Sunday, November 25, 2012

NC State Head Coaching Search

Today NC State fired Head Football coach Tom O'Brien after six seasons. During O'Brien's tenure the team averaged 6.6 wins and 5.8 loses a year, which is very average. Many people were surprised by the firing, but it was time for a chance.

And now on to who's next. I have compiled a list of ten head coaching candidates that the University should consider. Other open or potentially open head coaching position are Auburn, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, Boston College, USF, Cal, USC, Michigan State, Iowa, and any schools who's head coach is hired away.

1. James Franklin – Head Coach, Vanderbilt

The name that has been tossed around most is Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin. Franklin knows NC State AD Debbie Yow from his time as OC at Maryland. He has been the head coach of Vanderbilt for two years and has complied a record of 14-11. A couple of red flags with Franklin: he has only been the Vandy head coach for two years meaning that most of the players weren't recruited by him, this isn't saying that he can't recruit just something to be weary of. Also with some of the prominent open head coaching position listed above he may have better offers than NC State. Update: James Franklin is not a serious candidate for the NC State job.

2. Sonny Dykes – Head Coach, Louisiana Tech

The second name to look at is Sonny Dykes who replaced Derek Dooley as the Louisiana Tech head coach. Under Dooley La Tech was 17-20 and under Dykes, who's father is legendary Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes, the team is 22-14 with a bowl game to go. Dykes runs a throwing spread offense similar to Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. Dykes doesn't have any really big red flags but could be tapped for a prominent position similar to Franklin. If he can win with the talent he has at La Tech, he should be able to win at NC State. Sonny Dykes is my choice for head coach at NC State. 

3. Kriby Smart – Defensive Coordinator, Alabama

Who better to hire as your new head coach than the Coordinator of one of the top defenses on one of the top teams in the country. Kirby Smart has been the DC at Alabama since Nick Saben was hired in 2007. Alabama has had a great defense during Smart's tenure including being #1 overall this season and has lead to two National Championships and maybe a third. The biggest flags with Smart as that he has never been a head coach and he is the highest paid assistant in the country. Tom O'Brien only made a little more this year than Smart did so it may to hard to lure him away from Alabama.

4. Chad Morris – Offensive Coordinator, Clemson

Fourth on my list is someone who NC State fans should be familiar with, Clemson OC Chad Morris. Most of us saw Clemson's offense put up 62 points on NC State two weeks ago. The offense is top ten in years per game and averages 42 points a game. Morris has been the OC at Clemson for two year and he spent one year at Tulsa before that. That is his only experience in college football having been a high school head coach in Texas for about 15 years. Not only would hiring Morris add excitement to our offense it would weaken, in my opinion, our second biggest football rival.

5. Mark Helfrich – Offensive Coordinator, Oregon

More offense, Mark Helfrich has been the OC at Oregon for four years. Most people are familiar with Oregon's offense which is one of the most explosive offenses in the country. The concerns with Helfrich are that he has never been a head coach and he doesn't call plays at Oregon. The other larger concern is that Chip Kelly could leave Oregon for the NFL and Helfrich would be the favorite to replace him.

Here are the next five potential candidates. I'm not going to detail each one, but each of them would make an excellent head coach for NC State.

6. Mark Stoops – Defensive Coordinator, Florida State
7. Charlie Strong – Head Coach, Louisville
8. Darrell Hazell – Head Coach, Kent State
9. Bob Diaco – Defensive Coordinator, Notre Dame 
10. Kliff Kingsbury – Offensive Coordinator, Texas A&M

I expect the coaching search to take about three weeks and I wish AD Debbie Yow good luck in her search. If she wants any help, she knows where to find me.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The end of G4 as we know it

As most people that read this blog know, I'm a nerd, and throughout most of my younger nerd life there wasn't a better channel on TV than G4. Even after the mid-2000s retooling away from an all video games network I still continued to watch because the remaining video games and tech program was excellent. That all change when G4 executives decided to cancel its only two studio show, X-Play and Attack of the Show, and again re brand as the TV version of GQ.

In my opinion this is a huge loss for the video game industry which seems to always be taking it on the chin from everyone. If I'm wrong about that tell me, but it seems that video games is still looked at my the mainstream, old-fashioned, media type as an underground cult that will go away. According to the ESRB in 2010 67% of US household play video games and just to put that in perspective Angry Birds, one of the most popular mobile game came out in late 2009 and began to hit its stride in 2010 meaning that the current percentage could approach 75% to 80% of households. In addition the video game industry generates over $10.5 billion annually which is more than the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL who all have their own TV networks. Granted it is a little bit of a different situation with all of the money going through the respective leagues rather than spread amongst many companies. Regardless with the average American household being 2.6 people in 2009 that means that there are 1.21 million household in the USA and based on the ESRB numbers almost 210 million people have video games in their homes.

With all of the statistics that I spewed out in that last paragraph you're still trying to tell me that there nobody out there that would watch a network focus on video games, that doesn't have to be the only thing on the network but part of a good balance. If I was in charge of G4 I wouldn't be re branding it as a the TV's GQ but reorienting it back toward video games and technology. As part of that change there would be a number of new shows I would add to the lineup:

Now I know what your saying, the first show I want to add is an old show, but I want to make some changes to it to make it better fit in with today's TV. Currently some of the most shows on TV are reality based talent searches, X-Factor, American Idol, and reality based competitions, Survivor, Amazing Race, so why not combine the two and search for America best gamer or team of gamers. The show could involve a different game each year and a national search to find the top 100 gamers and bring them to LA where they compete in a round-robin tournament to fill a 64 person/team bracket to determine America best gamer.

Interactive Talk Show
The working title above pretty much sums up the show, but it would be more than that. Yes, it would be a talk show where the hosts answer questions from viewers about current video games and technology, but viewers would also get in-depth looks at new video games and technology which would be discussed be the panel. 

Broadcast of Major League Gaming
Once again pretty self-explanatory

Syndicated Shows
Currently G4 broadcasts syndicates of Lost, Cops, Campus PD and Cheaters amongst others. I would get rid of all of those expect for Lost and look to add a techy or nerdy show from the massive lineup owned by G4 parent company NBCUniversal.This could even include a late night anime block to compete with Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.

G4's Proving Ground
Proving Ground was a short lived show that would test concepts from pop culture to see how they worked in real life. The show was ended after the death of co-host Ryan Dunn. I would revive that show and keep the same concept but add new hosts to make the show a little more science oriented, similar to Mythbuster or Brainiac, but with more pop culture.

FIRST Robotics coverage/ Reality Show
And finally a quick bit of self-promotion. As my reader(s) know I've been involved with the FIRST Robotics Competition(FRC) for six years. I would like to see nothing more than FRC get a place back on TV, Championships were broadcast on ESPN in the late 1990s. I envision a weekly recap show on Mondays during the season as well as Saturday after broadcasts of District Championship weekend and World Championships.
In addition cameras could follow a team or teams and produce a weekly show about there progress. More likely a fictional team of high school students would be created and the show would follow their fictional quest to be world champions.

That about wraps up everything that I got, I hope you enjoyed this blog post and will mourn the lost of a once great channel along with me.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


This weekend was the 2nd annual South Carolina Robotics Invitational and Workshops, SCRIW, hosted by Los Pollos Locos and D5 Robotics. Once again I went down along with the Hitchhikers to compete. This year the event was hosted at Irmo High School, alma mater of NC State running back Mustafa Greene.

This year I came down earlier on Friday to help with setup and with the help of Greg and Brandon from AndyMark and a bunch of student we were able to get the field up and running.

Saturday morning came and all 24 teams showed up which meant that everyone would get to play in eliminations. Just like last year I volunteered as a ref, with our head ref being Palmetto ref Tina. We were able to find two other qualified ref and combined with striped shirts we were much more professional looking than last year. Overall the event ran pretty smoothly. We got behind during sync checks and we never really able to catch up. Because of that finals didn't get done til around 7. Afterwards I stayed to help tear down the field before heading back to E-town.

As for the Hitchhikers they had about 15 students including a number of new students. Despite switching out new drivers, expect for Sam, we finished 7th after qualifying and moved up to captain the number 5 alliance. We choose 587, The Hedgehogs, and 2640, Hotbotz and rolled all the way to becoming SCRIW champions. During one of the semifinal matches Sam really had the shooter dialed in and scored more balls than I think we have every scored in a match. In addition the Hitchhikers have never lost an event when we make elimination and have been on the winning alliance of every FRC event in South Carolina in 2012.

I would compare our robot Benji to Captain Krunch 11. Both were well designed but not necessarily optimal for the game. They both got off to fast starts at there respective first regionals before fading at the second regional and championships, but coming back to win there first off-season event. Obviously Krunch improved the following year build one of our two best robots ever, so we'll have to see how the Hitchhikers do.

Overall it was a great weekend and its hard to believe that I won't be at another FRC event for almost five months.

Monday, September 3, 2012


I haven't posted in a while and since its Labor Day and I have the day off I figured I'd give an update on whats going on.

For starters I'm not taking any classes this semester because I'm on a CO-OP. I'm working at Danaher Controls in Elizabethtown, NC as a Manufacturing Engineering CO-OP. I've been there for two week now and it is defiantly an interesting experience. So far it has been a good and I've learned a lot about real-world engineering. My FIRST experience has definitely come into play at work. Our business is based on customer orders and for that reason is pretty fast-paced. Having been in FRC for six years helps me to work quickly and not get flustered by the pace.

Speaking of FIRST, I know that the new season isn't for four month but this year I will not be mentoring any teams and focusing my time on class and volunteering at a number of FRC events. I've already been to IRI this summer with 744 Shark Attack, and this fall I will once again be reffing SCRIW.

As for this blog, I'm still working on what I'm going to do with it. For this fall I think I'm going to bring back This Week in Fantasy, where I discuss league scores from the past weekend of fantasy football and look forward to the next weekend of games. I did it for a week or two last year but got too busy during the week the continue doing it. Since I'm working this year I should have time to do it every week.

If anyone out there has any suggestions for blog post feel free to suggest them.

Friday, May 4, 2012

2012 FIRST Championship

I know that Champs ended almost a week ago but I've been studying for exams and haven't had time to post, so lets see what I can remember.

I had my last class Thursday morning so I didn't get into St. Louis til around 5 and by that point I had missed our first two matches. I let Andrew coach the rest of the day Thursday and we finished the day 0-4 with a couple of coop points. Friday didn't get much better but we did go 2-2 and had a couple of good partners. We lost our only match on Saturday and didn't get picked which rapped up a much improved season compared to last year, but I still feel like we left a lot on the table.

Moving on from 2059's Championship to mine. Overall I had a great time even with the team not performing well. I got to check out and take some pictures of a number of this year's best robot as well as talk to a number of FRC celebrities. I worked out that Krunch was also in our division so I got a chance to hang out with them a bunch, which was pretty cool.

I've got a couple of Thank yous and then I'll end this post and get back to studying:

Thanks to all of the students that took some time to tell me about their robot and design process, it was much appreciated and I got a number of good pictures.

Thanks to Andy Baker for taking time out his busy Championship to talk to me and give me a little advice as well!

Thanks to my former Krunch mentor Tom Filipek for coming over to check out 2059's robot. I know it seems weird for me to be thanking someone for looking at our robot, but when it's one of your old mentors who helped to teach you a lot of thing that you use as a mentor , its nice for them to come and see how your doing.

And finally to all the volunteers, FIRST wouldn't be the same without you.

Now that the season is over what am I going to for seven months?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

How to fix the FIRST Championship

Next week is the 21st edition of the FIRST Championship and it will be the largest one yet. It will not only feature FLL and FTC teams but almost 400 FRC teams in four divisions. This is up from 352 last years and its starting to get to the point where it is too big and something need to be done. Over the past couple of weeks there have been numerous thread on Chief Delphi discussing ways to fix Championship and most revolve around moving it to a larger venue. I have my own idea which I will lay out below and it doesn't involve moving to a new venue and here it is:

Before I get to the FRC Championship I want to discuss the FTC Championship and FLL World Festival. There are around 2000 FTC teams throughout the world and 128 of them compete at Championship which is 6% of all FTC teams. Compare that to FRC's 17% participation at Championship and your average FTC team will make there Championship once every 15 years. That means that like FRC most FTC students will never make Championship in there time on their team. Lego Leagues' percentages are even worse because of the quantity of teams, something like over 5000. On top of that as long as FRC is in the same building both FTC and FLL is be overshadowed and won't be able to get much recognition.

To fix this and improve both FRC's championship as well as FTC and FLL's I would give them there own championship event earlier in the year. Reasoning behind it being earlier is that their seasons start in September and for FLL is done before the end of the year. FTC events stretch into the FRC season and normally end week after build season ends. I would compress the FTC season to have all State events end at the end of January and then have the Championship in the off-week between Week 0 and Week 1. As for location, because of the time of the year it has to be somewhere warm and I would say the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL. Reasons for Orlando: Its warmish in February (High 73, Low 52 courtesy of Wikipedia) and Disney World and Universal are only a short drive away. The OCCC is one of the largest convention centers in the nation and could fit a FTC/FLL Championship more than double the size of the current one. The brand new FTC Championship and FLL World Festival would also give FRC teams that also have an FTC team as part of their program a chance for the same students to participate in both championships, something that isn't really possible now.

With FTC and FLL having there own event it opens up a lot of space in the America's Center for FRC pits. Now having 150 teams in a division is no better than having a 100 teams per division, so with this new found space FRC would expand from four divisions to eight. Archimedes, Curie, Galileo, and Newton would be join by new divisions tentatively named Kamen, Flowers, Lavery, and Baker. I think it would be possible to fit all nine field in the dome with Einstein at one end, three along each sideline, and two at the other end, each in one corner of that end. It might be a little cramped but it would be an awesome sight to see.

Each of the eight division would have between 70 and 75 teams meaning there would be around 560 teams at Championship. In the short term that means that Michigan and MAR can have a few extra championship spots, couple that with the new regionals and you have around 125 extra open registration spots at Championship. I could delve more into open registration and how spots should be divided up but I'll save that for another blog post either this week or after Champs. As for scheduling, it would stay basically the same except that qualification matches would stop around 10:30 on Saturday so alliance can be done around 11:00 and Elimination matches can start at 12:00 giving an extra hour for the extra matches on Einstein.

Hopefully I've been able to illustrate my idea pretty well and I'll be back later with a post about the District system.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Palmetto Regional

This week The Hitchhikers, team 2059, competed at the Palmetto Regional. This is our first year doing two regionals and our first regional outside of North Carolina.

I didn't get to the event until Thursday afternoon because I had class and when I got there we were going out for our 2nd practice match of the day. I would have liked to have done more, but I guess we can save that for NC. We didn't get inspected til late on Thursday and our bridge arm wasn't fully finished but looking at our match schedule I felt good about Friday.

Friday started as Thursday ended, with us working on our bridge arm. We lost each of our first two matches, one of which was totally our fault. The other alliance didn't score any balls and we gave them enough points to win because we drew a technically foul when we contacted the opponents bridge. I wasn't to happy about it but the afternoon made up for it. We won our third match and then lost our fourth to go into lunch 1-3. Everything changed after lunch when we rattled off 4 wins in a row including our first double balance. We finished the day 15th even though we didn't get a single coopertition point which I was a little frustrated with because our alliance attempted in 5 of the 8 matches. Overall it was a great day, we got the bridge arm working, and a bunch of students were complaining that nothing needed to be done on the robot (not a bad thing).

Friday night we had a great scouting meeting with our scouters, who did a fantastic job throughout the event. It was just like a Krunch meeting and I felt really good with the list we were able to come up with.

Saturday we had three more matches and in each of them we were able to get coop points, the last two with us balancing. Unfortunately we went 1-2 and finished 15th. We were selected by the 2nd seeded alliance 2640, The Hotbotz from Reidsville, NC, after they picked 1319 who declined. With out 2nd pick we choose  281, EnTech Greenvillains from Greenville, SC.

Our first match we worked pretty well and were able to win 34 to 19. Throughout eliminations our hybrid was off and I think we only got 1 or 2 in during the 8 matches. Regardless we balanced in 7 of the 8 matches and that was instrumental in our winning. QF 3-2 was our first lose and the only problem we had during elims, the pwn for the bottom roller came out so we couldn't pick up for about half of the match. Also during this match 281 was dead because they switched there computer it wasn't working. The third match is when things started going crazy. The ball score was 6 to 5 and then both alliances balanced two robots which made the final score 26 to 25 for us. It was really nerve racking winning a deciding match by one point and I know I gave at least one webcast viewer another heart attack. The match wasn't even the craziest part. 281's shooter broke during the match and they were unsure if they could fix it. We had to call our timeout and when they couldn't fix it we had to call in a backup robot, 2815, Los Pollos Locos from Columbia, SC. During quarterfinals I was pretty calm but everything that happened between quarters and semis just blew that away. I definitely think all of that had an effect on SF 2-1 which we lost by 7. It also didn't help that 2815's radio was unplugged for most of the match. We rallied back to win the next two semis with identical 40 point scores. In finals we were up against that 8th seeded alliance and during the two matches 2815 came up huge. Their ability to quickly score twos while us and 2640 balanced helped to push to a seven point 48-41 win in finals 1. Finals 2 us as well as 2815 scored and then we balanced with 2640. As we were balancing the red alliance was also attempting a balance and just after we got our they flipped a robot and it was over. We started celebrating with 30 seconds left in the match and continued after the buzzer.

It was such an awesome site seeing us win a regional I can't even describe it. I was barely able to keep it together in the aftermath of the finals and winning is so awesome. For the rest of the members and well as the students I don't even want to think about it. For most of them this was there first event and it was also the first time 2059 had made eliminations so the rush for them must have been amazing.

I know this post is getting long but I just have a couple of notes as well as some thank yous left.

In addition to Regional Winner we also won the Spirit Award for our Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy theme as well our full adoption of our new primary color, orange. As they were reading the award once we figured out it was us I looked at our lead mentor and was like "seriously". I knew we were orange and spirited but it wasn't even something I thought we would be in the running for.

As for my coaching, with our 12-7 record I moved to 30-17-1 in four events with two wins and two missed elims. I guess when I coach its all or nothing and this time we got all of it.

A big thanks to 2640 for picking us. There we some many good robots in the field I was stunned when they called with the 2nd pick. Your auto was consistent and deadly and never had any problems on the bridge.

281, its too bad you guys couldn't make it all the way through but you were good while you were with us. I hope you guys get everything worked out for North Carolina in two week and congrats on the well deserved Chairman's.

2815, man were we lucky you guys were the top backup bot. Your two point scoring kept us in matches and was instrumental to our victory. I'm glad you guys get to go to St. Louis and that you became the first team to win back-to-back Palmetto regionals.

And finally to all of the students, you guys built a great robot and kept it working throughout the event was crucial.

Both of our other mentor came up to me after and thanked me for everything I've done for the team and that made me feel really amazing.

See everyone in two weeks at NC and then in St. Louis!!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Day 45: Introducing Benjy

Even though the team is working tomorrow my blog says day 45 so now its time for everyone to meet Benjy, Team 2059's 2012 robot:
Not to bad for breaking in 15 new student this year.
6 wheel westcoast drive(which is a first for me as well as the team) using 6" Performance wheels as well as a custom gearbox. The white things on the front are Delrin skids(subsystem 6) which were added when we had to change from 8" wheels to 6" ones. The bearing blocks were made of ABS but they all broke over the weekend as I mentioned earlier and will have to be replaced.
Collection System:
Bottom roller is powered by a 550 in a 26:1 gearbox and the rest of the rollers are powered by a 550 in a 64:1 gearbox. Krunch students(old and new) will notice that the rollers are basically shorter versions of the rollers on Krunch 12. We did them a little differently but the overall concept is the same.
Two 6"diameter cardboard(yes cardboard, we got it from a McMaster shipping tube) rollers are bolted to 6" KOP wheels which are driven by 2 Fisher Price motors attached to CIMple boxes. The creative part of it is that the bottom FP drives the top roller and vice-versa. This was done to increase the speed closer to the level we had on the prototype.

Bridge Manipulator:
It is still a work in progress but you can kinda see it in the first photo. It should work once we get it all together but that may not be until we get to Palmetto.

Overall I think the team performed very well this season. We could have worked a little faster and been done a little sooner but you can only do what you can.  See everyone at Palmetto and North Carolina.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Day 43: BBQ and Bots

Today we worked for 12 hours and made a lot of progress. We got the final pieces of the frame finished which allow us to mount the bumpers. The wood was cut and one of out parents sewed the number on to the bumpers so the team should be able to put them together tomorrow. We also got subsystem 6 fabricated and mounted on the robot, more on that later.

The software team started working with the camera tracking on the actually shooter and had some success, but it wasn't working as well as we would like. There is a couple things they need to change in the software that should make it work better and hopefully they'll be able to do that tomorrow.

This year we're using pneumatics, which we didn't last year and I haven't since '08, but over course everyone still turns to me as an expert. After a 10 minute refresher I taught a couple of the freshman about the pneumatics and got everything mounted on the robot minus the cylinders and the solenoid. We're still missing a couple of pieces but we're going to borrow them from another local team and then order some and give the new ones back to the other team.

After dinner, which by the way was some great North Carolina BBQ, we got done to actually testing the robot. With subsystem 6 we attempted to drive over the barrier and we ran into a couple of problems. The two big ones are we can't get over the barrier and we cracked all of our ABS bearing blocks. We were planning on getting aluminum ones made and now we don't have a choice.

The team is meeting for 9 hours tomorrow but I have to study so I won't we back till Monday.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Day 42: Driving?

I started out today with an interview at Altec. I think it went well but the best part was the tour of the facility. They had all sorts of cool machining equipment from laser cutters to cnc breaks to a huge powder coating oven it was amazing. After I got back I was pretty tired but I toughed it out and went to the meeting tonight.

The robot is basically ready to go and tonight the team mainly finished wiring and installing the bumper mounts. There isn't much else to report except that we'll be working all day the next two day to get enough practice in before we bag. I left a little early so hopefully the code got done and the robot got driving and if it didn't it will tomorrow morning.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Day 41: Electronics

Last night the team got the shooter mounted to the robot and decided that a feeder wasn't necessary. I won't go into details but after they explained to me I don't believe that it will work but I'm willing to let then try.

Tonight the electronics team worked on get the electronics mounted and wired on the robot. The mechanical team worked on bumper mounts as well the motor for the lazy Susan.

Unfortunately it doesn't look like the robot will be ready be Saturday so we won't be able to attend the scrimmage. I know I mentioned this earlier but it was official tonight. It kind of pisses me off because we were in this situation last year and we won't have any time to practice, but you work with what you got.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Day 39: Cupcakes

Tonight a couple of parents brought some cupcakes and most of them were eaten by the mentors.

Other than that the new gearbox plates came in and we finally got the drivetrain done. The electronics board got wired and we should be able to mount it tomorrow and get it wired in. The shooter is coming along decently but we continue to run into a lot of problems. We put the chain on, I'm actually pretty good with #35 master links, and it actually worked nicely when we tested it. One of the problems was the duct tape so the student took it off, which I wasn't to broken up about.

We're almost there but I'm not sure we'll be ready for the scrimmage on Saturday which I'm kinda upset about since I pushed to have it.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Day 38: Duct Tape and AMPs

I got to the meeting a little late tonight to see that the team was struggling changing out the FP motors in the AndyMark planetary for the 0673s we got over the weekend. Basically they had just found a random FP pinion and press it on only to find that when they ran the motor it stalled and almost burned out. I of course knew what the right pinion looked like and everyone else was shocked to learn that it was the one that didn't fit through the hole in the mounting plate. I explained that that is how the AMP is designed and one of the other mentors complained and tried to find a way around it. Just when I was on the verge of screaming at him I told everyone to go away and that I would handle it. Not surprisingly the job only took like 15 minutes for two motor when it was done right.

The students got the polycord onto the collection system and we were able to get a ball to go all the way to the top. They also began to work on the bumper mounts and hopefully we'll have at least one set done by ship stop build day.

Finally, tonight the shooter team made some good progress. They changed out the smaller PVC rollers for larger cardboard ones similar to the ones we used on the prototype. They also are doing some strange things with the power transmission to make them spin faster. It is actually a good idea but I still kinda think they are crazy. Back to the rollers, you'll never guess how they are attaching the cardboard to wheels spinning at around 1000 RPM, duct tape. Now when I was on Krunch we never used duct tape on the robot because it looks terrible. These students seem to disagree with me on that but as it is there robot I guess I'll let it slide even if I'm linked to an ugly looking robot.

That's about it for tonight, hopefully we'll get the electronics on tomorrow night.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Day 37: Speculation

The team meet for four hours today but I wasn't there because I had to study so I will do some speculation of what went down today. Hopefully all of the chains are on the drivetrain, the shooter was finished being assembled, and the collection system is all together. I guess I won't really know until tomorrow, but we're running out of time none-the-less.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Day 36: All Day

Today the meeting began at 9 am and as I am writing this is still going on for at least another half an hour. When I arrived I found that the collector was mostly done and that the Banebots motors were mounted to the gearboxes. Unfortunately they mounted 540s to the gearboxes, which are illegal this year, rather than 550s. When I told the students this they seemed shocked and admitted that they hadn't read the rules this year.

Quick tangent: It's week 5 and you haven't read the @#$&ing rules, I mean if it wasn't for me having reading the rules we would probably have tons of violations on our robot. It really aggravates me beyond belief because they manual was only like 7 pages and it would have saved a bunch of time today.

Tangent over, they replaced the motors and got to work on the shooter. Most of the shooter got done today but it won't be ready to mount til tomorrow because some paint has to dry overnight. The drivetrain is about 80% complete and we're getting the 2 correct gearbox plates on Monday or Tuesday so we'll be driving by then at the latest. The cad team worked on subsystem 5 as well as some changes to the drivetrain.

Finally we were able to get two 0673 Fisher Price motor from another local team, which by the way I have the part number memorized because I read the manual! I got a nice bruise on my hand when I had to help a student remove a hub from a shaft and a cut on my other hand while putting a gearbox together.

Short meeting tomorrow, but I have to study so I won't be there.

Big thanks to FIRST team 3459, Pyrotech, for the two FP motors.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Day 35: Late Night

Tonight I had Hillel so I didn't go to the meeting but I do know what happened.

The parents had a meeting to discuss the restriction that have been placed on us by our host, but since the robot will should be done by next Friday so it won't be that big of a deal. Other than that the team faced a couple of problems with the robot but I think they can be easily worked around. I'm kinda glad that I had something tonight because the team planned to work to 11 tonight and then work 12 hours tomorrow so its going to be a long weekend.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Day 34: Back to Work

Today I returned to the meeting after two days of studying. The final drivetrain parts came and all of the wheels have been treaded. It wasn't the best treading job I've ever seen, a number of former Krunch students are better, but I would give them a B.

In other news the collection system is mounted and the final parts were being fabricated. The shooter is coming along well and could be ready, minus one piece, this weekend. Other than that the electronics were laid out but won't be mounted until the rest of the robot is done because the electrical components and metal shavings aren't good friends.

I helped the business team finish up 5-year business plan. Hopefully they'll get Chairman's done cause it's due next week. For some reason 2059 has an aversion to getting thing done early so we can spend time refining them. It happened last year and it happening again this year because as of tonight we have 3 or 4 paragraphs of the Chairman's essay done while many teams already have the essay written and refined.

Another thing that 2059 has trouble with is using tool the right way. When I got to the meeting tonight the students were thinking of cutting key stock with a cut-off wheel. Luckily they came to there senses and used a hacksaw. Tonight we broke two taps, a drill bit, and a hacksaw blade. Rich, our lead mentor, is pretty chill and wasn't too upset but I would like to see Coach react to a hand full of broken parts in one night.

That's about it for tonight, It should be a busy weekend.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Day 32/33: Break

Tonight the whole robot broke!!!

Just kidding, I'm taking a short break from robotics so I actually don't know what happened tonight. Two reasons for my break ,1, I have a test on Thursday and 2, It's a stressful time in the season and everyone needs a break.

I'll be back with a more meaningful update when I return to meetings on Thursday.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Day 31: Its that time of the Season

Another weekday, another new student.

Tonight the team continued to work on retrofitting the gearboxes and working on the collection system. The girls worked on button designs and had a contest to see which one more people liked. We're running into some problem with getting the roller hubs finished cause for some reason we only told the shop to do them half way knowing full well it would be a PITA to finish them.

As for me I'm not feeling that great today and might take tomorrow off.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Day 29: A lot of Problems and some Solution

This morning I ran the Krispy Kreme Challenge so I was a little late to the meeting. The first thing we had to do was move some stuff out of the build room because our host Inserv is redoing some of their building and we had some violations. None of them were too serious so it wasn't that big of a deal.

When we finally got down to working on the robot that is where the problems began. Our collection system is mounted between two cross members on the frame and despite mounting them three or four times we couldn't get them to line up right. That had an easy solution which is to mount the collection system and then mount the front crossbars. We got some more machined parts today including the final parts for the gearboxes. When we tried to assemble them we found that some of he holes on the output plate were 3/16" off which basically makes the plate worthless. I'm not sure how you mess something like that up but we're probably just going to get a new one machined and work with the a modified current one for now. The last problem was the PVC pipe we got for our rollers last week was too big and so we had to try to find some pipe that would fit. Two of our students went to Ace and found the right pipe but they didn't have any money so they had to call our lead mentor and he went out and bought the pipe.

Those were really the main problem we faced today but they all just seemed to come one after another. Other than the problems we actually got a lot of work done today. Parts of the collection tower were fabricated, the software team created code that used the camera on our prototype shooter to make over 80% of our shoots. They also taught some of the freshman Labview which will be good for the future.

The Hitchhikers don't have a full team meeting tomorrow so I guess I'll just enjoy the Super Bowl after I study.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Day 28: Framing

I feel like this is getting repetitive but tonight we had another new student join the team. A little back story before I continue with what happened at tonight's meeting. Last year we had 11 students from 4 school and 8 of them were juniors, now there seniors. Knowing this we looked to partner up with a local school and eventually choose Athens Drive High School, who's school color conveniently matched our team colors. It took a while to get everything worked out but we were able to work everything out at the end of last year and last week our current Athens students had an interest meeting at school which attracted 25 new students. 3 of them have now joined the team and I would expect most of the rest to join next year.

And know on to that robot we were supposed to be building. Tonight the frame came together really nicely and it looks really good minus all of the fingerprints. It should be finished up tomorrow and then we're just waiting on a couple of shaft and wheels to come in to finish the drivetrain. The students also started working on the collection tower and that should be finished up tomorrow as well.

Other than that the parents continued to work on planning the Palmetto Regional trip as well as some spirit stuff.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Day 27: Sanding and Filing

Once again we got a new student today which bring our total to 22 or twice the number of students at the end of build season last year.

Tonight we did a lot of sanding and filing, as the title says, as well as some cutting. The base plate was finished and the gussets were sanded by the girls. The two new students did a lot of manual filing on a number of items. The software team finished data collection for their distance graph and explained to me at the end of the meeting that we need like 10 formulas in the software to make it work with the graph.

In other news we had to made a couple of quick design changes due to some parts still being out of stock. These changes resulted in a new subsystem being added to the robot. Unlike subsystem 5 I actually have a name for this one I just don't feel like sharing it.

Tomorrow we will really get down to fabing the robot so we can have it working by the beginning of next week.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Day 26: New Student

Tonight we got another new student which bring our total to 21. I didn't get a chance to meet him or her because I wasn't at the meeting tonight. Hopefully the team got some good work done tonight.

In other news Swamp Thing released an awesome teaser which I'm sure none of my students saw because none of them are on Chief Delphi.

Thats about it for tonight unless everyone would like to hear about my dynamics homework.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Day 25: More of the Same

I'll start tonight's post with a little tidbit from last night. After I tweeted my post last night someone comments on the Facebook link, my Twitter and Facebook are connected. This made me happy cause it means that someone else is reading my blog other than me. Thanks to everyone that has read it up to this point and hopefully I won't get to boring.

Now on to what happened tonight at the meeting. The students split into three groups tonight and I'll summarize what went down. The first group worked on the shooter design and while I didn't get a full rundown of everything they did I believe they finished the cad up to a point where we can order parts and start fabricating.

The second group finally began to work on design ideas for the subsystem 5. This subsystem is very important and its too bad we haven't been working on it. The first prototype was very good and relatively simple and hopefully we'll improve it and finalize it during the next couple of meetings.

Finally our software team worked on creating a graph to map the shooter prototype distance vs speed. I'm not sure why they did this because our final shooter is a little different, but whatever floats their boat. I helped out by feeding balls and eventually was able to make a shot in the top basket from about 30 feet, which I was very impressed with.

I also realized tonight that other than feeding ball into the shooter I don't do much during this part of the season. I helped a lot with the design and I'll be helping the students assemble the robot but right now were in a lull. We have parts at three different machine shops and they should start coming back in the next few day so my workload will pick up. Thats about it for tonight and I'll be back tomorrow.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 24: Drivetrain

Tonight I spent most of the meeting working with the other mentors and design team to finalize the final drivetrain design and get the parts out to machining. Its way later than I wanted to be doing this, but its much better than last year. We also decided to make some parts out of ABS which is a first for me. Incidentally ABS and 3d printers were discussed on EWCPcast last night and based on what they said the ABS should be good for what we want.

The rest of the students worked on the shooter prototype. I'm not sure what they did because the design hasn't changed in a couple of days but I guess shooting it is fun. A couple of other random thing got done that I don't need to delve into.

I know that I didn't blog yesterday and thats because we didn't have a meeting and I didn't have anything new to report.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Day 22: It's a Good Day

Overall today was a good day. It started off this morning with the shooter shooting at full power approximately 30 feet and still sailing over the top hoop. To fix this and allow us to tune it in we decided to put together an electronics board to control the shooter. Our main electrical student wasn't there today so it was a good learning experience for the rest of the students. It took most of the day to do that but by the end of the day we could consistently shoot from the front of the key and make shoot after shoot which is awesome based on where we were earlier in the week.

The shooter design continued to be caded and should be done by Monday, hopefully. The rest of our parts are out for machining and should be done soon.

Other than that Rich and I made a run to Home Depot today to pick up some tool, PVC, and shelf liner for the robot. I won't reveal what we're going to use it for but you can use your imagination.

We don't have a full team meeting tomorrow, so I'll be back with another worthwhile update on Monday.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Day 21: Clutch

I'll start off tonight's post with some football. With regards to raising money to attend the Palmetto Regional we kinda handled it like Tim Tebow, started off really slow and up until the end it looked like we wouldn't be able to do it. But like Tebow we came through in the clutch and now The Hitchhikers are attending two regionals.

And now back to basketball, oh and some robotics as well. We started off tonight discussing ways to improve our shooter prototyped and I told the students about a couple of ideas I saw on Chief Delphi. The students then began to implement some of the ideas and by the end of the night we had a shooter that could shoot consistently farther and more accurately than any other prototype so far.

Other than that the Chairman's team continued to make progress and the parents started planning the Palmetto trip.

It seems to be getting late in the season but compared to last year we are way ahead. To give you an idea the my main BOM from last year is dated 1-28, which is tomorrow, and we didn't even order those parts until a day or two later. This year we have ordered 75% of are parts and a bunch of them are already out for machining so I'm feeling good right now.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day 19/20: Skipper

I'm combining tonight's and tomorrow's blog post because I will not be at either of the meeting so there is no point in my posting basically the same info twice.

Hopefully in my absence the team will be productive and get the shooter cad finished and the parts ready to be ordered. Other than that I don't have much to report.

State better make it worth skipping the meeting by crushing Carolina tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 18: Parts

I forgot to mention last night but our Mcmaster parts came in yesterday and tonight we worked on getting them organized to send out to be machined. It was a little hard because we're not a 100% sure on what the shop wants from us but we did our best. Hopefully they will be quicker than the shop last year and we can start getting the robot put together.

A couple of students continued to work on getting Chairman's organized so that we can start working on our business plan and essay.

The rest of the team worked with the shooter prototype. They got the reflective tape placed on the backboard and then had some fun shooting balls. The prototype isn't very accurate, but that probably has to do more with the way the balls are feed in rather than the shooter itself. Hopefully we'll be able to create a good system to consistently feed the ball in.

That's about it for tonight's post.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Day 17: Shoot n Score

Before I start we are still short for Palmetto and I was wondering if anyone has $3000 they can send us by Friday.

Now back to the regular scheduled blog post. Tonight we started out with a budget meeting to finalize the final budget from last week, ya I know I used final twice. After that the students attached the hoops to the backboards that were built over the weekend. It took a while to do that but we still had about 25 minutes to practice actually shooting and after about 40 shots we were able to score in the top goal.

Tonight's post was pretty short because I'm watch a debate so see you tomorrow.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Day 16: Football

Once again The Hitchhikers don't schedule Sunday meetings until the last 2 weeks of the season. Because of that I don't have much to report from a robotics perspective.

As for me today I did some homework, watched us beat the U in basketball, and am watching the NFL conference championship games right now. Later tonight I'm planning on tuning in to EWCPcast's week 2 cast.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Day 15: Ah Ha Moment

Saturdays are normally the day that we get the most work done and today was no exception. After last night the first shooter prototype was nearly ready to go and with a little fine tuning this morning we are shooting by 9:30. These first few shots only went 10-12 feet and didn't have much air under them, so the students decided to mount to shooter at a 45 degree angle to try and get more consistency. The concept was easy but the execution seemed to be a problem. The first time they tried to mount it they ended up mounting it backward and it took them a couple of hours to fix this problem.

The middle of day was used for 2059's mandatory safety training. This is still kinda new to me cause we never really had full team safety training on Krunch, despite that I still knew everything they were talking about. Our safety mentor, who is the lead UL safety advisor at the North Carolina Regional, came by and helped led the team through the presentation and test that followed.

In the afternoon the students got the shooter prototype working again and this time it shoot the balls about as good as you could ask for. Our lead build student and one of our team captains began to work on recreating the prototype in Inventor and getting it to fit in the robot.

That about wraps up the day. The only other thing that happened was the parents got done building the field elements and brought them over to the build room.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 14: Shooter

Before I start talking about the meeting I was watching Head Rush on the Science Channel and they had a bunch of filmed segments from Championships this past season. It was pretty cool except that the guy that was reporting made a bunch of inaccurate comments. I can tolerate some inaccuracies when talking about FIRST because most common people don't understand everything about FIRST. But in this case he made some obvious mistakes like saying that Minibots are launched in the last 30 seconds instead of the last 10. This in my opinion is unacceptable because its such an easy thing to fix and wouldn't have taken up any more time. Hopefully as FIRST continues to grew these mistakes will be lessened.

Now on to the meeting. Tonight we continued to work on shooters prototypes and the one that is closest to working continues to have a ton of problems and hasn't managed to shoot a ball more than 5 feet. Hopefully tomorrow will be a big day for the shooter and we can finally decide on a design. Not a whole lot else got accomplished but we are getting closer to being able to do Palmetto which I am very excited about.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 13: Back to the grind

I returned to the meeting tonight to find that the team is working on two different shooter prototypes. I was happy to see that but I wasn't to happy with the progress they made last night. Luckily tonight a lot of work got done and its looking like we'll be able to shoot tomorrow. As long as one of them works we can get it caded and get the parts ordered soon to stay on schedule.

As for everything else, our Mcmaster and Banebots parts ordered and the AndyMark stuff will be ordered tomorrow. That still puts us a least 10 day ahead of last year, which is good. The software team was a little slow tonight because our lead student wasn't there and the design team started to work on a new method to turn our lazy Susan, a big thank to Team 95 for the idea.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day 12: Homework

Tonight I skipped the meeting to catch up on my homework and have a night to relax. I'm not sure what got accomplished tonight but hopefully the students got the new shooter prototype working and learned some good thing from it.

Since I don't have anything else to write about tonight I have a question. Who reads my build journal? I know that at least one person reads it but I want to know if anyone else does. If you read my blog like it on Facebook, favorite my Tweet, or comment on this post.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Day 11: Research

Tonight I didn't do a whole lot during the meeting. I did a little bit of research on Banebots motors and helped our lead mentor, Rich, order some of our parts.

Once again the team split up into four subteams: software, mechanical, design, and chairman's. I didn't really check on software but they were working on getting the camera mounted so it could move during target tracking. The mechanical team worked on shooter prototype 2 and I am really convinced that they are going about the prototyping wrong and they over reacted to some of the failures of the 1st prototype without actually looking in depth at what was wrong with it. Hopefully when they get the new prototype working they will see what needs to be done to make it effective. The design group continued to work on the last 20% of the cad and would ask me for advice from time to time. I wasn't in much of a cading mood so I let them do the work for a change. Finally we had one student working on chairman's tonight. He was just working on laying out what we had before working with a couple of other students to write the essay.

We got a lot of good work accomplished tonight and hopefully if we keep this up we will be able to finish the robot in 4 to 4 and a half weeks.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Day 10: Ordering...

Today was the day that I had identified as the day we would finish cad and order parts. That kinda of happened. I had about 80% of the cad done but the other 20% isn't anywhere near to being finished. It is a little disappointing but not unexpected after last year. As for the ordering I had a BOM ready to go, but for Banebot and Digi-Key we need the coupon code off of FIRST and their website was down. So I guess the parts will be ordered tomorrow which isn't that bad.

As for the actually robot, our FIRST Choice stuff came today which included the ring LED. It did take the software subteam almost 2 hours to get it hooked up which could be a bad sign, except that the camera is still tracking the target which is good. The shooter prototype still doesn't work and tomorrow the mentors are going to push for the students to start over with a simpler one. Hopefully they can come up with a good idea and get it to work.

I just have one more robotics based thing to do tonight, but it may wait until tomorrow morning.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Day 9: Much Ado about Nothing

The Hitchhikers didn't have a full team meeting scheduled for today, even though the animation team met this afternoon. Fun fact our animation team is mentored by a couple of Epic Games employees and they met at Epic which is pretty cool. Other than that I did a little bit of cad today while watching football. Hopefully we'll be able to finish up the cad tomorrow.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Day 8: Progress

Today we made the most progress of any day so far this season. During the 7 hours we caded today the team got the drivetrain cad finished, the ball manipulator cad about 50% done. The software subteam got the camera to see and track the target at 20 feet without the ring LED and some of the mechanical subteam built and tested a shooter prototype with mixes results. Unfortunately I missed the most exciting/dangerous part of the shooter according to reports. During the first test the motor and gearbox flew off of the mount and went a short distance. Luckily no one was hurt during this and they made sure to securely mount the gearbox next time.

Lunch today was provided by Lee's parents who grilled hamburgers and hot dog and they were excellent. Around that time some of our students were filming a commercial for Athens' TV to promote the team. Since we are just starting our relationship with Athens its good to have this commercial during the season to help recruit new students for next year. Along that same line one of the new Athens students showed up this afternoon and after a little bit of a tour she was right in working with the mechanical subteam.

Tonight I just have a little cad work to finish up while watching the NFL playoffs.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Day 7: CRIO II

Finally today we started to get a good bit of work done. The camera code is working well, we're just waiting on the ring LED to increase the range. The students worked on design and its looking good that we'll be able to finish the cad tomorrow. Other than that we're getting close to a very big announcement, which should come mid next week.

On top of all of this two great things happened tonight. One, the new CRIO IIs arrived and two a bunch of the parents brought snacks in, including donuts!!

It should be a long day tomorrow so I'm going to get some sleep/

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Day 6: ...

Most of what happened today happened outside of robotics. On my way to dynamics class this morning I finally figured out the correct geometry for the frame. Then during class my professor gave us a sample problem to figure out the lowest velocity to shot a basketball. During the whole problem I was thinking about how to use it to help with our shooter and I was able to figure it out this afternoon.

At the actual meeting the software team continued to work on camera tracking and the animation team began to brainstorm ideas for this years animation. We are still are track to finish the cad by Monday but it may be tight.

Overall the best thing I learned tonight was how to get our machining sponsor to work faster, bring them with food.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Day 5: Cad and Camera

Its hard to believe that its only been five days and as far as I know we're not behind, yet. Tonight we got started on the cad and finally got the camera to work again. The team is really starting to come together from a people perspective and that makes me very happy since we have students from 5 different schools.

On a different subject we're working a lot more than we did last year and while the students are young I'm starting to feel a little burned. Luckily its early in the season so there's still plenty of time to pull back a little and still help out.

Its getting late and I'm watching some NBA, see y'all tomorrow. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Day 4: Budgeting the Bot

I didn't do much robot work tonight because I was working with the other mentors on our budget. Think its a little late in the game to be doing this, join the crowd, but its got to be down. A couple of tough decisions were made, but it looks like with a little of help we'll be able to attend two regional, even if we can't shift.

Finally tomorrow we are really going to get down and cad the robot. 2059 is a student led team so I try really hard to stay hands off with the cad and that will be the name of the game this year until at least Saturday. After that we'll see what happens cause I would like to have the design down by Monday.

As for the students, the software team began work on the camera tracking and the rest of the students worked on getting the kitbot assembled so that we'll have something to prototype with.