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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!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Forget Climbing Bot- it's time for some change

Well, hello, everybody. Welcome to the latest edition of Let's See What Team 3397 Is Doing Now!

Tonight, the other captains and I had a very serious meeting. The progress of the climbing mechanism is nowhere near where we wanted it to be. With the amount of time left (we are into week 4 now), we just cannot afford to be still prototyping and theorizing; it's time for action. So we're switching directives. By executive order, we have changed direction.

We're going to focus on a sort of defense mechanism, where we collect Frisbees and have a dispensing mechanism almost like the feeding slot to feed to other robots on our alliance. We have come up with a design that is fairly simple to build within a week, giving us time to test and improve and program. Worst case scenario, it doesn't work and we're no worse off than we would be if we continued to go in the direction we have been headed.

Still working out the new blog format. It's more difficult to navigate. Perhaps more changes will come later.

Aaaaaand some pictures!

 Explaining the new idea to the team

 Mentors/coaches giving input

 Current chassis!

Monday, January 28, 2013


So guys, it's time to switch things up a little. Never fear, it's still the same old Fourth Law of Robotics blog that we all know and love, now with a new and improved packaging design!

Ha, ha. In all seriousness, the design will probably remain like this until  we get complaints begging us to change it back. So enjoy. Or don't.


Chasses and bumpers and prototypes, oh my!

Chasses? Chassisses? Not sure about the plural form of the word 'chassis'...anyways!

A little update here for those of you who are interested. The basic plan for tonight is to continue to work on prototyping; we have three prototypes for climbing mechanisms in the works right now, and then an arm/scoring mechanism. It might sound like we're pretty behind due to the fact that we're still in the prototyping stage- but on the contrary, we're right on schedule. Our entire chassis is welded and secure, with wheels attached and bumpers in the works. The electronics board is nearly complete- we'd started off with a prototype board just to get our robot to drive, but we've begun to fit the board to the chassis. We've got a non-conventional shape this year. Instead of the typical rectangle, you will find our robot sporting a hexagonal, trapezoid-esque shape. Photos will be around before long.

Everything else is pretty much as normal. We hope to decide on a prototype on Wednesday, vote, and begin construction of the actual components. Nearly 4 weeks in and we're chugging right along!

Peace out!
Captain Grace

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Code of Hammurabi

My post an hour ago was joking that we weren't accomplishing much without Captain Grace, but that would be an outright lie. Dan's freshman programming apprentice, Josh, successfully wrote code enough for our prototype robot to move! It lives! Huzzah!

In the Absence of the Captain...

Although many of our team members, including Captain Grace, are away in D.C. to attend President Obama's inauguration, work continues in the Robolions lab. For example:

- We created gussets for the prototype. Thanks to Ranken for welding our chassis; pics will come later when our computers are in order.
- We enjoyed a lavish lunch of lasagna and cookies courtesy of the White household.
- We determined the reason why art schools generally don't compete in FRC.
- We completed several of our set pieces. 
- We realized the centerpiece is less of a pyramid and more of a ziggurat, or perhaps the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
- We came up with another candidate for the robot's name: Hammurabi. The best aspect of this name is that Dan Land would then be literally writing the Code of Hammurabi.

As you can see, we're still being incredibly productive while Captain Grace is touring Washington, D.C. Won't she be proud of us when she returns!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Business is Booming

The past few days have already seen a good deal of activity in and around the 3397 Robolions lab (especially as compared to last year, when we spent altogether too much time brainstorming). Captain Grace, Henry, and I arrived from musical rehearsal to find the hallway filled with teammates enjoying breaktime!

Much progress has also been made. Over the weekend, Mr. Wurst opened up the woodshop and helped us get working on our mock arena by drilling metal poles and cutting boards. With the help of mentor Rowland, work on our prototype continues. Dan Land stands ready and waiting to program our drive train, whenever it gets built. The team is already considering names for our robot (a girl this year), such as Nefertiti, Asami, Quorra II, and Shuttleworth (after Leanna Shuttleworth, the youngest British woman to climb Mount Everest)*. And our soda sales are booming!

*Also Fluttershy. Definitely an option.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Week 1 Update

Whew! Week one is done already! Can you believe it? This year's game is proving to be quite a challenge. Here are a few things we have accomplished this week:

-Basic strategy determined. We will be focusing on building a robot that can climb and deposit frisbees at the the top of the scoring pyramid, and that can then stay there until the end of the match, resulting in an extra 30 points. This strategy is very risky because if done correctly it will score us major points, but if it doesn't work, there is no other way for us to score, rendering our bot useless.

-Set up the electronics board. This year we're going with a plastic Lexan board rather than a plywood one. This makes the robot look more streamlined and sleek, and not as haphazard as in the past.

-CAD designs for the chassis. Our team CAD-er has almost completely CADed the basic chassis design. We're going with an unconventional design this year- no boxy rectangles for us!

-Programming progress. Our team programmer, Dan, has been training his apprentice, Josh and right now they are just working on testing connections and downloading the code onto the bridge. They're about to try connecting wirelessly.

-Shelves have been built. This year for competition we have two pit designers, Marquise and Addy. They have designed a fold-able shelf that has pegboard on the back so we can hang tools. The small shelf will display trophies and team pictures, and will have a TV set up running either video or picture slideshows. It's painted black and gold with paw prints- go lions!!

-Arm Design ideas. Though we have not begun prototyping yet, we have designs sketched up for claws that can lift the frisbees and clamp onto them. We also have begun designs for the climbing mechanism. More on that later.

We're working hard every day. Soon I'll write a post introducing all of our team members for this year. Peace out!

Captain Grace

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Prototype Brainstorming

FIRST things first. (ba-dum-tish!) The FRC game this year, Ultimate Ascent, is similar in several ways to last year's Rebound Rumble, but trickily different in others. As in Rebound Rumble, a 15-second autonomous period, in which robots act purely on their programming and not at the direction of human drivers, starts the match. Robots score points by propelling frisbees (not basketballs) into 1-point, 2-point, or 3-point slots, each of which are respectively higher and harder to reach. Ultimate Ascent's title comes into play in the endgame, wherein robots are challenged to climb a tower with three rungs and remain hanging there long enough to score points.

On Kickoff Day, also known as "FIRSTmas" by Walter, the team elected to try a different strategy than we normally do. Instead of trying to build a jack-of-all-trades robot, we decided to specialize on the endgame and design and build a climbing robot.

Today, Walter and Mike brought four prototype concepts before the team to vote on. The choices included: a "side hook" plan, in which the robot grasps the rung of the tower and hoists itself up; a "corner hook" plan, in which the robot would grab onto the corner of the tower and climb up diagonally; a "tow truck" plan, in which the robot would pull itself up with a winch; and an "inchworm" plan, in which an extremely complex robot would yank itself up the tower, flipping over repeatedly in an inchworm-like movement.

With each team member voting for a plan A and B, we ultimately elected to build prototypes for both the "side hook" and "corner hook" plans, and to decide from there which to utilize in our final robot.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Day 1 of Design

Just some pictures from our first day of design:

 Paul modeling the game piece this year- Frisbees!
 Addy doing some research on the game rules
Discussing strategy

FRC Kick Off 2013

Happy New Year everybody!!!

Here we are, at the St. Louis Science Center, anticipating what is sure to be another fantastically suspenseful FRC  Kickoff! Everybody's just milling around and chatting now, but at 9:30, the fun will begin- the countdown to the release of the 2013 game.

There have been many hints dropped on Bill's Blog about what the game will be this year, but as usual, no one has been able to make much sense of them. I'm sure it'll all make sense when they announce the game, however- the GDC is pretty clever like that....

I'll be updating periodically, and as soon as the game video is released (and the website accessible- it's usually bogged down by traffic!) we'll hyperlink it up at the top as per usual.

Peace out!
Captain Grace