Sunday, January 6. 2013
It was a cold January morning when a large group of intrepid 1511 team members loaded into the bus that would take them to the Kodak Theater. Neither student nor mentor knew what challenge FIRST would come up with this year, but they knew it would be a fun and interesting test of their abilities. After discussing highly intellectual topics in the waiting room over donuts and hot chocolate, the call was put out.
The teams solemnly filed into the main theater itself. 1511 was able to get seats close to the front row. Much speculation was exchanged in the seats before the show began. Then, it was discovered that the FIRST technicians had accidentally started the show early, so the stands went back to being quiet and more speculation was exchanged. This new exchange did not last long-Soon the show began, except on time.
The minds of everyone-not only the members of our esteemed team, but the minds of other teams and custodians and wildlife in the vicinity-buzzed as FIRST gave played a clip full of puzzle piece imagery and people wondered if this would relate to the game. The glorious visionaries of FIRST, Dean Kamen and Woodie Flowers, reminded the world that FIRST was a program about the advancement of science. The dynamic duo praised all of the FIRST community for expert implementation of gracious professionalism that is a pillar of the program. The view cut to a pair of FIRST alumni from last year’s Chairman’s team, who referenced a mentor who was mysteriously missing. A humorous clip showed the mentor lost in the Egyptian Desert with a large pyramid in the background-an expert bit of foreshadowing that was only obvious in hindsight. Dean Kamen then gave a heartfelt speech about the wonders of FIRST, and engineering in general. Dean invented a portable insulin pump as a child, and now he has helped invent a water purifier that is now being used in Ghana, which he calls the “slingshot.” After some advertisements and hints at some robot construction rule changes, Woodie Flowers gave his own presentation further elaborating on the wonders of Gracious Professionalism. Following the conclusion of this presentation, Kate and Colin, a pair of engineers in charge of the Kit of Parts, explained several new important changes while on a rock climbing wall-more of that expert foreshadowing.
At long last, animated Frisbees flew across the screen, heralding the arrival of the 2013 game, Ultimate Ascent! Ultimate Ascent is played on a 27 by 54 foot field with angled walls. The walls feature goals where robots will fire Frisbees (the primary game piece this year) and feeder slots for them to receive more Frisbees. The pyramid was dominated by a pair of pyramids, one of each color, which robots will attempt to climb for points. Another interesting feature of this game is that Frisbees that go into the goals stay there. There is a finite limit of 118 white Frisbees. Robots will start the match touching their colored pyramid and starting with either 2 or 3 Frisbees based on how close they are to the goals. As usual, the game begins with a 15 second autonomous period where all scores are doubled. After that, there is a two minute autonomous period where robots try to score points by shooting Frisbees into slots located on the walls and by climbing the pyramids.
Team 1511 excitedly filed onto the bus for the trip back. The air was rent with the sounds of intelligent students voicing their myriad of ideas for this year’s game. After eating and conducting the traditional going over of the rulebook, Larry unveiled a new and interesting way to envision the game: Through the aid of many paper plates, cones, and wheeled chairs, we would conduct a human simulation of Ultimate Ascent. Six students moved around in chairs while others simulated feeders and goals. Cones outlined where the pyramids would be. This simulation gave us a good feel for the way the game is played, and also taught us interesting facts like “Paper plates can’t fly” and “Swivel Chairs handle poorly.”
After the simulation concluded the team began the first step of the engineering process. With an air of intellect and efficiency, key rules were identified. We knew which penalties we needed to watch out for. Possible strategies were analyzed and ranked. By the end of the main work day we had a good idea of what we wanted our robot to do and how to do it.
At 6:00 several team members left, and the rest went to the strategy meeting. Strategy was incredibly productive. Several people worked hard to plot out how long it would take to perform each scoring action. Others further determined the team’s priorities for robot construction. A smaller group constructed a scale model of the playing field, which will prove incredibly useful in the future.
Meanwhile an intrepid group of parents and mentors led by Field Building Expert, Amy, began to disect the field drawings. Their goal was to build the field elements, the goals, feeder stations and pyramids over the first weekend.
All in all, a very successful kickoff day.
Did you notice the title of the entry? Did you get it? We are rising to the challenge because this game is Ultimate Ascent and it is related to climbing. Got it?