Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Robots... in Las Vegas

You may have heard that FIRST 2102 Team Paradox was in Vegas last week, and maybe you have read about the wonderful, Spirited results of that FIRST Regional Competition.

I wrote about the six weeks of build season and the two robots built before the San Diego FRC.

I tried to describe all the marketing and outreach preparations for a FIRST Robotics Competition, FRC.

Then our chicks hatched! FIRST 2102 Team Paradox earned the San Diego Regional Engineering Inspiration Award, and racked up points playing LogoMotion!

Did I mention that a new robotic arm was built for Las Vegas FRC? Did I mention that a second mini-bot was designed and built for Las Vegas FRC? There is a lot of Passion in FIRST 2102 Team Paradox's metal shops.

But, how do I tell the whole story of what happened in Las Vegas?
I can't. There is so much to tell, so many details I am afraid to leave out. I think I could write a book. Oh, wait... someone did write a book about FIRST robotics, and building a team, building robots, and you could win a copy of "The New Cool" by following this link! And since trying to encompass the entire three day event kind of overwhelms my circuit boards, I thought I would begin with the robots... it is robotics that inspired all of this Paradox/FIRST love in the first place. So, we are going to leave the stands, and step down into the pits, and the playing field and see what it takes to play LogoMotion...

Meet Terrence. Terrence was designed, manufactured, assembled, wired, programmed, and driven by FIRST 2102 Team Paradox. Terrence is in the one hundred and twenty pound robot class. Hidden from view, waiting to be deployed in the end game, is CLU, the mini-robot. CLU is the second, after Rinzler, mini-bot designed, manufactured, assembled, and wired by FIRST 2102 Team Paradox. CLU is small and fast. Very fast!

All the preparations back home, lead to a bus ride to Vegas. Fifty-five team members arrived safe and sound, and then comes the unloading and setting up shop in the ten foot by ten foot pit area provided on the floor of the arena. The pit has to serve both as a workshop, where the team assembles, tunes, and maintains the robot, and also as a reception area, where the team talks with judges and presents itself to other teams.

When build team members, visitors, tools, parts, robots, programmers, mentors, media, judges, inspectors, and curious little sisters are all together in a space this small... it's snug. Safety, organization, planning, and ingenuity are critical. And of course looking good and presentable matters too.

Our buttons are very popular.

Gabe and Chris are the programmers, and Geoff is their mentor. Victoria is the human player on the drive team. With wicked accuracy, she throws the inner tubes onto the playing field for Terrence to grab and hang, forming the FIRST Logo. Crouched together in the pit, the programmers are working at getting Terrence to run in autonomous mode.

When a robot is done being tweaked and tuned, the team can take it to a small testing area at the back of the pits. Here is Willie, drive team coach and build president, with Terrence. Kyle is one of the robot drivers. Andy C. is the vp of build, and there is Chris. Terrence's new arm called for some significant changes in the programming, and layout of other components on the chassis, like the mini-bot deployment. In the test area the team is able to check on the changes, and see that everything is coming together.

This is Mr S., physics teacher, and team coach, photographer, club adviser, surfer, movie projectionist, cat lover. An all around great guy. It helps to have great people in the pits, because it gets intense in there. There is a lot of pressure on these students. Everyone wants all of the weeks of hard work to lead up to a successful game, winning matches. The team has wonderful ideals about learning, about participating for the love of robotics... but there does, naturally, come a point when you do feel the passion to win, to see your creation do what you built it for!

Eli and Alex, holding CLU. Alex designed and built CLU. Tatiana and Eli helped manufacture, assemble and wire the mini-bot.

I have yet to get decent footage of CLU climbing the tower... it's just so small and fast. I see Tatiana is trying to film the mini-bot. I wonder if she had better luck.

Besides a week of designing and manufacturing for CLU, Alex and Tatiana worked from dusk to dawn, before Las Vegas, to finish all the components of CLU. Geoff supervised the first shift, and I was with them from three am until school. In our kitchen, it was pancakes and physics at five in the morning.

I would like to answer one team's question about "how do we do 'it'?"
Integrity, intelligent design, innovation, evolution, and hard work. And those are some things you cannot take away from anybody. If you want 'it,' you have to earn it. Our robots earn it, and our spirit shows it. It's called Passion FIRST.

Here is our build vice president, Andy C. Another great guy in the pit, keeping all the parts coming together, easing some of the pressure.

Hello, Chris.
Do all programmers parallel process?
It's a characteristic I have noticed.

Gabe gave the credit for getting Terrence to run autonomously to Chris, but I happen to know that both of them made marvelous strides in programming the robot. They keep getting better and better, and not to get ahead of myself, but I am really excited about next year!

There were some hints from FRC officials that mini-bots may come back next year. What do you think, Eli?
I think it is safe to say that FIRST 2102 Team Paradox will be more than happy to keep mini-bots in the game.

Gabe and Chris, programming. The build team never really stops. To maintain the robots, to make the necessary improvements that inspiring engineers like to make, it takes a constant commitment, and diligence.

Here is an animation for how LogoMotion is played.

This is how we played LogoMotion.

FIRST 2102 Team Played in eight matches on Friday, and three on Saturday. Some alliances were stronger than others. One match was forced to be replayed, which was unfortunate (ie: sucked) because they didn't give the teams enough time to recharge batteries, or re-tune the bots. arrggghh Oh well. Life is complicated, and so are robot competitions!

On the field the drive team is working to play LogoMotion, which includes carrying the robot on the field, setting up all the controls, listening for start buzzers, watching the clocks, staying focused on five other robots, watching boundaries... it is intense. The pit crew is on standby, and between every match they race to the floor to get the robots repaired and ready for the next round. The stress is palpable. Will we score? Will the robot be damaged? Can we deploy? Have we checked every battery, cable, connection, wire, switch, chain... ?

From top: Greg, he's a driver, and Kyle, also a driver. Gabe is in the jacket, he's a programmer. Tatiana and Alex are mini-bot pit crew, and to Alex's right is Andy C, pit crew member. There wasn't much time between matches, so the pit crew is working furiously on Terrence and CLU before the next match. They are lined up to go on the field, and must finish before time is up...

After twelve weeks of building and working together, people know their jobs, know how to help, and when to step out of the way.

I step out of the way!
I saw this through my lens, and thought: What the heck are they texting for?!
They are using their smartphones for flashlights. The arena floor is a bit dim, all lights focused on the playing field. So the flashlights in their phones were illuminating the small spaces in the robot where hands had to work quickly and effectively. Time is running out...

Times up! Out! Kyle reminds everyone to get to their places, so the robot can be carried to the field.

Referees and judges watch for players in the wrong place at the wrong time, and now pit crew has to step away from the field area.

And the robots go to the field. Three teams will play in alliance against three other teams. Everyone has to pay close attention, and keep things moving. Not showing up at match, or missing certain meetings can cost a team points, and make alliance members question a teams ability to play well.

Our red bumpers show that we will play in the red alliance for this match. Greg and Kyle will place the robot in its assigned position, then take their place at the drive station.

I remember back in January when team members were tossing tubes, proving the best techniques for getting the logo pieces on the field.

Victoria was good right from the start. She may be petite, but she has a powerful throw. Go Victoria!

First 2102 Team Paradox, and Terrence, about to score in LogoMotion!

And, up in the stands... we cheer wildly, with great spirit!

We are proud of you!
Say: We are proud of you!


test said...

OK, I got it, it's like being there, I am high and dray at home and still can feel the excitement, now I am all jazzed up,this is great, in my youth we roamed the forest and build fires, but this is far more useful, unless we go back to the stone age.
Great job, go team Paradox.

judy in ky said...

We are all proud of you, too! What a great bunch of kids and mentors.

Anonymous said...

Wow, look at that team go! And Terrence! Great photos, Natalie -- maybe a photobook at the end of this?

Golden West said...

Congrats to the team - nice to see all that hard work and dedication - well done, all!

warren said...

We need to time our schedules better...I am going to be in Las Vegas in 2 weeks...I would love to have seen your team!

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

Many thanks to all of you who have joined our celebration! Warren... next year! I will make sure you have our schedule, plenty of time in advance! Random! We love our fans on your side of the world!
Gosh, this robo stuff really chokes my readership, so it makes me so appreciative of your interest and comments. Cheers for all of you!