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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

Our original plan was to leave Chicago really early on Tuesday morning, beat traffic, and get back to JHS around when school lets out. Sometimes, plans change.

We got up a little later than usual. This was a reaction to the incredible day we had yesterday. We went to the Pack Expo for two reasons. We wanted to see more of the show floor in a relaxed atmosphere and we wanted to talk to more FRC teams. We accomplished both goals.

Touring the Pack Expo was fun. Our favorite booth was the Festo booth. The intricate robotics they create are astounding. The one they brought with was an amazing, life like, jellyfish. We saw some big assembly lines and shrink wrappers that can spin at over 60 mph. The 3M booth had a Nascar simulator which we all tried. Just incredible stuff going on out in the Packaging World.

We visited with two teams who were presenting. One was Pwnage from the Chicago suburbs. They had an awesome looking robot. There was some amazing engineering ideas going on. However, they haven't done many public relations events. The other team was Nightmare from different Chicago suburbs. They were very nice and, again, focused their team on different items. So it was cool to talk to teams that are in different places, different initiatives, and different backgrounds. Absolutely, another highlight of the trip.

From the Pack Expo, we left and drove back to MN. It was a long drive. Lots and lots of construction. We stopped at Buffalo Wild Wings on the U of M campus on the way back. We ate with Megan, a graduated team member from last year. It was a nice bookend to the trip.

We arrived back at JHS safe and sound around 11pm. We unloaded the robot items and went home to sleep.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Jam Pack(Expo)ed Day

Today was the really big day for our trip to the Pack Expo. We presented our robot, explored the show floor, visited sponsors, and squeaked in a little tourist activities.

We got up early and had Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. We did not know the valet parking rules so it took a while to get the van. However, it was in perfect shape so there were not complaints. The Pack Expo is held at McCormick Place, an incredibly large convention center in Chicago. It was a short, mildy stressful drive.

Immediately after arriving, we unloaded and set up our presenting area. Check out the video here. The FIRST Robotics area was inside the PMMI Education booth. We were surrounded by college booths. It was really exciting getting everything up and running and looking great. Bydlon set up the power point on the computer and the videos on the tablet. Bryce, Tyler and Brandon got the mascot out and made sure Murphy was up and running again. Everything started out fantastic.

But, as usual with Team 3313, Murphy's Law struck. The gearbox we put on the shooter had gears made out of Aluminum. The problem with aluminum is that it can be kind of soft when used at high speeds and a lot of torque. Of course the shooter wheel spins at incredibly high speeds and has a lot of torque. Basically, the gears rubbed down to nothing. This led to Bryce, Brandon, and Tyler having to do a complete shooter wheel motor change while presenting. OF COURSE, this happened right when the Pack Expo news team came over to interview us and film some video. However, the team always perseveres. The guys worked hard and fast and got the job done. The change over was seamless. Plus, it was a major upgrade for shooting.

After presenting, lunch was served in an office overlooking the entire show floor. It was incredible. The team who took over the presenting area was Team 864 Sparky from Richmond, VA. They were really nice and had some interesting ideas for designing their robot. Absolutely, a highlight of the trip was talking to other FRC teams. Learning their methods and practices can teach us a lot. They were very friendly and very knowledgeable 

A former PMMI President took the four of us on a tour of show floor. The Pack Expo had over 1900 exhibitors. That's A LOT of booths... One favorite was Fanuc. They make the yellow robotic arms. They had one arm that could take a picture of random objects in a bin and find a flat surface and grab it. Another favorite booth was where we got wrapped up in shrink wrap. We stood next to a palette and got wrapped up by a machine. Check out the video here.

We spent the last few hours of the Pack Expo visiting our sponsors. We stopped by the Douglas booth. We spent at least an hour at the Massman booth. The engineers were very nice. Highlight of the trip for Bydlon was watching the engineers talk to the students about how awesome their job is. Our last stop was the Aagard booth where we talked to an electrical engineer, Brad V., for about an hour. It was nice of Brad to spend that much time talking to students.

To end the EXTREMELY long day, Bydlon went for a walk to see The Bean in Chicago. The guys went to the swimming pool and hot tub to relax. A crazy, informative, awesome day really takes the energy out of people.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Loving Chicago

Brandon, Bryce, Tyler, and Bydlon left for Chicago today to attend and present at Pack Expo 2012. Today was really the "tourist" day while Monday will be a big "work" day.

The four travelers met up at JHS to pack up the van at 5:30am. It was an early start but led to more time exploring later on in the day. It was a tight squeeze, but all of the stuff some how fit into the back of the van. The drive was very uneventful. Great weather, easy roads to drive, not too bad of construction. The 8 to 9 hours passed by very quickly given the circumstances.

It took a little bit of work but we found our way to the hotel. IT IS SO NICE. WOW. Big thank you to PMMI and Massman Automation Designs for setting up our stay and PackExpo tickets. This is for sure the nicest hotel any of us have stayed at. Everyone rested for a little bit before going out to do tourist activities.

Our original plan was to take the Elevated Train to the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower. Unfortunately, we couldn't figure out how to get a ticket for the train so we walked. The Willis Tower is amazing. We took an elevator to the top and even went out on The Ledge. The Ledge are some clear boxes that jut out of the top of the tower. It makes you feel like you are floating 103 stories in the air. Chicago looked amazing at night.

Then we ate some Chicago Style Pizza at Giordano's. It was incredibly delicious, especially after a long day of either sitting in the car or walking all over Chicago.

Tomorrow is the big day! We will present about FIRST Robotics and our team from 9am to 1pm in the Lakeside Center. We cannot wait!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Packing for the Pack Expo

The team met again today. Our main goals for today were getting the tool boxes ready for our trip to Chicago, getting Murphy also set to travel, and working on some press items.

Bryce, Brandon, Tyler, and Bydlon are taking a very short trip to the Pack Expo in Chicago on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. The Pack Expo is a very large convention at McCormick Place for packing manufacturing companies. Alexandria, MN has a wealth of packing machine manufacturing companies (including the PMMC, one of our biggest local sponsors). Due to their generosity, those 4 team members are being provided a van, gas money, hotel rooms, and a presentation booth for Monday. We are SO EXCITED to be able to share the values of FIRST, the evolution of our team, and the fantastic sponsors we have with the over 100,000 attendees of the Pack Expo.

In preparation for this awesome event, we did a lot of work today. Bydlon picked up the van from Massman (THANK YOU!) that will be driven down. Demian and Alex mounted a cylinder on Murphy just so we could demonstrate our ability to use pneumatics. Miranda and Alicia rewired some of the shooter and conveyor components so we had more shooter power. This was a big process because spike relays are really annoying and hard to get to work. We ended up using a Jag instead. Bryce did a total makeover organization of the toolbox so we bring the right amount of tools and supplies if (when) something goes wrong. Brandon helped with that and continued thinking about a bridge lowerer. Allen tested all the code and made sure we were all set to go at Pack Expo. He also uploaded the next Java Tutorial. At the end of the day, Brandon and Bryce took off the ears and shooter of Murphy so we can fit it into the van.

While all that robot work was going on, up in the computer lab, a lot of work was going on. Kacy worked on a press release about our fundraising experiences last Saturday. Carson made a new banner for this website using our new color scheme and revised logo. It looks great! Taylor and Hadley worked on thank you cards for Elden's and 3M. Tyler started working on making plans for a wooden practice field. This is a HUGE project that will take us all of November to complete.

So it was a big day for the team preparing and working but A LOT was accomplished. Great work! Pack Expo will be so much fun!

Keep your eyes on our Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and this blog for updates from Chicago!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Massman Automation Designs

Team 3313 Mechatronics went to Massman Automation Designs in Villard, MN today to do some presentations. We had two different presentation times, one in the morning and one in the evening.

Check out a video recap here.

In the morning, some of the team members met at the Robot Room when school started. We headed down to Massman to present to Minnewaska High School students that were touring. On Monday night, we brought down all the supplies so all we had to do on Tuesday was set them up. The presentation went ok. We did not know how much time we had to talk so that made the first presentation a little disjointed. We recovered for the second presentation however. The morning was a fun experience and Team 3313 welcomes the chance to excite other schools about STEM education and FIRST Robotics. It was a natural progression, talking about high school robotics and then all of the cool stuff Massman makes. The team members headed back to school for the afternoon.

After school was over, a bunch of team members headed back down to Massman for their Open House. Massman opened up its doors for the evening to community members, employee members, and our team. We had the same area set up. The team estimated that we presented to well over 200 people. It was a great experience. Just like the morning, the more presentations we did, the more comfortable we got and the better the experience was for everyone. The team members who came with did a great job of dividing up speaking responsibilities.

The highlight of the night though, was the tour of Massman Automation Designs. Basically, Massman manufactures assembly lines. The assembly lines they build often deal with food products being boxed up and packaged. We saw a line that takes ground turkey packages and boxes them. Then the machine puts the boxes on palates and shrink wraps the palates. It was awesome. Another machine takes 40 lb. blocks of cheese and puts them into packages. A microwave popcorn bag filler that was destined for the country of Hungary was also exciting. It can go up to 200 bags a minute!!! Woah! All the work, time, and care that goes into each machine was really impressive.

Massman is part of the PMMC, one of our major local sponsors. Obviously, we also appreciate the support Massman and the PMMC provide us. It was fun to finally get to see what they do and how it connects to our group. Can't wait to visit our other sponsors!!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Goofing Off

Some of the team members met today after school. We did not have a ton to do.

The build team took off the back chains and tried moving around our crazy wheel arrangement. It didn't really help but at least we tried.

Allen from the programming team started making Java tutorials. You can view the first one here and the second video here.

Gabe worked on a script for the Chairman's Award. We made a presentation for our trip to Massman Automation Designs.

Everyone who was at the meeting went up into the computer at some point. We made a Gmail Chat and goofed off in there. Eventually, Gabe and Allen worked together to make this happen. Please click that link and laugh. That's our head coach's face repeated. So funny.

Sometimes it's good to just have a pseudo day off. We worked hard on Saturday at fundraisers and have a presentation on Tuesday.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bagging Fun

The team spent all of today spreading the values of FIRST, raising money, talking about our team, and having fun (of course). We bagged groceries at Elden's Food Fair in Alexandria and worked at a Haunted Barn near Carlos, MN.

Make sure you check out the videos we made from this awesome day.
Bagging at Elden's
Haunted Barn Ad

The entire day was really fun. Obviously, the team sends a huge THANK YOU to Elden's for the opportunity to publicize our team and make some money. We lost count of all the people who gave us positive encouragement and donated to us. The Alexandria community is a fantastic collection of generous people and Team 3313 Mechatronics is really lucky to work in this area.

The Haunted Barn was fun too! Some of the team members dressed as monsters and scared people who walked through. Kacy especially was very creepy. Team 3313 is very happy to help out with the Haunted Barn. If you live in the Alexandria area, make sure you check it out at http://www.facebook.com/frightmarefarmhauntedbarn!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Light as Air

The team met today to work on some random projects. The most exciting development was that we put the camera on Murphy and drove it around. You can check out the video here.

Build Team worked on putting pneumatics onto Murphy. After getting pneumatics to work on Rover, we transferred them over to Murphy so we can use them to lower the bridge. Pneumatics is just like hydraulics but with air as the fluid.

We also sent out an email for the Fargo Kickoff. We will host and set up some workshops after the Kickoff.

Allen taught Bydlon and Bryce some basic Java programming ideas.

The rest of the day was spent playing around with weird picture techniques. Not a very productive day but Wednesday was super awesome so it was ok that we sort of took a day off. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Many Hands For Lots Of Work

In all honesty, after presenting to the 9th graders yesterday, we expected to have maybe 2 or 3 show up today or in the future. It's a big time commitment and kind of scary to show up to a new thing. Boy, were we wrong. We had 6 show up!! WOAH! That's great! We needed all the help too. Soooo much going today.

The two main priorities for today for the Build Team were getting Murphy driving again and shooting a basketball. Both of these items were possible because we received our new parts from AndyMark (the main robot part distributor). With all of the people hanging out, the work went pretty fast and we got A TON accomplished. It was kind of incredible to watch actually.

The work started with Brandon and Tyler tackling the gearboxes for the drive train. Let's be honest, gearboxes are not the most fun thing to deal with. They require a lot of precision, the parts are really small and have to be put together in a very specific order. However, Brandon and Tyler got them put together and mounted on the robot in a pretty short amount of time. Unfortunately, we had a bunch of other stuff we were working on so we couldn't test the drive train right away.

The other big goal of the Build Team was to shoot a basketball. We wanted to switch out a CIM motor on the shooter for some smaller motors so we could use that CIM in our drive train. Luckily, mounting the new small motors was not that much of a problem. First, Bryce marked the new mounting holes on the wheel mount. Molly brought it over to Alex Tech and got them machined out. Then Bryce mounted the gear box and put it on the robot.

Another thing we are working on for Build Team was mounting the pneumatics components. Pneumatics is using air pressure to move pistons. Demian and David worked on mounting the compressor. It was a process because we had to get mounts made, then putting the mounts on and everything was a paint in the butt. Lots of putting things together and then taking them apart. But that's ok! It looks great and is extremely stable.

Programming team spent a lot of time today just kind of waiting for those upgrades to get finished. Once Murphy was up and driving, there was some time spent debugging and working on different small projects. Like getting the SMART Dashboard up and running and working on the semi-autonomous.

Carson spent pretty much all of today working on a poster for the Massman Open House. One of our awesome sponsors, Massman, is a packaging machine manufacturer. They are opening up their shop to the public on October 23 and we will be a part of it. We will have our robots out and showing them off both to Massman employees and the public.

Kacy had driver's training so she showed up late but still got a lot done. She emailed out our Elden's Grocery Bagging Poster. She also started an email for our Kick-Off workshops. This is a brand new experience for the team so we want the organization to go well at the beginning.

Jesse and some of the other team members made some fixes to the mascot. After all of our public appearances recently, Mechatron was a little worse for wear. Jesse and the others also started coming up with some ideas for how to remake the legs of Mechatron.

Taylor worked on cleaning up more of the Robot Room. With all the activities we have been up to, it got a little messy. That is definitely a goal to have for the year: keep the Robot Room clean and organized more.

Gabe showed up a little bit later. He partnered up with Jesse and started talking and working on some more Chairman's Award activities. They discussed a general layout for the video and some ideas about how to start shooting. They also watched some more examples on YouTube.

After getting everything put together, we tested out driving Murphy and shooting basketballs. It all worked!!! Yay! It was really fun to see Murphy moving around and picking up basketballs again. So proud of all the work and upgrades we have done so far.

There was crazy energy today because of all the newbies and pretty much everyone being in attendance. It was AWESOME!

After working so hard, some of the team members used a 12 sided die to decide where to eat dinner. THen played Rock Band for a while. What a great day.