Category Archives: sightings

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:

ERC in the Edwardsville Halloween Parade

The Edwardsville/Glen Carbon Chamber of Commerce hosts the annual Halloween Parade in downtown Edwardsville. It’s a huge tradition on Halloween night, and thousands of spectators come out rain or shine to watch the parade of over 100 floats sponsored by local businesses and organizations.

ERC in the 2014 Halloween Parade

This was the first year that the Edwardsville Robotics Club entered a float. The JrFLL and FLL students dressed up as Minions from the Despicable Me 2 movie. The FTC and FRC team members drove the large FRC robot down St Louis and Main Streets. It was great to hear lots of comments like “Hey, a robot! That’s awesome!” from both young and not-so-young people.

Getting ready for the 2014 Halloween Parade

UPDATE: We won 3rd place in the small non-profit category. The voting for the Fan Favorite is still open, so vote for us!

Demo at two SIUE Engineering Camps

Today was our second demonstration at the 2014 SIUE Engineering Summer Camp.  The two 1-week long camps introduced almost 70 high school students to various engineering disciplines, computer science and construction management through multiple kinds of activities.

Earlier in the week the campers spent several hours working with and building Mindstorm robots, so they were already familiar with the basic concepts and parts of a robot. We spent a few minutes talking about FIRST, FRC, and how we as students design, build, program and test our robots. We briefly showed off our robot, and spent the rest of the hour letting the students drive the robot.

Our mentors also walked around the room to talk with the students about the kinds of engineering  they want to study, and answered lots of questions about what its like to be engineers.

We did the same thing at last week’s camp, too.

Explaining FIRST, FRC and what goes into a robot

Campers could drive our large and small robots

After our session was done, some members of the SIUE Solar Car team invited us into their workshop, showed us their car, and talked about their new solar panel that they are fabricating. This was really great for our high school students to interact with college students to share experiences and passions for engineering and STEM, and to see that even though robots and solar cars are ultimately quite different, the engineering aspects are extremely similar.

We’re so lucky to be able to share our robotics experience with others. And while our goal is for our audiences to get a lot out of our demonstrations and talks, we know that we get just as much out of them.

STEM Day at Woodland Elementary

Today we participated in Woodland Elementary’s STEM Day. What a great way for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students to end their school year – a full day of STEM-related activities and projects. For the last event of the day, all 450 students and teachers got together in the gym to spend 20 minutes with our team.

We showed one of our videos while our students talked about FIRST, FRC, how the competitions work, and how they design, build, program, and test our robots. Then to the delight of the elementary students, our team demonstrated our 5ft-tall 120lb robot, showing among other things how it can drive, catch, and pass the large 2ft-diameter game ball. We concluded by telling the students that they, too, can get involved in robotics thanks to multiple area programs. (Edwardsville Robotics Club, our parent organization, now has multiple teams at the JrFLL, FLL, FTC, and FRC levels.)

Driving FRC Team 4931's robot at Woodland Elementary STEM Day FRC Team 4931 at Woodland Elementary STEM Day

This was our 4th outreach event since the end of the 2014 FRC season. It’s great to watch our students get up in front of large audiences and share their infectious excitement, passion and knowledge of robotics!