The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Archive for the 'Titan Robotics Club' Category

TRC in Atlanta @ First International Championship Event 2009

Posted by Deliverator on 26th April 2009

The TRC and I went to Atlanta for the FIRST Robotics International Championship Event. We didn’t win anything, but had fun. Here are the pictures. If you have TRC pictures from the event, let me know so I can add them to my TRC Media Archive.


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Galleries Back Up (sorta)

Posted by Deliverator on 24th March 2008

I took some time this evening to reinstall Gallery. A large number of sub-galleries had some level of corruption, and although I could have restored many of them to working order, the degree of time needed to do so was more than I was willing to accommodate. So, I am starting out fresh. I have virtually all the images contained in my original gallery, but naming and organization will change somewhat. Due to Silverfir’s limited bandwidth and my being too lazy to physically visit the server, it will likely take a few weeks to get all the pictures up again. If I am feeling particularly bored some time, I may go back through all my blog entries and re-link to the new image urls. Going forward, Silverfir now has a backup drive, of which I intend to make frequent use.

The first gallery to go up is of pictures from the 2008 Seattle FIRST Robotics Competition.

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2008 Seattle FIRST Regional – Saturday

Posted by Deliverator on 22nd March 2008

TRC won 2 matches and lost one this morning. One loss and one win happened without us showing up (something I had feared). Getting the new mechanism working and getting the robot reinspected proved a longer process than the students counted on. We showed up for the third match though and played well, although the new shooting mechanism remained disabled for the rest of the tournament. The new dislodger worked quite well, however. We finished the qualifying match seeded 11th of 30 someodd teams. Because several of the top ranked teams chose each other, we ended up as alliance captain #8. We picked teams 955 and 2147 for our alliance partners. Lunch is finished and playoffs are beginning in a few minutes. More later.

Update: The TRC went on to win one match against the number #1 ranked seed, tie another and then lose the final two to get eliminated from the quarter-finals. In an echo of Portland, one of our partners suffered a catastrophic breakdown and couldn’t continue, so we called in a sub, which ended up being team 753. The replaced team, team 955, stayed on the field with us for the rest of the matches and was obviously lending a hand tweaking robots between matches. Thanks for being great sports 955! All in all, I am very happy with how the season went. Never before in my experience have the students been as directly involved in all aspects of club operations and the building of the robot. We finished strong enough at two different regional competitions to be an alliance captain. The drive team played some awfully scrappy matches, making good use of the robot they had, vs the robot they wanted. The team made an extremely gutsy decision to completely redesign the robot between the Portland and Seattle regionals and then worked methodically towards building their lightweight (24.9 pounds!) functional design. In 20 hours plus time in between matches in Tacoma, the TRC built nearly a completely new robot. I am extremely pleased at the teamwork displayed in the pits and the clear desire to realize their vision, even after recognizing that it likely wouldn’t be fully functional till after the competition. When FIRST has instilled in a team something other than the motivation of a quest for another shiny medal, then it has done its job.

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The Meaning of GP

Posted by Deliverator on 21st March 2008

I originally wrote this as an update to the previous entry, but later felt it deserved its own.

Turns out the TRC had one more match today at the end of the day, of which I was not immediately aware as I was already back in the pits working on the new mechanism at the time it occurred. Evidently there are some hurt feelings over this one, not so much over the loss of the match, but because one of our alliance partners, rookie team 2555 wasn’t doing well in the tournament and just packed up and left. I believe in the four years I have been involved, this is the first time I have seen a team just outright leave. I have seen teams with completely non-moving robots still place it on the field in order to cheer what they built or just to cheer their partners. I’ve also seen teams suffer major robot breakdowns, leaving them unable to compete, stay through the end of the tournament and then win an award. We have now had a couple matches where a team hasn’t showed (it is usually because something broke between matches and they were back in the pits repairing something), but to see a team (or not see) just up and vanish and leave you hanging without so much as a word really stings. 2555 is scheduled for 3 more qualifying matches tomorrow and I am not sure how the refs will handle an outright withdrawal from the regional.

Many teams suffer breakdowns during the course of a regional or end up with mechanisms that don’t work quite as well in practice as they did at the machine shop, but what has struck me again and again is how FIRST teams meet adversity, come together as a team and how every other team there pitches in to help that team succeed.  There have been near mythical incidences where a team’s robot has been lost in shipping or destroyed in a freak accident and they show up at a regional and a bunch of teams join hands to build a new robot right there on the spot. For me, there is no clearer practical  demonstration of gracious professionalism in FIRST.

This evening in the pits, the TRC with help, advice, quickly volunteered tools and supplies from that other TRC (the Tahoma Robotics Club), Newport Robotics Group and Team X-Bot together transformed our robot. Our old, ineffective mechanisms were surgically sundered from our drive train and the new catapult and ball dislodging mechanism attached. A pin release mechanism for deploying the dislodging mechanism was improvised and many adjustments to the elastic tubing and winch subsystems occurred after some impromptu testing on and off the practice field. Many thanks to Dave, aka Shrek 4, the pit boss, the inspectors and other crew who were extraordinarily helpful and accommodating this evening. Also thanks to Mike Tseng who stayed late to help code and to Patricia and Chuck who did a last minute run to the hardware store for this that and the other thing. There is substantial work to be done in the morning in completing reassembly of the robot, particularly in reinserting and hooking up all the electronics boards and then we have to get reinspected prior to competing. Whether we perform brilliantly, run into or through a wall or just don’t run, we will be out on the field tomorrow, richer for the experience and the gracious teams of FIRST will be there to welcome us.

P.S. I sliced up my hand pretty good with a hacksaw, but at least my eyes were safe ;) Thank you FIRST!

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2008 Seattle FIRST Regional – Friday

Posted by Deliverator on 21st March 2008

It is the first day of qualifying matches here at the “Seattle” Regional (held in Tacoma). The TRC substantially completed the new mechanism last night, but there wasn’t enough time to swap it onto the existing base and pass inspection before the start of qualifying matches today. The plan is to tweak the new mechanism throughout the day and then swap it in between 3 and 6pm this evening after matches have finished for the day. As with Portland, I will try to provide updates throughout the day.

Update 1: The TRC won its first qualifying match of the day 32-0.

Update 2: The TRC lost its second qualifying match of the day 0-52. One of our partners, team 1570 did not show up for the match and our other partner scarcely moved the whole match, so it was effectively 3 on 1. Our bot autonomously crossed 3 quarter field markers during hybrid mode, for what should have been an obvious 12 point bonus (4 for each line crossed), but we only got credited for 1 line. The field announcer even commented on this, but the score was not changed! We accrued two 10 point penalties during the match, which were well deserved. Jonathan seemed to be driving in a bit of a panic and was trying to really whip the robot around the corners to do laps quickly (our only way of scoring points). In the processes, he ran into the center divider and backed up in TWO cases, garnering a penalty each time. He really needs to take it easy and go around the field at right angles. This one was a legitimate loss, but I have been distinctly unimpressed by the quality of the ref’s scoring today. In one particularly memorable incident, team 1510 was knocked over with its arm fully sprawled out across the floor, which put it WELL over the 80 inch rule. It sat there for most of the game and none of the 8 or so ref’s caught the highly obvious infraction.

Update 3: TRC lost the third match of the day 30-40 in a strategically played match. Our team had no hurdlers and the other team had two, so our alliance largely played keep-away with the opponents trackballs. At one point, I felt like we might have pinned and compressed the opponent’s ball between our robot and one of the walls, but we didn’t get called for it. Unfortunately, with two of our robots guarding the opponent’s balls, it didn’t give us much of a chance to run laps. We did manage to keep one of our trackballs on top of the overpass at the end of the game, resulting in a 12 point bonus for our alliance, but in the end the opponent’s lapping did us in. The autonomous mode which worked very well in the second match resulted in us running into a wall this match. Pity too, as if we had crossed three lines we would have won.

Update 4: I believe the last match doesn’t count against us as it was our “filler” match, similar to the one we won at Portland which didn’t count for us. TRC tied its fourth match today with an official score of 28 to 28. I’m pretty sure we actually won it by a fair margin, as our alliance crossed 3 lines during auto, had 1 trackball up at the end for a starting score of 24. Our alliance accrued one 10 point penalty during the match, which would have brought our score to 14 not counting laps. Individually we made many laps during the match and also pushed a blue ball across at the end. I think our legitimate score should have been around 40. I am trying to keep my temper in check and be as dispassionately objective as possible, but this is a first year regional and imo it is showing.

Update 5: TRC won its fifth match today 28 to 2 in a well driven match. Jonathan seemed to have really good control of the robot this time around and managed to roll trackballs over our finish line twice under heavily contested conditions. The robot’s autonomous mode seems real inconsistent, with it again slamming into the wall. This was the last match before the lunch break. I’m off to get a sandwich. More latter.

Update 6: In our first match since the lunch break, the TRC squeezed out a win by I believe the slim margin of 22 to 18. Our alliance scored a lot more, but got hit with 20 points in penalties (thankfully, we were not the offending party). In an interesting chain of events, outgoing senior Erik Wells-Thulin ended up being one of the drivers (and I presume the defacto coach), as both Ian and Alex were giving their Chairman’s Award presentation at the time of this match.

Update 7: TRC won its final match of the day, squeezing out yet another victory by a narrow margin. Final score was 20-18. TRC finishes the day with an official record of 4 wins, 1 tie and 1 loss. Now the fun begins as the team works to completely remove the existing superstructure of the robot to replace it with a new one!

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Our 1.5 robots

Posted by Deliverator on 20th March 2008

As mentioned earlier, the TRC spent some time between regionals designing and fabricating a completely new mechanism to go on top of the robot’s drive train. After a great deal of assembly work, with everything screwed down to a forklift pallet instead of the robot, the mechanism is nearing completion. We were able to test it on the practice field here and it not only hurdled the ball over the goal structure, it cleared the field entirely and hit the wall in back of the field. It was mighty impressive to watch. If anyone in the world needs a good siege engineer, the TRC will consider all offers! The ball launcher is easily the most powerful one here at the competition. Unfortunately, we are down to less than 2 hours working time with less than an hour tomorrow before our first match.

A few not so minor details such as a improved release mechanism still need to be improvised. Then, comes the small matter of removing the substantial existing mechanism from the robot and mounting and wiring up the new mechanism, switching and testing the robot code to control the new motors and whatnot and then go through inspection. In short, it is extremely doubtful that this could happen without missing a few qualifying matches. Showing up with an impressive robot later in the day might garner us some support, but is not likely to make us any friends if we don’t show up for a match. My personal opinion is that they should play tomorrow with what they have and then switch the mechanism at the end of the day or wait until after the season and then mount the mechanism. It would make for a very impressive robot for public demonstration purposes. Watch as the robot picks up a 40″ diameter ball, winds up and then hurdles it 40″ through the air!

Anyways, my laptop battery is almost dead, so I will sign off for now.

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TRC at Seattle Regional

Posted by Deliverator on 19th March 2008

I wasn’t anticipating it, but I ended up coming down early to Tacoma for the “Seattle” FIRST Regional. I was originally going to come down on Thursday, but the TRC ended up spending the afternoon in Larry’s garage working on a completely new shooting dislodging mechanism for the robot. I wasn’t aware of the extent of the planned revisions, so was pretty shocked when I first saw it. Teams can work on new mechanisms in the time between regional, but there are some pretty severe constraints. They can only work a total of 10 hours each week during which there is a regional being held somewhere and any manufactured parts brought to a competition can only total 25 pounds. This weight limit does not apply to COTS (commercial, off the shelf) parts. Our first weigh in ended up well over the limit, so Ian, Reo and Jonathan began stripping off every last once of unmodified COTS parts. This took a while and it looked to be a bit of a fool’s errand at first, but by stripping it of every last screw, bolt and bearing, we got the weight down to 24.9 pounds and have the pictures to prove it! Reassembling the new mechanism tomorrow will take quite some time and there is a lot of work left to do on it, but all the essential machining has been accomplished and it should be possible to finish the rest in the pits using hand tools. It will be a stretch to get it finished, even working all day in the pits tomorrow, so I think the plan is to leave the existing mechanisms on the robot until the new mechanism is completely finished and tested.

I will try to provide a play by play here, as I did for the Portland regional, but I expect to be quite busy as we are a bit short handed this time around

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Home Again

Posted by Deliverator on 1st March 2008

Arrived home safe, but absolutely dead on my feet. I am soo tired I am literally having trouble standing and might just fall asleep in my computer chair (I unfortunately arrived home to some work that cannot wait). Oh so worth it though:

Titan Robotics Team Photo - Portland 2008

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2008 FIRST Portland Regional – Day 3

Posted by Deliverator on 1st March 2008

Today is the final day of competition here in Portland. Everyone is pretty tired after a couple hard days and sleepless nights, but everyone is in good cheer and looking forward to the day’s events.


  1. Titan Robotics now has its own Youtube Channel, appropriately named TitanRobotics, complete with trimmed versions of yesterday’s Robocam videos.
  2. The TRC won its first match of the day and lost the second. One more qualifying match before Alliance selection and the playoffs.
  3. In the final qualifying match of the day, the TRC’s alliance defeated its opponent to claim the #7 seed. The TRC finishes the qualifying matches having won 7 matches and lost 1, although our official record only reflects 6 and 1 as we were chosen as a “filler bot” for one of those matches (mentioned yesterday). Alliance selection is occurring now!
  4. The top seeded alliances basically picked each other, moving us up to 5th seed from 7th. After a poor showing by STAMP in picking a team number that didn’t exist, TRC 492 ended up forming an alliance with teams 1983 and 2130. Everyone is now breaking for a quick lunch and discussion of strategy with our alliance partners followed immediately by the playoff matches. The top 3 seeds are going to be very, very tough this year. Teams 368, 2046 and 100 in particular have built absolutely outstanding robots and are partnered with strong alliance partners. Our best shot at winning imo is to simply out drive our opponents and keep them away from the two trackballs, which they need to utilize in order to outscore us. If we can keep the balls on the ground and away from our opponents, the game reduces to one of laps and penalties. If we can drive fast, defensively and penalty free, we have a shot.
  5. The drive team did an excellent job of keeping the opponents away from their trackballs in our first quarterfinal match. This left our alliance partners free to score and thanks to some severe penalties against the other side, we won our first match 38-0. The playoffs are double elimination, so we will be facing the same alliance again shortly.
  6. We were declared the winner in quarterfinal match two and we were busy celebrating when 15 minutes later the arena announcer reversed the ruling and declared the other team the winner due to a mis-reporting of penalties. Rather than going on to the semi-finals, Alliance 5 will have to play a run-off match to decide the winner.
  7. Alliance 5 was eliminated in the tie-breaker match. Our partner 1983 broke down prior to the match and team 835 was automatically brought in to fill the space. 835 is not a hurdler, which didn’t fit well with our overall strategy. On top of that, our bot would not move an inch until about halfway through the match. Play was suspended for quite a while a few matches prior due to a field malfunction and I am unsure whether the same issue cropped up here. Between the match result reversal and the inability to effectively compete in the tie-breaker, it was a disheartening way to end a tournament. I was very pleased with the way the drive team made the best of the robot’s capabilities and played some awfully scrappy matches to get this far. We will be back again in the not to distant future for the Microsoft sponsored Seattle regional.

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2008 FIRST Portland Regional – Day 2

Posted by Deliverator on 29th February 2008

Most of the remaining TRC members trickled into Portland late last night and after a scant few hours of sleep everyone made an early start today. Day 2 began for me with a trip to Kinco’s with Erik Thulin so that he could print out some glossy color brochures that are being handed out as part of the TRC’s Entrepreneurship Award submission.

The TRC won its first qualifying match of the day with a score of 36 to 32. Several rules are being rigidly enforced, especially with regards to contact outside the bumper zones and movement across quarter field boundaries. Most matches are being lost due to penalties rather than being won due to points. The drive team is being very careful to try and avoid these penalties and they are speaking with alliance partners prior to the matches to try and ensure clean play. I have a feeling that the official seed rankings won’t be a very good indication of team quality this year due to the distorting effects of penalties accrued by partners, so independent scouting is going to be very important this year.

We have a large contingent of TRC members sitting in the bleachers running Stamp Scouting, which is a jointly developed, PHP based statistical scouting application. Each Stamp scout is automatically assigned a robot to watch during a given match and they input various metrics on how their respective robot performed. Over the course of the qualifying matches, Stamp outputs rigorous statistical evidence on how each team performed, as well as anecdotal notes giving us a better idea of who might make desirable alliance partners for the playoff matches.

I’ve uploaded some more pictures from yesterday’s set. More updates to come…

Update 1 – Memnosyne won its second qualifying match 26-0 and is on deck for match 3.

Update 2 – Memnosyne won its third qualifying match 48-12 and we are now off for lunch.

Update 3 – Robot’s eye view videos of two of our matches are now available here and here.

Update 4 – Memnosyne won its fourth qualifying match 42 to 32. Memnosyne managed to autonomously knock down one ball and cross two field markers for a big bonus, which combined with a penalty against the other alliance resulted in the win. I now have four more videos (including front and backwards facing videos of match 4) waiting for sufficient bandwidth to upload.

Update 5 – Memnosyne won its fifth and final match of the day 58 to 6! The TRC is thus far undefeated in competition with two qualifying matches left to play tomorrow! Video to come, but right now everyone wants to celebrate!

Update 6 – All the videos for today have been uploaded. There are four matches featured, with two videos for each match. One video is from a camera mounted on our flag holder, facing forward. The other video angle is facing straight backwards. Rather than link to each individually, click this link for the first video. In the screen that pops up, there will be an area to the right which displays a list of the other videos.

Update 7 – Turns out that one of the matches we played doesn’t count towards our rank. Apparently, they randomly select a team every once in a while to play as a filler bot. The results neither counts towards or against your overall rank and the official scoreboard doesn’t even note that you played an extra match, much less whether you won or lost. The apparent rationale for this system is that they have 55 teams this year and they need to have each of them have the same number of qualifying matches. The magic number of qualifying matches per team this year is 7. This was frustrating to a number of people, as even though the match doesn’t count for anything, the filler bot risks damage which could impact it in matches which do count. Also, many teams look at the rankings this evening to determine potential partners and we are ranked lower with our officially 4 and 0 record (6th of 55) even though we have played and performed well in as many matches as the teams which have officially played in 5 matches. Imo, the way to reconcile the needs of FIRST and the integrity/validity of the rankings is to ensure that all teams have played the same number of matches at the end of Friday and push any filler matches to Saturday. This might result in a few more qualifying matches being played on Saturday, but it seems a more equitable solution in my opinion. It is too late to do anything about it this year, but I plan on writing a letter to the organizing committee for next year’s tournament. The end impact to us is that we have 3 more matches to play tomorrow and a much greater chance of being knocked out of one of the top 8 “picking” seed positions.

I didn’t take nearly as many pictures today, as I was splitting time between working with the on robot video camera system and the stands and didn’t have a long and fast enough telephoto lens to really take interesting match photos. Still, what I did take today will be going into the gallery as fast as my cell phone’s EDGE connection permits.

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