Category Archives: News

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 Open House

FRC Team 4931 is starting a new season and looking for new recruits! Any high school age student in 9-12 grades (public, private, or home school) is eligible. While we are based in Edwardsville, any students in the Metro East area willing to make the trip to our meetings is welcome to join us. We currently have members from 4 different high schools!

Join us at our open house on Sunday, January 11 from 3-5PM at the Lewis and Clark N.O. Nelson Campus at 600 Troy Road in Edwardsville (across from Market Basket). We’ll be in Rooms N4 121 and 119. Here’s a map showing where the entrance to building N4:

N.O. Nelson Campus of Lewis & Clark Community College

 

This team is an intensive program for high school students to design and build a robot to compete in the 2015 FIRST robotics competition. Students will learn first hand about all aspects of robotics, including control systems, autonomous and teleoperated operation, computer aided design (CAD), mechanical engineering, Java programming, shop safety, electronics and wiring, fabrication techniques, testing, troubleshooting, and maintenance. They will also experience product development, project management, graphic design, marketing, presentations, documentation, accounting, teamwork, administration, and gracious professionalism. The team will compete at one or more area events, and will experience the hard work and fun of FIRST robotics.

You can also find out more about FIRST and FRC at http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/frc.

2015 FRC Kickoff event

The team will be attending the St. Louis regional FRC kickoff event for 2015 at Clayton High School.

Meet in the parking lot at the N.O. Nelson campus at 7AM on Saturday, January 3. We’ll carpool to the event in St. Louis, watch the live broadcast, get our decryption key, pick up our kit of parts, and return back to the N.O. Nelson campus where we’ll eat lunch, review the game rules, brainstorm, and start conceptual design. Be sure to bring any laptops that you will want during the afternoon.

FIRST has released several documents that you can download ahead of time:

Most of the documents are encrypted, and all teams will get the decryption key during the live event on Saturday. But FIRST recommends that you download the files before kickoff. (FIRST has also provided an decryption test – simply download the encrypted test document and try to decrypt with the given decryption key.)

Our new build site for 2015

We’re really happy to announce that we have partnered with Lewis and Clark Community College and their Corporate and Community Learning department to create a community course for the 2015 FRC season with Edwardsville Robotics. All Team 4931 students will be registered for this course, and we will then be able to use a portion of their shop, and whenever they are available two additional classrooms (a computer lab and regular classroom) at the N.O. Nelson Campus at 600 Troy Road in Edwardsville.

Meeting site

Working with Lewis and Clark has been a fantastic experience, and we thank them for helping to find a way to establish this partnership. We hope it continues for many years to come!

Be sure to check our calendar for meeting times and dates. (See these instructions for adding it to your favorite calendar app.)

 

Schedule for the next few weeks

Tonight’s meeting is cancelled. Unfortunately several of our mentors have conflicts.

Sorry about all the recent last-minute meeting cancellations. We hate having to cancel them, but even more with late notice. This is a busy time of year for many of us, and all the students will soon have finals. So we’re going to adjust our regular meeting schedule for the next few weeks. The team calendar should reflect this schedule:

Sunday, December 14 – Please try and attend. We’d like to see as many team members (students and mentors) as possible (3-5PM at St. Johns) to:

  • make sure everyone is registered (both for ERC and with FIRST)
  • give an update on the build site (things are looking good, still not finalized)
  • discuss details about the kickoff event on January 3 (who is going to Clayton, when we’re meeting, where we’ll meet afterward, etc.)
  • discuss our in-season meeting schedule for January & February, and what we can do differently/better than last year

Tuesday, December 16 – No meeting. You’ve got finals, so spend the time studying.

Sunday, December 21 – No meeting. Too close to the holiday.

Tuesday, December 23 – No meeting. Too close to the holiday.

Saturday, January 3 – Kickoff Day!

The admin, mechanical, and electrical groups are in pretty good shape and/or can’t really do anything more until kickoff. The programming team, though, could definitely spend some time designing and working on the new codebase before kickoff. If the programmers are willing and most of the 4 or 5 (or whomever is interested) can make it, we could try to get together on December 28, 29, or 30th. Time, place, and other details would have to be determined.

GRC Was a Success!

Edwardsville Robotics is at it again! The team went to Hazelwood for an off-season competition and had a great time. Many of the members attended and were able to do things that they weren’t able to do at the last competition. For instance, many of the team members were given a chance to drive. It was a great oppurtunity to familiarize yourself with what our robot can do and how easy it is to manuever. We were also able to talk with other teams and see what they did to make their robot more functional. That will definitley help us in the future for planning what kind of things to do in the future structure wise. Overall, we ranked 21st out of 25 teams. We didn’t rank too high, however, we were picked in the first round of eliminations (BIG DEAL!!!!!). This competition was a great experience for us and we look forward to more in the future!

We need a new build site!

We’ve been very fortunate for the last 9 months to have had access to a great build site, with a large open area for testing the robot, several workbenches for fabrication, plenty of storage, and an air conditioned and heated office. The robot we built and competed with won several awards last year, and our students got some very valuable real-world design, engineering, fabrication, programming, marketing and business experience. We also spend quite a bit of time reaching out to the community to share our passion and encourage more students to get involved in STEM activities and to consider STEM-related careers.

But the facility owners now need the extra space, so we’re on the lookout for a new location for our team of 20 high school students to build robots to compete in FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). And since our parent organization, Edwardsville Robotics Club, is starting a new FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) team for students in 6th-12th grade, we’d love to have a facility large enough for both teams (about 25-30 students and 10 mentors).

Do you have or know about a facility that we might use? Please let us know by emailing us at frc4931@gmail.com or send us a tweet @frc4931. By the way, Edwardsville Robotics Club is a 501(c)(3) charity, so any in-kind donations are tax deductible!

And please spread the word!

Wir Gastgeber einer deutschen Mannschaft!

That’s right! We hosted a German FTC team for the FIRST Robotics World Championship.  Everyone had such a great time with them. The German-American team flew into the city of Saint Louis at the beginning the week. The team unfortunately got some of their equipment confiscated on the way over but luckily we were able to supply them with sufficient tools and parts. On the first day that the German team and Team 4931 were able to actually get together: we went laser tagging and the teammates and mentors were able to really spend some time together and shave some fun.  The next day, the teams went to the City Museum and concluded the visit with a nice swim. The teams seemed to get along very well an had a lot of fun with each other. It was a great experience and Team 4931 would love to do it again if given the chance.

What a rookie season!

This weekend Team 4931 competed in the 2014 St Louis Regional FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), which was held at the Chaifetz Arena and featured this year’s “Aerial Assist” game. We placed 16th out of 45 teams during the qualification matches, advanced to the quarterfinals, and were selected by Team 3792 to be on their alliance (with Team 5176) during the elimination matches (thanks!!). We didn’t survive our matches against the #1 seeded alliance, but getting as far as we did was simply amazing and beyond our wildest hopes.

We also  won two awards:

  • The “Rookie Inspiration Award” celebrates a rookie team’s outstanding success in advancing respect and appreciation for engineering and engineers within their schools and in their community; and
  • The “Highest Rookie Seed Award” is given to the rookie team that is ranked the highest among all first-year teams at the end of the qualifying matches.

What an amazing season! Our robot may not have shot into the upper goal, but our design did everything else — and it did it very well. We could defend with our high-traction and powerful chassis. We could block shots with our tall structure. We could easily and quickly pick up the ball with our capture gate and roller. We firmly held onto the ball by keeping it completely within our 80/20 structure, even when other robots hit us as hard as they could. We could pass the ball to other robots, and sometimes even handed it off directly to them with our “robot kiss” without the ball ever touching the floor. And our robot did all this with not a single mechanical, electrical or programming problem during the entire 3 day event — not a single problem. That goes to show that our team was focused on building a robust and effective robot.

But the definite crowd pleaser was our robot’s extendable nets that could catch an over-the-truss pass from another robot for the extra assist points. We did it not just once, not just twice, but three times in competition matches! One of our matches even scored the maximum number of cycle points possible: all assist points, an over-the-truss shot, and a catch.

Here’s a compilation video of all three catches:

Not bad at all! Major points to Team 3792, Team 1094, and Team 1706 for such excellent shots over the truss.

Perhaps the biggest compliment, however, was the feedback and respect that we got from other teams. “Great to work with.” “Really solid design.” “Flexible and fun.” “One tough robot.” And many more compliments.

Thanks to the St Louis FIRST organization for an outstanding event, and thanks to all the other teams that competed in the 2014 St Louis Regional FRC event. We had so much fun, met so many great people, and learned a massive amount from all of the seriously smart FRC teams, organizers, volunteers, and mentors! FIRST is an amazing organization.

Thanks to our unbelievable mentor teams, Team 1208 “The Metool Brigade” from O’Fallon Township High School and Team 4246 “Resurrected Robotics” from Triad High School.

Finally, thanks to our families for putting up with our hectic 2 1/2 month schedule preparing for this event. Talk about some significant assists!

Check out more videos on our YouTube channel and photos from the event on our Flickr page.

Preparing for a Big Week

This week has consisted of lots of hustle and bustle. The papers are flying as we go through receipts and paperwork still needed to be completed. The staple guns are at work as the bumpers are being completed. Everything seems to be hectic at this point but calming down at the same time. We hope to see resolution soon as the competition nears and nears everyday.