Passing the Torch

From me to Abbie Fundling.

What does this mean? It means the Dead Robot Society has another video in the works. However this time, I don’t have to do it! Oh did I say “have to”? I meant “have the privilege of”. This year that privilege has been passed onto our new cinematographer, Abbie. I get to mentor someone! There’s someone in the BotCave that needs my help! This is a first.  I’m quite pleased.

I guess hardware and software are doing important things too… Today Albert, Joe, and Greg have been working all day on something they like to call “PerfectBot”. You can guess why. They think it’ll be perfect every time. I have yet to see evidence of that, sorry guys.

This week marks the week that we begin to open the BotCave on a daily basis. Competition is so early this year. There are roughly six weeks left. Last year I think I started the competition countdown at eight weeks and I feel like i started it way later than this! We’re gonna have to work extra hard this year. We have big shoes to fill. In case you weren’t aware, we placed first in our regional competition last year and third in the global competition. We can’t do any better at regionals, so we have to do at least equally as well. Even though it’s pretty far off, we’re hoping to surpass last year’s score at globals as well.

Alright let’s get back to this week. If you visit www.deadrobots.net the first thing you’ll probably notice is a big chart on the homepage. In this chart is our projected playing schedule for this year’s competition. We’ve got it all blocked out so now all we have to do is build the bots and program them. Easy for me to say right? I just blog about it. I love my job.

As usual, to me it looks like we’re making great progress. But let’s be honest, is there ever a week when I don’t think that? I have mad team spirit, what can I say. The BotCave will be open all day tomorrow (we’re capitalizing on the long weekend) so hopefully we’ll be able to continue at the fast pace we’ve been working at and hit on a good routine. Also, the more days the ‘Cave is open the more blogs I’ll be posting, so keep checking back for updates!

Are You Ready for Some Botball?

That title was a play on words. In case you didn’t know, it’s Superbowl Sunday.

Our team is so dedicated that we have 13 kids in the BotCave today building robots rather than attending a Superbowl party. With our board built, we can work on our solution to the problem. I haven’t heard so much commotion in the BotCave since last season. From where I’m sitting I can hear Mr. Grasmeder and Albert helping the software team get started with programming. Also, I can hear Mr. Newcastle and Joe working with the hardware team, accompanied by a cacophony of sound produced by the rifling through of lego bins.

Kelly, Alanna, Albert, Justin, and Emily are working hard with programming the cameras to find tribbles. This will eventually be used so that we can pick up the tribbles and separate the different colored tribbles to score points. They appear to be successful at their endeavors because I’ve been hearing frequent squeals of delight. In connection with what software is doing, hardware is working on building something that will pick up tribbles. Synchronicity between the two teams is key.

I just realized I haven’t posted a picture of the game board yet. I’ll do that now.

2011 Game Board
2011 Game Board

So there you have it. For those of you that have seen boards from previous years, you’ll notice a distinct difference in this board from its predecessors. Instead of having the starting boxes diagonal from each other, they’re all on the same side. This means twice the amount of work for software. They have to write one program specific to the left side of the board and one program specific to the right side of the board. I’ve gathered from the many complaints that this will be somewhat inconvenient for them. Hehehe, I’m so glad I blog.

Takin’ Care of Business

It’s a low-key day at the BotCave.

If you were to mosey on over to our wiki you’d notice that we have quite a few names on there. That’s because we have a lot of potential members coming in and out of the BotCave. For these few weeks leading up to the workshop on February 12th, we have all the new kids come and try their hand at hardware and software. Because people are coming and going, we can’t really get to work on the actual competition problem just yet. Therefore, what we’ve been doing around here is just some housekeeping so to speak. People are learning the ropes of hardware and software. I’m helping Abbie prepare to make this year’s video. I’ve been doing some updating on the website. We’re working hard.

I mentioned doing updates on this website. I specifically mean I added some quotes from last year’s season. You should go give them a read, they’re quite amusing.

There was a surprise waiting for us in the BotCave today. The board was built! Well, mostly built. A few more tweaks and adjustments have to be made, and some pieces have to be obtained, but for the most part we have a board to work with! Yay us!

I have one more exciting thing to tell you before I leave you today. Not that I’m super excited, BUT THE GLOBAL CONFERENCE IS IN CALIFORNIA THIS YEAR RIGHT NEXT TO DISNEYLAND! I’m calm about it. I’m fine. It’s not a huge deal or anything. I can honestly say I cannot wait until GCERs this year.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

What you thought I meant Christmas? Obviously I was referring to Botball…

Yes, it’s that time again. It’s time for a few members of the dedicated youth of the Northern Virginia area to come together every sunday to build robots. First thing first I’d like to introduce you to our tentative team for this year. Our returning members include Greg, Albert (or Allison, I can’t remember what I was calling her), Kelly, Alanna, Mary, Alex, and me. However we have quite a few people in the Botcave today who have shown interest in joining the team. This list includes: Joe, Mikey, Ryan, Kevin, Justin, and Jason.

Let’s get some quotes from the new kids. When asked for a quote about his experience in the Botcave so far, junior Joe Griffin said “I’m having the time of my life!” For real, that was a direct quote. Ask him about it. Sophomore Mikey Luciani (yeah, he’s Kelly’s baby brother, I guess robotics is in their genes) said “I’m enjoying myself to the fullest!” As I was walking around collecting quotes, returning member and senior Greg Kurnos couldn’t help but exclaiming, “I love Botball! I love it more than life itself!” We’re lucky to have such enthusiastic members this year.

Something I’ve been witnessing, this week and last week, is a few competitions within the team to do some hardware jobs. Mr. Gras breaks everyone up into teams and gives them a few mini-challenges. The teams build little bots to complete the task Mr. Gras has assigned and then each team’s robot is put to the test. It’ gets pretty competitive I’m not gonna lie. They cheer during the runs, they clap after success, and they weep after failures. Okay maybe not weep, but they get pretty emotional.

It’s been a magical experience watching young people come together to make something as beautiful as a chassis. Don’t ask me what that is, I can’t even pronounce it. But seriously, from what I can tell everyone is having fun and I think we’re gonna have a really good team this year. No, of course I’m not biased.

Before I end this ceremonial first blog of the season, I wanted to take time to thank our mentors Mr. Grasmeder and Mr. and Mrs. Newcastle. This might sound like a line from a bad, Oscar-esque speech, but none of this would be possible without them. We appreciate the time and resources they willingly dedicate to us, so mentors if you’re reading this, you’re the best!

Head-to-Head: Round 4

Score: 176, Victory

Still in it. It was a good match, we simply got to Botguy much faster and placed him on the line. If the other team had gotten to the island first it might not have been the same outcome. As the weaker teams continue to get eliminated, our opponents get harder and harder to defeat. We’re constantly working on our hardware and software throughout the day. We try to make minor adjustments that will make major positive changes for our robots.

Having one loss already, it’s really important for us to stay strong during these rounds of competition. In order to get to the final round we have to win the entire losers bracket. Plus, after we hypothetically win the losers bracket, we would have to beat the winner of the regular bracket twice in order to take home first place. Not exactly an easy task. This was our last round today. Fingers crossed tomorrow will be successful.