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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Short update for today!

The almighty team camera was left at the shop tonight. NOOOOO! So no pictures or videos tonight.
Quick update: Robot looks like a sweet pie covered in awesome sauce with a garnish of cool things.
We kicked 3 different shots from about 20’ out and made each of them which is… better than we expected and we love it. The coolest part is that we moved around to pick up the ball and spin in circles in between shots. Accuracy is fun.
Autonomous was started which lead to the hammer breaking which lead to us having major feels. But no worries, we will up and running again soon. Probs not till Tuesday though. Insert sad face.
Chairman’s started interviews for the Chairman’s Video. It's a good thing everyone loves the camera so much. 

We Need Reinforcement

Today's not the busiest day in the build season, but we are getting the monotonous, sadly important jobs done. Build team is straightening up the wires, along with reinforcing the towers.  It's not the most interesting of work, but it's a must-do.

Speaking of must-do's, programming is working on another one. Strobe lights. We have begun decorating the robot, and programming team created a way to get our lights to, you guessed it, strobe. If we do this right, this is gonna be a robot to remember.

PR isn't doing much today. With some main writers of the group gone, there aren't as many hands on deck as usual. They wrote the blog and did an entry on PMMC, thanking them for their huge donation.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

PMMC Saves the Day!

We owe a huge thank you to PMMC (Packaging Machine Manufacturers Consortium), a local organization who sponsors us. The PMMC consists of Aagard, Massman, Douglas Machine, Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission, and Alexandria Technical and Community College. The other day, they gave us a huge donation of over $5,000, to help us with the expenses of robots. THANK YOU!!!

PMMC has sponsored us since the team was founded back in 2009. What's so different about them is
that they are the most local organization sponsoring us. They're here in Alexandria, and that helps us to maintain a good relationship with them.

Massman is a great example of this. One of the engineers comes and mentors the team and every other year, they send four people to the Pack Expo in Chicago to learn and visit. Another example is Douglas Machine. Not only does one of the team members parents work there but he has been an integral part of mentoring the team this year. They also invited the entire team to their annual company picnic. As for Aagard,  they actually offered a job to one of the teams builders for this coming year and let me be a part of their Tour of Manufacturing. The AAEDC has been a huge part of incorporating businesses into our new high school and connecting teachers with business leaders in the community. They also hold a small business luncheon in May and let us show off during it. Alex Tech has done lots of machining for us in the past and 2 of our recent graduates are students there.

All and all, PMMC does so SO much to help us, and the expand FIRST Robotics and STEM in our community. They're kind of the best.

Any questions on PMMC? Go to http://www.alexandriapmmc.com/

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Wild Robot Appeared!

Facebook Photo Album
YouTube Video

You know in Pokemon when you're walking through the field and a wild Pokemon shows up? Not a Rattata or that raccoon thing, those stink. Like a legendary Pokemon or something. Our robot kind of seemed to do that today. We worked hard but, all of a sudden, it rose up out of the ground and surprised us. Then we immediately fell in love with it (like the first time I saw Articuno). Plus, it kind of looks like Krabby (a pokemon).

We knew what we needed to do today:

  • Get the electrical board all wired up
  • Attach it and wire the motors 
  • Mount the towers

It's crazy when a group of (awesome) people have objectives and know how to meet them and then just DO IT.

A group of team members tackled the electrical board first. As discussed yesterday, we used white board material for electrical board. We also mounted the Talons using velcro (lighter, easy change out) and zip ties to mount the PD (ditto). We messed up the PD wiring at first because we were working too fast. But we figured it out eventually.

Then our engineering mentor, Dan from Douglas Machine, showed up with some new fun parts for us. We riveted the electrical board to the drive train. Simultaneously, we mounted the towers and got those all wired up. One tower will house the information systems (DSC and cRio). The other tower will hold the pneumatics.

Finally, at the end of the night, we finished all the wiring and programming changes. We were able to pick up a ball and drive around a little.

Chairman's team started making outlines of the speech (at least talking out the major points). Programming is still working on vision processing so we can find the "hot goal" during Auto.

More testing and the hammer mounting starts tomorrow. Stay tuned for more videos this week as we test.

Monday, January 27, 2014

So... How About That Weather?

Day 22 and 24

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stops us from building robots."

Alright, we copied that from the US Postal Service but you get the idea!!

We had a snow (EXTREMELY COLD) day at our school today. Basically, all winter, its been crazy. 

Saturday, we played around with robot theming ideas like glitter paint for the hammer. We also finished off the grippers... They are going to be saweeeeeet! Haha. That's pic right there.

Monday, we got our new parts!! Here's a tweet of our progress.
We really took our time cutting the new drive base. The last thing we wanted was for it to be a 1/2 inch too wide or something. We also bought the new AndyMark belts for the square robot base. The drop center will help our a lot. We did some drive tests with our prototype robot on carpet. It wasn't great.

Cutting the base and putting it together took a lot of the meeting. We also mounted the grippers. They're going to be pretty sweet. Cannot wait to show you all when it's finished and wired up.

One thing mentioned in the tweet: the white board. We are using it for our electrical board. It's unorthodox but we like how rigid it is. We also like how cheap it is. But most of all, we like that we can write notes like where each Talon goes and the PWM it is connected to. We'll also write funny notes to each other on it. Haha.

Oh and that's a picture of what our robot is going to look like.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Beginning of the End

Day 21
Facebook Photo Album

Another big update coming from Team 3313! Today, we begin, the end! Of our prototype stage, anyways.

You know those awesome towers we got? (The big metal triangle-y things,) Well, they're going to be a part of the new robot, and they'll help mount parts like the Talons, pneumatics, and cRio. While we won't be able to mount everything today (considering not all of the parts have shipped), we will be able to make immense progress.

We started the process of theming the final robot. Hammer and grippers are going to be something to see...

All of our parts are coming on Monday. Next week is going to kick butt.

If there was one word to describe what PR's doing, anyone would be able to guess it. Chairman's. Today, they're busy adding content to the essay, to make it more informative, descriptive, and personalized. As if that's not enough, they're also attempting to choose some handouts for the competition. They've had a little luck, but that sort of SWAG is hard to come by. We'll have pens, wristbands, and a special one that we won't share till they're finished.

Programming is back to work attempting to figure out vision systems. It's slow work, and confusing at that, but they say they'll be done within a few days. The point of the vision system is to show  the robot certain goals that score more in autonomous mode. Those goals are in different colors, so the robot should be able to detect it.

The most memorable part of the day was probably Karl's hair being straightened. It looked so different!! He usually has a very curly hair style so seeing it straightened was crazy! 


Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Two Towers

Day 20
Facebook Photo Album

Exciting news! The towers for our robot came in today!!! WEEEE! HUGE THANK YOU to Douglas Machine and our mentor, Dan Floding, for making them happen.

The towers' main purpose is to support the swinging hammer. However, we are also going to use them to hold the pneumatics and electronics. Storing that stuff in the towers will make for easy access if we need to make changes.

Joe, Tyler, and Mitch worked on making a new, skinnier hammer. We will have two different designs to test once our final robot is up and running. They both look AWESOME.

Build team was a little upset today, for they found out that they had to build their grippers to extend less than 20 inches from the robot, so now they have to rebuild theirs to fit the rule book. However, rebuilding them will let us repaint them and make some other REALLY COOL design choices.

As for programming, they aren't doing much today. They researched how to operate the vision system, but when that got boring, they kicked back and got to some team bonding. Since there's nothing else to do, why not?

PR spent the day going through the Chairmans award and color coding  the FIRST guidelines. Fun, right? We also wrote the blog. I know, pretty surprising.

We also had team members put another protective paint layer on the middle school mascot, to help it last longer.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sledgehammer (with GIFS!)

Yeah so we could watch those gifs for about 5 hours straight...

Shoutout to FRC 2175 Fighting Calculators for giving us the idea of making GIFs. Will try to do more that in the future!

Instead of watching that for 5 hours though, we worked the past couple days on our next steps!

Truth be told, we're moving slowly because we are waiting on new parts to come in. However! We are still doing some great stuff.

Like building the new hammer! It's going to be made out of wood - 2x4s and 4x4s. We're going to paint it and... Look, just stay tuned. This new hammer is quite a bit more intense.

We also started painting the grippers and thinking of cool ways to integrate them into a robot theme (LEDs are involved...).

We met with a business to start making a new banner. Our color scheme and general team branding rules have changed in 3 years.

Our track jacket money was due today. Those should be done in about 2 weeks. CANNOT WAIT!

T-shirts for this year have proceeded along nicely. They are going to be sweeeeeeeeet! Athletic, running type of shirts with a new design on the front.

We touched up the FRC mascot and put polyurethane on the FTC one to keep it safe. The driver station got repainted to cover some bumps and bruises. The wheel wells to hold the robot got taken off so we can hold the new robot.

Yeah, just a lot of stuff going on! Getting ready for competitions and building robots and just working hard!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Pizza Pizza!

Day 15
Facebook Photo Album

Our team did a fundraiser on Sunday night where we partnered up with a local Pizza Ranch to have a night where we received 10% of the profits. In exchange for the money, our team bussed tables. This was ok because it also gave us an opportunity to talk to the public about our team and FIRST.

It was a great night! On the plus side, it was WAAAAY busier than last year. There was even a team of middle school hockey players who stopped by which was great.

So yeah, great night filled with pizza, laughs, and money!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Changing Gears

Day 14

Our team met on Saturday for a couple hours. Now that we've got a prototype robot that we really like. see the video here, we've got to start working on what our next steps are.

We wrote up a Purchase Order for a bunch of new parts including a new Kit of Parts chassis, Talon motor controllers, and some other miscellaneous parts. This will allow us to keep our prototype robot and then build our final design parallel to it.

We are waiting for Sonic Shifters to come back in stock at AndyMark and then we will order them. We've never done shifters before and we think they'll come in handy during the open field competition this year.

We also started CADing up some of our design. We are so lucky to have engineering and manufacturing support from local companies like Massman Automation Designs and Douglas Machine. They already helped us manufacture parts for our FTC Team, 7799 Autobotics. So yeah, we're lucky.

The only other activity we did on Saturday was clean up the shop. Prototyping can be super quick and dirty. Now that we are pretty much done with that aspect, we needed to reorganize and regroup.

Friday, January 17, 2014


Day 13
Hello fellow robot followers!
Facebook Photo Album

Today, we create... ROBO-HISTORY! For on this momentous day, we have scored a legitimate, one-hundred percent legal, HIGH-FIELD GOAL!!  I know what you're thinking. " How ever is this possible? I thought you couldn't figure out how to lift the boot to hit the ball!?" Well, random reader, that's a great question! We found a way to lift the boot to not only be able to kick the ball, but also send it flying! We received some sweet new aluminum grippers that are going on the robot, so now we can kick the ball, and we are able to catch it. Now, we're finally starting to get somewhere.

Programming team has been helping out with a major accomplishment of timing the boot swings so they don't stop too short. They also made the gripper motors go up at 100% speed and go down at 50% speed. That helps us aim! Our team finds it important to actually hit the ball. Which, you have to admit, makes sense.

PR is assisting the cause by covering the news part of it. We're down there, getting the facts, taking the pictures and getting the news. Do you know why? We do it for you. So that you can keep tabs, get your daily robot gossip, and burn a few minutes in the fascinating world of Team 3313 Mechatronics. So go ahead! Keep your tabs and get your gossip! That is what we're here for. (That and writing all awards and making posters and a ton of other stuff.)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thank Goodness for YouTube

Day 12
Facebook Photo Album

So we spent about a week working on a a weighted boot idea. We tried to make it simple by using gravity and weight to make the boot fall down and strike the ball. We got the idea from FRC Team 2337 and their 2008 robot.

However, we ran into a snag... You have to bring the boot up to make it fall down (DUH). We just couldn't think of any ideas that would be able to do it. The force of the boot was just too much.

This was a set back. Kind of a major one since we had put so much work into the boot idea. BUT! We would not be stopped.

We watched A TON of YouTube videos (shoutout to teams who share!) and came up with two really good ideas.

1) A kicker that is direct mounted to a ToughBox gearbox with 2 CIMs. This is a really awesome idea that we got from FRC Team 4611. We feel kind of dumb for never thinking of that possibility. We've done a little bit of prototyping with it and it seems to work!! You can check out the YouTube video.

2) A pneumatic catapult which we have seen a bunch of teams do. It sort of works right now. We really need another piston and we need to monkey around with different piston mounting positions.

We're going to continue with both prototypes for now and then make a decision in a few days!

The Tortoise did beat the Hare, right?

From Tuesday afternoon...

Another slow one here in the robot work shop, with everyone on the team left with a lot of questions not enough answers. And no, I'm not being all deep and emotional. I'm talking about build team.

For the last few days, build team has been stuck on the same problem. How to get the boot to go up once hitting the ball. They have everything else thought of. They can keep the boot up if someone manually raises it, along with being able to hit it off the hard-stop with a brick attached to a motor. So,they are making progress... sort of.

Something amazing happened to programming! They actually have something to do! They need to add a motor controller to be able to drop the boot. As soon as we start building an actual robot, though, they are gonna be swamped with work.

PR isn't doing much today. Other than updating the blog, we made posters for our fundraiser this Sunday, busing tables at pizza ranch, and hung them around the school. There isn't much else to do, ever since we turned in our Chairman's Award draft. As soon as we get it back, though, editing is all we're going to be able to think about.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Keep Plugging Away

Yesterday was kind of a slower day for Team 3313. Some organizational tasks were taken care of but, initially, not much was happening. 
We had a slow day because we've kind of come to a stand still. 

Chairman's team is done with the first draft so we sent them out for revisions and are just waiting for those to get back to us. 

However, we still accomplished some big goals today. We made some posters for a Pizza Ranch fundraiser this Sunday. We reserved hotels for our Duluth Regional competition. Our clothing choices have been made for this year. All black track jackets will be optional and we are getting black and white t-shirts with a new kind of design on the front. They're going to be awesome!! 

The robot team came to a stand still because we're just not sure what our next course of action is. The grippers are SWEET and work really well. The boot is a great, innovative idea but... We don't know how to pull it up to kick it. That's kind of a major thing (IT'S A REALLY MAJOR THING). 

Our engineering mentors came up with a few ideas we could try out. Spring, a cam gear, a ratcheting gear, moving the weight, and other ideas were brainstormed. 

After eating dinner, Bryce pushed to try out one of them. We moved the weights on to a sliding mechanism using a pneumatic piston. This makes it much easier to raise the boot. But then it made it harder to kick it. Sooooo. We're not really sure what our next step is. 

Our plan for now is to have one group start making a catapult idea and another group keep working on the boot. We'll see where we are at on each in a couple days and make a decision at that time.