Articles by tag: outreach

Articles by tag: outreach

    Fort Worth Maker Fest

    Fort Worth Maker Fest By Jayesh, Omar, Max, Tycho, Caitlin, Darshan, Evan, Ethan, and Austin

    Task: Show both adults and children benefits of robotics and past work of the team

    Iron Reign was invited to present at the annual Fort Worth Maker Fest at the city's Museum of Science. We spent the day showing off our competition bots and other robots that we have created over the years. People were especially interested in our innovation with climbing the mountain and using simple every day objects like tape measures to carry our huge and heavy robot up several feet. We were approached by multiple adults with robotics experience, even one of our previous judges, and were told of how they were impressed with our level of expertise. We also fascinated multiple children with the robotics, with their enthusiasm in trying out the bot in a few mini games and seeing our other robots, such as the balancing robot, hopefully opened their eyes up to possibly pursuing STEM careers in their futures.

    Reflections

    Our opportunity at the Maker Fest to present to multiple generations of passers-by helped us appreciate the level of robotics knowledge and technique that we have acquired over the years, both as individuals and as a group. To be praised by both professionals in the field and see the level of interest we imparted to multiple children, we recognized that what we have done and will continue doing has meaning, not just for us, but for our community. We had some fun adventures at the museum, including an intense discussion of the DC and Marvel Universes with a few of our booth neighbours and balancing Kibosh on a hover board while attempting to steer(future content incoming).

    Robot On a Hoverboard - Try 1

    Robot On a Hoverboard - Try 1 By Caitlin, Max, Tycho, Darshan, Omar, Evan, Ethan, and Jayesh

    Task: Try to drive the hoverboard with the competition bot

    In the middle of Saturday's event we decided it would be a GREAT idea to put the competiton robot on the hoverboard and try to drive it around. Theoretically if we got it centered correctly it could only drive forward and backwards. We could extend the cliff hanger to move our center of gravity forwards, and then retract to bring it back.

    Reflections

    We were able to make the board speed up by tilting the cliff-hanger out and extending it, but we couldn't control it enough to completely stop it or keep it steady. We believe that the robot frame isn't completely rigid and is torquing at the center, making the robot unbalanced left/right. Since it's only slightly off balance we can't really adjust it by hand. It seems doomed to drive in circles forever. We tried to turn the robot to a correct alignment by driving with the main treads a little, but the change in center of gravity was too dramatic. The robot quickly veered into Evan, who was sitting nearby.

    Day 2 of iMake

    Day 2 of iMake By Caitlin, Max, Tycho, and Omar

    Task: Continue presenting at iMake

    Day 1 was a huge success, and we carried that over into the Sunday presentations too. There were a lot of common questions we noticed from Saturday, including levels of robotics competitions and the LEGO EV3 system, and we were able to answer these with more clarity after hearing them so often. A few papers were set up on our table outlining the various FIRST competition levels. These helped us easily reference the multiple acronyms FIRST uses for everything, which can be confusing to anyone who hasn't known and competed under them since they were 11 years old.

    Reflections

    Like Saturday, we interacted with what felt like a constant stream of people. Many were families with kids in elementary and middle school with varying experience in robotics. Some kids had competed in FLL or knew those who had, while others hadn't heard of the systems before. The balancing bot "Gyro Boy" was a good attention grabber when the main FTC bot wasn't doing anything, and it was helpful to compare the two, how Gyro Boy used graphical programming and was completely autonomous, while the main bot used a text language but was controlled by a driver. This almost immediately prompted the kids to ask if they could drive, and Omar showed them the ropes. Younger kids were only shown the drive controls, while the older ones could be taught some of the more interesting tape measure commands. Since the hand was still taped onto the cliff hook many took the opportunity to wave to their siblings and gave high fives to anyone near. However, the robot seemed to be disconnecting more often than it had Saturday, and was hidden to the side so it wouldn't be asked about.

    When we brought out Argos, the color following robot, it seemed like every other volunteer took a minute or two to pick up the target and watch the camera follow the movements. Tycho, Max, and Omar traded off on the controls and occasionally let Argos drive too, in order to show how he could back up when too close, and catch up when lagging. It had taken us the beginning of the day to fix the phone mount, but the extra effort was definitely worth it. However unwieldy Argos may be (he is definitely suited to outdoor/large open area events) he is definitely a crowd pleaser.

    Sumobot Tips and Tricks

    Sumobot Tips and Tricks By Tycho

    Let's assume you are building a LEGO Mindstorms or Vex IQ based Sumobot, but you want to skip some of the basic mistakes beginners will make. Here are some tips and tricks.

    • Know the rules. It's silly to get disqualified because you didn't pay attention to the rules. Know the size and weight limits. Know the allowed construction materials and techniques. Know the startup behaviors. For example, your robot must not move for 5 seconds after you activate it. This simple rule has tripped up many competitors. And make sure you get to the competition on time to register and get your robot inspected for weight, size and any other requirements.
    • Stay on the field. For this you will almost certainly need at least one light sensor to detect the ring's white edge. We highly recommend two such light sensors placed at the front corners of your robot. This will increase your chances of detecting the edge when coming at it from an angle. You can also adjust your retreat behavior so the robot will be less likely to exit the ring. A retreat behavior usually consists of backing up and turning back toward the center of the ring or scanning for your opponent. You can back up curving away from the sensor that detected the edge first. A third edge detector could be placed at the back of your robot - but this is almost never needed. It would be only useful if you have a behavior that could trigger backing up when the rear of your robot is close to the edge. Theoretically you could detect the edge when being pushed backward by your opponent and try to twist out of the way, but we've never witnessed anyone pulling off this advanced behavior.
    • Build to the maximum weight for the competition. If your bot is heavier than your competitor's, you will have an advantage in traction and with inertia. You will be harder to push around and can more likely push them around. We've seen teams use extra unpowered motors to help maximize weight. Use a scale to be sure you don't exceed the allowed weight.
    • Build compact. Your robot should be as small and dense as possible. Air gaps within your robot and on the exterior should be kept to a minimum. The larger your robot is, the more likely that your opponent will contact a part of your robot far from its center of mass. When it pushes against this part, it will very easily turn your robot in a different direction. Most likely this will be to your disadvantage. You will also be very unlikely to push your opponent in the correct direction when in this condition. Also, the rules say that the first robot to have any part touch the surface that the ring is sitting on is out. If you have a large robot, it is much more likely that part of it will touch-out.
    • Build Low. The lower your center of gravity, the less likely your opponent will be able to topple you or force your wheels to lose traction.
    • Build a Skirt or Shield. A Sumo Shield is a smooth ramp that decends from the front of your robot down to the surface of the ring. The purpose is to create a wedge that will go under your opponent when you come into contact. The wedge will lift your opponent, transferring their weight to your robot. As a result your wheels can increase traction while theirs will decrease. A skirt is a shield that surrounds your entire robot, making it look like a cone or pyramid, so it works wherever the contact point is. But a skirt can be much harder to engineer. They have to be very sturdy, not impede your own movement, and not get in the way of any sensors you might use. Skirts and Shields also increase the size of your robot, so you have more risk of touching-out. Particularly if you have a hinged shield. Hinged shields are great for staying as low as possible to get under your opponent, but they need to be prevented from dropping down when over the edge of the ring. A floating skirt is a wall built around your robot that is only loosely connected or not connected at all to your robot. Instead your robot pushes the skirt around the ring and the skirt's weight keeps it flat against the floor. This makes it unlikely that your robot's motions will create a gap that your opponent can get under. And if your opponent does get under the skirt, they haven't necessarily started lifting your robot to steal traction. You could also have a sensor that detects if your skirt is lifting and back away when that happens.

    We've seen well-engineered robots with only edge sensors win big competitions. A solid, heavy and low robot with a great skirt will conquer when none of its opponents has the same features. Once you are in this category you can consider advanced tips.

    • Locate your prey. Actively seeking your opponent creates an advantage. It's also fun. Usually a forward-facing ultrasonic sensor is a good choice. You can scan for your opponent by making your robot turn in place while checking the sensor to see if it detects something close. Calculate the maximum distance your opponent can be from your ultrasonic sensor. Simply place your robot backed up to the edge of the ring and measure the distance from the front of your ultrasonic sensor to the opposite edge of the ring. Subtract the minimum size of an opposing robot. For LEGO sumos that would be about 6 in. or 15 cm. If you see anything closer than this you can assume that you've detected your opponent. (Or you've detected humans if you've failed to keep everyone at a proper clearing distance from the ring, including the operators) Continue your turn for a fraction of a second and turn on your charging behavior. Make sure you are aware of the minimum distance your sensor can deal with. You will probably want to recess your sensor from the front of your robot so that it will continue to register your opponent even when you are right up against each other.
    • Organize your software. Beginners will often design software that will do one thing at a time and be unable to react until those things are complete. For example, on detecting an opponent, charge for X rotations of the wheel. While the robot is trying to complete those rotations it's not looking at sensors, so it doesn't detect the ring and drives off if it was too close to the edge. We will post a complete lesson on designing software that always lets the highest priority behaviors (back-away-from-the-edge) interrupt the lower priority behaviors (scan-for-prey).

    LEGO (Plastic Fastener) SUMO Workshop and Competition, Coming April 24th and May 14th

    LEGO (Plastic Fastener) SUMO Workshop and Competition, Coming April 24th and May 14th By Tycho

    LEGO Sumo returns with a free Sumo Workshop on Sunday April 24th followed by the Dallas Personal Robotics Group's Roborama Sumobot competition at the Dallas Makerspace on May 14th.

    Here's what the competition looks like:

    A basic sumobot is a simple build. Here is an example to get you started: http://nxtprograms.com/mini_sumo/steps.html

    If you have multiple NXTs or EV3s, then your team could make multiple sumobots. Typically 1, 2 or 3 students will work together on a sumobot entry. Start by making your robot charge forward while staying in the ring. If you get that working take the next step and add an ultrasonic to hunt your opponent. Plastic Fastener (LEGO or VexIQ) Sumobots need to fit within a 1 foot square footprint and weigh under 1200 grams. Full rules can be found here: https://dprgblog.wordpress.com/rules/

    Teams are also encouraged to consider the novice line-following competition in the same rules document. Students compete in Roborama for free. Prizes include full robot kits. There is room for only 40 sumo robots, so please register soon: https://dprgblog.wordpress.com/pre-registration/

    Come to the Sumobot Workshop Sunday April 24th from noon to 4pm at the Dallas Makerspace. DPRG members and members of FTC Team Iron Reign will be hosting an open sumo workshop at the Dallas Makerspace in Carrollton (map). Bring your sumobot, parts and laptop and you will find help with build and programming. Sumo rings will be provided. Line following help will also be available. An adult needs to accompany and remain with each team of students - this is not a drop-off activity, but parents can tour the Makerspace. If you can't make the workshop, at least check out our Sumobot Tips and Tricks. Add to calendar

    And don't forget the competition itself on Saturday May 14th from 10am to 4pm: https://dprgblog.wordpress.com/

    Mobile Learning Lab Part 1 - Demolition

    Mobile Learning Lab Part 1 - Demolition By Evan, Max, Tycho, and Austin

    Task: Redo the inside of the recreational vehicle

    Mr.Virani recently aquired an RV so it could be used as a mobile learning center for the Dallas City of Learning this summer. To convert it from someplace you might live on a long road trip to somewhere you could teach science and technology to children means stripping out carpeting, removing walls, and laying down easily cleanable floors and standing height work benches. We also have to put in a lot of computer equipment and 3D printers that Big Thought is providing. It's going to be a long proccess.

    Max and Tycho have completed a lot of demolition. They've removed the bed revealing a strange trap door that we need to look under. The table and chairs are gone as are some of the cabinets. The sofa was metal framed and too big to move out of the door or windows, so they had to cut it apart with bolt cutters and grinders. They ripped out most of the bathroom relying on the big sawzall. The mess of remaining plumbing and exposed electrical wiring looks very scary. And the pile of demoed materials has already grown quite a large:

    Dallas City of Learning

    Dallas City of Learning By Ethan, Evan, Jayesh, Omar, Caitlin, Max, and Tycho

    Task: Teaching children how to use robots

    On 18 June, we went to the J. Erik Jonsson Library to inspire children to hopefully go into STEM-related careers. We were invited for their annual City of Learning event. We talked to about 200 people about robotics and most loved it - especially children. We showed them Minion, Argos, the ball-flipper, and Geb (the new name for our FTC bot).

    We presented alongside a kids' robotics sponsor and Polyprinter.

    Reflections

    We got a good amount of people and got a good amount of kids interested in our robots. It was fun to talk with the other vendors at the fair, interested parents, and hobbyists.

    Mobile Learning Lab Part 2 - Roof

    Mobile Learning Lab Part 2 - Roof By Tycho, Max, Matthew, and Austin

    Task: Clean the roof of the RV

    We'd noticed that the roof was very grimey looking from the small strip you could see at the top of the side walls, but we hadn't been up there to look at it. Finally climbing the ladder we confirmed it. The roof is a very dark brown. We believe it is simply dirt that has caked into the sticky/gummy surface. It's probably not supposed to be so sticky - it kind of seems like a layer of decaying caulk laid over the rubber roof. We confirmed that this layer should be white. It covers the black EPDM rubber roof that serves as a weather barrier. Because the roof is so dark, it absorbs tons of sunlight, making it much hotter inside. We needed to clean it.

    So we spent today powerwashing the roof. In the morning Matthew (from SEM's FRC team) came over with his father's power washer and we got about 1/2 of the roof partially clean. When Matthew had to leave at noon, Mr. Virani purchased another more powerful washer and we continued washing until dark. Austin, from the other FTC team at our school joined us in the early afternoon. So now all three robotics teams at SEM have contributed time to the mobile learning lab.

    Here you can see the dramatic difference that powerwashing has made. We hope this will cool the vehicle enough that we can operate with only the roof airconditioners so we can turn off the main engine while on station.

    Mobile Learning Lab Part 3 - Flooring

    Mobile Learning Lab Part 3 - Flooring By Evan, Max, Tycho, Dylan, Ethan, Caitlin, Darshan, and Austin

    Carpet ripping is not fun. The carpet is tacked down with so many staples that is is not easy to remove. It tends to rip around the stables leaving nubs of fibers and then we have to attack the stables with pliers and staple pullers. Getting it out from under the edges of walls and the slide out is really hard. And we've gouged the subfloor where removing the old kitchen and bathroom vinyl required heavy work with scrapers. We tried putting down some vinyl planks, and those are much tougher to work with than you might guess. We only got a small portion of the floor demoed today. It's kind of daunting how much work this is. In the end it will be all worth it because we will have provided a place for children to learn skills that will help them in their future working lives.

    Mobile Learning Lab Part 4 - Update

    Mobile Learning Lab Part 4 - Update By Ethan, Max, Tycho, Caitlin, Jayesh, Darshan, Austin, Matthew, Evan, Dylan, Omar, and Trace

    Task: Covert a 1998 RV into the Dallas City of Learning Lab

    The RV exterior


    We have finished the majority of the renovation of the Dallas City of Learning Lab. We've finished rebuilding the roof, going throught the plumbing (including the suspiciously secretive water tank), and also replacing the entirety of the flooring.

    to

    The RV interior

    to

    A full tour of the RV pre-renovation can be found here.

    Changes

    • Removed restroom
    • Replaced carpet with laminate
    • Added widescreen TVs
    • Added black workbenches
    • Removed table
    • Removed cabinet to make room for more technology
    • Removed some 90s decor
    • Removed bedside tables and cabinets
    • Added 3D printer
    • Removed bed
    • Removed couch
    • Removed 90s decals
    • Added shelving
    • Cleaned a decade of muck off of it

    Reflections

    We've put in >250 hours working on this RV. It's going to become a mobile robotics lab so that we can inspire kids to enter STEM-related careers and hobbies. Uaing this van, the team can reach out to children who otherwise would not have the oppurtunity to learn how to build and program robots, as well as gaining skills related to that, such as using a 3D printer.

    MXP - Mobile Learning Lab Recap

    MXP - Mobile Learning Lab Recap By Jayesh and Caitlin

    DCOL Mobile Tech XPerience (MXP) Begins Service

    Written by Jayesh Sharma
    Edited by Caitlin Rogers

    Iron Reign has been actively supporting Dallas City of Learning (DCoL) for a few years now. Big Thought (managing partner for DCoL) received a grant from Best Buy to support STEM learning over the summer by taking STEM opportunities into communities so that kids with reduced access to transportation wouldn't be left out. The original idea was to pack a cargo van with technology that could be dropped off at community centers, libraries, schools, churches and other public facilities where kids could experiment with tools and technologies that would'nt normally be available.

    But Big Thought, true to the name, decided to scale up the vehicle into a true mobile learning laboratory. Because the budget remained tight, they needed to create a mobile classroom on a shoestring. So the new idea was to repurpose a used RV large enough so that 12 students could productively work on board while many more could participate inside the visited location. While Big Thought handled putting a sweet new skin on the vehicle, we volunteered our time to renovate the interior.

    When we received the vehicle, it was cramped on the inside, with everything needed for a portable family living space. We removed a bed, couch, and restroom (complete with bathtub) and opened the space up for more gadgets. We tore out extra cabinets, shelving, tables, chairs, light fixures and mirrors. We ripped out the old carpet and replaced it with wood-grain vinyl, installed wide screen instructor's monitors over the driver's seat, added work benches along the perimeter and created a bay to hold four 3D printers. Max is still working on a 3D print server so that the printers can be access through the on-board wifi. We spent a whole day power-washing the roof to reveal the original white surface that could reflect away more of the sunlight so the air conditioners would have a chance against the Texas summer heat. On the inside we painted the walls and cabinets black and added diamond plate trim and LED lighting to give it a tech/industrial feel.

    Including the time it took to clean about a decade’s worth of grime and dust, the team has put one and a half months and over 350 person hours of work into this vehicle, resulting in the mobile technology lab that went into service last Thursday. Throughout the course of renovating this vehicle, we affirmed the value that STEM education has for our society. Our building experience with robotics was a great advantage when working on the RV’s design and construction. The team’s engineering and design skills were put to the test and our efforts have been very kindly received. The team will continue to help DCoL spread STEM opportunities and values to those who otherwise wouldn’t have had access to them. Next Saturday we'll be going back to the Frontiers of Flight Museum to staff the vehicle for the DCOL Turn-Up there. We hear the vehicle will be pulled inside the hanger. Museum admission is free that day, we hope to see you there!

    Turn Up! at Frontiers of Flight with DCOL

    Turn Up! at Frontiers of Flight with DCOL By Janavi, Darshan, Jayesh, Caitlin, Max, Tycho, Omar, and Austin

    Inspiring 1,000 People to Turn Up with STEM

    Written by Janavi Chadha

    The Dallas City of Learning Organization held a Turn Up event at the Frontiers of Flight Museum, where we staffed the Mobile XPerience (MXP) complete with laptops, 3D printers, and LEGO SumoBots. Outside the vehicle, Caitlin and I taught kids how to create 3D models of houses using SketchUp. Then we let the kids bring their designs to life by designing and 3D-Printing keychains.

    On board Max managed the bank of four 3D printers while Tycho and Austin taught kids to build virtual structures on our Minecraft server with the education version of the software.

    Out to the side of the MXP, we set up a ring for the sumo lego robots to battle in, teaching the kids how robots can be programmed to react to the world around them. Jayesh, Omar and Darshan manned that station and also demonstrated our FTC competition robot.

    Omar ran minion (our robot walking companion) around the museum Pied-Piper fashion, leading kids back to our activity stations in and around the vehicle. On the way he taught kids to operate the robot with its touch and rotation sensor based leash. At one point he took minion over to challenge the airport's 700lb bomb disposal robot. That robot was not impressed.

    A few more pics of the MXP in the museum while we are striking the exhibit:

    Person-hours note: The night before Max and Tycho spent 5 hours getting the vehicle ready.

    Mobile Learning Lab in Action

    Mobile Learning Lab in Action By Caitlin, Max, and Tycho

    Task: Deploy the Mobile Learning Lab to camps and teach kids

    The RV has been fully remodeled and set up with netbooks and 3D printers, so we have been making the rounds and teaching at camps and events. We try to limit the number of kids on board to under 15 or 12 for safety reasons. It'd be nearly impossible to fit more kids and be able to effectively teach.

    Reflections

    When we first drove up to one deployment of the RV there were a lot of kids staring, because honestly who wouldn't; the RV is huge and bright. We couldn't set up fast enough before people wanted to come inside. We split the group into modelling and robotics and got started. In the back, robotics kits were scattered on the floor, and groups of two or three were following a video to build a 5 minute bot (it generally took them longer though). When the bots were built we had a crash course in the EV3 programming environment and helped them think analytically about how they wanted the robots to behave when on different sections of the sumo. We didn't give them a program to use, they told us what to put. The result? An exciting free for all complete with screaming cheers and flipping of bots (video above).

    Max and I led the modelling with the basic "build a house" tutorial below. After they got the hang of that we set the software sizing up so they could make a keychain and print it. Some people got really into their house and ended up emailing the file to themselves to continue later.

    Robotics UIL 2016

    Robotics UIL 2016 By Ethan, Evan, Caitlin, Darshan, Jayesh, Janavi, Trace, Max, Tycho, and Omar

    Task: Compete in UIL Robotics in Austin

    A bit of background:
    UIL is a Texas-specific organization that hosts competitions in both academic and athletic pursuits. This year, they ran a pilot program for Robotics, using the FTC rules and field from Res-Q. About 72 teams competed in the FTC-based competition, which then was split into two catagories. Unlike regular FIRST tournaments, the awards not earned by competition are given through nomination by other teams.

    • Mentor Recognition Award
    • Leadership Award
    • Creativity in Design Award
    • Gracious Professionalism Award
    • Play of the Day Award
    • Safety Award
    • Team Spirit Award
    On Wednesday, July 27, the team came down in a charter bus, with the MXP. That night, we did some last-minute working on the robot. [insert image here] The next day, we woke up early, and headed down to the Austin Convention Center. We pitched a tent and blow-up couch, and generally set up. We used the competition as an opportunity to promote our twitter. The first match, we did horrible. Our robot dug itself into the ground as if it were near the trench-lines of WW1. After giving us its best WW1 re-enactment, it started jettisoning parts, similar to how a Space Shuttle jettisons its external tank. Matches 2-5 were mostly uneventful. We only won two of them, but there were no similar dramatic happenings like match one. After match one, we atttempted to present our team to other teams, as we brought in a TV. A quick list of notable things that happened in this time period were:
    • Bringing one of the 3D printers inside and printing parts
    • Making a last-minute climber-holder
    • A bird flying into the convention center
    • Our presentation computer updating to Windows 10
    • Our robot falling off the mountain

    On Friday, we were not picked to be in the final matches, and unfortunately, we were not picked for any awards. We did, however, meet up with our school's FRC team and say hi, as their competition was starting. After the awards ceremony, we decided to leave. On the way back to the hotel, we noticed the Texas Workforce Commission building, which is one of our sponsors. So, we parked our RV up by the side of the building, and walked in. We talked to the receptionist, and within a few minutes, one of the TWC execs came down to talk to us and take pictures. We gave them a tour of our RV as well, and they seemed impressed, even if it was in post-tournament disarray.

    Reflections

    While this tournament was not our best tournament by a margin the size of the Mongol Empire circa 1279 C.E., we were able to interact with teams in Texas that we normally would not have, get exposure for the MXP all the way down I35, and talk to our one of our sponsors in person. As well, it gave us experience for the future and was a great teambuilding activity. If we get invited to UIL next year, we know what to do to win.

    Outreach and Sponsors

    Outreach and Sponsors By Caitlin, Darshan, Jayesh, Omar, Ethan, Evan, Janavi, Tycho, and Max

    Task: Analyze how finances effect recognition

    It's always a challenge to convince sponsors that we are a worthy team for their grants, visibility in FIRST and the public makes it easier. Teams whose schools have the finances and space to host a tournament are recognized by their peers and even get a boost to Regionals. However, our space is limited, and we wouldn't be able to pull off a quality event if we tried to host. Because of this our opportunities to get noticed by frequent veteran judges are limited, and we step up in outreach to make up for this.

    Working with the Mobile Tech XPerience has been a huge amount of fun and a great learning experience, while being extremely visible to say the least. The MXP works to provide equal access to STEM technology to disadvantaged neighborhoods, and we teach modeling and NXT robotics. We get first shot at staffing the vehicle because of how closely we worked with them in the creation. The team was recognized in a CW33 Class Act for our efforts, and this is an incredible help to our sponsorship efforts. We want to tell potential sponsors that Iron Reign is a team that will put everything into getting out and interacting, and we have the evidence to show that.

    FTC Kickoff 2016

    FTC Kickoff 2016 By Ethan, Evan, Max, Tycho, and Omar

    Task: Go to the FTC 2016 Kickoff to preview the new Velocity Vortex challenge

    This Saturday, we ventured down to UTD to watch the unveiling of the new FTC challenge, and collaborate with other teams. The main change we noticed is that this year, it seems like there is a greater emphasis on league play instead of just doing a qualifier. To go to regionals, there seem to be three options:

    1. Do league play and go to one qualifier
    2. Do league play only
    3. Go to two qualifiers (But you may have to give up your spot to other teams)
    Other minor changes for this year are:
    • Adding the Nexus 5 to the list of approved phones
    • New(hopefully less buggy) version of the FTC controller app
    • Ambiguous rule about not damaging the field
    • Red/Yellow card penalty system
    The new app is great for our team, our Adafruit IMU is now officially supported, so we don't have to use the Swerve Robotics library anymore. As well, you can now configure phones through the driver's station, making testing faster. FIRST added support for many new sensors and we are intrested in trying them out. The new challenge is radically different from last year's challenge - strategies this year will mainly focus around defense. Our preliminary ideas are:
    • Standing at the ramp and circulating particles around it
    • Beacon defense - it seems to be the easiest way to get a lot of points
    • Capping the "vortex" with the yoga ball
    • Spinning the vortices around so fast that no team can score
    We are considering using Pele as our robot, as it can already shoot balls and has an intake system, we'd just need to add a beacon-poker and lift to cap the vortex.

    Reflections

    This year's challenge requires us to "think outside the box" in order to progress. As well, we really need to work fast, as if we do league play, the competitions happen sooner that the traditional qualifiers.

    Budgeting With Team 3734

    Budgeting With Team 3734 By Ethan, Evan, and Austin

    Task: Create a Budget Sheet for the 2016-2017 Season

    As always, Iron Reign needs more money. We are a title 1 school in a cash-strapped district with over 60% of students qualfying for free lunch. So, this year, we decided to *actually* make a spreadsheet to track what we need and how much it'll cost. Coincidentally, our sister team, Imperial Robotics made one too. Also, this year, we're going to share a practice field at our school, SEM. So, we've combined our costs into one spreadsheet for potential sponsors. We are considering these grants:

    Reflections

    We really need to start applying for grants - many of them have already started accepting applications or are about to. Considering that our estimated costs for this year are >$2500, these grants are extremely important to us. You can help us today by clicking the donate money up top!

    Travis Open House

    Travis Open House By Ethan, Max, Tycho, Caitlin, Darshan, Jayesh, and Evan

    Task: To talk to prospective SEM students about robotics

    Every year W.B. Travis, a 4-8 has an open house for magnet schools to attend and convince students that $school1 is better than $school2. And, since it is Iron Reign's former school, we attend and try to pull students SEM. We present to about 5 groups and field questions from parents.

    Unsurprisingly, we ran into issues, just like we always do. First, our chain kept on falling off of our new robot as we had forgotten to re-enforce the motor and wheel mounts. So, while our robot was still impressive, it was a bit disappointing. Second, we had our color-following robot, but we had forgotten the controller phone. Despite all this, Jayesh gave a great presentation to the prospective freshmen.

    Reflections

    We really need to amp our presenting game up - our robots always break down in some unexpected way and makes our presentation a bit underwhelming. However, this does help, as we know what to fix for an actual competition. In the future, it would help to test our robots a bit more before presenting.

    New Worlds Cities In Space

    New Worlds Cities In Space By Caitlin, Jayesh, Omar, and Darshan

    Task: Obtain knowledge and share work done on Moon base project

    A contigent from Iron Reign participated in a space competition at the NewWorlds Conference. The idea was to form a interstellar base to self-maintain and extend humankind's reach into the universe. After winning the previous year's competition with a Mars base, the team did a sort of prequel, committing to a Moon base. Involving writing a 21 page research paper, developing a minecraft-modded map, and work in Google Sketchup, the team presented to a group of Space researchers, genetic scientists, and privately-funded space companies over our work. We recieved 1st place for our work and garnered a lot of interest in STEM and space.

    Reflections

    The convention allowed us to present both to the aforementioned specialists and children who took a field trip to come to the convention. These children were especially attracted by the minecraft design. We led them through walking in the base and testing out our designs. We were able to garner a lot of interest of their concept of space and STEM was. When the judges came to our area, we mentioned how the topics we learned in SEM and in robotics helped us to finish a lot of the fact-checking for the base. In the end there was a lot of interest and praise for our work, even going as far as to convince a researcher to ask in running a molecular biology summer camp at our school. We're excited to build off our success at the competition and use it to help us in FTC as well.

    A Thank-You to Tetrix

    A Thank-You to Tetrix By Ethan and Evan

    Task: To create a thank-you video to Pitsco

    We entered a contest to win a pack of Tetrix parts on Twitter, and we won! You can also enter the contest by following these instructions

    So, as a thank-you to them, we made this:

    Nov. 21 Scrimmage

    Nov. 21 Scrimmage Written, but not attended by Ethan By Omar, Darshan, Jayesh, Max, Tycho, Caitlin, Janavi, Austin, and Ethan

    Task: To test our robot and gauge other team's progress

    First, the team arrived at the Virani's house and boarded the MXP for a Arkansas dry run. We learned that it's pretty bumpy for passengers when you're driving on the highway, making the experience a bit uncomfortable. We'll need to fix that for the 8-hour drive to Arkansas.

    When we arrived at the scrimmage, it was laid out like a normal tournament, though there were only nine teams to compete against. The matches were laid out so that each team competed five times, but only four of those five matches counted towards your actual score. During the first match, things were looking up. Our catapult and intake system were looking great, we had scored two or three balls, and our driving was pretty nice. We ended up winning that match. Then, everything went downhill. First, we had a issue with a loose chain, which we were able to fix. After that, however, our robot's catapult jammed so we had no useful way to score. This led to us losing our other three matches.

    Despite all this, we ended up 6th place out of nine teams, which isn't *horrible*. We were also picked for an alliance.

    Reflections

    There are teams very ahead of us, so we need to step our game up for Arkansas. Our next goals, in order, should be to fix the chain system permanently, stop the catapult from jamming, add the beacon presser, and add the yoga-ball lifter. However, our collection system was really nice and worked >95% of the time. The only problem with it was that balls occasionally got stuck on top of the robot delivering to the catapult.

    DISD STEM Expo

    DISD STEM Expo By Ethan, Evan, Janavi, Jayesh, Caitlin, and Max

    Task: Present to kids at the DISD STEM Expo

    Every year, DISD hosts a STEM expo for local companies and groups to present to kids, in hope of inspiring them to go into a STEM career. So, for our booth, we drove our RV into the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center to present. We had three activities run by Iron Reign.

    The first activity was helping kids 3D print keychains using Google Sketchup. We had nine laptops set up for them to use, all hooked up to four Flashforge Finders. When we first got to the Expo, we discovered that two of our printers had filament issues, so we were running on half capacity the whole day. Even then, we probably helped about 50 kids with their keychains.

    In the front of the RV, we had laptops running MinecraftEdu, which features having a teacher have admin control, moderation, a dedicated server, and no PvP. MinecraftEdu is supposed to help kids with problem solving, bolster their creativity, and assist them with working with other people.

    Outside of the RV, we were running a robotics workshop where kids could program Lego Mindstorms to do various activities, including robot sumo. Our coach and a few volunteers(from one of our sponsors, BigThought) were working that section.

    Inspire Award

    Inspire Award By Tycho, Jayesh, Caitlin, Omar, Max, Darshan, Evan, Ethan, Janavi, and Charlotte

    1st Place at North Texas Regional Championship

    Iron Reign members left to right are Ethan Helfman (Build, Communications), Janavi Chada (Programming, Communications), Tycho Virani (Programming Lead, Main Driver), Jayesh Sharma (Business Lead, Build, Communications), Darshan Patel (Build), Caitlin Rogers (Communications Lead, Logistics, Business) and Charlotte Leakey (Programming, Logistics), with Evan Daane (from BTW, Build, Photography) in repose. Not shown: Max Virani (Design Lead, Programming), Omar Ramirez (Build Lead) and Rohit Shankar (Programming).

    Wow, we did it. I mean, we were going for it, but wow - we did it! Out of 118 teams competing in our region, we got 1st Place Inspire (Top Award) at our regional championship! We finally earned the coveted Inspire Banner. We've been building toward this for 7 years! Ever since we started as an FLL team.

    Our total awards included Inspire 1st, Finalist Alliance 2nd, Motivate 2nd, Connect 3rd, Innovate 3rd.

    Not going to Disney World yet

    We are now qualified for the Texas State UIL Robotics Championship and the 12 State South Super Regionals. And we are preparing with the goal of making it to the World Championship. We have an extended season and while some of us have been to super regionals before, this is the first time the whole team gets to go. Our coffers are empty, we need a whole new round of fundraising to keep up the progress for the extended season. We need your help! Please consider contributing to support our extended season and help us represent North Texas at Supers.

    In case you don't know how the game works, it's broken into a 30 second autonomous phase followed by a 2 minute driver controlled period. Two alliances of two robots each compete in each match. Here is our division winning match with alliance mates Technibots. Autonomous:

    And Tele-Op:

    Dallas Women in STEM

    Dallas Women in STEM By Caitlin, Tycho, Max, Jayesh, Janavi, Omar, and Austin

    Task: Teach LEGO EV3 and 3D modelling to girls

    Teaching Sumobots at #DallasWEST! #omgrobots #mobiletechxperience #dallascityoflearning

    A post shared by Iron Reign Robotics FTC (@team6832) on

    The Yale club of Dallas organized a STEM event for groups of girls in the city. We took the Mobile Tech XPerience out front for 3D modelling and set up 8 EV3s with laptops and a sumo field inside.

    Programming

    We led 6-8 girls at a time through the EV3 environment to make a basic sumo program, going through a tournament, and then a final grand melee at the end of the sessions. A couple had experience with EV3, more with Vex, but this session was a lot of their first experiences with programming and robots. Tycho taught the thought process of the program as we went through the steps and I presented on a projector as he went, sometimes taking over talking when we needed breaks. The port view in the programming environment was a great tool to explain the color sensor's light intensity measurement as we could just ask everyone to plug in their bots and see how the numbers changed with the environment. The session was too short to really let them explore what they could do in the program, but we did give hints that the Power variable was something they could tweak. The girls that took the risks in their program generally found that option and won the round robin.

    Everyone in the room had a bunch of fun, chaperones included. One girl realized that she had a NXT at home, and now that she knew she could do cool stuff with it, she was excited to try it out. A lot of the teachers asked about the competition levels, and we're hopeful that some of the kids will join a FLL team and the 8th graders going to high school will look for a FTC or FRC team.

    Modelling

    For the first deployment in a while all 4 printers worked! We were able to print every single design from the day. A couple of the laptops don't have the correct export to STL option, but we were able to work around it by grabbing a flash drive and bringing the file over to a different one. The groups in each session were pretty small compared to the waves that normally come by in an expo, so we could spend a good amount of time making sure no-one was lost. Some people grabbed the wrong design when they came back, but we've gotten the swing of things and sent text notifications to the teachers pretty quickly. Since we were parked out front the groups passed us on the way out and picked up their keychains.

    Promote Video 2017

    Promote Video 2017 By Max

    Task: Create a video outlining Iron Reign's outreach

    We have had a lot of interest garnered towards the STEM outreach the team has committed to. When we found that FTC encouraged the creation of a video outlining the STEM outreach we had done, we saw it as an opportunity to show others a general overview of our activities. With Max's excellent voiceover, we made a video talking about how long the team's been at it, the various STEM expos/events we do, and how the problem of summer learning loss lead us to making the Mobile Tech Xperience.

    Reflections

    Making a connection and advancing our community has always been a priority with our team. This video helps give us a short summary to show parents and children the benefit of commiting to the STEM field, specifically in robotics. We started because of two parents who decided to start a robotics team with some energetic middle school 7 years back, and look at us now. We want to tell these interested parents and kids about how their dedication can create something special, and we're doing that by using ourselves and FIRST as examples. We plan to spread this video to those looking to get into FIRST, or even those simply interested in what our team does besides build complicated contraptions.

    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.

    First time crossing the Mississippi for a couple of us! #superregionals

    A post shared by Iron Reign Robotics FTC (@team6832) on

    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. Tycho and I ran through the presentation for them at the beginniile 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.