Hatboro-Horsham Competition 2/28/15-3/1/15

The Daleks were very excited to participate in our first competition of 2015!

Saturday, the first day of matches, got off to a bit of a rough start. Our tote staging hooks broke in a practice match after getting caught, and we had to hurry to fix them before our qualification matches began. Then, a few low-scoring matches did little to help us in the rankings, and we found ourselves with some ground to make up. However, as the day went on, our drivers got more practice, we developed some strategies, and we were on a few high-scoring alliances.

On Sunday, there were two more qualification matches to go before eliminations started. In the second match, we debuted a large hook that pulled a recycling can off of the center platform, which few other teams had done up until then. We must have made an impression, because we were selected by Team 1403 and Team 1640 for the #1-seeded alliance!

We made use of our hook as well as our tote lifter as our alliance powered through all the way to the finals! Although we didn’t win, we are thrilled to have made it so far, and we offer our sincerest congratulations to Team 2607, Team 2590, and Team 5407. Good rushing!

As happy as we are about our performance at Hatboro-Horsham, there are always improvements to be made. In our 6 hours of unbagged-robot time, we’ll be preparing to tackle our next challenge: the MAR Springside Chestnut Hill event.

See you there!

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News from our Scouting App Team

This year the Daleks have a new scouting app, to be used in the stands and in the pit. A few members of our programming team took on this new project. Everyone involved taught themselves new skills to pull it off. Last Saturday they trained a lot of team members on how to use the app.

We will have six scouts at a time using Netbooks to record specific information about the performance of the robots in a match. This includes details ranging from Autonomous Mode and Cooperitition abilities, to Tote, Container, and Litter handling, Robot speed and agility characteristics, and finally noteworthy features and failures as well as alliance score. We will also have two Android tablets used by pit scouters for taking robot pictures and recording technical observations about robot design and construction. Our electrical team also designed and built a power supply and network switch, that will keep the Netbooks powered and communicating in the stands.

When it’s time to plan for an upcoming match, the drive team and strategists will evaluate the technical robot information along with a scouting report that will provide averages of all the accumulated match performance for the robots in the match.

There will be many jobs for Dalek team members during the tournaments to make sure our drive team and strategists have the information they need to play their best game!

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Last Build Weekend

The Daleks are hard at work to finish the robot. Despite a few snowy delays, the robot is coming together well, and several builds ago we were able to lift the totes and bin with the secondary robot. Today, it’s just about finished—the functions all work, it is operable wirelessly, it has been coded to be controlled by our driver console, and the camera has been attached and works nicely with its maneuverable mount.

Now that the secondary robot is working well, our next task is to recreate the parts to put on our primary robot. We already did all the measuring, cutting, electrical work, etc. on the secondary robot, so now we have the opportunity to adjust anything that needs to before we finalize it on the primary robot. In keeping with this year’s theme of recycling, we are reusing pieces of old metal rulers on the robots.

The electrical team is working to finish the setup on the primary robot, which is different this year—most of the electronics are attached to three vertical cards located above the gearbox and the battery. That way, they are easy to access, and a cable can be run under them to operate the elevator part of our lifting mechanism. And the programming team is rejoicing now that we have one of the robots moving wirelessly, because they get to test for problems that can only be discovered while driving (e.g. the joystick controls being backwards).

On February 7th, members of the BOT team were busy building their own robots…with little helpers. Our members assisted kids at the Hunterdon County Family Success Center as they built small, motorized robots. The kids and the members of the team who went all had a lot of fun. Since then, the BOT team has been working on the business plan, signs, our newsletter, and assorted spirit items for the stands during our competitions.

Although our progress has been very good, Stop Build Day looms large in our vision. But we aren’t scared by that deadline, because we know our Daleks are driven and capable, and we will rise to meet it.

See you at the competition!

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Hard At Work

All of the teams are hard at work building the robot. While we have had some setbacks, we are managing to move ahead and actually have made great progress. Due to snow and ice, we have had two unexpected snow days. Even with this setback, the Daleks are working even harder to hit our deadlines. The primary robot is well underway and we are also working on a secondary robot for testing and practice.

The electrical team is working on putting the electronics onto the plexiglass boards. After this is completed, they will be mounting the several plexiglass boards on the robot after it is coded by the programming team. The group of students, along with some programming members, have decided to use more than one plexiglass board with different electrical components on them. For example, one board will have the motor controllers while another has the pneumatic control modules. This will allow for a more organized system and easier access to everything, just in case something needs to be adjusted. They are also working to attach metal pieces that can later be attached to the robot.

The mechanical team has been working on the primary robot to attach the pneumatic parts. They are also working on adding the second lifting system. The secondary robot is being worked on by mentors and freshmen, and they are currently working out what changes need to be made to the robot frame.

The programming team is working on figuring out what they want to program for the robot this year. They are also continuing to work on a scouting app for use in the stands. The programming team is also working on the driving code. This is really important as it is the code that allows us to move the robot.

The CAD Team, which is working with an automation engineering program, is working on putting the robot and its parts into the CAD program. They are using this program to design 3D parts to build the robot on the computer.

Overall, the team has been making strides in the building of our robot. We are hard at work and hopefully will not see too many setbacks in the near future.

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Building Underway

By Emily R. and Abby R.

The Hunterdon Central Robotics team is working full-force towards building the robot for this year’s competition. The drive train team is working on fixing the Mecanum wheels and is getting ready to mount them on the chassis. In order to set up the drive train, they are putting gears inside of the nanotube frame and connecting the motors to the gear system to run the wheels. The drive train is a really important part of the robot because everything needs to be built upon it.

Those working on a lifting mechanism are testing out different motors for the lift and ordering the right gears and motors for it. The prototype for the hook itself is becoming finalized. The programming team is starting to put together code for this year’s robot as well as creating an app for scouting in the pits.

The Business & Outreach Team is working on an event to teach kids at Hunterdon County Prevention about robotics. We are going to work with them to build a small robot from a kit and hopefully develop their interest in robotics. They have the option to build a grandpa-bot, cricket-bot, a beast-bot or a trailer-bot, which all have different functions and designs.

Team 3637 has been hard at work, but we know our efforts will pay off.

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Kickoff 2015!

Build season has begun! Kickoff went off with a bang on January 3 and the official robotics season has started. This year’s challenge: Recycle Rush®. In this challenge the main goal is to work as a team to build a stack of totes with a garbage pail on top. For extra points, the garbage pail can be filled with the “litter,” otherwise known as a green pool noodle. Here is FIRST®‘s official game animation:

Team 3637 watched the Kickoff from the robotics room at Central. We got right down to business by breaking into 8 teams to brainstorm ideas for our robot. We strategized and came up with a lot of ideas, which were narrowed down and then saved for continued discussion. A large number of Dalek alumni came back to participate in the Kickoff festivities and to help mentor the team along with the parent mentors. We all went home full of ideas and enthusiastic to study the game manual. We are extremely excited for this season!

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Team Building and Other Updates

Last week Team 3637 participated in a balloon-filled team building activity. We were split into ten teams and competed to build the tallest balloon structure possible with only one hundred unblown balloons and two rolls of masking tape within 15 minutes. The tallest structure got to be 7 feet tall.

It was a challenging but fun activity and we really got to know other members of the team. Building a tower really proved to be difficult as the balloons never quite stood in place, and no one could quite reach the top of the balloon tower, and no one could keep their hair from sticking to the balloons! By the end, everyone was out of breath but smiling because we grew as a team and even the teams who didn’t win enjoyed knocking down the towers and popping every single balloon.

During the month of December, the Daleks have been holding a food drive throughout all of our nighttime workshops, collecting food for the Flemington Food Pantry during the holiday season.

The Daleks have also been expanding Team 3637’s outreach to local elementary schools. We have been working with some of the 1st and 2nd graders at the Barley Sheaf School’s LEGO club. Members of the team had a lot of fun working with the kids.

Team 3637 is continuing to work hard in its preparations for the upcoming build season, and are greatly anticipating the January 3rd kickoff.

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Fall Updates

As we prep for the seasonal build, we are working on many community outreach and public relations programs.
In early September, we gave a presentation to the Flemington Rotary Club at the Copper Hill Country Club. We presented what our team does and gave a demonstration of last year’s robot.

Within our school community, the Daleks sold hot chocolate on the cold night of Homecoming Fest. It was a very fun experience as we interacted with our student body and promoted our team. Several members within our club participated in a series of relay races such as wheelbarrow and three-legged races.

The Daleks went to the Board of the Education meeting to thank the Board for their support to our team. There we displayed our robot for their viewing and even threw a ball at them! What a great way to thank someone for their support, throwing an exercise ball at them really gets the point across!

On Thursday the fourth and Friday the fifth of December, we will be holding a bake sale at Five Guys Burgers and Fries to raise funds for the team. Five Guys will also be generously donating a portion of the check to anyone who hands in our flyer. And starting next week, the Daleks plan to volunteer at Barley Sheaf Elementary School. There we will mentor the elementary students in the LEGO club.

The build team is working very hard and are learning many new things. The Daleks are heavily anticipating the future events and can’t wait for the 2015 challenge to be announced on January 3rd.

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Brunswick Eruption 13

It’s been a while since the last competition season, and we were eager to take last year’s robot out for one last spin. The 13th annual Brunswick Eruption gave us the perfect opportunity to do just that. Earlier in the week, we Daleks had worked on the robot a little, fixing some code, wiring, and mechanics, just to make sure the bot was still in fighting shape.

BE is a one-day event, so there were only five qualification matches before the elimination matches. We decided to rotate drivers so more people could gain valuable experience, and the results weren’t too shabby—by lunch, we were 3-2, and in 20th place out of 41 overall.  The morning wasn’t without its frustrations (how on Earth do you break a roller off of a Mecanum wheel if you aren’t actively trying?!), but we faced our setbacks calmly and ended up quickly fixing all our issues.

We were then selected as the 4th team on the 5th-seeded alliance. Along with our partners (Team 25, Team 56, and Team 1302), we advanced through the quarterfinals only to be defeated in the semis. We’d like to extend our hearty congratulations to the winners, and we hope to be back for next year’s BE!

Not only did we have fun at Brunswick Eruption, but we also accomplished many goals. Between the driver rotation, the hands-on work leading up to the event, and scouting, our newer members got a lot of exposure and their first taste of robotic action. By sharing experiences and simulating the environment of a competition, we’ve become better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.

And I’d be lying if I said we haven’t caught a little case of competition fever.

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New Year, New Daleks

The new school year is well underway, and the Daleks have already begun planning for the 2014-15 season.

First, thanks to Central’s new Robotics classes, lots of new people are expressing interest in joining our team. We’re looking forward to seeing what great things our new members will contribute to Team 3637!

Several of us also represented the team at Homecoming Fest on Wednesday. We sold hot chocolate as the school celebrated Homecoming Week.

Our after-school meetings have also begun, and we’ve been giving the newcomers a brief overview of what life on Team 3637 is like. We’ve also set up our first fundraiser of the year: Innisbrook gift wrap! The holidays aren’t quite as far away as they seem, so please support our team and order today!

That’s about everything so far, but keep checking back for more updates as the season progresses. Go Daleks!

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Off-Season Outreach

The Daleks haven’t stopped working since the end of competition season!

You may have known we were volunteering with the Lego and Robotics Clubs at Desmares Elementary School. Both clubs have officially concluded, but not before we could give them over 125 pounds of donated Lego and a total of 25 man-hours! We sure had fun, and we sincerely hope the kids did too.

We’ve also been reaching out in our community. On May 1st, Hunterdon Central once again hosted its annual Family Science Night, and the Daleks put on quite a show. Some of our activities included driving/maneuvering demos, letting the kids drive our robust practice bot, playing catch with the competition bot, and a Lego area for the youngest attendees. Our end of the hallway quickly became very crowded…everyone wanted to check out our team!

Finally, we were featured during Teen Tech Week! Teen Tech Week took place in our library (the IMC), and it showcases our school’s coolest gadgets—our radio station, 3D-printing, and of course, our robot. Team 3637 is making a presence!

Now that the school year has officially ended, our graduates are going their separate ways, but not before we honored them at our banquet. Our advisors and seniors were recognized and given gifts in celebration of an excellent year of robot-building.

With a new executive board in place, we’re looking forward to a great season ahead. In the meantime, we’ll be enjoying the summer.

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Bridgewater-Raritan District Event—3/28/14 to 3/30/14

The Bridgewater-Raritan competition was the Daleks’ last of the season, and it was certainly one to remember.

We arrived Friday night, speedily set up the pit, and made some adjustments on the robot. When we took the field Saturday morning, our robot was sporting new surgical tubing, and a working hot-goal autonomous mode! A few matches in, it would also be fitted with a fresh-out-of-the-box D-link, thanks to a damaged port on the old one that plagued us with communication issues. However, when everything on the robot did work, we were a mighty force on the field. We could shoot high and low, we could go over the truss, our roller scooped up stray balls in seconds, our Mecanum wheels let us maneuver around defenders… in short, we could do almost everything short of catching a truss shot. Our strength was our versatility—whatever role needed to be filled in our alliance, we were up for the task.

Unfortunately, this became reality less often than we had intended. It seemed as if every part of the robot (save the catapult) decided that breaking would be a fantastic idea, and that it would be more fun to break during a match than on the practice field. The D-link was first, but batteries, pneumatic tubing, and even our mighty roller all took their turns as well. Often, everything worked fine, and our robot would perform like a dream. But this was not always the case—”we’re better than our record,” we lamented to each other.

This did not lower our spirits because we knew that our robot was good. Breakdowns are far from unusual on the field; everyone felt for the team whose bumper fell off. So we were confident that others would see past the mishaps and notice that when we worked, we were good. We were right.

On Sunday, there were a few more qualification matches before alliance selections. We were picked by the 4th-seeded alliance, playing alongside our captain, Team 1403, as well as Team 1143. When our turn to play came, our robot was (in every sense of the phrase) a scoring machine. We won our first elimination match, scoring a whopping 235 points. However, in the second match, we lost communication with the robot because heavy strain on the battery had caused the voltage to drop so low that it could no longer sustain the D-link. We were quick to wave our “dead ball” card, but this still left our teammates one robot down. We lost the second match in the best-of-three series, and it came down to one more to see who would advance.

Our opponents had adapted and strategized very well after the first elimination match. They decided to cut the scoring machine off at its knees, disabling our strongest shooters with well-played, heavy defense. It worked—they emerged triumphant, and our season ended. Having failed to advance to the semifinals, we ended the day in 66th place in the Mid-Atlantic region. The top 55 teams go to MAR Regional Championships at Lehigh. We went home disappointed, but also very proud to have gone so far. This was the first year we had made a primarily offensive robot, and we were amazed by how well we had done. We had a versatile robot that made a strong addition to any alliance, and we had learned a thing or two from doing it. That is what makes robotics great.

Even though our season is over, our work is not. Our fantastic non-technical team has never ceased organizing events and continuing outreach. The Lego drive has been an amazing success, and we had great turnout for our most recent fundraiser at Panera. And the technical team hasn’t scrapped the robot for parts yet either (as of this writing). We’re considering doing an off-season event, since we had so much fun in 2012 with Brunswick Eruption 11.

This season has been a blast, and seeing the great things of which we are capable tastes just as sweet as victory.

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Mount Olive District Event—2/28/14 to 3/2/14

Team 3637’s first competition was an eventful one. We arrived at Mount Olive High School on Friday to set up the pit and worked until they cut power at 10PM. The next day, we all woke up with competition fever. Since we hadn’t had a principally-offensive robot in years, we were eager to see how we would fare against other strong competitors. In addition, we had an autonomous mode that could attempt a shot, which we hoped would make us a valuable addition to any alliance.

At the end of Saturday, we were 5-6. Our catapult certainly had no shortage of power, but at times we had trouble holding onto the ball. This was soon fixed, thanks to some truly massive zip-ties. Our autonomous mode also gave us a little trouble, but we quickly got it to get us the mobility bonus. The next day, it would be fully up and running, and we would be taking shots. At the end of the day, our robot had made an impression as a versatile machine. The roller worked like a charm to pick up balls in seconds, and by running the motor in reverse, we could send a controlled, easy pass down the field to an alliance partner. Our shooter saw some heavy use as well—although we rarely used it for the high goals, letting more consistent partners make those shots when possible. However, pinpoint precision is not required for a truss shot, and when combined with the serious power behind our throw, the result was an impressive Hail Mary pass, which would snag us 10 additional points to boot.

Sunday was the day of our final qualification match (a victory) shortly followed by alliance selections. Ranked 21st, we were near the cutoff for being in an alliance, but we hoped that the other teams had been impressed with what they had seen of our robot. Indeed, we were picked in the second round by the number 5 seed, Team 3340: The UCHS MagneGeeks! With them and our final partner, Roxbotix (Team 4361), we looked forward to an exciting elimination round. Unfortunately, we were eliminated in the quarterfinals, but we weren’t discouraged. Our alliance had played well and we saw that with a little more work, our robot could become even stronger.

Another reason we were pleased is that we are a growing team. For the first time, our new members got to experience the atmosphere of a competition, and they got to experience the relationship between effort and success. As teams grow, they expand in all directions. In our case, that meant more hands on the robot, but it also meant fundraisers, business, and outreach (like our LEGO collection). In fact, it is this that snagged us an award at Mount Olive—we were the proud recipients of the Chrysler Team Spirit Award! Being recognized by the judges made for a great ending to a very fun weekend.

We’ll keep working until our next competition, and by then, The Daleks will be a force to be reckoned with. We are a great team in the making, and we’ve seen very clearly that hard work can get us there.

See you at Bridgewater!

Pictures from the competition can be found here.

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Countdown to Mt. Olive

by Ashley S.

The team has had a very busy week. We had our final build last Tuesday and worked all day Saturday, Sunday, and Monday before that. We spent most of the time doing some last minute tasks and cleaning up some of the sharp corners on our robot. The bumper team has been working very steadily to build the frame, glue on the pool noodles, and cover our bumpers. Our button team has also been very hard at work. With the numerous designs and the number that they have made, I am sure there is no way we will run out.

Saturday we spent figuring out the final tasks that the mechanical and electrical team need to complete in order to get the robot running. The catapult system was on the robot and running rather smoothly. We did a lot of pneumatics work for the pick-up system, making sure everything was wired correctly. The programming team worked to get our catapult working off of code and began programming for the solenoids on the pick-up system.

On Sunday, some of us met at a team member’s house to continue running the robot and checking to make sure everything was running smoothly. After we had unloaded the robot and the tool boxes,  we realized how underpacked we were. We ended up sending two people back to Central for some more equipment. After they had returned from that long adventure we had most of the tools and parts we needed. By then end of the day the catapult was working smoothly and the Mecanum drive was being worked on.

Monday morning started at Ethicon where Team 56 had allowed us to use their practice field for some testing. We added a few new parts and began our testing. We were very happy with the results and found our robot could shoot from a wide range of distances. After Ethicon we headed back to the school, where we spent some time talking about what exactly needed to get done. We also started working on our pit design and what parts and tools we are going to need to bring.

Tuesday was our last build day. We finalized our list of things to do and got immediately to work. We added sensors and attached bumper mounts. We also added a spacer to the gear box for the winch system. We began work on a battery holder and rods that would be placed on either side of the robot to help with ball control. By the end of the day we headed down to the 700s where there is a carpeted classroom to test our driving. When we got there, we realized there was something not working properly. We ended up putting a brand new Spike on the robot and re-cut some pneumatic tubing that was leaking air. We had fixed our problem and was able to drive. We spent the last hour in the cafeteria testing the catapult arm. After we had got it running we started having better results. We were able to pick up the ball off the floor, load it into the catapult and fire the catapult. All in all we finished our last build day very excited.

We have high hopes for our robot, which is currently bagged and will be opened soon so we can have our 6 hour period to work on it.  Our drive team will be Eric W. as head driver, Ryan S. as co-driver, and myself as human player.  Our first competition is this weekend (March 1-2) at Mt. Olive. We hope to see you there!

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The Final Week of Build

Build season has concluded and the Daleks are in good shape.

This year, we actually had the robot in the bag before 11:00 on Feb. 18th, and it was ready. The winch and the shooter worked together nicely, successfully scoring from the back of the closest zone. The roller also did its job, scooping up the ball from a few different angles and feeding it right to the catapult. And of course, Mecanum wheels give the robot beautiful handling. (Many thanks to Ethicon and Team 56 for letting us use their field!)

Now, as our first competition approaches, Team 3637 is still busy. We’ve been making buttons, bumpers, banners, and a battery cart—and those are just the things that start with “b”! The drive team and pit crew have also been selected, and there have been discussions of strategy and scouting.

As fun as the six weeks of build have been, it’s a big relief to have a working robot sitting patiently in the bag. This week, we’ll be making minor adjustments and fitting the bumpers during the six hours we can have the robot out of the bag. Then, on Friday, we’ll be more than ready to take the Mount Olive competition by storm!

Click here to see pictures from Week Six.

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The Fifth Week of Build

by Matt P.

All of the Daleks are hard at work. Currently, the technical team is refining multiple portions of the robot and fitting them all onto the robot. A pneumatic system is being designed to help with some of the robot’s functions. The group working on that will be figuring out where the air tanks will go, how they will run the piping, and they will mount the compressors and the solenoids.

Another group is working on a trigger system the finalize the robot’s ability to fire. The roller mechanism is also being revamped, by adding attributes like a new leather coating to help the robot actually pick the ball up. On other portions of the robot, the all-important bumpers and mounts are being added.

The electrical team is also working tirelessly on its portion of the robot, getting power to different parts and getting new portions wired in and mounted. This team has begun to get power to the analog breakout board and is adding a reverse pin mount, and working on the logistics of the camera.

Programming is working on writing and refining robot code to make it work. Arguably one of the most important parts to a successful robot is a successful driver, and even though one hasn’t been selected yet, there are lots of potential candidates. And of course, the non-technical team has completed the t-shirts, is always looking for more funds, and is hard at work with public relations.

So all in all, the robot and season are coming along great.

Click here to see pictures from Week Five.

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The Fourth Week of Build

By T.M.

As Team 3637 breaks through the first month of build season, Tech is breaking through plexiglass, steel, wire, and code to make improvements on all parts of the robot, while Non-Tech is working hard on tee-shirts, logos, and public relations.

Electrical is working with the plexiglass for a two-level wiring system, allowing for space and protection of the systems.  Holes are drilled into the sheet where the electrical components can be put through, and the main gears of the launching mechanism can be attached.

Mechanical has a drive train completed and is finishing up the final aspects of the robot to be mounted on the chassis. This includes the catapult arm, launching mechanism, and retrieval arm. A prototype of the retrieval arm is being tested along with other modifications.

One group that sometimes doesn’t get as much recognition is Programming. They have been working tirelessly updating software and programming the robot code, drive code, and configuring the robot components. Members have been inputting programs and code for the robot as well as testing different settings of the drive gear and wheels. Vision targets are also being set up for the programming of the camera.

The team is moving quickly through this build season and as we see the light at the end of the tunnel, we prepare for the final weeks of build.

Click here to see pictures from Week 4.

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The Third Week of Build

The Daleks are on a roll…literally! Despite losing several build days due to poor weather, we still made a lot of progress this week, including a nearly-finished drive train. The drive team and the electrical team have been working hard together in the workshop, and by the next build, the wheel base should be fully up and running. Team 3637 is so big that we’ve expanded into nearby rooms—our ball launcher has been flinging with such power that we’ve stationed it in the stairwell. Here’s a gif of it in action!

BallFlies.gif

Meanwhile, the programmers have been working hard in the computer lab across the hall, and the non-technical team has been busy planning fundraisers and designing our competition t-shirt in a physics classroom. Back in the workshop, our ball retrieval mechanism is almost finished, and once we get some parts we ordered, we should be ready to mount it on the robot.

At the rate we’re going, we’ll be very ready by the time February 18th rolls around…and we might have commandeered a few more classrooms along the way.

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Robots Hate Snow

This week we have been snowed out. Builds on Tuesday and Wednesday were both cancelled this week due to the wintery weather. Hopefully these missed builds don’t hold us back. The team plans to hold a make up build tonight (January 23) and Saturday (January 25) and builds on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (January 28-30) next week in hopes of catching up on missed progress. More updates to come as build season continues.

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The Second Week of Build

By Anna T.

Sparks fly as the robotics team is hard at work on this year’s robot. After a grueling consensus, the team has come up with the final idea for the robot. With the first prototype injured, the team hopes “second is the best” while they simultaneously work on the chassis, base, frame, and throwing arm of the robot in different groups. The lower 1-point goal for Aerial Assist has been delivered and set up for practice and testing. Meanwhile, ideas for a logo for Team 3637 are a work in progress.

Special thanks to Mr. Nunez last week and Ms. Pierle this week for providing us with breakfast and lunch for the Saturday workshops.

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The First Week Of Build

Build season has gone off with a bang. As we usher in the new season, the members of Team 3637 are eager to build a robot for Aerial Assist® (see Kickoff post for more info on this year’s competition). If you’ve seen the video, then you know that this year’s competition is no walk in the park. The Daleks are working hard on developing ideas for our robot. We are currently building prototypes for mechanisms which can pick up, shoot, and catch the ball used in competition. As week one concludes, we are still imagining how our robot will come out.

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Kickoff ’14

As everyone in the robotics world knows, today was Kickoff, which officially marks the start of the build season. This year’s challenge: Aerial Assist®, in which teams have to score 2-foot-diameter balls into goals in the corners of the field or into wide slots at either end of the field. Here is FIRST®‘s official game animation:

Team 3637 watched the Kickoff broadcast at Central today, so we could save time in transit and get right to work brainstorming. We broke into groups, filled a few whiteboards, and went home eager to study the manual before our Monday night build. Several graduated Daleks were there today to add their input, retrieve the Kit of Parts, and help strategize with us and our mentors. We thought of many good ideas, and we’ll start narrowing them down after a good night’s sleep. We can’t wait to get started!

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Workshops, Preparation, and Anticipation

As the build season approaches, Team 3637 has been building, coding, wiring, writing, and fundraising in preparation. We have a lot of new members and we are also lucky to have several great new mentors this year. They have also been helping us during our evening workshops, which are going very well—we have been assembling two different practice frames from kits, one of which is now assembled and wired (and the other is almost done). Building these two very different designs should give our members valuable experience with the many different possible configurations a good robot can take.

We’re all eagerly awaiting Kickoff on January 4th, and we are hoping to have our practice bots done in time for a driving competition shortly after the big reveal. It will test the abilities of both our drivers and our programmers, and everyone will need to work hard in order to claim victory! And of course, the regular build season is in our minds as well, and we are confident that 2014 will find the Daleks at the top of…whatever it is this time.

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Gearing Up for 2014

The new school year is well underway and Team 3637 is already at work! Starting in early September we resumed meeting every week in room 902. Since then, the 60+ strong Daleks have fundraised, done team-building exercises, broken into technical and non-tech subteams, and held our first workshop of the new year. This one was about fundraising and marketing, with presentations by our new mentor Mr. Atkinson.

In addition, we have been working to establish a big presence in both our school and community. Within the school, we have attended Activity Fairs and Homecoming Fest, recruiting members and raising money. But our biggest (and most recent) fundraiser was definitely our event at Five Guys of Flemington. If you’ve been on our Facebook page recently, you know that from November 13-15, everyone who turned in a flyer helped our team as Five Guys donated 100% of the profit from those sales! In addition, we held a bake sale on the premises, where we had delicious treats including brownies, cupcakes, and Dalek cookies. Not only did we raise money, but we also raised awareness of our team, answering questions and talking about our organization from behind the sales table. We’d like to extend a big thank you to Five Guys and everyone who supported us!

Going forward, we know that our preparation will pay off in the regular build season and help develop skills that our members will use in future years. There will be more workshops, more fundraising, and of course, more Dalek spirit in our school and around town.

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Happy New Year!

The new school year is almost upon us! Say goodbye to your free time while you have the chance, or for those of you in marching band, think really hard and you might be able to remember a time when you still had it. So as the fall approaches, keep a couple things in mind:

  • Team 3637 is always looking for members. With a new school year right around the corner, that especially means freshmen! Does your younger sibling know a frosh who is a skilled programmer? Suggest joining robotics! Have you heard legends of some incoming freshman who builds working water guns out of spare parts in his garage? Suggest joining robotics! Non-technical areas are just as important; we are also always looking for writers, artists, aspiring businesspeople, and photographers. Whether an aspiring FIRST® member has a talent in a specific area or a broad interest in engineering, robotics is the perfect place to develop it, and Team 3637 values the contributions of all its members.
  • Upperclassmen are encouraged to join too! Whether you weren’t able to join earlier or just hadn’t heard of it, we want you if you’re willing to put in the effort to help our team. Feel free to recruit freshmen, but don’t forget about upperclassmen either.
  • Like many other successful FRC® teams, we now have a booster group! The Team 3637 RSA, or Robotics Support Association, will help the team grow by raising money and supporting us in any other way they can. Please let your parents know and encourage them to send in a membership form.

See you in 902! Go Daleks!

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Bridgewater-Raritan Competition 4-6-13 to 4-7-13

The Bridgewater-Raritan Competition was full of downs and some very high ups.

On Saturday, the first day of actual competition, the Daleks were 2-7-0. At first, one might think it was a disappointing day. But there were a lot of good things as well. We had new pit walls, which looked sharp in team colors. We had a lot of fan support, which we didn’t have nearly as much of last year. And most importantly, we had also redesigned part of our climber, and we were confident that we could contribute valuable points to our alliances. Sure enough, in match 43, we made it to the top of the pyramid–a feat only accomplished by one other team during the entire competition!

We all went home happy about having finally achieved our season-long goal: to get to the top. We would never do it again.

At the end of the day, both figuratively and literally, we had a very inconsistent robot. We only accomplished a handful of 10-point climbs, a few 20-point climbs, and that one amazing trip to the top. But our amazing senior leaders showed incredible strength–they worked nonstop throughout the competition, even when we were about to go onto the field (and sometimes in the queue). Our robot didn’t always make it onto the pyramid at all, and a couple times it fell off. Our team never gave up, despite the frustration that all of us were feeling. The Daleks poured their heart and soul into this robot, an effort that, while the robot wouldn’t make it to the top again, would come back in the end to reward us in a different way.

The next day, we arrived determined to be drafted into the elimination matches. We worked hard on our robot and nobody wanted to see our season end before lunch. This hard work paid off–we won all of our three matches that day. Despite our victories, we were still only 26th in the rankings before alliance selection, and we sadly didn’t make it into the playoffs. But we were still winners that day, because we were the proud recipients of the prestigious Gracious Professionalism® Award, for “outstanding sportsmanship and continuous Gracious Professionalism® in the heat of competition, both on and off the playing field.” We are honored that the judges selected us as embodying the spirit of FIRST®, and proud that they recognized our dedication to persevering in the face of failure.

We’re disappointed that we didn’t qualify for the MAR Championships in Lehigh, but it has still been an incredible, exciting season! We are thrilled to have been able to take part in some unforgettable moments, matches, and late-night builds.

Thanks to everyone who has supported Team 3637 throughout our adventures, especially our mentors, advisors, and sponsors!

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TCNJ Competition 3-15-13 to 3-16-13

When we arrived at TCNJ on Thursday night to set up the pit, we still had not yet tested our climber with the rest of the robot. We knew we were going to face a big challenge the next morning, but we were determined to face it with strength and resolve.

On Friday, as soon as the pits opened, we went to work attaching it. We knew we had to be fast, since there was a lot to do in the short time before our first match. We didn’t even put our dumper on the robot in an attempt to make it easier to reach the climber. Despite our efforts to work quickly, some code refusing to deploy still forced us to miss our first two matches (one of which our alliance partners were able to win without us).

Even once we got on the field, we were still plagued with breakdowns, mechanical failures, and whatever other issues the robot gods decided to throw at us. In one of our matches, we were able to get off the ground and score 10 points for our alliance, pushing us to a 102-100 victory. However, the next match in which we tried to use the climber, one of the stationary hooks that holds our robot on the pyramid broke. So when we turned off the power to our robot, it slid back down. Toward the end of Friday, one of the pulleys in our drive train somehow got bent. Whenever we tried to move, it made the horrible noise of belts skipping, as well as not being able to make a right turn. Finally, on Saturday, when we tried to use the climber again, it couldn’t pull the robot up the pyramid because it was drawing too much power–entire batteries discharged in just minutes. Sitting in 28th place out of 37 teams, we were not tapped for an alliance by any of the top 8 teams.

While the competition was a little disappointing, there were some good things that came out of it. First, we did some scouting, and we were able to get a good sense of other teams’ strengths and weaknesses. In addition, the competition gave us something very valuable–practice. We had not tested our robot before, and we got an opportunity to do exactly that. And it also let us continue to work on our robot and improve it, so we still made a lot of progress even if we didn’t make it to the elimination matches.

With this experience under our belts, Team 3637 will be getting ready for our next competition in a few weeks. By then, we will be a formidable force and a valuable alliance partner.

Go Daleks!

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Countdown to the Competition

Although the 6 weeks of the build season have ended, the Daleks continue to work on our robot. We have taken full advantage of the rule allowing us to keep 30 pounds of the robot out of the bag so we can modify it. Thanks to some recent donations by our supporters, we have ordered some new parts to get the climber climbing, so we are still making progress despite the challenging end to the build season.

In addition to the climber, we have also been working on things like materials for setting up our pit, buttons, t-shirts, banners, and improving our bumper design. By the time our first competition comes around, Team 3637 will be ready to play!

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(Like Rita Fang’s amazing button art? We sure do! The images have been posted on our Facebook page!)

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Last Build Day

The build season is over at last, and the robot is in the bag.

Unfortunately, our build ended on a slightly disappointing note. To our surprise, the climber was not strong enough to pull the robot up the pyramid. However, we can still work on the climber, since we are allowed to keep up to 30 pounds of our robot out of the bag.

Other than that, the build went rather well for us. We worked on some code, fixed some wiring, and we also finished the dumper mechanism. That is the part that holds the discs, and during autonomous, will dump them into the lowest goal, while during teleop, it will dump them into the pyramid goal.

The build season is over, but our hard work will continue throughout the competitions. Go Daleks!

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Saturday Double Build

Yesterday, Team 3637 and Team 869 joined forces in a double build.

At Middlesex, Team 869 and some of Team 3637 went to work on the robots. We helped them put together the frame we had given them, and we both continued to work on the climbing mechanism that they will be giving us. By the afternoon, The Daleks’ robot was moving, and shortly afterwards, it was still moving, and no longer making a horrible noise (it was the belt skipping when the robot made a sharp turn). In addition, we made a lot of progress on the code, fixing some serious bugs and creating a precision driving mode for when the robot will be approaching the pyramid.

Back at Central, the rest of the Daleks were working on the bumpers for both robots, as well as other miscellaneous tasks. These included planning a layout for our pit (to improve efficiency during the competitions), spirit, and working on our Bill of Materials.

So overall, both teams got a lot done, and on Team 3637, the technical and non-technical groups both did a lot of work.

Go MCR!

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