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.