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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!

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