The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Robots, Robots, Robots!

Posted by Deliverator on September 29th, 2006

I haven’t been very active with robotics related activities of late, but am starting to feel ready to engage myself. The TRC is currently at the start of the First Lego League season, which really doesn’t interest me much (although the new NXT kits are far cooler than the previous Mindstorms). The FRC season is still a long way away, although a LOT of work needs to be done in advance of the FRC season to prepare the team to better compete this year.

-For the first time, there is going to be an official Vex competition in the northwest and it will be held in the Seattle area! I am very excited about this, as I view Vex as a much better step towards FRC than FLL. I just hope there is enough interest from the TRC to field a team.

-I would really like to play around with processing data from the CMU cam. Hints given at the end of last year’s International First Championship in Atlanta really pointed towards this being important for teams which wish to compete at a high level.

-There is also much work to be done in designing, building and evaluating a new drive train design. Concerted fundraising efforts in August didn’t yield a lot of extra $ for the TRC, but lead to some good contacts with nearby machine shops. This may the TRC the ability to realize more ambitious designs, but will at the same time require us to become much more proficient with CAD software and getting the math right before construction begins.

-The TRC really needs to either get rid of a whole heap of sometimes useful, but seldom used stuff in the TRC room, or find somewhere else to store it. At present, the TRC room is too cluttered for more than a few people to move about safely, much less use it regularly as a robot design and fabrication room.

-I would really like to see the establishment of an adult run TRC booster organization. Amy, the TRC’s lead mentor, has been against this for reasons that are somewhat nebulous to me. I think it is great to have students running the club, but I also think that adults can be more persuasive at getting other adults to fork out real dough as well as being more disciplined/obsessive about going out and doing something day after day despite discouraging results. There are also a number of hoop that the TRC currently has to jump through in order to do certain types of fundraising, adding to the already considerable organizational overhead of the club. An external booster organization would not have such limitations.

-I am still very keen on the idea of establishing a common place for all area teams to practice/skirmish during the six week period between contest release and the ship deadline. I know club COO Erik Wells-Thulin is very interested in this as well. Not having a permanent field (even a partial one) to practice on is a serious obstacle to effective autonomous programming and driver training and the limited time we get for these activities at the pre-ship skirmish is really inadequate. I wish local schools would do a better job of supporting invaluable activities like robotics with facilities in the same way they support drama, sports and other space hungry activities.

-The club website is in bad need of updating. Ryan was able to throw a plaster on the sucking chest wound that is the current site and get some of the problems related to Cold Fusion under control, but a complete redesign is really in order. Ryan and Paul have been working on this a bit recently and I was pleased by what I saw from the prototypes, but I don’t believe the new site is ready for deployment. Ryan is back to school now and has a very heavy workload, so I doubt he will have much time to devote to finishing it off.

-I would really like to see the TRC participate in more robotics related field trips & activities outside the scope of FIRST. I will be attending Robothon tomorrow and Sunday at the Seattle Center and hope to see some of the TRC membership there waving the flag or just checking things out. I was contemplating attending Toorcon, which is being heavily attended by SWN members, but I have been travelling a lot recently and am feeling quite road-weary. You also can’t beat the price of Robothon…

In short, there are a lot of things the TRC could be doing. I am unsure at this point to which tasks I want to commit my time, sanity and $. I would really like to do Vex stuff, but am unsure of the interest level. I am going to try to start attending meetings again regularly and see if I can gauge people’s interest.