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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Highs and Lows of Robotics

This has been said before, but there are so many parts and aspects to the robot that it is really hard to figure out what is wrong when something goes wrong. That was the major theme for most of last week. 

Monday, we went to ITW Heartland (one of our sponsors) and took a tour which was great. It’s really awesome to see the “real life” connections between what we do on the team and what people do as their careers. After the tour, some of the team members worked on our practice robot, Beckham. We got all four Mecanum wheels mounted on the robot. We also chained up three of the wheels. We couldn’t chain the last one because we were waiting on parts for a gear box. We also finished the electrical wiring.

Tuesday was spent mounting the pistons for the kicker. Ryan and Bryce worked hard on getting sliders mounted to both the robot and the slider. Ryan had an ingenious idea for mounting the pistons--squeezing them together like a sandwich between two metals plates. Everything was all set for kicking a soccer ball Wednesday afternoon.

Wednesday did not go as planned. We lost communications with the robot countless times. Data was not being transferred to the motors. We tried EVERYTHING. We reformatted the cRio; we uninstalled and reinstalled LabView on the laptop; we re-wired almost everything. The morale of the team was extremely low. We knew the Student Showcase was a big deal and were extremely disappointed that we might not have anything to show.

Thursday, Bydlon and Megan had a major breakthrough during sixth period. Bydlon replaced the digital side car which FINALLY got information to transfer to the motors. After school, the team brought the robot to Bydlon’s room and made an extremely simple program just to drive the robot. AND IT WORKED! Things often do not go right for Mechatronics but, with perseverance and effort, things end up working out. This was a classic case of that. Everyone kept a clear mind and finally figured out the problem.

Thursday night the team went to the Student Showcase at Discovery Middle School. The team had a lot of fun spreading the word of FIRST to the community. We drove around a robot and let community members drive it. This was a miracle in and of itself considering not more than two hours before the Showcase the robot wasn’t working. We got a lot of positive feedback which is always encouraging! It was great seeing so many younger students and community members so interested in something we worked so hard on. 

Rachel continued her work on the flag which looks awesome! It will be fantastic to see that wave around before each one of our matches. Jenna and Bydlon worked on a presentation for a company in the Cities. Friday, a few of the team members got together and cleaned the robot room. It was really necessary after working so hard all last week.

We are going to be on KXRA radio in Alexandria from 9am to 10am on Tuesday morning. If you click on the “Listen Live” button on http://www.kxra.com you can listen too! Our team is constantly looking for ways to promote FIRST Robotics and STEM education and this is yet another opportunity to do this. Thanks go out to Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission for setting the radio interview up.

Reminder: We are competing at the U of M - Williams Arena on March 29-31. The competition is free to all public and we would love to see fans there supporting us!

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