the prototype gatey thing

honestly, that's all for tonight - it took us an impressively long amount of time to figure out how to work the more complicated motor blocks.

once we have a funcitnal chassis we'll see how well or badly the FIRST written drive code works, and then we'll make decisions about drive code.

anne or nan will blog for build?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

sunday of servos and sizing

-karlin, caroline, divya, sallie, and i spent lots of time trying to get the servo set up. in true labview fashion, the actual coding consists of dragging blocks that say "servo open" "get angle" etc together. and yet, it Would Not Work. and we were very frustrated, tried to figure if we needed a speed controller [which would make no sense], messed around with the oscilloscope... and of course, the problem was something so stupid. you need a jumper on the pins next to the PWM. thank you, some random guy on a chief delphi post. as soon as we plugged in the jumper, it worked perfectly. GAH.
-much time was spent discussing where to put gearboxes/motors and which orientation they will go. if we do them the "traditional" way/the way we've done it in the past, there won't be enough room in the middle for the corkscrew. i think the final decision was to place them on the outer bars of the chassis, though i am not sure. i'll double check tomorrow. anyway, the finalfinalfinal chassis drawings were made, and sent to ideo with jimmy. meaning - we're on our way to having a chassis!
-made an order list of sprockets, chain, masterlinks, encoder stuff, etc. this doesn't sound like it takes a lot of time, but uh, it does.
-sallie and divya started to build a potential gate for the servo to turn. the thing's going to have to be really light because the dear servo is incredibly wimpy. although it turns 90 degrees quite beautifully.
-annie and allie were solidworksing. sorry i don't have more details. :/

thank you to the huang family for food and chaperoning and to karlin, doug, and jimmy for their infinite wisdom. and divya often says "you guys deserve a gift."
see you 5:15-8 this week?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

saturday [although it's not over]

the toilet brush ball collector

-we have a functioning prototype of the corkscrew concept! made out of foamcore and with a toiletbrush spinning thing, it's amazing. our current "transition" stage design is the corkscrew - conveyer belts just had too many moving parts and was too complex.
-we're researching different long brushes that we can use for the corkscrew. i'm not sure if this makes sense, but i'll hopefully have more pictures on picasa soon. the design is the one that annie wrote about - here's the link to a youtube clip of another team. our design is similar.
-the toilet brushes have been attached to drills and work remarkably well to suck in the balls from the groud. i'm really excited about this. the picture's above.
-anne posted pictures to picasa! the link is to the right - build photos
-anndini are sketching out the final chassis design.
-allie is working on a model of the electronics board in solidworks
-we had a ridiculous number of mentors. emily and julia and kersten and jessa and david and brian. and perhaps too much sugar...
see you all tomorrow - 11 to 3.

Friday, January 23, 2009

weekend timings

we're meeting 11-3 both saturday and sunday
hope to see you then!

arcade drive stuff from karlin

for documentation - karlin sent us an email that explains the math and stuff in the arcade drive vi. :)

I'm attaching an isolated .vi that just contains the "math" for the arcade drive. [sherri note - this is on zak and is called] All I did was delete any references to motors. If you open this .vi and run it (don't deploy, just open it without opening the FRC project file), you can change the x and y joystick values and then see what the corresponding left/right motor outputs are.

So, yes, the weird signage on the joystick values pretty much makes things incredibly non-intuitive, but it all works out.

With the odd signs, a negative motor output means the motor spins forward and positive motor value means it's spinning backwards. (yay FIRST)

If you look at this file carefully and test out the different joystick values, you should see that the following is what the default arcade drive does (you already figured out most of this - I'm just writing it out to be thorough)
1a. The first case structure is just "square inputs" or not and in the default case, if you look in RobotDefRef, you'll see that the default is "false" (the green switch is off) so it doesn't square the inputs.
1b. so since the default is just to take the x and y values directly, it then sends the joystick values to the second case structure.
2. Within the second case structure, you have 4 cases (true-true, true-false, false-true, false-false) which correspond to the 4 different joystick quadrants.

True-true = lower right quadrant (backward/right)
true-false = upper right quadrant (forward/right)
false-true = lower left quadrant (backward/left)
false-false = upper left quadrant (forward/left)

But in general, the arcade drive takes the maximum of the x or y joystick value and sets that to be the maximum speed of one of the motors (it changes depending on what quadrant you're in).

Then, based on where the joystick is, it either sets both motors to spin at the same rate (x=0) or makes the motors spin at the same rate but in opposite directions (y=0). And when the joystick is in the middle of the quadrant, if you're closer to the x-axis, the arcade drive is set to make the robot pivot, which makes it turn sharply, whereas if it's near the y-axis, it mostly is moving forward/backward and turning only a little. Again, the math for making the motors do that is different within the 4 quadrants.

Um...I don't think that explanation helps any, but just take a look at this file, step through the different joystick locations, and I think you'll see that the "maximum number" block makes sense. Just write down the weird coordinate system and remember that negative motor values = forward and vice versa. It does what you programmed your old robots to do with logic based coding instead of using an equation. We can go over this when I see you.

By the way, you can probably code up the drive code without having the chassis design finished or whatnot. I still think you should put encoders on your drive wheels because it doesn't hurt to have them. You could also just use um...scotty? (forgot the name) and hook up the new control system to it for practice. There would be some ghetto rigging, but I don't think it would be that difficult.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Corkscrew Design

This is a link to a corkscrew helix design (click on title) that looks pretty cool. As opposed to having the whole corkscrew rotating, they have just an inside brush rotating that catches and lifts up the ball. 1. The brush works, and 2. This is a simpler way to do a corkscrew. The ball would always make it in, because the screw itself wouldn't move, so the path into the corkscrew could always be open. Also, maybe more balls could be stored? I know we just came up with our final design, but it's something else to think about for our tower.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

tuesday - design review

more progress today!

-sallie and divya resoldered the very very sketchy battery charger
-we went over the most recent/final [fingers crossed!] design. i am not the best person to describe it, so i will try to enlist anne to blog about it tomorrow. or i will, when i am more coherent.
-karlin got the gaming bridge/wireless to work! la la laaaaaa. i wasn't there but i can post details about that tomorrow. apparently it was like magic.
-we discovered that the joystick coordinates are seriously funky. the x axis runs from -1 to 1 from left to right, which makes sense. BUT the vertical axis runs -1 to 1 from top to bottom! that's super strange, but i guess just one of those first/labview things. i don't know if the picture helps, ignore all the periods, i just needed them for spacing
-1 ...................1
-motors actually run from -127 to 127. meaning that zero actually means STOP as opposed to fullspeedbackwards. i'm really excited about this.
-our super simple button code works more normally.
-nandini was researching materials for the brushes, belts, and tubes.
-anne was doing motor math!

thanks so much to karlin doug and jimmy for coming to the design review.
hopefully more updates from me tomorrow. and i'll try to bug someone to post pics to picasa! we have a sad lack of pictures this year.

Monday, January 19, 2009

weekend of progress (continued)

i'm extremely tired/brain dead as of right now, so i apologize if this post doesn't make much sense...

basically, the updates/new rules that FIRST keeps giving us are extremely annoying because they always conflict with our chassis designs! :(

first, we wanted to shorten the chassis and have the output tube stick out a little so the moon balls would fall nicely into the trailer-- but then we found a rule saying that no part of the robot can stick out of the bumper perimeter. so that idea is...dead.

then we wanted to make the front slightly v-shaped so we could be 38" long but still get closer to the trailer-- but then we found a rule saying that all corners need to be covered by bumpers, and the minimum bumper length is 6". i think this idea may still work, even with the bumpers in the way... but we should make a rough, actual-sized prototype...

also, we've decided that for the input/picking-up-moon-balls-from-the-ground, we're going to use brushes instead of conveyor belts. the brushes will be better b/c they are stiff enough to push the moon balls into the robot, but also flexible so they won't get stuck in the holes in the moon balls.

we also realized that for the transition/lifting-moon-balls-to-the-tube, we can't use an up-conveyor belt in the back because apparently the moon ball will just bounce off the conveyor belt instead of going up like we want it to. so we are (tentatively) planning to use 2 up-conveyor belts on the sides controlled by one motor. (and so far we're assuming that we will still use surgical tubing).

our wonderful build minions :) also made a prototype of the output/tube-to-let-moon-balls-fall-into-trailer on saturday, and a human-controlled stopper to go with it.

hopefully i haven't forgotten anything...
and hopefully it somewhat makes sense.
but we'll cover all of this at the design review at 6 tomorrow!
see you guys there! :D

weekend of progress

it's been quite a weekend - designing and mathing and redesigning and remathing and reredesigning... i think anne will be posting more details on that side of things.

but for programming/electronics - tobi and karlin spent some serious time with the crio/bridge/router/IP addresses/crossover cable and the wireless STILL won't work. we don't know why, and it's all very frustrating. however, we CAN download code and for now, that's good enough.

even downloading with the cable, we were having issues because we'd download code to the driver's station and it would work, la la la laaa, but then if you ever turned the system off it would forget that you'd downloaded code. so basically, you could never hit the kill switch. you had to redownload every time you turned the robot on. clearly, that's no good. after some searching on chief delphi, we found a workaround and it downloads normally now.
we also got an encoder up and running! sallie and divya wired up the encoder and between doug and karlin and labview's lovely pre-written code - it WORKS. the first day we try. wow.
just to test that we could do basic things, we added a simple case statement that was like "hey only do what you normally do if you're pressing the trigger on joystick 1". and it works, which is good because it's basically as simple as it gets.

we also discovered more stupid bumper rules today, leading to some redesigning. meh. anne will post more about all this?
DESIGN REVIEW TOMORROW (TUESDAY) AT 6:00. we hope all team members and mentors will be able to make it. as always, dinner provided.

sallie's fabulous grandparents in north carolina went on a walmart adventure and bought us 3 orbit balls! i'm really excited about this. :)

allie's been doing some amazing solidworks stuff. she doesn't seem to realize how great it is, but i do. :) we've talked so much talk about solidworks in previous years, it's great to actually sit down and do it.

thanks so much to all for their help this weekend - the bhats for food and chaperoning, the waleckas for chaperoning, il fornaio for some tasty tasty pizza, karlin, doug, david, and brian for their infinite support and wisdom. it was definitely a productive weekend.

hope to see you tomorrow at DESIGN REVIEW, 6PM.
the rest of the week is 5:15-8, as it has been.

27 days!

Saturday, January 17, 2009


i will try to post again later/tomorrow but i am too brain dead right now to be coherent

TOMORROW IS A DAY OF REST - no robotics. enjoy.
monday we'll meet 4-8pm.

see you then!

1/16 [from sallie]

reposting since sallie didn't have access to the build blog last night.

So...I can't figure out how to post on the main blog so I am blogging here. Hi! This is Sallie(not to be confused with Allie). So today has been filled with more prototyping! After dinner we decided to begin to prototype some of our new ideas. We are afraid the windmill is going to get stuck or not work. Instead, we are thinking of using conveyor belts made out of surgical tubing. Annie, Shreya (did I spell that right), divya, and I started to prototype a conveyor belt. While grooving to some jack johnson music, we determined that rather than have circular pully/sticks/track/the thing that the belt goes on, a multi-faceted surface tended to grip the belt better. Basically, we took some 80/20 and put this scratchy sandpaper tape for extra friction and used surgical tubing for the belt. We also tried to saw/file the sides down to make sides; it didn't turn out to grippy enough. Finally, we got a prototype that kinda worked. Next, we ran a lap around the circle and came back to make a prototype out of the ball-put-er-out-er. We decided that we might need to make our base of our robot a little shorter in order to allow the put-er-out-er to sucessfully get the ball in the trailer. Oh! we got the trailer today! It is a work of art. We hopefully are getting 3 more orbit balls from north carolina! So other things that happened today: toby was being amazing and de-bugging or talking with the computers as others onlooked, others were designing or measuring or planning for the robot. Ida tried to take pictures for the website. Allie was using solid works. And we all were shooting our orbit ball into our new trailer. Fun Friday!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

a very frustrating thursday

sigh. today [for programming/electronics] was one of those days where you work for hours, starting with a small problem, realizing it's a huge problem, thinking you'll never solve it. and, to make it all the worse, there WAS no problem to begin with. or at least, not the one we were trying to solve.

that's right - it was just tobi, me, and karlin late tonight when we tried to download the code again, after fiddling with IP addresses for a couple hours, and guess what? erin and caroline and i just didn't read the message correctly yesterday. that 34% it was stuck at was not 34-percent-downloaded. no no, it was finished downloading, it was happy. it had 34% free space. meaning - there was no problem to begin with, at least when downloading the way we were.
i think i am understandably frustrated by this realization - karlin, tobi, caroline, erin and i spent a ton of time tonight trying to understand IP addresses for the driver's station and the router and the bridge and the crio. and when it finally works? it's because it did all along. and we had just messed it up majorly in the middle in the processing of debugging.
granted, it only worked because we hard-downloaded it. the wireless still doesn't work, but that might be because we actually messed it up with all the reconfiguring and IP-address-messing. so tomorrow, we'll have to go back and undo all the stuff we did today and THEN see if the wireless works. i wrote us a note on the page karlin marked.

in other news, annie and sallie made an awesome visual representation of the trailer. that thing is HUGE!
we also discovered that the windmill design will likely not work, because it requires an enormous accuracy factor. thank you so much to those that made the [yes, another] prototype out of 80-20 and sheet metal - even if we may not end up using that design, that prototype definitely helped us to understand pros and cons of the design.
we are thinking of a conveyer belt concept involving surgical tubing. caroline made an ace run for some surgical tubing. i'm not sure what happened after that, to be honest. that's when i became consumed by pinging and replies and IP addresses.

an enormous thank you to karlin. after she discovered that HEY there was no problem to begin with, she only laughed instead of being annoyed we'd just wasted a boatload of time. so THANK YOU.

i guess it's officially robotics season.

we're meeting saturday 10-1, not on sunday, and monday at a time tba.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

wednesday [at least for build]

hellooooooooooooooo :)

today was quite a productive day for build!

first, we went over our current overall design for the robot. for the input, we will have a "windmill" design that will push moon balls into the "U" of our u-shaped chassis. the moon balls will go up a little ramp, over this bump, and into this little "storage area" where we want to have space at least 2-3 moon balls. for the transition phase (or as divya likes to say, t-phase), we are planning to have a conveyor belt to carry the moon balls up to the output. for the output, we will have a tube that will lead to the front of the robot, where moon balls will be dropped into our opposing alliance's trailer! this tube will have a stopper to prevent moon balls from falling too early. we also wanted to make the chassis a bit shorter than 38" long so the tube could hang a little over the chassis, making it easier to drop moon balls into trailers.

we threw around some more ideas (such as using a spiral instead of a conveyor belt, and picking balls up with a gripper like a mini jack-the-gripper instead of using the windmill), but we decided that our current design is the best way to go (as of now).

then we ran into the slight (or not so slight) problem of dimensions. with both a windmill AND a conveyor belt, it seems hard to fit everything into our 38" x 28" footprint. anna had a cool idea of tilting the conveyor belt a little bit forward and having it turn in the opposite direction that we planned earlier. with anna's idea, the moon balls will be carried up the conveyor belt in the back of the robot (in other words, if you looked at the robot from his/her/its left side, the conveyor belt would be turning counterclockwise)... this is quite difficult to describe in words...i hope it makes sense.

so annie, divya, tobi, anna, nandini, allie, and i did some math and number crunching to figure out possible dimensions for the different parts of the robot. so far, we've come up with possible dimensions for the windmill, and allie made a uber awesome sketch on solidworks of the windmill with the right dimensions! (except...apparently something's funny with the angles...but that's fix-able).

it's hard to describe the dimensions, but i'll try:
(the windmill has 2...uh...wings...for lack of a better term...
ok yes i know that's not the right term but i honestly can't think of anything right now)
the angle of the wing is 120 degrees (we just assumed this for some reason...we could change this if necessary)
the length across the wing is 14" (which will fit in the "U" of our chassis)
the depth of the wing is 4"
the wing "halves" are 8" x 8" squares
the wings will be mounted 10" from the floor (this should give us enough ground clearance without being too far away from the floor...if i did my math correctly)

annie, divya, tobi, and anna also made a prototype/model of the windmill out of foamcore, pvc, and lots of duct tape with the right dimensions and angles! it's quite pretty. :)

we also have to think about how to mount the windmill (i think it'll be something like free willy on scotty) and possible motors (i need to find those motor specs)...

hooray for productivity! (^.^)
see you all tomorrow :)


WEDNESDAY[at least programming]

i think anne will blog about build's amazing progress today, but i thought i'd give a short update of programming.

we continued to look through the labview stuff. the existing VIs that wpi has provided are amazing. as in, there's an existing timer. and a nice button you drag if you want interrupts. we're very excited about this. we spent a good amount of time just learning what VIs are preexisting for us [most of the ones we'll need, probably] and where they are.
we tried to learn how to download using the documentation that karlin found but it really didn't work. the computer got stuck at 34% and then it wouldn't continue "deploying" [that's what downloading's called.]

build, on the other hand, had a fabulously productive day. allie's solidworks skills are so awesome - she's got a model of the windmill design! and i know there was a lot of measuring and math-ing and prototyping to scale. the latest windmill prototype is beautiful, with measured angles and all!
that's the summary version - anne will provide details.

weekend timings to come.

thanks to annie's family for chaperoning and dinner!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


today was another really productive day. annie, divya, tobi, anna, shreya and malaika all worked on making full scale prototypes of the scooper/windmill design as well as the conveyer belt. sallie caroline erin and i [along with karlin's expertise] looked through the control system code, going through the documentation and looking at the given labview code. we also tried to do some stuff with setting a gyro as a global, but i don't think it totally ended up working. obviously, we'll be working on this more, but i think we're all feeling fairly comfortable with the coding environment at the moment. we also talked about how to do the physics for motors for the conveyer belt [between erin, caroline, and nan's ap physics-ness, we should be in good shape!] and also started looking on mcmaster for different belts/rivet fasteners etc. allie and tanya did some amazing solidworks stuff! there's a great model of a u-shaped chassis so far. it's pretty - we're all really excited about the solidworks. :) tomorrow allie plans to model up the tower/conveyer belt concept, and then tanya will be able to polish it on thursday.

sad news - the orbit balls we had on hold with our pal in chico were bought! so now we're once again on the lookout for more balls. i think we're all contacting relatives around the country to see if someone can pick some up from a walmart, preferably somewhere with few FIRST teams.

see you tomorrow!

Monday, January 12, 2009


we're baaaaack! and i think i speak for all the juniors when i say how impressed i am with the amount of stuff we've/you've gotten done in the past week. wow. the number of prototypes is incredible, the driving-benji-with-the-kit-wheels... it was quite a day.

where to start?

driving benji on the slippery surface was better than expected. he drives/turns roughly as well as last year. the only major problems are that it's really really staticky and does not have a great stopping time. we're trying to think of coding things we can do to counteract it. also, it's super easy to push him around when he's stopped.

we've broken the challenge into three parts - input, transition, and output. input is how we scoop up the cells, transition is moving them, and output is depositing them in the trailers of other robots.

-divya presented her windmill/funnel concept for the input. i think we'll end up using something like this. allie took pictures, so we'll hopefully have those on picasa soon.
-annie c showed the conveyer belt for transition, as well as a corkscrew-type thing for moving the balls up. we'll probably end up using a conveyer belt, if possible.
-sallie showed another conveyer belt concept, this one horizontal
-tobi and anna showed a sort of movie-reel idea for output. basically, the cell comes down a tube, and there's a platform with cutouts that spins. on the other side is corresponding hole, and the cell drops into the other robots trailer. i know that made little sense, but hopefully we'll have pictures to share soon.
-anna and shreya showed another windmill design for scooping/input.
-divya showed her tube/ramp output concept. it has a blocker so there'd be a button on the joystick for release.

we also went over a feasible calendar for season that we'll try very very hard to stick to.

week of 1/12 - design week
1/18 - design chosen
week of 1/18 - build chassis
1/25 - chassis built
1/30 - breathing day aka no robotics
2/5 - drive code finished [this is the big programming deadline]
2/6 - breathing day #2 [fomf]
2/8 - tower built
2/10 - name chosen :)
2/12 - rough tower code
2/15 - real tower code
2/17 - SHIP

some decisions we made
-we're going down to size 25 chain. we currenly use 35
-probably using same general chassis idea, although make it U-shaped so we can better load balls. we'll be going long, rather than fat.
-currently planning a windmill --> conveyer belt --> output design. we'll be further prototyping and drawing to scale in the next week. allie and tanya are working on solidworks designs.
-anne will be the picasa girl again
-for mentors: karlin made sure that the gmail calendar is all set up, so if we can use that to know when mentors will be available that would be great!

a big thank you to karlin and tanya for their time today, and to annie's mom for chaperoning and food.

this week we'll be meeting roughly 5:15 - 8. hope to see you then!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Day 8

Today we continued working on prototypes. We made a "corkscrew" prototype, a windmill prototype, a "gumball machine" prototype, and another conveyor belt prototype. Then, we presented our prototypes to the group, and talked about how they could work together as a system. We also talked about using no more than four motors in the final tower design. This year, chassis design and tower design are inextricably tied, so we need to make decisions soon regarding our tower design.

Tomorrow we will be meeting from 2-4:30 (ending a bit earlier)

Friday, January 09, 2009

Day 7

Today we finished what we had been working on yesterday, mainly installing software on computers (thanks again Sallie and Brian) and prototyping.  We made lots of prototypes today out of all sorts of materials.  Shreya and Anna made a very nice vertical conveyer belt system, and Divya and Annie worked on a horizontal windmill (it actually spins!).  Our goal for this weekend is to have lots of nice prototypes to demonstrate to the leads during the meeting on Monday.  

The Agenda for Monday's Meeting is as follows:
-Show the challenge video
-Go over challenge (questions, clarifications etc.) 
-Go over schedule for the season
-Show Benji with this year's wheels on the competition surface (will he turn?) 
-Present Prototypes

We would love if mentors would be able to attend, but we want to do the meeting early enough so that the Juniors can get some work done after the meeting, and early enough so some mentors can attend.  Basically, we want to have an all-team meeting before we all go off and work.  

Another note, Jimmy finished replacing the wheels on last year's robot with the wheels from this year's kop, so we would love a volunteer to pick up the robot from IDEO at a time tbd (I'm not sure when Jimmy will be there/ we can get into the shop to pick it up).  However, it would be great it we could get it before/on Monday so that we can present it at the meeting.  Thanks for a great first week of robotics.  

Meeting times for this week and Monday are as follows: 
Saturday :2-6
Sunday:  2-5
Monday: 3-6 (with the meeting beginning at 3)


Thursday, January 08, 2009

day 6

Today was another big day of prototyping and setup.  Sallie downloaded the FIRST version of labview on Zak (no small feat) and worked on getting the computers ready for programming to start.  We still need to finish installation on Mark, but Sallie started that, so we are well on our way.  

In terms of prototypes, the team worked on making a conveyer belt (as that is a key aspect of many of our designs) and wrote up a pro con list of some of our current prototypes.  We are hoping to have many functional prototypes for our all-team meeting this Monday.  We haven't chosen a definite time for the meeting, but it will probably be in the 6:00- 6:30 range (so that mentors can attend).  At this meeting we will be briefing the juniors on what we have been doing this week, showing them our prototypes, and presenting a detailed season schedule.  Our first big deadline is in a little over a week.  By next Sunday we hope to have chosen designs for both the chassis and tower.  

Tomorrow we will be meeting from 5-8, Saturday from 2-6, and Sunday from 2-5.  I will post the Monday meeting time as soon as I know.    

Day 5

So, on Wednesday we did some more brainstorming and started to work on the bumpers for the trailer. However, our staple gun skills were less than stellar, so Anna's dad is going to finish the construction of the bumpers tonight to free the students up for brainstorming and prototyping.

Last night we also met Tanya (our new mentor from abbott labs). She brought some really cool stents for us to look at (one that maintains its shape and another that does not). She is really good at CAD, which should be great for our team. This past year the Cardinal's helped us set up computers with solidworks, so tonight Tanya will be showing us how to do some of that.

Yesterday we also dropped off last year's robot at IDEO so that we could switch out the wheels. Since Benji is stil operational, we are going to see how effective last year's chassis design and wheel configuration is with this year's wheels.

Divya and Tobi got the team number to display on the driver station, which brings us closer to finishing setting up the new control system.

Thanks to the mentors, students, and parents who have made these past few days run so smoothly!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

day 4

Today was a pretty successful day. We dropped off the trailer material for Jimmy at IDEO (thanks to Marsha), did some more brainstorming and prototyping, installed some software, worked on the calendar, and worked on setting up the wireless connection for the cRIO (thanks Tobi, Divya and Mr. Amos).

Brainstorming and prototyping went well. We came up with the idea of using a windmill/waterwheel like structure to pick up balls from the floor and dump them into a chute that could hold them back until they could be released into an opposing team's trailer. Shreya and Anna began prototyping that design, but we need to do some more work on that before we will be able to tell if . We are planning on having an all-team meeting on the Monday that the leads return so that we can present our current prototypes and go over the schedule that we have created.

Karlin was here tonight from 5-8, and will be here again on Thursday at the same time. Tomorrow we're excited about meeting our new mentor Tanya from Abbott Labs. Meetings will be from 5-8 tomorrow and Thursday. Please try to read the manual when you can. Thanks for another great night!

Monday, January 05, 2009

days 2 and 3 of the build season

We have been working on finishing setting up the control system and brainstorming robot designs.

Yesterday (with the help of the amazing Karlin) we finished the bulk of the setup of the new control system. When we finally turned it on, we got lots of blinky green lights (something that rarely happens in robotics when you first turn something on). Doug bought us an AMAZING printer (probably the nicest in the whole school...) as well as some other goodies (3 types of wire strippers, heat shrink etc.).

Today we worked on finishing the control system testing. We almost finished (the motors do everything they are supposed to do when they are supposed to do it!). All we have left is setting up the wireless system (new this year with the new control system). We also did some more brainstorming. One of our ideas involved conveyer belts to draw the balls up and hold them for dumping into other teams' trailers. We also prototyped some other designs (hook and Doug's "salad bowl" idea") The hook didn't work very well, but the salad bowls were a promising gripper. Our concern is that the salad bowls might not be able to deal with high enough volumes of balls. This would make it hard to score many points with the moon rocks (2 points ea), but would be good for the final 20 second period when we need to place the super cell in the trailer of an opposing team.

We are also planning on replacing the mecanum wheels from last year's robot with the kit wheels from this year's kop to see what driving is like. Marsha picked up the competition floor material (very slippery!) so we can drive on that to see what it's like.

That's all for tonight. Tomorrow Tobi and Divya are starting at 3:00 and I will be there around 4:45.( I am dropping off materials at IDEO for the trailer) If you would like to help Tobi and Divya please join them at 3:00, if not, please plan on attending at 4:45.

kickoff (sorry this is a little late)

(written by divya)

Today was kickoff, and we found what we had been waiting for so long: the challenge. The challenge, called Lunacy (named based on its moon theme), entails the robots dropping moon rocks, hollow teflon-covered balls, into opponent robots' attached trailers. In a section of the competition, one of us human Gatorbotics members has the opportunity to throw moon rocks into the opponent robots' trailers, too. We better hope one of us has hidden hoops skills, or as Tobi said, practice when we're stressed. After Erin, Tobi, and I attended kickoff to pick up the kit and discover the challenge, we returned and in the Choral Room, Erin shared the information with the rest of the team (well, a critical part: JUNIORS: of the team is on the other side of the world right now =[ ). Aside from introducing Doug and Jimmy to the new freshmen, we all met Brian, a new mentor. We then went on to the fabulous new robotics room to brainstorm ideas for this year's challenge, inventory everything in the kit of parts (all 27 pages of the checklist), and fix tape on/wires (splicing took quite a while for Tobi, Shreya, Anna, and me, but we managed =D ) of the batteries.

Here is the challenge video:

Here is the like to this year's manual:
I would plan on reading sections 7-10

Friday, January 02, 2009

it's about that time

it's been a while - kickoff is TOMORROW, saturday january 3rd. as usual, we'll be meeting at castilleja in the choral room at 11:30. please come to watch the animation, brainstorm challenge solutions, unpack kit of parts, etc.

as most of you know, the juniors are in china for the next week! we'll be checking email and eagerly awaiting news of the challenge. we're back on the 11th.

i've been remiss in blogging this fall, but summary version - we ran a blinky bug workshop, the programmers had our first-ever independent study, meaning we were able to have specific robotics-related worktime during the school day. we learned a ton about labview and were just generally more organized. there was an allen steel run, we showed off benji to the school several times... it was a good fall.
and, oh yeah, we have NEW SPACE! we're now in the lower level of arrillaga and have both an office and a larger room. come check it out :)

the new control system arrived during finals, meaning we only really got to work with it once. but we inventoried everything and started to bench test, though didn't get as far as we'd hoped. i'm hoping by the time all the juniors are back from china, you'll all be experts :)

okay that's all i've got for now. see you when we're back!