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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.

2015 Recycle Rush Season Summary

Week 1: MAR Hatboro-Horsham District
February 27 – March 1, 2015

IMG_4275 We unveiled our new robot, Evil Machine 13.0 AKA Scorpion Stacker, at our first official competition of the 2015 season. As is typical at week one evens, teams were still making tweaks to their robots and figuring out the best way to play the year’s new game. For us, we had only just attached our robot’s can-lifting arm right before we had to bag it up at the end of build season and so we did not have any practice operating it. We quickly realized that since the arm was so long (nearly 6.5 feet), it created a large moment when fully extended and picking up a recycling container. Though it was a bit unwieldy, our drivers figured out how to acquire a can without tipping over. In our first qualification match, we managed to stack a full six stack with a container on top and another 3 stack of totes.

Pit crew members servicing the robot after a match.

Pit crew members servicing the robot after a match.

At the end of the qualification rounds we ranked 4th overall with an average qualification score of 65.67. Due to inter-picking within the top 8, we moved up to the 3rd seed. We selected teams 1218 and 708 to join our alliance. After losing our first match and coming back strong in the second, our overall average score of 52 was not high enough to advance us. We finished the event as quarterfinalists.


Week 4: MAR Seneca District
March 20 – March 22, 2015

IMG_4391In the three weeks following our first event, the team rallied hard to make improvements all around. First, the trailer the team uses to transport our supplies and robots to events received a makeover. Thanks to Agin Signs & Designs for doing an awesome job! Second, we used our 6 hours of unbag time to modify the pivot point of the robot’s arm. With a higher pivot point, the arm still had the same reach, but did not reach out as far when picking up a can from the floor.

Friday night we arrived at Seneca High School in the middle of a snow storm, but were able to unload the robot and get our pit area set up. The weather improved the next day and, though we had a few issues with tipping, so did our on-field performance from the last event. Being a week 4 event, many more teams had experience playing Recycle Rush and the competition was stiff. We ranked 17th with an average qualification score of 63.50. Our sister team, Team Mercury 1089 from Hightstown, NJ, seeded 4th and selected us as their first round pick. Team 423, Simple Machines from Wyncote, PA, rounded out our alliance. 1089 recognized our robot’s potential as a strong stacking robot to complement their capping-specialist robot. We removed the arm from the robot to focus on creating as many 5 stacks as possible for them to cap off with recycling cans for the multiplier bonus. Team 423 made additional stacks of 4 and 5. Our alliance was very strong and cleared out all of the totes from behind the player station multiple times. However, due do some strange electrical issues that appeared, our partner was unable to cap them all. The alliance made it to the semi-finals.

We got to visit with FIRST President, Don Bossi!

We got to visit with FIRST President, Don Bossi!

Additionally, our team was selected as the recipient of the Creativity Award sponsored by Xerox for our unique robot design!

Week 6: MAR North Brunswick District
April 2 – April 4, 2015


Our Chairman’s Award presenters.

Two weeks later, we hosted a district event of our own! No stranger to hosting events since we host our off-season competition, Brunswick Eruption, every fall, we were prepared to both help run the event and compete our hardest. At the end of the qualification rounds, we seeded 8th overall with an average qualification score of 86.33.

We were the first pick of the third seed, Team 4285 – The Camo-bots from Honesdale, PA. We then selected Team 321 – the RoboLancers from Philadelphia to round out our alliance. The alliance made it to the semi-finals and just barely missed the cutoff to get into the finals by an average of less than 7 points.

We were delightfully surprised to win our second Creativity Award sponsored by Xerox of the season!

Week 7: Mid-Atlantic Robotics District Championship
in Bethlehem, PA, USA
April 8 – April 11, 2015

Our team’s performance at our first two district events qualified us to attend the Mid-Atlantic Robotics District Championship. The robot performed admirably, making many stacks of 5 and 6 totes with a recycling container on top, retrieving extra recycling containers from the center of the field, and capping other team’s stacks. The one piece missing from the puzzle was our qualification alliances receiving the co-op bonus points. Our qualification average score was 110.08 points and the co-op points were worth an additional 40 points per round (the first seeded team had an average of 156 points). We ranked 41st and were the first pick of the 8th seeded alliance, Team 4373 – RooBotics from Jenkintown, PA, and joined by Team 56 – ROBBE from Bound Brook, NJ. Our alliance finished as quarterfinalists, but we managed to earn enough points throughout the event to qualify for the FRC World Championship in St. Louis!

World Championship – Newton Division
St. Louis, MO
April 22 – April 25, 2015

Our first qualification match at the Championship and our highest scoring of the season—206 points!

Our first qualification match at the Championship and our highest scoring of the season—206 points!


This year was the first year of an expanded championship. 600 FRC teams attended and were split across eight divisions. Our team was placed in the Newton Division. Competing with and against the best teams in the world allowed us to put up some of our highest scores of the season. We finished qualification rounds ranked 26th with an average score of 134.70 points. Unfortunately we were not selected to play in the elimination rounds. Many of the top seeded teams were looking for robots that could quickly grab the recycling containers from the center of the field in autonomous mode. The team is proud of our accomplishments and continual improvements we made throughout the season, as well as winning two creativity awards! You can bet we’ll be working harder to improve and refine our processes for next season so we can make it back to the world championship!