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!

Harlem Rockets on May 11th

Mark your calendars and join us May 11, 2012 when we’ll host the Harlem Rockets in our gym. The world-famous comedy basketball team will take on – and probably thoroughly humiliate – a team we’ve assembled from the school and the local community. We did this a couple of years ago and everyone had a blast!

Harlem Rockets May 11, 2012

And here’s your opportunity to get some easy publicity for your business or cause (and help fund Raider Robotix at the same time) by placing a business-card-size ad in the event program. Only $25 per ad. (Lower rates available for one-liners, too!)

Write support@raiderrobotix.org and we’ll have a team member contact you right away to place your ad. Our deadline for printing is April 30, 2012 so don’t delay!

LEGO Camp – the 2011 Session

The 2011 edition of LEGO Robotics Camp was one of the best ever! This was the 3rd year I had Camp participants working on their robots.the pleasure of working with the student volunteers of Raider Robotix – FIRST Team 25 to make this happen.

The student volunteer logistics were a bit unusual. One had graduated this past June, but had helped run the Camp in the past and strongly pressed to work the program again. Two others needed to leave the camp near the end to attend the Indiana Regional Invitational, an off-season competition; they needed to cover their absence with other team members. Then there was the robot demo that some of our Camp crew ran for Ms. Russo’s enrichment classes, at her request. The team’s 2010 season PR person, now graduated, stepped in to help with that. So we had a rather large crew this year; 10 on my student volunteer roster.

18 registered participants attended the Camp this year, our largest number ever. Everyone – we survey the kids at the end – reported having a great time! Some told us that the final challenge was a bit *too* challenging. Okay, so there’s something to work on for next year.

The LEGO Camp program is similar each year, but each crew of student volunteers brings its own signature to the activities. Generally there’s a new challenge each day or so. Each calls upon participants, working in small groups, to design and build a machine from LEGO parts to complete the challenge. I’m always delighted to see how the strengths of one team or another perform better at each challenge. Seldom does one team dominate.

Camp participant tries her hand driving the Raider Robotix competition robot.It’s becoming a tradition that Camp participants enjoy the opportunity to learn about – and even operate – a Raider Robotix competition robot. This session was no exception. We took over the library, where the team practiced for the 2010 season, and all participants had the opportunity to try driving and placing tubes on the grid. Some did better than others, but I’m pleased to report that there were no mishaps or injuries to kids – or to the robot!

Believe it or not, some members of the Raider Robotix team had their first exposure to the FIRST Robotics program through our LEGO Camp!

All told, it was a very successful Camp and parent survey results concur. Check out some pictures in the team gallery.

You might be thinking that your child would be interested in participating in next year’s Camp, and that’s great. You need to know that the program has limited capacity. We fill up fast and when that happens we have no choice but to turn would-be participants away. Don’t let that happen to you!

Learn more about the program on our LEGO Camp mini site and make sure you get onto our early notification email list. Then you’ll hear about the details of the next program just as soon as they’re available, well in advance of our usual publicity efforts. Further, our promise to you: we hate spam as much as you, maybe more. We won’t use your email address for anything – other than to tell you about the LEGO Camp program. No exceptions.

See you next year!