Our Robot Is in the Bag!
February 26, 2019

The official build season has come to a close and our robot is in the bag! The last few days of the build season took place over the February school vacation, but our tireless LigerBots students and coaches spent every waking minute over the holiday weekend debugging the robot so it will be ready for the SE Mass. District Event in Bridgewater on March 9.

The LigerBots right after bagging our competition robot on Feb. 19.

The last day was devoted to making small changes as we drove the robot around our field element mockups. We continued to adjust our vision systems to accurately line up the robot for placement of Cargo and Hatch Panel game pieces in the Ports and Hatches on the Rocket and Cargo Ship. (Game manual.)

The scene on the last day of build, as programmers, mechanical and electrical engineers all raced to finish the robot.

We will have two cameras on this year’s robot: one that gives the human driver a view of the field, and another one that allows the robot to “see” the reflective vision targets on the field elements and automatically align to them. Both of these kinds of robot vision are crucial to this year’s robot. There will be an initial, 15-second “Sandstorm” period in each match when an opaque screen will block the human driver’s view of the entire field. During that time we will be completely dependent on the cameras to know where our robot is and where it is going. And, even after the Sandstorm period is over, the human driver will use both cameras and the vision software to automatically line the robot up to the Ports and Hatches.

The robot lines up to deposit Cargo into the Rocket field element during last-day testing.

We made video clips of these practice sessions and set them to music in our robot reveal video.

Ian shoots video for our robot reveal video while Coach Fitzpatrick observes the robot’s performance as it places Cargo into the Cargo Ship field element mockup on the last day of the build season.

Our final touch on the last day was to test the fit of the wood and aluminum perimeter frame so we can put the bumpers (that are still in progress) on the robot right before competition.

Sophia, Ali and mentor Paul Rensing test the fit of the wooden bumper frame.

As the last hour of the season came to a close we gathered around the robot as it was weighed, slipped into its giant plastic bag, and a photo was made of the zip-tie tag that shows we bagged in time, by the rules.

Asa, CTO Samy and co-head coach John Fitzpatrick bag the robot.

But, the work is not done after bagging the competition robot. We will continue work on our second robot right up until the Bridgewater competition (and beyond.) Having a second robot allows us to continue testing and improving our systems and allows our driver to get more practice before our first competition.

Asa and mentor Carly Buchanan wire the second robot as co-head coach Noa Rensing watches.

Last week we continued work on bumpers and wiring for the second robot. Our competition robot currently is able to perform every action required to win points in the game except climb to the top two levels of the Habitat platform at the end of the match. We are planning to reduce the robot’s weight by switching out materials and slimming down parts to allow for the addition of a climbing mechanism. We also continue improving our original Cargo intake mechanism and claw, which we kept out of the bag as part of our 30-pound “withholding allowance.”

AJ, Carolyn and c0-head coach Noa Rensing apply team numbers with a heat press to the bumper fabric.
Daniel stretches a pool noodle bumper around the frame perimeter in preparation for covering the bumper with fabric.

Our team members are repairing the 2016 robot, which has been a workhorse at our outreach events. We are using the rehab of its ball-throwing mechanism to further train our less experienced team members. As team veteran Maya said, “When you’re teaching them you’re also learning yourself.”

The 2016 robot made its most recent outreach outing to the MIT Blueprint hackathon last weekend—even during the last days of build we have found a way to do outreach! We demoed the robot and talked to local high school students about the LigerBots and FIRST Robotics during lunch at this learnathon and hackathon at the Stata Center. The participating students were very enthusiastic and interactive, and eager to drive our robot and make binary bracelets.

Brad explains the 2016 robot to an attendee at the MIT Blueprint learnathon.
A student makes a binary bracelet at the learnathon.

LigerBots are everywhere! Matthew, a LigerBot who has recently left on a Newton Public Schools exchange to China, recently wore his LigerBots shirt as he gave an introductory speech about his group of American students to the entire Jingshan school where the exchange takes place.

Matthew addresses the Jingshan school where his group of Newton High School students has recently arrived for an exchange program.

We now have our 2019 team tee shirts and our printed pit banners! We are totally into the theme of this year’s game, Destination: Deep Space. Thaddeus J. Liger(naut) and our valued sponsors are prominently displayed on these items.

LigerBots 2019 tee shirt front.
LigerBots 2019 tee shirt back

Bonus points for anyone who can decode the hexadecimal message on one of the banners’ mission control “monitors.” We are still hard at work on our team guide booklet and on the flyers that will explain our robot’s features to FIRST judges and other teams at competition.

LigerBots 2019 pit banners.