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.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Day 3: FIRST Choice

The most important things that happen today had nothing to do with the design of the robot, for now. First of all we ordered our new CRIOs and unlike teams that ordered theirs when they came out a couple of months ago, ours will ship on Wednesday and should be here sometime next week. The second thing was alluded to in the title of the post, we used our FIRST choice credits! The ordering page was a little aggravating, but in the end we used all 100 of our credits and should have a good assortment of parts arriving from AndyMark.

As for the robot the students spent the meeting discussing ideas and seemed to move in a circle. It might be a waste of time to continue to go in a circle for the robot design but with the first update coming out tomorrow, I didn't want to start major cading before the update.

Not much else to report except that the Athens Drive students took Marvin to their open house. From their report everyone was impressed, including the principles, and we picked up three more students to move the total to 21.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day 2: Taking stock of the situation

For some reason a number of my students didn't think we would meet today because during the rest of the season we don't meet on Sundays. To avoid falling behind I pushed to have a meeting and so we met for 4 hours today and after that we still have 0% of the cad done. The biggest thing that I noticed is that all 7 of the students that attended today's meeting, less than 50% of the team, hadn't read the rules and didn't seem to broken up by it.

Despite that we continued to work through the how of the robot, making some changes to the drivetrain, finalizing the collector, and figuring out what motors to use. Of course I can't really say what we're doing cause its a secret.

We spent the last hour of the meeting discuss the feasibility of building two robots and if a couple of things fall into place then it will happen. Don't expect to hear more about it for a couple of weeks.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Day 1: Aim High 2.0

I was up pretty early this morning, you know that whole nervous energy thing, and I got to Dorton around 9 the rest of the arrived by 10 and we sat down to watch kickoff with most of North Carolina. As soon as Bill showed the poof ball I was so happy. My first impression of the game is that it should be pretty interesting.but we'll see how it goes.

During lunch I attended the first NC Team Council meeting. It was relatively interesting and should be a big help to teams in the near future. After that I began to review the rules with some of the members of team 3459, Pryotech, to get ready for the human game. Basically we just played the game with human similar to each year at TNT, just a little more structured cause we're trying to learn about the game. I learned a good bit of strategy including that scoring isn't as easy as it looks and there aren't many penalties.

Hitchhikers ended up leaving a little early to meet and discuss our game strategy. I won't go into details but we were able to finalize a relatively simple strategy and discuss most of the robot design.

Tomorrow we're meeting in the afternoon and should a have a smaller group because most of the students have homework, who knew? Hopefully we can get the drive train caded so we can order the parts asap.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Day 0: T'was the day before Kickoff

Well its that time of the year again, robotics season. This season I was be blogging each day during the season recapping what my team, 2059 The Hitchhikers, did at our meeting without giving to much away.

Now on to what I did today: A lot of driving, I left my house at 8 and drove 12 hours to get back to NC State so I would be here for kickoff tomorrow. Tomorrow 2059 will join most of the other teams in North Carolina for kickoff at the home of the NC Regional, Dorton Arena. Not only do we get to watch the game but there will be a full sized field there for us to look at after the broadcast.

I'll have more to say tomorrow but now I think I'm going to get some sleep before the start of the season.

Monday, January 2, 2012

College Football Playoff Quarterfinals

Yesterday I picked winners for the 1st round of my college football playoff. Today I will pick the winners in the quarterfinal games.

December 30 Quarterfinal games:

  • West #4 Oregon vs. West #1 Alabama, at the Rose Bowl
  • West #3 Boise State vs. West #2 Oklahoma State, at the Fiesta Bowl
Alabama vs. Oregon:
Tough choice, two great teams and Alabama does have to travel cross-country to the Rose Bowl. Oregon has speed, but Alabama has speed and power. Alabama is very similar to LSU who beat Oregon at the beginning of the season. The key is can Bama's offense put up enough points to compete with the high powered Ducks.

Alabama 31 Oregon 30

Oklahoma State vs. Boise State:
Five years later Boise State returns to the scene of one of the greatest games in college football history and they get to play none other than Oklahoma's instate rival, Oklahoma State. This is Boise's chance to prove that they can hang with the big boys. This game should be an offensive shootout with Boise unable to match-up with Justin Blackmon and Oklahoma State unable to control Kellen Moore.

Boise State 42 Oklahoma State 38

December 31 Quarterfinal games:

  • East #5 Wisconsin vs. East #1 LSU, at the Outback Bowl
  • East #3 Arkansas vs. East #2 Stanford, at the Capital One Bowl
LSU vs. Wisconsin:
Undefeated LSU faces Big Ten champ Wisconsin in a game with two grind it out teams. Both teams seem to find a way to score 30-40 points in every game. LSU has the better defense and couple that with an offense that improved as the season went along could mean a long game for Wisconsin. Two Heisman trophy finalist will add intrigue to this second round game.

LSU 37 Wisconsin 21

Stanford vs. Arkansas:
The final quarterfinal game features the best quarterback in the country against a dynamic offense lead by Tyler Wilson. A long trip for Stanford should help to balance out the game. Ultimately the balanced attack of Stanford takes advantage of a weak Arkansas defense and helps the Cardinal advance to the Semifinals.

Stanford 34 Arkansas 28

The semifinal games feature two SEC teams, three of the top four teams and Boise State with a chance to show everyone they belong.
January 6 Semifinal games:

  • West #5 Boise State vs. West #1 Alabama, at the Fiesta Bowl
  • East #1 LSU vs. East #2 Stanford, at the Orange Bowl

Sunday, January 1, 2012

College Football Playoff Round 1

Last week I laid out my ideas on how to fix the BCS. Now I am going to go over the match-ups in my tournament start with the 1st round match-ups.

December 22 1st round games:

  • West #8 Northern Illinois at West #1 Alabama, at Bryant-Denny Stadium
  • East #7 West Virginia at East #2 Stanford, at Stanford Stadium
  • East #6 Southern Miss at East #3 Arkansas, at Reynolds Razorback Stadium
  • West #5 Clemson at West #4 Oregon, at Autzen Stadium
Alabama vs. Northern Illinois:
This one is pretty straight forward. With the exception of the LSU game no team has gotten within 16 points of the Crimson Tide.  Alabama has beaten four top 25 team while the only top 25 team Northern Illinois played beat them by 42.

Alabama 49 Northern Illinois 10

Stanford vs. West Virginia:
Stanford is the only one of the top four seeds to be facing a team from one of the big six conference, and I use that term with the Big East loosely. West Virginia played 2 top 25 beating Cincinnati by 3 and losing to LSU by 26. Regardless of their schedule they are a quality team and will give Stanford a run for its money. Stanford's only lose was to Oregon and their key wins were against Washington, USC, and Notre Dame. Overall Stanford will come out victorious but the game will be closer than you would expect from a 2-7 match-up.

Stanford 24 West Virginia 21

Arkansas vs. Southern Miss.:
Arkansas really fly under the radar this, but that was more due to the fact the the top two seeds were from the same division in the SEC. Despite that Arkansas still beat three top 25 teams and used their potent offense to beat everyone else except Alabama and LSU. Southern Miss came on late and despite a lose to UAB was able to finish 11-2 including and upset over undefeated Houston in the CUSA championship game. You would think that their recent experience would give them a chance for the stunner but losing their coach to UNC negates all of that.

Arkansas 41 Southern Miss. 30 

Oregon vs. Clemson:
Overall the best game of the first day of the Bowl Championship Tournament featuring two of the countries most explosive offenses. The biggest factor in this game is the fact that it is in Oregon and Clemson has two travel across the country. Both team get healthy with the two week break but in the end the home field advantage and long travel distance proves two much so Clemson.

Oregon 52 Clemson 42

December 23 1st round games:

  • East #8 Louisiana Tech at East #1 Louisiana State, at Tiger Stadium
  • West #7 Arkansas State at West #2 Oklahoma State, at Boone Pickens Stadium
  • West #6 TCU at West #3 Boise State, at Broncos Stadium
  • East #5 Wisconsin at East #4 Kansas State, at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium
LSU vs. Louisiana Tech:
The most intriguing thing about this game is the fact that both schools are in Louisiana and tickets will be hard to come by. On the field LSU is undefeated and has dominated in every game but one and Tech has 4 losses on the season.

LSU 45 Louisiana Tech 6

Oklahoma State vs. Arkansas State:
Arkansas St is a great story, coming from out of nowhere to win 10 games and getting Hugh Freeze the Ole Miss job. Losing their head coach and the inability to cover Justin Blackmon allows the Pokes to move on to the next round in a romp.

Oklahoma State 35 Arkansas State 13

Boise State vs. TCU:
This is the only match-up of conference teams as well as the only the rematch of the 1st round. Once again the game takes place at Boise and if it is anything like the first game we should be in for a thriller. Both teams are evenly matched but the weather in Boise give the Broncos a small advantage which is all that it take to make sure the Boise's deficiencies in the kicking game don't show up for at least one week.

Boise State 35 TCU 31

Kansas State vs. Wisconsin:
A Midwest match-up taking place at the home of one of the surprising teams in college football this year. Kansas State lost both of their games against top 10 team and only narrowly beat Baylor and Texas. Wisconsin on the other hand only lost games within the last minute so as long as they have at least a one score lead they should be fine. Ultimately the more all around team pulls off the only upset of the 1st round.

Wisconsin 31 Kansas State 20

This sets up the next round of games to be:
December 30 Quarterfinal games:
  • West #4 Oregon vs. West #1 Alabama, at the Rose Bowl
  • West #3 Boise State vs. West #2 Oklahoma State, at the Fiesta Bowl
December 31 Quarterfinal games:
  • East #5 Wisconsin vs. East #1 LSU, at the Outback Bowl
  • East #3 Arkansas vs. East #2 Stanford, at the Capital One Bowl