FRC Kickoff marks the beginning of the design and build season. Teams have the opportunity to network, compare notes, share ideas, make friends, find mentoring teams, and gear up for the exciting competition season. Kickoff is the first time that FRC teams learn the design challenge that they’ll navigate for the next 12+ weeks. Teams pick up their new control systems and prepare for the wild season ahead.
This year New York City FIRST will host two Kickoff locations:
On September 26 & 27th at the New York Hall of Science you’ll be able to take it all in with over 200 presentations across 8 stages on topics such as fashion and wearables, robotics, Young Makers, health science and technologies, drones, 3D printing, makerspaces, education, electronics, and much more. There will be something for everyone as we’ve carefully selected content for Makers of all ages, interests, and skill levels.
NYC FIRST® Hosts 15th Annual Robotics Competition at Javits Center Leading Up to World Championship Tournament
More than 160 teams of New York tri-state and international students (ages 6-18) and their handmade robots will be put to the test at the NYC FIRST® 15th Annual Robotics NYC Regional Competition & Expo – the highly-anticipated three-day event where students will vie for the chance to move on to the FIRST World Championship Tournament in St. Louis. The stakes are much higher this year as several defending champions will return to compete for their coveted titles.
Inventor and FIRST® Founder Dean Kamen launched the 2015 FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC®) season on January 3, 2015 with the Kickoff of a new robotics game called RECYCLE RUSHSM. Nearly 75,000 high-school students on approximately 3,000 teams at 107 venues around the globe joined the 2015 Kickoff via live Comcast NBCUniversal broadcast.
RECYCLE RUSHSM is a recycling-themed game played by two Alliances of three robots each. Robots score points by stacking totes on scoring platforms, capping those stacks with recycling containers, and properly disposing of pool noodles, representing litter. In keeping with the recycling theme of the game, all game pieces used are reusable or recyclable by teams in their home locations or by FIRST at the end of the season.
It was pretty easy to pick up on The RoHawks’ excitement on Stop Build Day. There were no panicked rushing and pressure for fixing the last piece. Instead, it was a night of lively discussion, fun practice and tasty pizza.
When I joined, the team was talking about the robot’s name. Assistant Principal, Lisa Siegmann, explained this was, “in part to honor the founding teacher at HCHS who scraped together the very first RoHawks team four years ago, math teacher Ms. Carolyn Mayadas who passed away this fall.” After this sweet tribute, I talked to the students about their season.
“What’s really awesome is it’s actually a complete robot. Everything about it works. Everything about it can play the game,” said co-captain Axel. Rachel, their other captain noted, “in the past we’ve been nowhere near this point with the robot on stop build day and working until midnight, tweaking things and not feeling fully confident about them.”
What made this year so different? The captains explained how the team implemented a much more structured process with the build. “Generally we say this works and start making it. The year we dedicated a couple of weeks to making prototypes,” said Axel. After the team continued to evaluate and improve until they had a final prototype a few weeks back. Then starting from scratch, they made a concerted process to CAD and document what they did.
The team also followed a KISS – Keep It Simple Students – approach. Rachel said, “I feel really confident about this robot because it’s all the things that a robot should be. It’s simple. The design has only two mechanisms that work really nicely together.”
Noah, a senior in his 3rd year at FIRST and the lead programmer, echoed this point. “Last year we tried to do too much. This year was about making everything simple and elegant. We about talked about driving and there was more thought ahead of time about how to we want to set this up for the driver.” One great benefit of this approach is a sonar mechanism they have built on the robot. Using color coded lights, the driver will be able to tell the best place to shoot.
The season did bring some hiccups. No one can escape the heavy snow storms. Douglas a sophomore in his second year on the team, informed me how they lost practices and had to cancel their scrimmage at Herbert H. Lehman High School in the Bronx. “Because of the snow, trucks couldn’t come with the materials we needed. We cancelled and lost important time to for planning for the assist element.” The team also encountered an issue with the compression of the robots arms, but was able to resolve it.
Perhaps what’s made this all possible is the team itself. Noah admitted, “organization is one of the hardest things to get” but he explained how the team structured itself into mini-teams. “Everybody’s on a team – C&C team, assembly team, etc.” It allowed team members to focus on getting good at something they’re interested in.
Rachel also observed although this is the first year with no founding members that everyone stepped up to their roles. “We’ve spent the past five years as a team evolving and developing new skills and technologies. I feel like this year we’ve really become one of the leading veteran teams and we have a really good robot to show for it.”
Photographs provided by Miles Shebar, yearbook photographer at Hunter High School
In January, the team, led by mentor from City College, was evaluating different models for the general shape of the robot. Students weighing in on opinions, drawing up mockups on the whiteboard to explain ideas. There are nods of approval, friendly debates, and even snippets of a student’s soundtrack app to applaud strong points.
Mark, a sophomore, commented, “this year we’re mostly controlling everything from the ideas and concepts about what we’re going to do and make it work to perform”.
The plan of action? Nazario explained, “this week, we are just focusing on ideas that will apply to the competition. Next week we start the build.”
The students will then separate into groups, with each student having two tasks, like being a programmer or drawing things on CAD. “That way everyone can learn about different fields of engineering and get a lot of work done too,” Nazario pointed out.
Talking about their design, Sam, a junior who’s second year in FRC, says, “I think it will work. There were other designs. I preferred, but it’s more about execution, doing things well and on time. You can’t do too many things at once. If you don’t allow time for debugging then there’s a very good chance that your robot is not going to work at Javits.”
While busy with design, it’s clear that the team is excited to start the build and learning more about robotics. Nazario, “It’s really fun and easy to fit in while nerding out.” Andres, as senior, said, “I’m looking forward to seeing what the other designs the other teams are going to do. I’m hyped up to see what’s it’s gonna be like this 3rd time around.” Sam later confirms, “I think it’s going to be a pretty good year for the team – overall it’s most important that we enjoy it.”
Kickoff: Snowstorm Prevents Travel, but Not Gracious Professionalism – Advice from Mentors
Snowstorm Hercules prevented travel for some teams to make it to kickoff. Randolph Robotics, located in Hamilton Heights was one of them. Their coach, Suman Sabastin, asked them to stay home and read materials for their homework. Luckily, she was able to rely on her alumni from Brooklyn Tech Knights (#334), where she used to coach, to help to pick up supplies for the Randolph Robotics (#4108) team. I got a chance to talk with these alumni at the Kickoff:
How did this come together?
David D. – Always blame it on Suman (jokingly). No, she’s great at keeping everybody up to date on things. You know it was great to come and help out.
What do you think of this year’s challenge?
Anniella M. – It looks pretty interesting. It gives a lot of opportunities for rookie teams or teams that don’t have as much help, as a some of the veteran teams or teams with more school backing, mentors or sponsorships. It’s a little easy for both sets or types of the team to be a good shot at a having a competition and really making it.
Any advice to new current teams?
Christian G. – Definitely stick with it. There’s going to be a lot of long hours and work, but you’re going to gain a skillset that you can’t find anywhere else. You’re going to enter college with technical skills and then years from then you’re going to enter the work field and you’re going to have so much more programming and machine shop and technical skill.
Any observations for the Randolph Robotics?
Anniella M. – We’ll have to see when we brainstorm and how put it together. The best thing is KISS (Keep It Simple Students) and stick with it. And as Suman tends to push toward, make sure we have a model, that it can work and that it has a stamp of approval before we build.