Field trip: 2013 Central Valley FRC Regional

Fremont in the pit

We spent this past weekend in Madera, California at the 2013 Central Valley FRC Regional, a FIRST robotics competition. We went with Firebird Robotics Team 3501 from Fremont High School, who we are mentoring and sponsoring.

840 frisbee in the air

The challenge of this year’s game, entitled Ultimate Ascent was to build a robot that could compete to score points on a team with two other robots by shooting frisbees into goals and climbing a pyramid structure while defending against an opposing alliance of three robots.

James Bond with Oddjob

The Firebirds named their frisbee shooting robot “Oddjob” after the James Bond villain who throws his bowler hat with lethal results. One of the green-shirted safety advisors at the event was coincidentally named James Bond, and he was a good enough sport to allow us to take his picture with Oddjob.

840 decapitation warning

We ran into a robot from team 840 sponsored by our friends at Skallops which had a wonderfully appropriate warning sticker on the frisbee shooter reading “DANGER: DECAPITATION HAZARD.”

Mascot Group Photo

We’re relatively new to the world of FIRST, which can be almost cult-like, with participants identifying themselves by team number like a code word or secret handshake. A smaller number means a team that was established earlier. Over the last 20 or so years, the organization has managed to channel the enthusiasm of teenagers which is normally directed toward athletes and celebrities instead toward engineering, programming, and building. The teams are fiercely spirited, bringing their mascots and supporters to cheer them on at competitions.  It is truly incredible to see this much energy directed towards a science and engineering event.

3495 Mindcraft sign

Robots are awarded more points for goals scored during autonomous play, and the highly competitive field is steered toward collaboration and mutual assistance by the alliance aspect. The teams work hard to make sure that their robot will be an asset to any alliance in the hopes that even if they don’t rank highly enough in qualification rounds to be a team captain themselves, they’ll be chosen by one of the alliance captains and advance to the finals. They actively share tools and materials with the other teams, as any of the other robots could be on their alliance during a given match. Parts request announcements in the pits are filled almost as soon as they are announced, although when we heard “Team #### needs an FTL drive” over the PA, we could only laugh.

One of the more visible ways we were able to share was with our yellow gaffers tape, which team 3495 used to make their engraved sign stand out with their team color. We were the beneficiaries of parts, too, with another team generously sharing a metal shaft when one of ours bent during a match.

mascot working in the pit

The teams are typically student driven, with mentors playing an advisory role, supporting the students as they work through problems of design, mechanics, building, programming, and team dynamics. The students work incredibly hard to design and build the robot during just six weeks allowed as the “build season,” and then during the competitions fine-tune, fix, and improve their machine. Even the mascot works just as hard on the robot as everyone else.

3501, 3970, 2643

Through a combination of determination, hard work and luck, our team came out of the qualifying rounds with the top ranking, and then made it all the way to the final game of the elimination rounds, with their ally teams 3970 and 2643. However, our friends from team 840, along with allies 295 and 1678 bested us to win the finals, 2 matches to 1, earning a spot at the championships.

Besides strict competition, there are additional awards and honors are given at these events to recognize technical ingenuity, good design and spirit. Our team received the Judges award, which was summed up rather accurately by one team member as being the award for “general awesomeness.” Congratulations to all of the participating teams, every one of which pulled off building a robot that could play an incredibly challenging game! Our team is headed next to the Silicon Valley Regional event April 4-6, but there are events every week all over the world leading up to the championships April 24-27 in St. Louis. All events are free and open to the public, so get out and cheer on your local robots!

If you have a chance, find a way to mentor, sponsor, or otherwise volunteer to help out your local robot team or competition.  FIRST, and its several associated programs directed at younger students, are some of the best ways that we have to inspire youngsters to pursue careers in science and engineering.  And that’s something that benefits us all.

Robot Party & Trivia!

Robot Party @ Evil Mad Science

The ROBOT PARTY is Thursday (today!) at 8PM ET / 5PM PT! In addition to everyone showing off their robots, we will be doing some trivia tonight! Also giving away a couple of Evil Mad Science prizes: a Diavolino and a Larson Scanner! Perfect for evil robot brains… :)

If you have a robot, join the hangout on Google+ HERE! Be sure to leave a comment on one of the posts so we can add you to our circles for the party.

Thanks to the new Google+ Hangouts on Air feature being available to everyone, if it works out we won’t be streaming to ustream as the viewers will be able to watch it live on Google+!

What is the Robot Party?
The Robot Party is a weekly Google+ hangout that brings together robot builders from all over to share their robots, knowledge, and ask questions! It is for all age ranges, young or old, just bring your robot!

Hope to see ya at the Robot Party! ;)

Robot Party Extravaganza!

Robot Party Lets Make Robots Seeedstudio Evil Mad Science

The ROBOT PARTY is tomorrow (Thursday) at 8PM ET / 5PM PT! This is a very special edition broadcasted LIVE from Evil Mad Science that is celebrating the fantastic website LetsMakeRobots and their recent version 4 fundraiser! If you donated to their v4 fund before May 1st, then you were entered into a drawing to win 5 fabulous prizes from seeedstudio!

But the fun doesn’t stop there! How are we to determine who will win these prizes? With a robot of course! Read on more!

Continue reading

ROBOT PARTY (at Evil Mad Science) THURSDAY!

Erin “RobotGrrl” Kennedy is currently our artist in residence at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories.

Erin writes (via Google+):

“robotpartyrobotpartyrobotpartyrobotpartyrobotpartyrobotparty w00t w00t

Tomorrow (Thursday) is the Robot Party! This Robot Party is VERY SPECIAL because it is taking place at +Evil Mad Science!

They have tons of robots here, the biggest one is the shopbot. We might put the webcam on the shopbot and have it move around! +Lenore Edman & +Windell Oskay will also be around so you can ask them LOTS of questions!

:::

What is the Robot Party?
The Robot Party is a weekly Google+ hangout that brings together robot builders from all over to share their robots, knowledge, and ask questions! It is for all age ranges, young or old, just bring your robot!

To watch the Robot Party, go to the Robot Party page here:
http://robotgrrl.com/robotparty

To join the Robot Party with your robot, watch our Google+ page right here for the hangout! (Usually 5-10mins before showtime)

To see old photos of the Robot Party, check out the flickr collection here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/robotgrrl/collections/72157629489421269/

:::

Looking forward to hanging out with everyone again! We’ve heard from +Sean Lewis +Eaglesnest Robotics recently and they have been building up their +Christopher Robinson Tiny Tanks, so it will be really cool to see them!

Also since this is on the tail end of RoboGames and the Homebrew Robotics Group meeting, we may have new people!

SEE YOU AT THE ROBOT PARTY! Tell all your friends!”

National Robotics Week and Beyond

Gatorbotics

National Robotics Week is April 7-15 this year, and there are tons of activities happening to help you celebrate. Locally, Instructables is hosting a Robot Block Party at the Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco on April 9, and Stanford is hosting another on April 11. You can search the event listing for an event near you.

The FIRST robotics regional competitions are continuing this weekend, followed by district championships and championships. Many of the FIRST events are being webcast, so you don’t even have to leave your home to watch, although robotics events are way more fun in person.

All of those events will just be getting you warmed up for RoboGames in San Mateo April 20-22. RoboGames has a competition for almost every type of robot: combat robots, fire-fighters, LEGO bots, hockey bots, walking humanoids, soccer bots, sumo bots, and even androids that do kung-fu. They will also be having a symposium again this year, with speakers on a wide range of robotics related topics. You can get your advance tickets now.

Visiting the FIRST Robotics pits

We spent the day yesterday in the pits with the teams participating in the 2012 Silicon Valley Regional FIRST Competition and brought back a whole heap of pictures. Thursday is fix, check and test day at the regional competitions. Each robot has been sealed up since the end of the build season and the teams bring them out and get them certified for competition and run them through practice matches.

Gatorbotics

The pits were extremely busy for most of the day, getting the robots ready for their practice rounds and repairing them afterwards. Team Gatorbotics was one of several local all girls teams. There were teams present from Mexico, Brazil, and several US states.

Others are depending on you

Safety was emphasized at all times, and no one was allowed in the pits without safety glasses. Volunteers checked each team’s safety plan and made sure they had all the required safety equipment and information.

Robot

Some pits were more organized than others. Team 115, Monta Vista Robotics had a beautiful hinged tool cabinet and storage rack with interior lighting. Tools were loaned freely between teams, and whiteboards were used to keep track of loaner tools and practice match schedules.

Robot

Robots were made from all kinds of materials and with all kinds of tools. Waterjets, CNC routers, laser cutters, mills, lathes, bandsaws, drill presses, welders, soldering irons and every imaginable hand tool were used to shape plywood, steel, aluminum, PVC, polycarbonate, acrylic, and rubber. The Cheesy Poofs had some of their powder coated spare parts on display.

Mobile Machine Shop Operator

There was a mobile machine shop just outside the pit area. The teams could bring their materials over and have them machined to their specifications. The operator lamented that there aren’t enough volunteer machinists to help out with this service.

Robot

Some teams put a lot of effort into decorating their robots. When not in autonomous mode, the robots were controlled wirelessly through a D-link router, which was a popular place to put stickers.

Robot

The logo for the Space Cookies looked great on their router. They were another of the all-girl teams.

Practice Matches

Seeing the robots put through their paces in the practice matches was good fun. They’re competing Friday and Saturday at San Jose State University, so go and check them out! There are more regional competitions before the championships at the end of April, so check to see if there is one near you. You can also see many more pictures of the robots in our flickr set here.

ComBots Cup VI

ComBots Cup VI


This weekend is ComBots Cup VI at the San Mateo Expo center. This event is eloquently described over at Suicide Bots:

“Dozens of robots makers from all over the globe have cast common sense to the wind and scattered the contents of their bank accounts in sacrifice to The Robot Gods in order to bring you one amazing weekend of total mechanical ridiculousness in the form of ear-searing, heart-stopping, insurance-adjuster-apoplexy-causing Robot Combat!”

The event runs Saturday and Sunday from 2 pm to 7 pm and advance tickets are available here.


mini jack-o-lantern in eggbot


We’ll be running a few robots of our own (vs. eggs and pumpkins–not an entirely fair fight) and will be bringing robots and robot accessories for your last minute Halloween decorating needs. Hope to see you there!

In pictures: Maker Faire NY 2011

MFNY2011 - 007

The Yellow Drum Machine, above, finds and makes music with a glass beaker and an empty juice bottle: Just one of an amazing number of amazing things going on at Maker Faire NY this past weekend.

Trying to get a flavor of the whole fair(e), we’ve put over 250 other photos from Maker Faire into a slideshow (embedded above), or you can view the individual photos in this flickr set.

National Robotics Week

DSC_0857

It’s National Robotics Week, and for us that means RoboGames!

BarBot 2011 gave us just a taste of what is to come this weekend at the huge international robotics competition in San Mateo. We rounded up some video links of Drink Making Unit 2.0:

Lots of the BarBot partygoers posted photos to flickr too, including a huge set from Spaceman Sam and lots more from ekai, nicolecwongninavisshackmancoltairek0re, shifzr and amyr_81.

We’ll be at RoboGames all weekend, participating in the symposium and selling a few choice kits and components. So get your tickets now! If you’re not in the bay area check the National Robotics Week event listingsto find an event near you.

Photo from BarBot 2011 by Samuel Coniglio.

Fall Field Trips!

Tailgating for electronics guys

First up: the last Electronics Flea Market of the year is tomorrow, Saturday, October 9 in the morning at De Anza. We’ll be there, and if you’re anywhere near here, you should be, too!


RoboGames 2006

Coming up soon: Combots Cup V at the San Mateo Event Center on Saturday, October 23 and Sunday, October 24. Combots is the annual heavyweight robot combat championship.

“This event highlights the best combat robot teams in America and their 220 pound flame-throwing, blade-spinning, titanium shearing robots of destruction! Whether you’re a sports fan or techno geek, ComBots puts on the best robot events in the world! If you missed seeing fighting robots at Maker Faire this year, or are longing for RoboGames, here’s your chance to see them again.”

We’re thrilled to announce that ComBots is offering EMSL readers a 20% discount on ticket prices (adults normally $20, kids $15). Coupon is valid for advance ticket purchases until Oct 20th. Buy tickets here and use the coupon code EMSL-1337 for your discount when you check-out!

We’ll be there all day on Saturday, so come say hi!


Pumpkin?

That same weekend: East Bay Mini-Maker Faire is on Sunday, October 24 at the Park Day School in Oakland. We’ll be bringing our Egg-Bots and showing off a few of their Halloween related applications.

We hope to see you there!

Robogames 2006 photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid under cc-by-nc license.