JV Raider Robotix – FTC Season Update

Although the highlight of this Saturday, January 5th will be the announcement of the much anticipated 2013 FRC game, there is another event taking place. Two of Raider Robotix’s four FTC teams will be competing at the NJ FTC Liberty Science Center Qualifier event.

The FTC season coincided with the start of the school year and began on September 8, 2012 with the announcement of this year’s game, Ring It Up:

North Brunswick Township High School has four FTC teams: Teams 2825, 3568, 3719, and 6508. Many, but not all, of these students are introduced to the “JV Raider Robotix” program as freshman via encouragement from the high school’s freshman engineering courses taught by coach Roger Weiss. In total, the teams are comprised of approximately 70-80 students across grade levels. For example, Team 3568 has retained many of its original 2011 members, who are now sophomores, but also has members who are freshmen or juniors. Some of these students are also active on the FRC team. In general, the FTC teams at NBTHS are an excellent way to introduce students to FIRST teach them valuable skills before the FRC season begins.

With such a large number of participants, the FTC teams are primarily student led in every aspect from mechanics to programming to team image, outreach, and marketing. Several dedicated adult mentors and coaches provide guidance and assistance when needed (e.g. machining raw materials). With this approach, students are put front and center in a FIRST environment and are able to experiment and empirically learn what factors are needed to create a winning team in all aspects.

Several of the FTC teams have already achieved success this season and are qualified to attend the NJ FTC State Championship at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in February.

FTC Team 6508, the Radioactive Raiders, won their ticket by being the finalist alliance captain at the Robo-Joust Qualifier held in Livingston, NJ. Additionally, Team 6508 won the Motivate Award at the Bridgewater-Raritan meet earlier in November.

Team members of FTC Team 3568, the ICE Wolves, volunteering with AmeriCorps to help clean up Union Beach after Hurricane Sandy.

Team members of FTC Team 3568, the ICE Wolves, volunteering with AmeriCorps to help clean up Union Beach after Hurricane Sandy.

FTC Team 3568, the ICE Wolves, qualified by winning the Think Award at the 26 team Robo-CATastrophie Qualifier held in Maplewood, NJ. They also won the Innovate award at the smaller Cookie Carnage meet at West Windsor Plainsboro North High School.

FTC Team 3719, the Rampage Raiders, won the Motivate Award at the Moorsetown, NJ weekend meet held on December 9th.

Team 2825 will compete for the first time this weekend at the Liberty Science Center competition, along with Team 3719. Both teams are hoping to qualify for the state championship at this event.

Good luck teams!

Brunswick Eruption 11 Thanks & Congrats!

The 11th installment of our annual off-season event, Brunswick Eruption, was held on Saturday, November 17, 2012.

Originally scheduled for two weekends prior on November 3rd, the event had to be postponed due to the after effects of Hurricane Sandy. Unfortunately, this change in schedule meant that only 29 teams of the original roster of 42 could attend. Nevertheless, the event was still a success:

  • Our food drive collected over 300 cans of food to benefit the North Brunswick Food Pantry.
  • Our shoe drive collected over 200 pounds of shoes to be recycled worldwide via ShoeBox Recycling.
  • Two pre-rookie teams were able to participate in their first FIRST competition!
  • Hundreds of students were able to talk to representatives from Penn State University and Rowan University in our miniature college fair.
  • Many local FTC and VEX teams were able to spend the day learning from each other and scrimmaging on official practice fields.

Congratulations to the following teams for taking home coveted Brunswick Eruption Tiki Trophies at this year’s event:

Brunswick Eruption 11 Winning Alliance: Teams 341, 25 and 3637

Winners: 341, 25, 3637
Finalists: 103, 2590, 2606
Hoku Award Winner: 613
Aloha Award Winner: 1626
Mahalo Award Winner: 2607
Food Drive Champion: 806
Shoe Drive Champion: 806
Evil Sundae Survivor: 806
Best Autonomous Mode: 341
Best Balancer Award: 4067
Smart Play Award: 103
Mike Wade Memorial Award: Mr. Jerry Ely from 1089
Future Glory Award: 2606 (Pre-rookie from St. Hubert High School)

Additionally, congratulations to team coach Roger Weiss and team parents Jennifer Hammill and Anthony Schamper for being the recipients of this year’s Big Kahuna awards!

Finally, we would like to thank Mid-Atlantic Robotics (MAR), the North Brunswick Board of Education, Raider Robotix Parent & Mentor Association, Inc. (RRPMA) and the following key volunteers for helping make this event possible!

BE 11 Master of Ceremonies, Katie Stevens

Master of Ceremonies: Katie Stevens
Co-MC: Craig Howard
Announcers: Chris Gregory and Jeff Bunca
FTA: Bharat Nain
FTAAs: Joshua Morris and Corey Kirschner
Referees: Kristian Calhoun, Howard Cohen, Karin Kloberg, Siri Maley, Mohanish Shinde, and Phil Szymanowski
Queuers: Sara Reffler and Amanda Fowler
Judges: Ruth Kamen, Michael Stevens, Alexa Stott, Nisha and Neil Parikh
Hoku Award Sponsor and Evil Sundae Creator: Chef Timothy McGuire
Webcaster: Brian Mollica
Photographer: Brandan Calhoun

Pictures from the event can be found here.

We have compiled a playlist of videos from the event on our YouTube Channel here.

We look forward to seeing everyone back at next year’s Brunswick Eruption!

Ramp Riot Review

On November 10, 2012, Raider Robotix competed at Ramp Riot, an off-season event hosted by Team 341, Miss Daisy. Our 2010-2012 robot driver, Mohanish, graduated in June, so this was the team’s first event with a completely new driver.

The drive team at Ramp Riot 2012. From left to right: Harrison (human player), Michelle (operator), Kristian (drive coach), Kevin (driver). Photo by Kim O’Toole Eckhardt.

We started the day off by winning our first qualification match by a narrow margin, 14-12. During this match we noticed our robot was shooting balls with a much lower/flatter trajectory than it usually does. Additionally, our operator noticed the hood on our shooter was behaving somewhat erratically. The hood kept moving up and down on its own very rapidly, which made it difficult for us to take any shots.  With limited time before we were scheduled to be back on the field, we took the robot over to the corner of the gym to realign its headlight, which we thought might have contributed to some of our missed shots. We also tethered up the robot and realized we no longer had any response from the shooter hood at all. We checked that our stinger, the only other pneumatic subsystem on our robot, worked, which lead us to believe that there was something wrong with the solenoid connected to the hood. After tracing through the robot, we found that the PWM cable running to the hood’s solenoid had broken near its connection to the cRio’s solenoid breakout board.

We removed the solenoid from the robot and gave it to our pit crew to rewire while the drive team made its way to the field for the team’s second match. Without a working solenoid, our hood was stuck in the down position, which meant we could only shoot baskets from up close and therefore had to modify our strategy. We ended up running an autonomous routine that we had not touched since the Orlando Regional in February to try to score from the fender. To our surprise, we made both of our autonomous shots and our alliance started the match with a 25-point lead. A last second single balance secured us our second win of the day.

When we returned to the pits, the solenoid wiring was ready to be reinstalled and our hood started working again. The pit crew then noticed that one of the motors on our shooter needed adjusting, which explained why so many of our shots fell short in our first two matches. Good as new, our driver then went on to make a much higher percentage of shots taken in the remainder of our matches. We finished up our qualification matches with a 4-1-0 record. Our only loss was due to a technical foul on one of our alliance partners in one match, which that was enough to swing which alliance won.  We ultimately ended up seeding in 15th place out of 36, mostly due to only earning 2 Coopertition points.

Our head scout, Jason, accepting Team 2016’s invitation to join their alliance. Photo by Kim O’Toole Eckhardt.

During alliance selections, we were the third overall pick of the draft by Team 2016, the Might Monkey Wrenches. (You may recall we gave 2016’s drive team a ride to championships this past year after their plans fell through at the last second.) We were then lucky enough to snatch up Team 1640, Sa-BOT-age, to round out our alliance. Our autonomous strategy involved having 1640 feed us their two balls, which pretty much guaranteed us 24 points after autonomous mode. 2016 also had a pretty accurate autonomous mode, and so it was not uncommon for us to start our matches with 30-36 points. In our first quarterfinal match, our alliance set the high score for the event of 85 points, which included a 40-point triple balance.

We won the second quarterfinal match by a large margin and moved on to the semifinals to play the 2nd seeded alliance of 2607, 1218, and 75. We lost the first semifinal match due to a great defensive play by 1218, which prevented our alliance from balancing on the bridge. In the second semifinal, the score was neck-and-neck until the end game, but our robot tipped over as it was trying to balance and we lost match.

After watching the rest of the elimination rounds play out (congratulations to 1676, 341, and 2607.0 for winning!), our team stayed after the event to help disassemble and pack up the playing field.

Overall, we had a great time competing at Ramp Riot, and our new driver gained a lot of experience. We’re looking forward to see how he improves at Brunswick Eruption this weekend!

Times of Trenton – Letters to the Editor

This is from the Times of Trenton Letters to the Editor, originally published May 1, 2012. While the link lasts, you can see the original letter on their site.

For robotics competitor, graciousness was automatic

I thank The Times for “A robotics resurgence — Area high school teams show engineering and design prowess in annual robot competition” (April 29), about the FIRST competition in St. Louis. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) has teams from all over the world competing in building and problem-solving competitions from elementary through high school.

This year’s challenge was to build a robot that could shoot basketballs and balance on a bridge. We were very proud of our daughter and her teammates (Team 2016), who represent Ewing High School and the Marie Katzenbach School for the Deaf. After a short, six-week build season, they placed second at the Hatboro-Horsham and Rutgers District competitions, second at the District Competition at Temple and made it to the quarter-finals at a regional competition in New York City.

Securing their place at the nationals in St. Louis was wonderful, but getting there proved challenging, as our transportation plans fell through. To the rescue came Team 25 Raider Robotix of North Brunswick High School, who graciously provided seating for our drive team and transport for some vital equipment.

FIRST robotics promotes more than competition. Teams are encouraged to show cooperation and gracious professionalism as well — the team that you are competing against in one match may be your alliance partner in the next. Anyone who has been to one of these competitions is impressed as much by the spirit of friendly competition as by the engineering of the robots.

We would like to offer a great big THANK YOU to Team 25 Raider Robotix. Not only did they show gracious professionalism, but they also won first place at the St. Louis competition.

— Shawn and Brian Volz,

Raider Robotix Team Wins World Competition

Originally published on the front page of The Sentinel May 3, 2012. While the link lasts, you can see the article on their site.

Raider Robotix Team Wins World Competition
(no byline appeared)

North Brunswick Township High School’s Raider Robotix Team 25 won the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) world championship competition this past weekend.

Four hundred teams from the United States, Brazil, Israel, Canada, Taiwan and Mexico participated at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis from April 25 to 28. All teams qualified for the championship either by winning at district or regional competitions over the past several months.

The teams were divided into the Einstein, Archemedes, Curie and Newton divisions. The winning alliance of each division faced off against the other division winners for the title of champion. The challenge was to score points during a robot basketball game.

North Brunswick was aligned with Team 180 S.P.A.M. from Stuart, Fla., and Team 16 Bomb Squad from Mountain Home, Ark. The alliance won 2-0 in the semifinals and finals of each competition.

“The competition was absolutely crazy, especially on the Einstein field. Seeing and hearing tens of thousands of people cheering for us was so intense and thrilling. It was so loud and energetic and I hope to experience it again next year,” Joey Ikuss said.

“Competing against the best robots in the world in front of thousands of cheering people was truly amazing and is something I will never forget. Not only that, but seeing our team’s hours of work pay off on the highest level was truly inspiring,” his brother, Tommy Ikuss, said.

Raider Robotix has now won each of the four world championship divisions, and will display a flag from each along with their new World Champion banner. The team previously won the world championship in 2000.

The team is sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb, Day Tool Co., J.C. Penney of East Brunswick, the North Brunswick Township Board of Education and the Raider Robotix Parent Mentors.

Robotics Team Earns National Title

Originally published by myCentralJersey.com – A Gannett Company – on May 1, 2012. While the link lasts, you can see the article on their site.

Robotics Team Earns National Title
Written by Gene Racz, Staff Writer

NORTH BRUNSWICK — North Brunswick High School’s robotics team captured its second national championship this past weekend in St. Louis, where its mechanical creations excelled in the “Rebound Rumble.”

North Brunswick’s robots outperformed the competition by outscoring them by shooting miniature basketballs into tiny hoops and playing superior defense on a tabletop court. The skills challenge featured about 400 teams from around the world.

The competition, which began with 2,343 teams in 12 countries, was held by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). The nonprofit organization, founded in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen, has a stated mission to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology.

North Brunswick’s team, called Raider Robotix, teamed up with a school from Stuart, Fla., and a school from Mountain Home, Ark., in the finals, which were conducted over three days at the Edward Jones Dome.

“The robotic club is like our ambassadors from North Brunswick who reflect our students’ capabilities,” said North Brunswick High School Principal Pete Clark. “We’re very proud that they carried the name of North Brunswick to St. Louis and were very successful. There’s a tremendous amount of time and effort put in, sometimes seven days a week with somebody always working or doing something.”

North Brunswick school officials said students on the active robotics team list who played integral roles at the championships were Mohanish Shinde, Sue Pedapudi, Tommy Ikuss, Damian Plavnicky, Harrison Kaye, Joseph Ikuss, Tori Schamper, Michael Zimmerman, Michelle Wong and Tristan Tushinski. The coaches were Wayne Cokeley, Ernest Weiss and Robert Goldman.

Raider Robotix was founded in 1997. In 2000, after hosting an open house, the local Bristol-Myers Squibb office agreed to lend financial and technical support to the team.

The team won the national championship that year. Since 2000 Bristol-Myers Squibb has supported the team by providing funds and mentors with machining capabilities.

“It’s a tremendous accomplishment, and it’ s also a tremendous community accomplishment,” Clark said. “Bristol- Myers is the one who helps support it by providing technical help and funding, and then there is the work of the parents, the coaches and, of course, the kids.”

Raider Robotix team continues its winning streak

Originally published on the front page of The Sentinel April 26, 2012. While the link lasts, you can see the article on their site.

Raider Robotix team continues its winning streak
Team 25 heads to world competitions this weekend in St. Louis
by Jennifer Amato, Staff Writer

Attempts to climb

The Raider Team 25 robot attempts to climb up to get a basketball during the District Championship game at Mount Olive High School earlier this month. Last week the North Brunswick Township High School team placed first in the Mid-Atlantic regional. They will now travel to St. Louis for the world championships this weekend. PHOTO COURTESY OF DAMIAN PLAVNICKY

The North Brunswick Township High School Raider Robotix Team 25 won the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship on April 15.

During that weekend, 54 teams competed at Temple University in Philadelphia in the “Rebound Rumble” event. Three teams on two alliances had to shoot a basketball into a hoop for points; the top basket was three points, the middle basket was two points, and the bottom one was worth one point.

There were also points awarded for stacking robots of the opposing alliance onto a coopitition (cooperation despite competition) bridge in the middle of the field. The bridge could fit only two robots, but Team 25 was able to stack three robots five out of six times; the sixth time, they were illegally blocked by another team.

“It only took us about seven seconds to balance three robots. It took everyone else 15 to 20 seconds — if they [even could],” said pit crew member Tori Schamper.


The Raider Team 25 robot shoots a basketball into the basket during the District Championship game at Mount Olive High School. PHOTO COURTESY OF RICK PLAVNICKY

The team had to win two out of three finals matches to be considered the champions. They won the first game by a score of 100 to 57, and the second game by a score of 78 to 65.

In general, the team averaged more than 100 points per game throughout the entire competition. They also reached the highest unpenalized score in the nation, according to programmer and driver Michelle Wong.

They also had the second-highest scoring robot throughout the competition, according to pit crew and drive team member Joey Ikuss.

However, the season started out questionably. Since funding is down, team members had to travel to Kintnersville, Pa., for about six weekends to work with the Cybersonics team to build the robot.

The twinbots have their own individual modifications, which they built and tested in a barn outside the school.

“I think our robots do so well because we plan every part to make sure they fit together. It’s no guessing,” Schamper said.

This partnership helped North Brunswick even further because when their robot had a broken gear on the shooter mechanism, members of Team 103 brought a replacement part the next day.

“It’s interesting because we have a more successful team wins-wise … but they’re a Hall of Fame team,” said build and pit crew captain Tommy Ikuss, who is Joey’s brother. “They won the Chairman’s Award at a national competition [in 2004], which is the highest award.” Tommy Ikuss called them a “model team,” speaking very highly about the Cybersonics.

Besides doing so well in the Mid-Atlantic Regional, Team 25 won the Mount Olive FIRST Robotics District Competition in Flanders on April 1 in the final match by just one point in a “buzzer beater” at the very last second.

At the end of March, Team 25 competed in the Lenape District Event before moving to the quarterfinals as one of the top eight teams out of 42. From March 8-10, the team competed in the Orlando Regional at the University of Central Florida and was also selected to move on to the quarterfinals in an alliance with a top-seeded team.

Schamper and Tommy Ikuss both said that the team has continued to do well during the season — and has consistently done so over the past few years — because of the coaches, mentors and machinists who are involved.

“I’m very proud of them,” said Coach Wayne Cokeley. “It was a tough beginning of the season, but they pulled through really well.”

Team 25 will now advance to the world championships this weekend in St. Louis.

“This is truly the only varsity sport of the mind,” Tommy Ikuss said. “We still have the competitive side and the emotional side and you go for championships, but at the same time you have to have a scientist’s mind and think critically.”

Because travel and registration can cost up to $5,000 per event, students are fundraising by collecting shoes that will be shipped to Third World countries by Shoebox Recycling, which will pay the team 50 cents per pound. Donations can be dropped off at the high school, located at 98 Raider Road.

Also, a fundraising comedy basketball game against the Harlem Rockets will be held at 7 p.m. May 11 at the high school. Tickets are $7 in advance and $8 at the door. To purchase tickets, email RGoldman@nbtschools.org.

In addition, American Harvest on Route 130 donated part of their proceeds from all sales the weekend of April 21 and 22 to the team.

Anyone wishing to help defray funds with a monetary donation can email kayefam@optonline.net.