Come Watch Us Compete at the NE District Championship!
April 10, 2019

Come watch the LigerBots robot, Thanos, compete in the New England District Championship this weekend, April 11-13 in the athletic center at WPI. Here is the schedule of events. Here is the match schedule. Our CTO, Samy, will be eligible to advance in the process for the Dean’s List Award, and co-head coach Noa Rensing will be eligible to advance in the process for the Woodie Flowers Award. You can find us by looking for a mass of tie-dye shirts in the stands. Please be our guests and help cheer us on!

LigerBots Win Entrepreneurship Award at Shrewsbury Event
April 2, 2019

Last weekend the LigerBots competed at Shrewsbury Regional High School with and against 38 other New England FRC teams, in our second district qualifier, the Central Massachusetts District Event, which was hosted by team 467, the Colonials. We made it to the quarter finals with our robot, Thanos, and won the FIRST Entrepreneurship Award. LigerBots co-head coach Noa Rensing was advanced to the next stage of the Woodie Flowers Award process.

LigerBots cheer for our team during the Shrewsbury event.

We were predicted to do very well with our robot, Thanos. The NEforecast 2019 on FIRST discussion forum Chief Delphi said, “If you leave the LigerBots undefended, you’ll be sorry, because you’ll be hard-pressed to match their scoring output.” And, despite some bad luck and being eliminated in the quarter finals along with the rest of the fifth alliance, (teams 1735, Green Reapers, and 2262, Robo-Panthers,) our intense pre-competition training paid off.

FIRST emcee “Angry Eric” Eckhardt waves the LigerBots flag to introduce the team to the crowd before a match, as our drive team watches.
LigerBots CTO Samy and Angry Eric compare hairdos.

We were fast in moving around the field and super efficient in placing game pieces into their field element goals. Thanos scored the event’s fifth highest total number of Cargo game pieces, and the third highest number of Hatch Panels. We emerged from Shrewsbury ranked fifth in offensive power rating (OPR), which represents the average point contribution of a team to an alliance.

Vivek loads a Hatch Panel into the loading station so that Thanos can pick it up on its next round trip.
Thanos places a Cargo ball into the highest Port on the Rocket Ship. Our drive team can be seen at the far right.
LigerBots reattach Thanos’ bumpers after making a repair in our pit.

We recorded the performance of other robots during the competition in cooperation with scouting alliance partners team 157 Aztechs and team 3205 Patriots. We continued the training of our strategy council rookies even during the competition, by having them each shadow a strategy veteran during meetings with the drive team.

Amanda scouts a match from the viewing stand.
The drive team and strategy council meet between matches, including strategy rookie Charlotte.
LigerBots play basketball on the Shrewsbury Regional High School outdoor court with members of other FRC teams during lunch break.

Our constant practice in speaking about the LigerBots helped team members give complete and accurate answers to questions about the team’s accomplishments and goals as judges made the rounds of the pits. Our Chairman’s Award group gave a newly polished presentation to the Chairman’s Award judges.

After the robot game finals, the team made two appearances on the field to collect awards. The LigerBots won the FIRST Entrepreneurship Award, which is given to the team that has developed the best comprehensive business plan. We will compete again for this award at the New England District Championship, at WPI, if we qualify with our robot for that event. Co-head coach Noa Rensing advanced to the next stage of the Woodie Flowers Award process. This award recognizes an outstanding mentor who inspires and challenges students. If she advances again at the New England FRC District Championship, April 10-13, she will become a finalist for the Championship Woodie Flowers Award, which is given in Detroit at the FIRST World Championship, April 24-27.

The LigerBots receive the Entrepreneurship Award from the judges.
Team COO Jordan and marketing mentor Greer Swiston show off the trophy and plaque received by the LigerBots for winning the Entrepreneurship Award at Shrewsbury.
Co-head coach Noa Rensing is recognized, along with mentors from other teams advancing in the competition for the Woodie Flowers Award.

Now we are back in the shop, working on a mechanism to allow Thanos to climb onto the second level of the “Hab” platform for extra points at the end of the robot game. We are also working on improving the software for our autonomous mode.

The LigerBots at the Central Massachusetts District Event, in Shrewsbury.

We will learn if we will qualify for the New England FRC District Championship after the last district qualifying competitions, the weekend of April 6 and 7. Even if our robot does not go to the District Championship, (which we hope it will!) CTO Samy and co-head coach Noa Rensing will compete for the Dean’s list and Woodie Flowers awards, respectively, and the entire team will attend the event as volunteers.

For more photos of the Shrewsbury tournament, visit our Flickr album for this event.

In mid-March two LigerBots attended “Steminist Saturday” in Boston. This event was run by the Boston contingent of the nonprofit feminist organization Girl Up. The LigerBots and other attendees (including members of Connecticut FRC team 3654, Tech Tigers) received advice from a woman with a career in technology, participated in a music and medical workshop, and shared their experiences of being women in STEM.

Maggie and Charlotte join other attendees at Steminist Saturday.”

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.

LigerBots Perform Well at Bridgewater Tournament
March 16, 2019

The LigerBots joined 37 other FRC teams to compete in our first Destination: Deep Space tournament on March 9 and 10 at the SE Mass. District Event at Bridgewater-Raynham High School.

The LigerBots at the SE Mass. District Competition.

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.

Thanos, showing its intake and claw extended simultaneously for demonstration purposes.
Thanos puts a Cargo ball into the Cargo Ship field element.
Thanos places a Hatch Panel disk onto the Rocket Ship field element.

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.

Misha and Mark place Thanos onto the field before a match.
The red alliance prepares to start a match.

We had a terrific drive team and pit crew making sure that we were usually the best-performing robot in our alliance.

The pit crew with Thanos, in our repair pit, at the Bridgewater competition. Left to right: Samy, Asa, Gideon, Ali, Brian, and Maya.

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.

Ethan prepares to load a Hatch Panel disk into Thanos during a match.

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.

Samy and Brian change Thanos’s bumpers from red to blue between matches.

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.

LigerBots and Overclocked team members scout in the balcony at Bridgewater.
The drive team consults with alliance partners on game strategy before a match.
LigerBots who are not on pit crew, scouting duty or drive team watch matches in the stands.

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.

The Chairman’s Award presentation group at the Bridgewater competition: Maggie, AJ and Carolyn.
The LigerBots 2019 Chairman’s Award video

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.

Asa, AJ and Brian talk to FIRST judges about the LigerBots, while mentor Carly Buchanan takes notes on the questions they ask so we can prepare even better answers for next time.

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.

Samy goes through the awards line as she advances in the competition for FIRST Dean’s List.

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.

Mark and co-head coaches Igor Tepermeister and John Fitzpatrick talk about revising the ball intake mechanism.

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.

Asa and co-head coach Igor Tepermeister check the alignment of the intake chain.

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.

Charlotte and Amanda work on the flippable bumper covers.

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.

Co-head coach Noa Rensing helps break the robot naming tie by flipping a coin, as team members watch.

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.

Mentor Dan Lavoie leads a session on data mining.

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.

Peter and Brad repair the ball-throwing arm on the 2016 robot.

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.

LigerBots with Mass. state representative Ruth Balser.
LigerBots with Emily Izzo from the office of Mass. state representative John Lawn.
LigeBots with Mass. state senator Cynthia Stone Creem.
LigerBots with Amani Mansour from the office of Mass. state represenative Kay Khan.

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!