Second Competition Coming Up March 30-31, Shrewsbury
March 25, 2019
Our second of two district competitions, the NE District Central MA Event, will take place March 30 & 31 at Shrewsbury High School. The event will be live streamed via Twitch TV or the Blue Alliance site. Here is a link to the Blue Alliance page listing the teams that will be participating. Typically the competition viewing is 9am – 5:30pm with a break for lunch. Exact times can shift if the event runs behind. The event is free to watch so come join us! You can also watch via livestream at this link.
Our robot, Thanos, was one of the fastest robots on the field, swerving to align quickly to targets and consistently acquiring and placing the Cargo ball and Hatch Panel disk without dropping game pieces or missing targets.
By the end of the first day we had the fourth highest number of points scored by any team, and at the end of the tournament we had the fifth highest offensive power ranking (OPR), a measure of our robot’s efficiency at producing points. We were seeded seventh after the qualification matches, but were picked to join the fourth alliance before it was our turn to choose alliance partners. We made it to the semifinals before being defeated by the eventual event champion alliance.
We had a terrific drive team and pit crew making sure that we were usually the best-performing robot in our alliance.
Our expert drive team was able to use the robot’s onboard cameras to see the field and vision targets and do a great job of scoring points manually since we don’t yet have software that will allow the robot to align to the targets automatically. They maneuvered the robot well even when a broken belt interrupted power to one of the front wheels.
We had few break-downs, none of them causing issues for more than one match. The pit crew was on the issues like white on rice, thanks to a recently developed checklist that speeds up the turnaround between matches. Bolts got tightened, batteries got charged, bumpers were converted from red to blue or blue to red to match our next alliance color, and air tanks got pressurized so efficiently that our drive team captain expressed amazement at how much was done before he even had to think about the next match.
Scouting the performance of other teams during matches was much easier than in past seasons because we shared the task with two of the other teams in our new scouting alliance, team 246 Overclocked and team 6731 Record Robotics. Only two LigerBots at a time needed to stand up in the arena balcony and record the performance of one robot each during a match. They shared their data with our drive team before each match to improve strategy decisions by our ever-changing match alliances.
The Chairman’s Award group did its first official presentation of the season in what is likely the most competitive field the team has ever faced. In all, 20 teams competed in the Chairman’s category. Despite a good showing, great answers to judges’ questions, and a slick presentation in matching blazers, we lost out to the great work being done by team 125 NUTRONs. The team still took the opportunity to officially release our Chairman’s video, which features original music and lyrics.
Many team members talked to judges in the robot repair pit to compete for technical and non-technical awards. We used our ongoing training in public speaking to enhance the discussions about Thanos and the LigerBots team structure and projects.
During the awards ceremony our CTO, Samy, was advanced to the next level in the competition for the FIRST Dean’s List, which celebrates outstanding student leaders whose passion for and effectiveness at attaining FIRST ideals is exemplary. Even if the robot does not make it to the New England District Championship (which we hope it will do!) we will attend to cheer Samy on at the next level of competition.
Now we are preparing for our next competition, the Central Mass. District Event at Shrewsbury High School on March 30 and 31. We are planning minor changes to Thanos to eliminate a motor that pivots the claw mechnanism and replace it with a purely mechanical pivoting system to save weight. We may change the Cargo ball intake to make it slide straight into the robot rather than flipping up and in, which wastes precious playing time. And we may add a mechanism (a four-bar linkage climber) that will allow us to score bonus points by having Thanos climb onto a 19” high platform at the end of a match.
We also are working on a submission for the FIRST Entrepreneurship Award at Shrewsbury and are expanding our quest for technical awards by preparing flyers about Thanos and about our improved design and manufacturing processes. Before we know it, it will be time to compete again!
LigerBots Name the Robot, Meet Our State Reps
March 1, 2019
As we reported in our last blog post, we kept several key mechanisms of our robot “out of the bag” as part of our official, 30-pound “withholding allowance” after we stored our competition robot until our first tournament next weekend. The most important items we kept out were the polycarbonate claw that will manipulate both of the game pieces, and the intake that rolls the Cargo ball into the claw. Our claw handles the Hatch Panel disk and Cargo ball perfectly once it acquires them, but we have had trouble with the ball bouncing around after it’s rolled into the robot by the intake, and before the claw can grasp it. That wastes time and risks our losing control of the ball as the robot drives around.
This week we moved the claw forward so that it can grab the ball earlier in the intake process, and also moved forward the piston that pushes the ball out of the claw so that it can stabilize the ball within the claw. We removed a bar across the front of the robot that we added a few weeks ago. It was supposed to stabilize the ball as it rolled in, but was not doing its job. Now that it’s gone, voilà, the ball goes right into the claw and stays there until we’re ready to push it out! Thanks to having a second robot on which to test these improvements, we can go to the SE Mass. District Event in Bridgewater confident that our robot will perform well.
We also continued work on our bumpers, which are both complicated and very cool because their cloth covers can be inverted without removing them to change from red to blue, depending on our alliance color for that match.
A tie was broken in the team-wide vote for a robot name by the flip of a coin. Our 2019 robot will be named Thanos, (after the Marvel Comics villain,) which means “immortal” in Greek.
Our strategy council held a session on data mining, led by project management mentor and sports statistics expert Dan Lavoie. We hope to use these skills in our analysis of robot performance data from New England FRC teams at our tournaments.
We started to repair the ball-throwing arms on our 2016 robot, which continues to get heavy use at outreach events. We will replace the long-lost adjustable arm tips with a simpler and more robust, spoon-like mechanism that can throw the ball repeatedly without breaking.
While our team engineers worked in their shop clothes this week to revise our intake mechanism a group of LigerBots went in business suits to the FIRST Southern New England Advocacy Conference. This was a two-day event designed to teach regional FIRST Robotics and FIRST Tech Challenge teams how to promote FIRST with our state governments, with the ultimate goal of securing state funding for STEM initiatives and FIRST teams. The conference was intended as a first step in building relationships with government officials and helping to educate them about FIRST.
On the first day of the conference five LigerBots and our electrical mentor, Carly, listened to presentations at Worcester Polytechnic Institute about how state laws are made and how to communicate effectively with politicians. They attended break-out sessions to practice what they planned say to our representatives.
On the second day LigerBots went down to the Massachusetts State House in Boston to meet with four state legislators (or their staff) who represent Newton: representative Ruth Balser, state senator Cynthia Stone Creem, Catherine Anderson from the office of Senator Creem, Emily Izzo from the office of representative John Lawn, and Amani Mansour from the office of representative Kay Kahn.
We hope to get to know our representatives better during the coming months and to talk to them frequently about funding STEM initiatives in Massachusetts. Coming up: the 2019 FIRST National Advocacy Conference next June, in Washington, DC!
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 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.)
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.
We made video clips of these practice sessions and set them to music in our robot reveal video.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
First Competition Coming Up March 9-10th, Bridgewater
February 21, 2019
Our first competition of the 2019 season is the New England District SE Mass Event at Bridgewater-Raynham High School which takes place on Saturday and Sunday March 9th and 10th. Free to watch. Come on down! The event should also be live streamed via Twitch TV or the Blue Alliance site. Try this link once the competition launches (about 9 or 9:30 am). Here is a link to the Blue Alliance page listing the teams that will be participating. Typically the competition viewing is 9am – 5:30pm with a break for lunch. Exact times can shift if the event runs behind.