Tuesday, February 22, 2011


(in Shelbyville)...

Thanks everyone-- students, parents, and mentors-- for a wonderful build season! Watch the blog as we add videos and pictures in the coming days!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Functioning Robots and Double Dream Hands

Today was a great day! After a great relaxation session drinking pearl tea and watching The Office we were all ready to get to work. Some team members went to IDEO to pick up the parts of the arm and the programming go to work wiring up the chassis. Caroline, Gadre, and Katie led the bumper making, and they are almost done! The bumpers look beautiful (We went with reversible ones and got numbers printed on the fabric. Other team members worked on modifying last year's cart to work for this year's robot. I believe they are also looking into adding some storage areas for batteries, gloves and other things to the cart.

We also found out yesterday that SVR is actually a bag and tag event for us. This means that instead of shipping the robot on Tuesday we will actually put it in a giant plastic bag and keep it at at school until the competition. We aren't allowed to open it except for a total of six hours the week before SVR, which is great because it means that we will be able to get in a little extra practice.

But the best part about today was that we got the robot up and running! We only have the motors for the drivetrain set up, but the first time we tested the code we were driving! And to make it even better this was all wireless! We had to do a little bit of fine tuning to get some things worked out, but we are making great progress.

Hopefully we will be able to finish a majority of the robot tomorrow so that we can attend the practice matches at NASA.

This will be a busy weekend, but we are off to a great start! Also, check out the new pictures added to the Picasa.

PS. The title of the video gives a hint to a little something special we have been up to...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hope everyone got their homework done today!

because most of the team took the Sunday off to finish it...which sounds like a smart decision in hindsight because I do have quite a lot left to finish tonight. Whoops! On the other hand, programming did get stuff done (Shifrah, Katherine, and mentors Stephen and Emma). We added to the autonomous code so that the arm goes up once the robot reaches the Twor (the robot would know that it reached the T by using the line tracker/ light sensor provided in the KoP). Afterward, we tried to get the ultrasonic sensor working in the case that the robot does not have space to extend the arm upwards when positioned at the T; the ultrasonic sensor would basically tell us when the robot was far too close to the wall for comfort, and therefore tell the us when the robot should back up a bit. Unfortunately, the ultrasonic sensor did not work properly as it kept spitting out 0.0 as the distance to the nearest object. After we Chief Delphi'ed the problem, we realized that the Parallax brand sensor didn't interface with FRC code as easily as some other sensors from different brands. (Time for another shopping trip!)

Then we had a lunch break...Unlike Saturday's conversation on genetic cloning (Victoria: "So should we have a philosophical discussion on cloning?"), it was more AWAH, "would you rather," and showing off gymnastic, juggling, and Rubik's Cube talents (apparently, Emma keeps a Rubik's Cube in her purse for those pesky traffic jams).

After lunch, we brought all the files from the various laptops together on Silverado and tried to make sense of the Gyro values. At first, the Gyro kept spitting out multiples of 7 for each timestep, even when the gyro was left alone. However, some Chief Delphi'ing allowed us to realize that leaving the Gyro still when it is first enabled allows it to calibrate itself, and so after leaving it be for a couple of seconds, it was a little more accurate. As far as we know, the gyro is kind of accurate. Meh.

Summary of what has been finished: first draft code for driving (plans to add PID if the robot does not strafe smoothly); first draft code for lifting or lowering parts of the arm to specific heights and manual override control of these arm parts; first draft code for having the robot follow the line until the T ...First drafts because none of this code has been loaded onto the actual robot...But it will soon...like couple of days soon! Great job everyone! :)

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

33.33% To Go!

Incredibly, we only have one third of the build season left! Today we made quite a bit of progress.

The minibot group worked more on their two-wheeled prototype and began working on a stabilization wheel to keep it on the pole. We're planning to run it tomorrow.

Caroline worked on the deployment of the minibot by researching racks and pinions along with drawer slides. We also made the deployment system in CAD to add to our robot model.

Others designed an aligning device for our robot to make sure it is perfectly centered on the pole and is the right distance from the center. It will most likely consist of a piece of sheet metal cut in a semicircle to complement the shape of the base of the pole and will be deployed by servos.

Programming worked on gripper code and encoders for the different positions of the arm. They discussed how best to control the robot and decided that an override of the gripper arm would be beneficial. They also made a pretty button board for the set heights of the arm but are planning on making a simple joystick version first before getting too complicated just so we have something to fall back on.

Two weeks left everyone, let's keep up the enthusiasm and great work!

~Annie, Build Lead

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Getting a little stressed...

Today we found out some bad news that all of the BaneBots orders are backed up by at least 10 days. This means that it is likely we may not even get the motors by the ship day, which makes us very stressed since we were relying on these to power the arm. Currently we are looking for alternatives which would be
  • planetary from AndyMark (they are behind on shipping, but it would work)
  • lead screw (we wouldn't need to use a BaneBots motor for this, but it would take more space on the bottom of the robot)
  • hope that they let us use a CIM motor since many teams are having difficulty from this backup and bad weather
  • maybe use a drill gearbox... or try to make something on our own
If you have any ideas or solutions, let us know in the comments!

Yesterday we thought that we broke one of the motors, because it started smelling really bad and wouldn't run. We probably did do something wrong to make it smell that bad, but once the battery was charged it worked again. So either it healed or we just didn't check that it was charged....

Minibot has been making progress on deployment and design, we have had some difficulties with the parts and getting the materials to connect the gears the way that we want to but we are making progress.

Programming has been making lots of progress! They discussed various electronic parts that are related to the robot.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

So close, yet so far...

Today marks the end of week 3, beginning of week 4. Time is running out!

However, this week we've made a lot of progress. In programming, after the wireless on Silverado was turned off properly, it finally communicated with the cRIO. After testing for buttons and axis for the wheel and the videogame controller, the programmer pairs revised their code. Luckily, all sets of code managed to move the wheels! However, since the wheels are not mounted on anything, the team cannot yet determine whether or not their code will maneuver the robot as they want.

On the build side, we completed the CAD for the "final" prototype of the robot. We've decided on the lifter mechanism to be the four bar linkage (we threw out the scissor lift idea for good because of the difficulty in making it... and we want Jimmy to stay with us ^^;), and now we're just waiting for the omni wheels to arrive to finish up the real chassis. However, what we're not sure on just yet is the gripper and the mini-bot deployment system.

For the gripper, Stephen advised us to actually make a gripper to test with - a prototype that is much closer to the real thing than blocks of wood nailed together and wheels connected with duct tape (not that duct tape is not a good tool...) and so that is the direction we're planning on going. As for the deployment system, we met after the meeting today to talk about ideas. Some ideas included a sliding-drawer system, an extending scissor-arm, and a "catapult." There was also the talk of accuracy, and in having a semi-circle guide extend from the robot to help align it perfectly every time. Our focused has really moved to the deployment system so that we can complete the robot quicker. While the robot has to be finished in three weeks, the mini-bot can be completed after the ship date, so we're putting emphasis on the robot itself. We will then base the structure of the mini-bot with the most efficient deployment mechanism that we think of.

Oh, and on the topic of the mini-bot, we've been working with three main ideas in terms of attaching the robot to the pole: magnetism, securing it completely around the pole via hinge, and forcing the wheels around it. The prototypes are still being worked on, and we bought two strong magnets to help. However, we seem to be lacking some tetrix components, and the Lego pieces, while handy, are not optimal in seeing how the real mini-bot will behave. Still, we're getting somewhere, and I'm excited to see where we end up!

Til next time!
~Tobi - the random senior

PS - A team 1700 music video? To be continued...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Silverado is acting up

Today, we talked to Jimmy a lot about the tower and getting the height and we decided to use the four-bar linkage. We also discussed gripper designs and we don't need chain, the surgical tubing should be enough to power the front and back wheels. For the mini-bot, we are looking at using magnets (we tried some strong ones!). We kept prototyping minibots and minibot deployment, but we are still waiting for motor hubs to come so we can use the tetrix pieces for testing.

Programming tried to get the netbook, Silverado, to download code but it kept connecting to wireless networks and making an automatic ip configuration so it didn't work. They got mimi to test the getDegree method for the joystick which Carly and Katherine's code used. It turned out that it went from 0 to 180 and 0 to -179 (basically it wasn't like a unit circle).

Most of the team is out tonight either at the Middle School Musical, Annie, or FOMF (Friends of Millard Fillmore Trivia Hunt), so we had a low key evening with delicious Indian food.

The Animation team was working a wheel hub and they are having a sleepover to watch an early morning webcast tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

January 25


CHASSIS: We gave the chassis metal to our mentor Jimmy.
ARM: We are deciding between a four bar linkage and a scissor lift.
CLAW: Finalized basic claw design involving surgical tubing and wheels
MINIBOT: Prototyping design and deployment, perhaps using drawer slides
PROGRAMMING: Programming drivetrain and discussing controller designs
ANIMATION: Still working, still frustrating, but making progress.

Please comment if your team was missed.

Tuesday, 1/25/11

Yesterday, Jimmy said that our scissor lift would take a lot of machining and work, so we reconsidered the four-bar linkage. A group made the dimensions for the four-bar linkage so we can put it into CAD.
One minibot group learned how to solder and wired a light switch, while another worked on the “sliding drawer” idea for deployment.
Animation continued as usual, and some Animation people watched tutorial videos.
Programming was planning to hook up Will-Da-Beast, last year's robot, and drive him, but Mimi the Classmate got the flu (a virus!) and we now have to re-image Mimi and we’re making a back-up computer as well.

A shout-out to our readers in the Netherlands!


Thursday, January 20, 2011

You know you're on Team 1700 when...

1. You're a girl (unless you are a mentor, in which case you may be a boy)
2. You have seen "Baby Monkey Riding Backwards on a Pig"
3. You eat over half of your meals at Castilleja
4. Spending 12 hours of your day at school is normal
5. When someone says Free Willy, Shamu, Moby Dick, or Physeter, you think of pneumatic actuators. And you know to which one she is referring...
6. "Can you get me a bag of chips?" really means "can you throw food over the wall for me?"
7. The only time you see boys is at robotics competitions...

Add more in the comments!

Thursday (Happy Birthday Stephen and Gadre!)

This week has been full of birthdays! After we ate the wonderful pizza from our sponsor Il Fornaio we were treated to some delicious coffee ice cream cake in honor of Holly, Stephen and Gadre's Birthdays!

Then we went to visit the robot skeletons from past years (2007, 2008 and 2009). We talked about the different motors and looked at the way in which each of the components was controlled or actuated. We wanted to do this to make sure that people started thinking about the stages in between prototyping and the final robot design. Hopefully we can start to think more specifically about the implementation of our designs.

When we returned to the lab and split up into 5 different groups (2 for gripper designs, 1 minibot group, animation and some programming). I believe Mimi is all set up and ready to go so programming is going to start working on and thinking about the drive code for our new drivetrain. We ordered 4" omni wheels and the proper sprockets today, and we are hoping to get started on the chassis sometime next week. One of the gripper groups talked about using surgical tubing instead of rollers. A few advantages may be that the tubing could be in contact with the tubes the entire time, and we could likely add them in addition to the rollers. However, we still need to explore this idea a little more. The Minibot group discussed some new TOP SECRET ideas, which we will explore. I can't say anything except that our Minibot will follow all of the rules and will be named Mulan. (The reasoning for this name is the famous scene in the movie when she climbs the pole http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTqIsB98a1E.) We have also decided that the main robot, or hostbot, is a girl, but we can't name her until we see the final robot (or at least the CAD version of it). Also, a group of perspective parents and students dropped by the robotics lab, so we talked to them briefly about what FIRST is and the competition for this year.

We are meeting again tomorrow the usual 5:30-8 and this weekend we will be meeting on Saturday (10-4).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

And We Skip to Wednesday (Holly's Birthday)!

After singing Holly a happy birthday; eating lasagna, salad, and overly processed foods (Cheetos and the like-- my bad, Global Week); and greeting our mentors (Jimmy, Jessa, Holly, and Santhi), we began a group discussion. As we went over the pro and con chart for the gripper design that Tobi, Nina, Aneesha, Victoria, and Devanshi prepared yesterday, the team was conflicted about the gripper design on several points. Jimmy raised the concern that it would be important to pick deflated tubes off of the ground; some team members followed up on this concern by citing that some of our current designs do not allow for the release of the tube onto a peg in the case that the tube deflates while in our robot's grip. Meanwhile, other team members pointed out that with 18 tubes per team, it would be most practical to avoid deflated tubes-- designing the gripper around the off-chance of ourselves deflating a tube would be unnecessary and complicated. Another point of uncertainty was whether or not the gripper would be a claw.

What did all this confusion mean? More prototyping, of course! A group led by Annie "made a V-shaped gripper that is an inanimate spring-loaded thing with two large wheels with the sticky stuff and foam that fits to the shape of the various tubes." Tobi also made a mechanism that would allow the gripper to rotate.

Meanwhile, Sarah, Anna, Shifrah, and mentors Holly and Santhi worked on the minibot. After opening the Tetrix box, they talked about new designs based off of the previous Lego design. They also tested the Tetrix motors and put the wheels together.

All the while, the programming team sat down and listened to mentor Jessa explain threads and synchronization (notes will be uploaded to the website shortly!). Afterward, they downloaded Netbeans and the FRC plug-ins; they then looked at the WPI Robotics Library, "the set of Java classes that interfaces to the hardware in the FRC control system and the robot" and the Calgames code.

And just for reference, here is the time line for the next few weeks:

1/16-1/22: Design Week
1/23-1/29: Design Week
1/30-2/5: Build Week
2/6-2/12: Programming Week
2/13-2/19: Test Week
2/20-2/22: Ship Week

Let's hope that we can follow it!

Also, if anyone has the pro and con chart typed up, post it so that we can document our thought process, yeah?

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Special Movie Event!

A Lego prototype of a four-bar linkage mechanism. Note how the claw can store itself inside of the robot's perimeter. Of course, we're not planning to throw inner tubes during competition, but you never know!

Monday Jumble

Today we did a jumble of things. We continued prototyping the minibot with the NXJ (NXT with Java) and Meghana and Teresa had some fun creating Lego forts using sensors. The minibot can climb up the pole, but we are not planning on using the Lego system for the final product as the motors are slow and time is of the essence.

On the programming side, Gadre and Kylie spent time doing the all-important task of updating our Classmate for the 2011 season. We are going to program our robot in Java.

Stephen helped Divya with sensors and programming strategy for the game. Sensors are an integral part of this year's challenge as line-following and color recognition are essential for an accurate game.

Anna continued CADing up the robot in Solidworks. She finished the chassis today, seen below, and worked on a scissor lift and a four-bar linkage model.

On the sad side, we were hoping to socialize with FIRST Team 8, the Paly Vikings, but alas the meeting did not come through. Back to school tomorrow!

~Annie, Build Lead, and Katherine

Saturday, January 15, 2011

[In addition to Anna's wonderful blog post..]


It was truly a team effort. Thanks to everyone who pitched in to help - it looks awesome!

Special recognition goes to Teresa for thinking of how to store the peg-wall much easier with the hinges. *round of applause*


~Tobi - the one who will be bringing knee pads to the lab for future drilling safety...

Day 8

Today was a very productive day! Shifrah, Sarah R, and I (Anna) went to Home Depot to buy the materials needed to build the peg rack and the pole for the minibot. We were able to find everything except the pole, but when we returned back to the lab we realized that the tower structure from Breakaway is the same material and about the same thickness as the minibot pole, so we can use that to prototype.

Shifrah stayed at school to lead the construction of the rack while Annie, Divya, Tobi, Sarah R and I went to check out the Team 8's lab. We are so jealous of their lab and space! They showed us their machine shop and we got to see the great space they work in. While there we talked with them about the machine shop, this year's challenge Logomotion, and our teams in general. We decided to meet with them on Monday to possibly go over some minibot and minibot deployment designs (We can get coopertition points if we lend our minibot to another team, so this could be a win-win situation).

When we returned back to school the group working on the rack was almost done with the construction. For the remainder of the day we worked on a variety of tasks. Sarah G. and Kylie worked on reconfiguring and updating Mimi, Sarah R. and Caroline worked on minibot designs, Victoria and Nina worked on arm dimensions with our newest mentor Emma, and other people continued discussing and prototyping. One really helpful thing that we learned from Team 8 was that we could probably use one of the BaneBots motors provided in the KOP for the arm, which means that we could use all 4 CIM motors for our drivetrain. Currently we are thinking of doing a 6 or 8 wheel omni configuration which would look something like this:
| |
| |
(If we do 8 wheels one more would be added to each of the long sides)

This would allow us to move quickly, but still be able to strafe sideways which will be helpful when lining up with the tubes. Shifrah and I worked on modeling the drivetrain on SolidWorks, and we are hoping to make some solid decisions about the robot design soon. Our next meeting time will be from 10-4 on Monday.

So far it looks like a great season!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Happy Birthday Shifrah!

Yay for Shifrah, our technical lead, who turned 17 today! Yay for ice cream cake and awesome parents, friends, and... robots!

As for the robot...

We began the day with a prototyping workshop with our mentors Santhi and Noe. We discussed concepts such as brainstorming in general, gears, and working with foam core, etc., and were shown a really cool site with helpful animations [http://robives.com/mechs]. Then we explored a small powerpoint where Andy from AndyMark commented on the different choices that people made in the mechanics of their robot. You can find the blog post through Delphi, but he basically went through every possible "tactical" mechanical choice within the past eight years, and gave his opinions on them. However, his advice was more on the... biased side, and it seemed as if there were less facts for the options he did not like. So I would say to research more on ideas that he may have shot down if you think they may have merit. Who knows, he may be right, but it seemed a bit one-sided.

Then we split up to work on prototypes for the tower. The lifter. The arm. Whatever you want to call it, and so we split up into three groups to work on three different ideas: an "elevator" lift, a four-bar linkage, and a mix of the two which includes only one joint with a sliding extension on the end. The prototypes were just begun tonight, and will be finished tomorrow. The animation team also got to work, and continued sketching out ideas of what will happen, or the story blocking... thing.

Until next time!

~Tobi - the one who won the bet and was not loud for the entire meeting. Which means somebody lost the bet...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day 4

Today was mostly a day to conclude what we had done so far. Our mentors Holly, Stephen, Jessa, and our newest mentor Emma, joined us during the meeting to see our various prototypes and to aid us going forward.

First we began by working in small groups in different areas. Annie led a small workshop in construction basics, such as drilling and sawing, while the animation team started bouncing around ideas to complete the animation challenge: aliens and saving the world...

Or something like that.

Another group started to tackle the minibot prototype. We have two basic ideas so far, and today we focused on using wheels that surround the pole using the NXT system. We're not actually planning on using the NXT, we will later be exploring the possibility of using a "switch" to complete a circuit which will then start the robot moving.

But that's a whole different story.

Next, we showed the mentors the prototypes we completed yesterday to get their perspectives. During that time we were able to throw ideas back and forth about the pros and cons of each concept. One thing that I think is important to keep in mind, as Stephen said, is that any of these ideas could work better than the other based on what complete system we decide on. The problem is in choosing which one to dive into. Conquering this challenge will be the focus of tomorrow's meeting.

But of course, I'll just leave that for tomorrow ;)

~Tobi - a senior blogger

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 3

Today we assigned jobs and continued prototyping. The scissor group added a leadscrew to help pull both sides in at the same time and made a wooden prototype. It works but might be difficult to make in reality.

The claw group added a stick and practiced picking up tubes. The pink top claw would be actuated and the bottom part is smooth and slightly curved down to allow for the tube to be pushed on and slide off easily.

Finally, the curved grabber method was scrapped and replaced with two wheels that suck in the tube and spit it back out. This method was very successful.

~Annie, Build Lead

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Prototyping Mania

Today we went over the designs we came up with yesterday. The minibot uses three wheels, maybe like rollerblade wheels, spaced 120 degrees around the pole. The minibot will be pushed off the robot with a mechanism, probably pneumatics, and will snap around the pole. Then a trigger will activate the minibot's motor and it will run up the pole. One option is using the NXT, but a brain is not necessary and is heavy. We can just use a switch that flips when we hit the pole and completes a circuit, turning on the robot.

For the arm, we spent some time prototyping different ideas for grippers and lifting mechanisms that we will go over more tomorrow. These consisted of conveyor belts, scissor grabbers, and claw mechanisms.

We are checking on the Chief Delphi forum to see if the chassis can be V-shaped so that our robot can snugly center itself on the pole for the release of the minibot, but if this fails we can deploy guides of some sort.

We are considering using Mecanum wheels so our robot will have sideways motion, but this will use up all of our CIM motors and we might need them for the arm, so that will be a decision to make later.

Keep watching for updates! We meet from 10:00 to 2:00 tomorrow.

~Annie, Build Lead

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Kickoff 2011

Kickoff 2011 was a huge success. Annie, Divya and Tobi went to the official kickoff to see the challenge and get the Kit of Parts. This year's challenge is called Logomotion and should be a lot of fun, as it involves inflatable rings, your main robot and a parasitic "Minibot" that is unleashed in the final 10 seconds. Unfortunately, we were missing all of our Junior team members as they are in China, but hopefully they will be back soon.

We started off brainstorming, so there's not much to report in terms of specific progress, but we're planning on prototyping some ideas tomorrow, reading over the game manual (the FIRST site crashed) and unpacking the kit of parts (the checklist is on the FIRST site). For the game manual go to: http://usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/frc/content.aspx?id=452

Keep checking in with the blog. I'm really looking forward to an incredible season.

~Annie, Build Lead