Articles by tag: outreach

Articles by tag: outreach

    Super Regionals - The First Day

    Super Regionals - The First Day By Ethan, Evan, Tycho, Max, Jayesh, Janavi, Caitlin, Darshan, Omar, Charlotte, and Austin

    Task: Go to super regionals, set up, and present

    Way too early in the morning, on March 22nd, the Iron Reign team gathered in darkness. It was approximately 65 Farenheit and gusts around 12 mph were blowing in from the South. Under this cover of darkness, a bus pulled into our school. As the trees shivered in the wind and the stray dogs around our school howled, we boarded the bus.

    Of course, we were boarding the bus to head down to Athens, GA, to go to the South Super Regional tournament, and we hoped, to advance to Worlds. On our way there, we stopped at Sunset HS to pick up RoboBison Amistad, the other team from our school district. Then, we two teams were on our way.

    No road trip operated by DISD can ever be simple, and this one was no exception. Our coach was driving our chase vehicle AKA our robotics RV, but managed to beat us there by five hours. The team ended up being on the same bus for twenty total hours, stopping three times. Luckily, on our way down there, many of us got to see sights such as the Mississippi River for the first time.

    Finally, we arrived in Athens at 1 in the morning. Some of the team split off to sleep, while others broke off to work on the robot. But, it was late, and we all went to bed soon.

    The next, first real day of the tournament, we woke up bright and early. We were one of the first ones to have pit load-in, and we actually managed to do everything in a timely manner. Our tent that we designed was slightly bigger than we thought, but the teams neighboring us were fine with it, so everything worked out in the end. We did a little bit of preliminary scouting and talked to a few teams. We also got our robot through inspections.

    Finally, we went into judging, and it was the best presentation that we've done this year. We had two new team members added to the presentation, and we pulled it off flawlessly. As well, we added a new visual gag, with Darshan jumping out at the judges from under the cart. We got asked some very good questions that I can't remember, but the judges were generally very impressed.

    Reflections

    See Postmortem.

    South Superregionals Day Two

    South Superregionals Day Two By Max, Tycho, Omar, Jayesh, Darshan, Austin, Charlotte, Caitlin, Evan, Ethan, and Janavi

    Task: Reminisce on our first six Superregionals matches

    After a decent night's rest, we began Day Two at around 7 AM. A lot of our tools and materials were still on our RV, so we first moved them over to our pit. Our match schedule said that we'd have nine matches beginning with Match #1 (just our luck). After the...interesting Pokemon-themed opening ceremonies, we began the day with our first match.

    Match 1: Our alliance partner was Thorn's Army, and we faced Greased Lightning and Guzzoline Robotics. We lost; we didn't earn as many points in autonomous or teleop. It was our first game anyway; just a warmup. No big deal.

    Match 2: Our alliance partner was Saber Robotics, and we faced Aperture Science and The Prototypes. We lost; tied in teleop, but our autonomous didn't score as much as theirs. Warmup game #2, no big deal.

    Match 3: Our alliance partner was 4-H Rohming Robotics, and we faced Team Duct Tape and Twisted Axles. We won; even though neither of us were able to cap, we nailed our autonomous and teleop periods.

    Match 4: Our alliance partner was Static Void, and we faced East Cobb Robotics and Team CHAOS. We won; our autonomous didn't score as much (we missed a beacon and a ball), but our partner was able to cap and our combined teleop scored more.

    Match 5: Our alliance partner was LASA MurPHy, and we faced Diatomic Dingos and Blue Crew, Too. We won; our autonomous worked great and scored well, which made up for our lackluster teleop period.

    Match 6: Our alliance partner was Technical Difficulties, and we faced the Rockettes and LASA Ultra Violet. We won; once again, our autonomous worked great (we missed a ball though), we scored more particles in teleop, and our partner was able to cap. Four in a row!

    We felt pretty good about this day, since we came off of a four win streak. However, we still worked as long as we could on improving the reliability of our autonomous. Once the pits were closed, we were directed to the team social, where there was Super Smash Bros. and DJ Mickey Nightrain. It seemed like a fun time (Tycho tried his best at professional Smash), but roboticists usually aren't the type to be out on a dance floor. Jayesh is an exception because he's weird.

    As well, we were interviewed by a few groups of judges, and performed well in the interviews. We froze up a few times, but it worked out. Also, we invited some of the judges onto our RV.

    Reflections

    Even though we were able to do a lot of work this day, we're slightly disappointed in our tiredness. Even though the RoboBisons had brought an entire field with them, we didn't really think about asking them to let us use it to practice. We were very exhausted, and with a half-still-sick Mr. Virani, we think we just weren't enthused enough to stay up late and do some more work. If we had, we might've had the small bit of reliability we needed to win more matches with just our autonomous. ;-; Either way, we're proud of the work we did. Tycho did a great job driving for all the matches. Note for next year - we neeeeeeeed more than one driver. On to Day Three!

    South Superregional - Day Three

    South Superregional - Day Three By Jayesh, Tycho, Omar, Max, Darshan, Austin, Charlotte, Caitlin, Evan, Ethan, and Janavi

    Task: Reminisce on our last three Superregionals matches

    Our final competition day began with the driver team rushing to the pits because of a warning given by the game officials for the first match's teams to reach the pits earlier than expected. We reached in time, in fact about an hour before the match actually began. This mild inconvenience did give us time to formulate a strategy against our opponents, the high-scoring mechromancers.

    Match 1: Our alliance partner was Neutrinos, and we faced Mechromancers Redfish. We lost; The Neutrinos disconnected early and we had made a strategy of denying the scoring of the Mechromancers. We were relatively succesful, halving their usual scoring output, but without the expected scoring of the Neutrinos, we lost.

    Match 2: Our alliance partner was Guzzoline Robotics, and we faced Mouse Spit and Browncoats. We won a very close game, where a blocking penalty by Mouspit helped us win our closest game of the tournament.

    Match 3: Our alliance partner was KNO3, and we faced The League of Legendary Scientists and Tundrabots. We lost a 15 point game, where a miscue in our autonomous positioning proved fatal and cost us the winning points of the match.

    The match schedule we had today would be our toughest sleight of games for the entire tournament. Despite the unfortunate circumstances of the Neutrinos disconnecting early into our first match, we played decently well and had close games against our toughest competition.

    Reflections

    Our last loss ended up proving worse than anyone could've expected. In the award ceremony we figured out we were one spot on the leaderboard from advancing. Due to our aquisition of the Judge's award and our position on the leaderboard, we were named first alternate for Worlds. Unfortunate for us, we hope to do better next year.

    YouthSpark with Microsoft

    YouthSpark with Microsoft By Caitlin, Jayesh, Ethan, Evan, Charlotte, Omar, Max, Tycho, Austin, Darshan, and Janavi

    Task: Mobile Tech XPerience's appearance at the Meyerson

    The Meyerson Symphony Center hosted a Microsoft YouthSpark event this Saturday with activities from robotics to VR to 3D printing. We set up the sumo laptops up in the atrium and the 3D in the MXP outside, right next to the Perot tech van. The tech van had most of their setup outside with a smaller piece inside, and we worked pretty well in tandem. (I have it on high authority from a random girl that walked in that ours was cooler)

    Reflections

    The groups of kids coming by were spread out so we couldn't teach a group of 8 all at once like in previous experiences. Thankfully we had BigThought volunteers helping out. We couldn't have done it without the 5 of them. We ran through the presentation for them at the beginning, as we still thought that's what the plan was going to be, so they knew how to teach it after a few more pointers. Out of necessity it was basically one-on-one teaching, but that meant many of the kids got much more into it than they would have in a larger group. I had one mom comment that this was the most focused she had ever seen her daughter, and a couple of boys tweaked their program so much they ended up winning against everyone except each other. This event definitely got a lot of kids really excited about robotics, and we're hoping they'll look into a team or a club at their schools.

    Keychain modeling went smoothly, and we ended up getting all the models printed or printing before leaving, and most given to a parent or kid at the event. We got addresses for the leftover few and are planning on sending them off within a day or two. A group of friends worked on a collaberative house, one doing the rooms, one the design, one the roof. It turned into a massive house when they had to leave, and we made sure to tell the kids and the parents where to find SketchUp if they looked interested. We had a huge number of kids throughout the day and it was a great event and great group of volunteers to teach with.

    Discover Summer Resource Fair

    Discover Summer Resource Fair By Ethan, Evan, Max, Tycho, and Charlotte

    Task: Present to kids at the Discover Summer Resource Fair

    Today, we brought the MXP to the DISD Discover Summer Resource Fair. We talked to about 250 people, including the Mayor of Dallas. We helped about 50 people create and print keychains using Google Sketchup. In the front of the RV, we introduced about 200 people to Lego Robotics, and assisted them in creating sumo bots.

    The goal of this event was to inspire kids to go into STEM programs, and I believe it was a success. Several kids came up to us and asked us questions about camps, as well as how to get into STEM activities. As well, we increased visibility of the Dallas City of Learning group.

    Reflections

    These events are very good for increasing FIRST and STEM exposure in local communities, and we will continue doing them in the future. As well, we need to work on accommodating more people in a limited space.

    Turn Up! 2017 at Frontiers of Flight

    Turn Up! 2017 at Frontiers of Flight By Janavi, Jayesh, Caitlin, Tycho, Omar, Evan, Charlotte, Ethan, and Darshan

    Task:

    Each year the Frontiers of Flight Museum hosts the Turn Up!, an event that contains STEM exhibits and demonstration to teach kids about the wonders of Science and Math. We brought the Mobile XPerience (MXP) complete with laptops, 3D printers, and LEGO SumoBot to help teach. Outside the RV we had laptops set up where we taught kids how to code EV3 sumo bots and battle them , we also taught kids how to create their own key chains on SketchUp and 3-D print them. Inside the RV we had more SketchUp latops set up as well as the educational Minecraft servers where the kids could learn how to build structures. As well, we demonstrated our FTC competition robot and Argos by driving them around the museum we got younger kids excited about robotics by giving them balls and letting them "feed" the robot.

    Reflections

    Going to event like the Dallas Love Field turn up allows us to introduce kids to the wonders of STEM and robotics and help prepare them for their futures from an early age. Helping introduce our community to STEM career is a really integral part of this team and we hope to inspire many more youths through programs like this.

    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.

    REV Robot Reveal

    REV Robot Reveal By Tycho, Austin, Charlotte, Omar, Evan, and Janavi

    Argos V2 - a REV Robot Reveal

    This video was pulled from Argos visits to: The NSTA STEM Expo in Kissimmee FL, in the path of eclipse totality in Tennessee, and in North Texas at The Dallas Makerspace, The Southwest Center Mall, Southside on Lamar and the Frontiers of Flight Museum. We hope you find it interesting:

    FTC Kickoff and First Meet

    FTC Kickoff and First Meet By Ethan, Abhi, Kenna, Austin, Karina, Tycho, and Evan

    Task: View FTC Kickoff and plan for the year

    Welcome to FTC Relic Recovery! For those who don't know, this year's challenge is archeology themed, and it certainly will be a challenge. The goal of this challenge is to stack 6X6 in blocks (glyphs) in certain patterns to gain as many points as possible. The are also side challenges such as balancing the robot and hitting a specific field element to gain points. Due to the vast number of methods to score points, a robot must contain multiple mechanisms which are extremely accurate as well as quick.

    Upon arrival to Williams High School in Plano, TX for the Dallas region kickoff, we quickly amazed. When the regional director, Patrick Michaud, asked the audience how many rookie teams there were, we were mesmerized by the number of hands that went up. Though the FTC organization was already very large, we noticed that the FIRST spirit and ideals of Gracious Professionalism were rapidly spreading to aspiring students of the North Texas region. This is very inspiring for both veterans and rookies because we need to work more closely than ever to mentor one another for our success in the 2017-2018 challenge.

    Back to the actual game, before the game reveal, Dr. Michaud introduced the expanded compatibility for different kits and tools for this year's competition. REV robotics was present at the event and discussed their new sets of PDM's as well as new servos, etc. REV kits stuck out to us as we felt the Modern Robotics system, though did it job, had some issues. We hope to implement more REV parts this year for more accurate and efficient parts. Another change we noticed was a new set of smartphones as driver stations/robot controllers, the Motorola Moto phones. We, however, will continue to use ZTE and Samsung Galaxy S5 phones.

    All teams were eagerly sitting on the edges of their seats while waiting for the 11AM official reveal of the challenge. Something unique we noticed for this year's reveal video was that there was a skit performed. We found this as enjoyable though we were all waiting for the official animation. Upon completion of the animation video, the field was unraveled and all teams were allowed to access the field and field elements. While doing so, we took note of some complications that we could run into. First, we noticed that the balancing stones had about a 2 centimeter height jump from the ground to their tops. This would mean that our robot would need to drive onto the platform which was at an elevation and then balance. Second, we noticed that the space in which the blocks needed to be placed was very tight. This means that if the robot is not very precise, it could risk the loss of valuble points and time. Lastly, we noticed that the furthest zone for placing the relics was a relatively long way away. Since the robot cannot touch the ground outside the field, this could create some complications, especially if we want to place both relics.

    Taking these ideas back to the house, we put our minds together to identify a basic robot design. At kickoff, we noticed that the glyphs felt like the same material that the floor tiles were made of. Upon noticing this, we created a make-shift glyph to prototype with.

    Upon discussion of our plans for this year, we decided to strip apart the past two years' bots apart to their elementary parts. We decided to take the 2015 bot apart completely and we isolated the mechanum base of the 2016 bot (Juggernaut). We decided that a mechanum base would be best for this year's competition due to easy maneuverability.

    Reflections

    We're in for a hard time this year, but we'll have a solid bot. We're a little worried about the glyph-picker mechanism though, and we'll have to decide that in the next few meetings. Through the prototyping of the two intake and deposition systems, we hope to identify our design by the next couple of weeks.

    MXP at Conrad HS

    MXP at Conrad HS By Ethan, Evan, Karina, Tycho, Austin, Charlotte, and Kenna

    Sharing STEM opportinities with kids and their families at Conrad HS

    Today, we brought the Dallas City of Learning MXP to Conrad High School to support Dallas ISD's parent outreach fair call PrepU Super Saturday. The focus for this Super Saturday was making parents aware of extracurricular activities available to their students in DISD. So this was a perfect event to let parents know about the robotics programs available in Dallas ISD, including Jr. FLL, FLL, FRC and FTC. The DallasISD STEM Departments was also there and since they are responsible for curating the robotics programs across the school district, we sent parents who wanted to know more over to them.

    Activities

    Up in the front, we started a MinecraftEDU server and had 3 computers decicated to playing it for younger kids. On the other side, we had set up computers to program EV3s for sumobots. In the back, we ran Google Sketchup on the computers to teach kids how to make keychains and other trinkets using 3D modelling and printing. Our back setup includes 4 FlashForge 3D printers, donated to us by Best Buy.

    Today we presented to somewhere around 420-450 people. The MXP was ridiculously crowded at some points, up to 25 people aboard the MXP at some points. We handed out flyers about FIRST to people who visited the table next to our MXP as well, with some significant interest. About 50 keychains were completed and printed - the photo above is Austin holding our printing backlog. Almost all of them were picked up, but we weren't able to print the last 10 or so designs.

    Today was a very successful day for the MXP, and we'll break our record of people talked to easily if we keep this up. We have future deployments planned soon including another Super Saturday next weekend.

    MXP Event at LV Stockard Middle School

    MXP Event at LV Stockard Middle School By Charlotte, Kenna, Tycho, and Austin

    STEM education for children and their parents at a DISD event

    Earlier this morning, we drove the Mobile Tech Experience RV to LV Stockard Middle School and participated in a DISD event. We served around 250 kids, ages ranging from preschool to middle school. The morning started off slow, but as the day went on, the MXP became more and more crowded. Our spot was near the food and snack area, so lots of families came through after getting breakfast or lunch. We had a sumo field set up outside the vehicle and many people would stop to watch the robots fight, who we would then invite onto the vehicle and teach them how to program these robots themselves.

    Like our previous event at Conrad High School, this DISD event was purposed to help kids discover activities that they may enjoy and want to do as an extracurricular. This was a great opportunity to spark interest in STEM in these kids and we answered any questions about who our team is and how they can join or start a robotics team at their school.  The kids rushed in in groups and were very excited to get started with the activities that we provide. A highlight of this specific event was a group of young folklorico dancers who came to learn 3D modeling, as seen above. When a group such as that comes in, it both forces and allows us to practice our teaching skills. Instead of teaching individually, we show the kids how to 3D design step-by-step on a large tv screen donated to us by Big Thought.

    This rush of people happens at a lot of events that we cater, and these rushes can get very chaotic, but as a team we agree that it is this chaos that is the most fulfilling once the event ends. Being able to teach these kids and see their faces once they have accomplished something using the knowledge that they just acquired is the most gratifying part of serving on the Mobile Tech Experience.

    DISD Coaches' Training

    DISD Coaches' Training By Ethan, Abhi, Kenna, and Tycho

    Task: Present at the DISD Coaches' Training

    On Monday, we went to the DISD Coaches' Meeting in order to present our robot to the FIRST DISD coordinator and other coaches in the district. This presentation was one of the reasons we got our robot working so quickly. During the presentation our coach talked with other coaches and the coordinator about funding and tounaments, while we presented in the back and demonstrated our robot and the REV expansion hubs. We also answered questions about coding and design.

    Reflections

    These presentations are extremely helpful to get our team's name out in the North Texas community, as well as secure funding for our team. They also assist our team in that we can exchange design ideas with coaches at events like these.

    MXP at UTA

    MXP at UTA By Kenna, Abhi, Austin, Charlotte, Ethan, and Janavi

    MXP at UTA

    Today, we brought the Dallas City of Learning MXP (Mobile Learning Lab) to 4H’s Youth Technology Explosion in coordination with the Black Society of Engineers. Our role in this event was to offer a hands on experience for those interested in a career in engineering. We usually have three different activities: MinecraftEDU, Sumo Robotics, and CAD Keychains. MinecraftEDU runs on three computers for younger kids while six computers run LEGO Mindstorms EV3. We use Mindstorms to help people code their own robot which, once coded, will battle other robots in a sumo ring.

    Unlike most events we attend, the participants were mostly high schoolers so there was a much greater interest in the 3D modeling software (as opposed to MinecraftEDU or sumo robotics). Only about 80 people came into the MXP but in very large groups at once so we switched from helping everyone individually to presenting on the TV. We walked them through designing their own keychain on SketchUp, then printed it using FlashForge 3D Printers donated to us by BestBuy. Helping people learn CAD gives us the unique opportunity to foster interest in a valuable skill on a program that anyone with internet has access to. The best part by far is giving people their printed keychains, as seen above.

    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 Scrimmage

    DISD Scrimmage By Charlotte, Janavi, Ethan, Evan, Tycho, Austin, Karina, Kenna, and Abhi

    Task: Run and compete at the DISD Scrimmage

    Today we helped run and participated in a scrimmage at the Davis Ellis Field House. Iron Reign will be hosting a qualifier in December at Townview, our home school. This scrimmage served as a practice for the preparation and execution of an FTC event. We were able to learn the best way to assemble the field, run the scoring and game software, and properly announce rounds and other information teams may need. As we should, we set up an inspection table where members of our team used the FTC approved inspection checklist to properly assess the robots of other teams along with our own robot. This is a skill that we will need to use when performing inspections during our qualifier. Additionally, we had to figure the software required to run the audio behind matches and fill in the scoring data, and having done this now will save us a lot of time during the qualifier that we are going to host.

    We also learned how important it is to create an itinerary for your team and try to keep everyone moving at the needed pace. During this scrimmage we were only able to complete 8 out of 12 matches due to this being some teams first match ever and some issues with teams not arriving, or not having been registered beforehand. But this provided us with a great experience and lots of information, we will take all of the things we learned after helping run this scrimmage and apply it to the qualifier we are hosting in December.

    This scrimmage was our second of the season, and while part of the team was focused on announcing, scoring, and field setup, the others worked on improving the robot and pinpointing key issues to solve before our first qualifier this Saturday the 11th at Greenhill. Also, the drive team got the necessary practice for skills that they need for upcoming competitions, like setting up WiFi direct connections between our phones and recognizing when batteries had low or sufficient voltages, skills that don’t seem very difficult but are very important for those working hands-on the robot during competitions. Also, with the removal of the “wiggle test” this year, we have to adapt and become very prepared before each match so that we can make the smooth transition that is required from autonomous period to tele-op. Although we have spent a lot of time doing drive practice on the field that we were gifted, driving under pressure in a competitive environment with other teams in our district is when we are able to decipher the most prominent problems with our robot. An example of this is our autonomous program: running it seems like second nature when we are practicing alone, but when we are with other teams there are more factors to consider, like whether our autonomous program is compatible with theirs, etc. Scrimmages are a perfect opportunity to figure out what issues we have and how to solve them, and this time we were also able to get the practice we so needed running an FTC qualifier.

    Relic Recovery Strategy Part 1

    Relic Recovery Strategy Part 1 By Austin

    Task: Determine building strategy for Relic Recovery

    Any well-versed team understands that, depending on the competition for the year, a robot will either be modified to compete or be built from the ground up. In any case, however, a robot often starts at its chassis, and teams have multiple companies that provide solutions to the common robot chassis’ needs and specifications. To name a few: AndyMark® has its standard kits that include all the parts and electronics needed to build a very basic frame that includes a few mounting points for the rest of the robot’s components, Tetrix has its standard kit that provides all the parts for an entire robot if used properly (however, we’ve discovered drawbacks to be mentioned later), and even REV has thrown its hat in the ring with new motor and battery types to add to the highly adjustable REV rail chassis kits. For rookie teams there is no lack of options for starting your robot chassis. However, as a team gains experience they find the flaws that come with each kit and move towards creating robots that harness equal amounts of parts from all companies. Here’s what we’ve learned about each company:

    AndyMark: overall, AndyMark is a great supplier for all the standard parts you’ll need, however we wouldn’t recommend buying their overall chassis kits because they can be on the pricier side and come with few replacement parts and too many unnecessary parts. Most of our gears, wheels, pulleys, motors, and batteries come from AndyMark in batches of parts that we keep on hand to prototype with or replace failing parts. This keeps us from paying for parts we don’t need and having what we do need on hand. The overall quality of their parts is high, but they do decay quicker with use, especially when running the robot at multiple competitions without proper repair time.

    Tetrix: Tetrix is highly standardized in all dimensions, making the connections between parts easy to grasp for basic builders who haven’t developed a mental 3D idea of what they’re working towards. Tetrix kits don’t include electronics. However, their brackets, channels, and joints are very useful for making connections between various components of your robot, so keep plenty on hand for quick fixes and prototyping. Our biggest concern with tetrix are their designated nuts; we find that they often are shaken completely off respective bolts, which can lead to mechanical failure and penalties. To combat the issue of robots quite literally shaking themselves apart, we recommend using nyloc nuts. They have a small amount of nylon in them that grips the threads of bolts making them almost immovable without a pair of pliers.

    Rev: Iron reign loves our Rev rails. The ability to have a mounting point at any incident on a bar is amazing, and often allows us to pull off the crazy designs we create. Rev has created a system that is beyond flexible, meaning that the limits of your designs have expanded. For those who want a chassis that is easily maneuverable, Rev rail is extremely light as well. While Rev is expanding into providing parts like AndyMark, we find that they are still in development but we eagerly await upgrades.

    Overall, Iron Reign wanted a robot chassis that was stable, maneuverable, and modular to our needs, so this is our compromise that we’ve applied to all aspects of our robot;

    - AndyMark FRC Standard Omni-Wheels: we chose these because of their dependability and maneuverability. They provide standard motion as well as strafing for fine-tuning movements in front of cryptoboxes. While we had to print custom mounts, and modify tetrix channels for the necessary axels, the wheels pared nicely with the rest of our components once mounted.
    - Rev Rail: our entire upper chassis is made from interconnected Rev Rails that serve as a smooth, easily adjustable, and light support for the massive omni wheels that rest below it. The rails provide plenty of room for future expansion, and can take quite a beating (we learned this the hard way by dropping our robot off a table).
    - Tetrix Channels and Brackets: these are the middle men, the parts we change to fit those awkward angles and fittings, such as the axels for our wheels. Overall never a bad idea to have extras on hand.
    - Hardware: we always use standard hardware sizes, but we make sure that the corresponding components are snug fitting and streamlined to minimize unnecessary snags and sharp edges.

    While these are the typical components that make an Iron Reign base, we have seen other teams get extremely creative with raw material, although this usually requires heavy machinery such as laser cutters and lathes. Overall, we are a team that uses what companies provide and modify it to fit our needs (which has worked well for the past years of competition.) For smaller start up teams we recommend a similar approach of learning each system and its advantages over the course of multiple years, and finding what you feel works best for your needs.

    Qualifier Preparation

    Qualifier Preparation By Kenna, Abhi, Karina, Charlotte, Tycho, Janavi, Ethan, Austin, and Jayesh

    Townview Prep Pic

    We have been preparing to host our own qualifier since November when we hosted a DISD Scrimmage. Now we have to prepare our school for 26 teams to compete tomorrow. Most of our team was there to help construct the fields. The highlight of my Friday night was dragging assorted metal chairs across the cafeteria, only to be told we only wanted to use the black chairs and spending 2x longer than needed to make our audience seating. However, we were lucky enough get lots of help from our friends in DISD, Townview, and FTC Team 7172, which eased my chair-sorting pain. Our team has made several fields together and should have been more efficient in communicating and managing our time. But that is something to learn and improve on next time. In the end, however, it went smoothly because there was lots of teamwork between 6832 and Townview volunteers once everyone had time to figure out how to best assemble the field.

    The main point we'd like to drive home is that you *really* have to consider logistics when setting up a tournament. While you'll consider all the big things before the final day, such as making maps, printing flyers, and placing fields; some of the smaller items can be ignored. A prime example is that we put off figuring out the judging room locations and had to figure that out; another example that we forgot to do is have a pit organization. It would have majorly helped had we organized the pit by team number or some other order for queueing, or at least had made a map of teams beforehand.

    DISD STEM Expo Preparation

    DISD STEM Expo Preparation By Charlotte

    Task: Prepare for DISD STEM Expo

    Next Saturday, Iron Reign will be participating in the DISD STEM Expo for our second year. As we did last year, we are bringing our Mobile Learning Experience to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center and will serve children in our community to spark an interest in STEM fields and learning. Dallas City of Learning, the non-profit that schedules the Mobile Learning Experience, runs a featured exhibit in the expo, so we expect lots of traffic to our vehicle. Additionally, we have partnered with Best Buy, who is providing 12 volunteers including store employees and geek squad members to work with us on the vehicle. This will be immensely helpful as these extra sets of hands will allow for more kids to be served.

    For our presentation, we are going to have the usual two components, sumo robots and 3D printed keychains. We will teach the kids how to program our pre-built Lego sumo robots in Lego Mindstorms, the same program used in FLL. This is usually our best opportunity to promote First and tell families of kids who enjoyed working with the robots how they can start a team or join an existing one. Also, on our vehicle we have four functional 3D printers and plenty of laptops with Google SketchUp pre-installed, and with these we teach kids how to design and print their very own keychain with their names on it or anything else they would like. Because of our extra volunteers and the size of the event, we expect to have lots of kids coming through our vehicle and participating in these activities.

    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.

    How to Make a Robotics Team in 7 Easy Steps!

    How to Make a Robotics Team in 7 Easy Steps! By Janavi

    Task:

    So you want to make a robotics team? No fear! We'll show you how to in 7 easy steps!

    Step 1: Find Support Resources
    First(get it), familiarize yourself with the FIRST Robotics Competition. Then locate your region’s Regional Director or FIRST Senior Mentor. These people know the FIRST teams, participating schools, and FIRST-friendly businesses in your area. He or she can help you form a plan for getting your team funded, organized, and in touch with other teams in the area.

    Step 2: Enlist Coaches & Mentors
    Each team needs at least one adult Mentor with technical expertise that is willing and motivated to “coach” the team through the build and competition season (and beyond). Also highly recommended are two or more other adults to help with administration, fundraising, community outreach, and other tasks.

    Step 3: Register and Pay
    You can register and create your team on FIRST's website. All coaches and members should create their own FIRST account, register to your team, and sign their consent & release form. They estimate cost per season for rookie teams to be around $2,250, including robot kit, event registraton, travel fees, and more. Registration fees themselves, however, are $275.

    Step 4: Build your team
    Find and invite at least 10 students who want to be part of a robotics team (the easiest part!). Be sure to emphasize that no technical skills are required, just enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. Recruit all kinds of talents, not just engineering and electronics.

    Step 5: Raise funds
    Your team will need a steady supply of funds. Recruit local businesses to sponsor you. Many of them may already have a relationship with FIRST. Grants are available for both rookie and underserved teams.

    Step 6: Learn about safety
    At FIRST, student safety is always paramount. Every adult must become familiar with the Youth Protection Program (YPP). Take the time to watch the videos and read the materials. OSHA also has a 10-hour safety certification that can be completed online.

    Step 7: Time to Build Robots!
    Part of the fun is designing and building your robot; FIRST provides a wealth of information in their Resource Library to help you. Find everything from technical guides to fundraising ideas to fun activities for your team.

    Reflections

    Often when we participate in outreach events with the Mobile Tech Lab, we get questions from students and parents alike about how to start their own robotics team in their community, school, etc. It is hard to try and explain the steps as well as direct them to the FTC website in memorable way. So, we created this easy-to-read checklist to hand out while at outreach events. We're so exited to be able to get other kids just like us involved in Robotics. Robotics has changed all of our lives for the better, without robotics many of us wouldn't have gotten to experience working with technology let alone at the level that we are now.

    Helping Other Teams

    Helping Other Teams By Austin and Tycho

    Task: Help a rookie FTC team

    In the week before the Wylie east north Texas qualifier, Iron Reign was going about our normal development schedule when we received a request for assistance from a smaller startup team, team 13376 Cyber Wolves, that had jettisoned from an FRC team to compete in FTC. On one of our regularly scheduled nights, which actually ended up being the night before competition day, they arrived at Iron Reign’s headquarters with all of their gear and teammates in one car. They had brought two smaller robots with simple degrees of freedom and no code. The coaches also had numerous questions about how the competition would ebb and flow.

    Tycho diverted from his normal autonomous coding to assist the teams coders in polishing up their control scheme and the robot was worked on by their builders, who asked for assistance and general information from our build team that was keeping to its rhythm. While their lack of resources led to a lackluster performance at the actual qualifier, they shone through and were excited to build their reserves and team for next year's competition. We were ecstatic to help an up and coming team when we got the chance, and would offer the same kind of support to any team that comes knocking.

    You can contact us at ironreignrobotics@gmail.com!

    DISD STEM Fair

    DISD STEM Fair By Kenna, Tycho, Evan, Ethan, Charlotte, Karina, Abhi, Janavi, and Austin


    DISD STEM Fair was one of our busiest events, but it was also one of our least chaotic. Our team has trouble turning anyone away because we want to introduce as many people as possible to STEM, but letting everyone onto the MXP usually results in more stress and less efficiency because it becomes so crowded. This time we implemented some of the improvements we had been discussing for the past few weeks like a keychain waiting list and regulating entrance to the MXP. We were able to reach 400 students with our three activities and spoke to over 1500 parents and students. We had the opportunity to set up a field and demo our competition bot for everyone there, including some FLL and FTC teams, which is something we don't usually get to do. A lot of kids actually got to drive the robot, as seen below.


    We offer two activities on the Mobile Learning Experience(MXP):3D Modeling & Printing and EV3 Lego Bots.



    Using laptops, presentation monitors, and 3D printers donated to us by Best Buy, we teach students how to design and print their own keychain. We use SketchUp, a free 3D modeling program by Google, because our hope is that if we teach people the basics they can go home and use SketchUp themselves. They learn the basic functions of CAD, such as the push/pull tool, shape tool, and 3D text. We had lots of people express interest in SketchUp for their kids or students. The highlight of my day was seeing kids who had been taught SketchUp helping those who were still building their keychain.




    With our EV3 kits, we help everyone code their own robot and battle it against other bots. Most of the time, it's someone's first interaction with code so what they are coding is fairly basic. The simple code gives them a real taste of programming in a way they can understand.

    Among our sponsors that make our outreach possible is BigThought. They help us with the costs of maintaining the MXP as well as staffing. What we do would not be possible without them. During this event, the CEO of BigThought was able to tour the MXP and see what we do to further interest and ability in STEM for young students.

    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.