Evil Machine 14 Debuts at #1

Raider Robotix, FRC Team 25, unveiled our 2016 robot to play FIRST Stronghold at the Hatboro-Horsham MAR District Competition in Horsham, PA this past weekend.

Evil Machine 14 AKA The Executioner

Evil Machine 14

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Click for fact sheet PDF

Early build season test videos:

Hatboro-Horsham Recap

A Swift Start

Friday night we joined 36 other FRC teams at Hatboro-Horsham High School to load-in and set up our team’s pit area. Our robot’s first official inspection of the season went smoothly. For the first time in years, the robot weighed in well under the 120 pound weight limit at 113 pounds. We were able to play two early practice matches on the competition field. During the first match, our robot successfully crossed the low bar and scored a boulder in the low goal during the autonomous period. We originally thought we might have to make some tweaks to our autonomous routines to account for the real competition field, but this early success set a positive and optimistic tone for the following two full days of competition.

Saturday morning we headed straight to the practice field to obtain some sensor readings and test alternative autonomous routines (shout out to the practice field volunteer from Team 225 – you were amazingly kind!) before playing in our scheduled practice round. Twice during the practice round, our robot became unresponsive for prolonged periods of time while the control system randomly rebooted. This was the first time we experienced such an issue all season and it took us by surprise. We returned to the pit and checked over all of the robot’s electrical connections before the qualification matches started and hoped for the best.

Troubleshooting Time

We won our first 6 qualification matches. Our alliances breached the outer works in all except one of them, but captured the tower in another to make up for the missed ranking point. While our robot performed admirably, we continued to experience random roboRIO reboots mid-match. We kept searching for the cause of these occurrences between matches, but were unable to reproduce them in the pits even after shaking the robot and driving it into walls to simulate field interactions. The pit crew and drive team worked admirably to maintain the robot in between rounds and fix other issues that arose, including fabricating a mounting bracket, wiring, and programming a new string potentiometer in less than half an hour of turn around time.

Pit Crew 2016 Under Belly

Finally Fixed!

We continued to try to identify the root of the random reboot problem. We replaced the robot’s radio, but the problem persisted in the following match. Our next fix was to replace the roboRIO entirely. As we were about to do so, we discovered the Sauro Connector holding in the power wires to the roboRIO was faulty. After a quick swap, we played qualification match 39 and had our best performance of the day, breaching the outer works and capturing the tower to earn another 4 ranking points without ever rebooting. The problem was solved!

Clinching the #1 Seed

Sunday morning we played 5 more qualification matches before alliance selections. We achieved 5 more wins, 5 more breaches, and 1 more tower capture adding 16 ranking points to our initial 22 from Saturday. Several of these matches saw our opposing alliances’ towers weakened, but not challenged by 3 robots to secure the extra ranking point. We ended the qualification rounds ranked #1 overall, with a 12-0 record and 38 ranking points, 12 more than the teams placed 2nd-4th.

341 Programming Help HH 2016During the alliance selection process, we chose Team 341, Miss Daisy from Ambler, PA, as our first overall pick. Their robot was the only consistent high goal scorer at the event and had a working hanging mechanism. Team 1807, Redbird Robotics from Allentown, NJ, rounded out our alliance to help damage the defenses.

Wounded Warriors

After alliance selections, we noticed the Banebots motor and gearbox on our robot’s arm sustained damage during our last qualification match after accidentally lifting and flipping an opposing robot on its side. Without a spare gearbox on hand, we could lower the intake arm at the start of the match, but were unable to raise it thereafter. This limitation prevented our alliance from manipulating and crossing the Cheval de Frise.

Our alliance was the only one to win our first two quarterfinal matches and not have to play a third. The wins were by narrow margins as all three robots on our alliance suffered from some different type of issue. In the second quarterfinal, 1807 got stuck/lost communications while crossing the moat. A last second play by our team to push them off the moat and cross it ourselves in the process earned us a breach and advancement to the semi-finals.

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Our alliance lost its first semi final match against the eventual event champions (teams 1218 from Philadelphia, PA, 2590 from Robbinsville, NJ, and 5407 from Conshohocken, PA). 1807 lost communications again and our robot was disabled for half the match after losing a bumper when an opponent robot made contact as we were crossing the outer works. We called in the backup team, 5181 from Wyndmoor, PA, to substitute 1807 in the second semi-final match. The alliance made a strong comeback, but ultimately lost by 8 points, 133-125, when we captured the tower but failed to breach the outer works.

Awards and Accolades

During the final awards ceremony, our team was the recipient of the Gracious Professionalism Award! Here is what the judges had to say about our team:

The Gracious Professionalism Award, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, recognizes outstanding sportsmanship and continuous Gracious Professionalism in the heat of a competition, both on and off the field. To win, a team must exemplify the principles of FIRST–fairness, humility, sharing, and perceiving–with a winning attitude.

They spread the mission of FIRST near and far, sharing their excitement for robotics with elementary schools and rookie teams alike. This team has raided their community with excitement. Congratulations to Team 25, Raider Robotix, from North Brunswick, NJ!”

2016 HH GP AwardOverall, our team had an extremely strong showing at our first competition of the season. We hit the ground running and were able to iron out several pesky issues that should not return for the rest of the season. We achieved many #1’s, including:

  • Setting a world record for the number of ranking points (38) earned in qualification matches at a district event
  • Having the highest Offensive Power Ranking at the competition (42.36)
  • Being the only team at the event to score boulders in autonomous mode during qualification matches
  • Having the only 3 tower captures during the qualification rounds (plus one more in the playoffs, accounting for 50% of all captures at the event).

FRC Top 25 #10

Many members of the FIRST community noticed Evil Machine 14’s outstanding performance and voted for us in the FIRST Updates Now (FUN) FRC Top 25 web show. Between the FRC experts who ranked us 9th and the community who voted us 12th, our team was announced as the 10th overall best robot out of all the teams who played during the first week of competitions!

Our performance at Hatboro-Horsham earned us 53 district ranking points towards qualifying for the Mid-Atlantic Robotics District Championship and, ultimately, the FRC World Championship in St. Louis. We’re already working on robot improvements for our next competition at Bridgewater-Raritan High School on April 1 – 3.

For more videos and details about our match results, check out our team’s page on The Blue Alliance.

Build Season 2016: Weeks 5 and 6 Recap

The last two weeks of build season were spent making our robot bulletproof.

During one of week 5’s many driver practice and programming sessions, the rotary potentiometer on the intake arm slipped and migrated away from its home position. As a result, the arm moved past the programmed safety stop limit. The robot’s carbon fiber front cross brace acted as a hard stop and the robot’s chassis and the intake arm itself were unscathed. However, the Banebots 775 motor driving the arm through a 256:1 gearbox and 2.57:1.25 chain reduction had way too much torque and bent the 3/8″ hex shaft about which the arm rotates. After replacing the shaft with a spare, the same situation occurred, but this time the 14 tooth sprocket attached to the motor split into two halves before the shaft had a chance to bend.

The Angle of Success used to properly position the goal for driver practice.

The Angle of Success used to properly position the goal for driver practice.

We took several measures to beef up the subsystem and make sure these problems would never occur again. First, we replaced the 3/8″ hex shaft with a 1/2″ steel shaft to prevent it from bending. Second, we replaced the 14 tooth motor sprocket with a 21-tooth sprocket, the largest sized one that would fit in the available space. This change reduced the output torque by 33% and increased the ball arm’s speed by 33%. The lowered torque will prevent the originally over-powered system from destroying itself and the increase in speed will help shave valuable seconds off of our autonomous routines. Finally, we removed the rotational potentiometer and replaced it with a string potentiometer. The string potentiometer will provide much more consistent and reliable readings, regardless of what is happening on the rotation shaft, since it measures only the linear distance the arm has traveled. We also added a beam break sensor to detect when the robot has acquired a boulder.

With these changes in place, we were able to finish programming the low bar autonomous mode we started the previous weekend. We then moved on and were able to finish programming autonomous routines to cross the portcullis and cheval de frise and score a boulder.

Meanwhile, the awards and spirit committees were equally as busy as the builders and programmers. They have been working with students from our school’s film and TV production classes to document the season and create a video for the Chairman’s Award. They also emailed alumni and school administrators to set up times to film interviews. The team standards were delivered and mounts were made to fly them above the playing field and in the stands. Keeping with the medieval/Monty Python theme of FIRST Stronghold and our team’s Hawaiian imagery, we also made coconut clappers to help cheer in the stands and make noise when voting for the audience selected defenses.

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Parts cut to size for the climbing mechanism.

Construction of the hanging mechanism continued into week 6. The final design lifts the robot at a rate of 24 in/sec with a final speed of 1 ft/sec after a 2:1 pulley reduction. A custom 2 CIM worm gearbox  powers the winch through a 3-stage mast. Both the ball arm and hanger have rotation points on the front of the robot. This design will allow us to score a boulder at the last second and then hang without needing to rotate the robot 180 degrees between the two actions. The hanging mechanism will be completed during the final days of build season after the 3D printer finishes the tubing plug blocks and mast pulley cable retainer parts.

2016Bumprs.jpg To round out the weekend, we finished making new sets of red and blue bumpers for the robot.

Build season officially ends on Tuesday, February 23rd. Our first competition is in Horsham, PA March 4-5th. We’ll have a six hour robot access period to add the final bells and whistles to the robot before then.

P.S. This year’s robot has been officially named Evil Machine 14: The Executioner!

Build Season 2016: Weeks 3 and 4 Recap

It’s beginning to look a lot like a robot!

Over the last two weeks, our team made tremendous progress on this year’s robot. First, we finished mounting and wiring up all of the control system components on this year’s new chassis. In our last update, we mentioned making extensive use of 3D printed components. Since the robot will be driving across many obstacles in this year’s game, we wanted to keep the electronic components mounted up high to ensure the robot had ample clearance. To accomplish this, we did away with a traditional robot belly-pan and manufactured 3D printed clips to mount speed controllers directly to the drive motors. We also designed and 3D printed gearbox motor plates with integrated servo brake mounts. After the field parts were completed, we spent some time driving the chassis over the defenses. It sailed across the ramparts, moat, rough terrain, and rock wall with ease. The wooden defenses started to fatigue and break from repeated abuse before the drivetrain showed any signs of wear itself.

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At the start of week three, we finalized the CAD drawings for the robot’s intake system. Since the intake extends outside of the robot, we decided to cut the parts out of 1/4″ aluminium sheet metal so it could stand up to collisions and rough play. Our sponsor Becton-Dickinson (BD) was up to the job and able to cut the parts for us before the weekend! We spent Saturday and Sunday manufacturing and installing the rest of the components needed for the intake and its arm assembly. At the close of Monday of week four, we installed the motors, belt run, roller, and potentiometer (on its own 3D printed mount) needed to complete the intake. Our driver got a little bit of practice time in, chasing boulders around the shop and picking them up.

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Meanwhile, the awards subteam was busy finalizing the team’s Chairman’s essay and two Woodie Flowers Award entries, which were submitted before the February 4th deadline. They then started working on the presentation components, keeping with the medieval theme of this year’s game and our essay. We placed the order for our team standard, which is the flag that will be flown above our team’s player station whenever our robot is playing in a match. The Entrepreneurship Award is due February 11th, so we started working on updating our business plan entry for that award as well. We have also been continuously working on a build season journal to keep as a record of the progress made during each team’s meeting.

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On the scouting subteam, the Android scouting application is functionally complete. Arjun, our lead developer, is making user experience enhancements and starting to look into ways for us to better visualize and analyze the collected data.

We spent some time this past weekend strengthening parts of the intake arm assembly. After all, it’s better to break things and make the necessary modifications to improve them now than in the middle of a competition! On Saturday we also had a productive programming session. After adding a gyro to the robot to complement dual drivetrain encoders, a new algorithm to keep the robot driving straight worked even when driving over some of the defenses. With this ability in place, we started programming autonomous routines and almost have our primary one complete. Mike, our engineering mentor, visited the school on Sunday and worked with us on the development of the robot’s hanging mechanism. Featuring constant force springs and gas shocks, we’re excited to see the design spring to life!

Stay tuned as we enter the final two weeks of build season. Stop build day is February 23rd and we’ll be revealing our completed robot shortly thereafter!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more frequent, behind-the-scenes updates!

Build Season 2016: Weeks 1 and 2 Recap

The students of Team 25 have been hard at work for the first two weeks of build season. The entire team met the Monday following kickoff for our large group brainstorming session. After discussing some of the rules and analyzing the game, we decided on what we thought was the best strategy to pursue to play FIRST Stronghold.

In the days following this initial meeting, all hands were on deck in every student subteam of Raider Robotix.

Our design team started working diligently to design different robot subsystems using CAD. Meanwhile, the build crew started to construct the classic Team 25 drivebase for this year’s robot, taking into consideration the special requirements of the new game. These two subteams will have a close relationship, as we are making many 3D printed parts for our robot this year.

Thanks to our new sponsor, Abbe Lumber, we were able to get enough wood to construct a field’s worth of obstacles. At the start of week two, roughly half of the field elements had been constructed.

One of the final team standard designs.

One of the final team standard designs.

The communications crew has had their hands full with this year’s set of awards and videos. They have been documenting the 2016 build season better than any other. They have completed the final designs for the team standard that will be hung above our player station during matches and are working on a special 20 year anniversary t-shirt design.

The scouting subteam gathered design requirements and has started programming a new Android scouting application for this year’s competitions. Working alongside them, the programming crew has started developing some robot code for practice purposes. Lastly, the electrical group has constructed a temporary control system to test and practice with the new robot.

Stay tuned for more updates in the following weeks as the robot begins to take shape!

Applebee’s Pancake Breakfast Postponed

Our Applebee’s Pancake Breakfast originally scheduled for tomorrow morning has been postponed due to the snowstorm.

The new date is scheduled for Saturday, March 26, 2016.

If you already bought a ticket and cannot attend the new date, please contact us at breakfast@raiderrobotix.org to request a refund.

New 2016 FRC Game: FIRST Stronghold!

Today was the day over 3,000 teams comprised of 78,000+ students from around the world were waiting for—the 2016 FRC Kickoff event!

After releasing a teaser trailer in October announcing the name of this year’s game, FIRST Stronghold, and a medieval theme, everyone’s interest was peaked as to what our robot would have to do this year.

Team members gathered at Montgomery High School in Skillman, NJ to watch the kickoff broadcast. Meanwhile, a small group of mentors visited the kickoff held in New Hampshire to go hands-on with the official playing field.

The game animation for FIRST Stronghold, below, was shown at the end of the broadcast:

We’re excited for all of the different strategic options available in this game compared to last year’s. Time to go brainstorm! We only have until February 23rd to design, build, and test a robot for this year’s challenge. We’ll check in periodically to update you with how things are progressing. For more frequent updates, be sure to like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter, @RaiderRobotix!

Brunswick Eruption 14 Fun!

On Saturday, November 9th, we hosted our annual off-season competition, Brunswick Eruption for the 14th time.

The fun of setting up for the event started the previous day. Team members arrived at NBTHS at 8 am and emptied out the POD trailers containing the playing field. We broke up into teams to divide and conquer. Cases of field parts were rolled into and staged in the main gym. Another group began lining the auxiliary gym, which would host the pit area, with gym guard to protect the flooring and set up each team’s pit table. The carpets for the field were rolled out in the middle of the main gym and construction of the playing field began. Once erected, the field electronics were wired and A/V systems tested. After the food concessions area was set up in the Commons, everyone went home to rest up for the big day ahead of us.

The next day, volunteers and 42 FRC teams from CT, PA, NJ, and NY started to arrive beginning at 7am. As they arrived, we put the finishing touches on the arena. After they settled into their pit areas and got their robot radios programmed, teams took to the field for practice rounds.

Next, the opening ceremonies took place, members of the NBTHS band played the National Anthem, qualification match lists distributed, and the competition got started! Our masters of ceremonies Katie Stevens and Nikki Stout continually introduced the six teams before each round and the on-field action was narrated by the charismatic game announcer duo of Ian Noel and Eric DelSanto. Matches ran smoothly and alliance selections were conducted before breaking for lunch. One scout from each team took to the field and exercised their knowledge of all the robots in attendance to form the strongest alliances they could for the playoff rounds.

1. 2607, 2590, 3142, 4653
2. 694, 869, 2601, 1626
3. 303, 1923, 3637, 3718
4. 4575, 1089, 25, 2602
5. 56, 222, 2495, 375
6. 271, 293, 369, 224
7. 1989, 1279, 2554, 806
8. 5666, 533, 395, 1807

Before the elimination matches began, our famous Evil Sundae contest was held. One student from each team volunteered as tribute to consume a rather nonconventional mix of ingredients atop ice cream. Butters from Team 869 finished his sundae first and proved he had the strongest iron stomach.

A short awards ceremony followed the evil sundae contest:

Team 806, the Brooklyn Blacksmiths, contributed the most items to both the food and shoe drives. This was their 5th year in a row winning the food drive and 4th year in a row winning the shoe drive. We continue to appreciate all of their donations and the difference they’re making in the community!

Team 2601, Steel Hawks, was the peer-nominated recipient of the Mahalo (GP) Award!

Kevin Mastropietro from Team 3637, The Daleks, was the winner of the Kumu (Mentor) Award.

Team 25 alumnus Howard Cohen was this year’s Big Kahuna winner.

At the conclusion of the elimination rounds, the third seeded alliance of teams 303, 1923, 3637, and 3718 finished as finalists after three hard fought matches against the number one seed and winning alliance of teams 2607, 2590, 3142, and 4653.

As teams left, it was time to tear down the field and clean up. We would like to give an extra big Mahalo to Team 869 who stayed and helped us with this effort. We appreciate the helping hand your team is always willing to lend!

Overall, Brunswick Eruption 14 was the event’s biggest year yet! We can’t wait to do it all again next year and hope you will visit to experience the excitement for yourself! Check out pictures from this year’s event on the Brunswick Eruption Facebook page.