Tuesday, May 3, 2011

We're Home!

Well, what a whirlwind trip! Everything was so fast and furious! Because we didn't have computer access like we thought, we couldn't update everyday... so here is a run-down of what happened...

Arrived in St. Louis around noon Wednesday, 4/27. Checked into hotel and went to the America's Center to set up pit and attend coach's meeting. Pits opened at 2pm, registration took an hour, coach's meeting at 3pm. So while I went to the hour and a half long Coach's meeting, the kids set up the pit - they did a great job, I only helped the last 1/2 hour and the pits closed at 5pm. We went for dinner and swam at the hotel and went to bed early.

Thurs. 4/28 - We had our official robot practice runs in the Edward Jones Dome at 8:55 and 11am (you could practice on practice tables near the pits anytime). I think we only got in the 200s for those runs... lots of little things to fine tune - we were expecting that... Then our presentations for research, robot, and core values began, back to back 12:10, 12:30, 12:50. When we saw that schedule we thought we'd have 20 minutes with each judge... but in reality we only had about 5-7 minutes with each set of judges, so that threw the kids for a loop... also, the judges (3 sitting at a table) were all very somber and formal (very different from the Pittsburgh competition where the judges were having fun and engaging the kids during the judging). And one other thing... when presenting the robot at Pittsburgh you had at least 10 minutes to present your software (how you programmed your robot) and 10 minutes to present your hardware (how you designed and built your robot) - but at St. Louis, you only had 5-7 minutes to present both! So, all in all the kids did pretty well, considering the drastic change in how the judging was carried out - they were quite discouraged afterwards though... they had so much more they wanted to show the judges...

Fri. 4/29 - Official Robot Run Day... also the judges mentioned they might come around to the pits between 10-12pm. Our Robot runs were scheduled 10:35, 12:20, and 2:30pm. Nicely spaced. The kids spent some time that morning running the robot... it was getting 400 point runs 5 out of 6 times... even when the kids tried it on different tables... side comment for future teams... the table variations were atrocious! The mats were placed poorly, lots of waves in the mats, and even some field models built improperly. The competition tables weren't much better! - judges leaning on tables, making them move, mats placed wrong or out of square... There was nothing you could do about that - even teams that got a 400 point official run one time, would get a 200 point run the next, all due to table variations. So, I reminded the children that they worked equally hard on their robot, that it WAS capable of 400 point runs, and they were winners no matter what the end score was! So our end scores were, 245, 300, and 250. A little disappointing but the excitement and just being a part of the whole World Festival made up for that!

In between practicing the robot and presentations, I would send the children to visit other pits/teams - that was a REALLY cool part of the World Festival experience! Most teams from other countries brought items unique to their team and country - foods, spices, crafts, gifts, candy, etc. Where else could you visit with people from China, Malaysia, Peru, Colombia, Germany, Egypt, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and France all together in a couple days? The children had so much fun meeting the other teams and sharing their team buttons and other little gifts we brought...

Oh yeah, the judges did come to our pit on Friday - different judges! And they were cool judges! They were much more like the judges at Pittsburgh... they laughed with the kids, the kids readily engaged with them and were proud to show them all of the hard work they did on the robot and their research - it renewed their positive attitude about the whole judging process - so I was thankful for that!!!

Sat. 4/30 - We spent the morning at the City Museum which is an eclectic, home grown, 3 story playground - a combination of tree forts, castles, caves, and everything in between magical for kids to experience and explore. The kids had a blast there. Then we went for the Awards Ceremony - every kid on the 85 teams involved got a beautiful medallion and we got to cheer for our favorite teams as they won specific awards for robot or research. A lot of great teams and great memories. We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Arch - also an amazing experience!

Here are some of the children's comments...

we had alot of fun going to st Louis and coming back but the most fun was doing the competition - actually running the robot in the matches - Caleb

the competition was really fun, looking around, meeting other teams and seeing their pits and robots, and we really had a lot of fun when we ran the robot in the football stadium - we were on the big screen! - Jacob

My favorite part was seeing all the different robots, both in FLL, and in FTC and FRC. (Proof of creativity!)
I was disappointed with the judging sessions, more so the first ones. We got less than half the time for Hardware and Software judging than we did in Pittsburgh, when we were supposed to have double! (It's kinda hard to show the results of seven months of work in seven minutes. I could spend half an hour explaining my custom motor program, which took me a month to write!) The "callback" judges were much better; although they were supposed to be robot judges, most of the time they wanted to talk about the core values. I am thankful that I at least got to show off my custom motor program to the guys at RE2.
At the competition tables, you can definitely hear them turn the music up higher and higher between rounds! I was disappointed at the competition tables themselves, our first formal run, we missed forty points because one of the mission models was not built correctly.
I think that a lot of teams make it harder on themselves and the team on the opposite table be bumping it so much in their cheering. Overall, it was fun, but disappointing in some ways, in others it was much more than I had thought.
FIRST is looking to start a new branch: FIRST Arial Robotics. They had eight teams preforming demonstrations at the World Festival. Most of the teams were funded by collages, some by big companies like Microsoft. I don't see why they would want to fund these teams, as all they are doing is building big, remote controlled helicopters! It fun to watch, but like FRC and FTC, most, if not all of the game is remote controlled. I would rather do something like ION's Mini Urban Challenge. - James

It was all great! But I think the best part was meeting all the different teams from all over the world! It was very exiting to be able to talk with someone that was Chinese! I became friends with one of the girls from the Egypt team! It was also fun to watch how the other teams made their robots, and what nifty ideas they had come up with! The button exchange was really fun also, we came home with a lot of different buttons! The robot competition was really fun, but they had the music up so loud, my ears rang for days afterward! It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and an overall privilege to be able to go! -Kayla

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

We're in St. Louis!

Well, after a long night of driving, we made it! We arrived in St. Louis this morning.  This afternoon we set up our "pit" (our team's "headquarters" at the venue), and began preparing for tomorrow. We had just a brief time this afternoon to check out some of the other teams. Kayla got a kick out of meeting the team from Egypt!

Tomorrow morning we will have 2 practice runs with the robot.  These 2 runs do not count toward the official scoring, but are done with the judges, and are timed events.  So, in other words, we better make them count!  Tomorrow we will be evaluated by the judges for our oral presentation / research.  In addition we will be speaking to the judges about our software and robot design.  So, it will be a full day!

We hope to post an update tomorrow evening,  Till then, GO BOTS4HIM!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Packing, Packing, and MORE PACKING!!!

Whew! What a day! We have the car almost all packed. Still a little more shopping to do... We are taking our Grandparent's Honda CR-V, (Thank you Grandpa Lutz!) so we have quite a bit of packing space, but it is still a bit tight.

We are in very good shape as far as being prepared for the competition and judging and we can't wait to get there! Electrifying!!! Check back as we will be doing daily blog posts from the hotel at the end of the day!

With High-Fives and Admiration, BOTS4HIM!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

We got our travelling money!!!!

WoW! Thank you to all our supporter/sponsors who really came through and blessed our Team with an abundance of travelling monies! We will have no troubles or worries about expenses. What a blessing and relief! Thanks also to Grandma and Grandpa Lutz who are lending us a reliable vehicle to travel in!

Back to practice practice practice! Cracking the whip (just kidding!) - they are having fun making BOTS4HIM buttons to share with other teams, putting finishing touches on their pit decorations and making last minute shopping lists. One of the most fun things they are preparing are the Minute to Win It games they are going to set up for other teams to enjoy and participate in - good ways to interact with other teams and get to know them! Lots of G.P. to go around! (gracious professionalism = a very important FLL core value!)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

7 DAYS to GO!!!!

WOW! The countdown is on! See the ticker James added to the website - the excitement is mounting... the robot runs are getting very smooth, their research presentation is perfect, they have been putting a lot of work into their boards... 1) for their research presentation - RememberBot 2) for their Pittsburgh/Team/Sponsor board and 3) for their FLL Core Values board. This was a last minute requirement that was added by FLL to help the children talk about the Core Values of FLL: gracious professionalism, discovery, teamwork, respect, sharing ideas, and most of all FUN! These are all done and they are working on practicing presenting them to the judges as well as presenting the Robot Design and Software to the judges.

What's left to do??? Practice, practice, practice, celebrate Easter, pack. That's about it!

I must admit, as a homeschooling mom, part of me looks at all they are doing and the credits and hours for school are just getting wracked up like crazy!!! Speech requirements? No problem! Science credits? Tons of them! Meeting and greeting teams from around the world? Presenting to the judges? Let's see how many requirements that meets... way too many to count!!! I'm just so thankful for this opportunity for them - yes! an opportunity of a lifetime!!! Thanks to all of you who had a hand in helping them go!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What's left to do...

All of these blog posts have been floating around in my head for the past few weeks... So this week we are turning to the Presentation/Skit for our Research project. We did not change anything here except revamping the presentation board and practicing the skit lines and such. All is well there.

There is another requirement that FIRST slipped in on us at the 11th hour (slight complaint here)... a board that addresses FLL Core Values (i.e. gracious professionalism, teamwork, discovery, initiative, etc.) and how our team has experienced them and learned more about them. So the kids need to scramble and make a board to show these things... they need to do some brainstorming and get really creative here! Fast!

The kids have been brainstorming their pit decorations; a theme, things to share with other teams, games, stress busters, etc. - lots of great ideas - should be a lot of fun to decorate and be part of the energy and excitement down in the FLL pits!!! Electrifying!!!!!!!

I've also been researching some things to see around St. Louis to give the kids a break from the intenseness of the Competition; visiting the Arch, St. Louis Zoo, etc.

We would like to take the week off before Easter to enjoy family and to observe the Passion week. So it seems like we are on track to do that... Then it will be off to St. Louis!

Visit to RE^2 - One of our Sponsors!

Two Saturdays ago, we were invited to tour RE^2 (RE Squared - Robot Engineering Excellence) http://www.resquared.com/ and see all the cool things they are doing with Robots. WOW!!!! What an experience!!! They had three or four of their robotics engineers come in on a Saturday and give us quite an eye opening show of many of their project robots. We even got to see this robot in real life!!! http://thearmrobot.com/ We really appreciated them taking the time on a Saturday to share with us!!!

Then we got to show off our robot and even the RE^2 Robotics Engineers thought it was cool! The VP of Operations, Doug Peters, had his team, the Penngineers, come too and we were able to meet them and share about our robot and programming with a future promise of some mentoring for next season.

It was a wonderful day, lots of great inspiration for future robotics engineers! The kids were on Robotics cloud 9 for the rest of the weekend and on into the next week!

Flurry of Activity!!!

Wow! I haven't posted for a month... that does not mean in any way that the kids haven't been busy! They have been flying on reworking the robot's missions. And what success they have been having! They have completed all the missions (even the tissue and pill cup that they skipped in December), the robot is running very reliably, the time is under 2 1/2 minutes and they are working on refining their in base activities (swapping attachments and such) in between runs to get those smooth and consistent. So basically the robot is ready for Competition!!! Wahoo! Here we come St. Louis!!!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

We've got our $1000 Entry Fee!

WAHOO!!!! Boy does it feel good to know that the $1000 entry fee is covered! The kids were doing the happy dance! We were beginning to sweat it a little as the Entry Fee due date was looming - March 10th! Now traveling expenses need to begin to appear and we know they will because these kids are destined to go to Missouri - they are so excited!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

135 Points in 12 seconds!

Well, my future robotic engineers are down in the basement right now completing missions in a completely new order to make the robot more efficient. So they have accomplished 135 points in just 12 seconds! WOW! Much more efficient than the old run! They keep this up, they will be twiddling their thumbs while the rest of the 2 and 1/2 minutes tick off the clock! Still quite a bit of work to go, but they are doing great! Lots of new and great ideas and brainstorming happening! Watch out St Louis, Missouri! Team BOTS4HIM is making tracks and getting ready!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Happy Robot-ing!

Wow! the kids have really taken my challenge and run with it - find the time to add the last two missions! They have already combined two missions and have that working perfectly. They also are totally rerouting the robot so that the overall mission flow is smarter and more efficient. New modifications to the robot, more attachments, James is working on programs to ramp up and down the motors for smoother start/stops in order to maintain the repeatability of the robot. He is also tasked with writing the pseudo code for the tissue identification mission. Kayla, Jacob, and Caleb are on task for continuing to make the overall run more efficient. Teamwork in action! Lots of brainstorming and discussion, successes and failures, all great learning opportunities! Carry on BOTS4HIM!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Presentation Video - Kinda... and update...

Yes! We have the video of the presentation completed... but with technical difficulties. James' computer isn't wanting to format the video to get it online... so be patient we are working it... keep checking back...

On another front, we are brainstorming the order of our missions in order to find the time we need - to add the two missions we did not complete in the Pittsburgh competition.

Why didn't we complete those missions? Well, to make a long story short, we were a rookie team and I kept our goals somewhat challenging but achievable. We just kept adding missions as we went along. My main goal as a coach was for the kids to learn how to work as a team (being from the same family didn't make us an instant team! we did need to work at that!), to have fun and to spark a love of robotics (ie science and technology in disguise!).

Now, knowing how amazingly capable these kids are at their robotics I would have pushed them maybe a little harder and had them brainstorm how to accomplish all the missions from the start. But I didn't know that then!

So, we have a dilemma... the kids want to shoot for a 400 score (right now we get 365 on a perfect run). To get that perfect 400, they will have to dismantle the current run they have, reorganize it, find extra time, and add those two missed missions which most likely means making changes to the robot as well. Hmmm... tear apart what is working... what are we thinking? They're all saying YEAH! Let's go for it!

So, off we go to do just that! These kids are crazy! GO BOTS4HIM!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Whew! We're finally back!

Hello Everyone!

After various Team members being sick with a bad, bad, very bad, did I mention that it was really bad? respiratory sickness for the past few weeks, we are finally getting back to normal! Yeah!

Now we can make some forward progress towards St. Louis! We got the perfect run video taken and James is working on uploading it right now. So keep an eye out for that real soon. Also, check out the Tabs above "Our Project" and "Our Robot" - we'll be adding more to both of these over the next couple of weeks as well.

We have contacted several potential sponsors and hope to be encouraged with some responses soon.

An official great big BOTS4HIM! THANK YOU to those of you who have deposited some encouragement bucks in our Thermometer! God Bless You!

Keep checking back as we keep adding to the blog - next time a good look at what else we need to do...