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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

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Trying To Keep Busy (with Chairman's News)

Today was a slower day for FRC Team 3313 Mechatronics. This is mostly due to our first big event, MRI, happening last weekend. We were definitely searching for work.

Bryce presented to the members about Pneumatics. Everyone on the team should have at least a working knowledge of how our robot works and this is one step in that direction. After presenting, Bryce worked with a number of team members on a "control system on a board". They're building an electrical and pneumatic board that we will be able to use once Build Season rolls around (in 80 days!!) and we start prototyping.

Other team members painted our bucket again to try and prevent more Frisbee sticking issues. We also worked on updating the mascot. It gets a big workout any time we go any where so it needs constant maintenance. There was more hot gluing and we started repainting the swords.

The biggest news, however, was on the Chairman's front. We haven't started writing anything but we did start preliminary discussions on where the team is at. Things like social media, FTC, mentors, Hub Teams, fundraisers, and other topics were discussed as strengths and weaknesses. We brainstormed hub team activities and started drafting a coach's letter. Our most exciting news was coming up with a fun, creative, very "3313-ish" speech theme idea. It's all preliminary but it was a GREAT discussion.

Expect lots of MRI coverage this week: at least 2 videos and a lengthy blog post.

Oh! And Owen's mom brought Bydlon dinner (a tradition that was started last year). It's a long and weird story. Ask us some time.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Last Thursday, we had our first meeting of FRC and FTC at the same time. It was really exciting and a little crazy!

The FRC students worked on a lot of different tasks including putting a new (aluminum) spacer on our wheel. Shout out to our mentor, Jonah, for making it at the Tech College. We wanted the aluminum spacer because, at the State Fair competition, we busted a wheel and our plastic spacer basically disintegrated. 

We also got in some last minute practice and decided on our drive teams for the Minnesota Robotics Invitational which was Saturday. We made some new match scouting sheets. We found another driver to get everyone down to the competition as well. This was a very stressful situation that we were glad to arrange.

There was a lot of activity up in the computer lab. Karl and Thomas were assisting the FTC kids with their programming. Bryce helped the FTC kids get a chassis together and they started building an arm and a dispenser for practice. Kacy, Heidi, and Lacey (along with Sam from FTC) got them a Twitter @FTC7799 and a blog. Be sure to follow them and check out the blog

Bydlon, the head coach of both teams, was really worried about having a joint meeting but it literally could not have gone better. All the team members were working together and getting so much accomplished!! 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Practice, practice and more practice!

We accomplished a lot in the 3 hours we had available. A bunch of students practiced driving and we formed our drive team for our first off-season competition. While the public relations (PR) team updated our team members page with profile pictures. Go check it out! The PR team also began our fundraising plan for this year, it covered where to go and what were are going to do at each event. It sounds like they were coming up with some good ideas for this year!

Down in the shop they made some pieces for the FTC ramp and the scoring boxes they received. The FTC team is another robotics team, but it is within the middle school. Alexandria's FTC team was started this year by our FRC team. The team already has their game picked out for the year. Their building season is currently ongoing and it seems they are going to start building their robot very soon. Mr. Bydlon is the head coach for their team, and he is juggling both the FTC team and the FRC team!

Heidi worked on fixing the Velcro for the bumpers of our robot for the competition this weekend. At the end of the meeting, Lacey dropped off our thank-you card at Elden's Fresh Foods, which all of our team members signed. This was to show our appreciation for letting us have a fundraiser last Saturday and raising money for building our robot.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

First Fundraiser of the Year

FIRST Team 3313 Mechatronics went to Elden's Fresh Foods for a fundraiser. We all met at the back of Jefferson early in the morning and we bagged groceries from 10 am to 6 pm. It was a rather boisterous day. We expected to only raise $300 through free-will donation in our small town of Alexandria. However, we ended up raising over $800!

While it may have been a very long day Bryce, Lacey, Kacy, and Mr. Bydlon were at Elden's bagging the entire time. Many other team members showed up throughout the day and worked hard. In fact, one of our alumni, Brandon Thoennes, made an appearance at Elden's and showed the team support.

As a team, we made some enjoyable memories. Jade went outside and rode around on a cart scooter in the parking lot. Lacey and Molly walked around the store dressed as our team mascot, Mechatron. Both danced in the parking lot to attract more attention to the store.

Many other team members were a huge help, such as, Karl, Alex, David, Jared, Owen, Carson, Mitch, Tyler, and Jeremy.

Take a look at our video from Elden's Fresh Foods!

Friday, October 4, 2013

We Haven't Scared Them Away Yet

The small amount of meetings we have had so far this year have been really exciting because all of the sophomores and new seniors keep coming back. We haven't scared them away yet!

The meeting on Thursday started with Bydlon giving a quick tutorial on the social media that our team does. He showed off the blog, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. He also went over how to use Google Drive and Gmail for those that weren't familiar.

Carson was up next. He did a slide show about "Preparing for a Competition". It's really informative and great for rookies to see before offseason competitions and Regionals/Districts. It covers pit design, scouting, team spirit, schedule, and lots of pictures.
Check it out here!

After all of that listening, everyone was ready for some action.

Lacey, Tyler, Molly, and Bryce fixed up our robot cart. The front right wheel was not securely bolted so it would roll sideways. It was not a good situation. So they drilled through the cart and added a longer bolt. They also added a place to have an extension cable. Our laptop battery is really bad so we need electricity whenever possible.

We set up the practice field and gave everyone a chance to drive and shoot Frisbees. All of the team members also practiced setting the robot up for Autonomous. It was really fun to watch the rookies learning the controls and improve quickly.

At Minnesota Robotics Invitational in about a week, we will have 3 drive teams. Bryce will be on the #1 team, and the other two teams will be full of sophomores. They will take turns driving in matches.

Unfortunately, one of the sophomores, Jon, made the robot get into a little accident with the pyramid. This made our blocker for directing Frisbees into our ramp crumble. However, that piece was already broken so it was good thing to fix it. Also, it gave us a chance to fix our wheel spacers and the hinges holding the shooter board to the drive base. Soooo, it wasn't great that we had a driving accident, but the fixes we made were necessary and the accident pushed us to make them. The robot is in much better shape now than it was.

The computer lab was also very busy at the meeting. Kacy was doing a great job of directing activities up there.

One of our teams big goals for this year is making our blog a better resource and more useful. Brooklyn and Alicia continued editing and adding to the Team Member profiles. Check out the updates here. Heidi took profile pictures so you can expect to see those on the blog next week. Mitch and Tyler made a Parent FAQ sheet. You can visit that here.

Jade worked on finding more sponsor opportunities in our community. We started an FTC team this year so finding more funding is definitely a priority. A bunch of other people compiled our PR pit scouting information from our Regional last year (a little late but that's ok). You can see the compiled answers here. We also made binders for pit scouting at MRI and match scouting sheets. You can see those at this link.

What a busy day!! It's incredible how much we can all accomplish in one meeting!