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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Trying New Things - Food Shelf and School Board

As usual, we are busy, busy, busy! Team 3313 has been mixing in some last minute events and presentations right before Christmas Break and Kickoff. We helped out at a food shelf and presented to our School Board.

After school yesterday, we had our normal FTC meeting. At that point we split up. Some of the team members started working on programming and working on the FTC robot. Alicia, Brooklyn, Jeremy, Bethany, and Kacy went to the Douglas County Food Shelf. They helped sort a ton of donated food into categories. At the food shelf, people can come in and shop for food so sorting the donated food helps everyone out. It was super fun! Our team hasn't done anything like that before but we definitely will in the future!!

Once that group was done with the food shelf, everyone came back together. Bryce, Kacy, Alicia, Brooklyn, Karl, and Bydlon got something to eat at Culvers. Then they headed to the Alexandria School Board Meeting.

This was yet another first for our team. See, we have never presented to the School Board before. We were a little nervous at the beginning of the presentation. But as we went along, we got much better. The Board was very smiley which is a great sign. We had two reasons for presenting to the School Board: one, we wanted to make sure they knew about us, and two, we want to make more connections in our community.

It's always scary to try new things. However, that's the only way anything can grow. We are almost ready for Kickoff!

Monday, December 16, 2013

New Sponsor - Tri-State Manufacturers' Association

We have a new sponsor for our Robotics Program!

They are called the Tri-State Manufacturers' Association. They have generously donated $2000 to our robotics program!

From their website:
Tri-State Manufacturers’ Association assists manufacturing related companies by providing advocacy, education, networking, and programs to enhance the success of members and their communities.
You should totally check out their website. They do a lot of really great work on promoting manufacturing all across our region.

We are going to accept their check at their annual meeting this January at Massman Automation Designs!


Team 3313 had a meeting last week! We're finally updating about it now.

The main (well, only) project we worked on was the Chairman's Executive Summary. We completed a first draft! We realize FIRST has not actually released the full Awards Section of the Rulebook. However, if you log into STIMS (the student login thing for FRC), the executive summary questions and essay questions are on there. So we are basing our work off of that for now. If the rules change, we will adjust accordingly. 

For those not aware, last week we took our team timeline of events (EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE ONE OF THESE) and divided them up into Essay, Speech, and the 12 Executive Summary Questions. This prevents repeats across the three platforms (except the essential stuff). 

Today, we took the super long lists under each Executive Summary Question and narrowed them down to 2 or 3 things. Finally, we assigned each question to a person to type up. That way, each person was in charge of one 500 character section. We will edit them in the future but simply typing up SOMETHING is the first (and possibly most difficult) step. 

Working on the Chairman's Award as a large group has been a great experience so far. It's informational for rookies and makes the whole team invested in the product (the same should be applied to the robot). Plus, we don't have a lot of robot activities to do right now so this is keeping everyone busy. 

It's super, duper funny to think of where we are at in the Chairman's process this year, compared to last year. At this time last year, we had barely done anything. We completed our first Executive Summary Draft with about 1 week left in Build Season. It's just awesome to see how far we've come in such a short time. 

We're getting philosophical here but our team really enjoys the Chairman's Award. It's the main thing that separates FIRST from just about every other competition (of any kind). FIRST is about building robots and exposing young people to Engineering and Science but even more than that, it's about changing the culture, community by community, to make science fun, interesting, and desirable. Chairman's rewards and pushes teams to keep doing more. 

Anyway, in our meeting this week, we're going to start making an outline and formatting the essay. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Splish Splash Training

FRC Team 3313 Mechatronics traveled down to the Twin Cities this past Saturday for SPLASH Training. To be more accurate, Bydlon, Kacy, Mitch, and Andrew traveled down. Not exactly our whole team, but it was still fun!

As always, they left at around 5am. SPLASH Training is a great training opportunity put on by GOFIRST, a student organization of former FIRST Robotics members at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. It happens at the STSS building on the U of M campus.

Bydlon and Kacy did a presentation on Social Media. It went really well!! Social media is a huge part of our team (Twitter, YouTube, and Tumblr are our favorites) so it's really great to share our knowledge and tips with others. Part of Dean's homework was to make FIRST loud in our communities and all over the world. Social media is a great way to do that. Besides, sharing ideas is what makes everybody better.

The best part of the day, however, was seeing old FIRST Robotics friends and making new ones. There were lots of rural teams there for our team to chat with. We also talked to many other teams that we are now familiar with like Knightkrawler, King Tec, and Green Machine.

Bydlon was a part of the MNFIRST Q&A session. There was great discussion for rookie teams and newer teams during the Q&A. Kacy learned some new information at the Chairman's session (as did Bydlon). Mitch and Andrew went to some fantastic robot-centered presentations.

All in all, it was an awesome day. Thank you so much to GOFIRST and all of the presenters for all their hard work!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Field Trip and Chairman's Party!

FRC Team 3313 kind of thought we didn't have a lot to do today. But, as it turns out, we got A TON accomplished. It was super awesome.

First, we discussed who was going with to Splash Training this coming Saturday at the U of M Twin CIties. Splash training is a great opportunity for teams to get together and learn about all aspects of FIRST.  Some of the topics include building a robot, wiring it up, programming it, running a successful teams, and loads more. Here's a copy of the schedule if you're interested. 

After that, we took a Team 3313 field trip to our apparel supply store. This time, the entire team went with. It was an experience... But definitely a good one! We picked out and finalized the design of our team track jackets. The track jackets are going to be our big team apparel item (along with team t-shirts, like always). Anyway, they're going to rock.

Speaking of going to rock, our Chairman's work really got off the ground today. It was a total team effort (we had 9 people working... NINE!). 

First, we talked about what the Chairman's Award includes (for newbies). Then, we printed out our Team Timeline and cut out each event. PS: A team timeline is like, the best idea ever. We sorted the events into the 7 different Chairman's categories. Then, we sorted the events out into what we wanted to talk about in each of the three main pillars: essay, speech, and executive summary.

Out next steps? Start making a real outline for the speech and essay, then start on a rough draft. 

It's insane how far we've come on Chairman's work since last year. At this time last year, we were still learning what Chairman's was!!! 

Keep being awesome everyone. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Minne Mini Wrap-Up

FRC Team 3313 Mechatronics competed at the Minne Mini-Regional last Saturday. It was a super fun day filled with friends, robots, and laughs.

The drive team of Bryce, Brooklyn, Tyler, and Bydlon did a good job with the robot! We even got some matches of 3 runs (collecting 4 Frisbees). We had never done that in a match before!! Team 3313 finished qualifying with a record of 4-3 and in 13th place. Some other highlights: Tyler making a 5 point Frisbee throw (!!), Bryce's incredible driving skills, and our cheering section being the loudest section.

Alliance selection was next. As a complete surprise, Lacey asked Bryce to the JHS Sadie Hawkins Dance during Alliance Selection. It was super funny! We got selected by the 3rd seeded alliance of 2232 Deus Ex Machina, 879 Thunder Robotics, and 2846 FireBears. Unfortunately, the sheer scoring power of 2175 and 2169 beat our alliance in the semi finals.

FRC Team 3313 did not go home empty handed however. We won the "Team Inspiration" Award. That award goes out to the team with the most spirit, consist image, and positive attitude. That basically describes us. Ha!

Before matches started, our team did some presentations on Social Media, Scouting, Design Process, and Pneumatics. All presenters did a wonderful job!

Andrew and Carson designed a new banner for our pit or our cheering section. It was basically a test but it looked AWESOME (see picture above). Now that we know it works, we can make new banners for our pit for each competition.

Other random highlights: eating lunch crammed in a locker bay, Tyler trying to ask Bryce to Sadie Hawkins Dance, random little kids asking to see our mascot, having a bunch of people in the Sprinter Van while we waited for the keys, basically, just being with our team.

For real though, the best part of the Minne Mini was seeing other FIRST Robotics teams that we have gotten to know well in the last year. Teams like 3184 Blaze, 2175 The Fighting Calculators, 2052 KnightKrawler, 3883 Data Bits, 2512 Daredevils, 2846 FireBears, and A TON of other people. FIRST Robotics is so cool because it's robots competing but it's even more cool because of the community that is formed.

This particular competition was bittersweet. It was the last time we will ever compete with our Frisbee shooting robot so that's sad. But, it will be nice to have a new robot and new game and new strategy and new everything. We have competed with our Frisbee shooting robot on 6 different occasions now. It's time for a fresh start. The competitions this coming year are going to be super tough. We cannot wait for both the Duluth Regionals and Twin Cities Regionals.

Thank you so much to FRC Team 2169 King Tec for hosting such a great event and all the volunteers who helped make it happen. It was a great learning experience and a lot of fun.

See you at Kickoff!!!!!!!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Minne-Regional!! New Sponsors!!

We are competing in the Minne Regional tomorrow!

It's at Prior Lake High School on the south side of the Twin Cities. Matches will start at around 10am and wrap up by around 4pm.

We are doing 4 presentations. Check them out below.

Design Process for Smaller Teams

Scouting for Smaller Teams



In other EXCITING news...

We got 2 new sponsors!!

Youth As Resources is a group of 11th grade students at Jefferson High School who work together to disperse grant money to organizations that are making a positive difference in the Alexandria community. It's a great group of students and we are so proud that they decided to sponsor us this year. Thank you Youth As Resources!

HPS Rental is a rental company in Alexandria, MN. They set up tents, portable bathrooms, tables, chairs, and many other things for outdoor events all around West Central MN. Bryce, one of our team captains, has worked there for many years (his uncles own the business). They are sponsoring Team 3313 this year by allowing us to use their box truck and also pay for gas for travel. Thank you so much to HPS Rental!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities Presentation

On November 14, 2013, FRC Team 3313 Mechatronics participated at a meeting with city council members from all across the state. This meeting discussed the difficulties that being in rural Minnesota, or Greater Minnesota, presented. We received this opportunity by presenting to our city council last spring.

At the Coalition of Greater Minnesota, our team gave a presentation describing what FIRST is, what we do in our community, and how we work with our sponsors. We had our robot there along with our FTC team's robot. At first, we had some trouble getting our robot to start working, but after Bryce tried turning the laptop off and back on it worked perfectly!

Partway through the speech, we brought up how we, a rural Minnesota team, struggles to attend multiple events that are located in the Twin Cities. City Council members have the same problem. Afterwards, we received special thanks from City Council member, Owen Miller from Ward Three, for relating this issue to rural teams, and not just council members.

We were featured in the Echo Press, our local newspaper.

Just Bucket

Minne Regional is Saturday!!

In preparation, we were busy finalizing all of our plans.

We got our scouting binders all set up. It's all kind of old hat for us (this is our 5 competitions with Ultimate Ascent robots).

Our biggest challenge in competition has been Frisbees being sticky in our bucket. So we tried a bunch of different stuff to make it better. We tried putting a zip tie in there. We tried taking the bucket off and making something. We decided on just putting a plastic triangle at the back. Hopefully it helps. If it doesn't, that's ok.

We worked on more Chairman's ideas. We have a theme idea and are starting to talk about more specific ideas like what to include in each piece, what to wear during the speech, judge's handouts and lots of other things. It's exciting!!

Lastly, we talked about Minne Regional speeches. We are doing 4 different talks!

Social Media - Lacey and Bydlon
Design Process for Smaller Teams - Bydlon
Pneumatics - Bryce and Tyler
Scouting - Kacy and Carson

Come check us out!!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Quick FTC Wrap-Up (with great news)

Our FTC Team 7799 Autobotics IS GOING TO STATE!!! WOOOOOO!

They won the Judge's Award. They also placed 3rd in the Inspire Award (kind of like Chairman's for FRC). Because of that, they qualified to go to the State tournament on February 22, 2014.

In qualifying, their record ended up being 4-2. Team 7799 finished qualifying in 5th place. They were graciously picked by FTC Team 4140 Fish In The Boat. Unfortunately, Murphy's Law (everything that can go wrong, will) struck them during the semifinals and they lost in that round. 

But it was a great day. The cheering section was HUGE and the purple bandanas were awesome (even without the team t-shirts). 

So proud of all the 7799 team members, high school mentors, and adult mentors. Unreal. 

Friday, November 15, 2013


FTC 7799 Autobotics has finished their robot!! Helping a rookie team is humbling (and frustrating and exciting and a million other things). But the 7th and 8th graders on the team are going to do awesome!

They compete tomorrow (!!) at Eagan High School from 10:30am to 4pm. Come and check out some exciting robotics action!

You can see their robot here: YouTube Video Link

Check out the pictures below. We will update throughout the day tomorrow hopefully.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Crunch Time for FTC

Our FRC team was pretty busy today with lots of little projects. A big one was helping the FTC team keep progressing. We also worked on the Business Plan and our 5 gallon bucket sticking issue.

We taped off a 12' by 12' area for our FTC team to practice on. Their competition is in a week and a half!!! Yikes!!

Their robot is coming together. Check out their progress at their blog.

Bryce worked on the 5 gallon bucket for our robot from last year. We keep having problems with frisbees getting stuck in there. He tried using a little bit smaller bucket. Unfortunately, it's a little bit too small and the Frisbees don't slide down it. But, it was a good idea!

One big item we've been helping the FTC team with is their mascot. Lacey can be seen painting the helmet above. Heidi, Tyler, Molly, and Mitch helped make the body. It's like a mini version of our mascot. It's so cute!

Brooklyn kept working on the Business Plan. She finished up the history section! Each season section gets longer and longer and longer, the older our team gets and the more we do.

Kacy worked on wrapping up our fundraising plan. It looks great! We'll start handing it out to businesses in December (too busy now).

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Slow, Relaxing Day (with Business Plan Update)

Tuesday was an incredibly slow, relaxing day for FRC Team 3313 Mechatronics.

After starting the FTC team and running the meetings and preparing for that competition and keeping people busy and stressing and UGH, it was really nice to just have a meeting where we all hung out and took a deep breath. We love FTC because of new challenges and teaching younger students, but it can be a tad bit stressful as a rookie team. The work that was being done at the FRC meeting on Tuesday was happening at a slower pace which was a nice change.

One piece of work being done was that Bydlon and Brooklyn (with input from Lacey, Kacy, and Heidi) started writing the Business Plan. They started writing the Executive Summary portion. A change up from the past: we are writing the Executive Summary with bullet points instead of with paragraphs. Obviously, we're leaving a lot of bullet points open for activities that happen in the future. Also, the rules for the Business Plan aren't released yet so we are keeping our options open. However, sometimes the hardest part is just getting started so it's good to have something to go on. Also, the conversations about the Business Plan all sound similar to our Chairman's conversations from a couple weeks ago. It's helping to get us focused.

Andrew also did some really great work on team posters. They're really creative and fun! We'll start making them at the next meeting.

There may have been a couple other smaller projects that the author is forgetting... But that was about it.

Independent of the meeting, Kacy worked on the Fundraising Plan for our team. It's from the fundraising toolkit on the FIRST website. Renee Becker and a ton of other people worked really hard to create some resources for teams to increase their funding and outreach. You should really check it out. 

Upcoming November Events: 
FTC Tournament, City Council Convention at Arrowwood Resort, Rotary Club Meeting, Sertoma Club Meeting, and Minne-Regional!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Bagging groceries has kind of turned into a business for FRC Team 3313 Mechatronics. We did our second grocery bagging fundraiser on Saturday. This time we bagged groceries at Pete's County Market.

When the bagging began, Bydlon was sweating because no team members had shown up yet. Luckily, they were just a little late and got right to work.

We had a donation bucket set up right by the doors to leave. Team members would bag groceries for patrons and then talk to them about our team.

It was tiring work but we ended up raising around $750. That's fantastic!!

Fundraisers like this, where we put ourselves out in the community are awesome because more people become aware of us (and FIRST) and we get to raise money for our team too!!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Busy Thursday Part 2 - FTC Meeting

Thursday was a very busy day for our team. We had an FTC Meeting, not a lot on our FRC agenda, and a Tour of Manufacturing at Aagard. You can read part 1 (our trip to Aagard) here.

While some of the team members were at Aagard, the rest of the team was hanging out at the school with the FTC team.

  • Andrew, Heidi, and Lacey helped with the mascot design (the head is almost done!). 
  • Kacy and Jade got caught up on Chairman's news and other topics. 
  • Brock, Brooklyn, and Owen made a spreadsheet of teams attending our Regionals (used for scouting later). 
  • Bydlon and Jared helped the FTC robot design keep moving (we mounted electronics). 
  • Karl and Thomas were with the programmers (figuring out autonomous). We should be driving again on Monday (hopefully).
The meeting was ok but a little... hectic? Having both teams meeting at the same time can be awesome when everyone has tasks and is busy working (like a couple weeks ago). However, when some people are not busy working, it can turn into a distraction catastrophe. Middle schoolers already have a hard time focusing (not their fault) and then you add in high schoolers running around and it's just not a good situation. But! We still got a lot accomplished and it's still a learning process for everyone.

Busy Thursday Part 1 - Aagard

Thursday was a little bit of a crazy day for FRC Team 3313 Mechatronics. We had FTC Team 7799 meeting at the same time, there was not a lot on our FRC agenda to accomplish, and we had a last minute tour of manufacturing at one of our awesome sponsors, Aagard. This blog entry is about the Aagard trip.

We had to split our resources so, initially, Bryce, Kacy, Jade, and Mitch went to Aagard, one of our great sponsors.  Throughout last week, manufacturing companies all over MN opened up their doors for the public to tour. Luckily, Aagard found room for our robot in their plant so we could be a part of their tours. It was a last minute development so we had to kind of scramble but it was fun! And, obviously, we enjoyed our time there. 

We talked to tour groups as they walked through the plant. After our normal meeting ended, Bryce, Mitch, Karl, Lacey, and Brooklyn were with the robot out on the plant floor. Kacy, Heidi, and Jade were out in the lunchroom where tour groups had refreshments and talked about the outreach and other things our team does. 

Once most of the tours were done, Brad Vandertuin (super duper awesome Head of Engineers at Aagard) gave our team members a tour. It was great to see the assembly line (packaging machine) in action and to see the whole process of designing and building!

Obviously, a big THANK YOU goes out to Aagard for allowing us to be apart of their tour.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Superior Competition

BIG NEWS! We are registered for the Lake Superior Regional in Duluth, MN! This is the first year we are going to 2 Regionals as a team. It is going to be hectic and crazy and fun and stressful and awesome and yeah. To add to the stress, our team is going to present Chairman's at both Regionals as well as compete with our robot. Let's hope we survive. Haha!

Also, Lake Superior has a ton of competition this year!! KingTec 2169, Green Machine 1816, Knightkrawler 2052, DataBits 3883, Blaze 3184, Stampede 3630, Sir Lancer Bots 2977, Nordic Storm 3018, Apple Corps 93, and a ton of other teams. It's going to be a Twitter EXTRAVAGANZA!! We are so pumped!

You can see the whole list here. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ramping It Up

The big team task today was to build the ramp, pull up bar, and balance boards for our FTC team, 7799 Autobotics. You can catch up on their work at their blog. This year's game, Block Party, tasks teams with doing a pull up or raising a flag or picking up blocks and putting them in bins. It's really cool!

Our ramp isn't perfect (meaning it's not great) but it will at least help us test out ideas from here on out. We still need to get steel tubing to finish it off but we are close!

Up in the computer lab, Karl and Thomas found a bunch of really great FTC videos to give us ideas. Look at them here! Andrew also wrote an AWESOME blog post about MRI which you should check out here.

Heidi and Lacey bought more black paint to finish re-painting our mascot swords (and for our FTC mascot and about a million other things).

All in all, it was a good day of FRC and FTC synergy.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Minnesota Robotics Invitational 2013

Hey Guys! It's Andrew Roth here. On Saturday October 12th, we all woke up really early (around 5A.M.) to pack up into our vehicles to head down to the Minnesota Robotics Invitation (MRI) which is similar to a scrimmage for football but, instead of football games, there were epic robots battles.

On the way up to MRI, we had to stop at a gas station because neither the truck nor the sprinter van had cruse control on it. I would  imagine your foot would get tired from all of that time on the freeway. I don't think those gas station cashiers would ever expect a big group of 16 kids to just flood into their store at 5:45A.M.  When we finally got to MRI after about a two and a half hour drive, the team got set up.

It was amazing for a first timer like me to see how many different types of teams there were. Robots of all shapes and sizes and designs. Evidently, our robot was the first to compete. I also found it crazy how excited the teams got in the stands, it was almost like a miniature Superbowl, even though it was only an invitational. There were many different ways the robot competes, some might block others from making a shot or getting frisbees so that other people on the alliance can score points. Then there are shooters. The ones who will run back and forth getting Frisbees and shooting them, or maybe just sit at the loading station and shoot them across the field. Other robots were climbers who climb the pyramid to score points, and ones who just drop the Frisbees in the lower one point slot. So many combinations!!

Our team had 2 different drive teams: Bryce, Mitch, and Molly were the A team. Brock, Owen, and Brooklyn were the B team. They alternated matches. We also had team members in charge of scouting, batteries, pit scouting, pictures, and the mascot.

When all the pre-elimination games were over the announcers asked all the teams captains to step on to the field our team was at #13 on the list. Then they asked for the top 4 teams to select their 2 partners and their 1 backup team just in-case something goes wrong. they chose their first partners, not us. They chose their second partners, not us. Now they were choosing the 1st back up team it was alliance 2's pick, not us. Alliance 3, not us. Alliance 4, not us.We were sitting in the stands sweating bullets. It was all up to alliance 1. The alliance leader said "Team 3313" and we started cheering like no other. Backup team is better than not in it at all. No matter the reason, we made it to playoffs. Now all we could do was cheer.

I guess our cheering worked because our alliance won the first round by a landslide. I guess it was mostly thanks to one team who could shoot across the field with almost 100% accuracy. In the end our alliance took first place and we didn't even have to do anything.

Even if we didn't get picked for the playoffs I still would have had a ton of fun because I got to meet a lot of awesome new people from around the state of Minnesota. Now I can say that I have a better understanding of what a robotics competition is. I would have to say all and all it was a really fun day for everybody.

Signing off,

Andrew Roth