Thursday, January 13, 2011

What needs done?

Well, our Christmas/New Year's break is over and we are getting back into the swing of Robotics... So what needs done in order for us to get to St. Louis? Well our to do list goes something like this...

- clean and dust off field setup table - lots of dust bunnies and other miscellany have collected since Dec. 4th! CHECK!
- recover programming prior to competition day changes - love those backups!
- take video of robot completing the missions for blog
- brainstorm how to accomplish the two missions we skipped for the Dec. 4th competition
- streamline existing programming to find time to add those two missions - when everything goes well, we only have 15 seconds left right now.
- continue to work on robot consistency and repeatability
- dust off our presentation and revamp it to provide judges with more information on our research idea
- take video of our presentation skit for blog
- and probably a hundred other things we haven't thought of yet!

While I type this I'm hearing shouts of excitement and success as they run the robot for the first time since December 4th in our basement ( I on purpose made them take a break to decompress after the Competition ). All four of them came running up shouting "Perfect Run!!!!! Perfect Run!!!! The First Time!!!!" with lots of high fives and amazement! When will they get it that they really are great at this! They shouldn't be so surprised!

Well, Coach Mama off to take a video of the robot for the blog. CHECK!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What is FLL?

So you might be asking what is FLL? Well FLL stands for FIRST LEGO League and FIRST stands for For Inspiriation and Recognistion of Science and Tehcnology. 

The Vision of FIRST:
"To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders."
Dean Kamen, Founder of FIRST

And why LEGO? Well, LEGOs are FUN!!! All kids love LEGOs! What better medium to get kids excited about Science and Technology!

FLL is a great program that fosters and builds self-confidence and gets the children hooked on science and technology! The best part is their emphasis on teamwork and creating an atmosphere of "Gracious Professionalism" which is the Core Value of FIRST.

Please see the link to FIRST in our Favorite Links for more information on this great program! There are Teams all over the US - if you are interested, we could try and hook you up with an existing Team or mentor you to start your own!

Competition Day!

WOW! There is absolutely nothing to compare to Competition Day! See the Time Lapse Video of the 2008 Competition Day here - this will give you a flavor of the "organized chaos" of Game Day!

Even though we are ready as a Team, our nerves are running high and we are anxious to begin! We arrived at the National Robotics Institute at 7:30am and went to our Pit table to set up our laptop and get organized. We ran some practice runs with our Robot on the practice tables and waited for our first official Robot run at 9:43am. And those two hours FLEW! The whole day FLEW! Here is what our schedule looked like:

9:43am - 1st Robot run - scored 230 (at home we have scored as high as 365 out of 400)
9:50 - Meet with Software Judges
10:00 - Research Presentation to Judges
10:40 - Meet with Hardware Judges
11:43 - 2nd Robot run - scored 275
We used this time to eat lunch, do practice runs to correct the missions our robot wasn't getting, and we had 2nd interviews with both the Software Judges and the Hardware Judges (good sign they liked our Robot and our programming!)
1:40pm - 3rd Robot run - scored 305
4pm - Awards Ceremony

We were very excited when they awarded BOTS4HIM! 2nd Place in Robot Performance (how the Robot performed the Missions) and amazingly, to our shock and surprise, we were awarded the Overall Champion's Award - 1st Place overall! The first time a Rookie team has ever won this high honor in the history of the Pittsburgh Competition. WOW!!!! With this award comes an invitation to the World Festival in St. Louis, MO April 27th - 30th! We were so jazzed! What an honor!

Review of BOTS4HIM! Season

August 20th, 2010 - We received the field kit (the mat and the legos that build the field components). It took us a few days to build all of the field components. see overview of the field:

September 4th, 2010 - The Official Release date of the 2010 Body Forward Challenge - this is when we learned exactly what we needed to make the robot do to the various components on the field or the Robot Missions. see the Missions link:

Now we had 13 weeks to design our robot and program it to complete the Field Missions. But that is only half of what we needed to accomplish! There is also a research project and presentation that you need to identify and work on as a Team.

The Team quickly decided on a Forklift design for the Robot and started to program and accomplish the missions. The biggest problem we ran into was consistency in Robot performance. We found that using starting jigs and aligning with points out on the field was the best way to improve our Robot consistency and performance.

Part of the Field setup was a pill dispenser - which immediately got us thinking about our Great-Grandma and how she had a hard time keeping track of all of her medications and how her daughter and son worried about her getting them. Our Great-Grandma wanted so badly to remain independent and we as a Team brainstormed how technology could have helped her remain independent.

So we came up with a prototype elderly robot companion and dubbed it RememberBot - it would help with medicine dispensing, reminding when to take medicine, when to eat, when to go to appointments, as well as monitoring the health of the elderly person and engaging the elderly person with a slideshow of family members, memory jogging games and puzzles, and keep them connected to family members and physicians.

We made up a little skit to present this information to the Judges on Competition Day.

December 4th, 2010 - FLL Competition Day, Pittsburgh, PA at CMUs National Robotics Institute - details in next blog entry!