Archive for Month: March 2013

FRC 2013 Seattle Regionals – Day 3

Day 3 of the competition is split into two parts. In the morning, teams complete their qualifying matches. In the afternoon, the high-ranking teams and their chosen alliance partners move on to the final matches.

This day, being a Saturday, features a much bigger public attendance — families, friends, sponsors, and students who can’t make it to the Friday session all show up. The stands and the pits are packed with zillions of interested and enthusiastic spectators. It’s like a huge carnival or state fair, and it’s all about engineering!

I love the atmosphere and the crowds and supporters, although at times I felt as if my job at the pit was to keep people out of it, so that the pit crew could work on the robot in between matches safely and with some room to breathe.

We gave out most of the thousand buttons that the team made, and it was great to see so many IronRiders t-shirts in the crowd, especially when there was a whole section of the stands with them visible. That’s really the mark of growth of a team — its image getting out there as its robot gets better and better.

Roosevelt principal Mr. Vance came out with his kids to hang out with the team, as did Assistant Principal Ms. Schwentor. Everyone really appreciated their support, as well as that of many, many parents and families who cheered us on.

Here’s an impromptu team picture with Mr. Vance, although not all team members were at the pit at that moment. (Thanks, Judson!)


The robot and the team performed wonderfully. Our three remaining qualifying matches were really solid, with a variety of offensive and defensive strategies. Autonomous mode yielded some points, as did tele-op loading/shooting. There was some good defense in one match against eventual winner Skunkworks (Team 948). And our climbing was nearly flawless in every attempt.

There seemed to be far fewer hardware repairs in between matches than yesterday, and a lot of scouting strategy in evidence.

We didn’t get picked for a final alliance, but we placed 33rd out of 64 teams. As mentor John said, this is a big success since it was a significant improvement from last year. Progress in the right direction is great. It takes years for a new team to build up the experience and skills to advance up the ladder.

We saw lot of learning and great teamwork and student leadership this year. It was a great season, for sure. With the beginning of the off-season this week, we’ll celebrate our successes, debrief on the season, and make plans for an even better 2014 season.

Personally, I couldn’t be prouder of the Iron Riders and I know I speak for all of the coaches and mentors and supporters in saying what a completely awesome group is Team 4180!

Go, Iron Riders!

— Davidson

Here are the videos for the final 3 qualifying matches.

Day 2 Qualifying Matches

Day 1 of the FRC competition is always (I can use that adverb since this is our second year!) imtense, stressful, and strenouous. It is all about building, testing, and practice. The team is learning about its design, as the robot emerges from the lab environment into the real world.

Day 2, on the other hand, is all about reality — the heat of battle, as it were. The FRC competition is very cleverly structured, though, since it is not really about relentless battle and adversarial relations. Teams do compete against each other, but there is a concept called “coopertition” baked into FRC. This is meant to emphasize and enforce the idea of “gracious professionalism” that is inherent in the FRC tradition.

Coopertition means that the contest requires equal amounts of cooperation and competition. Teams have to form alliances to succeed; you can rarely just have a great robot and win on your own.

On Day 2, teams participate in a series of qualifying matches, in which they hone their robot’s design and performance. In each match there are red and blue alliances, three robots per alliance. The clever part is that your alliance partners change with each match, so a fierce opponent in one match could be a trusted partner in the next.

At the end of the qualifying matches, the top teams in the standings advance to the finals. They get to pick their alliance partners at that point, though. So a team that has a very strong scoring robot might be looking for a good defensive partner, for instance. This means that a team which is not a strong design for offense could still make it into the finals. Hence, many teams are still in the running, even ones who do not place high in the qualifying standings.

More about that tomorrow. The Iron Riders ran admirably in all 6 of its qualifying matches today, so we are optimistic about tomorrow. Below are the video highlights of today’s matches. Some notes about them:

  • Match 1: In this video, you get to see a match from the drive team’s point of view. They are behind the controls, operating the robot remotely. There are two drivers (Sasha & Alex), one feeder (Keaton), and the drive captain (Eric). Look for Sasha and Alex running the joysticks while Keaton is gathering frisbees to load in the robot’s hopper. At the end of the match, Keaton gets to throw frisbees by hand in addition to the robot shooting them and scores an amazing shot from 60+ feet away. All the while, Eric is behind them coordinating and directing traffic, hopefully not chewing his cellist’s nails off.
  • Match 2: This one starts off with the robot scoring two shots in autonomous mode, which means no human operators are controlling the shooting, just software. You can also see a revised design for the hopper feeder based on some problems encountered in the earlier matches. I think the shooter jammed in this round, though, so more adjustments were necessary.
  • Match 3: This was undoubtedly the highlight of the day for Team 4180.Through awesome scouting efforts, they learned that one of their opponents in this match would be the powerhouse Team 948, Newport Robotics Group (NRG) from Newport HS in Bellevue.NRG has a truly unbelievable shooter. It goes for the full court shot, is incredibly accurate and repeatable, and was scoring 25 shots in a row in previous matches. They could load and shoot asynchronously by parking at the feeder station, taking one shot to calibrate, and then just firing off shot after shot after shot with each one hitting dead center while their human feeder just kept shoving frisbees in their hopper.But the Iron Riders noticed that, while their strategy yielded huge points each match, NRG was very vulnerable because of their inflexibility. They could only score from that position and at that fixed trajectory. They figured that a carefully placed net on our robot could be used to block NRG’s shots. So a duct tape and tomato stake interceptor net was quickly added to our robot.

    And, as you will see in the dramatic footage, it worked! NRG was completely shut down in that match, scoring no tele-op points at all. No other team had done that against NRG — they had been regularly scoring over 100 points per match.

    There was copious high-fiving after this match!

  • Match 4: This match was right after lunch, and at one point our robot looks like someone in a police traffic stop trying to pass a field sobriety test. Sasha assured us there was no alcohol consumed at lunch. Back in the pit after the match, the team tracked the issue down to a problem in the interface between hardware and software, quickly fixed. Lesson learned!
  • Match 5: You’ll see some rough and tumble collisions in this one and then a good shot of our very reliable technique for climbing up the first rung of the pyramid, chin-up style.
  • Match 6: The last match of the day. Look for some good autonomous shots in the beginning, and some great defensive moves by us in the middle, blocking the blue alliance robots from maneuvering into position. You’ll also see a dramatic upending and toppling of another robot, rendered turtle-like after that, unable to right itself. It ends with our trademark chin-up again.

Tomorrow morning, we have another three qualifying matches between 9:00 and 12:00. And then we see if we continue on to the finals in the afternoon. Come out and join the fun and support the Iron Riders!

Finally, the videos:

Day 1 Practice Match

What a great day!

Today was the first day of the 2013 Seattle Regionals and the Iron Riders robot ran its first practice match. This may not sound like much, in one sentence, but it represents months of hard work, great creativity, and awesome teamwork on the part of dozens of Roosevelt HS students.

Here’s a video of the practice match. There are many things implicit in this:

  • The team is all wearing beautiful Iron Riders t-shirts festooned with Team 4180 buttons.
  • The robot passed inspection. This is a huge checklist of many, many technical and safety details.
  • The robot works. It ran in the practice match. It scored points.

Now, the video.

You see it sit out the autonomous period (first 15 driverless seconds). We hope to get that working tomorrow.

It lines up for a frisbee shot, takes it, and just misses. They adjust the angle and fire two perfect shots into the target.

Unable to reload (hopefully tomorrow we will), it lines up for the pyramid climbing and does that, hanging on to the lower rung as the buzzer sounds.

At the same time, it’s not clear in the video, but our human shooter fires a frisbee from the far end of the field and scores the target!

Total: 16 points! Fantastic!

Come out Friday and Saturday to cheer them on and see some more fun.

Go, Iron Riders !


Seattle Regionals this Weekend !

Well, it has finally arrived — the 2013 FIRST FRC Seattle Regionals are this weekend!

Team 4180, the IronRiders, will be competing in its second FRC event with a climbing and frisbee shooting robot. Sporting a new name and logo (and t-shirts and buttons), we will be gathering at CenturyLink Arena for the Ultimate Ascent event.

Come out and support the team, have some fun, watch the matches, and experience the “Super Bowl of Smarts.” The best time will be Saturday morning, between 9-12, when we will be in the qualifying matches. If we do well, we move on to the final matches in the afternoon. But either way, it will be fun for everyone. And it’s free.

If you do come visit, be sure to stop in the pit area and say hi to Team 4180!