Articles by tag: motivate

Articles by tag: motivate

    Iron Reign earns FTC World Championship Motivate Award

    Iron Reign earns FTC World Championship Motivate Award

    Last week at the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Robotics World Championship in Houston, Team 6832, Iron Reign, from the School of Science and Engineering in Dallas ISD earned the Motivate award which ranks them at the top in the outreach category.


    Top Row: Justin Bonsell, Christian Saldana, Charlotte Leakey, Tycho Virani, Evan Daane, Austin Davis
    Bottom: Janavi Chadha, Kenna Tanaka, Abhijit Bhattaru, Karina Lara and Ethan Helfman
    coached by Karim Virani, Cathy Lux and Calvin Boykin

    Each of the 5,200 active robotics teams this year is expected and encouraged to share their passion for robotics and all things Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) with younger students who haven't had the same opportunities. One hundred and twenty eight of these teams from around the world earned spots at this championship, including teams from the USA, Canada, Mexico, South America, the Middle East, the Pacific Rim and China. Iron Reign recieved this recognition for their work in creating, operating and sustaining the Mobile Tech eXPerience, an RV that they converted to a mobile STEM lab in order to support the work of Big Thought and the Dallas City of Learning Initiative.

    On board the vehicle, students can learn to program one of sixteen sumo robots, design 3D objects and print them on one of the four 3D printers, learn to program in Scratch or create virtual worlds in Minecraft. The robotics team converted the vehicle and helped run the pilot program in summer 2016. This school year their goal has been to help Big Thought sustain the vehicle by continuing to support deployments, improve the curriculum and simply "make it loud." And now Big Thought is taking vehicle operations year-round. With this vehicle and accomplished instructors, Big Thought is bringing STEM exposure into under-served neighborhoods to help young students think of themselves as future engineers, scientists or technologists. This year alone the team has contributed 680 hours supporting 15 deployments of the vehicle to neighborhoods and large events. They've taught or spoken with over 3,400 students or parents at these events, and they've shared curriculum and the story of the vehicle nationwide by participating at the National Science Teachers Association STEM Expo.

    This video will tell you more about the MXP from the perspective of the team members:

    In the robot game the team finished 26 of 64 teams in their division, a good showing for a first-time Worlds team with a new young drive team. And Dr. Woodie Flowers, lead mentor of FIRST and Professor Emeritus at MIT signed and kissed our robot:

    The team is fully appreciative of all of the support they've received this year. Special mention goes to Big Thought, Jeff Marx and Joe Schelanko of the Dallas ISD STEM Department, the SEM PTSA, the School of Science and Engineering staff and our advisor Calvin Boykin, Principal Andrew Palacios, Executive Director Tiffany Huitt and the tireless parents of all team members.

    Please see the team website for more information. The team will be going to the UIL State Championship in Austin on May 18. Finally, here is our robot reveal:

    School of Science and Engineering Freshman Orientation

    School of Science and Engineering Freshman Orientation By Austin and Shaggy

    Today, we attended the Science and Engineering Magnet's annual freshman orientation. Everyone who is admitted to SEM is required to attend because parents and students get important information about the coming school year, in addition to learning about all the clubs and activities SEM offers. Almost every single one of SEM's organizations come out and talk to incoming students.
    All but one of our team members attend SEM so most of us have experienced the event firsthand. When we first came to SEM, none of us really knew what extracurriculars we wanted to do. This event was a great opportunity, not only to tell students about FIRST and Iron Reign, but to meet the people we'll be spending the next year(s) with.

    Since more than half of our team are going to graduating next year, we're already thinking about the 2019-2020 season. We want to start members early so we can ensure an effective transfer of knowledge between our rising juniors and new teammates. The best way to learn is through hands-on experience that this coming season could give them.

    We drove it through the crowd and spoke to over 20 families about our work in FTC, the robot, competition, and more. Honestly, the robot is a real crowd-pleaser, and the real reason we had the largest audience during the event.There were five kids who were very interested in FTC. We were answering much more specific questions with them, like what the time commitment is, why we chose specific parts, etc. It was great to see such enthusiasm for STEM at such a young age! At one point, they started giving us building suggestions like where to add support bars.
    The parents had questions as well and expressed their willingness to support the team.

    In the midst of answering questions and demoing the robot, we talked to our principal, Mr. Palacios, who congratulated us on our win at Worlds and was excited to see the finished robot.

    Overall, the event was a big success. We made lots of meaningful connections with incoming students and have some prospective members. We look forward to attending next year and maybe welcoming some new teammates.

    You can watch a short video of the event here

    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.

    Turn Up! at Dallas Love Field

    Turn Up! at Dallas Love Field By Justin, Ethan, Charlotte, Kenna, Abhi, and Evan

    Task: Present at the Dallas Love Field for the DCOL Turn Up! Event

    Every year, the Frontiers of Flight Museum hosts Turn Up!, an event where kids can learn about science and math. Once again, we brought the MXP equipped with 3D printers, Lego sumobots, and our world class FTC robot, Kraken. We ran the sumobots on a table outside of the MXP and 3D printing inside. We also demoed Kraken and Argos, which were great attention grabbers to get kids interested in the MXP. The kids enjoyed programming the Lego sumobots and battling them against each other, as well as creating their very own customized 3D printed key chain. The 3D printers were very busy this year so we had to create extra space outside of the MXP for more laptops with the 3D printing software.

    We drove Kraken around the exhibition room and talked to many interested parents about the joy of robotics. While we talked to the parents, someone driving the robot would showcase the capabilities of Kraken by bringing kids glyphs and shaking hands with the relic arm. Kraken was great for showing families what FTC is about. We also had Argos for display but the steering was broken so we didnt drive it. Around 1100 people turned up to the event and we talked to most of them about what we do here at Iron Reign. Turn Up was a great opportunity to introduce kids to the world of STEM and robotics and we hope to have more opportunities like this in the future.

    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.

    On top of that, our region has been rumoured to become either a open or semi-open region next year. If so, we'll be facing the ultra-competitive teams from Austin like ViperBots, teams from Arkansas like TechHogs and DivaForce, and any other smaller regions. We've gone against all of these teams before in their respective regionals, and honestly, they generally perform much better than us. So, if this comes true, our chances of advancing to worlds decrease significantly.

    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 a local, yet-to-be-named billionaire. 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

    2018-2019 Recruitment

    2018-2019 Recruitment By Ethan

    Task: Recruit members for the upcoming robotics season

    At the end of last season, we had two members graduate, Austin and Tycho. Their upcoming "goodbye" posts will be posted here, the same as last year. So, we wanted to recruit at least one member to replace them. Recruitment methods that we had used in the past, such as posters and Townview recruitment seminars, had failed to gain any meaningful recruitment. So, we fell back on our secondary, having individual team members submit possible recruits, as well as recruiting from our JV team. This year, we already have Justin. Last year, we had Kenna and Abhi as a submitted recruit. The year before, we had Janavi and Austin.

    These prospective recruits are required to fill out a Google Form on our website, titled signup. We had this post stickied for the better part of last year. Of all the people who were asked to fill out this form, we had three people respond, with a fourth potential recruit being the younger sibling of our leaving members. Our current step is vetting the current recruits - we have two interested in coding, one in building, and one no-show. We're giving the recruits tasks to weed them out, the ones that are less experienced will be shunted back into our JV team.

    Next Steps

    We will recruit 1-3 members out of these recruits and teach them the other aspects that they don't have experience in: writing, code, tools, ect.

    Central Public Library Outreach Event

    Central Public Library Outreach Event By Ethan, Kenna, Charlotte, and Evan

    Task: Present at the J. Erik Jonsson Public Library

    This Saturday, we drove down to the J. Erik Jonsson library to present at the Dallas City of Learning Discovery Fair. Being on the second floor. we couldn't really bring our RV without significant structural damage. So, we brought our sumo-bot equipment to the library, as well as a few of our new and old bots, such as cartbot, bigwheel, and Kraken. We're eventually going to do a writeup on these bots, but a brief summary of each are:

    • cartbot - We took our old rolling cart and attached motors to it so that it can be driven around. We also attached an air cannon that can shoot cans at kids to enertain them (and us).
    • bigwheel - An attachment that can be dragged around by other robots and hold items.
    • Kraken - Our 2017-18 competition robot.

    We presented for about 4 hours, talking to about 190 kids. We had multiple parents interested in starting FLL teams, and many other children enertained by our new mobile cannon.

    Moon Day 2018

    Moon Day 2018 By Karina, Ethan, Janavi, and Charlotte

    Task: Reach out to the community and spread the magic of robotics

    Iron Reign had a great time today at the Frontiers of Flight Museum for the 2018 Moon Day. We demoed three of our robots today: Argos, Kraken, and Big Boi. Kids were very interested in watching our robots drive. Big Boi was a fan-favorite because of its speed and the attached can launcher. Kids were also given the opportunity to drive Argos around. We were also able to interest kids in FTC when we explained Kraken, our robot from the previous season and demonstrated how it could pick up glyphs. In total, we spoke to approximately 200 individuals.

    Besides driving our finished robots, we made progress on Garchomp, another robot with mecanum drive serving as a replica for Kraken. We explained our design to people and why we like the mecanum drive so much. Many parents were interested in getting their children involved in a robotics team because they could see the build process at its middle stages in Garchomp and as well as the finished product in Kraken.

    Next Steps

    Here at Iron Reign, we value the community's involvment and interest in robotics. We will continue to make ourselves and our robots accessible to the community at future outreach event, and we will also encourage kids to get involved in STEM.

    SEM Nest Outreach

    SEM Nest Outreach By Arjun

    Task: Present about STEM to new freshmen at SEM

    Today Iron Reign presented at the New Student Orientation (NEST) camp at our school, SEM. All incoming freshman were there. We had two sessions, one with 3D modeling, and another with sumo-bots. We also drove around two of our robots from last year, Kraken and Argos. We gave the freshmen chances to drive around these robots. Most of the students were very interested in our presentation, and a few even signed up to join Iron Reign because of it. We spoke with around 160 students.

    Next Steps

    Here at Iron Reign, we value the community's involvment and interest in robotics, especially the students at our school. We will continue to make ourselves and our robots accessible to the community at future outreach events, and we will also encourage kids to get involved in STEM. We hope to recruit many of the students who were interested in robotics from our meeting.

    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.

    Dallas Back to School Fair

    Dallas Back to School Fair By Ethan and Kenna

    Task: Present at the Dallas Back to School Fair at O.W. Holmes

    Today we brought the MXP over to O.W. Holmes Academy in South Oak Cliff for our usual presentation. In the front, we ran sumobits, and in the back, we did 3-D design. The focus on this event was a bit different - it was a back to school event, so the main focus was on getting the children ready for school, while we assisted with educational activities if the parents had spare time. So, while there were about 1.5k people at the event, we talked to a fraction of them. However, every child we talked to really enjoyed the MXP and our activities. In the end, we probably talked to about 130 kids.

    Next Steps

    We have a few more outreach events before our season goes into full swing, so we need to get in touch with as many people as possible.

    Hey New Members!

    Hey New Members! By Kenna

    Hopefully, you're here because you heard our announcement or saw our flyers. Even if not, welcome! We are team 6832 Iron Reign Robotics. We've been a FIRST team since 2010 and currently compete in FIRST Tech Challenge. Some have been on the team for a few months, others over half their lives. We design, build, and code robots, but we also spend a lot of our time on the MXP. We won the Motivate Award at the World Championships for the creation and sustainment of the MXP. On our team you will learn practical skills, like how to solder programming wires, and soft skills, like how to present to a panel of judges.

    If you are interested, please fill out our form for potential members. We are also having an interest meeting at Townview Magnet Center on August 30th in room 363. Feel free to explore our blog or learn more about us.

    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 Teas 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 hosted by Technibots 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. If y'all aren't aware, there are huge disparities between the awards in North Texas and the awards at Worlds. For example, in North Texas, we'd continually win 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. So, we're actually happy about this change, as we've historically been frustrated with this awards gap.

    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

    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.

    Recruitment Update

    Recruitment Update By Ethan

    Task: Analyze recruitment efforts

    So, as we've stated in prior posts, this year has historically been the most effective year for recruitment, ever. We have had 30! total signups, up from -5 last year. This tsunami of new recruits means that much like a mature skin cell, Iron Reign must undergo mitosis and grow. So, in addition to Iron Reign and Imperial Robotics, we are introducing TWO new teams to North Texas and the Iron Reign family.

    To accomedate this influx, we are changing the organizational structure of SEM Robotics a tad. Iron Reign will remain the varsity team, and as such, will be responsible for tutoring and assisting the other teams, as well as other organizational decisions. Then, Imperial will now be the JV team, and be the intermediate training ground. You can see their efforts over at https://imperialrobotics.github.io/. Finally, we have the two new additions: Iron Star Robotics and a yet-to-be-named team. Iron Star Robotics is a self-formed, co-op team of motivated freshmen; the other is yet to be named and will be a more lax training team.

    We'll deliver tutoring updates and joint outreach events on this blog, as well as our usual content. Everything claimed in this engineering notebook will be Iron Reign (6832) only, and we will hold the same standard of separation to the other teams.

    Next Steps

    We will tutor the new teams and identify the promising recruits. For ongoing tournaments and eliminations, we will recompose new teams of the most promising members.

    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

    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. In our main robotics session, we were planning to have half of our event aboard the RV outside and half inside. But, due to flash flooding, we had to bring everything inside. So, we split our event into two, with half doing EV3 Sumo in one room and half creating keychains in the other. As well, we had members helping the kids create water filters for the environmental science session and others preparing the chemicals for chemistry. 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.

    Travis High School Night

    Travis High School Night By Ethan, Evan, Kenna, Charlotte, and Karina

    Task: Present about SEM and the Iron Reign Robotics program

    Today, we went to the Travis H.S. Night to talk to prospective freshmen about our robotics team. The format of the night was this: four twenty-five minute periods, with twenty minutes about SEM and five minutes about robotics. To fit this time schedule, we condensed our usual recruitment presentation down to five minutes while also demoing our former Worlds robot, Kraken. We mainly talked about the main points of FTC: being well rounded, the emphasis on writing, business, and the like. Then, we answered questions from the audience for the rest of the time. Overall, we presented to about 120 parents and students.

    Next Steps

    We plan to hold more presentations and outreach events in the future. We've already stepped our recruitment game up, so events like these are crucial.

    MXP Expansion

    MXP Expansion By Ethan

    Task: Update the engineering journal on changes to our MXP program

    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 recieving $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. This is a great day for Iron Reign, and therefore the world.

    Strategy and Business Whitepaper

    Strategy and Business Whitepaper By Ethan

    Task: Write the Strategy+Business Whitepaper for the Journal

    For teams who don't know, this kind of paper is suggested for judging. Iron Reign usually completes one every year. You can download the pdf of this post here.

    Intro

    This year is Iron Reign’s eleventh season in FIRST, our ninth year overall. We’ve participated in five years of FLL and seven years of FTC:



    FLL

    • Body Forward
    • Food Factor
    • Senior Solution
    • Nature’s Fury
    • World Class



    FTC

    • Ring It Up!
    • Block Party
    • Cascade Effect
    • RES-Q
    • Velocity Vortex
    • Relic Recovery
    • Rover Ruckus

     

    While our team originated at WB Travis Vanguard and Academy, as our members became older (such is the passage of time), we moved to the School of Science and Engineering at Townview (SEM) in DISD. Despite our school being 66% economically disadvantaged and being Title 1, our school consistently ranks in the top 10 nationwide academically. Our school also has numerous other award-winning extracurricular clubs; including CX Debate, Math/Science UIL, and more. Our school employs a rigorous STEM-based curriculum, which provides our students access to specialized class schedules, such as Engineering, Computer Science, and Math, as well as paying for AP classes that our students would normally not be able to afford. The average SEM student takes at least 10 APs.

     

    A History of Iron Reign

     

    Iron Reign has been a team for nine years. We initially started as a First Lego League (FLL) team, plateauing in regionals every year we competed. This was usually not due to the actual “robot game” in FLL, but because of our presentations. Starting there, Iron Reign was defined as focusing on creative and innovative designs. We also did Google’s Lunar X Prize program every summer, achieving finalist status in 2011 and 2012. Upon moving to high school, we started doing FTC, as FRC was too cost-prohibitive to be parent-run.

    We have been an FTC team for 7 years, advancing further and further each year. In Velocity Vortex, we got to the South Super Regionals, qualifying by winning the North Texas Inspire Award, which means that we represent all parts of the competition, from teamwork, to the presentation, to creativity, and to the actual game. In Georgia, the same year, we were the first alternative for Worlds if another team dropped out.

     

    Then, last year, we finally got to Worlds. We got there in two ways: the 2nd place Innovate award at Supers, and also got the lottery, on the prior merits of being a FIRST team for so long. There, we got the recognition that we’d been seeking – we won the Worlds Motivate Award.

    In the same vein, we compete in the Texas UIL State Championships. For those unfamiliar with UIL, it is the main organizational committee for all public school academic and athletic events in the state of Texas. Through UIL, we helped compete in the first test program for the UIL Robotics program and since then have competed in every subsequent tournament. This year, it finally got out of the trial period, and became a full-fledged competition.

     

    Outreach

     

    Our outreach stands out from other teams through our mode of presentation. Last year, we renovated a 90’s Seaview Skyline RV, took out the “home” components, such as the bathroom and bedroom, and turned it into a mobile tech lab, so that we can bring STEM to underprivileged demographics within our community. Our RV currently holds 4 3D Printers, 30+ computers, 3 widescreen TVs, and 1 microwave. Our current curriculum consists of teaching kids 3D modelling in the back of the RV, using Google Sketchup, as it is free and available to any family with a computer. We usually help them design keychains, as they are memorable, but don’t take excessive time to print on our printers. In the front, we teach kids how to use EV3 robots and teach them how to use the EV3 programming language to compete in a sumo-bot competition. We also give advice to parents and educators on how to start FIRST teams.

     

    To make Iron Reign’s history entirely clear, we built the RV two years ago. We do not claim any credit for the actual construction of the RV in this journal; however, we do share the goals of this program: making the RV run as a standalone program, expanding the program to other communities, and serving more and more underprivileged communities in Dallas. To our own standards, we have achieved this.

     

    Our current funding services for the operation of the RV come from Best Buy, who purchased the thirty-plus laptops and four 3D printers. We receive grants from non-profits such as BigThought and Dallas City of Learning to fund events and provide staff (even though our team provides staffing).

     

    This year, we have obtained $150k in additional funds to expand our outreach program by building a second Mobile Learning Lab. This is an unprecedented level of funding - it can cover the majority of buying an RV, staffing it, and filling it to the brim with technology. So far, this is the highlight of the Iron Reign season.

     

    When not in outreach service, we can transform our RV into tournament mode. We have taken numerous long-distance road trips aboard our RV, with locations such as Austin, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Florida. We substitute the laptops for a band saw and drill press, use the flat screens to program instead of teach, and bring our higher-quality personal 3D printer. At tournaments, we encourage other teams to board our RV, not only to encourage them to start their own similar programs, but also to help them with mechanical and building issues.

    Iron Reign spends a lot of time on outreach. So far, we’ve spent 84.5 man-hours and talked to just under 2000 people (1995) within our community. Our goal of this outreach is to reach disadvantaged children who would not normally have the opportunity to participate in STEM programs in order to spark their interest in STEM for future learning. Some of our major outreach events this year include Love Field Turn Up!, where we reached 1100 children from around the Metroplex. We’ve worked for our school district in various circumstances, including bringing children back-to-school STEM education and running orientations for our high school.

    We also represent FIRST in a variety of ways. At our Mobile Learning Lab events, we talk to parents and educators about starting their own FLL and FTC teams. We currently mentor our school’s FRC team Robobusters and are in the process of founding another. We are the mentors for our sister team, FTC 3734 We also provide help as-requested for FLL teams to go back to our roots. As well, we’ve historically hosted underfunded teams for late-night-before-tournament workshops.

     

    Date

    Event

    People

    Hours

    # People

    2018-04-26

    SEM Orientation

    Shaggy

    6

    200

    2018-06-23

    Turn Up! Dallas Love Field

    Justin, Ethan, Charlotte, Kenna, Abhi, Evan

    24

    1100

    2018-07-14

    Dallas Public Library

    Ethan, Kenna, Charlotte, Evan

    16

    190

    2018-07-21

    MoonDay

    Karina, Ethan, Janavi, Charlotte

    26

    200

    2018-07-22

    Summer Chassis

    Kenna, Ethan, Charlotte, Karina, Shaggy, Abhi

    24

    25

    2018-08-01

    SEM Summer Camp

    Arjun

    6

    175

    2018-08-18

    Back to School Fair

    Ethan, Kenna

    6.5

    130

    2018-10-13

    SEM STEM Spark

    Ethan, Charlotte, Janavi, Abhi, Karina, Justin

    80

    140

    2018-10-16

    Travis High School Night

    Ethan, Evan, Kenna, Charlotte, Karina

    12.5

    120

         

    201

    2280

    Business and Funding

     

    Iron Reign, for the past two years, has increasingly ramped up its funding. We aggressively seek out new sponsors so that we can continue to keep Iron Reign great. Currently, these include:

    • BigThought - RV materials, staffing, and upkeep
    • Dallas City of Learning (DCOL) – RV materials and upkeep
    • Best Buy – 4x3D Printers, Laptops for RV
    • DISD STEM – Practice field and tournament funding
    • RoboRealm - $1500 of machine vision software
    • Dallas Makerspace – Access to machining tools
    • DPRG – Robot assistance
    • Mark Cuban - $2500
    • DEKA - Rookie team funding for our two new teams
    • Texas Workforce Commission - $525 for our team, $2350 for new ones



    We are always seeking more funding. We apply for the FIRST and FIRST in Texas grants every year, and seek grants from STEM-curious companies and individuals in the Dallas area. We have applied for grants from Orix and Mark Cuban, receiving personal funding from the latter. We receive staffing and upkeep from a local Dallas non-profit, BigThought. Currently, we are seeking funding and assistance from Ernst and Young, an international company with a Dallas branch, that a team member works for.

     

    In previous years, we have lacked the ability to get significant transportation funding to get to tournaments. However, through our partnership with DISD, we have solved that problem, and when DISD is unable to provide transportation due to short notice, we can provide our own transportation due to our building of the RV.

     

    Reference Business Letter

     

    “To whomever it may concern,

              My name is Abhijit Bhattaru, and I am currently a member of Iron Reign Robotics at the School of Science and Engineering at Townview, a DISD magnet school whose population is 66% economically disadvantaged. We have been a FIRST team for about nine years, over half of some of our members’ lives. For the past six years, we have operated as FTC Team 6832, Iron Reign. We’ve achieved various forms of success in these years, culminating with our rise to the Houston World Championship this year, winning the Motivate Award, an award for outstanding outreach within our community.

     

              What makes our team stand out from other teams is our dedication to our community. Two years ago, we converted a Sea View RV into a Mobile Learning Lab equipped with 4 3D printers, 15 EV3 robots, and 30 laptops to teach children basic programming and 3D modelling. The purpose of all of this is to start a spark of STEM in underserved communities so that these children can later go into STEM. And, we have expanded this program nationwide, presenting at the National Science Teachers’ Association national conference in 2017. We have partnered with local nonprofits such as Big Thought to fund our outreach expenses, and to reach out to interested communities across Dallas, and the nation, to expand our program.

     

              So, why do we need your help? Our school is 66% economically disadvantaged, and adding to that, DISD is facing up to an $81 million budget gap. The district’s funding for robotics has been dropping to the point where only the basics are covered and even then come too late in the season due to red-tape. The one silver lining is that the DISD STEM Department is still able to handle most of our competition travel expenses. This offsets our largest expense category. But we still have to fund the development of our robot, and we aim high. Our robot earned an Innovation Award at the twelve-state South Super Regional Championship this year. We try to push the boundaries of design and execution and this requires a different level of funding for parts, materials and tools.

     

            To achieve this higher level of funding, Iron Reign is aiming to create a 501(c)(3) foundation to avoid the level of red tape and financial mismanagement from DISD that we have experienced for the past several years. This is where you come in, Mr. Cuban. We are asking for a seed donation for this non-profit, so that our team can become a free-standing team unhampered by DISD’s bureaucracy. Our mission would still be to serve our school and community, as it has been for the past eight years, but we would be able to avoid DISD’s mismanagement.

     

            If the money is not utilized for a seed donation, we would allocate it for new robot parts and equipment. A starter kit for FTC is at least $600 but this is nowhere close to cost of a World Championship robot. To become more successful in the robot game for the following seasons, we would need a higher investment into parts, considering many things can go wrong in an 8 month season. Your donation to the cause would allow us to become more successful.

     

            In return for your investment, Iron Reign will set out to accomplish what you desire from us. We can promote you and your companies on our website, presentations, etc. However, this is just one option. We are open to helping you in whatever way you  would like in return for your help to our team.

     

               Thank you for taking the time to consider our request, and if you happen to have additional time, we would like you to look over our previous Engineering Journals here to see our team’s engineering process and history. To see a video about our robot, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBlGXSf_-8A.

     

            Also, since you were not able to meet with us, we thought we would bring ourselves to you. Here is a video of our team and the FIRST Tech Challenge program.

    Thanks for your consideration,

    Iron Reign (6832)

    Looking Back, Moving Forward

     

    Recently, Iron Reign has put a large emphasis on recruitment. We have alternating years with high turnover due to graduation, so we hold recruitment meetings at our school every year for both Iron Reign and Imperial Robotics.

     

    We already have another team in our school, team 3734 Imperial Robotics. 3734 is an entirely different team, with different sponsors, members, robots, journal, outreach, and codebase. That being said, we recruit the more accomplished members of that team. The teams’ relationship is most similar to the difference between a Junior Varsity team and a Varsity team.

     

    We tend to recruit based on robotics experience, but having robotics experience alone is not a guarantee of joining our team. Iron Reign has a specific culture, and we tend to recruit people whose personalities fit our culture. We also do not accept people who only want to join robotics as a resume booster. While robotics is indeed a resume booster, and we allow every member to claim co-captain on their college applications, members of Iron Reign ought to join out of their genuine passion for robotics, not because of it getting them ahead in the rat race of college applications.

     

    This year has been an unprecedented year in recruitment for Iron Reign. We recruited approximately 30 new freshmen, expanding the Iron Reign program from two teams to four; from Iron Reign and Imperial Robotics, to adding Iron Star Robotics and Iron Core. And, our efforts have been recognized by our donors: we have been supplied four additional REV kits, and two fields so that we can support the larger program.

     

    Build

     

    Iron Reign utilizes a variety of parts and kits. At the moment, Iron Reign prefers the REV kit due to its simplicity - everything seems to just fit together, while still being minimalist. However, Iron Reign’s old standby is 3D printing. We’ve used 3D printing before it became widespread within FTC, and we’ve become sort of pros at specialized design. We even have our own 3D-print kits such as REVolution, a system to turn REV extrusions into axles.

     

    This year, we’re using a new base that’s more adapted to the challenge. Its working name is Minichassis. It is approximately 6”x6” for the base with an additional 4” extension for mounting. It uses four 4” AndyMark mecanum mounted low to the ground with NeverRest 20s with planetary gearboxes attached to each wheel. So, the robot is astoundingly small and fast.

     

    We have two main attachments to our robot, the lift and the intake. First, the intake is a small square with silicone oven mitts attached to it. It knocks the particles upward into racks spaced 68mm apart. This spacing allows the blocks to fall through while the balls move upwards into the lift. Then, the lift. The lift is a series of REV rails attached through a linear slide kit with a hook and particle holder on the end. This extends, allowing the robot to deposit particles in the lander while also being able to hook onto the lander.

     

    In addition to this design, we have also developed BigWheel, aptly named for its 6-inch wheels at the back with a front-facing omniwheel. At the front of the robot, we installed two “arms” which brace an intake system named “CornCob” for its lumpy, cylindrical appearance. This is mounted at a height just so it only contacts the silver particles, not the gold. But, what truly differentiates this robot is it’s lift mechanism. Unlike the majority of FTC robots we’ve encountered this year, BigWheel has no lift, extending-arm, or linear slide. Instead, we have a central lever mounted to two high-torque motors, with a ridiculous 3:1 gear ratio for a cumulative 19.4 N*m of torque. This serves to rotate the robot into a near-total-vertical position, allowing the arms of the robot to reach to the lip of the lander. We feel that this differentiates our team’s robot from the majority of other robots within the current FTC season.

     

    Code

     

    Iron Reign has a large pre-existing codebase. We’ve been improving off of our prior code for years. The particulars we want to focus on are thus:

    • Pose
      • This class uses the IMU to approximate the location of the robot on the field relative to the starting position. The math behind this is simple; we use trigonometry to calculate the short-line distance between the robot’s prior location and its current one.
    • OpenCV
      • We use OpenCV to recognize particles in autonomous. To do this, we trained the software to differentiate between gold and silver particles. To extend our knowledge of computer vision, we ran tests of OpenCV vs TensorFlow CNN in Python to see if there would be a meaningful runtime difference.
    • PID
      • At this point, PID is common among FTC teams. However, as we moved to a new driving base for the first time in three years, we had to retune it, so we rewrote our code to account for the changes in behavior.

     

    Design Process

     

    Iron Reign uses two design processes in conjunction with each other to create efficient and reliable parts. First, we use the Kaizen design process, also used in industrial corporations such as Toyota. The philosophy behind Kaizen is the idea of continual improvement, that there is always some modification to each system on our robot that will make it more efficient or more reliable. As well, design competitions are a focal point of Iron Reign’s design process. In these design competitions, team members choose their favored designs that all complete some field challenge, and build them individually. Upon completion of each mechanism, the designs are tested against each other, considering weight, maneuverability, reliability, and efficiency.

     

    This year, we have exemplified this process. Since kickoff, we’ve had two separate design paths, allowing us to explore the most efficient and workable design. Here, we will describe each segment in detail.

     

    First, we explored chassis designs. Over the summer, we created BigWheel, the aforementioned paragon of uniqueness - operating off of just two wheels. Then, we created the MiniChassis to compete against it, letting the best robot win. As of now, this is undecided, but we’re entering BigWheel to compete, as we feel that this is our more technically-impressive robot through its ability to rotate into a vertical position.

     

    Then, we compared intake mechanisms. First, we created the Corn-Cob intake - a silicone ice cube tray - and mounted it on a beater bar that would ensure sorting through the height difference between blocks and balls. We found that if we mounted it at about 6.5 cm above the ground, it would only consume the silver particles. After, we felt that this wasn’t our best work. So, we created a second intake. As described previously, we attached silicone oven mitts to a beater bar, and added lower fins as a ramp separated 68mm apart so that blocks would fly through, even as balls entered the intake system.

     

    The best thing about Kaizen is that we can mix-and-match these systems for the ultimate robot. At the moment, we’re considering removing the second intake from MiniChassis so that we can replace the Corn-Cob. The fact that we can even consider this system matching casually demonstrates the power of the Kaizen system.

     

    Full Circle

    Full Circle By Evan

    A reflection on my time at Iron Reign

    In 2012 I began competing in FTC. That year our team built a robot with a giant central arm on top of a six wheeled drivetrain that sported a ring bucket that the rings would slot into one or two at a time. The idea was that we would go bit by bit, slowly moving the rings onto the rack in the middle. This was a mediocre idea in theory, but an even worse one in practice. I think in that entire season, we only were able to score one ring, and it was when I was by myself on a practice field before a match. The whole season had led up until that moment. It was the year I learned how to wire things, how to solder wires, how to use a bandsaw, a table saw, a miter saw, and how to really think about the real world applications of what I was doing. When I scored that ring, I was so happy. I told the whole team because this is what we had been trying to do for three months without success. We never scored another ring that season, despite being in first or second place at our qualifier (which is really just a testament to how heavily you can be carried in FTC). Since then i’ve worked on, designed, and built numerous competition robots, making a smooth transition from FLL to FTC, and i’ve been there for basically every major moment in our team’s history, from the very first meeting at the Virani household to our trip to the World championship competition in Houston where we won the Motivate award. I felt the same walking up on that stage and accepting the motivate with my team as I did back in 2012 scoring that one ring. That feeling of success and pride in my work. That’s why I keep doing FTC.

    I say all of this because today I had to take apart the arm of the first robot I ever built, and I thought it was a little poetic how I was using the robot I helped build in the my first season of FTC as part of the robot in my last season of FTC. It was weird. I don’t know. It was one of those rare full circle moments that you only ever get a few of and half the time you don’t even recognize them when they’re happening and never really get to appreciate them. It really just made me think back on all my years of robotics.

    Joining Iron Reign

    Joining Iron Reign By Bhanaviya

    Task: Reflect on my introduction into Iron Reign

    My induction into Iron Reign began with my introduction to FTC. Last year, in the beginning of my 8th Grade term, I found out that my middle school, Schimelpfenig, was hosting tryouts for their FIRST ever (is there an award for bad puns?) team. I'd always been interested in automation, and being part of a robotics team seemed pretty exciting, so I tried out. 3 weeks later, I found out that I had made the team - I was ecstatic but I didn't really have much of an idea of what I signed up for; until the 2017-18 challenge, Relic Recovery had been released. This sent both me and my team members into a cycle of what I liked to call "constructive chaos". Or as others might call it, just chaos. We started out by dividing ourselves into 3 main subgroups - build, code and notebook. Although we started out divided, we eventually began to merge. By the end of the first 2 weeks, each member was in at least 2 sub-divisions. We found this method to be much more effective, since it allowed us to communicate with one another more efficiently. We weren't the most structured team, but we had a system. And as a rookie team, that was our first FIRST success.

    When the time came for our first qualifier, none of us really knew what to expect. But we performed better than we had expected. This was true for our presentation and our first 3 matches; we had scored decently enough to be ranked under the top 10. The last two matches- not so much. Our robot knocked out the wrong jewel, blocked our partner and to top things off, stopped running in the middle of the game. I didn't have to be Mark Cuban to know that we weren't finalists. I wasn't quite upbeat about the awards ceremony. Until the judge got to Inspire awards. "3rd Place Inspire Award - SchimRobots!" 3rd Place wasn't the same as first, but it was a start. And then they got to the top 4 teams who had qualified to regionals. The first 2 alliances had qualified, and so had the first place inspire team. But lo behold! The second place inspire team had already qualified, which meant that our team was headed to regionals.

    We didn't, however, qualify at regionals, which meant that that was my last competition with 12900. It wasn't an entirely bad day though- I found out that the winning alliance had won due to a penalty, and that had to be the most amusing event I'd seen all season. I didn't know who they were but I knew their robot. Earlier in the day, me and another team member had been scouting when we met a team who used 3D printed parts. The member we spoke to showed us their 3D printed drive system. That was the first time I had encountered a team who used 3D printers at that large of a scale. I was skeptical, since I'd never seen anything like it, but when I realized their robot had won, I was intrigued. That was my first impression of Iron Reign.

    After joining TAG Magnet High School, I had heard about a Townview-wide FRC team, so I stayed back after school to look into that. A friend from my old robotics team had also come to the interest meeting. He wore our old team's FTC shirt, and though I questioned his logic at the time, that was how I became formally introduced to Iron Reign. Abhi (whom I later found out was the same member I had met during regionals) identified us by the FTC shirt and invited us to the SEM Robotics interest meeting. I vaguely remembered Iron Reign's 3D printed drive system from regionals. If working with Iron Reign meant that I could learn how to employ an unconventional strategy like that, then I was in. The interest meeting was intimidating, due to sheer number of people in the room, but it motivated me to start attending the meetings at our coach's house. I think the first lesson I learnt from Iron Reign was, "Find something to do." We had to make ourselves as useful as possible without expecting any guidance. Although it was a foreign idea to get used to, 2 months later it became a routine. It allowed me to learn from and communicate with members from all 4 teams, and the free-structured environment helped promote independence.

    The first time I got to interact with Iron Reign in their natural, outreach-oriented habitat, was prior to my joining, during the STEM Spark event. Charlotte and Janavi taught me how to teach the attendees Sumo Bot Fighting. It was easier to observe and learn from them, rather than dive right into it myself. Later into the event, I was instructed to lead some of the afternoon sessions on my own, which had to be the most exciting part of the day.

    3 weeks after the STEM Spark event was when I became recruited onto Iron Reign. It happened at 8:34 PM on the eve of Halloween when Mr Virani sent me an invitation. I was told of the commitments involved, the magnitude of joining, and to think carefully through my final decision. I was ecstatic, just as much as I was nervous. But then I recalled the challenge of working as part of a rookie FTC team, being expected, during Iron Reign meetings, to be as efficient as possible without being guided, and having to lead an outreach session which I had only seen being led by others. If I've learnt anything about Iron Reign, it's that learning from your environment, then learning how to best equip that knowledge, was the most efficient way to work in a team setting. The transition into this team is not meant to be easy; but it is meant to be an attainable goal. So, I agreed to join (in the most graciously professional manner, of course) -- and here we are. I'm still learning how Iron Reign's team dynamic operates and changes; but until then, I'm grateful for the opportunity, and excited to see what the season with Team 6832 holds.