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:

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!




indiegogo — what’s that? indiegogo is “the world’s funding platform.” It’s a way of crowd-sourcing fund-raising for all kinds of endeavors.

While Team 4180 has been very fortunate to receive a number of generous donations, we’re trying to up our game and raise some more money. The business team (spearheaded by Linden on this effort) has launched an indiegogo campaign for the Iron Riders.

You can see the campaign details here: www.indiegogo.com/frc4180.

We’re asking for everyone’s help to get the word out about this campaign and help us raise another $2000 or so. We’ll use this to pay for lots of expenses at the competition (like food, renting a van, supplies), buying tools and building some pit systems, etc.

Please use all of your networks to spread the word about the campaign. Post it on your Facebook page, Tweet about it, send emails, use semaphore signals, whatever you can! We have two weeks left.

Also, if you know anyone who would rather donate directly, rather than through this campaign, we’re happy to take checks. We even get a little more money that way, since indiegogo takes a percentage of the donations.


Team 4180

PS: Mark your calendars for the competition: March 29-30! More about that later.

In the Bag !

baggedIt’s in the bag!

The Iron Riders robot, that is, as of 9:49 pm on Stop Build Day, February 19. (Over two hours before the deadline, woot!)

After an intense build season, culminating in marathon work sessions over the holiday weekend at mentor Charles Delahunt’s house, the 2012-13 Iron Riders robot is done. Well, done enough to get it officially sealed up until the competition on March 29-30. I missed the demo that night, but saw video evidence that it actually fired frisbees in the street about 30 feet.

There is plenty of work still to be done in, as Katie said, the second half of the build season. There are refinements to the robot, software still to write, t-shirts to make, other things to build, and lots of planning to bring us to the competition arena.

Thanks to everyone who has helped so far!


Kickoff – Frisbees!

The IronRiders begin the strategy brainstorming for the 2013 season.

OK, here we go on the 2013 build season — Frisbees!

We had a great Kickoff day on Saturday, January 5. It started, very, very early (6:00 am in the RHS parking lot) with a field trip to the official event at Mountlake Terrace HS. The students, coaches Ruff & Miller, and a coterie of parents and volunteers went to the video simulcast event where this year’s competition was unveiled and they picked up the kit of parts. Here’s the animation of the Ultimate Ascent challenge:

Following that, the caravan made its way to the UW campus, where they joined coach Davidson and other late sleepers (students, mentors, and volunteers). In a long work session, the team analyzed the game challenge, pored over the rules, and brainstormed a number of strategies for robot design. This session focused on WHAT kind of robot we will build and (painfully) deferred discussion of HOW the robot will work until later sessions.

By the end of the day, we had digested an enormous quantity of ideas, analyzing all of them for potential value, associated risks and costs (not just financial), and talked about the qualitative pros and cons of each possible function (shooting. climbing, scavenging, blocking).

Next week we will decide exactly what the robot will do and move on to the design phase.

Huge, enormous thanks to all of the parents and volunteers who organized and provided the transportation, and most especially fed us all so well!

Winter Assembly T-Shirt Cannon

On Friday, December 14th, 2012, the Iron Riders robot made an appearance at the RHS Winter Assembly!

Last year’s robot chassis was outfitted with a custom-made t-shirt cannon, and it roamed the floor of the gym during the Winter Spirit Assembly, launching rolled-up t-shirts into the bleachers.

The team worked for a few weeks in regular workshop meetings after school to design, build, program, and plan the assembly appearance. The goal was to show the RHS student body what we’ve been up to, generate some noise, and perhaps recruit more team members.

During the assembly, Katie explained what the RHS Robotics Club is all about, while Roxanne and Linden handled the cannon loading and firing. Ben was driving the robot, using the wireless remote control program. Adrian, Sasha, Max, and Eric were supporting from the sidelines.

It was a great project and really successful team effort! Congratulations to everyone.

(I don’t know how it compared to the teachers all dancing to Jingle Bell Rock, but you can judge that for your self: Teachers Dance.)

Here is a very amateur video of the event, shakily shot on my iPhone.


Volunteer Kickoff Meeting — Nov 15

Hi everyone, and welcome to the 2012-13 FIRST Robotics season!

We are excited to host a kickoff meeting for our team mentors, parents, volunteers, and friends this week. The meeting will be at RHS this Thursday evening, at 7:00 pm in Room 217 (Karl Ruff’s Engineering Lab).

We’d like to share news of our team’s activities so far this year, plans for the season (including an exciting event at the upcoming Roosevelt Winter Assembly), and ask for your help in supporting our awesome team. We should have you on your way by 8:30.

Many of the student leadership team will be there as well as us coaches. A robot may even make an appearance, too.

Student team members receiving this: you’re invited to come along if you like, but it’s not required if you have important stuff like homework to do! You could just let your family know in case they aren’t on this list and want to stop by.

Thanks, everyone, see you Thursday!

• Andy Davidson

• Judson Miller

• Karl Ruff