DTCC Winter Workshop 2019

Nine current teams and a few groups that are interested in VEX robotics came to the first Annual Delaware Technical and Community College Winter Workshop on 19 January at the Dover “Terry” Campus.

Jim Crane from RECF did an overview of VEX Competition robotics. He then went into a in-dept look at the 2018/19 VRC game “Turning Point”. Existing teams then split off to polish programs and make last minute hardware tweeks in preparation for some matches.

The other roboteers got an introduction to VEX parts, then played a round of “freeze tag” with robots. Each robot has a button on the front and back, when touched, the robot freezes. When touched again they start back up and can try to go and freeze another robot.

Jillian Whitney, the host for the event, ran scrimmages for the teams. The scrimmage was in a “grab and go” format, as teams are ready to drive they grab their robot and go get in the queue for the next match. 14 matches were played. High score for the day was 26. A number of teams had viable autonomous routines.

Just before lunch, Foster Schucker from STEM Robotics gave an overview on what STEM Robotics does and how Delmarvarobotics is set up.

The award for “Most Matches Played” went to a team from Reading Middle School, they played in all but one of the matches. Even with all those matches, they were able to make minor repairs and even do a wheel upgrade.

Maple Lane “Next Level” Results

The 2018-19 VEXIQ season got of with a bang at the Maple Lane “Next Level” event on Friday 11 January. Event was set up in the Gym and with three game fields we blasted through 38 matches.

A number of teams were able both pull of hanging (Shadow Knights & Dominating Lizards; Boeing & Wall-E; Telsa & Slthering Snakes; Google and Tesla) some were close to the high hang points.

Highest match score of the day was Kaloke and Boeing pulling off a combined score of 14.

At the end of the night it was Seeds 1 and 2, Claymont’s Boeing and Google at 12 points squeeking by sister team Tesla and the Carrcroft Bearded Dragons.

Build award went to Carrcroft’s Tiny Turtles for their rear balance wheel set up and their “antlers” that let them knock off the yellow hubs. Judges award went to Claymont Lenovo for their forks with gears on the leading edges to maximize moving hubs over the blue barriers.

DTCC Winter Classic 2018 Results

Eight teams from three of the Delaware Technical and Community College campuses played in the DTCC Winter Classic sponsored by AT&T. The event was the culmination of DTCC Robotics Academy Program.

Teams were:

8 – Bound Bots – Wilmington
7 – Ultimate – Wilmington
6 – Fusion Robotics – Wilmington
5 – Akinators – Wilmington
4 – The Kingsmen – Terry (Dover)
3 – The Acers – Terry (Dover)
2 – Kolala-fication – Owens (Georgetown)
1 – A.C.C.D.G – Owens (Georgetown)

After 22 Qualification matches, the Elimination part of the tournament started. Lots of great matches in the Semifinals, with a 34 point tie. The best of 3 format had both Semifinals going to three matches.

In the end the #1 alliance of Ultimate and Akinators winning the close score finals against A.C.C.D.G and Kolala-fication.

Guest Judges for the event were from Penfield Robotics, Penfield NY and the local area. The professional engineers from GM had great conversations with the roboteers about the robot design, strategy and what their plans were for improving the robots.

The Kingsmen won the Judges award for their very detailed Engineering Notebook.

Ultimate was the Excellence Award winner with their outstanding performance (#1 Seed, Tournament Winner and top marks in their interview). They will attend the Turning Point at Caesar Rodney

Robotics Academy at Delaware Tech

AT&T awarded Delaware Tech for the fall Robotics Academy where 45 high school students from 16 Delaware high schools statewide learned about STEM-based concepts while being exposed to a college campus environment. Students worked in teams to execute an engineering design, build a robot, and solve new challenges they faced along the way. Students persevered through prototyping and design iteration to execute the robot that will compete today. The Academy focused on using a myriad of disciplines such as science, math, programming, and engineering. By working in teams, students enhanced lifelong soft skills such as teamwork, leadership, and communication. In addition students had the opportunity to hear from local experts such as the Chief Roboteer from STEM Robotics, virtually connect with a coding company across the country, or tour a local facility to learn about the industry needs and how robotics are pivotal in the world today.

Wicomico Winter VEX Tournament – Turning Point

On December 15, 2018 Wicomico County Robotics Club hosted their annual Winter VEX Tournament. The game was Turning Point the VRC 2018/19 game.

21 teams came from as far away as Washington DC and Hagerstown, MD (Hagerstown is over a 3 hour ride from the event location).

Congratulations to teams:

  • 9080H Green Machine from South Hagerstown High School (Excellence Award)
  • 183A Synobotz A Team and 183Z Synobotz Z team from Carroll Educational Robotics (Tournament Champions)
  • 3389E Tec-Tigers from Wicomico County Robotics Club (Sportsmanship & Design Award)
  • 23098A CMIT Tigers from Chesapeake Math and IT Public Charter School (Judges Award)
  • 183Z Synobotz Z team from Carroll Educational Robotics (Skills Award)

All teams did a fantastic job and the hosts thank you for attending the tournament.

Many thanks to all the volunteers, sponsors, mentors, and parents who assisted in making this day a success. A special shout-out to team 9080, UMES, and NASA for lending us fields and field pieces.

New Game Rules are Available

The Game Design Committees of both the VRC and VIQ competitions released the August editions of the games. Since the game release at Worlds this Spring, 1000’s of roboteers have been looking at the rules and asking questions. This update does some clarifications and adds some great examples.

VEX IQ – Next Level

Next Level is a stacking game, teams have one minute minute to stack spools and then hang.

Next Level Game Manual

VEX VRC – Turning Point

Turning point is a fast paced shooting game, with a battle at the end for the parking space.

Turning Point Game Manual

These are the manuals you should be following until the next rules update later this winter.

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?