Claymont Open House for their Robotics Laboratory

Tuesday was the interest night for the Claymont Library Robotics Laboratory. We are excited since we are joining Brandywine Hundred, Rt 9, Bear, Newark and Hockessin library robotics programs.

The Laboratory will be open the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month. Lots of robotics going on, come do robots with us.

For the younger roboteers we have the DASH robot. DASH is fully interactive and set up to follow command written in Scratch, a block like language (and if all of that went right past you, if you can program a microwave, you can program DASH. It moves, it draws, plays songs, says things and has a really amazing laugh.

The other roobots are VEXIQ robots and it give roboteers a chance to assemble their own robot, program it using things they learned from DASH along with driving it directly.

DASH is designed for First grade up.

VEXIQ is designed for 4th grade to 7th grade.

Come learn all about robots with us.

FIRST SESSION will be 11 September from 6-7:30, sign up interest now with the front desk.

We had 6 roboteers are our first session on Tuesday, they had a great time driving and learning about programming.

See you in 4 weeks for our official start! Check out Delmarva Robotics for more information, news and other activities.

Hanging a round with the Rt9 Roboteers

Tonight the two Rt 9 robots came to life and showed off their skills on the hanging bar.

Two weeks ago teams started building the Flex Robot, the sample robot for playing “Next Level”. They were able to get the drive base and part of the backbone built.

This week with additional builders they were able to complete BOTH robots by the end of the session (well, it was 7:35). Both robots we able to hang on the bar together.

Next session will be doing a little programming to get them set for the design, test, iteration cycles in Sept and October.

A side note, my (Foster) very first VEX game had the option to hang as part of the end game. (The game was called Hangin’a Round) It was just as exciting to see robots hang on Monday as it was back in 2006.

Brandywine Schools Maintenance Teams and Robots – 2018

Any event partner that does events in schools will tell you that that the school Maintenance Team can make your event. I’ve done lots of events at lots of Brandywine School District schools. In every case the school’s Team has over delivered, they have made every event just a joy.

So when the head of STEM Education pitched to me “Come and do a session about Robots for the Maintenance Education Day”, I was all in. I was limited to 30 minutes so I had to be focused. With 16 people at a time, it was going to be a busy session. I need to find a way to get everyone engaged.

The plan:

  • Give each team of 4 a working drive base
  • Play a practice match and see what the issues are with the robot
  • Do a 10 min session of upgades
  • Play a match
  • Do a 5 minute session of upgrades
  • Play a match
  • Do a last 5 minute session of upgrades
  • Do a final match

That leaves about 5 minutes to explain what competition robotics is, why we do it and what the roboteers get out of it. Let them do the plan, design, build, play iteration cycle three times. End with a 1 minute quick “What did you learn, did you have fun?” cycle around the room. VEXIQ robots are the clear choice since they go together and come apart quickly.

Since I literally have a suitcase full of VEXIQ robot parts and lots of them are the cool parts scavenged from the HEXBUG kits, that part was easy. Ed Burks from Claymont Elementary School donated 4 robots for the day and we were good to go.

The game: Build a 5’x 5′ field. Across the middle put a line of alternating 6 orange and 6 blue hexballs (from the 2016-17 game). Two robots on a side, push your color hexballs to the far side of the field (need to be past the 6″ line). Most balls wins. So even a simple drive base can play the game. Rules were simple, here is how to score, it’s not battle bots, points awarded at the end.

The Day:
It was a blast!

We ran three sessions in the morning, with 14-16 people each session. For people seeing VEXIQ robots for the first time they did an amazing job of digging into the parts and coming up with bigger scoops / pushers to move balls across the field. Lots of cool designs.

In the last match of the day, the “Purple People Eaters”, named for their huge purple scoop, verified that the points were not counted to the end. They helped their partner score for the first 45 seconds, but at the 15 second mark, they dashed for the orange zone. They adjusted their scoop angle, slid along the wall and removed ALL the orange hexballs from scoring position. Final score Blue 4, Orange 0. Wow!

Lots of good design iterations, some good strategy, and everyone had fun. And everyone learned a lot about competition robotics!

Thanks to Talley Middle School and to Michelle Kutch for inviting me!

Hey, we made a crash proof car!

Tonight at the Brandywine Hundred Library we were in a few groups doing different things. One group was learning to drive the robot and practicing picking and moving objects.

My group was programming and tonight we were working on the Sonar Sensor. Make the robot move until it’s 100mm away from an object. Stop, turn the RGB light red. Wait until there was no obstruction and move again.

They were practicing with one of the spools when the other group’s robot cut in front of them. Our robot came to a stop and the team goes “Hey, we made a crash proof car!”. I think it’s very cool that they made a real world translation to what we did with the robot.

Just wondering, when we were doing a similar example back in 2009 if our roboteers had the same though? Wonder if some of them are working on self driving (and more importantly self stopping!) cars.

We’ll be using last nights code in our robot build. Move towards the spool, stop when it’s the right distance to pick it up. Pick it up, unblocking the sensor, the robot can now move towards the stack. When it gets at the stack it will stop, it’s the right distance to put the held spool on the pile. A case of the robot knowing where it is and prompting the driver on what to do next.

But until then we have a crash proof robot!

Countdown has started – 75 days to go!

I’m pretty excited. Mid July is my favorite time of the summer. We’ve reached the center point, days are getting shorter, starting to see signs that the school year is gearing up. (Plus this Saturday is Delaware City Day fireworks) Local school district sent out their summer news letters, teachers I work with are cramming summer picnics, birthday parties, watching the specials for teaching supplies.

Only 75 days to go to the start of Robot Season!!!

While schools open up around Labor Day Weekend, most programs don’t start full force until October. Libraries in the area will kick off in September for the new games, followed by schools the first week in October. It takes a few weeks to get students back in to the schedule, sort out bus line, and get fall sports underway. We start advertising for roboteers late September with first meetings scheduled the first week in October.

I’m super excited about this year. We have a big base of returning roboteers, so that gives us a huge base to build on. Last year we started off building a sample robot, “Stretch”. This year we will do what winning teams do, think of a strategy first. We will look at the game, the elements and work on our strategy to play. We’ll then work on designing robots that match the strategy. It’s best to build a robot that does one thing really well, vs a robot that does 4 things poorly.

Our four pillars are
– Mechanical Build, how does the robot move around the field and manipulate the game elements.
– Software programming, how does the software enhance the robot.
– Driver Skill and Practice. This is important, how well can the roboteers drive the robot.
– First and Finally is Strategy. How you play, what your robot needs to do come out of your strategy. In a later post we’ll look at strategies. It’s important that teams start this early and continue to re-examine that strategy across the season.

I’m pretty exited, I’ve been watching videos of the game, setting up spreadsheets to calculate max point, and looking at end game strategy. Lots of interesting things to adjust and poke at.

I’m also watching videos of robots under construction. Lots of good idea, lots of ideas that need refinement. Lots to think about for the next 75 days! What are you working on?

Event Partners Meeting 2018

Fifteen event partners met with Jim Crane our regional RECF representative and Director of Strategic Initiatives on July 9th. The purpose of the meeting was to go over the 2018-19 season talking about the changes and key things Event Partners should know about.

In 2018 we are running the following types of events.

  • Scrimmages
  • League
  • Tournaments without Judging
  • Tournaments with Limited Judging
  • Tournaments with Full Judging
  • Invitational Events
  • Regional Championships

There are also:

  • Signature Events
  • World Championship

A Invitational Event is one that is not open to all teams. Event partners can run a “by invitation” event for every public event they run. Signature events are large event that rivals the Worlds event. For example Cape Henlpoen runs the well known “Slam Dunk to the Beach” that brings top teams from all over the East Coast. So a robotics signature event would be similar to that.

Like 2017-18 Registration $150 for the first robot and $100 per robot after that. Each event will pay $5 per attending robot to RECF for official events. There was discussion around the group, we will all keep our prices very low for events this year.

The preliminary World Championship slots have been released for Delmarva.

  • VIQ Elementary School – 3 teams
  • VIQ Middle School – 1 team
  • VRC Middle School – 1 team
  • VRC High School – 3 teams

For the single team, it’s the Excellence Award Winner. For the three teams it’s the Excellence Award winner and the Two Tournament Champions. As a change this year, we are playing two robot alliances (was three robot alliances in 2017-18) and the eliminations are a Best of One (vs the prior Best of Three). In past years we’ve played the top 8 alliances in the eliminations. With the Best of One, Event Partners can run more alliance in the eliminations if they want.

Because of the growth of VRC robots in Delaware (yay!) teams must go to a qualification event to go to States. There are presently four events planned: Salisbury MD (TEC Tigers), Princess Anne MD (University of Maryland Eastern Shore), Lewes DE (Cape Henlopen High School) and Wilmington DE (Mt Pleasant High School). Each event will send 8 teams to the Delmarva Championship in Dover. Extra slots will be filled via Skills points teams, so it’s important that every robot does a skills run at their event. There may also be an additional event in Dover, keep checking our event calendar.

For the VIQ championship, robots will go on a first come first serve basis. for teams this year the STEM project is not required for the Excellence Award. But, like last year, an engineering notebook is required. So you VIQ teams brush up on your notebook skills.

University of Maryland Eastern Shore is planning to start at least one Vex University Team. If you attend a community college or four year college or university in Delmarva and may be interested in starting a team please contact Foster to get more information.

Discussion was around event dates, see the Competition link in the right menu to see what events have been planned.

A reminder that RECF has grants to help schools and organizations get started. They also have girl powered grants for existing teams who are successful in getting more girls involved.

Both of these grants require the host organization to pay the team registration, but RECF provides them with a robot kit. For the new team grant, the organization needs to match it and start a second team, but for the Girl Powered, there is no second team requirement. They just have to start a team that has at least 50% girls.

They also have Event Partner grants to help new partners start events.

Thanks to Mike Fitzgerald from the Delaware Department of Education for hosting us and providing lunch.

Looking a little empty

I did some cleanup of the site, we are just down to the minimum of organizations and teams. While the central core of mentors are the same from year to year, there is lots of changes since teacher swap schools, jobs and districts. It was easier to do a full clear, when the mentors come back it will be easy to put them back in. It was also a good test of the “forget me” feature of the site.

I also pulled last years team info off. With the changes in privacy policies, it was simpler to pull the team detail information off. I’ll start fresh with the new privacy policy and then won’t have to worry about it.

Speaking of privacy, one of my big things is protecting emails and phone numbers. When ever I post an email address it’s set up so that unless the scraping robot is running JavaScript the email address is hidden away. This should help with keeping the SPAM down for our users.

As schools go back in session in August / September, we should see our organizations get contact people. Around October team lists will start to fill out. We’ve already got events on the calendar and it’s looking like a full season ahead.

And speaking of events, a reminder that on July 9 there is a partner’s meeting in Dover DE. If you are thinking about holding an event or want to start a new team, here is your chance to meet with the other Event Partners in Delmarva.

Summer activities

While most of the robotics activity happens during the school year there are a lot of activities going on.

The three largest Library programs are still meeting. Brandywine Hundred is in their 4th week of programming their IQ robots using Modkit. The Rt 9 Library and Innovation Center starts their programming sessions on 23 July at 6PM.

The Bear Library is playing some new games to get driver skills up. They have grown, they have about 15 roboteers each week. I’m going to go on Monday 9 June to teach a small group that already knows Scratch, so teaching Modkit will go pretty easy.

For those at the northern border, the Claymont Library is holding an interest lesson on the 14th of August. If you are looking for a place to build VEXIQ robots, Claymont is a good place to start.

If you are an event partner, or thinking about starting a new team and want to hold an event, the Event Partners Meeting is the place to be. Meeting times are 10AM – 2PM on 9 July. We are excited about new events and looking forward to having an event at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore Campus.

The STEM Robotics team is working on pulling materials together for fall. There are some exciting new components for both VRC and VEXIQ teams. We’ll be posting about them in the coming weeks.

And has you can see the site is pretty plain, so if you have robot pictures you’d like to share let Foster know.

Hello roboteers and robots!

Welcome to Delmarva Robotics!!

This site is a collection point for robotics in the Delmarva region (New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties in Delaware; Somerset, Wicomico, Somerset and Worcester counties in Maryland; and Accomack county in Virginia.

Look here for team, robot information and the calendar of all events.

Contact Foster to get your information added.