Saturday, January 26, 2008

Week 3 Build Update

We drove the robot for the first time yesterday, having 2 motors per side makes for a speedy robot, but we're still not satisfied - we plan to order new sprockets and give up some torque for extra speed!

The arm is almost done, our pneumatic storage tanks and cylinders arrived two days ago. We need to get some C-shafting so that we can build our gripper - having an arm won't do us much good if we can't pick up those huge trackballs.

The season is almost half way over - can we build a gripper and still have enough time to debug?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Week 2 Build Update

Our drive base and tower are finished - we need to build our gripper, and then the four-bar arm! This year's game features trackballs that are larger than the robot, so getting them into our possession is going to be one of the biggest challenges.

Our small electronics team is busy wiring a neat lay-out that fits all on one sheet of plexi (so it can be easily detached from the robot). The programmers are confident that the customizable drive code is working and a simple hybrid mode will keep us on track, the only question is whether we want to use sensors such as a gyro or accelerometer.

The 6-week build season is already a third over, but I think we are on track!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Team 2129 is Proud to Announce our New Sponsor: Discount Steel!

Today Discount Steel agreed to sponsor our team by giving us free aluminum. They also offered the use of their CNC machine and other tools!

Discount Steel is a leading provider of all metals. Customers can place orders of any size and get cut-to-size, quality materials fast. Thank you Discount Steel!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Week 1 Build Update

Brainstorming sub-groups each presented their ideas for this year's game on Monday night. In the end it came down to two choices: a light, fast robot with drop-down arms to herd the trackballs around the field, or a more complex robot that can lift the 40-inch, 10-pound trackballs to score bonus points.

Despite words of warning from the many veterans who met with disaster during their 2nd year when they thought, "We aren't rookies anymore, we can do it all!," our team decided to build a robot that can lift those jumbo trackballs. One of the stumbling blocks is our inexperience with CAD design; this year we must rely mostly on good old-fashioned graph paper. Exploring new engineering concepts (like pneumatics and an arm) is part of what makes FIRST such an amazing competition.

Not to say that winning isn't important to our team; if we put in enough time we can build this robot. We've ordered most of the parts we need and have an almost working drive base. We are a much stronger team this year (20+ new members!), much more organized, and armed with experience from this fall's build session. We are up to the challenge!

Our Founder, Lisa Riddle

We are sad to report that the founder of the Southwest Robotics Team, Lisa Riddle, passed away last week. In fall 2006, Lisa offered her help as adult team coordinator and coach the moment she heard a robotics team could be started at Southwest. Her continual optimism, confidence, and support taught students the life lessons of working in groups and the joys of making ideas become a reality. Now the Southwest Robotics Team will last for many years to come. We are dedicating this season to her.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

2008 FRC Kickoff

Our team was up early this Saturday morning, headed towards Coffman Union in preparation for the Minnesota Kickoff. After brownie bits and coffee, we were ready for the simulcast.

Messages about FIRST’s vision and gracious professionalism preceded the game animation. We also got Dean’s homework assignment – to get as much media coverage as possible. Our team is looking forward to the new challenge.

Finally, the game animation came. This year’s game has the standard 3 vs. 3 set-up, but there is very little defense; the arena is transformed into a track where robots race around carrying large balls to score points, and can shoot the balls over the rack for a bonus. The other variation in this year’s game is the replacement of autonomous mode with “hybrid” mode, where the 15 second beginning period isn’t entirely without feedback from the operators, but receives limited commands from the remote control of the team’s choice. For the entire video, see the NASA web cast.

The new Kit of Parts was picked up after the video and driven to my house (school was closed) where we took inventory. We are beginning the brainstorming process tomorrow, with sub-groups meeting tomorrow so everyone is ready to present their group’s idea on Monday.

We’re hoping unexpected designs can give us an unexpected advantage; it’s going to be an exciting season.