Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Mentoring v3.0

One of the things that is important in FTC is mentoring. Teams are encouraged to be available to other teams for support. We are so lucky to have teams in our area that take this seriously.

We made the decision to switch programming languages. LabView was having too many glitches, so we moved to RobotC. The challenge is that we didn't know much about RobotC. Team Genius to the rescue!

Anika, a Team Genius member, came to our team meeting to tutor us in programming RobotC. It would have taken us so much time to learn on our own what she was able to teach us in one afternoon.

Thank you, Anika. We are really grateful!

18.5 Inches...On NO!

One of the rules for the robot is that it must be no bigger than 18 inches x 18 inches x 18 inches. Before the competition, it will be inspected by the judges and must fit into a sizing cube. We thought we had it under control . . . and then we measured it one more time. Oops!

The way we designed our conveyor meant it extended beyond the back brackets by about 1/2 inch. Which made our robot too big! Which meant we had to disassemble a significant part of it to move some of the pieces to decrease the size.

The other problem we discovered is that the side-to-side measurement was about 18.25 inches. That may not seem like much, but that 0.25 inch would keep us out of the competition. The problem here was the the the screws on the omni-wheels. The only solution we could find was to replace the omni-wheels with regular wheels, so that's what we did.

We had a couple of hours of panic going on, but now we're all set. The robot will fit inside the 18 inch cube, so that's one part of the robot inspection we will pass!

Conveyor Complexities and Grabber Guards

As we have practiced driving and scoring, we've discovered two problems we need figure out how to solve.

The "grabber" is the mechanism we built to pick up the blocks off the playing field and it is made out of Lego pieces.  We've discovered that it isn't the very stable and can break easily, especially if it is jammed. So we are designing some guards to hopefully protect it. We are also securing the connections with nuts and bolts.

Once the grabber picks up a block, it moves to the conveyor which moves the block up to be able to dump into the goal and score. The problem is that the blocks fall off of the conveyor and into the middle of the robot. To solve this, we've designed side panels that will fit on both sides of the conveyor to keep the blocks on. Right now the sides are made of cardboard. But we will make the final versions out of plexiglass.

We are learning that the robot will never be "done." There will always be ways we can improve it!

Friday, November 1, 2013

It's Alive!

Now that the programming problems are solved, the robot works. It was so exciting to see the wheels turn and the conveyor spin. We were able to drive the robot and practice scoring for the first time! We are SO excited.


After tons of troubleshooting, we finally figured out that the problem with the programming was with the NXT brick. It was confusing because the brick worked with all the components, but for some reason it wouldn't respond to the programming. We borrowed a brick from the Determinators, the FLL team that Jackson and Quintin were on last year. And it worked.