1/11/16 – Monday – Goal in Sight

Whereas a regular Monday would end for students promptly after 3:00, it is at that time that Robotics team 696 begins. Running a rather tight schedule, members met in the lab at 3:10 for a small meeting where they’d be updated on new information and given their task for the day. Among other various things said, Mr. Black mostly talked about the achievements made in such short time. He also reminded us how this was only the beginning, for there was still much to do. And with that we began work at 3:25.

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Members gathered for the pre-work meeting.

Right from the beginning, all teams started working furiously on their individual tasks. Programming team took on many separate tasks. Jake worked on Snapdragon, attempting to get it to drive slower so it wouldn’t be too risky to move around. John was tasked with getting a code that would work for QHR, so he found one and made modifications to allow QHR to be operable.

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Jake and John quietly working alongside each other in the Programming room.

Daniel and Bhavin – also of Programming – spent their time attempting to get the AXIS camera working over the available network. Daniel also made sure there were copies of crucial codes and software setups already on the server, for future reference and as a back-up.

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Bhavin and Daniel busy checking their codes.

Lousaper of Lathe worked with Lauren of Prototype to inventory the kit of parts the team received on kickoff. After finding that two items were missing, they notified Leadership team and were then tasked to another job.

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Lauren and Lousaper lovingly looking through a lavishly long list of inventory.

Lousaper and Lauren combined forces with CNC Mill members Dustin and Nanor as well as CAM member Jonna. Together the five worked on creating the frame for the High Goal. With minimal mistakes, or screwups (ha!), the frame was completed. All left to do is to mount the frame to a 6’8″ piece of wood. To reward themselves, the group took a banana break. Team members of 696 take their health very seriously.

CNC Mill members Dustin and Nanor teamed up with Jonna of CAM. The trio finished up a CAM program that’d cut out the High Goal for the castle game-piece. After which they used the program to cut the goal out on the Techno Router, and were assisted by Lauren of Prototype and Lousaper of Lathe. Together they all mounted the goal to more sturdy pieces of wood as to keep it stable for when they mount it for practice.

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CNC Mill members working with Lauren and Lousaper to measure a piece of wood.

Simulation member Jacob discovered an error in his ways. After discovering that the initial equations the team thought best to find the angle of the arc was incorrect, he set out to right this mistake. Jacob then got his inputs on the distance of the goal in relation to the vertical position instead of the horizontal position. Hopefully this will lead to more accurate predictions of ball trajectories.

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Jacob discussing how best to correct the mathematical error with his mentor.

Luke of Web worked together with Leadership team and Mr. Black. They held a meeting with the scouting system developers.  The meeting focused on what type of input and output they wanted to see from an ideal scouting system despite technical limitations. Desiring the system to be built on a game-independent framework, they agreed that it will be built using a web-based back end and browser client-side. This would allow the system to be easily adapted for use in 2017 and any future games. Also desired for the scouting system is a drag-and-drop style interface that’d be used for configuring the field for each match along with a snapshot showing how the field is set up for each match. These tasks they discussed would most likely require an additional scout. The group also briefly discussed long-term future technical possibilities of generative processing, using all available data, all available scenario combinations, and empirically-derived tuning variables to run a simulation and statistical analysis on all possible outcomes. They plan to look into connectivity and hardware at the next scouting development meeting.

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Luke showing Mika and Mr. Black his wondrous ideas and innovations using the notepad.

Business team was very busy this day. Andrea spent some time accounting the light-bulb data to find who had yet to give money. She also used Adobe Illustrator to begin designs for a 696 team button. Andrea began by sketching drafts of the possible designs, finding many of the backgrounds too busy and needing improvement. Nicole created three more versions of the 696 Brand Guide cover to try and find the best candidate. After creating texture variations for the backdrops, she got opinions from members throughout the entire team.

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Nicole changing the Brand Guide’s cover again. And Arvin in the background just being Arvin.

Arvin continued updating and revising the business plan and designing graphics for the plan. Anna began drafting an essay for the Woodie Flowers award. And she has alluded that she has come up with a creative way to capture the judges’ attention right away. Beyond this, she has given no spoilers.

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Anna and Arvin busy revising and creating essays on behalf of Team 696.

Devon and Karin, both members of Prototype team, began building the Drawbridge. To do so, they constructed a bill of materials needed for said Drawbridge. They plan to make it from plywood and polycarbonate, but the pair of builders still need some parts to create the Drawbridge hinge.

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Devon and Karin working on the computer to find how to build the Drawbridge.

Eden of Welding kept working on the Sally Door and finishing up ramps for the various obstacle platforms. Head of Welding Roupen finished the Rock Wall obstacle. He then began creating the moat, and nearly finished save for a few missing screws. Roupen has noted that QHR has a 50-50 record when up against the Rock Wall, so there’s something to improve and modify next time to ensure a 100 percent success rate.

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Roupen securing the Rock Wall to a platform.

Mr. Black met with Mika and Luke our leaders to review the Chairman’s Award details. While looking through the section of the administrative manual, they found that the video is not due on February 4th. They’ve agreed that the best thing to do now is to find an angle for this year’s award entry. A meeting later on will go over what to do next regarding the Chairman’s Award. The group is also currently considering the VexPro 2-CIM ball shifter at the maximum possible gear reduction. Mika, Luke, and Mr. Black also watched about 15 minutes of Team Indiana Ri3D project and noted a lot of success from a 6 wheel drive chassis using pneumatic wheels with an 8″ diameter. Near the end they also planned the upcoming talks and demonstrations towards students and parents at Toll Middle School for Wednesday.

Alexander, our radical Vice-President, was absolutely amazing this day. Not only did he work with CAD and CAM, assisting them in every way he could, he also got on a call with a fellow Robotics team. While talking with them over the phone regarding what wheels would best suit a robot for this years challenge, he wrote down notes on paper over clipboard and had people bring up relevant information or objects using their computers. He was truly a sight to behold.

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Just look at him. Alexander is the embodiment of a professional doing his job. Very kind and polite, but will go above and beyond to help out the team. We are very blessed to have a Vice-President such as him.

Leaders Alexander and Mika worked with CAM member James to try and find the correct-sized wheels for the robot. They concluded that industrial-style offerings do not suit the deign well, rather performance-oriented ones might.

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James and Meetkumar studying the Portcullis.

Mika, our bodacious President, met with Mr. Black to discuss the upcoming events and what tasks the team should be focusing on in the upcoming days. Afterwards she led a quick meeting with Prototyping regarding their goals and then with the Business team on what they’ve done so far. Once done with that, Mika moved on to meet with Mr. Black and Luke of Web on the subject of the scouting system. She also discussed the Chairman’s Award with them until about 5:00. For the last hours of the day she focused on getting everything prepared and ready for the middle school presentations that the team would be attending very shortly.

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Mika talking with the Prototype team, CNC Mill team, and half of the CAM team.

CAD members Sipan, Claire, Anthony K., and Mikia continued looking through the game manual to get familiar with all the materials to be used on the robot.

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Sipan browsing through the parts manual.

They also discussed exactly how wide and tall the robot should be by the end. Mikia, Anthony K., and Claire also searched up possible wheels for the robot. Knowing that they needed one wide and large enough to get over the obstacles in the Outer Works, they also had to limit results to ones that would permit the robot fit under the Low Bar. Obviously, this was a very tasking job for the group.

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Claire and Anthony K. rereading through the game manual.

Team 696’s Stronghold, nicknamed the lab, closed their gates and raised their moat-bridges at 8:55.

1/10/16 – Sunday – Only the Begining

While most members of 696 arrived to the lab at 1 to begin work, Mr. Black had the lab open at approximately 11:35. So while I was still waking up, Mr. Black was participating in a conference call with team 3476 Code Orange. What was gained from this call seems to be that both teams (696 and 3476) share a similar understanding of what the FRC 2016 game requires for a team to be successful.

Then, a little after 1, all team members gathered in the Cinema room located next door to the lab. It was there that Mr. Black reviewed safety and standard operating protocols for the end of the work day. He also gave an update about important dates for the upcoming week. Besides this, Mr. Black also outlined the team’s three main objectives: to build a highly competitive robot that would excel in the competition; to educate students while they gain insight, knowledge, and a variety of skills in multiple areas of expertise; and to have fun while still completing the other two objectives.

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Me, Samuel Witt, documenting the meeting that discussed safety regulations.

It was around 1:45 when Mr. Black started the “idea share” portion of the meeting. This consisted of all members giving input on what they believe would make a good robot for the competition or on what they thought the team should really focus on. A random member would be chosen and they’d each get 1 minute each. Claire of CAD stood by the whiteboard and listed what was mentioned. This way of discussion allowed a more discrete and broad input than prior years experienced. The team worked together to find convergence between various ideas.

Some ideas that deserve to be mentioned would be Mariam’s and Anna’s. Mariam wished for the robot to have a large Canon, perhaps she meant it as a camera, for she is the photographer’s mentor after all. Anna of Business voiced the idea of a robot with a single mechanism that could perform multiple tasks that the game called for. This was the first “omni-tool” idea presented during the meeting. Mr. Hoard simply stated that we should “build a robot that wins,” which certainly seems like something to strive for.

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Members assembled in the Cinema room to discuss robot ideas.

One thing everyone desires is to consolidate the mechanisms as much as possible – a big step forward from yesterday’s proposals. What was also discussed was how shooting for the high goal seems very achievable and may not be much slower than shooting into the low goals. The idea sharing drew to a conclusion at 2:50 where the members split off into groups to perform the necessary tasks asked of each of them.

Members whom shifted through the kit of parts found some interesting mysteries, including a small board from Analog devices bearing resemblance to a micro-controller. Its utility is yet unknown. The team is in agreement that we need to get the drive base done very soon, using COTS parts – consumer off the shelf.

Prototype members Devon, Lauren, and Karin met with Leaders Mika and Alexander, Roupen of Welding, Sipan, Anthony, Mikia, and Claire of CAD, Jonna and James of CAM, and Lathe member Lousaper in the Cinema room to discuss what needed to be prototyped for the robot. Once coming to a conclusion, they split off into two groups.

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Sub-group meeting about further in-depth robot mechanism design ideas.

Lauren, Karin, and Devon of Prototype paired with Jonna of CAM and Lousaper of Lathe to worked together. They began prototyping merged arms and a climbing mechanism for the robot.

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Devon finding needed dimensions on the computer.

Meetkumar of Programming worked with James of CAM. Together the pair constructed a prototype of the magic triangle that measured 15 inches in length. After this James got involved with the robot design some more.

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James cutting out some magic triangles.

CNC Mill members Dustin and Nanor were tasked to make some obstacles to practice with. Eden of Welding assisted them. The team started with constructing the Sally Port Door. First they printed out the blueprints and deciphered them. Then they cut out a piece of wood to about 2 by 3.5 feet for the door. For a ramp, they used a hollow door after adding side supports. They wanted the base to stand about 3 inches tall, so they added wood to the underside as Eden started on the ramps leading to the base.

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Nanor and Dustin figuring out the dimensions of the Sally Port Door.

Using the large band-saw, Eden cut out 3/4 inch wood board wedges to form the ramp. The two CNC Mill members also started making a CAM program that will be used to cut out an upper goal area for the castle to be used in later practice runs.

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Eden about to screw some wood.

Jake and John of the Programming team continued learning how to program robots. Jake worked on limiting the speed of robots with coding so it won’t move too fast during future presentations and public events. Bhavin and Daniel of Programming kept working on the vision processing. They were able to get a feed from a Playstation EYE but will continue working to send the feed through the robot to a computer.

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Bhavin working on some coding.

Christopher of Animation spent time learning how to use CAT in 3ds Max. He also started to work on a character model after creating and revising a schedule. Even though the other member Anthony C. was sick at home, this didn’t stop him from doing his part. Anthony C. developed an ideal sequence for animation so they’d have something to work with once he makes it back to Robotics.

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Christopher working diligently on his animation character creation.

Sipan of CAD created a list of priorities for the proposed robot. He also Expo CADed a design for a robot he named Short Stack. The design would allow it to fit under a 14 inch bar if needed to.

Business member Arvin created a small outline of necessary components of the business plan. He also reviewed the Entrepreneurship Award submission.

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Arvin carefully revising the essay submissions.

Luke of Web spent the day developing and prototyping a scouting system that will be used during the competition after some additional adjustments and updates.

Mika, our Cherished President took it upon herself to be the ever-calming presence in these chaotic times as well as the voice of reason. She dished out the various tasks for the day, then helped discuss ideas with Prototyping and CAD teams. She also checked up on other sub-teams’ goals and their statuses. Mika planned out the robot design and team’s strategy for the game as well.

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Extravagant Mika leading the discussion of robot designs betwixt CAD and Prototype teams.

Alexander, our serene Vice-President started working for today last night. Indeed, he spent much time the night before doing an in-depth game timing analysis and strategy analysis. He compiled and looked at the possible tasks our robot would be faced with, and calculated how long each would take. This data would be very important for the team to reach a well informed strategic design. Alexander also served as a scribe throughout the morning design discussion, typing up the voiced opinions as a reference for later use. He later helped out the CAD team design agreed-upon mechanisms that’d serve multiple tasks. This was all done while keeping in mind the dimension restrictions set for this competition. All of which couldn’t be done with out the useful whiteboard, allowing members to visually share their ideas and thoughts.

The lab closed around 8:40, but will be reopened the very next day. For one does not simply go a day without working in the lab during Build Season. And so i shall say in conclusion, until next time.

1/9/16 – Saturday – Kickoff

There’s nothing quite like going to school at seven in the morning on a Saturday. The cold air, sun’s just getting up, 696 members yawning and stretching as they arrive to Clark – nothing quite like it indeed. The kickoff stream was scheduled to happen around 7:30, so members gathered in the cafetorium to eagerly wait for the stream to begin. This stream would show the team what the new FRC challenge would be, with a link that we could use to find the new guide-rules manual so we could begin building our robot.

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Students eagerly watching the Kickoff videos.

Once the stream ended, the team headed up to the lab to read through the game’s manual. Having over 100 pages to go through, the lab remained quiet while members read through the entire manual. Once done with, members helped themselves to bananas and muffins with milk on the side as a healthy breakfast.

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Our daily morning meetings where Mika and Alexander lay down the schedule for the day.

Around 9:45 members – apart from the business team – met in the room next door to the lab to brainstorm ideas for the robot. Everyone had the game manual out on their phones or laptops so all inputs would be informed ones with evidence to back it. Mika wrote down the eight obstacles that our robot would be up against while other members began explaining what types of mechanics could work. This continued until around twelve.

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Most members gathered in Cinema room to discuss ideas.

Lunch came next, provided by Lauren’s wonderful mother. Consisting of delicious Hawaiian bread and sausages, one would take three breads still connected with a slice in the middle, put the scrumptious sausage in, add toppings, and take a soda. It was truly great, and for those that don’t like meats, there were optional salads you could take. Some chocolates were there to finish it off.

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Members scrambling to get some great food.

After lunch the true work began. Brainstorming had finished, there were multiple mechanisms that must be built to see how well they’d work, and the CAD team would be busy setting dimensions to the various robotic parts.

A quick rundown of what the game our robot would be in is needed to understand what the teams did today. The field would consist of three main areas: two Courtyards with a Neutral Zone in between. They’d be separated by a row of defenses called the Outer Works. At the center of the Neutral Zone would be balls. The objective would be to take a ball, go through the other team’s Outer Works to their Courtyard, get up to their Castle and either roll a ball in or shoot one in for more points. This would repeat until one team’s Castle is weakened and captured or until time runs out. The Outer Works each have five different defenses, chosen from a total of eight defenses.

Jacob of Simulation team reverse engineered the field diagram from where the team wanted the robot to shoot from. He did so to get a range of distances that would even allow the robot to shoot from, to see what changes must be made to then shoot from a desired position on the field.

Business team member Andrea worked on light bulb accounting, the sponsor logos, and ordering buttons. She also worked with Anna on vinyl. Anna added new while taking off old sponsors from the sponsor wall. She also researched past winners of the Engineering Inspiration Award to get a better feel of what’s needed. Nicole vectorized logos for the Gene Haas Foundation and SoCal Gas. Besides this, Nicole designed the first pages of the 696 Brand Guide as well. Arvin examined the past winners of the Chairman’s Award and Entrepreneurship Award to try and find similarities in writing styles and content that allowed these entries to win.

CAD team members Sipan, Anthony K., Claire, and Mikia kept a list of the mechanism ideas discussed earlier. After discussing the objectives and ways of the game, they searched for an optimal robot size. With multiple designs, they compared them against each other to find one that would best suit the game’s challenges. They also informed the Prototype team of what mechanics needed to be made and seen if they worked properly.

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CAD squad fabulously comparing different robot sizes.

Lousaper of Lathe team worked with Roupen of Welding and Lauren and Karin of Prototyping with assistance from Joshua – an alumni Prototyper. This combination of teams began designing the frame and arms of the robot in a way that’d allow it to clear the Outer Works’ many defenses.

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Karin and Roupen working hard.

Animation team members Anthony C. and Christopher set objectives for themselves to achieve. These included creating a rectangular medieval flag with the Circuit Breakers logo on it, some scenery that would lead to the pit area with tool decor and a table, and finding a modeled container for interactive props such as glasses. All of these objectives had been completed by the end of the day. They also planned to complete the safety animation in the next five days. Christopher then took it upon himself to find character modeling and rigging characters in animations.

The Programming team broke off into two groups. John and Jake focused on how they would program possible robot parts so they’d be prepared for when these parts became real. Meanwhile, Bhavin and Daniel became acquainted with using Graphical Represented Image Processor, or GRIP. This is a program that will allow the robot to assist the drivers with vision processing.

Dustin and Nanor of CNC Mill designed a 6″ wheel with spokes using CAD. They also designed a CAM program for the techno router based on the model. After which they cut the wheel out of wood using the techno router and gave it to the Prototype team. The Prototype team used it for the model of the robot they were building.

Devon of Prototype team was assisted by the CAM members Jonna and James as well as Eden of Welding. Jonna and James designed some magic triangles. Then they all built them. These magic triangles are a sort of slide that will help the robot cross the iron wall, moat, tilting planks, and ramparts. The triangles will be pneumatically actuated and their rest position will be about 1 to 2 inches below the top of the robot. There was an idea about these triangles being able to rotate a full 180 degrees but no decision has been made about that. High density polyurethane or HDPE was attached to the front of the triangles. These slippery white plastics will allow the robot to easily slide over obstacles.

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Members discussing and brainstorming magic triangle dimensions.

Mika, our prestigious President spent most of the time making sure everybody knew what their individual tasks were. She also cut wood on the Dewalt saw as she is the only one allowed to. Mika lead the strategy debates as well as keeping the teams that were prototyping the robot design on task.

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Our wonderful President Mika cutting wood.

Near the end of the workday, much more brainstorming took place. There ended up being a lot of conclusions being written on the whiteboard along with possible mechanism designs.

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Feast your eyes upon the whiteboard by the end of the day.

The members also considered driving under one of the defenses: a lift-up gate. But this is what they ended up visualizing happening.

The day finally ended at 8:30 with the closing of the lab. And with this, the first day of Build Season was brought to an end.

1/8/16 – Friday – Rosemont Presentation

Select Robotics members Lauren,  Anna, and Daniel accompanied Mr. Black down to Rosemont Middle School this day. Leaving Clark at around 9:45, they were to help Mr. Dall present to 8th graders in the school gym about why they should consider Clark as their High School.

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Mr. Dall talking with the Rosemont students.

Mr. Dall, principal of Clark Magnet High School, gave a presentation to the Rosemont students. This presentation included videos and student works.

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Mr. Black giving a beautiful speech to the possible Clark sudents.

Throughout this performance, the Robotics members drove Snapdragon around to show a little of what Robotics does at Clark.

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Snapdragon demonstrating its elegant ball-throwing ability.

Lauren, Anna, and Daniel returned back to Clark at 12.