Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Competition Highlights

Hey, guys! So it's been a while since we last updated, and as you know, the competition happened in the time between then and now. Of course, I'm sure you're wondering how we did, so here's what happened.

On the morning of the competition, we drove to Maxwell, where the competition was being held, and set up shop in our own booth. We had inspection and setup done quickly so that we would have time to look at the robot and make any repairs that would be needed in the future. Before we could start the robot matches, we would have to go into a room for judging. There we would tell the judges all about our season, what we did, and how we did it. We made sure to include as much detail as possible without going over the time limit. They like to see a lot of outreach and creative innovation for ideas on the robot.

We left the judging room feeling pretty okay, and went to start the robot matches. Our first match was a bit difficult because our motor control malfunctioned and stopped working right before it was our turn. We had to work fast if we were going to compete in that match, and we managed to get it working just in time, which was quite serendipitous. We have videos of some of the matches that you can watch.

In our first match, we learned that the debris on the ground was going to be a real pain to drive over. We kept getting stuck on it and it would clog our wheels to the point of being unable to move. Thankfully, we never managed to stay that way, and we managed to finish the match.

As the matches progressed, we realized that the amount of time that it took for is to hang was far too much  for us to do it in the two minutes and thirty seconds that was there. But every single match brought us closer and closer to hanging, and in the very last match we were so close that we would have only needed about three more seconds and we would have hung.

The extremely cool part about all of that was that everyone there began to watch us, in hopes that we would hang. They began cheering us on, and even the judges wanted us to hang so badly. I'm being serious when I say that we were the only team there to come as close as we did to hanging. And that fact really encouraged us to keep going and to not give up.

Finally, the matches ended and it was time for the final alliances to unite. Unfortunately, we weren't chosen, and we didn't participate in the final rounds. However, during the awards ceremony, we were met by a surprise. We won the Motivate award, and we were third place for the Inspire award! We were so happy, because this allowed us to advance to the state competition in February! Normally, our team doesn't advance from the first qualifier, but this year we did, and it was awesome.

After the awards, everybody cleared out and we followed the yearlong tradition of going to dinner with everybody after competition. We went to a Mexican place down the road and had dinner there, and I think it's safe to say that we were so tired that we didn't need desert that night. We had a great time, and everyone went home.

The perfect finish to an awesome competition!

Now we're back at the garage, trying to figure out ways to make our hanging faster, finish our scoring mechanism, and also hopefully find an easier way to shoo debris out of the way so that we won't get stuck on it. The real competition has only begun.

Here are some pictures and videos of the competition from the 12th.

Crash coding - am I right?!!!

Rehearsing judging lines

Our banner. :)

Outside the judging room!

During the judging period.

Done with all the presentational speaking, WOO HOO. :D

It's robot time.

So far, so good.

Inspection time.

On the practice field.

Trying to fix our motor controller right before the first match.



Winning the Motivate award. :)


Friday, December 4, 2015

One Week Away

We are one week from the first competition on Saturday, December 12th. And, like any other team before a competition, we are scrambling to finish things up.

A lot has happened since the last blog post. First of all, we went to EIS and presented what we were doing with robotics and technology, and they took a great interest in FTC. They then proceed to pull a big check of $2,000 out of their pockets and give it to us. We are absolutely so grateful to them and all they've done for us!

Another thing that's happened is that we went to the Alpharetta Library and did a collaboration of presentations with the Chattahoochee team Taco Tuesday for kids and their parents.  The kids loved it and they got to drive the robots and ask questions. It was a amazing to see their faces light up!

We have created a scoring mechanism that is going to allow us to dump the debris into the buckets on the mountains. We've improved the wheels and their rubbery surfaces, and we've attached the hanging mechanism (the t-slot). These are some pictures and videos of how everything is working so far:


Sorry this wasn't a very long blog post, but we have a whole lot to do and only a short amount of time to write about it!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Major Progress!

It's been a while since we've updated, but a lot has happened since then! We've had major progress in getting up the mountain, and that's mostly because of a new type of wheel that we tried. When we removed the rubber from the normal wheels, it gave us lots of traction for grabbing onto the bars and propelling us forward.

We also received our T-slots that we're going to use as an arm to hang on the top bar of the mountain and also score debris! We put it together and it's working perfectly. We couldn't have asked for anything better right now.

On the topic of outreach, we went to Ocee Elementary school for their family science night. We taught them about FIRST, and what they do, and what FLL and FTC and FRC are like, and what the important aspects of all three are. The kids got to drive the robot, as well as a lego FLL robot, too. They really enjoyed it.We also hosted the Chattahoochee High School team in our garage so that they could use our field.

We also had a build day a few Saturdays ago, in which we went to a large gathering with other FTC teams where there was a full field where we were able practice, and try trial and error. This was where we had the robot get the highest then it had ever gotten. There's a video on that near the end of the post. ;)

Things are progressing quite nicely, and we learned that we are one of the few teams that have found a way to make it up the mountain that far and well. Hopefully our progress will only get faster and better, so we're keeping our fingers crossed as we continue to work.

Hosting the Chattahoochee High School Team

Experimenting with the wheels

Experimenting some more...

Our T-slot contraption :)

Ocee Elementary schoolers driving our robot

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Middle of the Season

It's in the middle of the season and we're all trying our best to stay caught up with where we're supposed to be. The robot game this year is turning out to be even more difficult than we'd expected.
Some of the ideas that we thought would totally work have totally failed. So, we're trying to our best to fix these errors and create new ways around other problems.

We are primarily focused on being able to climb our way up the mountain that we showed you a few posts back. If we are able to do that, then we will be able to get high enough to be able to hang from the top bar of the obstacle, and receive a great amount of points.

The treads that we thought were going to work and help us up the mountain only reduced our traction and damaged the frame of the robot. To be honest, we were pretty shocked when we saw the results, but we knew that we had to create another solution to climb the red and blue monster.

We tried taking the treads off, and that helped a bit, but our wheels were getting stuck in between the bars of the mountain, so we decided to replace the middle wheels with gear-like wheels that would be able to catch on the bars and propel us up higher than before. It worked, but only once. So, now we are improving this strategy and adding weight to the robot so that it is less likely to spontaneously flip over when climbing.

This year is definitely a challenge, but we are definitely doing our best to overcome what we can. As long as we have the confidence and perseverance that is required, we're sure that we'll be able to overcome all of these flaws.

Experimenting with the wheels

Some of the new ideas we have: chains

Researching for needed parts

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Working Hard

It's a ways into the season, and things are looking up to the stars for us. We've been working hard with fundraising, trying to let people know that we need money in order to fund our robot, and to send us really grateful for.

to future competitions, if we make it. So far, people have been incredibly generous! We've reached over one thousand dollars so far, to which we are really,

If it weren't for the people who have donated, we would never have gotten this far, and because of them, we will have enough money to buy more parts, spread the word about FTC, and even be able to donate to other teams like us.

So, we're giving a huge shout-out to our donors. We love you guys! If you would like to help us along on our path and donate to us, you can visit our page with the link below. There you'll find all of us, and be able to visit our individual pages.

Here is the link.

On other matters, we've been brainstorming hard about ideas in which to score the most points. Our biggest goals for point scoring is to be able to hang from the highest point of the "mountain," and to be able to collect as much "debris" as possible and deposit it into the boxes on the mountain. These two things will most likely get us the most points in the quickest amount of time.

Our strategy is to conquer the most valuable and important obstacles first, and then add on the smaller ones later in the season. That's going off of last year's experience. People are right when they say to learn from your mistakes.

The season's going great for us so far, so hopefully we'll be able to keep our heads up and continue on strong.


Brainstorming hard. :)

This is the "Debris."

This is the "Mountain."

We finally got all the motors working and spinning right today. Huge success.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Building a Bot

We are making progress on building the drive train. Soon we will be ready to test drive it and see if it will climb the mountain.

Drive Train v. 1
Drive Train v. 2

Friday, September 25, 2015

We Are Raising Funds!

We are taking the advice of our fundraising mentor to heart and creating a crowdfunding page. We are a little nervous about it because we have never asked our friends and family for money before. But we trust Kimber when she says that the biggest reason people don't give is because they aren't asked. And we think we are a good investment!

We choose Piggybackr as our crowdfunding site. It allows each team member to create his or her own page, the team will get it's money even if the goal isn't reached, and it transfers money to our team bank account as it is given.

Check out our team page: https://www.piggybackr.com/diane_grant/ctrl-alt-del-ftc-team-7361-help-us-build-our-robot-fundraiser

We hope you will consider supporting our team!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Kudos to Kimber

Every year, we talk about raising money for robot parts, tools, travel, and other expenses. But we don't get very far with the idea because we don't really know how to do it. Things might be different this year!

Kimber Burgess paid a visit to our shop to talk to us about fundraising. Her education and experience are in working with non-profits and fundraising. And what she had to share was awesome!

Some key things we learned:
  • The main reason people don't give is because they aren't asked. 
  • We have a compelling story to tell that people will want to be a part of.
  • Fundraising isn't "begging," it's inviting people to be part of what we're dong. 

What's next? Kimber helped us come up with a fundraising strategy and we will be creating a crowdfunding page. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Mentor Mention

There is NO way we could do all we do without our awesome mentors. Thank you Bryson Payne. He's a professor of computer science at the University of North Georgia and the author of a great book, Teach Your Kids to Code. He's also a great teacher of JAVA and because of him, we will actually know how to make our robot move.

Tom Pappagallo, Matt, Jackson, Quintin, David, Bryson Payne, Jack

Saturday, September 12, 2015


On September 12th, the team traveled to the FTC 2015-2016 kickoff! There we learned about the robot game, which we were told was called "Res-Q." The game this year is crazy! There are so many ways to score points, it seems endless. If you want to see what we will be doing, here is the link: Res-Q

The team also split up to go and attend some of the "workshops" at the kickoff, where they would learn about specific things such as java, how to use social media to spread awareness of the team, and other topics that would be needed later in the year.

After the kickoff ended, we all went to Chick-fil-A to brainstorm ideas on how to score the most points in the shortest time possible. We came up with lots of drawings and ideas on how the chassis should look and work, and I think it's safe to say that we're off to a great start.

We still have an enormous amount of work to do, and we are nowhere near being done with anything, that's for sure. We're keeping our heads up, and looking towards the future with open minds, and creative fingers.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

New Member

Not only did we gain two other previous members from previous FLL years, but we also have been gifted with a new member named Matt. He is a smart,
gentle, wonderful person who we could definitely use on our team. We can't wait to work with him and create new bonds and friendships throughout the season with everyone!

Here is a little about him:

I have 2 dogs, 2 parents, 3 aunts, 2 uncles, 1 grandma, and 4 cousins, and, except for my dogs and my parents, they all live out of country, Mostly in South Africa. 

I joined FTC because I wanted to learn the heart of programming, and, having done FLL for 4 years, I also got a bit tired of the project. The thing that interested me about this team is that the kids on the team were closer to my age. Unlike some other FTC teams of just highschoolers, either way I could have a lot of fun. 

I look forward to learning how to program android and learning to control robots. My main job on the team is coordinating things like spirit wear, outreach events, scheduling meetings with mentors and mentees, and other important tasks like that.

You can read Matt's full bio here.


Second Official Meeting!

Although it's really early in the season for us, we're hoping to get off to a great start so that we can finish even better. We're all working hard to overcome the struggle to learn Java, but it's pretty difficult to learn a new language in a few weeks. Our spirit is big and hopeful right now, and can only get bigger.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Helping Hands

Our mentor, Tom, invited the team to his house to help him with a service project. He and his wife have friends with a 22 month old daughter who is has severe visual impairment. She was born prematurely and that is one of the effects. Her name is Sanjanna.

We built  something called a Perkins Play Space. It is basically a box with plexiglass sides and toys hanging from the top that she will be able to lay in. It is supposed to encourage her to reach out and be able to explore by touch. Tom had all the parts and our job was to build it.

First, we reviewed the plans and decided who would work on what. David, Jack, and Mr. Kerns began cutting the pieces. Jackson and Mr. Grant worked on cutting the holes in the plexiglass for the top. This is what the toys will hang from. Quintin and Tom planned for assembling.

When had been working for while, Sanjanna’s family came by to meet the team. We met her mom, dad, and brother Thomas. We learned about Sanjanna and the problems she faces and how the play space will help her. 

After a quick dinner with everyone, we said goodbye to the family and got back to work. By this time, we were assembling the frames for the sides. We also used Tom’s CNC machine to write a bible verse on one of the frame pieces.

We had to leave before it was finished, but Tom doesn’t have much left to do before he delivers it to the family. Not only did we learn a lot, but it also felt really good to do something for a special little girl.