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!

Edwardsville School District donates shop equipment

We’re really happy to announce that the Edwardsville School District has donated several large excess shop tools to our robotics team and its parent organization, Edwardsville Robotics Club.

Thank you for the two drill presses, a floor-standing band saw, and a press brake! Last year we used borrowed hand-tools, and would have loved to have this equipment (especially the band saw). They’ll definitely get used — a lot!

Cleaning up our new shop tools

We also find it really interesting that many of our 20 student team members probably used these exact machines during their years at either Lincoln Middle School or Liberty Middle School.

Thanks again to the ECUSD 7 for their generous in-kind sponsorship with the donated equipment!

 

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!

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.

We’re ready for the St Louis Regional!

Last night we finished packing up and organizing the items for our pit, including a stand for our team banner. We put the finishing touches on the battery cart and even charged our new batteries, though our voltmeters will arrive later this month.  We swapped out a few brackets for our roller capture gate, the only part of the robot we held back from the bag. We finished the fabulous reversible bumpers. And we labeled our cart and crates.

It looks like we’re ready to go.

Tomorrow night, 5 of our team will deliver all the goods to the Chaifetz Arena and get our bagged robot inspected. Then we’ll be all set on Thursday AM to un-bag and get the robot ready for inspection and competition.

Wish us luck on Twitter: @frc4931

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.

Edwardsville FRC Team 4931