Hello, robopeople of the world!

The Robolancers attended the FTC(First Tech Challenge) kick off in Philadelphia today. Hosted at West Philadelphia HS, team members saw live demos of the field in action, the kickoff videos, and were given information on FTC as a whole. For this year, the Robolancers are splitting up into two separate teams for FTC, to accommodate for the team being over 300% larger than the previous year. 

Hey everyone. Eric here with the programmer’s progress report. Last Saturday was quite a day at the FTC qualifier in West Philadelphia High School, with us running into several problems, both software and mechanical. And with all the new things we’re trying out in FRC currently, it’s almost a brand new world for me.

In the FTC world, my team constantly ran into this problem where our robot would go past the waitForStart method during the autonomous period without the signal from the Field Control System. This was experienced even at the end of the day last Saturday. This put us in a tighter situation being unable to score during the autonomous period. However, my team then pointed out to me earlier this week that there was an update for RobotC, the software we were using for FTC, which corrected this problem. My team alerted me of this update prior to the qualifier however, I was afraid of Murphy’s law which would somehow end up in a non-programmable robot during the qualifier. It wasn’t till after the qualifier that we found out that this RobotC update actually fixed the problem we had. So that was a large mistake on my part, making this section a “I was wrong and you were right” to my team.

Back in FRC, I’m constantly working on perfecting our image processing for tracking the targets on the backboard of the hoops, as well as continuing to test and utilize our ultrasonics, gyros and encoders for our robot. I am constantly learning more and more each day, since, this year, a lot of this hardware is being used for the first time. One of the things I find though as I search through the internet for much of my information I need is that a lot of information I need is quite scattered. For example, finding the process and understanding image processing for FRC was spread throughout many documents and post around the internet. I observed this too when searching for more information about simpler devices such as our ultrasonics and gyros. This makes it especially difficult with those who have little to no experience in programming robots to pick it up. This is why I’m hoping to release my reference for programming in robotics, with the main focus in “understanding what you’re actually doing” component, sometime this month (Sorry for having it practically at the end of build season, hope it can help teams for next year though).

Thanks for reading everyone. Don’t be afraid to ask us any questions in our “Ask Me Anything” section, especially about programming. Good luck to you all. 

FTC: “Bowled Over” Regional Tournament

Yesterday, the Robolancers competed in the First Tech Challenge (FTC) “Bowled Over!” Regional Qualifying Tournament against 18 other schools at West Philadelphia High School.  

During inspection, the team was asked to cut parts off of the robot because it exceeded the size limit. This unfortunately led to many difficulties—on the right side of the drive train, the wheel was not initially secured well enough and therefore twisted out of place. Chains were flying off of the sprockets, and the robot was not performing as expected on the field. Nevertheless, the Robolancers stayed pumped the entire tournament, cheering not only for themselves, but for other teams as well.

Regardless of the difficulties, frustrations, arguments, sleepless nights, and last-minute zipties, the Robolancers were able to win the third place Inspire Award, advancing them to the State Championships. As freshmen of the First Tech Challenge, the team has learned a great deal from their experience at the regional competitions and will make adjustments to the old robot so that it will meet their expectations at Williamsport, Pennsylvania on February 25th. 

Good luck to the qualifying FTC teams, and see you in two weeks! 

FTC Philadelphia City Qualifying Tournament. We were the 3rd runner up for the Inspire Award and we’re headed off to the State Championships in Williamsport on February 25!

Hey everyone. Head Programmer of the Robolancers, Eric, here. Today, in the programming world my team continued our debugging our FTC robot in preparation for this Saturday’s competition and I personally continued to test our hardware that we’re using for FRC.

One of the glaring mistakes we noticed in our debugging was that in our code for the FTC robot, a motor was accidentally used in the method for one of our manipulators as well as the method for our drive system which confused our motor on which input to accept, causing it to twitch while attempting to drive our robot. This could have been easily avoided if we proofread the code more thoroughly.

In the FRC programming world, Maxbotix Ultrasonic that we received in the 2012 Kit of Parts as well as an additional one we bought are both working smoothly. I’ve written some code to convert the voltage values it returns into real world measurements. Currently, I’m focusing a great deal of my attention on imaging processing for the backboard of the hoops. There’s a large amount of investigation I have to undergo but one of my questions to other FRC teams is that when you guys first create a binary image, do you filter it by color or by hue? Or is there some method to do both?

Today, the Robolancers worked for 7 hours after school (do the math) to complete the chassis, the shooter mechanism, all the field elements, the turntable for the shooter, and the tower for the conveyor belt.  We made tremendous progress in one night. 

After completing the basketball hoop, we confirmed the ability to light the reflective tape from 50 feet with our ring LEDs and then shot baskets for 15 minutes comparing swish shots to banking it off the backboard.  Hopefully the robot does a better job then our human players.

One major roadblock we are facing is the lack of FisherPrice Gear Boxes.  AndyMark has been out of stock of all FIsherPrice motors and GearBoxes for over a week and we are running low on time.  We redesigned the mechanisms for various systems to use Bane Bot motors today and then ordered those motors, but we really need FisherPrice motors for the shooting mechanism.  Hopefully AndyMark gets some available soon. 

Also near completion is the FTC bot.  All that is left now is the fine tuning of the autonomous programming.  While we struggle with the arm lifting mechanism, we are hopeful that we’ll be able to lift crates.

A video at the FTC “Bowled Over!” scrimmage that was hosted by the Robolancers at Central High School on January 14, 2012!

Recorded and edited by Shakarr Hawkins, a fellow Robo-lancer.

Today, the Robolancers hosted their own FTC scrimmage. Teams from across Philadelphia came and competed and more importantly, gained valuable insight from the teams around them. The kickoff of the event was provided by Daniel Ueda, the Robolancers' Head Coach; as well as Thomas Zawislak, Head of FTC in the Pennsylvania region. Kendrick Davis, STEM Coordinator for the School District of Philadelphia and all-around cool guy was also on the scene to see to it that everything ran smoothly.

Throughout the day teams circulated members to other teams to assist in the building of each other’s robot. Team 3539 “Say Watt?” and MASH 4077 were great assets in the pit, dispersing themselves amongst every team. The Robolancers mostly helped Girls High School though this is because Central actively mentors the Girls High School team.

Though it took until after lunch for the matches to start, the actual scrimmages ran very smoothly. Very viable design options were presented in every match, including one operational scissor lift that could lift crates for extra points.

The Robolancers also had the opportunity to give a tour of the robotics lab, as well as the rest of the school, to University City’s team 5506, a rookie team from Philadelphia’s University City neighborhood.

In all, the event proved to be a great success. Each team left with the valuable chance to test the robot for flaws in an actual competition setting. The knowledge gained from today will allow every team to more finely tune their robots and be that much more prepared when it comes to play for reals.

The Robolancers would also like to give a shoutout to MASH, who helped to inspect the robots; and Phoenixville High School, who gave their field for the occasion. The event could not have run without your help. Thanks!

With the Robolancers’ own scrimmage just days away, the team is frantically putting the final touches on the FTC robot.  The conveyour belt is near completion and the FIFO tower and electronics board have been fully mounted.  However, with the FTC team reduced to a mere skeleton due to the large team needed for FRC, doubts abound about the future of the FTC competition.

As far as FRC goes, the team has begun prototyping design ideas to determine their feasibility.  So far, the team has developed a proof-of-concept for a roller mechanism that would deliver balls into a holding compartment.  The team is also hard at work developing a spring cannon in which the spring is both compressed and released by pneumatics.

The programmers are hard at work as well, despite the earliness in the build season.  The team has succeeded in utilizing the Kinect to operate the robot.  If we can fine tune this process, the team stands to capitalize on each match’s autonomous period.

We also just today received the FTC field parts for our scrimmage on Saturday.  Unfortunately, time in the meeting ran out before the field could be built.  We also realized that we didn’t have bowling balls.  This oversight could prove costly.

Keep on roboting, ya’ll.

FTC Scrimmage

The RoboLancers will be hosting an FTC Scrimmage this Saturday the 14th at Central High School. The team will be helping other schools from the Philadelphia area get ready for the competition on Feb 4th at West Philadelphia High School.