We’re in the thick of the robot build season! The robot is coming together, and the enthusiasm in the team is infectious. The elevators for our two robots are nearly done, and we are building the final design of our intake. Our team members have been interviewed by a reporter from an international teachers’ magazine, and we had a visit from SharkNinja engineers.
For the past few years the LigerBots have built two robots, one that is sent to competitions and one that is used for testing and practice. We have to seal our competition robot into a giant plastic bag at the end of the 6-week build season and are not allowed to touch it until competitions start. However, after “bag day” we will still have a couple of weeks before our first competition that we can use our second robot to further test to mechanisms, fix potential problems and train our drive team.
We have finished the fence for our “switch” field element replica, and completed the design for the “scale” tower. We hope to be able to use both for practice soon. We have assembled one electric board for each of our two robots, and have almost finished both of the elevators.
We have started building and testing the final design for the intake. It consists of two arms extending outside of the robot with two wheels at the end of each arm.The wheels will pull the cube inside the robot while the arms can spread and narrow to accommodate different orientations of the cube.
We’ve had many visitors this week! On Tuesday a reporter from TES, an education publication based in the UK, came to interview team members. The reporter asked about the “maker” culture in the US and the role FIRST plays in keeping students interested in STEM and providing them with alternative, hands-on ways of learning STEM skills. He interviewed Cam and Arushi about being on the LigerBots and how the team has impacted their lives. It was an honor to be featured and we can’t wait to see the article!
We had a large contingent from Puma-level sponsor SharkNinja, including three full-time engineers and six co-op students from Northeastern, Olin, and MIT. They toured the shop and some might become mentors, which is thrilling for the team!
A Productive Week Three of Build Season
January 30, 2018
The LigerBots have had a productive week three week of robot build season! We made many advances in constructing our robot’s mechanisms, its electrical system, its software, and the wooden field elements we will use for driving practice. Many dedicated team members worked to better the robot and work out flaws in the design. Our FIRST awards group has also been making good progress on our Chairman’s and Entrepreneurship award submissions to FIRST.
We had a mid-build shop safety refresher from field elements mentor Jay, who made a model hand out of wood and vividly demonstrated the various ways students could hurt themselves if they were not alert when using the power tools. Then he taught our team how to better protect ourselves from losing fingers and eyes.
After much CADing and work on our milling machines, our chassis is finished, and our electrical group has finished wiring the drive train and mounting the motor controllers.
We decided to go with a tank drive that uses six wheels. The four rear wheels can roll only backward and forward. However, the front two wheels are omni wheels, which look like a string of beads wrapped tightly around a circular hub. An entire omni wheel can roll forward or backwards while its beads roll at 90 degrees to help the wheel slip sideways. As a result, the robot can pivot around its center to change directions. We hope this will allow our robot to be both nimble and difficult to push off course by defensive robots during competition.
Our field elements group has created a frame and basket for the scale.
We have started adding the elevator mechanism to lift the “cube” game pieces, and are working on our fourth design for a cube intake mechanism.
We started out using many wheels to suck in the cube and are now down to two. It takes a lot of time and concentration to keep designing and making improved mechanisms, but this iterative process is at the core of our team’s lessons in real-life engineering.
LigerBots Attend Just Think Expo
January 20, 2018
Even during our six week, robot-build season, the LigerBots do STEM outreach! This week we demonstrated our 2016 robot at the “Just Think: Teens Making Smart Choices” expo at Newton North High School, a gathering of many non-profit organizations that support teens and families in Newton and provide educational and prevention information and constructive activities. The Just Think attendees had fun driving our robot and catching the ball after it was launched. Newton mayor Ruthanne Fuller stopped by and took the robot for a spin, and a NewTV videographer filmed LigerBots team members talking about our robot and the expo.
After our intensive CADing session last weekend, the LigerBots were full of inspiration and excited to start building. Our team broke up into groups to work on basic elements of the robot and to continue the design process, as well as to write submissions to several FIRST awards, and plan future fundraising and STEM outreach efforts. Our new project planning system is keeping us super organized as we go.
We have decided to make a robot that will concentrate on placing milk-crate “cube” game pieces onto the “scale,” the tallest, see-saw-like goal in this year’s game. That means we need a way to pick up the cubes, lift them as high as eight feet, and release them onto one end of scale. We decided that the best way to accomplish this was to make a tall robot with an elevator system on metal rails.
Our students have created a mockup electrical control board, so we can start test driving our chassis even before we start adding the other mechanisms.
The programming group is writing a software framework to control all of the motors we will eventually build into the robot. We have cube intake and elevator prototypes and will be ready to finish building those mechanisms when parts arrive next week. We will get our parts very fast this year because many of our students have learned how to contribute to our formal purchasing system–just one of the many LigerBots skills we hope our team members will take with them to college and career.
We also improved our wood-working chops this year so that we could finish building playing field elements early in build season. We already have a replica of the scale and of the platform that will be used at the end of each robot game. Having our own field elements will allow us to practice the game right in the shop at Newton South High School once our robot is up and running.
We gathered during our six-hour Friday work session for our first team dinner of the season. We are grateful for the team parents who feed the LigerBots, get our students to our meetings and support all of the team’s projects.
LigerBots attend Kickoff!
January 15, 2018
Last Saturday, forty-seven LigerBots in six cars braved zero degree temperatures to attend the FIRST Robotics kickoff at Southern New Hampshire University.
We joined FRC teams from all over New England to witness the big reveal of the 2018 robot game, “Power Up.” which has a 1980s video game theme, and to hear speeches by FIRST founders Dean Kamen and Woodie Flowers, New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu, and New Hampshire senator Maggie Hassan. During the pre-telecast announcements we received a special shout-out for our FIRST Safety Animation win, and everyone in the audience cheered!
Our hands-on exploration of the “Power Up” playing field that FIRST set up in the SNHU gym gave us an immediate sense of the challenges involved in this year’s game. We learned that points will be earned by tipping a see-saw-shaped goal and keeping it tipped for as long as possible by loading it up with milk-crate sized cubes. At the end of the game, more points can be earned by having robots climb up a large post with a bar at the top.
The Sunday after kickoff we launched our annual Three-Day Design process. This activity brings every team member and mentor, no matter what their specialty on the team, into the engineering process, and leaves us all with improved ability to brainstorm, negotiate, organize, and present our ideas. On day one small groups of students and mentors discussed robot game strategy.
This year, one group learned a lot of unexpected lessons about strategy by using a miniature, LEGO, mockup of the playing field to run through a simulated robot game.
Day two was spent drawing and designing mechanisms, such as robotic arms and elevators, that will help the team perform well in competition. On the third and final day the groups presented and defended their strategies and mechanisms in front of the entire team.
With no time to waste in this pressurized, six-week build season, our student technical leaders took ideas from many of the Three-Day Design presentations and combined them into what they hope will be an ideal, competitive, robot design. Over Martin Luther King Day weekend the team had a two-day, off-site CADding blitz and work session that will give us a jump start on next week’s build. We can’t wait to get started, cutting metal, wood and plastic, wiring and coding to make a fantastic 2018 LigerBots robot!