Articles by tag: business

Articles by tag: business

    NSTA 2017

    NSTA 2017 By Ethan, Evan, Caitlin, Jayesh, Omar, Tycho, and Charlotte

    Task: Expose our MXP to teachers nationwide

    Background

    For readers who don't know what the MXP is, here's a quick description. Our coach had been floating the idea of a mobile STEM lab for a while, and he was finally given the go-ahead and some money by his company, BigThought. Originally, he planned for buying a van and loading it with tech, but like all true Iron Reign projects, it grew quickly. It turns out that a used RV and a van are roughly the same price, and why not go all out if you can? So, we ended up with a RV old enough to drink sitting in our coaches' driveway. Of course, to convert a RV with outdated shag carpet and a Sea View insignia on the dashboard into a state-of-the-art mobile tech lab, you need free labor. And, where else to get free labor than 11 robotics nerds who have nothing better to do with their summer?

    That's where we, the robotics nerds with nothing better to do with out summer, come in. We ripped up the shag carpet, destroyed the bathroom and bedroom, and laid new flooring and installed tech workstations in every part of the RV possible. And along the way, Best Buy, BigThought, and Dallas City of Learning caught wind of our project and gave us grants, allowing us to install four 3D printers, 40 laptops, and 10 EV3 Robotics Kits to educate kids.

    The purpose of this is to deliver STEM programs to under-privliged kids in the Dallas area, in hopes of inspiring them to go into STEM fields. As well, the MXP can help close the summer achievement gap, where kids in lower economic brackets tend to forget more over the summer than richer kids. We're also targeted towards middle schoolers - they're of the age where they're learning that they probably won't be an astronaut, and showing them alternative options that are still interesting is extremely important.

    Aboard the RV, we run two programs. In front and/or outside, we teach kids EV3 programming to compete in a sumo-bots competition. While kids won't be able tp directly learn from the EV3 programming language, they can take the abstract skills they learn from programming the robot and apply them to other programming and learning endevours later in life. In the back, we teach kids how to 3D model using Google Sketchup, and allow them to create and print their own keychain to take home as a keepsake.

    The Trip

    The NSTA Convention is a meeting of teachers from all over America and 12 other countries to hold seminars, panels, and presentations for teaching certificates. We were invited there due to our work on the MXP and its success in Dallas. We worked on the floor of the convention, with booths from various companies and agencies also presenting.

    We started our trip to Kississime, Florida at 8:40 in the morning, way too early for us high school students in the summer. It was a long, boring drive. The highlight, or anti-highlight of the drive is that halfway through our first day, we started billowing black smoke as we pulled off the interstate. We pulled over on a residential farm road in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, we were assisted in our engine troubles by a guy who happened to see us pull over across the road from his house. He helped us fix our engine and drove our coach to the mechanic's, and we were on our way yet again.

    Our first day at the convention was a quarter day. We started at the convention at 4:30p, and ended at 6:30. Despite our limited time, it was probably our most productive day. We talked to over 150 teachers from all over America about our experience building and manning the MXP, and gave advice on building their own. We also allowed the teachers to make and print their own keychains if they wanted.

    Our second day was just like the first day, but four times as long. We brought our Argos, our color following robot. We recently fitted him with a new power distribution module by REV Robotics so that we could test it out before the new season. As well, Argos is our Vuforia-testing robot, so we demonstrated that ability too. Our coach also presented on a panel that day. As a finale to that day, we got to see Veritasium's presentation on "The Power of Un".

    On the last day, we didn't present to as many people, but we got to have better and more in-depth discussions with everyone who came onboard. We had teachers that designed keychains and programmed robots for over an hour. As well, we presented to the president of the NSTA.

    On the way back, we had to engage in one of three Florida pasttimes, and we didn't want to get arrested or get eaten by an alligator. So, we settled on the less permanetly damaging option, and went to the beach instead.

    Reflections - One Last Ride

    The convention was a roaring success. I estimate that we talked to about 400 teachers from all over America. We can say that we probably inspired teachers from 4-6 other cities to start research and development on building their own RVs. Also, we talked about running a FTC team to interested teachers and FIRST in general.

    Even though, this trip was bittersweet. This was the last Iron Reign trip with the original senior members. Caitlin and Jayesh have been on the team for over one-third of their lives, and this was their final ride as members of Iron Reign. I, personally, have worked with them since 4th grade - one-half of my life! And, as all last rides go, one must find happiness that it was a good one, and that it ever happened. Caitlin and Jayesh have been great advisors and friends, and they deserve the best of luck in college and in the real world.

    Moon Day at Frontier of Flight Museum

    Moon Day at Frontier of Flight Museum By Abhi, Charlotte, Austin, Janavi, and Tycho

    Task: Present at the MoonDay Event

    Today, Iron Reign was invited to the Frontier of Flight Museum by Dallas Love Field Airport for a day of STEM knowledge for its annual "Moon Day". It was time for us to bring in the LEGO robotics kit, 4 laptops for kids, ARGOS, and Juggernaut, our competition bot from this past season. Upon arrival at the museum, we noticed many other fascinating stations such as one explaining NASA's new rover and a model in the arena. We paired up with some other robotics members in the region to set up a station where we could help robotics beginners program the LEGO bots so that the bots could wrestle eachother like Sumo wrestlers. In addition, we fixed ARGOS so that the color sensor would be able to sense a stick in front of it to follow the sign. This allowed us to let other students drive the bot. The same was done with Juggernaut.

    Our LEGO station was set up in a way such that even people who couldn't type could use it. We helped people code a bot that drives forward till the bot reached the edge of the board, turns backwards, rotates, and then repeats these reactions until the program is terminated. The students learned that the robot was able to determine when it reached the edge of the board by using the color sensor located on the bottom of the robot. Since the board is built in a dartboard sort of manner with the majority being black and a white ring around the edge, the robot was taught by the students to only stay on the black and not continue if the sensor is on the white. The students had the ability to individually change the speeds of their bots so that when the compete with one another in the "Sumo" game, there could be a winner.

    We decided to use ARGOS and Juggernaut as play bots for the day and drove both around. While doing so, we discovered that ARGOS had a bug which, though controllable, was inconvenient. ARGOS' movement system was developed in a way such that the acceleration would compound based on the number of seconds the joystick was pressed in a certain direction. Currently, ARGOS had to be coded this way since we didn't have encoders and power was the only way to put speed into the wheels. We are currently working on fixing this problem. Regardless, we were able to drive ARGOS around and let other children control it using the color sensor stick we developed. The stick was developed in a way that the bot would shine a light onto the area in front of it and if it found the image we had for the color to detect, ARGOS knew to move. We programmed Juggernaut in a similar way so students were able to drive it as well. Since Juggernaut also had shooting abilities, we were able to play catch with numerous people in the area including booth sponsors. In this way, we were able to teach others about the shooting mechanism and carwash system developed to pick up balls in the bot. This fascinated many young people and inspired them to pursue a STEM activity.

    Numerous students from a wide array of backrounds came to Moon Day and we were able to spread the knowledge of robotics to them. We had many parents and educators ask us about ways to get involved and we gave them more information about FIRST and their message of Gracious Professionalism. Robotics gave us an avenue to connect with kids, regardless of their socioeconomic status, race, gender, or beliefs. This allowed us to make a deep impact on people and join forces with them to pursue something we are all passionate about. In a world filled with discrimination against those of certain groups, the Frontier of Flight Museum gave us a chance to move people by the wonders of robotics and encourage them to pursue what they want in life without caring about the discriminators. We hope to continue to make an impact on people through future events.

    So, You Want to Build Your Own RV

    So, You Want to Build Your Own RV By Ethan

    How to build your own RV in 6 easy steps.

    1. Obtain the RV: To be affordable on price, opt for a 90s-2000s RV, preferably with as little miles as possible. If you can afford it, the newer the better, as we've run into mechanical problems over time with ours. Look for one with a slide-out on some site such as RVTrader or Craigslist.
    2. Deconstruct the RV: More likely than not, your RV will have amazing 90s beachwave decor. While this may be great to pick up surfer gals and guys on the beach, it probably won't make the best learning environment. So, tear it out! Remove the rug carpet and replace it with laminate flooring. Get rid of that pesky bed/bathroom. Remove the kitchem if you want! The goal is to get as much space as possible to fit as many kids in there as possible.
    3. Reconstruct the RV: You want the RV to be as kid-friendly as possible. Get rid of any sharp edges, install some workbenches so that kids can sit or work, protect the outlets, et cetera.
    4. Obtain funding for the RV: You need tech. While its possible for a team to self-finance, its much easier to apply for grants. You can go to companies such as Best Buy that are willing to give grants or donate technology for help. For example. our 4 3D printers were all supplied by Best Buy. For our RV, we have about 40 laptops to instruct kids with, as well as 3 large monitors to show.

    5. Create a curriculum: This will vary per team, but here's ours. In the front, we let kids program SumoBots using EV3. In the back, we teach them how to 3D model and help them 3D print keychains. We also run MinecraftEDU for the younger kids.
    6. Run events: Talk to educational organizations such as local schools and afterschool clubs to plan events. This also varies depending on location, but local school districts and clubs such as 4-H may be interested in hosting the RV for a day or so.

    DISD Sponsorship

    DISD Sponsorship By Ethan

    DISD's sponsorship of Iron Reign

    As referenced in another blog post, we recently went to a DISD Coaches' meeting. Shortly after the meeting, we were confirmed to be the host of the DISD Townview Qualifier. So, DISD was able to send us a free full-size field to build and use until the qualifier. As well, since we are one of the first teams within DISD to use the REV system, we were also sent $2600+ of REV parts in order to demonstrate REV parts to other DISD teams and teach them how to use them. This was the fruit of our prior efforts to get noticed by DISD. Since we went as a team to the DISD meeting, we were able to differentiate ourselves, our team, and our work ethic from other area teams so that we could recieve a larger grant.

    Reflections

    This was an amazing oppurtunity for Iron Reign. Not only did this reduce our costs for running the team this year, it also allowed us to host a tournament. It covered most of our part expenses for the next year except for new batteries and some tournament fees.

    RoboDojo Maintenance

    RoboDojo Maintenance By Coach

    A mess of projects

    At the end of the first regular practice since putting up our tent, the field is populated with 4 separate projects. Evidence of a lot of great work going on....

    Is it also indicative of a lack of caring for what those who live here have to endure during the week? No - we recognize that at some point in the distant past the situation got beyond the control of all of us. So I'm not trying to lay fault on anyone for the unlivable situation in our house. But I also need you all to understand that living in a storm of robotics parts is something we (my family) had accepted for a time, but to be clear, this is not sustainable.

    So now we (both teams) have an opportunity to do something about it. The tent / outdoor workspace gives us enough room to sort stuff out and keep it that way. For lack of a better name, I'll call it our robodojo. It's now time for us all to commit to keeping it tidy and usable, and doing the same for any spaces used inside the house.

    This requires new behaviors that we all must embrace. Number one is that before we leave practice, we have to put away everything we are working on. We have project boxes for anything currently under construction. It's your job to know when you have to leave and to allocate time for cleanup of everything you are working on. That means putting tools and parts away where they belong and cleaning surfaces. If a partner is continuing to work on a project but you have to leave early, be clear about handoff and cleaning up your part of the work. From now on, if your ride arrives without warning, they will have to wait until your cleanup is done.

    I could go on for pages about the behaviors we need to adopt, but I'll challenge team members to work up a full list. I'll wrap up here by sharing our common goals:

    • All things, projects/parts/tools need to be put where they belong before a meet ends
    • "where they belong" is a priority. It's not acceptable to throw something into a random box to get it off the floor or worksurface
    • The field in the robodojo must be usable for drive practice at any time with a maximum of 5 minutes of tidying up
    • Tools are in use or in their place, they are not toys or hand candy
    • Surfaces are clean and tidy - two different concepts, both important
    • Abandoned projects get pulled apart and parts resorted
    • The burden of maintaining the robodojo falls to all equally - it's not just a builder's burden
    • Any rules for the robodojo apply equally or more so to the house
    • We all want a more effective workspace and I know that you also care that my family and I have a liveable home between practices. But we've all built up some bad habits that will be hard to break. I am asking that we turn those habits around, starting now.

    SEM Robotics Tournament

    SEM Robotics Tournament By Coach

    Iron Reign (team 6832), The School of Science and Engineering and the Dallas ISD STEM Department are happy to announce that we are hosting a FIRST Tech Challenge qualifying tournament at our Townview campus on December 16th. Somewhere between 28 and 32 North Texas robotics teams will compete for awards and approximately 5 advancements to the Regional Championship to be held in February.

    Calling All Volunteers

    This is the first time our school has hosted an official qualifying tournament and we will need your help to make it a first-rate experience. This is a full day event on Saturday, December 16. There are also options to help with setup Friday afternoon December 15. Please feel free to circulate this message to everyone in the SEM community who can contribute their time and expertise. And if you can suggest a business that might want to sponsor the event, we'll be happy to talk with them.

    We need to field some 50 or so volunteers!

    One group of volunteers that support the running of robot matches include referees, score keepers, inspectors, field managers. Some of these roles require training and certification and we will generally draw from mentors already involved in FTC. Other roles supporting match play do not require training and include field management, pit management and queue management.

    Another group of volunteers will support judging of teams for awards. Judges can be drawn from industry or academia and can have an engineering background or a general business backround in a technology industry. Judges assess the merits of teams' robots, their engineering process and journal, their strategic decisions, team dynamics and outreach. Judges will be led by a Judge Advisor, but will need to understand the awards criteria ahead of time.

    Another group of volunteers will support the event overall. This includes team registration, crowd control, DJ, videography and photography, A/V support, floaters, runners, concessions, load-in/load-out crew, etc.

    This is just a summary of the most common roles, but there are many specialty roles. Full volunteer descriptions can be found here.

    For some roles it helps to understand the run-of-show for the day.

    How to sign up as a volunteer

    FIRST is the governing body of these competitions and they have a volunteer sign up system so that we can assure that all roles are filled by vetted volunteers. We are trying to get all volunteers processed through this year's new system. It does involve creating a FIRST account if you have not previously done so. If you have any issues or are finding the process burdensome, please use our contact form for assistance.

    Please sign up for as many roles as you feel comfortable fulfilling. We may need to be flexible with assignments depending on who is available and which roles can be fulfilled by our regional managing partner. Students may volunteer for certain roles and as event hosts, Iron Reign team members will be supporting the event throughout the day.

    To begin, go to the volunteer signup page for our event: https://my.firstinspires.org/Volunteers/Wizard/Search/2?EventId=34105

    If you have not previously registered with FIRST, you'll need to sign up / register and activate your account first. Then you can go back to the link above and indicate your preferences. We truly need your help and look forward to working with you to create a great tournament for our students. We hope this event will showcase SEM as the premiere home for future scientists and engineers.

    All our Thanks,

    Karim Virani and Cathy Lux

    Tournament day is very involved for the teams and volunteers. Here is a typical schedule of the day:

    • 7:30-8:30 Teams arrive, register and load their robots and gear into the pit areas
    • 9:00 - 10:30 Teams present their robots to Judges for the awards competition. They also get their robots inspected and approved for the robot game
    • 10:30 Opening ceremonies and then qualifying matches of the robot game begin. Judges are observing teams in their pits and on the competition field
    • Noon - Lunch will be provided for the teams and volunteers. Judges share information with each other about the teams they interviewed.
    • Afternoon - qualifying matches continue until each team has competed 5 times. There are 4 robots per match and we'll have two alternating competition fields to speed things up.
    • Mid-to-late afternoon is Alliance Selection, top teams from qualifying rounds will build alliances to compete in the elimnation / playoff rounds. Judges continue deliberating.
    • Playoff rounds usually take a bit over an hour
    • Closing Ceremonies and Awards
    • Pack up fields and equipment

    We plan to end the tournament by 5pm, but events can run long. All volunteers are encouraged to stay until the end of the tournament, but it's not required if your role is completed earlier in the day.

    SEM Robotics Tournament

    SEM Robotics Tournament By Coach

    Iron Reign (team 6832), The School of Science and Engineering and the Dallas ISD STEM Department are happy to welcome you to the FIRST Tech Challenge qualifying tournament at our Townview campus on December 16th. Twenty-six North Texas robotics teams will compete for awards and approximately 5 advancements to the Regional Championship to be held in February.

    Teams

    Teams - we look forward to seeing your robots compete and learning about your progress this season. Here are some documents that will help you,
    Event Schedule
    Team List with Judging and Inspection Schedules
    Google Map
    Parking Map

    Volunteers

    Volunteers - thank you for supporting this tournament. We could not pull it off without you. Here are some documents that will help you,
    Volunteer Schedule and Prep Instructions
    Google Map
    Parking Map
    Team List with Judging and Inspection Schedules
    Full volunteer descriptions can be found here.

    Concessions

    Lunch will be provided to teams and volunteers. A full and economical concessions stand will accomodate most special dietary needs.
    Concessions Menu

    Talking to REV

    Talking to REV By Austin and Tycho

    Task: Talk to REV about our REVolution System

    On an excursion to the Rev Headquarters located conveniently in North Dallas, to pick up a few extra servos and other miscellaneous parts we decided to bring a couple of our 3D printed REVolution parts to show to the founder of Rev. if you aren’t familiar with our REVolution system, essentially what it is, is a way to turn Rev extrusion rails into axels to be used for more robust and modular axels. These new printable parts can be seen in their corresponding blog post and can be found on Thingiverse along with instructions.

    After waiting for Rev’s founder to see us, we had the chance to demonstrate the new parts we had come up with. The REVolution system peaked his interest and he would like to follow up at some point to possibly work on making the parts and selling them as part of the Rev product line. While you won’t be able to find our parts anytime soon, you can look for them in the future since Rev is currently working on a few other priorities.

    Part 2

    We want to have further talks with REV about mass-producing these parts, as we believe that these could benefit teams everywhere and allow their designs to be more flexible. As well, we plan to further develop our REVolution system so that it has greater functionality.

    Iron Reign and Sponsorships

    Iron Reign and Sponsorships By Ethan

    A Summary of the 2017-2018 Iron Reign Sponorships

    Iron Reign, generally, has not been great at finding sponsorships in prior years. However, this year has been much more successful. We can attribute some of our success to the fact that we won the North Texas Inspire award last year, in that we got our name out there more. As well, the fact that we built our MXP helped get our name out, and we recieved staffing and contracts for the RV through BigThought.

    Team Sponsorships

    DISD STEM - $5000
    We first communicated with the DISD STEM department at the DISD Coaches' Training, where we presented an early form of our robot. We soon were able to form a partnership with them to host a 18-team scrimmage for DISD, and later hosted a 26-team qualifier at Townview. In return, we recieved two full field sets, and well over $1000 of robot parts, including two REV kits and 1 TETRIX competition set.

    RoboRealm - $1500
    RoboRealm, a machine vision software company, gave us three full licenses to their software for free, each worth $500. They are partners with FIRST and assist teams every year.

    Texas Workforce Commission - $500
    Texas Workforce Commission has been our most consistent sponsor every year. When we first built our RV, we visited the TWC headquarters and talked to TWC Commissioner Hughs about how their grant directly helped us. Ever since, we've recieved a grant. They are also a FIRST in Texas sponsor.

    Arconic - $500
    Arconic started a grant system for any team near an Arconic facility. We were eligibile due to that, and filled out an application for the grant, then got it. We have yet to visit\thank them, as we recieved this days before the tournament.

    FIRST - $250
    If you fill out an application on the FIRST website, and meet minimum qualifications, you can earn a grant meant to cover entry fees for tournaments. This covered our first qualifier in Oklahoma.

    REV - $50 & Invaluable Advice
    Well, the $50 the gave us was about $50 for one servo and its components. However, the real value that REV has given us is advice in building our robot. Iron Reign was one of the first adopters of the REV hubs and rails, which helped us create a connection. Also, we are relatively lucky by having our base of operations by the REV headquarters, a ~20 minute drive, so we have been able to drive over and present ideas to them.

    Outreach Assistance

    While our MXP was built by us and bought by our coach, we can't do everything on our own. We rent the MXP to BigThought, a Dallas-based educational nonprofit, and also recieve funds for upkeep from them. Through them, we have been able to provide outreach with a variety of different programs, including the City of Dallas, DISD, and Society of Black Engineers. As well, various programs assist in staffing the MXP when our team members alone won't cut it. We have partnered with Dallas City of Learning, Americorp, Best Buy, and BigThought to provide staffing.

    Best Buy initially funded the technology aboard the MXP, such as our 4 3D printers, the EV3 bots, and laptops. Later, as we proved that our program was effective, we recieved an additional grant and more staffing for the MXP.

    Designing a Poster

    Designing a Poster By Ethan

    Task: Design a poster to tell Iron Reign's story

    Our presentations to the judges usually turn out well. However, looking back at the last tournament's awards, we could've performed way better. To get a better chance at Inspire, we really need to get 2nd place in every other award, and in the last tournament, we got 3rd, and really only got the Inspire Award just because the other major team already got the 1st Inspire in another tournament. So, our number-one priority is to better communicate our timeline, story, and information to the judges. While a good portion of this is journal improvements and presentation improvements, we hope to further communicate our story to the judges by providing a visual representation of our story through the timeline.

    Meeting With Mr.Palacios

    Meeting With Mr.Palacios By Janavi, Charlotte, Ethan, Evan, Abhi, Austin, Tycho, Karina, and Kenna

    Task:

    At the end of last semester our principal, Ms.Hewitt was promoted to the ED of our feeder pattern. This semester we got the opportunity to meet our new principzl, Mr.Palacios. He previously served as the Academy, Science & Foreign Language Department Administrator at Hillcrest High School, and was interested in learning more about SEM and what our students did to contribute to the school. We wanted to show him SEMs Robotics program ,so Iron Reign arranged a meeting with him. During the meeting we planned to give him a presentation much like the one we give to judges. We changed up the presentation a little by adding the FTC competition video to introduce him to the competition and give him a little background about what First is.

    Presentation Notes:

    Mr. Palacios said he enjoyed our presentation and it gave him a good insight into Robotics, in the past he has not worked with Robotics and our presentation showed him that in First Robotics goes much deeper than just building a robot and competing with it, First is also about giving back to the community and promoting STEM. He plans to follow up with us to see our progress in the following months, and has been following up with our team members individually in the hallways or whenever he sees us.