Mentor note: This blog post was started in November and was lost in the shuffle. The blogger was asked to update it to reflect her life as a Team 1511 Student in the midst of Build Season. Enjoy!
(Written 11/7/15) My name is Ally, and I am a new student on Team 1511. I decided to join this team because I saw all the benefits and fun in it. I was told my freshman year to join the team by my peers but I decided against it, thinking that the only things that I would be able to do were science, mathematics, and engineering. Looking back, I realize that that was one of the worst decisions that I have ever made and how wrong I was. Now, about 4 months on the team, I am astonished looking at the people around me, and amazed at the leaders I see. I came to realize that the team had something for everyone, from mechanics to marketing, and I soon found my place. My friends have been supportive with my decision, and I am so happy that I am finally on the team. I won't lie: The work that you put into the team is overwhelming at first, especially if you had a high demanding sport starting off like I did, but the product in the end is all worth it. Seeing everyone working at a high level made me come to realize that this team is more than just a robotics team, it is a family.
(Written 2/6/16) We now have 17 days until stop build day! From the first day I have been working non-stop on the T-shirt, standard, and the shield designs. I have come to learn that I can work with others, listen to their opinions, and come out with a great end product. For example, I have just finished the T-shirt design using a completely new program that I wasn't used to. I have found some fantastic freshman to aid me in making the designs, along with a few mentors to help us use the program really made the process of designing easier. From the moment build season has started, I have found that I have been busy every second that I have come in to work at the school. As I am sitting in the computer room, hearing people working in the shop on the robot, I can really see for the first time how many ideas turn into one through teamwork. I can say with certainty that we have many brilliant minds that come to work on a single product, and to see all of those ideas turn into an actual robot is amazing. I truly feel like this team is a family, supporting everyone and helping others become greater and learning from their mistakes.
Week two of build season has come and gone, and let us say hello to week three! This week we conquer t-shirt designs, the finishing touches on the drive base, and the all and mighty Chairman’s Essay. Even though we’re still 1600 characters over, we are optimistic. For our t-shirts, we’re thinking a castle being BLOWN APART by a tank, because we are Rolling Thunder. For our drive base, it has been torn apart and put back together on CAD four times now! Our designers have been pulling tooth and nail to get these drawings out to Harris so that we may begin to build our bot.
What is happening on our robot besides the drive base? I’m glad you asked! As I have said, our drive base is coming along swimmingly. We have a bucket (even though it’s not a bucket) intake system prototyped, a lifter that is slowly but surely coming along, and our CAD designers are hard at work sending away all of their drawings (not to mention making some of our own!).
In the world of the team, we’re all doing pretty well. Our game test was released today, and all of us are cramming for random bits of robot knowledge before we take this 42 question test. All drive team, pit crew, and scouting leads must get a 100% on this test. Our mentors call it a test, but we like to think of it as a knighting.
Our Dean’s list nominees have been chosen! Hannah Seppala and Amal Elhelw are our choices, and we hope that they go far. We eagerly await our regional to cheer them on.
Our field is done! Well . . . almost. We got the concrete tonight to pour into the tower. That’s right, you heard me. Concrete. What else will keep the tower from falling over at Rally when three robots try to climb it? Oh! By the way, I nearly forgot. You are all formally invited to Rally, February 21st. It’s held at our high school (Penfield High School) in our gym, and it’s only two days away from stop build this year, so it’s more important than ever! Come test out your bot (if you have one), come listen to our guest speakers, and be amazed at the things FIRST kids can do in six weeks with a little help from our mentors.
All in all, week three has been treating us well, and I hope that you have the same prosperous days to come. May your shops be lit, your tools be sharp, and your robot designs coming to life!
The first full week of build season is over now, with only five left. As of today, we have established our robot design with a great flourish! And, of course, a bit of disagreeing. But that, my friends, is what learning is all about. Over the past week, we have learned new skills to better understand the world around us. We have learned critical thinking skills that we will take for the rest of our life. We have learned the greatness of compromise . . . and the greatness of failed calculations.
Fun fact! Our robot was featured in the 2015 FIRST Robots *Behind the Design, written by Vince Wilczynski and Stephani Slezycki. Our robot was included for our CAD work. For those that don’t know, CAD stands for Computer Aided Design. We were featured in the same book with other teams such as 1114, who was on the final field last year at champs, and 118, who is a legacy team and won the entire Championships competition last year.
Now, back to this year, our field is almost done, and we’re just missing the springs and the paint. And the 500 pounds of ballast to let robots hang off of the towers! Our mentors and parents have worked their butts off to get this done as soon as possible, and we’re extremely grateful. With the field almost done, we can focus on our robot more than ever.
For where we stand now, we have a front intake with rollers. The ball will sit inside a small bucket, which is slightly larger than the ball. For our drive base, we have settled upon wheels. Members on the team put together a spread sheet of tank drive versus our standard wheel drive, and the benefits on the wheel drive outweighed the advantages of the tank drive. The most and foremost decision was our knowledge on the subjects. We have built wheel drives before, but we have never attempted the tank drive before.
Also, we have settled on a breacher-climber bot. Our goal will to be the best breacher bot FIRST will ever see, and to climb 100% of the tower, 100% of the time. What's a breacher bot? Our drive base will conquer all of the outer works! And we are designing an intake/outtake system that will never falter! Can you tell that we’re excited?
As always, we are excited to get into the heat of build season, when design is all but over and fabrication has finally started and has gone into full swing. From now on, when you walk into the technology wing of our high school, all you will smell is oil, sawdust, and slightly burnt popcorn (because even high school engineers need snacks!).
1511 wishes you good luck on the second week of build season, and in the spirit of medieval time travel, may your drive bases drive flawlessly, your scalers always attach, and your engineers always bright and excited!
On Saturday, our social lives ended and our dreams began. To be slightly less dramatic, Saturday was kickoff! Now, for the next six weeks, we obsess over strategies, perfect our presentations, and build our bot. To go with tank drive, or not to go with tank drive? To use pneumatics, or to rely on gears? Should we use a defense to destroy all defenses, or do we build a bot that shoots 100% all the time?! These are the questions we ask ourselves. In case you haven’t seen the release video, here it is!
For those of you who like to read words, here are words!
The medieval themed game, FIRST STRONGHOLD, is played by two alliances of three robots on a 27 ft. by 54 ft. field. Each match is two minutes and 30 seconds long. Robots operate using pre-programmed instructions for the first 15 seconds of each match, and then drivers control the robots for the remainder of the match. The object of STRONGHOLD is for robots to work together to gain points by crossing various defenses across the field, throwing balls into goals in the opponent’s tower to ‘weaken’ it, and then climbing up and ‘capturing’ that tower. The defenses are obstacles that change each match and pose different challenges to robots such as opening a gate, crossing over ramps, lifting a drawbridge, and several more.
Doesn’t that sound awesome?! We think it sounds awesome! So now, for the next six weeks, we are encompassed in robot design, strategy, fabrication, and practice. We learn skills that we do not learn in school, such as weighing the importance of one strategy or apparatus over the other. We are taught to think outside the box and to experiment. We are taught to be free thinkers, and self-motivated. We are taught to believe in what we can do, and what we can build. These are the things that FIRST robotics teaches us, and we’re grateful.
Welcome to the blog of Rolling Thunder, FIRST Robotics team 1511. The team is from Penfield High School in Penfield, New York and mainly sponsored by Harris Corp. To find out more about the team and FIRST, please visit the Who We Are page.