Category Archives: events

First meeting of the 2016-2017 season!

Please join us for our first meeting of the 2016-2017 season for FRC!

WHEN: Thursday, August 4, from 7-9PM
WHERE: Lewis & Clark room 119 (directions)
WHO: All grade 9-12 students even remotely interested in robotics, programming, business/finance, and engineering. Parents are welcome but not required.
Come meet your fellow students and mentors, and find out what First Robotics Competition (FRC) and Team 4931 are all about! We’ll given an overview of the team, how we’ve worked in the past, and the kinds of activities we typically are involved in. However, every season is different and tailored around our students’ interests and goals, so we’ll discuss what those are and start to plan out the fall semester. We’ll also discuss when and how often to meet, and how we can recruit new team members. And, the Gateway Robotics Challenge (GRC) is just a few months away, and we need to get “Walter” (last year’s robot) ready and practice driving.
Please spread the word. Talk to your friends and fellow students you might not know very well. Find out who else likes science, math, and art, or who might be considering a career in engineering, robotics, programming, graphic design, business/finance, and ask them to attend!

An amazing 2016 season!

What an incredible season! FRC Team 4931 finished in second place at the 2016 St Louis Regional FIRST Robotics Competition!

Some of Team 4931 just after the final match on Saturday. Several other students were unable to attend Saturday because of conflicting events.

This year’s game was FIRST Stronghold℠. Each match involves two alliances of 3 teams attempting to breach the opposing alliance’s defenses and capture the tower.

We designed, modeled, fabricated, assembled, programmed, and tested our robot (aka, “Walter”) in just 6 weeks. Our strategy was for our robot to be very simple, sturdy, and tough, and to quickly defeat all of the eight defenses, and all but two of them in autonomous. We wanted to be able to assist shooting robots by collecting boulders, and we also wanted robot that could play defense against even the best shooting robots. Walter is about 12.5″ tall, 28″ square (excluding bumpers), constructed of mostly aluminum, and weighed in at 96lbs. It uses six 8″ pneumatic wheels chain-driven by four CIM motors, a custom chassis that gave us the ground clearance to get over several nasty defenses while being short enough to fit under the Low Bar defense. It also featured a motor-driven retractable arm mechanism that is very effectively against the Cheval de Frise and Portcullis defenses, and helps us capture and handle boulders.

IMG_1906 IMG_1910 IMG_1915 IMG_1917

We attended the St Louis Regional on March 9-12 at the Chaifetz Arena. This year, 49 teams from Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, and Wisconsin. The first day of qualifying matches (Friday) went very well, and after 10 matches we stood in first place in the rankings with another 4 matches to be competed the next day. The other teams were great competitors and alliance partners, and we ended up with the 4th highest rank out of the 49 teams.

Next up was alliance selection, where the 8 highest ranked teams each select two more teams for their alliance. The #2 ranked team, Team 1094, the “Channel Cats” from O’Fallon, MO, picked us as their first alliance partner, and we gladly accepted. (We were alliance partners for the previous 2 years, too!) Our alliance was very happy to pick Team 4329, the “Lutheran Roboteers” from St. Charles, MO, as our third alliance member.

All of the quarter-final matches were amazing, and there were even a few upsets. We lost the first quarter final, but won the next two, and were off to the semi-finals.

Here are our two semi-final matches (we’re the red alliance in both, and 4931 is the red robot that plays defense in the blue alliance’s courtyard):

Both were great matches (106-50 and 106-94) with an amazing opposing alliance comprised of FRC teams 1288 Raven Robotics from St. Charles, MO; 3397 Robolions from University City, MO; and 1706 Ratchet Rockers from Wentzville, MO.

The finals were … amazing. We faced the incredible #1 ranked alliance: FRC Team 1675 UPS (Ultimate Protection Squad) from Milwaukee, WI; FRC Team 2451 PWNAGE from Saint Charles, IL, and FRC Team 4330 Rambunction from St. Louis, MO.

Here’s match 1 — we’re the blue alliance this time, and once again our robot plays defense much of the match:

Here’s match 2:

And here’s match 3:

What a nail biter and an amazing end to our 2016 season! It was close, but Teams 1675, 2451 and 4330 played very well and are off to the 2016 FIRST World Championships, held April 27-30 in St. Louis at the Edward Jones Dome and Convention Center.

Congratulations to all the teams that took part in the 2016 St. Louis Regional FIRST Robotics Competition — you were all so much fun to work with! Go FIRST!

Thank you go all of our sponsors: Boeing, Red Hat, PTC, the US Department of Defense STEM program, GSK, Lewis & Clark Community College and its wonderful St. Louis Confluence FabLab, St. Louis Scale, and GitHub. We also want to thank Edwardsville Robotics Club (our parent organization) and the high schools that our students attend: Edwardsville High School, Metro East Lutheran High School, and Father McGivney Catholic High School.

And thank you to all of our parents, families, and friends that supported us throughout this season. We know that the 6-week build season is tough on our families, but you were there to back us up and to give us this amazing opportunity.

Welcome to the 2016 FRC Season!

The whole team met last night at Lewis & Clark to talk about our upcoming season. We watched the FIRST Stronghold℠ teaser video again, and talked about our various policies and procedures. Of special note was the news about the Confluence Fab Lab, so we talked about the training and certification process, and the various procedures required by the lab. All the students were very excited.

We also talked about the days and times we’re going to meet during build season. Because of the Fab Lab is closed on Sundays and Mondays, the team decided to change our “off day” from Fridays to Mondays, meaning our weekly schedule will generally be:

  • Sundays from 2-8PM
  • Mondays (off day)
  • Tuesdays thru Fridays 6-9PM
  • Saturdays from 9AM-5PM

Of course, this may change each week depending upon conflicts, holidays, weather, etc.

The local St Louis Regional FRC is in Week 2 of competitions, which is earlier than in the past few years. That, coupled with the one week delay due to the New Year, means the time between Kickoff and our regional is significantly shorter than in the past.

Check out our slides from the meeting.

First team meeting of the 2015-2016 season

FRC Team 4931 is going to have its first meeting of the 2015-2016 season to talk about a number of activities for this fall:

  • Our fall meeting schedule.
  • Status of Lewis & Clark and the FabLab and some of the projects we can work on for them.
  • Strongback, a new open source project for a Java library that simplifies robot Java code and makes it easier to use the WPILib framework. The code is ready, but we need to complete an initial website, and then we can launch via Twitter,, Chief Delphi, etc.
  • Gateway Robotics Challenge is October 17 at Hazelwood Central. We have to fix the robot and register.
  • Possible partnership with the St. Louis Zoo to design and build telepresence robots.
  • Outreach and recruitment, including an open house for parents and prospective team members, participating in the Ed/Glen Chamber Halloween parade, displaying at Goshen Market, how to recruitment more high school students.
  • Fundraising news and deadlines.

These are just some of the exciting activities for the team to consider this fall. Plus, we have to think about how to prepare for the competition season that starts in very early January.

Sound interesting? We hope to see all our past students and mentors, as well as any high school student in the  Edwardsville and surrounding area!

WHEN: Thursday, August 20 at 7PM
WHERE: Room N4 119, Lewis & Clark N.O. Nelson Campus, 600 Troy Rd, Edwardsville IL 62025

See you there!


Meeting site

Designing Testable Robot Code

Today at the 2015 FIRST World Championship Conference, Randall Hauch and Zach Anderson presented “Designing Testable Robot Code” (see slides below or the available PDF).

In the hour-long talk, they described how Team 4931 created new hardware abstractions to decouple the subsystem and command classes from the WPILib hardware classes. Traditionally, robot code directly use the WPILib hardware classes for the robot’s actuators and sensors, but doing this makes it very difficult to unit test the subsystems. Using the abstractions makes it possible to unit test the subsystems on developer machines without having any RoboRIO or physical hardware.

Testing on the robot with the RoboRIO and associated hardware is also important, and the team created a data recorder to capture in real time the discrete and continuous inputs, control outputs, and changing command states while the robot is being operated. The data log can be transferred off robot and passed into data processing and analytics (Team 4931 used Tableau), making it very easy to quickly visualize the behavior of the robot and control system outputs.

The team also proposed creating a reusable open source project where FRC teams can collaborate on this reusable library that sits on top of the standard WPILib for Java library. Team 4931 will refactor and clean up their current code and will donate it as a starting point for the project.  Almost a dozen teams expressed interest in participating, so stay tuned over the next month or two while we kick off this new project.

Thanks to everyone who attended! And best of luck to those competing at the 2015 World Championships in St. Louis!

2015 St. Louis Regional FRC

Later this week FRC Team 4931, aka Edwardsville Technologies, will participate in the 2015 St. Louis Regional FIRST Robotics Competition. The event is 3 full days of very intense  but friendly robotics competition – something FIRST calls Gracious Professionalism®.

The Event

The regional competition is free and open to the public! It’s a great opportunity to bring young students to show them how much fun science, technology, engineering and math can be. So stop by the Chaifetz Arena on the Saint Louis University Campus to see 43 teams and hundreds of high school students with their amazing robots.

Thursday is just a prep day for the teams, but the public is welcome on Friday and Saturday:

  • Friday, March 20 from 8:30-6:30PM
  • Saturday, March 21 from 9AM-5:30PM

detailed schedule is also available online. If you can’t make it in person but want to follow along, watch the live webcast or follow us on Twitter.

Of course, if you do come to the event, stop by our pit to say hi, talk to our students, and see our robot!

The Game

This year’s FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) game is Recycle Rush℠:

Recycle Rush℠ starts with certain tasks to be performed autonomously in the first 15 seconds of the match, and then human drivers take over for the remaining 2 minutes and 15 seconds to  remotely command the robot to build stacks of totes, recycling cans, and pool noodles. Points are awarded based upon numbers of successfully accomplished tasks. Each match consists of two alliances of three teams, so teams and robots have to work together. And every match puts different teams on each alliance, so teams have to be able to work together will all kinds of different robots. (This is an extreme simplification – the actual game rules are very nuanced and specific and fill about 100 printed pages.)

Our Robot(s)

All FRC teams found out about the game on January 3, 2015, and had only 6 weeks to analyze the game, determine strategies, design and build our competition robot, program the control system, test the functionality, fix any and all problems, and practice driving. Then the competition robot has to be bagged (literally placed in a very large sealed plastic bag) and not touched until the first day of competition.

Team 4931's bagged robot

Here’s our competition robot before bagging:

Competition robot

Six weeks is terribly short, so many teams try to also build a second robot that they can continue to modify, fix, and test after their competition robot has been bagged. This was something we did this year for the first time, and our’s was identical in the most important ways but fairly crude in others (like drive train). Here’s our practice robot with a stack of the totes and recycling container:

Practice robot

There are several areas where totes are available: they can be loaded onto the field via two human player stations, and there are also up to 40 totes in an area of the field called the “landfill” zone. Although our robot can use the totes added from the human player station, our team decided to go for the more challenging task of picking up totes from the landfill. In fact, our robot is optimized for the exact layout of the totes in the landfill.

Field Layout

To save cost and to simplify testing, our robots share a single control system that we can move from one robot to the other.

Our control system

Of course, there’s a lot more to talk about, but the best way to see our robot is to come in person to the event and let us show you!

Our Sponsors

We’d like to thank our sponsors, who have supported us with grants and donations:

And thanks to our families, who have put up with our rigorous schedule!

None of this would be possible without them.

EHS Robotics Showcase

Today the Edwardsville High School (EHS) Robotics Club held a Robotics Showcase for area 5th grade students, giving them all kinds of information about how they can participate in robotics and experience the fun and exhilaration of STEM.

The high school students talked about Botball robotics programs at the middle-school level (next year for these 5th graders) and at the high school, and they demonstrated several great robots the club has built.

Even though Edwardsville Robotics Club (ERC) is not part of the local school district, our team was still given an opportunity to talk to the students about FIRST and the different levels of FIRST robotics programs. And since ERC has JrFLL, FLL, FTC, and FRC teams, these students are able to join and do robotics outside of school, too.

So, Jacob got up on stage and went through a quick presentation about FIRST and introduced FRC 4931’s catch video, while offstage TJ drove last years competition robot (with some help from Alex). The audience had lots of great questions, and Jacob did a great job answering them.

FRC4931 at EHS Robotics Showcase

Thanks to the EHS Robotics Club for inviting us to their showcase and for giving us a few minutes to talk about FIRST and Edwardsville Robotics.

Here’s the presentation:

and the catch video:

2015 season meeting schedule

We plan to meet from January 3 through February 17 at our new build site:

  • Monday-Thursday, 6PM-9PM
  • Saturday, 9AM-5PM
  • Sunday, 2-8PM

These are the same times as last year, so the team will discuss whether this will work again this year. We’ll update this post if the team chooses different times. All meetings are also on our calendar.

February 17 is “bag day”, and we have to put the entire robot (minus 25lbs or so) into a big plastic bag and seal it, where it will remain until we can get the robot inspected at the St. Louis Regional FRC on March 18.

We’ll also meet from Feb 18-March 17, but the meeting times will be determined later.