Articles by tag: connect

Articles by tag: connect

    UIL 2018

    UIL 2018 By Abhi, Karina, Evan, Janavi, Austin, Justin, and Shaggy

    Task: Attend the 2018 UIL Robotics Competition

    Background

    For those who don't know, UIL Robotics is the premier state robotics competition for Texas. Iron Reign has been a beta-testing partner since its inception, and this year was the event's first year as a full-fledged program.

    To participate in UIL, a team must win at a Regional level, and have a good overall showing. This year, since we got 2nd Inspire at Regionals and 3rd Inspire at Oklahoma Regionals, we were a shoo-in for an invitation. Being a state event, the DISD STEM Dept. supported us through transportation, food, and lodging along with other DISD teams such as Mechanicats.

    The Night Before

    As with all Iron Reign tournaments, we stayed up way longer than we should have. But, unlike other times, we had a purpose: to help fellow teams.

    We assisted the other DISD team, Mechanicats with programming and driver practice. In particular, they didn't have a working autonomous to begin with. But, with our half-field and glut of programmers, we helped them create a basic autonomous for the next day. As well, we collaborated on their TeleOp to make it more driver-friendly.

    The Day Of

    We walked into the tournament, tired, but excited for the last tournament of the season, led by our two robots, Kraken and C.A.R.T. BOT. Kraken is our Relic Recovery robot; a tank on wheels with specially cut aluminium sideplates and our proprietary REVolution system. So, it got plenty of looks. Then, we also brought the newest addition to the Iron Reign family: CART BOT. CART BOT is the automated corpse of our robot cart. For the past month, we've been tearing it down, replacing its wheels, motorizing it, adding a power source, and so much more. It tops out at 20 MPH and can carry 300 lbs without blinking an eye. Naturally, we thought UIL was the perfect place to bring it out.

    Since UIL is the last tournament of the season and has no real consequences, we use it as a trial field for next year's changes. First, we had Evan lead our pit crew team as practice for next year. As well, we used the competition to practice driving for next year as well as improve our scouting strategies after worlds.

    One of the best things about UIL is the ability to really interact with other Texas-area teams that we normally wouldn't see until Supers. A lot of the teams came over to see our robot, which is kind of understandable because it's probably the best robot we'll ever build. But, we had a suprising number of teams come up to talk to us about our Engineering Journal, including people who had already seen our journal online and wanted to talk about it to us in person (Vitruvian Voltage).

    Robot Performance

    Even though we enjoy UIL, its never our best competition of the year. Some of this is due to exhaustion; we tend to run out of steam by then, but it can also be attributed to that UIL is a robot-game intensive event, and Iron Reign tends to focus more on awards. So, we tend to comparatively underperform as compared to a theoretical Iron Reign standin.

    We started off the day in a bad place, as one of the chains on the robot snapped for the first time in the season. However, we still managed to win the match as we were carried by our partner. But, we managed to do decently in the next four matches. This wasn't entirely due to luck, it was just that we had more competition experience than some of the other teams due to Worlds, and were able to perform more effectively.

    Luckily, our scouting paid off, and we were chosen as the first pick of the #1 alliance. We won our first final match, but then lost the next two due to unreliability.

    The UIL Difference

    Unlike FTC, UIL puts much less of an emphasis on judging. First, there aren't any presentations: everything is done at the pit. In addition, UIL judges are FRC first, and FTC second, so they weren't aware of many differences between the two. Finally, the awards mean nothing.

    Next Steps

    This was the last competition of the season, so now Iron Reign will go into Funding, Outreach, and Recruitment mode for a while for the next season, but keep track of our blog to see what we'll do next. Relic Recovery '17-'18, signing off.

    Contacting Mark Cuban

    Contacting Mark Cuban By Abhi

    Task: Get Funding from Mark Cuban

    At the World Championship this year, Dean Kamen, the founder of FIRST, talked about getting celebrity involvement in the robotics program. Very few celebrities support FIRST (will.i.am being the biggest) and will.i.am. sent a request through Kamen to all teams to reach out to closeby celebrities to get them involved in FIRST. As I sat in the crowd at Minute Maid Park, Kamen's words stuck with me on my journey home. I thought about how cool it would be to have celebrities support Iron Reign. However, I had no idea who to contact.

    Still on the quest, I sat down to watch TV one day. As I scrolled through the channels, I found Shark Tank (one of my favorite shows). Then it hit me: I wanted Mark Cuban, a Dallas native, to support Iron Reign.

    Mark Cuban, investor on Shark Tank and the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, has been very important to Dallas. I decided to reach out to him to see if he would be willing to support us. I asked people at school if anyone knew Cuban or knew people who knew him. Luckily, my friend's father went to the same gym as him! Through my friend (Amanda), I reached out to Cuban. I drafted an email which would be sent through Amanda to Cuban.

    Next Steps:

    Now all I can do is wait for a reply!

    Response from Mark Cuban

    Response from Mark Cuban By Abhi

    Task: Reply to Cuban

    After sending a small email to Cuban, he replied very soon asking for more details(shown above)! With this, I felt more confident I could make things happen. In my following email, I provided more details explaining the FTC program, from last years challenge (Relic Recovery) to the work we have done for Dallas. I also asked to present to Cuban about the team since Iron Reign tends to get information across best through presentations.

    Next Steps:

    Once again, it's time to wait for a reply!

    Conversing with Mark Cuban

    Conversing with Mark Cuban By Abhi, Ethan, Janavi, Christian, Kenna, and Charlotte

    Task: Explain Iron Reign

    Once again, we got a positive response from Cuban! Unfortunately, we couldn't meet in person but I was still pursuing the sponsor path. For the next message, I decided to get some other members of the team on the project. Since this was our one shot to convince him, I drafted a much longer sponsor email, inspired by older emails to our sponsors. In this email, we provided specifics into what we can do with Cuban's support. With a monetary donation, we will either spend money on robot parts or save it to act as a seed donation for kick-starting a non-profit organization for Iron Reign. Since we are somewhat limited in our monetary abilities due to DISD "red tape", we wanted to develop this organization to better fund our team for years to come. Explaining all these details, our email came to a close. However, I still wanted for Cuban to "meet" the members of the team. From this stance, I decided that making a video from our team members would do the job. After some quick script writing, we developed the video shown below!

    Next Steps:

    Again, we wait for a reply!

    Iron Reign sponsored by Mark Cuban

    Iron Reign sponsored by Mark Cuban By Abhi

    In this post, I would like to thank Mr. Cuban for supporting Iron Reign. Today, we received a message from Mark Cuban's assistant stating that he would be contributing $2500 to Iron Reign. There is no end to how much this helps our team for the following season.

    FIRST is an organization dedicated to promoting young minds in STEM. However, to participate in the program (specifically the Tech Challenge), many materials are needed. A successful team often needs funding to sustain itself for years to come. Mr. Cuban has allowed Iron Reign to actualize this through his support. With his help, we hope to continue to influence young children through our outreach and build better robots. Hopefully, we can return to the World Championship and bring Mr. Cuban to the greatness of FIRST.

    Abbott Intern Week

    Abbott Intern Week By Kenna and Austin


    Austin and I are interns at Abbott Laboritories' Dallas Site. At one of the intern board meetings, I discussed robotics with board members at AMIE (Advancing Minorities in Engineering) and the career implications of beginning in high school. Austin presented the MXP to a room full of interns, engineers, recruiters, analysts, and specialists. Our chaperones were kind enough to spend the week talking to us about their experiences as part of Abbott and the goal of the internship: keeping students interested and involved in STEM.

    Next Steps

    As Austin and I continue our internship at Abbott, we're excited to learn more about getting a mentor from Abbott.

    2018-19 Connect and Outreach Strategy

    2018-19 Connect and Outreach Strategy By Ethan

    Task: Discuss Iron Reign's Awards Strategy for the Upcoming Season

    FTC is undergoing a series of changes next year that will most likely negatively impact Iron Reign's ability to advance to further levels. Given that there are about 5,400 teams in FTC for the 2017-2018 season and 256 teams advance to worlds, 4.7% of teams advanced to worlds this year. Next year however, the amount of teams will increase, but the amount of domestic teams advancing to worlds will stay the same. Effectively, the percentage of teams advancing to Worlds will decrease, so that some regions may lose advancement spots.

    The best plan to advance is still a dual focus on awards and game. So, we need to up our game. Talking about our RV, while still impressive, has lost its luster with Dallas-area judges. We're still using the RV, and doing our normal outreach, but we plan to aggressively pursue business and engineering contacts. We've already received around $5,000 from individual donors, and received a separate $2,500 grant from Mark Cuban. In addition, members of our team are working at companies such as Verizon, ESi, Abbott, Parkland, and more; all the while gaining contacts in those industries.

    We have our work cut out for us, this year will be additionally challenging, losing one of our coders and one builder. We're training people in the skillsets that we're losing out over the summer, and we're also seeking FRC teams to mentor (we want to flip the traditional dichotomy of FRC teams training FTC teams on its head). We really want to get to Worlds this year - its the last year that any of the original members are on the team, and we want to go out with a bang.

    Next Steps

    • Seek further business and engineering connections
    • Extend assistance for FIRST outreach
    • Continue team training
    • Continue RV outreach
    • Seek continued grants from TWC and other TX sponsors

    Summer Chassis Project - July Meeting

    Summer Chassis Project - July Meeting By Kenna, Ethan, Charlotte, Karina, Shaggy, and Abhi

    Task: Compare & Collaborate on Chassis

    At Big Thought's offices in downtown Dallas, three teams met. Technicbots (Team 8565), EFFoRT (Team 8114), Schim Robotics (12900), and Iron Reign are all part of the North Texas Chassis Project. The goal is for each team to create any number of chassis and improve their building skills by learning from the other teams.

    The meeting began with an overview of all teams' progress. Each team presented their thought process and execution when creating each bot and discussed why/how everything was done. At the end, we all reviewed the rule changes for the 2018-19 season. Once all questions had been asked and answered, testing began.

    Austin Lui of Technicbots gets their chassis ready for testing.

    Using leftover tiles from last season, we set up a small field in Big Thought's blue room. Technicbots provided a ramp to do enhanced testing with. All teams plan on testing:

    • Forward speed
    • 3 second turn
    • Up/Down ramp
    • Balancing stone
    • Weight-pulling
    • Straight line drift
    • 90/180° turn offset

    Connor Mihelic of EFFoRT adds some finishing touches.

    We know from Google Analytics that our website has about 200 visitors a month but we rarely meet the people who read and use our blog posts. Today, we got to meet the mentors of Team 12900 from a middle school in Plano, TX. When they and their students were starting out as a team, they utilized our tutorials and journal. Apparently their teams members are avid followers of our team, which was very meaningful to hear. Some non-FTC friends visited as well and were introduced to cartbot.


    Terri and Grant Richards of Schim Robotics.

    Next Steps

    Using what we learned from the other teams, we will begin to improve all of our chassis. Most of them are at varying levels of completion so now we want to concentrate on getting all of them to the same level of functionality. Garchomp is, notably, the most behind so he will be getting the most attention from here on out.

    Best Buy Grant

    Best Buy Grant By Ethan

    Task: Recieve a grant from Best Buy for continued MXP operation

    Last year, we recieved a $10,000 award to continue our RV operations, cover staffing costs, and pay for additional technology\repairs. This year, we received another grant of $10,000 for the same reason. This is another stepping stone in keeping Iron Reign and BigThought's MXP program substainable for another year. In addition, any donation amount encourages more donations in a kind-of snowball effect.

    Next Steps

    We will continue to seek out grants for not only the MXP, but also so that our team can remain substainable for years to come.

    My Summer at MIT

    My Summer at MIT By Abhi

    Task: Spend a Summer at MIT

    Hello all! You might have been wondering where I went the entire summer while Iron Reign was busily working on tasks. Well for those of you interested, I was invited to spend a month at MIT as part of the Beaverworks program. I worked in the Medlytics course and analyzed medical data using machine learning methods. This seems distant from the work we do in FTC but I learned some valuable skills we could potentially use this season. But before I discuss that, I want to talk about the work I did while I was away.

    Traditionally, machine learning and artificial intelligence were used for enrichment of the technology. We have been seeing development of search engines to learn our searching trends and craft new results or online shopping websites like Amazon learning our shopping to suggest new items to buy. With the help of machine learning, all this has become possible but there are potential healthcare applications to the same technology. The new algorithms and techniques being developed have shown potential to save lives in times where traditional approaches had failed. Even with basic implementations of artificial intelligence, we have seen instances where a doctors provided an improper diagnosis while a machine said otherwise. These scenarios have further inspired research for medical analytics, which has become the focus of my course at MIT. The Medlytics course was dedicated to learn more about these issues and tackle some real world problems.

    The work I was doing was very intensive. I applied the algorithms we were being taught to a number of situations. One week, I was analyzing physiological signals to determine the state of sleep. The next week, I was training models to detect breast cancer from mamograms. Within all this work, the underlying structure was just techniques that could be applied to a number of fields. That brought me to think about the potential applications of my work in FTC. The neural networks and similar models I was training learned a number of scenarios of images or signals. I realized that by integrating computer vision, I could come up with something similar in FTC.

    To demonstrate an example of where this could potentially leave an impact, I will go with object detection. Right now, Iron Reign captures a series of images of the object of interest (an example is a cryptobox from Relic Recovery) and attempts to manually fine tune the OpenCV parameters to fit the object as accurately as possible. This sort of task could easily be delegated to a Convolution Neural Network (CNN) architecture. What is a CNN you ask? Well here is a brief description.

    In essence, the model is able to determine a pattern in an image based on edges and details. The image is processed through a series of layers to determine the shapes in the image. Then the model attempts to label the image as seen above with the car. If this was brought into context of FTC, we could train model to learn the shapes of an object (for example a wiffle ball) and then feed the information to the robot. The bot could then navigate to the object and pick it up. There are a vast number of applications to this, with this just being one. I hope that my knowledge can be of use for Rover Ruckus.

    Next Steps

    Wait for Rover Ruckus reveal to see if I can combine my expertise with new code.

    Mentor Involvement from MIT

    Mentor Involvement from MIT By Abhi

    Task: Discuss potential support from MIT

    In a previous post, I mentioned how the knowledge I gained in machine learning at MIT could help the team. But another way our team could be helped is with mentor involvement from MIT. I couldn't have done the research I did at MIT without the help of my amazing instructors. I wanted to bring them on board the Iron Reign way so they could also teach the rest of the team how to be awesome and help us grow. Currently, Iron Reign is speaking with two of my instructors.

    Lyle Lalunio (leftmost in image) is a freshman at the University of California at Berkley. He was an intern this past summer at MIT as part of the Laboratory of Computational Physiology and also the Medlytics program. He is proficient in numerous programming languages including Java and Python. He is pursuing computer science in college but is also interested in the medical applications of the science. Lyle has been an incredible mentor for myself and my teams during my month, inspiring me to invite him to the team.

    Dr. Danelle Shah (2nd from left in image) is a Technical Staff member in Lincoln Laboratory’s Intelligence and Decision Technologies group. Her most recent research has focused on the detection, representation and characterization of human networks by leveraging natural language processing and graph analytics. Dr. Shah earned her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University, where she developed algorithms to facilitate natural and robust human-robot interaction. Dr. Shah has also left a great impact on my life and has a background in robotic algorithms, inspiring me to invite her to the team.

    Next Steps

    Continue discussion with mentors about potentially joining Iron Reign.

    2018-19 Recruitment

    2018-19 Recruitment By Ethan, Kenna, Charlotte, Janavi, Abhi, and Arjun

    Task: Recruit new members for the 2018-19 season

    Last year, Iron Reign lost two members, so we're only looking for 2-3 members to replace them and their particular skillsets. However, our sister team, Imperial Robotics (3734) lost nine members. So, we decided to host a recruitment session at our school to find interested freshmen.

    We put up posters around the school, and got a healthy crowd - 30 people. We talked about Iron Reign's history, needed levels of commitment for various teams, and what the average person will do on the team. We also answered questions about the team from the crowd. Of those people who attended, 17 signed up for a testing session next week, including two former members of Iron Reign, Alisa and Trace.

    Next Steps

    We will hold training sessions to assess each potential members skills, then divy them up with Imperial Robotics.

    Bigwheel Presentation

    Bigwheel Presentation By Arjun and Karina

    Task: Present about Garchomp

    As a new freshman on Iron Reign, I took on the responsibility of a robot we called Bigwheel. Karina and I worked on getting the robot into something that could be put through load tests, meaning tightening the chain, fixing misaligned sprockets, and getting the wiring together. We participated in the Chassis Presentation workshop hosted by technicbots for teams all around the North Texas region to work on one or more chassis, perform various tests with them and then present their findings. We presented our chassis Bigwheel, which is driven by 2 large 8-inch wheels, with a pair of 2 free-spinning Omni wheels in the back. This can be seen in the presentation below:

    To create our chassis we used 2 8-inch wheels, each driven by 2 Neverrest 60 motors. There are also two free-spinning omni wheels in the back. The robot uses REV rails and plexiglass for it's main body.

    Our first test is the 5-second distance test. Our robot had a lot of torque due to the Neverrest 60 motors, so it moved slower than other robots, but was unaffected by the additional 30lbs weight.

    Our second test is the 3-second turn test. Again, some other robots could turn better faster than us. However, due to having no proper mechanism for restraining our weights, along with other mysterious problems such as battery disconnections that only happened during this test, we were unable to try this test with load, however we presume that due to the torque, the results should be similar to those without load. Our center of rotation is also off due to only the front two wheels being powered. As such, the back of the robot makes a wide arc as it turns.

    Our next few test results are unremarkable.

    Our robot had a lot of sideways drift, mostly due to bad build quality. If we intend to use it during the season, we will try to fix this.

    Overall, our chassis performed well under load, but could use a little speed boost. If we want to further develop it, we plan to use Neverrest 20s with more torque on our extarnal gear ratio, so we can get more speed out of it.

    Garchomp Presentation

    Garchomp Presentation By Janavi and Kenna

    Task:

    After months and months of Kenna and I working on our chassis, all of our work finally accumulated in our presentation. We participated in the Chassis Presentation workshop hosted by technicbots for teams all around the North Teas region to work on one or more chassis, perform various tests with them and then present their findings. We presented our Chassis Garchomp who is a mechanum wheel chassis as can be seen in the slide photos below.

    Presentation

    To create our chassis we used 4 never rest 40 motors one for each wheel and the structure of the chassis was created by using tetrix rails. We connected the wheels to the motors by using a 1:1 gear ratio. While there are many benefits to using a gear ratio for your wheels be forewarned that if your wheels are not perfectly alligned attaching your chains to mechanum wheels will become a living nightmare as can be seen in our previous posts.

    One of the reasons that attaching the chains was so difficult for us was because we discovered that because we had used wooded sides instead of the aluminium sides that Kraken used our wheels became misaligned to the who different types of wood used for the two sides.

    Our robot is not able to turn relatively fast but as can be seen on Kraken it is able to hold alot of load and move at a constant speed

    Since this chassis was designed for last years competition it is able to consistently drive onto the balancing stone

    North Texas Invitational Presentation Series - Worlds

    North Texas Invitational Presentation Series - Worlds By Ethan, Abhi, Janavi, Kenna, Charlotte, Evan, Karina, and Justin

    Task: Present about Worlds to new teams

    This was our last presentation in a series of presentations in conjunction with teams from around Texas for new and returning teams in the North Texas region. This particular presentation was about strategies in awards and the game, as well as general thoughts about FTC and Worlds.

    Presentation

    2018 Kickoff

    2018 Kickoff By Ethan, Evan, Kenna, Charlotte, Abhi, Justin, Karina, and Arjun

    Task: Attend the North Texas FTC Kickoff

    Today, we went to the Rover Ruckus kickoff! This year's main challenge is getting blocks (gold) and balls (silver) into the main lander. The other side challenges, in order of hardness, are hanging, parking, and placing the team marker. The main upside of all of this means that it is theoretically possible to perform every single function on the field with the same mechanism.

    The main non-robot game changes are the elimination of Supers, the standardization of awards, and Worlds spot changes. The one that particularly piqued our interest was the award standardization. Historically, there have been huge disparities between the awards in North Texas and the awards at Worlds. For example, in North Texas, we continually won the Connect Award for our outreach (while in the rubric, it was the award for connecting with engineers). But, at Worlds, we won the Motivate Award instead.

    Next Steps

    We will do a brainstorming session to figure out are design paths for the next few weeks. In addition, we need to complete sorting of the new members.

    Iron Reign Grants!

    Iron Reign Grants! By Ethan

    Task: Detail the grant awards that Iron Reign and its associated teams recieved ($11k)

    So, Iron Reign is currently training an influx of new members - so much that we've started two new teams: Iron Star Robotics and Iron Core. Of course, with this programmatic growth comes plenty of growing pains. A major part of that is finding funding for new teams. In that regard, Iron Reign applied for grants for itself as well as for its other 3 feeder teams. Namely, we applied for the TWC grant(s) and the FIRST in Texas Rookie Grant (sponsored by DEKA) for the new teams.

    Today we reaped our results: we recieved $525 in funding for Iron Reign and Imperial and $1,525 for Iron Star and Iron Core from the Texas Workforce Commission, as well as $1,000 for Iron Star and Iron Core from DEKA. In addition, we've currently recieved $4,000 from the DISD STEM Department and $2,500 from Mark Cuban, for a cumulative total of $11,400 raised this season.

    Next Steps

    Even though this is a hefty amount of money - one of the largest hauls made by Iron Reign - it still isn't satisfactory. We now have two more teams, increasing Iron Reign's expenses and stretching simple resources such as 8mm M3s thin. So, we will always be seeking more funding.

    Project Management

    Project Management By Charlotte

    Task: Improve Iron Reign's team organization and time management

    Iron Reign sometimes struggles with our team organization and time management. There have been many instances where we have fallen behind in different subteams due to this lack of organization. This year, in order to tackle this downfall, we are going to put an emphasis on project management.

    We started a project in a program called Team Gantt. We learned how to use this program from watching the many tutorials in the program and by trial and error. In our project, we have made task groups that represent our subteams, such as build, code, etc. You can see this in the image above, but I did not include the whole chart to not expose any team secrets. A project manager will be in charge of keeping these subteams on track with the chart, and will update it accordingly along with periodic meetings regarding the chart and our progress. Hopefully, this will really help us in our team organization so that we don't fall behind this season.

    Next Steps

    Continue the use of our Gantt chart in order to improve our organization and give us a big-picture view of our progress for the rest of the season.

    SEM STEM Spark Preparation

    SEM STEM Spark Preparation By Charlotte, Ethan, Janavi, Abhi, Karina, and Justin

    Task: Prepare for and set up SEM STEM Spark

    The National Honor Society at our home school, the Science and Engineering Magnet, has been working hard to prepare for the upcoming SEM STEM Spark event for middle school girls in North Dallas that they have been planning for since last May. A few of our very own members are members and leadership in NHS and have been working to include our robotics outreach as a featured activity as well as working with other activies we are passionate about, such as chemistry and environmental science.

    In the past few weeks, we have confirmed a spot for our outreach in the event and have been trying to recruit middle schools girls to attend the event. A few members even visited the middle schools they attended and spoke to their old science teachers to share information about the event and hand out fliers. Due to some complications, we weren't able to get registration for the event up until a week before, so recruitment has been a struggle and is very time sensitive. Our numbers are increasing quickly though, so we have hope that the event is going to be a success.

    The event is tomorrow, and today we spent a few hours setting up. On our day off, we went to our school and organized all of the materials we collected as donations along with those we bought with our own funds. We ran throught each activity to ensure that they would fit in the allotted time frames. Everything seems to be running smoothly and we are ready for the event tomorrow. Fingers crossed! :)

    Next Steps

    We are very excited to run this event and have learned a lot from the work we have put into organizing it.

    SEM STEM Spark

    SEM STEM Spark By Ethan, Charlotte, Janavi, Abhi, Karina, Justin, Bhanaviya, and Alisa

    Task: Volunteer at SEM STEM Spark, a girls-in-STEM event

    For the past year, members of Iron Reign have been planning this event and getting approval. For those not-in-the-know, this event is a women-only STEM event with a guest panel and four different stations: environmental science, chemistry, engineering, and robotics. Iron Reign members had a hand in planning and assisting with 3/4 of these, as well as general logistics. However, most of this is detailed in prior posts - this post is for the actual event.

    Today, we talked to 140 girls in groups of 12-18, allowing us to be able to focus more intensely in our sessions and get more done. We taught them the 3D-printing program and sumobots. Finally, we had a member present as a panel member as a woman in STEM.

    Next Steps

    This event was a great success, and we plan to do more like these in the future. At the moment, we have a date set in March for a second event with entirely new activities.

    MXP Expansion - $150,000 Grant

    MXP Expansion - $150,000 Grant By Ethan

    Task: Plan for major grant to fund replacement of MXP ($150k)

    First, for a brief backstory: Iron Reign built the MXP - or Mobile Learning Lab - two seasons ago so that we could do outreach to underserved areas within our community. To do this, we partnered with BigThought, who recieved grants for laptops and technology aboard the vehicle. We spent that entire summer rennovating an old 90's RV so that it could become the Mobile Learning Lab. Then, last season, we presented at the National Science Teachers' Association in Kississimee, Florida, where we talked to educators in five other cities to start their own similar programs.

    Now, let's return to the present season. As of today, BigThought is receiving $150k in funding to create a second Mobile Learning Lab. This funding is all-inclusive: the RV and technology aboard. As far as we know, this is the single largest fundraising haul any FTC team has ever recieved. Now, let me be clear, this is not funding to team costs such as registration and parts, but rather a larger-scale programmatic fund to continue and increase Iron Reign's outreach frequency. Luckily for us, we've secured a lot of funding this season already through Mark Cuban, individual donors, and FIRST in Texas grants.

    Now, here comes the less-so-good news. Even though $150k is a monumental sum of money, it still falls short of the cost of a new MXP, by about $100k. However, the guarantee of over half of the necessary funding makes it much more likely that the additional funds will be secured to purchase the brand-new vehicle.

    Next Steps

    So the next steps are obviously to work with BigThought to find the additional $100k, but this is still huge - we may have broken a fundraising record. And besides that, this is what Iron Reign has always worked for: the platonic ideal of outreach. We have the ability to expand our program, make it more comprehensive, and make it substainable on it's own merit.

    DISD Scrimmage at Hedrick MS

    DISD Scrimmage at Hedrick MS By Charlotte, Janavi, Ethan, Evan, Justin, Karina, and Abhi

    Task: Compete at the Hedrick MS DISD Scrimmage

    Today, Iron Reign competed in the DISD scrimmage at Hedrick Middle School. This was the first scrimmage of the year, so experienced teams and rookie teams alike struggled to get a working robot on the field. We go to this scrimmage every year, and it helps us gague just how much needs to be done to have a qualifier-ready robot. This year, that is a lot. We actually had two robots relatively pieced together, a main chassis and a backup, but we didn't account for many different problems that rendered them unoperable. In the case of the backup robot, the linear slide fell apart easily and was threaded so that it could only extend, and not retract. In the case of the actual robot, most of our problems stemmed from the intake system. Since we built it so recently, we were never able to write any code until in the final few days of preparation. We weren't able to debug the code and it has caused many complications in our robot. Our drive train also had many issues which we have been trying to fix and fine tune.

    Due to these many issues, we did not compete for most of our matches. We spent a lot of time working on our bots and talking to other teams about their progress and plans for the season, as well as see all of the interesting ideas they have put together in fruition in a game setting. In the match we did compete in, we did very badly due to driver error and mechanical errors in the drive train.

    Dallas Chamber Leadership Council

    Dallas Chamber Leadership Council By Kenna, Janavi, Abhi, and Ethan

    Presenting to Leadership Dallas Class of 2019

    Today, we presented to the Leadership Dallas program, run by the Dallas Chamber of Commerce, to fundraise for Iron Reign and BigThought's Mobile Learning Lab program to cover the remaining $100k gap as well as our school programs.

    There were 2 groups of about 10 people who learned about Iron Reign & FTC and toured SEM (Science Engineering Magnet) & its classes. There were employees from Big Thought, Uber, Turner Construction, Ernst & Young, and Channel 8 News. We'd especially like to name Stephanie from Channel 8 and Ryan Dyer for helping us get a website visit from Antartica. We'd been working on having a visit from all 7 continents for all of last year, and it finally came true!

    After that, they got a tour of a deployment-ready MXP, full of laptops, 3D printers, EV3's, and teaching monitors. They were very interested in our SEM education and how it ties into what we are able to do as a part of Iron Reign and FTC. We discussed using our physics experience to conduct experiments for the materials we use on our robot, and SEM's freshmen Java class to do IMU coding.

    We all loved how enthusiastic they were about improving Dallas and learning more about robotics in a high school education. It was a huge opportunity for us to spread STEM and FIRST to the Dallas community, and we hope to do so again in the future.

    Next Steps

    We were lucky enough to talk to Leandre Johns of Uber about what the opportunities they could offer our team and our community in helping underserved communities learn about STEM.

    Agenda for Dallas Personal Robotics Group

    Agenda for Dallas Personal Robotics Group By Bhanaviya, Karina, Kenna, Ethan, Abhi, Evan, and Charlotte

    Task: Set up an outline as to how the DPRG Presentation will operate

    Next Saturday, December 8th, Iron Reign will be giving its judging presentation to members from the Dallas Personal Robotics Group. Our primary purpose from this visit is to gain feedback from engineers in the community on our presentation. The presentation is anticipated to go beyond 15 minutes, so that we can introduce our potential ideas for the near-future, and so that DPRG can ask us more technical questions, that may not have arose from our presentation. Here's our anticpated agenda:

    1. Before the presentation begins, we will play the challenge reveal for this year, so that DPRG gets a basic idea as to what mechanical and technical challenges we must overcome in this season.
    2. Members who were with the team during Worlds will give an overview of what the Worlds championship is like.
    3. We give our judging presentation. (Approximately 15 minutes)
    4. We provide a demo of our robot. This demo will be similar to what we provided to the judges during pit-visits.
    5. We discuss some of our more ambitious build ideas thus far, such as the Superman Subsystem, and potential ways to improve upon these ideas.
    6. Provide an introduction of our Android Studio Control System and discuss the operation of how Big Wheel performs autonomous, and other low-level behaviors based on remote control and telemetry.
    7. We will wrap-up by discussing our expectations for the rest of the season, and answer any other questions DPRG has for us.

    Next Steps

    We will meet during the rest of the week to practise our presentation for this Saturday. Based on our first qualifier, our judging presentation could use some improvement, so we will work on fine-tuning that as well. We will have one last meeting on Friday to practise, before our presentationon the 8th. This presentation is anticipated to have an audience who will be particularly interested in the technical parts of our robot, so we also have to work on getting Big Wheel ready for demo-mode before this Saturday.

    Presenting to the DPRG

    Presenting to the DPRG By Ethan, Janavi, Charlotte, Arjun, Karina, Abhi, Evan, Bhanaviya, and Kenna

    Task: Present to the Dallas Personal Robotics Group about robot vision and Iron Reign

    We reached out to the Dallas Personal Robotics Group to present - we've presented to them in the past about gyros - this was actually our biggest numerical outreach of the season back in the day. This year, we wanted to present again on computer vision, as this is something that they were very interested in, but we also wanted to give our actual presentation as practice for our next tournament. However, after we reached out to them, other Dallas-area groups joined in, such as Computer Visionaries. So, our presentation was advertised all over Dallas Meetup groups, but the main one was here.

    The initial agenda is hosted on our website, but a quick summary is: a rundown of Worlds, our usual presentation, and our vision presentation. Our presentation went well - it was our usual tournament one for judges - we just took more time for the presentation, went on diatribes, told stories, and the like, and generally made it more enertaining. We answered questions on everything: code, building, outreach, and more. We're going to upload the video here soon. We also asked for feedback from the listeners.

    The main feedback we recieved for the presentation was to make our awards points more clear. For vision, we were told that we should take a look at Google's foray into computer vision.

    Then, we moved on to the vision presentation, the reason why everyone was there. Again, we'll upload a video of the presentation, and attach the presentation slides below. But, a quick summary of the presentation is that we covered OpenCV and VuForia first, then moved on to TensorFlow and CNN. This is where everyone became really became interested and asked questions. We also got a lot of advice, mainly on training the neural network. The presentation is here.

    DPRG Vision Presentation

    DPRG Vision Presentation By Arjun and Abhi

    Task: Present to the Dallas Personal Robotics Group about computer vision

    We presented to the DPRG about our computer vision, touching on subjects including OpenCV, Vuforia, TensorFlow, and training our own Convolutional Neural Network. Everyone we presented to was very interested in our work, and they asked us many questions. We also recieved quite a few suggestions on ways we could improve the performance of our vision solutions. The presentation can be seen below.

    Next Steps

    Townview Qualifier 2018 - Setting Up

    Townview Qualifier 2018 - Setting Up By Bhanaviya, Karina, Kenna, Ethan, Evan, Charlotte, Justin, Janavi, Austin, and Jayesh
    Task: Get Townview ready for SEM's qualifier on December 15th

    On December 15th, Iron Reign is hosting an FTC qualifier at Townview Magnet Center with around 30 teams competing. The problem- Townview has to look ready for competition. For the past 2 weeks, robotics alums, current members of Iron Reign, Iron Star, Iron Core and Imperial Robotics have been signing up to be volunteers for the very event. By Friday, the day before the qualifier, all our positions were confirmed for the tournament. In addition to getting assigned for the qualifier, we also helped with field set-up. Two fields were set up on each side of the cafetaria, to accomadate for the influx of teams competing. A field was set up behind the cafetaria to act as a practise field for queuing teams. Speaking of queuing teams, 8 tables were set up behind each field for teams to queue in. A monitor was brought in from Mr Boykin's room to display the teams' scores over the course of the match. We helped ensure that enough chairs were set up for the audience members, and that each team had a table of its own to operate their last-minute-panicked-robot-surgery on. In order to delineate the difference between teams competing on the two different fields, we put red and blue tapes on each table, after putting up a plaque card representing the competing teams' numbers.

    After ensuring that the actual competition area was set-up, we worked on setting up the judging rooms for judging presentations. We cleared out chairs in 5 rooms on the first floor, and set up two tables at the end of each room for the judges. Each room was marked witha piece of paper to represent the judging room number.

    Once we were finished setting up, we left to the Virani house, to set up the MXP.The whole purpose of the MXP being present at the qualifier was to provide the competing teams an area to work with Iron Reign on their robots, in the event they needed assistance. After ensuring that the vehicle was in driveable state, we worked on setting up laptops in the MXP. Then, we stocked it up with tools that competing teams could use when needed. Next Steps Be prepared to carry out our respective roles as volunteers the next day, and lead competing teams through judging, queuing, and matches.

    Townview Qualifier 2018 - The Day Of

    Townview Qualifier 2018 - The Day Of By Ethan, Janavi, Evan, Abhi, Charlotte, Karina, Kenna, Arjun, and Jayesh

    Task: Run the Townview Tournament

    On Saturday, December 15, Iron Reign hosted 30 teams at the Townview Magnet Center, our home school's campus. This entry serves more as a description as to how we got to the point of hosting the qualifier and what to consider when hosting one.

    First, for a tournament, you need a lot of volunteers of varied ages. Frankly, you need a good amount of younger kids for jobs such as queueing and judge assistance - this makes the tournament run much more smoothly. We had about 10 queuers throughout the day, and while this may seem excessive, we started out the day with a +10 minute surplus and kept every single match on schedule.

    There still needa to be adult volunteers. We had 2 judges per room with five rooms, as well as 6 referees. All of these must be adults. And, we had to recruit from a diverse set of groups to cover our bases - we recruited people from the Dallas Chamber of Commerce meeting, the Dallas Personal Robotics Group, prior FTC tournaments, alumni, teachers from our school, and even our own families. It's hard to get enough judges for a large tournament, so this process had to start early.

    The second item that we'd like to emphasize is the need to make everything accessible by teams. Being an FTC team ourselves, we wanted to make this tournament easier for others. So, we kept a spreadsheet with inspection results on a screen in the pits so that teams could be updated, made pit maps so teams could find one another, and built a practice field a decent distance away from the others for practice. In this, we hoped to take some stress off of teams.

    On the same topic of helping teams, we had volunteers assigned to help fix robots and to assist with code, as well as putting the Mobile Learning Lab in workshop mode for teams who needed it. Iron Reign has been stuck in bad situations countless times, and we wanted to return the favor to those who helped us.

    Finally, we'd like to thank all of our volunteers for being there. It was a hard, long day, but it was worth it, and we'd just like to extend our gratitude. We'd like to thank DISD STEM for providing food for volunteers and Townview Magnet Center for letting us host the qualifier here. Finally, we'd like to give a huge shoutout to our coach, Karim Virani, for doing the logistics of this tournament.

    Next Steps

    We're going to write up a few other posts about interacting with judges, supporting teams, and a postmortem on the tournament. We've got a lot to do over the break, and this was just the kickoff for it.

    REV Headquarters Visit

    REV Headquarters Visit By Ethan, Charlotte, Abhi, Bhanaviya, Evan, Karina, and Arjun

    Task: Visit REV headquarters and learn more about the engineering process

    Today, a group of Iron Reign, Core, and Star members ventured down to the REV headquarters in Dallas. REV is a Dallas-based FTC+FRC parts company that produces their items at an accessible cost for all teams. All the SEM Robotics teams use REV, their parts are easy to use while still giving the ability to create technically impressive mechanisms. So, we were elated when we had the opportunity to visit them.

    We started out with a tour, seeing the workshop in which they host their FRC teams - with RoboGreg inviting some of our members to apply to the new FRC team. Then, we saw the rest of the warehouse. Stretching infinitely towards the celing were rows and rows of REV parts in every variety imaginable with a center island of organized bins of parts. The last thing we were able to see on the first floor was the recording studio that REV's working on so that they can record tutorial videos.

    We can't talk about everything we saw on the second floor, as some of it may not actually be released yet, but we can tell you of the Wonderland-like nature of it. As we walked in, we were met by a room dedicated to testing electronics. Iron Reign is accustomed to soldering on the floor or a hastily improvised bench or whatever clear space there is on the kitchen table, so this alone was enough for us to long to use it. And then, we were met by the 3D-printing room. You see, REV has two normal nylon printers that Iron Reign has plenty of experience with - been there, done that - but they also had a resin printer. We've never had the luck to see a resin printer in real life, only in far away youtube videos and whispers of whispers. In this alone, we were extremely jealous. Finally, we got to meet the engineers and have a general discussion with RoboGreg and David.

    First, we got to learn about REV's design process. First, we learned about their revision process. They begin with a general idea, a goal that they want to achieve. Then, they create a small prototype with the tools they have at their home base if they can - after all, they have a reflow over, laser cutter, resin printers, and more we probably didn't get to see. From there, they send out their design for a small batch from a given manufacturer, just enough for testing. From there, they identify faults, fix them, and send for the next iteration, and so on. They end up with a finished product that, at the very least, has no physical/hardware faults; this is important as their philosophy is to give affordable parts to academic programs, and if they release faulty parts, they harm their customers. We learned a lot about the importance of a central design philosophy - something Iron Reign lacks. REV's is twofold: to make their parts affordable for those who normally wouldn't have access and to make their parts accessible for teams of all skill levels.

    Finally, we got to the part in which we presented to RoboGreg and the rest of the engineers. Last year for Kraken, we designed a system called REVolution, which, when printed, allowed any team to turn REV extrusions into shafts. We felt that it made robots easier to build, so we presented it and asked for feedback. They were impressed by Kraken and liked the way in which it was implemented. Then, we learned some things about high-level design. First, an idea doesn't mean anything as long as it's just that, an idea. What differentiates those who do from those who don't is their vision and process to realize their ideas. In REVolution, we had done this. But, then we learned about a little system called Cost-Benefit analysis. As macroeconomics states, if a person chooses to make one choice, they inherently lose out on another, even if it isn't realized. In our case, it was this: if REV chose to produce the REVolution system, naturally, there would be other products that go neglected. And, one has to consider how a new parts system fits with the other parts; if REvolution were made real, one would have to create a whole extra parts library while still maintaining other similar rotation systems, increasing the work. It's not that REVolution is a bad system, its just that it could present too much of a tradeoff. In RoboGreg's words, this is "reality-based creativity."

    We also asked some questions about things that Iron Reign wants to use; for example, where we could get access to a metal-3D-printer. We were informed that a local company down the road from REV, MLC CAD, was likely to provide this service for Iron Reign if requested. We asked for criticism of the REVolution system, learning that under normal operating speeds and temperatures, that nylon has the tendency to fuse with itself and that if possible, we should switch to a material such as Amphora.

    We also presented BigWheel, this year's robot. We had some difficulties setting it up, but overall, they were impressed. The one point that we heard was that, when extended, BigWheel has a very high center of gravity, making it prone to tipping. We've considered it in the past, but really noticed it when it nearly hit someone rising up.

    Next Steps

    We learned so much here, and we'd like to give a huge thanks to RoboGreg and REV for giving us a tour. We want to implement the changes to our engineering process that we learned, and we're going to fix up BigWheel to solve its current in-presentation issues.

    STEM Expo Preparation

    STEM Expo Preparation By Bhanaviya and Ben B

    Task: Plan for the DISD STEM Expo

    Tomorrow, Iron Reign along with members from the other 3 teams, is participating in the DISD STEM Expo for our third year. As we have done for the past 2 years, we are bringing the Mobile Learning Experience Lab to the event area in Kay Bailey Hutchinson Center. The purpose of this event is to connect with children in the DISD Area by helping them a foster an appreciation for engineering and the sciences. With the support of the Dallas City of Learning, a non-profit organization operated by Big Thought which helps schedule The Mobile Learning Experience, Iron Reign will have a featured exhibit within the MXP. To maximize event productivity, we will be working alongside volunteers from Microsoft and Best Buy who will help us ensure that the exhibit runs smoothly.

    As part of the exhibit, we will have events similar to those hosted as part of STEM Spark! This includes the LEGO Mindstorm Sumo Robots Event as well as our 3D Printing Keychains activity. In the LEGO Mindstorm Activity our primary purpose is to reach out to students with little to no FIRST Exposure by giving them the opportunity to block program a miniature robot of their own. Considering the fact that the focus of FLL is LEGO Robots, this activity will help get participants involved in FLL.

    Our second feature is a 3D Modelling activity. This activity allows participants to model their own keychains using one of the four 3D-printers stocked in the MXP. Since this activity gave students the opportunity to customize their keychain, it will promote avid participant interest towards the idea of 3D Modelling.

    At the end of the day, modelling and coding are two of the many aspects encompassed in STEM, and more importantly, FIRST. In introducing these activities, we hope to promote a student initiative in FIRST Robotics. And who knows - tomorrow, we might just meet the future members of Iron Reign.

    DISD STEM Expo

    DISD STEM Expo By Bhanaviya, Ethan, Charlotte, Janavi, Evan, Abhi, Arjun, Kenna, Justin, Karina, Ben B, and Jose

    Task: Present at the DISD STEM Expo

    DISD STEM Expo has been our busiest event this year. Overall, we met with over 1000 participants for both the 3D Printing event and the Sumo-Robots station. In typical Iron Reign fashion, we drew a crowd with the presence of the MXP - luckily, we had an extra set of hands to help out from both Imperial Robotics and Iron Star. Despite the fact that this was a first-time event for many of the members helping out, STEM Expo ran smoothly.

    We started out by setting up the MXP and the EV3 robots. After ensuring that the MXP was stocked up with laptops and 3D printers, we set up sumo mats, laptops and LEGO Mindstorm Robots in tables outside the vehicle. All the freshmen were given a quick crash-course on how to run the Sumo-Robots session, while the seniors ensured that all of the FTC robots were demo-ready.

    Since the participants were of varying ages, one of our biggest challenges was trying to convey the message of actually coding the robot across a variety of audiences. We learned earlier on that the best way to teach younger audiences how to code the robots was by letting them test out each block of code, so that they could get a sense of what they were trying to accomplish.

    Meanwhile, in the MXP, a line began queuing outside due to the sheer number of participants inside the vehicle. All participants first observed a demo on how to 3D print a keychain, after which we began working. SEM Robotics members floated around the vehicle to help out anyone who needed assistance.

    We also had a few connect opportunities. Best Buy (Geek Squad) representatives boarded the RV to ask about our program. Our MXP is funded by Best Buy - we receieved a $10k grant from them earlier this season - and this was a great opportunity to talk to them again. We spoke about the history of the MXP program, what it currently does, and our plans to create a new MXP with the $150k in funding that BigThought received as well as our need for an additional $100k. Also present at the STEM Expo were several Microsoft employees. We've worked at Microsoft events before, most notably YouthSpark, and they've contributed to the MXP program, so we talked to them again over the same topics, trying to garner up support for the new MXP.

    Next Steps

    Our booth could not have operated as smooth as it did without BigThought, for helping us staff and maintain the MXP, and DISD for giving us the opportunity to introduce FIRST to such a large audience. As hectic as it was trying to teach block programming and 3D modelling to students with little to no technical experience, the event ran much more systematically than we could have expected. It was energizing to see children excitedly “battle” their robots, and to see them walk away, waving a 3D-printed keychain. We are incredibly thankful for having been able to interact with the next generation of engineers, and giving them a platform to see robotics as a comprehendable concept.

    FIRST in Texas Grant

    FIRST in Texas Grant By Ethan

    Task: Recieve a grant for the Iron Reign program

    Iron Reign has received $1,000 from FIRST in Texas for tournament fees and robot parts. This will go a long way for our team, as DISD STEM has already stepped in to cover the Worlds' fees, which in turn allows us to use these funds for future seasons if needed.