The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Archive for March, 2006

Pictures from 2006 Pacific Northwest FIRST Regional Competition

Posted by Deliverator on 5th March 2006

Here are my pictures from the 2006 PNW FIRST regional

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Oh My God!

Posted by Deliverator on 5th March 2006

Those three words lept unstopably from TRC member Kevin Brashem’s throat and filled the entire Rose Garden this afternoon. They were the type of words that only come when emotion has overcome all restraints of propriety or sense of embarasement. Kevin’s keen mind had realized something a heartbeat before the rest of the TRC or large audience present this afternoon for the post-competition awards ceremonies….we were being awarded a Chairman’s Award. The Chairman’s Award is FIRST’s highest honor and is essentially a mark of consideration for inclusion into FIRST’s Hall of Fame. Amongst other things, it means an invitation to the International Championship in Atlanta to compete in both the matches and against the other teams that have received Chairman’s Awards this year. The Chairman’s Award is given to teams that embody the core values of FIRST and work to spread those values to other teams and throughout the broader community. I think everyone in the TRC was a mix of stunned/elated at the news, but I think these are a few of the things the judges remarked upon:

-Participation in FLL as a skill-building program and to encourage students to participate in FRC upon reaching HS.
-Hosting of yearly kickoff and pre-ship events for the benefit of other teams in our region
-Openly sharing the full source code to our robot on our website as well as extensive documentation of our designs (some teams are very close lipped about their designs)
-Development of the STAMP Scouting system. STAMP is a statistical match analysis package that allows teams to collaborate in gathering hard data on the performance of every robot. It analyses the hard, factual data of a robot’s performance in a various capacities, allowing teams to form strong alliances based on actual performance, and not on FIRST simplified and skewed ranking system, or on often over-inflated annecdotal claims by teams as to their robot’s capabilities.
-Huge participation from such a small school, with close to a fifth of the HS population participating on the team.
-Extensive participation by girls in every aspect of club operations. Despite conscious efforts by many teams, a lot of teams still have vastly male memberships. Our team is probably > 40% female and many are some of the team’s best contributors. I think Rachel and Helene in particular both deserve a lot of recognition for their willingness to dive headfirst into an intense, multi-disciplinary subject like robotics and for their outright eagerness to get their hands “dirty” in the shop day in and day out.

One of the qualities almost universally present in the people I admire most is their willingness to pitch in and take on difficult tasks without hesitation and without needing to be asked. They see a problem that is not being addressed and choose to make it their problem. Often these tasks are thankless, but I would like to recognize some of the people who have gone above and beyond for the team this year:

-Larry Barello, who almost single-handedly built the field for the kickoff event and helped build and code not one, but TWO robots this year, both of which made it to the playoffs. I don’t think most of the students realize the degree of time and effort he has given of himself this year.
-Ryan Mcelroy, who despite being a full-time student and working a near full-time job, still found time to help the team code both the robot and STAMP
-Amy McIvor, the administrative heart of our team, who despite suffering literally debilitating migraines and visibly tremoring for days, would not let the paperwork fall-through. A lot of the mentors (myself included) get intimidated by the simplest of forms to fill out. Amy churns through reams of the dreaded stuff, without which the TRC would come to a disorganized, screetching hault. Nobody in the organization could do what she does.
-Ian Hovander, who has beem wearing more than a few hats this year, including COO, robot driver and sometime last minute essayist. We wouldn’t have even been considered for the Chairman’s Award without his efforts.
-Erik Thulin, who like Ian, has been hat collecting this year. Erik ran weekly strategy sessions, was official coach to the drive team and was one of the biggest contributors to Stamp Scouting.

Enough for now. I will post pictures, videos and lots of other goodies tomorrow. Sleep awaits

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Strong Performance, Poor Results

Posted by Deliverator on 4th March 2006

Since my last update, a lot has happened. Ryan arrived late last night.
Even after a long day of school and many hours stuck in traffic he pulled
out his laptop and got to work updating the autonomous code. Almost
everyone got up extra early this morning and helped out with the testing
the last minute code revisions. It was really nice to see everyone turn
out to be supportive of the few people who could do the coding work. Ryan
managed to get a lot done in a very short time and we are now scoring 8
or 9 of or 10 balls during autonomous, again.

We have been performing very well, individually, but we have for the most
been paired with poor performing partners. In our last match,TRC scored
all of our teams 38 points and both of our teamates were tipped over or
immobile for almost the entire match. Ian managed to play strong defense
against 3 very good offensive bots (including 254, one of the best teams
in the nation) for the entire match, holding them to 58 points.

It is disappointing to have won soo few matches while playing very well.
I haven’t taken a look at or seed ranking for in a while, but my guess is
it has taken quite a nose dive. I hope the seeded teams have been paying
attention, so that we get picked for a strong alliance during the
playoffs.Still, I am very pleased with our performance thus far,
especially given the lack of practice time before coming to the
competition. I am very pleased with the team involvement this year. Many
more students have dug in and made significant contributions to the club,
hopefully learning a thing or two along the way and having fun and making
friends. The TRC may not defend its back to back titles this time around,
but I think we have made a very strong showing and will be even stronger
this next year.

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Portland – First Day of Competition

Posted by Deliverator on 3rd March 2006

Portland Update

Today is the first day of actual competition. Yesterday was a practice day, and only a small minority of matches were run with all six robots present. Very few robots that arrived were functionally complete. I wasn’t too impressed by the overall quality of the robots that I saw run, yesterday.

The matches today have gone well for us. We have won all our matches by a pretty wide margin. Our robot’s autonomous mode seems to be working fairly well, from both of our two starting locations. We seem to be scoring anywhere from 4 to 8 of our 10 preloaded balls in autonomous, which has been enough to get us the 10 point bonus in each match. Winning autonomous also lets us play defence first, giving Yevgeniy a chance to reload the robot. Yev seems to be shooting balls into the robot’s hopper very well, but Ian seems to be moving unnecessarily, sometimes, throwing off Yev’s shots.

Our shooter hasn’t been working too well, sending most of its shots low. We did some tuning during lunch that should send them a bit higher. I don’t think we should be attempting to shoot at all, though. I think our time is better spent scoring in the corner goals and then making sure we get back on our home ramp at the end for the ramp bonus. The games have been fairly low scoring, with most winning teams scoring 25-30 points, total. The highest scoring game of the day was 70 points. Getting all three robots back on the ramp gives you a bonus of 25 points, which alone could be a game winner.

So far I like:


as potential partners. 254 ran into some mechanical trouble. Like us, they have quick disconnects for the wires leading to their drive train motors. Unlike us, they didn’t us polarized connectors and they managed to plug in one of their smaller drive train motors backwards, so that it was working in opposition to their larger, primary drive team motor. It caused an impressive ammount of smoke, but they were able to repair the damage and are now back in the running. They have a very impressive shooter and have an almost unrivaled win/loss record, so I think they would make an excellent alliance partner. Ian and Eric said they weren’t doing a good job of responding as partners, when we played a match with them, so they may not be the best team players.

A lot of teams have suffered major damage already, so the playoffs may simply consist of what teams are still capable of rolling.

I have been taking hundreds of pictures, but have been limited to my cellular internet connection, thus far, so pictures will probably have to wait until I get home.

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Posted by Deliverator on 2nd March 2006

Made it down to Portland this afternoon. It is 1:30 AM and we are still working hard. Have to get up at 6 tomorrow to uncrate the robot at 7:45 tomorrow. We will be very busy with autonomous programming for much of the day. Here are some brief thoughts on the day:

-Mobile SWN nodes are cool! Had two passengers online almost the whole way to Portland. Students in Larry’s van were using it too, but they had to stay pretty close to get good reception. Might consider a roof mounted antenna in the future.

-Took my annual trip to Powells, although I only got to stay for an hour. Bought some books by Alastair Reynolds and Elizabeth Moon. Kept it to 4 this time around….a personal best.

-Brad Moore’s snores are likely to result in another federal disaster mismanagement probe in which everyone points at someone else

-The Courtyard Marriot is a big step up from the place we stayed at last year, but their wifi is abysmal and only availabe in a very small area of the hotel. They do provide wired jacks in the rooms, but I don’t bring ethernet with my PDA. Will have to investigate some of the portable wifi access points on the market. It couldn’t hurt to get a Socket Low Power Ethernet card, either. I am using my EDGE connection atm, so am very bandwidth limited. Will upload pictures from today when I get a chance.

Posted in CarPuter, General, Mobile Blogging, Titan Robotics Club, Wireless | No Comments »

Off to Portland

Posted by Deliverator on 1st March 2006

I am off to Portland with the TRC to compete in the Pacific Northwest FIRST Robotics Competition. I will be back late Saturday. I will try to make periodic updates regarding the competition during the next four days, but no promises. Wish us luck!

Posted in General, Titan Robotics Club | No Comments »