New to FIRST?

Hello, Robolions team members, mentors, friends, and community members! Welcome to "The Fourth Law of Robotics," home to University City High School's FIRST (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Team. We hope to use this blog to inform you about what we're up to.
We compete in the FRC (First Robotics Competition), an annual competition where we have six weeks to build a robot from scratch. This year's game is Recycle Rush. We'll post updates here to let you all know what we're up to with building (and competing with) our robot!
We also are now competing in FTC (First Tech Challenge), the next level down from FRC. The game was called Ring It Up!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Andrew's Triumphant (Partial) Return

Greetings! It is I, Andrew White, dusting off the Fourth Law of Robotics blog to announce that I am, in fact, currently attending a meeting of FRC Team 3397! Yes -- commence your rejoicing, for I HAVE RETURNED!

...Of course, this likely won't last, for sometime soon rehearsals for our spring musical will start, at which point team members Captain Grace, programmer Henry, and myself shall again depart. So enjoy my presence while you can. :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thrown Down

As you may have learned from the previous post, the RoboLions attended the Cow Town Throw Down in Kansas City last weekend.

The competition was difficult. Some of the best teams in the Midwest were present, with robots that could rival those of NASA's level (minus the million-dollar budget). Our team wasn't exactly as prepared as we could have been (we were making major changes to the robot the day before competition- and did not test those changes.) Needless to say, we ran into a lot of issues during competition, and had to repair our robot multiple times. We finished 42 out of 45 teams, However, we did win our last match, which was exciting- ending the competition on a positive note.

All of the challenges we ran into definitely taught us some lessons about what it means to be prepared. We also learned more about the importance of team dynamics, and communication. But we enjoyed the competition nonetheless, especially cheering on our friends teams 1985 (the RoboHawks) and 1094 (The Channel Cats) as they went through the finals. 1094's alliance ultimately won, beating out reigning champ team 16 (Bomb Squad).

Enjoy these pictures from the competition, they will soon be up on the Facebook page!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Kansas City, FTC and other updates

Next weekend, the Robolions will be competing in the Cow Town Throw Down, an offseason event in Kansas City! So these past few weeks we have been working diligently to get Thor up and running. So far, we've reworked the shooter, which we're still not sure will work as well as we would like it to. Our old motors weren't giving us the torque we needed, so we had to reconfigure the programming to comply with the new motors. Right now, we're just getting everything set finally. Good thing this is just a fun event, because Thor will most likely not be in top condition!

The FTC team has been making progress on their robot. They have finally gotten a chassis put together, as well as begun to configure the wiring. They're learning how the electronics of a robot work, and a few have begun to work with Dan on programming using LabView. Hopefully they'll be able to get everything working by December 8th, the date of their first competition.

In other news, the Robolions are running the concessions stand at the local FLL Qualifier next weekend, the 10th and 11th. The event is free to the public, so everyone is invited to Brittany Woods Middle School to watch the tournament!

Peace out,

Team 3397

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pictures from the Homecoming Parade a few weeks ago! Enjoy!

The float

Getting ready to throw candy

Ms. Lauterborn and a parent get in on the fun too!

The parade route. It was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for showing off the robot outside! There were lots of cheering, adoring fans along the streets- we're so popular :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

   Hi! My name is Derek B. Mills, and I will be the blog writer for the 2012 FTC robotics team. And I will be frequently updating you on the progress of the robotics team.

  It's the third week of robotics and we've already established that we are ready to build the robot. So far we have the frame and wheels built which isn't that far but it's a start. And we have decided to just think of the design as we go along. It' going to take us about 3 1/2 months to finish. Its area is about under 18 inches squared, but as i said we are just determining the design and format as we build. Right now we are only planning to use 1 battery pack. We wish all of the other teams the best of luck, but for now that is all we have. We will keep everyone updated as much as possible.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Back from Kickoff!

The team just got back from the FTC 2012 Season Kick-off! The students were antsy at the Science center as we waited and waited for them to debut the video. We'll post a link to the video soon, once we get to a location where YouTube is not blocked by the school firewall.

The game this year is called Ring It Up!, and the goal is to hang small plastic rings on a set of pegs. For those of you who are involved in FIRST and have been for a few years, you might recognize it- the game is a LOT like Logomotion from the 2011 FRC season. Here's a link to the site for those of you interested:

It's a normal 12x12 playing field divided diagonally with the rack of pegs set up in the middle. There are ring loading stations on all four sides of the field, and there are two corner-scoring racks, on which teams may hang the heavier rings to score a 20% bonus. At the end of the match, robots have the chance to lift up the other robot on their alliance for another bonus.

Right now the team is discussing rules and clarifications, term definitions, how to score points. Later they will start actually thinking about how to best design the robot. I can tell they are all excited to get to that point!!

It's going to be a great season! Soon we'll have another blogger, Derek, to blog for the FTC season. Until then, peace out!

Captain Grace

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Boot Camp and Other Happenings

Today marks the end of Day 2 of RoboLions Boot Camp! Students got to explore, discover and learn about robotics and the team specifically. They got a crash course in the brainstorming and design process, a safety orientation, tips on how to successfully manage a team schedule and build timeline, and finally, they got to get their hands dirty by getting into pairs and designing a container that would keep an egg safe and free from cracks after a 25 foot drop. (Videos will be posted on the YouTube channel as soon as I can get them all stitched together.) All of the groups except one succeeded, and we were very impressed with all of the designs. The students asked great questions, outlined and brainstormed, some even prototyped before putting together the final project. I can tell it's going to be a fantastic season, we've got a lot of really enthusiastic kids raring and ready to go.

Tyree and Jailen discussing their final design (shown on table)

Lewis and Lafayette constructing their container

Crissy and James putting together their design

We also discussed the details for the kickoff on Saturday. There will be a parent's meeting at the lab 10, we will have lunch and then proceed to the Science Center at 12. Afterwards will be, as per usual, the first brainstorm session. The brainstorm session will be facilitated by the older kids and the captains, but we're going to try to let the newbies start establishing their own pecking order and see who steps up and takes charge. Haha, well, something along those lines. The FTC season is going to be all theirs- they'll get the experience they need to continue to lead the team well after us three seniors graduate! 

Everyone's excited about the kickoff- hints posted online have led us to believe that it has something to do with 'rings'. The clues have been the Eye of Sauron (=LOTR=RINGS), telephone wires (telephones RING...), and the Olympic Logo (made of RINGS). And a bus. But who knows what that has to do with anything. Anyways, we'll keep you posted!

-Captain Grace

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Open House Pictures

Just wanted to share some pictures from the Open House today. We had a great turnout, and everyone seemed very interested. All said that they were definitely joining the team. It's going to be a great season!

                     Becoming familiar with the FTC parts

The newbies get a talk from Mrs. Adewale about engineering as a career

All in all, it was a successful meeting. Students got to learn about FIRST, they got to play with the kit of parts and get familiar with the pieces that they will be using, a few got to check out programming software, and of course, everyone got snacks.

Great meeting, guys! Can't wait to see everyone next week at Robotics Boot Camp! :)

Open House

The school year has begun, and with it the regular meetings of Team 3397. This year we'll be surmounting the obstacle of having nothing to do in the fall season: we've signed up for FTC, which will compete in early December. Of course, our primary focus is still on the FRC 2013 competition; don't place your bets on next year's game yet, though, we still have to wait for hints.

We've turned up a satisfyingly large amount of new members at our open house meeting today -- by my count, there are 9 here, in addition to 8 of our returning members. Hopefully they all know what they're signing on for and will contribute graciously and professionally to our progress through the FRC season. Captain Grace is giving an inspirational speech as I write this to keep our new members intrigued. The FTC season is our method of testing them on team dynamics and capabilities.

I'm also pleased to report that our snack supplies are well-stocked (for now). I fear I might miss break, though, as I'll be leaving early; I and several other members of the team will be experiencing the usual schedule conflicts with sports, musical, and other school activities that take away time. (I recall Walter joking today that one freshman was exempted from robotics because "field hockey consumes your soul", to which three friends said as one, "YES. IT DOES.", proving my point and also that there might be some demonic dealings going on with the field hockey team.)

Here's to a brilliant new year for 3397 RoboLions, and to valuable additions to the team! :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summer Update

Hey! Looks like we haven't updated the blog in a while, so here's a quick rundown on what's been going on since the Regional.

The team went and visited Metro High School in the spring, because a few students there were interested in starting a team. The only trouble is that they needed a teacher sponsor, and to get the school to approve having a team. They also needed to find workspace and areas to construct and test the robot. We haven't heard from them in a while, but are hoping that they have been able to work something out! We will get in contact with them soon to follow up before the FRC season starts.

We attended the World Championship in April, though we did not compete, just observed. A few of us attended all three days, but everybody on the team got to go on Friday as a field trip. Everybody was supposed to do their 'homework'- which basically consisted of talking to teams and team members that were in a similar area of specialty. I attended a few seminars on team sustainability and keeping the team alive during the off-season. We also watched matches, paying special attention to the ones in which our friends the Robohawks participated. It was getting pretty intense towards the end, when everybody on the field lost connection. This happened again in the final rounds at Einstein. It was exciting to watch!

Over the summer, we have been working on organizing the lab, utilizing new methods such as more storage bins and labels to keep everything together. We are soon going to paint the logo on the wall as well. Also, we're working on updating our technology, and just got a new desktop from the school as well as a wifi code, and a new printer. In late summer we are going to get a SmartBoard installed. We had one of those in the AutoCAD classroom, where we used to hold practices, and it was helpful, especially during brainstorming and team meetings.

We've also been working on how to recruit (and keep!) new members in the fall. The captains have been discussing this at length, and I got the chance to attend a Robohawks meeting, and listen in on their ideas about things like that. It was pretty informative and in addition to the ideas we have been coming up with at our Captains' Meetings, I think we will have a pretty strong team next year.

The team is registered for the FTC season in the fall, as well. We are hoping that this will draw new members and encourage them to stay. It will give them an opportunity to get experience with brainstorming, building the robot, using software and ultimately, becoming a part of the RoboLions. This idea was borrowed from the Robohawks as well. Hopefully it will go well!

Well, that about covers what we've been doing. Other than all of that we're just organizing and cleaning and planning for next year. Peace out!

Captain Grace

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Regional

The Saint Louis Regional was rewarding and disappointing on several separate instances, but I think we can conclude the event was overall a great experience for our rookie members.

We arrived at the Chaifetz Arena on Thursday without incident and spent a day setting up our pit and fixing bugs in our robot (of which there were many). Shortly, Inspector Hartwig arrived to speak with us about our robot, and we were all able to adequately describe Thor's capabilities and materials. Our neighbours in the pit were teams: 3519, their area decorated with a rooster; 3330, "System of the Corn"; and 2978, the "Cavaliers," whose pit was particularly impressive with knights in armor and a nicely arranged set of tools. Our pit area was nothing special, but on the plus side, we consistently received :)'s on our safety inspections, and Ben and Mervin were able to hang up our banner (with some zip-tie difficulties).

The most exciting (and annoying) part of our day was when our team tried to show FRC officials our Bill of Materials for inspection. Marquise returned to me (I was in the stands, focusing on a game of dodgeball between the field crew) and related suggested improvements. This was all very confusing to me, as the BoM he handed to me was not the one I had written. With a trip down memory lane, we eventually realized what had happened: when I had finished the BoM, I had been told to save it on our team flash drive, but it was nowhere to be found at the time. Unable to locate it, I did not transfer the BoM for several more meetings, and by the time we did recover the drive I had forgotten all about it. This meant that our BoM was still saved to the CAD laptop in our lab!

Mr. Sarber, of course, drove right back to our lab and collected the laptop, for which we should all thank him. However, attempting to open the BoM on that laptop, I found that Microsoft Excel was not functioning correctly. I ended up saving the BoM to the flash drive as originally intended and opening it on Dan's programming computer, at which point we were finally able to show the correct BoM to the inspectors. There was only one suggestion, and this brought back another trip down memory lane: I had included the cost of our cRio on the BoM, $525, but the inspector pointed out two things. One, no item's cost on the robot should exceed $400. Two, wasn't the cRio included in our first ever kit of parts and therefore its cost was irrelevant? Mr. Sarber and I recalled that Quorra's cRio had burned out last year in competition (thank you, blog, for reminding me) and that we had bought a new cRio to replace it. The inspectors understood this and cleared us.

At one point, members of team 1985, "Team Titanium," stopped by at our area and spoke with Walter. A big fan of the award-winning team (which would later go on to win the Regional), Walter was in hog heaven and geeked out for a few minutes while the rest of us watched bemusedly. We were also visited by team members from Westminster Christian Academy, who also talked to Walter. Walter's friend Grace (not his sister) attends WCA, and Walter had been bugging her to join the team for ages. He was again happy to carry on a conversation with the quality team (I believe they went on to the finals as well).

On Friday, we began to play in the qualification matches, but these didn't seem to be going too well. Thor ended his first two matches on the ground, having fallen off a bridge while trying to balance with other robots. There were many such casualties during the competition -- Rebound Rumble is a dangerous game! Both falls damaged the board protecting our electronics, but we were able to repair the damage.

Our rankings were still promising at the beginning of the day. We found ourselves ranked #15, and subsequently rose to #7 -- within the top 8!! -- but we later dropped to #18 and finally #26 by the end of the day. Still, we were just outside the top 24, so we figured we had hope.

At lunch on Friday, we located a massive game of Ninja consisting mostly of team 3792, the "Army Ants," with a few members of other teams such as 1208, the "Metool Brigade." We joined and performed well, as Benjamin and Marquel are particularly dexterous and agile. Marquel spent most of one match on the ground and still nearly won! I can happily report that I myself did very well in the match I joined, lasting far longer than ever before.

After lunch, we learned that match #7, the first match we had played in, was to be replayed at the end of the day due to a Kinect station error. This was good to know, as we had lost that match and were eager to rectify that and improve our rankings.

Thor didn't again topple over, although he did break his hammer during one match. Eventually, we scored two 2-point shots during the hybrid period, which definitely restored any team spirit we had lacked previously. Congrats to Dan for programming that into the robot!

By Saturday morning, we proved we had more spirit than team 3284, "Laser," in a shout-off between our teams. This just goes to prove that although U. City isn't very good at sports besides robotics and field hockey, we still know how to make lots of NOISE! We got spirit, how 'bout you?

During a between-matches dance with the judges, our Robolions Walter, Grace, and Marquise got up to join them. Congrats for representing our team well on the dance floor! Everyone had best be glad it wasn't me out there.

After some more field resetting and confusion, Thor rose to 19th place, and by lunch on Saturday when alliance selections were made, we rested at 20th place. However, during the nail-biting tension of the ceremony, we regrettably weren't picked by any of the alliances. This came as a great disappointment to us for several minutes, but after a while we realized the Regional was still a great success. As Mr. Sarber pointed out to the rookie team on Friday, we had accomplished what we set out to do: build a robot capable of shooting a few baskets. That was the plan, and that was the end result, so team 3397 has done well this year.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Andrew will be following up with a more detailed post about this past weekend's competition, but I just wanted to give you guys and overview of how it turned out!

We ended up winning 6 matches and losing 5. At the end, we were ranked 23 out of 43 teams- that's a record number of teams for Saint Louis- and though we did not get chosen for an elimination rounds alliance, we managed to balance on the bridge as well as get our autonomous mode working. There were a few complications with the arm at some points during the day, but our amazing build and programming teams got that all smoothed out. Overall we were very happy with how the weekend went!

See pictures on our facebook page! Search UCHS Robolions, and don't forget to 'like' us!

-Captain Grace

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Back Again

After a shamefully long hiatus of frenzied work on a Latin project, I have returned to clear off the dust and cobwebs and revive this blog! Huzzah!

So, as some of you may know, this is one of our last build sessions before competition next weekend (conveniently during spring break, not-so-huzzah). We have a few things to tidy up before Rebound Rumble commences, such as the position of a ball-guider on the shooter. Henry and I maintain that our team motto should be "We know the game and we're gonna play it," so I'd like to remind everyone to go over the rules once more. I myself shall now proceed to do so before continuing the blog post.


Okay, that's done. In other news, one of Marquel's friends has started to hang around our build sessions and is apparently interested in making a documentary on FIRST. I promise a further update when I'm able to talk to her about it. A new student at the school also expresses interest in FRC, possibly a future member of the team.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It is bagged and has a name!

The robot(formerly known as Nameless) has been officially named Thor. That is all.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Shooter is Awesome

Hello all! Sorry for the hiatus- I've been busy with musical rehearsals and other various extra curriculars. Ok, enough about me, to the point:

Alas, today is the last day of build season. The team is bagging up the robot as I am typing. But we really pulled it together this evening and got a lot of work done. Here's a video of our shooter working:

It's awesome.

However, as we were testing the drivers to see who will be our drive team for competition, we ran into a few problems with balls getting stuck under the robot. Yet another thing to fix at competition...

Later! Follow us on facebook!

Captina Grace


It's hard to believe the day is already here, but work on Nameless will cease tonight at 11:00! In that time, we need to get our shooter operational and mounted on the bot, although we plan to take it off and put it on Quorra to test it.

Driving tests are currently being run. These will determine ultimately who drives Nameless at competition, a somewhat coveted position. Candidates include Walter, Mike, Henry, and more. There are actually two driver positions we can cover: the driving of the robot and the operations of the shooter. Both are quite important and we can take only the best of the best for the job.

Dan Land is occupied with sensitivity of the robot's drive train, or "Making it drive in the right direction."

The build team is perfecting our ball sweeper and mounting a sheet of lexan to protect Nameless's electronics (namely, the bridge and the power distribution board).

I'm happy to report our Bill of Materials is complete! At least until the build team puts anything else on the robot, ha ha ha.

We've experienced some conflict over some fairly trivial matters, such as what music we listen to and what we'll eat for dinner. Chinese or pizza? What do you guys say?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tension is Mounting

This was our penultimate build session. Tomorrow, we work until 11:15 P.M. to get our robot together for the competition. Naturally, we're all anxious, but we know this year's robot is going to be great.

Working on the Bill of Materials, we've observed that our drive train alone costs more than Quorra! With all the resources going into Nameless, we know it will perform excellently. Incidentally, we want to save the BoM to our memory stick, but we can't appear to find it. Captain Grace, if you're out there somewhere, do you have any idea where it might be?

Our shooter is finally complete, although not yet mounted on our robot, and it works well. Here's a video of it in action, although I don't know how to embed it - there's more work for Captain Grace.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

New Member!

A good friend to several of our members has now joined the team! Since I'm not sure how comfortable he'd be with my tossing his name around, I won't name him, but suffice it to say he knows what he's doing with machinery and is a valuable addition to the team. Huzzah for new members!

Dan Land can't make much progress until we're able to test our programming, and we need a complete robot in order to do that. With only one week left until ship day, we really have to speed things up and get all the pieces assembled!

Work continues (old members, not new members pictured):

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Programming Progress

Our robot has eyes! That is to say, we've mounted our camera on the 2012 robot (whom I'm now calling Nameless until someone comes up with a moniker).

Most of the progress made today has been in Dan Land. We don't yet have the hardware for this, but we now have code for operating the shooter, sweeper, and lifter (plus the hood, which will rotate the angle of the shooter). This is obviously important. There has also been work done on image processing, but it's not currently complete.

The lifter is coming along nicely as well.

Sort of a slow day, but progress is progress. :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


I'm starting to struggle with finding interesting titles... Anyway, work continues as ever here in the den. Each build session offers its own little challenges, such as getting the robot to move again. (Actually, this is probably not good.) Thankfully, our team has been able to correct all our small problems so far. Our recent achievements follow.

Programming: Dan and Henry have affixed the camera to our new robot (still unnamed - perhaps we could just call it Nameless), and it has begun to feed information from the cRio to the computer.

Publicity: This room is no longer "Theater Storage." Dan has placed tape over the offending sign and it is now the "Robotics Lab." Yay Dan!

Build Team: We've got a lot of objectives we need to work on. All of them are important, but the preeminent task is assembling our final shooter, which is an adapted version of our latest prototype. Another task is to perfect the little piece of machinery that will move the basketballs from our collector on the ground up to the shooter.

Thirdly, Da Rules regulate that all bumpers must be no higher than 10 inches above the ground. However, the frame of Nameless is just over 10 inches above the ground, meaning we can't hang the bumper from there. So we had to figure out a way to mount the bumper below our frame and still keep it securely fastened -- and capable of being taken on/off within 10 minutes! Walter has proposed the idea of using a U bracket beneath the frame.

So we've all got plenty to do here.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Balancing Act

Our robot can now balance on the bridge!

New Ball Shooter

Here's our new design for the ball shooter! It's a one-wheel mechanism with a curved piece to help propel the ball. We just need to adjust the angle of projection so that it can shoot high enough to get in the basket.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Baby's First Steps... and Falls

Yesterday we reached two grand milestones in our robot's life: its first power-up and its first drive. Granted, it only went in circles because it was trying to use a tank drive in mecanum wheels. After that, it stopped working. Apparently our 2012 code was built wrong. Dan and Henry tried using Quorra's code, but our robot is currently immobile. Naturally, our programmers are doing everything they can to fix that.

Work elsewhere continues as normal. Walter, Mr. Dodson, Charles, and I have been assembling the shooter, and it's well on its way.

Having checked Chief Delphi's forums extensively, Walter reports that we're not actually too far behind other teams and, shockingly, some are indeed behind us on building progress! This is due to various delays in having custom frames cut by their expensive sponsors. This is why our system of building everything ourselves is superior! :P Okay, maybe we're a bit jealous of those resources, but not of those setbacks.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Just Be Glad You're Not On Hitler's Team

This is a funny video we found today:

We hope you guys enjoy it! And remember, no matter how bad the season gets, at least your're not on Hitler's team.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Robot name suggestions, other interesting finds of the evening

Okay, so the title is a bit misleading. We do not actually have any suggestions for the name of our 2012 season robot. We do have criteria, however:

1. It must be clever.
2. It probably shouldn't be the name of a famous NBA player.

That's about it. The reason it shouldn't be the name of a famous NBA player is because Captain Grace says so. It's just too cliche- it's a basketball-themed game, and EVERYONE and their brother's robots are going to be named after NBA players. Of course, our last resort will be Lebron or Kobe or something, but I really want us to stay away from those...

So if you have suggestions for a robot name, leave it in the comments below. Soon here we'll have a poll so that our lovely readers, however few, will be able to have some input.

As to the second part of the title, I guess I should give an update on progress. We've got the chassis completely finished, and the wheels/gearboxes/motors attached. Mike's finished his ball-mover mechanism (the piece of machinery that, once the ball has been received, will move it up to the launcher. The board has been painted, black with gold lion paw prints walking across it, and there's been a hole cut in the middle for the launcher to be installed in. We're still working on the launcher- it's been a tough few weeks for that subteam. We always seem to hit a wall with it somehow. But we're hoping to finalize something within the next few days so that we can get to programming and testing.

This might be unusual for a Robotics blog, but, I'm figuring that many of our readers are themselves geeks, and geeks tend to like to read, so I'm going to make a  geeky book recommendation. If you haven't yet read The New Cool by Neal Bascomb, it's a great read. It's actually about a FIRST robotics team, and the teacher that brought them to where they are. It's incredible. It's great insight into the journey and trials and tribulations that a team struggles with, and it accurately describes the euphoria experience when all that hard work pays off in unimaginable ways. So, pick it up today!

That's all for now, folks! Stay tuned for the next post!

Captain Grace

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Henry and Mr. Simpson working on the ultrasonic distance sensor

Marquese and Addy testing the mobility of the mecanum drive wheels

Walter demonstrating the ball receiver to Mr. Sarber

Markel and Mervin discussing the robot's balance mechanism

Somewhat Cool New Gadget and Chairman's Award

Dan and Henry are testing one particularly interesting little item we've acquired: an ultrasonic sensor that can measure distances using echolocation. However awesome that sounds, though, we've discovered it's only accurate up to 100 inches, roughly 8 feet. This causes me disappointment. :( Luckily, Henry and Dan are working on a solution.

We've decided we can't apply for the Chairman's Award, because we'd need video footage from FRC events, which we don't have. However, I still get to write the essay as practice. That's proving difficult to find material for. I know from National History Day that I can write a pretty spiffy 1500-word essay that is Regional Champion quality (okay, I'm gloating) -- but this can only come to be if I understand what I'm talking about. As a newbie member to the team, I don't know about our "role model behavior," "innovation in spreading the FIRST message," or even the "impact of FIRST on the team, school, and community"! (Frankly, half of our school doesn't even know we exist, so I don't think FIRST has an impact on our school or community.)

So... yeah. Come on, guys, we need praise for the Robolions so that I can write a good essay! Anybody who can think of achievements or actions we've taken that fall in line with the Chairman's Award criteria, please do comment below!

(The submission requirements for the Chairman's Award can be viewed here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

More Pics and Stuff, Updates

Today marks 3 weeks and 5 days to bag day! We're a little behind in our work schedule, but hopefully we'll be able to catch up.

At this moment we are constructing the drive train and attaching it to the bot. We're still a bit stuck on how we are going to do the wiring for this new bot, who is yet to be named. (Any suggestions for names, comment below!) The problem lies in the designs- since we don't know what mechanism we are going to use yet for the ball shooter. Depending on what that is, we could either be mounting our electrics vertically, on a board, or like we did last year, just flat on the bot. We just don't want to have to move it around. So all our little geniuses are hard at work figuring that out.

Daniel's working hard as always with many tabs open on the programming computer, working on programming the cRio, the camera to track the hoops, and other various things.

I (team captain!) am working on developing a written schedule and list of goals to kinda help keep us on track. I'm also writing blog posts (obviously!), taking pictures and videos to upload to YouTube, researching BoM stuff, and working on scouting material for the competition. The other day I even did some soldering, seeing as (surprisingly) I'm one of two on the team that has experience soldering! Someone exclaimed "Who let Grace near the technology!" ...Haha guys, very funny.

Andrew will be working on the Chairman's Award essay. We've decided to submit it, if just for the sake of getting the experience. We're not looking to win anything this year, but we want Andrew to just get the feel of writing these types of essays.

If you guys didn't know, we got a new Boeing mentor! His name is Jared, and he used to mentor another FRC team where he used to live, but now we've got him! So that makes 4 Boeing mentors (Jared, Brandon, John, Rowland) and we couldn't be more thankful for them! Thanks guys :)

Now, for the much-anticipated update pictures:

Thanks for reading, don't forget to follow us on twitter @robolions3397 !

Captain Grace

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Decisions, Decisions

Today we decided to mount our board a layer or two above the basic chassis, to elevate all our appendages and give us some room to work on the chassis if need be. In the event that this doesn't work out, it can always be dropped later on.

Work continues on the drive train; Benjamin's been tightening the screws on the mecanum wheels while Walter and Charles sand down beams and apply them to the chassis. Meanwhile in Code Land, Dan is writing code for identifying rectangles (and therefore, baskets).

Mrs. Pomerantz contributed lunch today, and we all agree that it was very good indeed. Thanks for feeding us! :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Prototype, New Video

Progress is Progress

25% of our allotted build time has evaporated, and we have built a bit less than 25% of our robot. We'd better get cracking if we want to build a great robot like we know we can.

Regardless, we are still making progress. Dan's teaching Henry some programming, and in the meantime he's learned how to work with Kinect. Marquel and Mr. Dodson found some good motors for use in our robot. Meanwhile, I realized that if we're going to apply for the Chairman's Award, we have less than a month before the due date. Therefore, Captain Grace says we're not likely to enter. But then what am I supposed to write for the team?

The build team has created another prototype, our best yet. It is similar to a conveyor belt in that it slides the basketballs along by spinning two timing belts along and propelling them along the prototype's length. It really is quite impressive!

Also, we have ascertained that our old robot moves and stuff. You know you're on a quality FRC team when you've got to check that the robot moves and stuff! XD

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Magical Multimeter

Today, we learned how to work the multimeter, an instrument that allows us to measure the voltage of any AC/DC circuit. This will be invaluable when we are constructing our actual robot and measuring its wiring.
Mr. Dodson has also pointed out that the screws we were using on our frame are square-ended. Obviously, that won't work with many holes, and the inspectors frown on them. So we'd better remove those.
We've refined our original prototype, curling the brush/spike/protrusions to give them extra strength. After our bucket/paint-roller failure, it's heartening to have a prototype that works quite well! Walter and company are constructing a new prototype that will hopefully do the intended job of the bucket/paint-roller prototype, which is shooting the basketballs through compressing them between rolling objects (in this case, robot wheels).

Monday, January 16, 2012

Day 9 Update

It's been 9 days since we received the challenge for the 2012 season, and we have moved forward with much gusto. So far we have a chassis built, a board painted, some prototypes for the shooters and ball grabbers made,  ideas about how to set up the electrical system, and other various things done. With a small team again, it's difficult to get as much done as we would like in the time we have. But nevertheless, we're making progress.

As far as prototyping goes, we have just made a ball-grabber design that works really well, and we think we are going to use it. It's basically a 1 1/2" PVC pipe tube with 7 holes drilled all the way through. Surgical tubing (flouropolymer tubing) is looped through the holes, tied off at each end. The pipe spins over the balls and funnels them into the ball holder (which we still have yet to design.)

We actually got the idea from another team, who'd posted their video on YouTube. It was quite an inspiration and has worked much better than the ideas we had before!

In other news, the team has finals in school this week. Good luck to everyone!


Here's a quick picture blog update, just to give you all an idea of what we've been up to the past week. Enjoy!

Ball Grabber Prototype 2

This is the second prototype for the ball grabber.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Shooter prototype 1

This is the first prototype for the shooter.

Rowland Reports on Rebound Rumble

Team Mentor Rowland Dodson has brought us the conclusions from a recent meeting of Boeing mentors. One of the most important concepts in Rebound Rumble is that the game's rules do not easily allow for defensive robots. When in their lanes or keys, robots are defended from jostling or other interference, meaning there is little space for defensive robots to effectively push their opponents around. This doesn't interfere with our current plans, but it is important to understand that we can't build a robot like Quorra this year.

Also, a safety tip from Mr. Sarber: Don't cover your ears when you're working with power tools.

Prototype 1 Video

This is our first protoype. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Paint Rolling Prototype

Prototyping has begun! As I type this, Walter is sawing off the handle of a paint roller so we can use it to mimic an important part of our robot: the brushes that will scoop basketballs into its apparatus, where they will travel up belts and be inserted into our cannon.

Meanwhile, Mike has developed the motions and gestures we'll use for the TeleOp section, including moves from tae bo, I'm a Little Teapot, and disco. The task of translating this so the robot can understand what it should be doing falls to Dan and Henry. Have fun, guys! :D

Monday, January 9, 2012

Day 1 Brainstorming

There are so many ideas for this year's robot design. Topics covered today included: Chassis design, defensive vs. projecting/offensive robot, prioritizing our goals and must-haves for the bot, and design concepts. At this point in time, we have decided that our best option thus far is to begin designing a robot that projects balls using a tennis launcher-type mechanism.

This would be described as a tube or some other type of holder with wheels on the sides, turning in opposite directions, to propel the ball forward. It scored high in our assumptions about its accuracy, range ability, speed (speed of reloading as well as actual speed of projection), complexity, and defendability (how difficult would it be to defend against such a bot.) 

We will begin prototyping tomorrow.

Right now we are working on a chassis design and drive train mounting. We haven't actually built anything yet, but we are still in the process of working out certain details, such as do we need a gap in the chassis to collect balls; a wide vs. skinny frame, mecanum/omni drive vs. tank drive, things like that. The chassis team is working this out on paper right now.

Our programming team has a list of things they need to accomplish for the season. Most recently they uploaded the WindRiver software onto the programming computer. Next they need to update the Classmate PC, work on programming the gyroscope, and other such pursuits.

It's going to be a helluva season! Be sure to 'like' us on Facebook (UCHS Robolions) and follow us on Twitter @robolions3397! 

Saturday, January 7, 2012


Grace has already explained the core concepts of Rebound Rumble. I'll restate the key objective: we basically need to make a robot that can play basketball.

There have been several possible builds already suggested. The most widely accepted is to use a robot with a ball cannon, which balls are moved to by a turning wheel, rather like a waterwheel but without any water. Other suggestions include a pneumatic cannon, a trebuchet, and a Dalek. The first suggestion is, of course, the most feasible and probable.

But a Dalek-shaped robot would still be all kinds of awesome. XD

And Let the Games Begin

So! The game has been announced!!

This year is a flashback kind of year. The game, Rebound Rumble, is a basketball/balancing game that references two past years of FTC challenges. The objective is to shoot basketballs into four hoops at the end of the field. The hoops are on different levels and each level is worth different points. Then, at the end, there is a balancing component where teams must balance their bots on the platforms in the center of the field. There is a platform in the center of the field where both teams cooperate to balance, and each team gets points for that. The rule for fouls this year is that for every foul an alliance commits, the opposing alliance gets points.

We're at the Exploradome now working on brainstorming. Good luck to all the teams this year!
At the Science Center for Kickoff!


We're at Kickoff at the St. Louis Science Center!! In one short hour, the long-anticipated challenge for the 2012 Season will be announced. The Planetarium is filled with a plethora of nerds in tshirts with numbers on them. An odd sight to a normal onlooker, but we couldn't be more excited! The KOP list includes a tshirt this year, as well as an Xbox Kinect, and 3 mystery game pieces. The excitement is growing as we follow twitter updates and throw around guesses as to what is in store for us this year.

Follow us on twitter @robolions3397!!

Also, for updates, follow @FRCteams!

#frcko #omgrobots