2014 MidKnight Mayhem Champions!

Written by Kevin Zimmerman

The excitement of Aerial Assist did not end in April with the FRC championship event in St. Louis. On June 28th, 32 teams came together for the second annual MidKnight Mayhem off-season event hosted by the Midknight Inventors, Team 1923. Following our first place victory at the Hoboken Engineered Robotics Event at Stevens Institute of Technology the previous weekend, we hoped to keep the season’s spirit going strong and have a good competition, which the attending teams delivered.

10428512_10204205118158124_188978484652048934_nHaving only five qualification rounds put emphasis on making each match count. Continuing the strategy we adopted during the World Championship elimination rounds, we took over the inbounder spot on our alliances, focusing on receiving human tosses and freeing up our scoring oriented partners to finish cycles. Meanwhile, we pounded the defense home to prevent the opposing alliance from scoring. During our first match, a little rust on our alliance kept us from gaining the upper hand, but a foul on our opponents put us ahead following the final buzzer. We claimed out first victory of the day,

Moving into our second match, the team decided to switch things up a bit and let new team members step in the shoes of our drivers to feel the heat of competition. The match was mostly controlled by the outcome of the autonomous mode, which put our alliance ahead. Partners on our alliance focused on moving the ball downfield where we finished off at least two full cycles and played some defense. Then the mayhem ball fell off the truss and entered play. Originally hit out of play, it was given to our human player to inbound near the low goal where we had just scored. After tossing it our robot, a driver error failed to close the net in time, but the ball bounced off the back of our robot and was inadvertently scored, earning our alliance an extra 20 points. Once the dust cleared following the buzzer, a high score gave us a record of 2-0 for the event.Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 4.42.46 PM






The lineup for our third match looked fierce going up against the blue alliance, which had Archimedes Division Champion, team 2590, Nemesis. Scoring was fast and furious coming out of the gate, seeming to favor our opponents following autonomous mode. They unleashed a full salvo of high scoring from a 2-ball auto, trusses, and high goal shots. Things then changed dramatically. While trying to defend our alliance partner, team 225, from inbounding on the far side of the field, 2590’s robot was tipped over after some inadvertent entanglement. Our alliance got the break we needed to pull ahead and hold on for the victory.

Our remaining qualification matches were relatively routine in strategy and outcome. In the next match, we made a catch and scored another mayhem ball that was introduced from accurate trussing from team 3015. Getting lucky with good partners helped us to clinch another two victories and hold our spot in the qualification rankings. By the time the rest of the matches were said and done, our morning ended with a 5-0 record, having scored two of the elusive mayhem balls, and saw ourselves seeded in first place. As alliance selection came and went, our representative picked up good partners in teams 225, Techfire, 1626, Falcon Robotics, and 329, the Raiders.

10329090_10152364277974086_7258211478394991246_nWhile most teams left to prep their robots for the elimination rounds, our robot rolled onto the field for its best match of the day, the mentor match. Tapping alumni and former drivers alike led to an interesting lineup for the match, which saw Kristan driving, Bharat operating, Howard barking orders as drive coach, and Cokeley running around as the inbounding human player. While they dueled it out on the field, the rest of the team was able to catch a short break and enjoy a spectacle that happens rarely during a season. The action during the mentor match was great: our robot managed to catch a ball trussed by team 1640 and Cokeley lost his shoe while inbounding the ball.


10418315_10152364180994086_4895621488929296983_nWith the fun matches in the books, it was time to focus on the elimination rounds. Being the #1 seed, we felt ready to take on the #8 alliance of teams 4575, 316, 2495, and 810. Autonomous modes in the opening match fell short of the mark, leaving two balls of each color bouncing around the field. The first balls were cleared in short order, but our tough defense made it hard for 2495 to get rid of their second ball. Beginning to cycle, we had some issues passing to 1626 due to our robots’ varying designs, but were able to keep the ball moving down field. The match continued on as a good defensive effort kept us on top to gain a win. To begin our second match, we decided to swap 329 for 1626 to get a fresh look to our offense while abiding by the Mayhem rulebook that every team must get a chance to play. Both sides started off the match with improved play, each side only missing one ball a piece. Defense was found on both sides of the field, as blue kept messing with Techfire’s firing solution while our robot hammered any robot that had a blue ball. Passing the ball became easier with 329’s similar intake that ran the ball to the floor and into their robot. One interesting moment from the match occurred when a truss pass was inadvertently blocked by another truss shot. As 329 trussed a ball, our opponents also shot, but our red ball deflected theirs and it bounced out of play. When the buzzer sounded, our alliance stood on top and moved on to the semifinals.

After the valiant effort we saw from the number 8 alliance, we were amazed that the number 4 alliance composed of teams 2016, 3015, 87, and 1257 had even more heart. Some passing practice with 1626 while waiting to learn who our semifinal opponents would be brought back high hopes for an agile assist bot to scoot around. In the first match, autonomous mode was in favor of the red alliance, with us scoring all four of our autonomous balls while blue only scored two of their four balls. Some minor issues and robot interference made passing difficult but getting our assist, dumping off the ball, and shifting into defensive mode helped to stifle any offense from our opponents during match one. Moving into match two, our alliance decided to tag 329 back into the mix and saw almost instant results in the form of reduced cycle times. Rough defense was continued by both sides, but the stronger drive trains in the red alliance helped us break through the blue alliance wall. Around the 30 second buzzer that traditionally signaled the endgame, the mayhem ball came into play and robots swarmed its smiling face as 329 performed a snatch-and-grab that gave our red alliance a 20 point bonus. In the end, the mayhem ball’s smiling reward helped to push us up and over our opponents and advance to the finals.

With the semis all said and done, the stage was set for the finals. Sporting red was the #1 alliance of 25, 225, 1626, and 329 facing off against the boys and girls in blue, the #2 alliance of teams 11, 193, 369, and 4954. Scoring was fast and furious from the start of round 1, both sides using 4 ball autonomous routines. When the buzzer to end autonomous mode rang, the blue alliance had the upper hand from one red missed ball that rolled back down the field. Tough defense was found in every zone as neither alliance wanted to give an inch. MORT collided with us in ways that would have damaged many robots, but ours refused to back down and was saved as all the red robots converged on the blue zone and became too much for them to handle. Overwhelmed, our alliance was finally able to effectively pass the ball off to 225 who brought us ahead until MORT scored a ball and finished blue’s first cycle to regain the lead. Our alliance was able to make up some lost ground and then pull ahead with a last-second truss shot from 329, which put match one down as a red victory. After a short reset period, both alliances met under the truss for handshakes and then the mayhem was on for finals match 2. The first round had bolstered our confidence, but 11, 369, and 4954 (subbing for MORT Beta, but driven mostly by 193) wouldn’t go down without a fight. With Final Countdown setting the tone for many a finals match, both sides readied for a battle. In the early going our alliance took the lead with a perfect 4 ball auto while blue missed one of theirs. Since MORT BETA wasn’t on the field to provide a 2-ball autonomous mode, blue was down by a total of two high-goal autonomous scores. Blue worked their hardest to overcome the deficit, but small mistakes, such as a trussed shot that bounced off the truss and flew backwards, kept piling up and hindered their progress.  Balls flew everywhere as both sides trussed back and forth like there was no tomorrow up until the buzzer sounded. When the dust settled and the robots were powered down, the referees declared the match had been clean. After a few announcements updating the crowd with the current World Cup scores (thanks Jeff!), the score from the last match was posted. It showed that our alliance had won, thereby making us MidKnight Mayhem champions.


We would like to thank the MidKnight Mayhem crew for running a wonderful event, our partners 225, 1626, and 329 for being great elimination partners, 11, 193, 369, and 4954 for a superb effort in the finals, and all the teams that made the event fun. We hope to see some of you at Brunswick Eruption, and, until we meet again, thanks for the memories.


Lenape Seneca Event Recap

After winning the Engineering Inspiration Award, becoming event Finalists at our first District Event at Hatboro-Horsham, and taking the Mid-Atlantic Robotics region by surprise with our unique and innovative design, there was again quite the buzz online about how Team 25 would perform at the Lenape-Seneca MAR District event. Chief Delphi’s Looking Forward mentioned us once again in his Week Four Post:

“25 took a different approach to Aerial Assist than most teams, and right now are looking pretty smart, despite only having a silver medal.”

After taking one of the highest total assist points (330) in week one of MAR and ranking 8th in MAR points, we felt confident in our robot’s design, driver capability and strategic role on the field as we entered our second competition of the season.

This time, the pit crew and trailer arrived without any pre-competition roadside accidents to load in on Friday afternoon. With the exception of having to replace some recalled pneumatic air tanks for ones provided by FIRST, we moved through robot inspection with no problems at all.

In our Saturday morning practice matches we impressed teams with a couple of catches and felt good going into the qualification rounds. While the drive team warmed up, juniors Sarah Sleiman and Keertana Chirra spent the entire afternoon interacting with judges, sharing our team’s story, robot design, and community outreach efforts. In between small  repairs and regular robot maintenance, Seniors and pit crew leaders Tristan Tushinski and Urmil Shah answered questions about our robot for any scouts from other teams.

Our elimination alliance at the Lenape-Senece District Event. Photo courtesy of Team 1647.

Our elimination alliance at the Lenape-Senece District Event. Photo courtesy of Team 1647.

We ended the qualification rounds on Sunday ranked 5th out of 40 teams with an impressive record of 9-3, and the highest assist points in MAR and second highest of any Week 4 event (790). We were invited to join the 3rd seed alliance by our friends and alliance partners from Hatboro-Horsham, Team 1647, Iron Devils to see if we could go for the gold this time around. We completed our alliance by inviting Team 1923, The MidKnight Inventors, from the West Windsor-Plainsboro School District in New Jersey. Before the beginning of the Elimination matches, the coaches, drive team members and head scouts from all three teams met for an alliance strategy meeting in one of the computer labs at 1647’s high school. We won the first quarterfinal match against the 6th seeded alliance (816, 1218, 708) with a score 224-113. Unfortunately, in the middle of our second quarterfinal match, one of our alliance partners’ pickup mechanisms stopped working, which rendered us unable to score the three assist cycles that gave us an edge. After taking it to a third match to determine who would advance to the semifinals, we suffered a narrow 4 point defeat.

At the end of the day the judges transitioned into the awards ceremony. Team 25 was selected as the recipient of the Creativity Award sponsored by Xerox for our unique design and game strategy. We had a great time at Lenape High School and would like to thank all of the volunteers and Lenape Regional School District for helping make this event run as smoothly as possible. At the end of week 4, we are ranked in the top 15 out of 105 teams in the MAR Region and are optimistic about our chances of attending the MAR Regional Championship to be held April 9-12th at Lehigh University.

2014 Build Season Update

The new FRC season began on January 4, 2014. Raider Robotix attended the local kickoff event at Montgomery High School to participate in workshops, watch the game reveal, and pick up our kit of parts. After the event we met to read the game manual and discuss various strategies and scoring methods. Meanwhile, several Raider Robotix mentors had traveled to the official FIRST kickoff site in New Hampshire to go hands on with the playing field for this year’s game challenge, Aerial Assist:

In the past three weeks, Raider Robotix has been silent-but busy! During the first week of build season, the team spent time brainstorming strategies, modeling and prototyping potential designs, and fabricating different field components. The Drive team mocked up a catching device on an old practice base and drove it around to see how feasible catching the ball would be.

During the second week, the mechanical team finalized the design for our drivetrain and chassis. We then began to manufacture and assemble it, which included shaving down and cutting tread into our custom Skyway wheels. We’re in the stages of completing the design for the superstructure and mechanisms that will be mounted on top of the drive base.

The Scouting team held a presentation to introduce the process of scouting to new team members. Since then, they designed the paper scouting sheet that will be used to collect data about robots’ match performance at competitions. Now, they are working on developing scouting software that will aggregate and display the collected data. We also received a generous donation from Penn Warehouse & Distribution Inc., which the scouting team is using to buy a camcorder and memory storage to use to film matches at all of our events.

The Awards team has been very busy brainstorming and assembling information for our Chairman’s Award submission. After choosing a theme and completing an outline, they have begun drafting the essay. They also wrote a preliminary script for the video and will begin filming in the coming weeks.

Build season has been exciting and tiring, but we manage to stay afloat thanks to the support of our coaches, mentors, and meal support from the RRPMA on late nights. Stay tuned for more progress throughout build season. Be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for updates on what we’re up to!

2014 FTC Season Update

The holidays were a busy time for FIRST Robotics teams. In addition to anticipating the announcement of the 2014 FRC Game, North Brunswick’s five FTC teams (2825, 3719, 6508, 3568 and 7906) were playing this year’s game, Block Party, at NJ FTC Qualifying Events.

So far, three of the teams have qualified for the NJ FTC State Championship, which will be hosted at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in March.

Radioactive Raiders

Radioactive Raiders, winners of the Inspire Award and Winning Alliance Captain. [Left to right Samir Shah,Faheem,Coach Shan, Ashwin Venkat,Romit, Momin and Arjun]

FTC Team 6508, the Radioactive Raiders, qualified by being the Winning Alliance Captain and Inspire Award Winner for overall team excellence at the Livingston HS Qualifier on January 5th. Undefeated in the qualification rounds due to their autonomous scoring, they became the #1 Seed and invited Team 247, Fatal Error, and Team 3774, Hive Voltage, to join their alliance. They moved on to win the entire event. The Radioactive Raiders were also part of the Finalist Alliance at the Robo-CATastrophe qualifier earlier in November and have won many awards/nominations since their inception in 2012—including the distinction of a NJ Showcase Team for outstanding community outreach.

Radioactive Raiders

Ice Wolves, winners of the Gracious Professionalism Award. [left to right: ,Alka Nagar, Jonathan St.Ange, Keertnana Chirra]

FTC Team 3568, the ICE Wolves, was presented with the Gracious Professionalism award at Livingston for staffing many of the volunteering positions and assisting with the setup and tear down of the fields, scoring systems and concessions. They had already qualified for the State Championship by winning the Inspire Award at Robo-CATastrophe. FTC Team 7906 was the Winning Alliance Captain at the Liberty Science Center Qualifier.

FTC Team 2825, Raider Robot Riot, won the Motivate Award at Meets in Princeton and North Burlington.

Radioactive Raiders

FTC Team 2825, Raider Robot Riot.

We’re really proud of our FTC teams here at North Brunswick. Follow their journey on the collective North Brunswick FTC Robotics Facebook page.

Raider Robotix team to lead Thanksgiving Day parade in N.Y.C.

The local news decided to talk to us about our participation in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in N.Y.C this Thursday.
The following article appeared on My Central Jersey on November 25, 2013:

Raider Robotix team to lead Thanksgiving Day parade in N.Y.C.

Written by Cheryl Makin

While Santa Claus may bring up the rear of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, leading the 87th annual event on Thursday will be members of the high school’s Raider Robotix team.

As part of FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), the nonprofit organization founded in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology, the Raider Robotix are one of five award-winning FIRST® Robotics Competition teams who, along with their robots, will be marching the route of the parade. The parade begins at 9 a.m. Thanksgiving Day and can be seen on NBC. Joining Team 25, aka the Raider Robotix, will be Team 1538, The Holy Cows, from San Diego, Ca., Team 1477, Texas Torque, from The Woodlands, Texas, Team 180, S.P.A.M., from Stuart, Fla. and Team 16, The Bomb Squad, from Mountain Home, Ark.

The Raider Robotix were chosen because they were FIRST® world champions for the 2012 season, said Head Coach Wayne Cokeley, a science teacher at the high school. He and four students — junior Sarah Sleiman, 16, junior Kevin Zimmerman, 16, sophomore Samir Shah, 15, and 2013 NBHS graduate Tori Schamper, 18 — will be marching with their robot, Rasheed.

The entire experience has been an exciting first as FIRST® robots have never participated in the parade.

“Initially, we had to keep it a secret,” Cokeley said. “This invitation just came out of the blue. I was very surprised. As the details got released, it became a very big deal for us. Everybody recognizes the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — the balloons and the bands and now we will be right in the middle of it.”

The 12v battery-operated, 150-pound robots leading the 2013 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade were designed and built for last season’s challenge, and have been modified by the students to perform tasks specifically for the parade. Texas Torque’s robot, “Sonic,” will cut the ribbon to signal the official start of the parade. Following the ribbon cutting, the other teams’ robots will shoot confetti as they march along the 2 1/2 route, ending at Macy’s Herald Square.

At the beginning of each competition season, teams receive a “kit of parts” made up of motors, batteries, a control system, a PC, and a mix of automation components. No instructions are included. Working with adult mentors, students have six weeks to design, build, program and test their robots to meet the season’s engineering challenge. Unfortunately, the Raider Robotix recently lost their sponsor, Bristol Myers Squibb, due to the corporation’s budget cuts.

“We are on on our own this season,” Cokeley said. “But, we have been doing fundraisers and making our money for the season. We just held a great fundraiser in the beginning of November called Brunswick Eruption and hosted about 40 other robotics teams from our region. We are fortunate in that we always have received good support for many years from the school and the community.”

Cokeley and his students are busy preparing and looking forward to this “once in a lifetime” experience. They will arrive in New York on Wednesday night and be treated to two nights in a hotel and a Thanksgiving Day dinner after the parade.” Sarah, Samir and Kevin agreed they were “amazed” when they found out about the invitation to the parade.

“I was first speechless and then I started freaking out,” said Sarah, who will act as team spokeswoman on Thursday. “I screamed to my mom and then danced all around for a couple of days. I was just so happy. It really feels unreal. To have the robotics program honored like this means so much to us as a team. We are one happy family here and do a lot of community outreach and community service.”

“I am pretty excited,” Samir said. “It’s a big honor and will get our program a lot of notice and attention.”

“It is truly something big,” said Kevin. “I like that robotics is now getting a lot of attention. Seeing us at the parade is such a great way to reach out and turn other people onto robotics. They can see how engaging it can be for young people. For me, it combines science, math and working with my hands — those are the three things I love.”

Like many, North Brunswick High School Science Supervisor Michael Amendola will watch the parade on his own television

“There are a lot of DVRs already set for Thursday morning I’m sure,” he said. “The robotics program gets kids to build a complicated machine that solves a complicated problem year in and year out. It gets kids interested. This is great for the school and robotics program to get this kind of recognition.”

Choosing the four to represent the Raider Robotix at the parade was not easy, but Cokeley said Kevin, Sarah, Tori and Samir are very deserving. Each has a specific job on the robotics team and are extremely familiar with the current robot. Sarah handles business and public relations details, Kevin, a member of the operating team, drives the robot, and Samir is a programmer and works on the team’s website. Tori, a 2013 North Brunswick Township High School graduate, was head of the robot pit building crew and is coming back from her first semester at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, Cokeley said.

“They are all good kids as is every kid on this team,” Cokeley said. “Being on a robotics team really give kids of all different interests a good base to go further. There is commitment and they learn to work as a team. There is so much time, effort and thought that goes into what we do here. I’m very proud of these guys.”

The biggest challenge for the parade team has been conditioning themselves and the robot for the 2 1/2 mile walk. Also, because the other teams marching come from areas much further away, the Raider Robotix will act as the local host.

“Robots run on batteries,” Cokeley said. “We had to change out the battery to a marine low range battery that is usually used on boats. We are also creating little carts so should any team’s robot have a problem, we can quickly get it up on a cart and drag it along the route.”

“We practiced walking 2 1/2 miles on the track last week,” said Kevin, whose brother Michael was also a member of the world championship team in 2012. “We’re good to go.”

The Raider Robotix has about 40 members on its high school team, said Cokeley, who founded the team in 1997. There are about 75 students in the 9th grade, middle and elementary school teams. They have been world champions twice, in 2000 and 2012 and have been to the final four six times, he said.

“We don’t always win, but we have been to the big stage several times,” Cokeley said. “It’s really like going to the Olympics for us, but we only get six weeks of training.”

The 87th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade will be aired live from New York City on November 28, 2013 beginning at 9 a.m. ET on NBC.


It’s a very exciting opportunity to be offered. All of us here at Raider Robotix are honored and excited to be represented in NY this week. We are also grateful for the continued support of our community, alumni, sponsors, Board of Education and many NBTHS personnel.

Heritage Day Demonstration

For the past 31 years, North Brunswick has held its annual Heritage Day Festival, a time for the entire community to come out and celebrate everything that makes up our great town. This year, Raider Robotix was once again in attendance. Many team members walked around the festival handing out team fact sheets and talking to passers-by to help spread awareness about our team.  We also demonstrated our 2012 World Championship winning robot, Rasheed “The Sheed” Wallace. The demonstration consisted of our robot launching basketballs into a crowd of children who were eagerly awaiting to catch them. “Seeing kids’ faces light up with smiles as they caught the basketballs really touched us deeply,” team member Jason Levash said. “If you asked a few years ago if many kids in our community were interested in robotics, the answer would have been no. Today, we were ecstatic to see that Raider Robotix has a sparked an interest in STEM with the younger members of our community,” he added.  Overall, participating in Heritage Day was a great way to spread the message of FIRST, as well as strengthen the bond we share with our town. After seeing how much of a difference we truly make in this town, Raider Robotix is eagerly counting down the days until Heritage Day 2014. Skip to 00:15 of this Mycentraljersey.com video to see our bit of the action.

LEGO Robotics Camp 2013

2013 LEGO CAMP (2)In July, Raider Robotix team members helped run our team’s annual LEGO Robotics Camp. After advertising in the local newspaper, online media, and at the North Brunswick youth sports festival, the camp quickly filled to its maximum capacity of 10 students.

LEGO camp was held in the NBTHS library for four hours everyday from July 8-12. LEGO Robotics Camp participants learned to design, build and program robots using the LEGO RCX® and Mindstorms® platforms. Each day brought on a new problem solving challenge based on the engineering principle Raider Robotix members taught the students. Campers learned how to construct and program robots that raced each other, navigated through mazes, and participated in a sumo competition. In the process, they learned about gear ratios for speed and torque, programming logic, and basics of the engineering design process–all valuable skills for their future.

2013 LEGO CAMP (4)If you are interested in being on the early-notification list for next year’s program, please visit the LEGO Camp mini-site. We are looking forward to seeing even more participants next year!