Please help support our team! $25 buys a motor, $50 buys a new battery, $150 adds controllers and sensors, $500 pays tournament fees, $750 upgrades our drivetrain

Iron Reign

Welcome to Iron Reign at Dallas ISD's Science and Engineering Magnet

Worlds Day 1

18 Apr 2019

Worlds Day 1 By Jose, Ethan, Charlotte, Janavi, Abhi, Evan, Karina, Justin, BenB, Bhanaviya, Cooper, Aaron, Arjun, and Paul

Task: Set up our Worlds pit, complete inspection and judging, and compete in robot game matches

Presentation

Our presentation went well. We were able to get all of our information across effectively in a shorter amount of time as usual, but this led to more time for questions , which the judges had a lot of. Throughout questioning, we were able to hand off questions so that no individual member dominated the questioning time.

One problem we had with the presentation was that the rooms were constructed within the competition hall with fabric, just like last year. This made it so that sound did not carry very well within the rooms, and that sound could carry over from other rooms, so the judges had difficulty hearing us at some points which was especially worse when we spoke too quickly. Despite this, we're confident that the majority of the information came across.

Match 1(Q12)

We lost 290-95. Our poor planning led to the drive team having phones with low batteries and being unable to play in the match and Rhoming Robots were unable to carry us in this 2v1 match.

Worlds Day 2

19 Apr 2019

Worlds Day 2 By Jose, Ethan, Charlotte, Janavi, Abhi, Evan, Karina, Justin, BenB, Bhanaviya, Cooper, Aaron, Arjun, and Paul

Task: Compete in more qualification matches

Match 2(Q28)

We lost 340-280. We had a flawless auto this time and followed with 9 far crater cycles and a latch. During the first cycle 3 gold minerals were scores at once with resulted in a 50 point penalty. If we had better visibility of the mineral tray this would have been avoided and the win margin would only have been 10 points.

Match 3(Q52)

We lost 322-242. Once again we had a complete auto including scoring the sampling mineral. This was followed by 6 far crater cycles but an attempt for a 7th cycle during end game resulted in a tip over for Icarus and neither us nor Masquerade could hang. If both robots would have hung we would have won by a small margin.

Match 4(Q67)

We lost 335-217. Due to technical issues Icarus was forced to be hung for about five minutes and this burnt out both elbow motors. This resulted in no autonomous and only about two cycles. We also had no hang and had to park in the crater. If we were allowed to delatch Icarus while the issues were being resolved we would have won by a large margin.

Match 5(Q84)

We lost 272-211. In between matches we were able to buy and replace the elbow motors but they had encoder issues which could not be resolved in time, this meant we had to run on only one elbow motor for this match. With this we were able to have a complete auto and 7 near crater cycles. There was no hang this time so we went for the crater instead. If we had both elbow motors functional we could have scored a few more cycles and hung which would have won us the match by a thin margin.

Match 6(Q104)

We [finally] won 315-160. At this point we still haven't fixed the encoder issue but we still pulled off a semi-complete auto since the team marker was not dropped and the sampling mineral was not moved enough to count. The cycles this time were mostly unsuccessful but we hung and Batteries Not Included had enough cycles to compensate and we managed to finally win a match.

In between matches we took a trip with CartBot to the FLL pits to attract anyone interested in the next stage of FIRST(FTC). We told them they could come by our pit at any time for a in-depth presentation of our robot and about an hour later an FLL team, the Engigears, came to visit our pit. We were able to show them how complex FTC can get and showed them Icarus' capabilities and let some of them drive it around. They had a great experience and we hope they are now informed of FTC and pursue it come 7th grade.

Worlds Day 3

20 Apr 2019

Worlds Day 3 By Jose, Ethan, Charlotte, Abhi, Evan, Karina, Justin, BenB, Bhanaviya, Cooper, Aaron, Arjun, and Paul

Task: Compete in even more qualification matches

Match 7(Q121)

We won 292-280. With the elbow motors fixed we were ready for this match. We had a full auto and 5 successful but hang was not successful and we had to go for the crater again.

Match 8(Q159)

We won 240-185. Just as normal we had a complete auto but we were blocked from the crater by Tech Hogs(opponent). Once Tele-op started Icarus was tipped over after bumping into Tech Hogs. Although Icarus is designed to recover from any tip over, a sideways tip is nearly impossible to recover from, however Icarus' chassis was on the crater edge and after about 30 seconds of suspense Icarus recovered and received lots of cheering from the crowd. After this however we got tipped over again by Tech Hogs(whether it was intentional or accidental is yet to decided) and there was no crater edge to save us this time. Despite this RoboEclipse was able to carry the alliance to victory.

Match 9(Q172)

We won 370-108. We again had a full auto this time with a deposit of the sampling mineral. we had 6 successful far crater cycles but on the 7th the deposit articulation on Icarus was initiated too early and it tipped over and 20 seconds was not enough time to recover and hang. Even so, the lead we had was good enough to win us the match.

Worlds Day 4

21 Apr 2019

Worlds Day 4 By Jose, Bhanaviya, BenB, Aaron, Cooper, Paul, Arjun, Justin, Karina, Ethan, Evan, Charlotte, and Abhi

Task: Participate in Alliance Selection and attend the Award Ceremony

Today was the last of the 2019 FTC World Championship and our first task of the day was to ask top-seeded teams if they thought we would be a good asset to their alliance for the play offs. We intrigued a few with our higher-than-average depot-side cycle time and hoped for the best during alliance selection. Unfortunately our 55th position probably made the alliance captains think again about who to pick.

A while later followed the award ceremony, we went in with high hopes as we have received many pit interviews throughout the week. Our hopes came true as we heard "the finalists for the Collins Aerospace Innovate Award are ... ... team 6832". The whole team burst into happiness and joy as our unique robot design was recognized at the World Championship. We were finalists for the Innovate Award!

Discover Summer Fair

27 Apr 2019

Discover Summer Fair By Bhanaviya, Ethan, Karina, and Jose

Task: Teach kids how to program and 3D-model at the Discover Summer Fair

Students drive-test their newly-programmed LEGO robots

This Saturday was the Discover Summer Fair organized by the Dallas City of Learning. This was our very first Mobile Tech Xperience (MXP) event to kick off the start of our outreach efforts for the Skystone season. For background, the MXP is a robotics classroom on wheels that our robotics team uses to take to underserved areas around the Dallas region to teach the students we meet there about STEM and robotics. The vehicle is an old 90's RV that our team renovated around 3 summers ago and since then, the vehicle has been maintained by Big Thought, an educational non-profit organization who operates a program called Dallas City of Learning - the vendor for several of our outreach events. During today's event, we had a large turnout of about 500 participants for both the 3D printing station and the sumo robots programming challenge. The purpose of this event was for our team to introduce robotics-based activities like programming FLL robots and 3D-modelling keychains to students in the greater Dallas area who would have otherwise had no access to such activities.

We started out by setting up the MXP and the EV3 LEGO Mindstorm robots. After ensuring that the MXP was stocked up with laptops and 3D printers, we set up sumo mats, laptops, and LEGO Mindstorms robots in tables outside the vehicle. We wanted to kick-off the first outreach event of the season by demoing our competition robot from the world championship, Icarus, so we had to make sure that Icarus was able to both balance and drive around.

Between the four of us, there were so many participants that we had made the decision to teach them as a group to maximize efficiency. Making every step of the teaching process - whether it's block-programming a robot or modelling a keychain - as interactive and engaging as possible allowed us to easily communicate with large groups of participants.

Next Steps

Our station could not have run as smoothly as it did without the help of Big Thought for helping us staff and maintain the MXP, and for allowing us to introduce FIRST to so many young participants by giving us a booth at the fair. 3D-modelling and programming are, at the end of day, two important concepts encompassed within FIRST. Watching students who had little to no experience with robotics marvel at their keychain designs and their robots coming to life allowed us to see firsthand the impact we were hoping to make with our MXP events - to teach kids of all ages and all backgrounds that robotics was for everyone.

DPRG RoboRama Prep

10 May 2019

DPRG RoboRama Prep By Jose and Paul

Task: Prepare for the DPRG RoboRama Competition

Tomorrow Iron Reign is to send out a team of two people to compete at the annual Dallas Personal Robotics Group (DPRG) RoboRama as well as demo Icarus, our competition robot. Our robot, fittingly name Iron Core(as homage to one of the freshmen teams in our robotics program), is to compete at the sumo wrestling portion of the competition.

For reference, Dallas Personal Robotics Group is a Dallas-based robotics organization that holds mini robotics competitions, talks on the development of personal robotics, and has, on more than one occasion, given our team the opportunity to present to them about computer vision, and FIRST Tech Challenge in general.

To prepare for the competition, we used an existing Lego EV3 sumo bot that we use for our outreach and Mobile Tech Xperience (MXP) events and modified it with a 3D printed plow. As for code, we took the existing program of going forward and turning and going backwards after detecting the edge of the ring. We modified this code by adding a sensor to detect nearby robot by spinning until they are found, once located Iron Core will go full force towards the target in hopes of winning.

We also prepared Icarus for demonstration by tuning it as it has taken some damage from our previous competition. Some minor repairs were required but after just a few minutes Icarus was up and running again.

Next Steps

DPRG RoboRama Competition

11 May 2019

DPRG RoboRama Competition By Jose and Paul

Task: Compete at the DPRG RoboRama and present Icarus

Ready and prepared, our two man team came to compete at the Annual Dallas Personal Robotics Group's RoboRama.

The first event was the sumo wrestling event, it featured a double elimination bracket and five teams total came to compete. In our first match we won, our robot seeking program served us well and eliminated the opposing robot on the first try. Unfortunately, we lost our second match after a long, agonizing battle the opposing robot had more torque than Iron Core and slowly pushed our pride and joy off the playing field. This 1-1 record scored us 3rd place for the event.

Seeing the event, Quick Trip, a test for accurate movement over long distances, I(Jose) programmed a path for it during lunch. With no time to use a gyro sensor, the path was inaccurate, but this could be fixed with a specific starting position. We finished with a total of 4 points, placing us third.

Along with competing we got to demo our competition robot for FTC, Icarus, to anyone interested, this included DPRG members and Girl Scout Troop #7711b. We demonstrated its capabilities including the articulations, our FTC season as well as show off "tall mode" which is Icarus with the Superman wheel activated completely and the arms extended completely. Overall most were impressed and appreciated the opportunity to see a functional robot.

Meeting Log

08 Jun 2019

Meeting Log June 08, 2019 By Bhanaviya, Jose, Paul, Aaron, Ben, Evan, Trey, and Justin

Meeting Log June 08, 2019

Task: Prepare for the 2019-2020 Skystone season

Today kicked off our first meeting for the new Skystone season. Since the actual challenge for this year hasn't been released, the most we can do is to speculate what the new challenge might pose, and what we can do to prepare for it.

Recruitment

With most of our upperclassmen graduating, the SEM Robotics program needs more members. As the varsity team in our program, we will be responsible for spreading the word about out program in our school - The School of Science and Engineering. This includes making posters, finding a suitable room to host an interest meeting, and planning a presentation to explain the commitments that come with being a part of a FIRST Tech Challenge Team.

Prototyping leg-drive

Just like Relic Recovery, we suspect that this year's game will be a stacking game (especially considering the fact that the phrase 'Together we RISE' was stressed in the teaser that was shown at the World Championship last season). A stacking game requires a relatively tall robot (by robot standards anyway), and a tall robot means a leg drive. Leg drive is an idea we've joked around with but summer is also the best possible time to test any impractical ideas. So, Aaron, Trey, Justin and Evan experimented with the leg drive system by prototyping leg propulsion with polycarb "legs". The polycarb pieces were drilled to form a rectangular shape which would extend and contract to propel the drive forwards. After creating the polycarb structures, they implemented rev rails and gears to "rev up" the leg drive system. It's still a prototype for now but it could be implemented into a chassis soon to test if the leg drive system can actually be made into a functioning model.

Experimenting with grippers

A good stacking bot also needs reliable grippers. Given our team's track record for exploring multiple build ideas at once, we figured that the new season would have us testing and innovating a good number of gripper systems. Fittingly, Jose and Ben tried out two different kinds of gripper systems. Jose prototyped a parallel gripper bar system. He used polycarb pieces to create the prototype. Two smaller vertical pieces of polycarb were attached onto a horizontal, larger strip to create the parallel gripper system. Ben implemented a loop gripper system onto a small base chassis with 2 omnis and 2 REV wheels. The loop gripper operates when the REV motor spins the gear sprocket attached to a carbon-fibre rod which causes the ziptied-loop to expand and contract accordingly.

3D-Modelling and CAD Design

Paul modeled a standard REV for leg drive. This past season, we have used this kind of bracket repeatedly - as such we decided to model it in the case that we choose to incorporate it in our design for the upcoming season. In the case we do decide to experiment with multiple drive trains and gripper systems once the new challenge is revealed, having stock of 3D printed parts would allow us to test out multiple ideas even if we don't have the actual part with us.

Next Steps

We've designed 3 prototypes over the course of today's meet so this gives us plenty to test over the next upcoming meetings. However, we are participating in several outreach events over the next few weeks so finding time for testing will be tricky. But if our speculations for a stacking game are correct, we think our build season has gotten off to a good start so far.

Meeting Log

08 Jun 2019

Meeting Log June 08, 2019 By Bhanaviya, Jose, Anisha, Paul, Shawn, Trey, Justin, Aaron, Ben, Mahesh, and Cooper

Talking Heads: Summary June 08, 2019

Task: Prepare for the 2020-2021 Game Reveal season

Today kicked off our first meeting for the new Ultimate Goal season. Since the actual challenge for this year hasn't been released, the most we can do is to speculate what the new challenge might pose, and what we can do to prepare for it.

Recruitment

As most of our members have moved on to our Junior year, our team is now primarily upperclassmen-led. This means that within 2 years, we will need to recruit enough members to keep the team sustainable after our graduation. Unfortunately, due to the current pandemic, we will need to ensure that the Iron Reign program has the funding needed to maintain 3 teams in addition to ours. At the moment, our focus has been on keeping our own team viable over the virtual season, and this may mean that we will have to cut back on our recruitment and pick it back up closer to our senior year on the team.

Outreach

In an earlier post, we went over the plans for a new mobile learning lab. To clarify, the Mobile Tech xPansion program is owned by Big Thought, a non profit organization dedicated to education, but its outreach events are executed by Team 6832 Iron Reign. During these events, our team travels to low-income areas around the Dallas community with little access to STEM education, and teaches younger students about robotics and CAD to improve their interests in STEM which can sometimes be hard to discover without the access to a strong STEM-based education. Recently, Big Thought approved the plans for funding and expanding this program and our coach was able to purchase a new vehicle for the second, improved version of this Mobile Learning Lab. However, due to the ongoing pandemic, the plans for this vehicle have been put on temporary hold since most of our outreach events happen over the summer. As the count for COVID-19 cases in Dallas has been relatively high, there is no safe way for our team to interact with younger students and teach them hands-on robotics. As such, we will be placing our MXP outreach program on hold until the pandemic has improved (which will be, hopefully, soon).

3D-Modelling and CAD Design

Jose has been working on modelling various robot designs in anticipation of the upcoming season. The first is a kiwi drive, with a triangular chassis with 4 omni-directional wheels on each side of the chassis which enables movement in any direction using only three motors. The render of the robot itself is built using custom and goBilda motors. Another design was for an Inspirenc CAD Challenge, which resembled our Superman design from two seasons ago, but with a more rectangular chassis. All of these designs created over the summer will be within their own separate entry - this is merely a summary of our summer progress. Since we don't yet know what the challenge this year will look like, nor how much we would be able to meet in-person in light of COVID19, we plan on starting our build efforts with CAD designs to streamline the engineering process with an online reference in hand.

Next Steps

One of the hardest things about this year's season will be trying to cover all our usual grounds virtually since the number of team members who can show up to in-person practices has been severly limited. In the meanwhile, we plan on using our Discord group to map out the skeleton of our new season - journal and CAD will, for the most part, progress business as usual but we'll need to rely on CAD and our planning calls much more heavily to go through with build, code, and outreach. We plan to keep up our pace as a World-class team as best as we can over quarantine, as uncertain as our plans for this season may seem.

Leg Drive Prototype

15 Jun 2019

Leg Drive Prototype By Jose

Task: Prototype a Leg Drive for next year's (possible) stacking game

Although most teams go for a traditional chassis, a different type may be needed for next season as speculations suggest a stacking game. A leg drive would be an apt idea to test out for such a game For this chassis, two motors spin their respective "leg" attached to a gear. The point is move the robot using the rotation of the legs rather than wheels. To test, I coded the leg bot using the basic Linear Op-Mode program. There were issues with the motors disconnecting when hitting the ground as their wires physically disconnected. To solve this I took more REV extrusions and attached them perpendicular to the legs, adding space between the ground and the motor. Despite this the leg bot still proves to be unstable.

Next Steps

There is a chance we'll have to scrap the design and start with a different one. Leg drive is an interesting idea but actually working with it will probably not be feasible in the near future, especially if the game is a stacking game, since those rely on speed.

Frontiers Of Flight Museum Outreach

22 Jun 2019

Frontiers Of Flight Museum Outreach By Paul, Bhanaviya, Ethan, Justin, Jose, Benb, Janavi, Evan, Aaron, Abhi, and Evan

Task: Motivate children in STEM fields at the Frontiers of Flight museum

Janavi teaching kids how to build EV3 Robots

Iron Reign went out to the Frontiers of Flight museum to promote STEM and robotics. We brought the MXP, and parked it in the main hangar where it garnered much attention from guests. At this event we instructed young children on basic block programming, 3D CAD modeling and EV3 robotics. We interacted with over 300 participants in this event.

We brought Icarus and Cartbot as a demo of our team's capabilities and to help inspire the children present at the museum. Getting Icarus to work ended up being a whole ordeal, as there were a slew of bugs that had to be ironed out. Cartbot was equipped with our air cannon, to the great amusement of the kids.

Discovery Faire at the Frontiers of Flight Museum Prep

06 Jul 2019

Discovery Faire at the Frontiers of Flight Museum Prep By Jose

Task: Prepare everything for the Discovery Faire next week

I(Jose) fixed the battery box and charged the robot phones and batteries so that we could charge Icarus before next Saturday. Next week, Iron Reign is doing a demo of Icarus at the Frontiers of Flight Museum, which will be our largest MXP event. After charging the batteries, I drive-tested Icarus. While it is still functional, it can't balance as well as it did back in Houston. However, some last minute code on the day of the event should be able to solve that.

Next Steps

While Icarus is still functional, it can't balance as well as it did back in Houston. However, some last minute code on the day of the event should be able to solve that.

Discovery Faire at Central Library

13 Jul 2019

Discovery Faire at Central Library By Trey, Jose, Bhanaviya, Ethan, Janavi, Charlotte, Evan, and Aaron

Task: Teach students how to block program and 3D model at the Discovery Faire @ Central Library

On July 13th Iron Reign attended the 5th annual Dallas City of Learning Discovery Faire at the Central Library. This was our third MXP event where the 250+ kids had access to our 3D printers, Lego EV3 sumo robots, and our four demo robots.

We demoed 4 of our robots including Icarus, Cart Bot, Kraken, and Argos. Cart Bot was by far the most popular with its can cannon. There were always kids around it, even when we were ready to pack up. Although Icarus had an issue with the superman, we were still able to get it working and show its features to anyone interested as well as Kraken and Argos.

Over all, the discovery Faire exposed kids to robotics and inspired parents to invest in their child's extra curricular education, furthering the growth of interest in STEM of the community and guaranteeing a future with these kids at the front line. 3D modeling and programming are essential to any FIRST robotics team and by showing them the basics they are likely to explore more about the subject.

Our booth could not have operated as smoothly as it did without BigThought, for helping us staff and maintain the MXP, and for giving us the opportunity to introduce FIRST to such a large audience. We’d also like to thank Fox 4 Local News for helping publicize our event by taking pictures of the event in progress. We are incredibly thankful for having been able to interact with the next generation of engineers, and giving them a platform to be introduced to FIRST.

SuperMan Wheel Fix

13 Jul 2019

SuperMan Wheel Fix By Jose

Task: 3D model a fix for Superman using Fusion 360

During the Discovery Faire Icarus' Superman wheel broke as the gears were skipping, rendering most robot articulations useless. For reference, Icarus was our robot for the 2019 World Championship and the Superman wheel is a mecanum wheel fixed to the base of the robot that, when extended, allows the robot to stand upright to a height of approximately 5 feet. The problem was the top gears were separating from each other and that caused them to also separate from the SuperMan gear. There is an easy fix for this, use a bar to join the motors together, effectively doing the same to the gears.

This part was modeled by measuring the distance between the motors and the holes of the gearbox to hold the bar down. This ended in a bar 163.5mm long with holes spaced accordingly. This was simply extruded and the edges were made round. After the bar was printed it was proven to be tool long, the issue being the space between the motors is 62mm not 102.5mm.

Next Steps

We need to test the part on the Superman Wheel to see if its able to perform its articulations functionally.

Moonday

20 Jul 2019

Moonday By Paul, Abhi, Charlotte, Justin, Janavi, Jayesh, Aaron, Evan, Ethan, and Karina

Task: Reach out to the community and present at Moonday

Iron Reign went to the Frontiers of Flight Museum again with the DPRG to represent FIRST and SEM during their 50th anniversary celebration of the Apollo moon landings. This was our 4th year presenting at Moonday, and we interacted with over 300 students from as ages as young as 3 to 14. At this event, we helped to spread the message of FIRST and promote STEM. Cartbot and Icarus were present, as well as 10 members of Iron Reign. During this event, we taught students on how to block-program an FLL EV3 robot and 3D-model a keychain, two skills that are very relevant to both FLL and FTC. The event started at 8 AM at Love Field airfield, where the museum is located, and ended at around 2 in the afternoon. We interacted with many parents and students, talking about robotics, STEM, FTC and FIRST.

During the event, we shared a booth with the Dallas Personal Robotics Group(or DPRG, for short!). For the past 5 years, our team has presented several of our robot designs and articulations with DPRG, and earlier this summer, we competed in a robotics competition organized by DPRG. As such, we were excited to work with them again. Members of DPRG and the participants at Moonday enjoyed watching our Rover Ruckus competition robot, Icarus, in action.

The motorized air cannon mounted on Cartbot was also used to great effect, much to the amusement of the younger children. Cartbot itself was also used to great effect to help demonstrate our teams engineering capabilities; driving it around the venue was also admittedly very entertaining for both the drivers and the driven.

As the summer is drawing to a close, we are thankful to both Big Thought and the Frontiers of Flight Museum for the opportunity to once again present our robots, and to educate the next generations of engineers on robotics. We look forward to returning to these events next season as well!

SEM Nest Camp

31 Jul 2019

SEM Nest Camp By Bhanaviya, Jose, and Paul

Task: Introduce incoming freshmen to our robotics program

SEM Freshmen interacting with our team

Iron Reign was given the opportunity by our school, The School for the Science and Engineering Magnet, to introduce and present our robotics program to the school's incoming batch of freshmen. This event allowed us to share our achievements this past season, talk about what it means to be a FIRST Tech Challenge team, and emphasize Iron Reign being a team for the past decade. Through this event, we were even able to get some hopeful recruits on our sign-up page! We were able to demo both Cart-Bot and Icarus during Nest Camp.

We also use this event as a chance to introduce our MXP program. In each session, we met with about 20-30 freshmen and we divided these groups such that one would learn to program EV3 robots and the other would learn to 3D-model keychains on the MXP vehicle. Since these are the two main activities encompassed within our MXP events, showcasing them to the freshmen allowed us to talk about our outreach events and exemplify that Iron Reign as a team focused on both robot-game as well as educating our community about STEM and FIRST.

This event also allowed us to create a connect opportunity. Individuals from Boeing attended and spoke with us at our sessions here which allowed them to see our team in action at an outreach event as well a chance for them to learn about the MXP and our work in bringing STEM to our communities.

Next Steps

We are thankful to SEM for giving us the opportunity to present ourselves and the ideals of FIRST Tech Challenge to the next batch of engineers in the Class of 2023. We enjoyed the chance to meet the future members of Iron Reign and look forward to working with them soon.

Mayor’s Back to School Fair

02 Aug 2019

Mayor’s Back to School Fair By Bhanaviya, Jose, and Ethan

Task: Educate students at the Mayor’s Back to School Fair on robotics

Students learning to model keychains

Iron Reign was given the opportunity to present the MXP and its activities at the Mayor’s Back to School Fair. During this event we met with around 260 participants from ages 4 to 12 and were able to teach them about block-programming LEGO EV3 robots and on 3D-modelling keychains. The purpose of this event was to spread STEM programs to students in areas of Dallas were a STEM education was not as prominent.

This is our fifth year at this event, and it has been our busiest one this season. Alongside our traditional MXP events, we were able to launch cans using the CANnon (pun-intended) to cartbot. Considering the crowd we had at the event, and that the MXP could only hold 10 participants per session, a can-launching cannon allowed us to ensure that participants were able to stay engaged while they waited to board the vehicle.

During the event, we also met with a representative from the Dallas Innovative Alliance (DIA), a non-profit dedicated to supporting the execution of building Dallas into a city that leaves a legacy of innovation and sustainability for future generations. The representative we spoke with mentioned that the DIA was looking to collaborate with programs dedicated to bringing forth STEM in their communities like the MXP program. As such, we look forward to any future possibilities for working with the DIA.

Throughout the event, we met several students asked us how they could join a robotics team of their own. Being able to educate such a large group of participants on FIRST and robotics was a gratifying experience for our team and as such, we'd like to thank the City of Dallas for giving us this opportunity. Our fifth year being a part of the Mayor’s Back to School Fair could not have gone smoother, and we look forward to returning again the next summer.

Letters to Congressional Representatives

03 Aug 2019

Letters to Congressional Representatives By Bhanaviya, Jose, and Ethan

Task: Reach out to congressional representatives in our area to improve the implementation of STEM-based legislation

This past year at the world championship, the founder of FIRST, Dean Kamen, emphasized how much of an influence reaching out to congressional representatives could have on furthering STEM in a community. Drawing inspiration from Kamen’s speech at Minute Maid Park, where the closing ceremonies were held, we reached out to three congressional representatives in our region - Eddie Bernice Johnson, Colin Allred, and Kenny Marchant. We wrote to them about FIRST, Iron Reign’s achievements and our MXP program dedicated to sharing the lessons we have learnt within robotics to the rest of our community. Specifically, we wrote about bills H.R. Building Blocks of STEM Act and the H.R. STEM Opportunities Act of 2019, and how we as a team could improve our outreach programs to help with the passage and implementation of these bills. Both bills are dedicated to promoting STEM education and careers, with the second one narrowed in on promoting the progress of underrepresented groups in STEM.

As a robotics team in a STEM school, we know how much our education has impacted us in how we function within the team. In a city like Dallas, where economic and racial disparities are large enough that not everyone has access to the same education that we do, we wanted to build upon our existing efforts to improve communal access to a STEM education. If we receive a response back, we hope for an opportunity to discuss these bills with said representatives to see how Iron Reign could further contribute towards bringing STEM to our communities through our MXP program.

Sustainability Goals

17 Aug 2019

Sustainability Goals By Bhanaviya

Task: Plan to support at least 3 teams for the incoming Skystone season

One of the biggest challenges we will face this upcoming season is the fact that 6 of our members graduated just a month ago. This leaves a team of 7 underclassmen and two upperclassmen - a pretty significant difference to last season when these numbers were reversed. Luckily, all of us have had at least one year of experience on being in the SEM robotics program so we know what skills we need to learn to pick up where our seniors left off. These schools include build, programming, CAD modelling and journal. Filling in those niches will be difficult, and adding to this challenge is that our program currently consists of 2 teams - us and our sister team, Imperial Robotics. We also to support at least one freshmen team, Iron Core Robotics, one of the freshman teams in our program from last season. The only difference is that last year, the freshman teams were occupied by us for the better part of our freshmen year. Part of adapting to the new season includes the need for us to step up and mentor any new members similar to how we were mentored when we first joined the program. In order to expand our program, we also plan to hold another recruitment meeting like last year and put up posters around our school. The goal isn't to make our program as large as possible but rather to recruit enough members to keep it sustainable even after we've graduated.

Next Steps

We will talk to prospective members from our school on joining the SEM robotics program. Although 6 is a pretty big number of members to lose to graduation, we don't have any immediate plans to take on new members just yet. Our main goal recruitment-wise will be on expanding the overall robotics program, us, Imperial Robotics, Iron Core, and a potential second freshmen team. In order to expand our program, we also plan to hold another recruitment meeting like last year and put up posters around our school. The goal isn't to make our program as large as possible but rather to recruit enough members to keep it sustainable even after we've graduated.

Fixing Mini-Mech

23 Aug 2019

Fixing Mini-Mech By Cooper

Task: Fix Mini-Mech in time for the Skystone reveal

In two weeks, Iron Reign is planning on building a robot in 2 days, based on the 2019-2020 Skystone Reveal Video. We've never really built a robot in that short span of a time, so we realized that preparing a suitable chassis ahead of time will make the challenge a lot easier as it gives us time to focus on specific subsystems and code. As such, I worked on fixing up Mini Mech, as it is a possible candidate for our robot in a weekend, due to its small size and maneuverability. Mini-Mech was our 4-wheeled, mecanum-drive,summer chassis project from the Rover Ruckus season, and it has consistently served as a solid prototype to test the early stages of our build and code. I started by testing the drive motors, and then tightening them down, since were really loose.

Then, I worked on adding a control hub to the chassis. Since Iron Reign was one of the teams who took part in REV's beta test for the control hubs last season, and because we are one of the pilot teams for the REV Control Hub in the North-Texas Region, using a control hub on our first robot of the season will help set us up for our first qualifier, during which we hope to use a control hub.

Next Steps

With MiniMech fixed, we now have at least one chassis design to build our Robot in 2 Days off of.

Online Planning Session

31 Aug 2019

Online Planning Session By Cooper, Trey, Bhanaviya, Ben, and Jose

Task: Brainstorm current and future plans on a google docs and try to switch to Trello

Tonight we set out to organize our thoughts and projects by laying them out on paper. We started out by listing major topics like 'presentation' and 'build'. From there we filled in with more specific things. Overall we had about 6 sections with 5-6 tasks each. This meant that we could easily import the information to Trello- a business organizing online service that Iron Reign tried to use last year. It failed due to the fact that we used it later in the season, so we hope by starting to use it earlier in the season this year will help. Now that we are using Trello, we can have it open such that people can always know what needs to be done.

One of the most notable things about the list is that we finally put down solidly which chassis ideas we will be working on, which is Frankendroid (our Robot in 2 Days robot), the unnamed big mecanum chassis, and most interesting a round robot. Iron Reign has a penchant for employing out-of-the-box ideas. So we went as far from the box as we could this season and have decided to build a circular chassis.

Next Steps

If we can pull it off, a circular robot will be a pretty interesting chassis design-wise. Such a chassis will require careful planning, so we will need to use Trello to evaluate our next steps which will include modelling the chassis and its dimensions first before beginning its actual build.

RIP Big Wheel

01 Sep 2019

RIP Big Wheel By Paul, Aaron, and Trey

Task: Tear down BigWheel and harvest parts

Big Wheel, Iron Reign’s first iteration of our Worlds competition robot Icarus, had been sitting outside in the tent for months and we needed parts for new robots - specifically for our Robot in 2 Days robot. Once the season reveal is released, Iron Reign plans to build a working robot within the weekend of the release. The need for parts was a pressing concern, so it was time for us to part with one of our oldest friends, BigWheel (Icarus, our worlds robot, was off the table because of sentimental value). So we went ahead and scrapped Big Wheel, taking the most important, valuable parts off first, like the bearing slides and arms, then we moved onto the chassis. We worked to break the robot down into parts that we could use on other bots, for this year’s challenge.

We were able to get a lot of very useful parts off of big wheel, as most of the parts used on big wheel are the same parts that were used on Icarus, and this years challenge makes heavy use of the vertical reach and collapsibility of Icarus, and it makes sense to assume that many of the parts that were used on Icarus will come in handy this year. We hope to implement some of these parts to our Robot in 2 Days robot once the season reveal video is released.

2019-20 Recruitment

04 Sep 2019

2019-20 Recruitment By BenB, Jose, Bhanaviya, Paul, Cooper, Karina, and Trey

Task: Recruit new members for the 2019-20 season

Today we held an interest meeting at our campus - Townview Magnet Center. Over 30 people of varying grade levels attended this session, including returning members from Imperial Robotics, Iron Star and Iron Core. Last year Iron Reign lost 6 members to graduation, and since we plan to support two other sister teams in addition to our own, this meeting allowed us to meet potential members to fill in for the skill-sets we lost.

During the meeting, we talked about what it means to be an FTC team, and the difference between FTC and other robotics programs. We also went over Iron Reign's history as a team, and the different levels of organization within an FTC team such as outreach, build, programming, engineering notebook and presentation. Other topics such as the various time commitment levels for each individual team were also discussed.

Next Steps

We plan to invite all interested members to our practices as well as the season kick-off this upcoming Saturday and assign them teams depending on their prior experiences and team preferences.

FTC Skystone Kickoff

07 Sep 2019

FTC Skystone Kickoff By Karina, Bhanaviya, Aaron, Jose, Ben B, Trey, and Cooper

Task: Attend the kickoff event

Today Iron Reign attended the FTC 2019-2020 season kickoff event at Williams High School. Team members and prospective members alike turned up to witness the unveiling of this season's challenge. As per usual, we were disappointed by the lack of water in the game, especially considering the amount of water seen leading up to the actual game reveal. Jokes aside, we are excited to tackle the Skystone challenge. You can see the reveal video below:

(Our robot from Rover Ruckus, Icarus, is featured in the video at 1:10!) There were some things we took away from the conversation prior to the game reveal. For one, we will definitely be using the REV control hub instead of an expansion hub this season, given our bad experiences with OTG cables disconnecting in the past. We also made note of the change in the way tie breaker points are added. The total will be averaged per match played, which will decrease the amount of jumping around teams do in the live rankings.

We also made some (fairly obvious) strategy decisions, such as the fact that we will not be doing offensive play because we cannot risk the associated penalties. Instead, we will focus on our robot's speed. We also plan to model our capstone after the shape of the stones to make it easier for an alliance partner to stack. Lastly, we will have to move the foundation in the direction that the smaller face of the stones points to minimize the possibility of it falling while maximizing efficiency. We could stack the stones in an alternating pattern, but we would have fewer layers supporting the capstone which would cost us points.

Part of the reason we needed to brainstorm strategy decisions quickly is because for the first time, Iron Reign is attempting the Robot in 2 Days Challenge. The Robot in 2 Days is usually a challenge taken up by long-standing veteran teams or alumni of those teams wherein they attempt to (and succeed!) at building a functional, coded robot in 2 days after the reveal. We don't think we will have a robot capable of performing all tele-op and autonomous tasks by the end of the weekend but the goal is to build a solid robot that can accomplish at least one tele-op game challenge.

Next Steps

Now that we know what kinds of tasks we're facing, we'll be moving forward into the discussion-and-prototyping phase of our Robot in 2 Days challenge. Of course, we'd like to thank REV for giving us a stone! Having at least one game element will make it easier for us to test our subsystems as we attempt to build a robot in a weekend.

Modelling a Points System

07 Sep 2019

Modelling a Points System By Bhanaviya and Karina

Task: Model a points system for the Skystone Challenge

A couple hours ago, Iron Reign attended the reveal for the 2019-2020 FTC game - SKYSTONE. Since we intend to build a robot within the frame of this weekend, a points system will allow us to identify what specific parts of the challenge we'd need to solve first. It will also serve as a calculating tool for when we begin drive-testing.

The points system identifies every aspect of the autonomous, tele-op, and endgame respectively. By plugging in values for each aspect, we will be able to see how many points we will score in total within the frame of one round. Essentially, it is a scoring system but will prove useful for when we start looking for build and code specifics on our robot. It will also allow us to more effectively document our drive-testing, something which we are notorious for neglecting in the past.

Next Steps

Once we have a working prototype, we will begin using the points system during drive practice. Since our Robot in 2 Days bot won't by any means be our final design in the weeks leading up to out first qualifier, the points system will come in handy when planning out multiple robot designs. It will serve as an effective tool to help us prioritize our engineering decisions.

Aaron’s Super Cool Gripper That Works 100% Of The Time

07 Sep 2019

Aaron’s Super Cool Gripper That Works 100% Of The Time By Aaron

Task: Prototyping a rolling gripper

During the 2 day robot challenge, one of the gripper designs that we built on the first day was Aaron’s Super Cool Gripper That Works 100% Of The Time. While it did work most of the time, it was a bit too bulky to be implemented effectively in the two day period we had.

The way it worked is by using the flexibility of the ninja flex rollers that we designed last year to slip over the stones, then because of the rubbery ninja flex material, griped on to the stone. Each roller was attached to a servo, allowing us to deposit the stone and rotate it into the orientation we desired.

Next Steps

Although the design isn’t near ready to be implemented, it did experiment with the idea of being able to rotate the stone while depositing. Not only that, but it was hinged at the very center on two axis of rotation, allowing for auto stabilization.

Wheel Gripper

07 Sep 2019

Wheel Gripper By Jose and Trey

Task: Design an intake for the stones based on wheels

Initial Design: Rolling Intake

The first idea we came up with for gripper designs during our Robot in 2 Days (Ri2D) challenge was a rolling intake with the wheels coming from the top and spinning to intake the stone. Since the wheels needed to spin they were placed on shafts which required two extrusions since the pillow bracket for them needs to be threaded on the ends of them to make this design compact.This design was rejected since we want to use the minimal amount of servos as possible and we came up with a more compact design that requires only one servo instead of two(one for each wheel).

Final Design: Gripper Wheels

This design involves two wheels attached to extrusions, one is idle and can't pivot while the other can be rotated in place by a servo. Once its grip was tested we saw that the wheels spinning was a problem. To fix this, the wheels where attached directly onto the extrusions this time and to enhance their grip, a rubber band was added to default the wheels' position as closed. A servo was added to the end of the main extrusion with a servo horn and polycarb beam to rotate the non-idle wheel back to release the stone in its grip. Finally, since drivers aren't perfect, a stabilizer made out of polycarb was placed in the middle of the gripper so it will always move towards the middle of the stones, in between the stubs. At first this was off by 90 degrees, but this was fixed shortly after.

Next Steps

We will have to implement this onto the Ri2D bot and run tests to compare this gripper against our others.

Robot in Two Days - Day One

07 Sep 2019

Robot in Two Days - Day One By Karina, Bhanaviya, Aaron, Jose, Ben, Trey, Cooper, Sam, Sterling, Beau, Mahesh, and Shawn

Task: Build prototype subsystems that pick up the stone elements

This season Iron Reign decided to take on the robot-in-two-days challenge. Given that our team had never done this before, and we are primarily a team of underclassmen, we knew we would have to be organized in our efforts and that we would probably reuse old chassis.

First thing right after the kickoff, the team convened back at our meeting spot to brainstorm ideas for robot designs which you can see above. Among the ideas we discussed was a "cupbot" of sorts, a lot like the designs seen for last years' challenge, except it would be shaped after the tops of the stones. This idea didn't pan out, however, because it would only be able to pick up the stones in the upright orientation, which is not something we can count on. We also had a sub-team prototype a parallel gripper, but it was an unsuccessful build in that it could not actually pick up stones. We did proceed further into the building phase with two designs for a gripper system: a rack-and-pinion gripper and a rolling gripper. One sub-team started on the rack-and-pinion gripper project, while another sub-team started on the rolling gripper project, both of which have separate articles which you can read about in our blog.

Besides the gripper systems, we also discussed what kind of drive train we wanted to use this year. When we were at the kickoff, we noticed that Icarus's chassis was ideal for moving underneath the skybridges, and so we considered using this chassis for our robot in two days challenge. We also had the MiniMech chassis available for reuse. In the end, we proceeded with the mini mech chassis, which a subteam tuned on day one of the two day build, since it would be easier to add a gripper to the next day, and this earlier in the season, we were prioritizing gripper speed, not traveling speed between the two areas of the field.

All work and no play? Of course not! Here at Iron Reign we like to have safe and wholesome fun as we work, which we had the opportunity to do when we caught an ice-cream truck driving around the neighborhood. Look at us having such a chill time!

Next Steps

To finish the challenge tomorrow, we will complete our gripper builds, choose our best design, and then mount it onto the mini mecanum chassis.

Rack and Pinion Gripper

07 Sep 2019

Rack and Pinion Gripper By Cooper and Aaron

Task: Build a gripper system for the 2019-2020 Skystone Challenge

The rack-and-pinion gripper system is one of the 4 gripper systems we built this weekend for our Robot in 2 Days project. Since we’ve never used a rack-and-pinion system before, we realized that it would be a creative idea to start off the new season. Going for simplicity, we made a box such that we could fit 2 racks going in opposite directions, having the pinion in the middle. We constructed the racks with standard rev rails attached to the box with a rev standard linear slide piece and attached tetrix rack gears on the opposite side with double sided tape. Then the pinon was a rev standard gear attached to a rail on the back. The plan was such that when the pinion was turned the two grippers will move outwards and inwards to grasp the stones.

After that, the actual grippers went through 2 iterations. The first was a straight, flat bladed polycarb sheet attached to the rack. We tried this, but it turned out that did not provide enough friction. The second iteration was a slight variation, where we bent the arms and added rubber foam to the end. This saw some success.

Next Steps

Overall, the system was very solid and worked reliably, and could be used in conjunction with a gimbal to make a well performing arm, but that didn't save it. For our weekend build, the rack-and-pinion is too incompatible with our chassis to be implemented in time - but as FrankenDroid (our new robot!) is not the final iteration of our competition robot, the rack-and-pinion gripper system will act as a prototype for any changes we choose to make to our gripper system as the season progresses.

Mentoring Rookie Team Wattever

08 Sep 2019

Mentoring Rookie Team Wattever By Aaron, Bhanaviya, Cooper, Jose, and Ben

Task: Show team 16296 Wattever how we run our meets

During our time participating in the robot in 2 days challenge, rookie FTC team 16296 Wattever (that's their name!) stopped by to take a look and get some advice from us. They were brand new to FTC, and came to us since we were a veteran team in the area. We enjoyed sharing with them our previous experiences and season highlights, as well as any and all steps a rookie team could take to ensure that they were ready to start competing in the Skystone season.

We showed them what tools and materials they would need, skills they would acquire, and priorities that were vital to competing in FTC. Not only that, but we did some discussing of this years challenge, sharing some ideas that may have not come straight to mind. We told them our preferences for kits, parts manufacturers and what kind of projects a rookie team could partake in for the upcoming build season.

Next Steps

Overall, they were very enthusiastic about FTC and we were excited to help them out. We had fun introducing them to the gospel of FIRST and we look forward to collaborating with more such teams in our region as the season progresses.

Parallel Gripper

08 Sep 2019

Parallel Gripper By Ben

Task: Prototype a parallel gripper

While there are many different solutions and gripper designs, one of the most common is the parallel gripper. The purpose of a parallel gripper is to grip objects, in our case stones, parallel to the object instead of at an angle. Since this was a rational idea to start off with, this was one of the gripper designs we experimented with in the duration of our Robot in 2 Days challenge.

A parallel gripper would allow us to grip the stones more effectively, as it would grip with more surface area. Theoretically, these grippers work by having 4 bars/connectors which are all the same length. When they close, they close parallel.

After building the gripper, we tested it with the stones. While it did an okay job at gripping, due to the fact that we didn't use any gripping material, it slipped a few times. Another issue we encountered was that it would be difficult to flip a stone if needed, which is a task other designs could perform.

Next Steps

If we decide to pursue the parallel gripper system, we would have to figure out a way to flip a stone so we could stack it, along with improving the grip.

Ri2D Code

08 Sep 2019

Ri2D Code By Jose

Task: Code a Basic TeleOp Code for the Ri2D bot using pre-existing classes and methods

As the Ri2D bot nears completion, the need for TeleOp code becomes apparent to actually make it move. Since this robot is based of from MiniMech, a previous chassis design for Rover Rockus, the code was simply inserted into its existing class. To allow its subsystems to move and hold their position when they are not, methods for it to pose were used from the code for Icarus, our Rover Rockus robot. Most of the `PoseBigWheel` class wont be used for this robot, but that's fine since that is as simple as not using the methods not needed, done. The constructor for the `PoseBigWheel` class needed to be modified since there are different motors and servos used, this was easy as we just needed to remove anything we didn't need. Again, most stuff here won't be used, but as long as we don't delete any PIVs we should be fine.

Once the code for robot posing is made to match the Ri2D bot, we need to implement it. To do this an instance of this class was instantiated in the `MiniMech` class. With that, we can now use methods of the `Crane` class(the one with robot posing) in the `MiniMech` class.

Now it's time to use these methods from the `Crane` class. Since the elbow and slides are the same from Icarus we can apply these methods directly. These were simple if statements to detects a button press and set the appropriate motor moving using the posing code from the `Crane` class. Instead of using basic `setMotor` commands to get the motors going, pre-coded methods were used, we can now keep the motors in the position where they are placed in the same amount of complexity and with no previous knowledge of how to code robot poseing.

Finally, we have to code the servos. Since the `Crane` class comes with code for two servos we can advantage of it since the Ri2D bot has only two servos. Although the code for this is a lot simpler since robot posing isn't required here, it is still nice to have values for the open and closed positions stored in a PIV in the `Crane` class if we ever have to change them later. A simple toggle feature was used so one button sets the servo to an open position when closed and vice versa.

Next Steps

We could on some robot articulations later on, but a basic TeleOp program is good for now.

Robot in 2 Days - Day Two

08 Sep 2019

Robot in 2 Days - Day Two By Bhanaviya, Aaron, Cooper, Jose, Ben, and Paul

Task: Finish Robot in 2 Days

Since the reveal was released yesterday, Iron Reign embarked on a project to build a skystone-specific robot in 2 days. Yesterday was a planning ground, during which we began prototyping 4 robot grippers, and 2 chassis designs. With less than 24 hours to complete our robot, we started today off by getting build-specific decisions out of the way, so that we could narrow in on one robot design to code and work on.

Of course, we couldn't settle on a decision without first finishing all 4 of our gripper designs. At the end, we had one gripper system that incorporated nylon gears, one that used regular wheels, one that used a rack-and-pinion system, and one that was a parallel gripper system. We decided to settle on the one using standard wheels that pivot to grip onto a skystone. While we haven't yet decided if this will be the same design we will work with in time for our first qualifier, it is a stable system for a robot in two days.

As far as the chassis was concerned, we stuck to using Mini-Mech, our summer chassis project from the previous year. Since we added a control hub to Mini-Mech earlier in the week, all that had to be done was incorporate the gripper system onto its chassis, and program it to at the very least move and grip onto skystones. This was a lot of work that needed to be accomplished in 4 hours, but as full-fledged members of the Building A Robot The Night Before A Competition Club, working on a small time frame was nothing new to us. In the span of one practice, we finished implementing a working gripper system to Mini-Mech and coded it to move, grab and stack a skystone on the foundation top. We christened our creation FrankenDroid as a testament to this year's Star Wars-based theme and the fact that the robot was made from harvesting parts from our last years' robots, Big Wheel and Icarus.

Next Steps

While FrankenDroid's movements are far from being smooth, it is a start. Robot in 2 Days started off as a fun challenge for us - we did not expect to accomplish as much progress as we did in such a short span of time. As of now, we don't plan on using FrankenDroid as our competition robot - but it will be useful for drive-testing, and will serve as a prototype for any future iterations.

Robot in 2 Days Grippers Comparison

09 Sep 2019

Robot in 2 Days Grippers Comparison By Jose and Bhanaviya

Task: Analyze all our grippers from the Robot in 2 Days challenge

During the making of our Ri2D we prototyped and designed several gripper designs to collect stones. These designs varied in the method of manipulating the stone, how many servos they required and how compact they are. All of these gripper designs have their own post describing them in detail, but this article summarizes all of these grippers as a way to help us with future gripper designs.

1) Wheel Intake

This idea was though of but never built since the design was to have wheels at about ground level to spin and therefore intake the block, the problem being that this would disrupt the other blocks in the quarry since it intaked the block from its short side.

2) Wheel Gripper

This design was to use wheels as grip since they have good friction, one set of wheels is stationary and the other set can open and close via a servo. Not compact, but required only one servo and had great grip on the stone. This was ultimately the design we ended up using in our final Robot in 2 Days bot, Frankendroid,since it was efficient in maneuvering and controlling stones and served as a good design for a quick, 2 days old robot.

3) Aaron's Super Cool Gripper That Works 100% of The Time

This design used 3-D printed wheels made of ninja flex that spun to intake the block, like the wheel gripper just not in a set position and it grabbed stones from above. This design was huge and required two servos as well as not having much grip.

4) Rack and Pinion Gripper

This design involved a rack and pinion closing some polycarbonate sheets to grip the stone. The polycarb sheets had foam for grip, but this was still not enough to even lift the stone, so an actual motor would be required.

5) Parallel Gripper

This design was to use a parallel grabber with some material for grip as an alternative to the rack and pinion design. Unfortunately, the parallel grabber wasn’t built correctly thus not parallel.

Next Steps

With all of our gripper designs from the Robot in 2 Days Challenge documented, we can now analyze how best we can improve these designs for future gripper iterations, as well as the potential of these designs to be combined to create an entirely new design. Currently, we are leaning towards using the gripper with Ninjaflex gears, which is the 3rd design in this article, once we've fine-tuned Frankendroid's design. We think a rolling intake will work well on our robot so this design is consistent with our idea to use the wheel gripper at present.

Field Set-Up

13 Sep 2019

Field Set-Up By Trey, Bhanaviya, Ben, Jose, and Cooper

Task: Clean our work space and set up the field

Today we started preparing for the first meeting with the new recruits. Some of the things we set out to do were cleaning the robot room and assembling the new field for this year's challenge. All of the things we wanted to do had the common goal of making a safe and educational environment for the new recruits.

Before we started cleaning the robot room was a total mess and the main room was no better. Because the robot room is where the rookie teams work, we set out to clean that first. We tried to put away everything that could pose even the smallest danger like loose parts and tools. Even though we didn't make too much of an effort to organize because we knew it wouldn't have lasted long, we still made the room 100% safer. We also did the same for the main room. Finally, we also filmed the reveal video for the robot in 24 hours; however, that footage is still not edited.

Next Steps

We need to ensure that we are prepared to open our meeting to an influx of new recruits tomorrow. Now that the field has been set-up and our robot room has been organized, it will be a lot easier for all new recruits and our 2 teams to work in a shared space.

Test Driving New Robot

14 Sep 2019

Test Driving New Robot By Ben, Jose, and Trey

Task: Test the "Robot in 2 Days" robot

Today we were able to drive test our "robot in 2 days" robot. We used our robot from the previous season, Icarus, as our alliance partner. Jose and Trey drove several matches. They were able to score around 40 points consistently. This was a relatively high number considering Icarus was only used as a push bot (it hasn't been adapted to this season's challenge). Jose was able to stack the Stones with precision and accuracy. Because of this, he was also able to do it efficiently. We determined the height of the arm was perfect for the robot, but it could use some finer tuning and adjustments. The hook, which was used to move the foundation, worked well too. One issue we encountered was the loosening of a chain on the front right wheel. Even though it was a simple fix, it did cost several points, as the robot was more challenging to control.

We were also able to test our robot with our sister team's (Iron Core) robot. Their robot was essentially a push bot too, but provided different challenges for our driver. The core bot was smaller, yet harder to maneuver, especially for newer drivers. This resulted in a loss of points and difficulty operating smoothly. Eventually, both drivers figured it out and were able to score 25-30 points consistently.

Iron Reign's robot stacks a Skystone while Iron Core's robot pushes a Stone.

Next Steps

We will continue to test our robot and fine-tune the arm, chassis, and intake design based on performance. We will also monitor the wheels to ensure they remain adequately attached, to avoid them loosening again.

New Recruits for the 2019-2020 Season

14 Sep 2019

New Recruits for the 2019-2020 Season By Bhanaviya, Karina, Aaron, Jose, Ben, Trey, Cooper, Paul, and Justin

Task: Train the influx of new recruits

The recruits learn how to code

During a robotics interest meeting at our school 2 weeks ago, Iron Reign saw a crowd of around 20 hopeful recruits. Today was our first meeting to introduce the new recruits to our program - during which we encountered 4 returning members to our sister team, and 23 potential new members. Needless to say, practice this week was a little more chaotic than usual but we managed to not only train the recruits, but also take care of some driver practice and journal backlog.

Of the 23 recruits, 4 had robotics experience and 2 had 3D-modelling experience. Regardless of their previous robotics experiences, however, all recruits made significant progress as they experimented with the new REV kits. Most of our team is compromised of under-classmen, and after a year of watching our older (and significantly taller!) seniors induct us into robotics, it was a new experience to be teaching new recruits of our own this year. We divided the new members into two team of 10 respectively, and the remaining 3 observed and learned on how to use PTC Creo from our lead modeler, Justin. The first team was assisted and taught by several returning members from our sister team Imperial Robotics. They worked on building a differential chassis with the Imperial members. The second team was compromised of entirely new recruits and they worked on building a pushbot using the new REV kits, an initiation ritual that we ourselves had to encounter our freshman year. The first team finished the chassis but is yet to implement any additional subsystems onto it, something they will work on during the next meet.

The second rookie team finished building a push-bot during their first meet! Of course, they encountered some difficulties in the beginning as there were 10 individuals working with one REV kit. Some challenges they had to encounter included figuring out how to position the extrusion bars, and where to place the push-bot wheels. Several Iron Reign members floated in and out of their work area to provide assistance when needed, and as well as to teach them how to safely operate power-tools. Once they finished building their push-bot, Jose helped them program the robot with sample push-bot code and taught them how to operate the phones and expansion hubs. Although Iron Reign is the only team in our program as of current to be using a control hub, this may change in the future if members on our sister teams are confident enough of their robots to experiment with a control hub.

By the time the rookie team had a coded, operational push-bot, we accomplished several hours worth of driver practice, which allowed us to play our very first round of the Skystone Season with our new sister team. This also served as a good opportunity for some of the new recruits to learn how to drive and control a robot, a skill that will come in handy as their first qualifier approaches.

Finally, Iron Reign was able to clear some journal back-log. Our team has been occasionally guilty of abandoning journal articles until the last minute, so we used today's practice as an opportunity to knock out any posts we've held off on. As of now, we are 100% up to date with our blog, and we hope to be more consistent as our practices continue.

Next Steps

Although turnout was much higher than we initially anticipated, this practice was a good opportunity to meet the future members of our program. All rookies were advised to come to our Saturday practices regularly so that they could eventually be placed into teams. As this was the first practice of the year for many, we haven't yet identified how many teams we will be hosting but we hope to do so over the next remaining practices.

Meeting Log

21 Sep 2019

Meeting Log By Trey, Bhanaviya, Ben, Jose, Justin, Aaron, and Paul

Task: Help the freshmen teams finish their code and continue the development of gripper designs.

This meeting we made substantial progress on designs that will eventually be tested on the robot. Some of those designs include the rolling gripper, Linear gripper, and rotating turret. We also made the existing robot more balanced and less likely to tip over by moving the counterweight and that enabled us to start working on the vision for autonomous with Vuforia.

On the topic of grippers, Justin made progress in remodeling the flexible wheel that will go on the rolling gripper which still needs to be made less bulky. If the rolling gripper is made more compact and the wheel is designed a little better then it could prove to be a viable design because of its ability to effectively manipulate blocks. Along with Justin remodeling the wheel, Aaron made more progress on the linear gripper which might also be a viable design if it had better grip and just like the rolling gripper, was more compact.

Ben started implementing infrastructure in Autodesk Fusion 360 so that we could translate all of our files in PTC Creo into Fusion 360 for future development in that environment. And Jose also helped the rookie teams finish the code for their robots and got them running. In other words, we had four robots fully running by the end of the day. Overall, today was a fairly successful day with lots of development in robot design and code.

Next Steps

We still need to finish establishing infrastructure in Fusion 360 and transferring files into that environment. We also need to test the vision of the robot so that we can start building up a functional autonomous that could eventually be transferred to a new robot. That new robot will probably have a different chassis and a better compact gripper all of which we still need to build. one last thing that should be said, however, is that although that list may seem large, it would have been much larger if we didn't do a robot in two days.

P.A.U.L

21 Sep 2019

P.A.U.L By Aaron

Task: Design a new intake system

The Pivoting Accelerated User-friendly Locker

After the end of the two day robot build, we had come up with two main gripper designs. One was consistent, however heavy and large, (Wheel Gripper) and one was lighter but wasn’t quite as versatile or controllable (Aaron's Super Cool gripper That Worked 100% of the Time). P.A.U.L (Pivoting Accelerated User-friendly Locker) is the best of both worlds. It’s made out of polycarb so it’s light and somewhat flexible, and its easily controlled by a servo.

P.A.U.L was originally designed with a hole in the top where a servo could push a small polycarb rod straight down, pushing the stone out of the grasp of P.A.U.L. This might have worked, however we decided that it would most likely be more efficient and easily controllable if we switched to some sort of pivoting mechanism where one side of Paul could be controlled by a servo. The way that works is by fixing one side to an axle that is attached to a gear. That gear is then controlled by the servo on top of P.A.U.L.

Next steps:

In the future we plan to test different gear ratios, that way we could figure out the perfect ratio of torque to speed. We want a good amount of torque that way we can grip the stones tightly and securely so they don’t fall out while being jostled around on the field, however in this years challenge speed is going to be very important.

Skystone Gripper Version 2

24 Sep 2019

Skystone Gripper Version 2 By Justin

Task: Design an Intake Wheel

The older iteration of the gripper wheel

Last season, we designed a ninjaflex gripper for Icarus, our World championship robot. This season, we are experimenting with different intake designs. One of our intake designs is Aaron's Super Cool Gripper, which uses the ninjaflex gripper wheels we designed. The problem with this system is that the wheels are very large, and increase the total size of the intake system. In order to shrink the size of the intake, we need to design smaller wheels that will still be able to grip to the side of the stones. We also combined the design of this gripper with the Pivoting Accelerated User-Friendly Locker (P.A.U.L) so the new intake design uses the new gears on the combination of the existing gripper designs.

Our design consists of a central hub with 8 short flaps attached around it. The design uses similar flaps to last season's design, but there is no ring to support them and the length is much shorter. The width was 2mm, with the circles at the end being 4mm in diameter. When we printed this design the flaps were not stiff enough to maintain grip on the stones. In our second iteration of the gripper wheel we increased the width of the flaps to 3mm, keeping the circle diameters 4mm. We did this to create stronger flaps that would provide more force against the sides of the stones. In addition to this, we also added curves on the edge between the flaps and the central hub to provide more support to the flaps. These two changes made the flaps much stiffer, so now there is much less force required to maintain grip on the stones.

The newer version of the gripper wheel

Next steps:

We need to test this design on an actual intake system. We have a design that currently has last seasons gripper wheels on it. We need to swap the old grippers with our new design, and adjust the size of the gripper to accommodate the smaller wheels.

TomBot CAD

28 Sep 2019

TomBot CAD By Ben

Task: Design a concept for a circular chassis

Concept of circular chassis

A challenge we face this year is running into other robots. Last year, it was possible to easily get around other robots; however, this year it will be difficult to get around other robots, as there will be a lot more cross traffic in the building zone.

Our solution to this is designing a circular chassis. This will allow us to brush other robots without getting caught. With this, we would be able to move quicker and accurately. We will construct a 17.5in circular chassis. It will be driven by 2 8-in wheels (ironton 8in. Solid Rubber Spoked Poly Wheel) with 2 sets of 4-60mm omni-directional wheels on the front and back of the robot for stabilization.

Next Steps

Our next steps are to begin construction of the circular chassis, which has now been named TomBot, after our coach's cat - Tom the Cat. We will begin construction of TomBot by creating a circular template, which will be 17.5in in diameter. We will then trace that shape onto a polycarbonate sheet and cut it out.

Recruitment Update

28 Sep 2019

Recruitment Update By Bhanaviya

Task: Plan for 30+ influx of team members

Just like last year, this year has been pretty successful recruitment-wise. We have had 24 total signups, up from -5 last year. In addition to our returning members to our sister team, Imperial Robotics, and the existing members on Iron Reign, this wave of new recruits means that the Iron Reign family must continue growing. So, just as we have done last year, we introducing TWO new teams to North Texas, making us one of the only school-operated NTX teams supporting a total of 4 teams.

Structure-wise, Iron Reign will remain the varsity team, and as such, will be responsible for tutoring and assisting the other teams, as well as other organizational decisions. Then, Imperial will now be the JV team, and be the intermediate training ground. You can see their efforts over at https://imperialrobotics.github.io/. Then, Iron Core Robotics and Iron Golem Robotics will be freshmen teams and will serve as a good platform for the new members on the SEM Robotics program to understand what it means to be on a first-time FTC team. While we are pretty early on in the season to make decisions on how many members each of the freshmen teams will have, we estimate that they will both have around 7-8 members each. So far, all of our recruits are motivated and show great potential for the future of our robotics program.

We will deliver tutoring updates and joint outreach events on this blog, as well as our usual content. Everything claimed in this engineering notebook will be Iron Reign (6832) only, and we will hold the same standard of separation to the other teams.

Next Steps

We will tutor the new teams and identify the promising recruits. For ongoing tournaments and eliminations, we will recompose new teams of the most promising members. Our goal has been to ensure that the Iron Reign Robotics program is sustainable for years to come and with our 4 teams, we are confident that we will be able to achieve this.

Modeling Planetary Gears

02 Oct 2019

Modeling Planetary Gears By Paul

Task: Modeling a planetary gearset for robot turntable

External Gear Ring

We decided on using a turntable on the robot to allow for maximum articulation and flexibility on our arm assembly. The gear ring pictured allows the turntable to be moved by a motor mounted on the turntable. This component was modeled in Fusion 360, using a gear generator to make the teeth and creating the mount holes and the mounting ring after creating the gear.

The outer gear has 160 teeth, and the inner one has 20 teeth giving the two components a mechanical advantage ratio of 1:8. Both gears have a module of 1.5 mm, giving the gears enough definition to allow for precise movement while being coarse enough to print out on a 3d printer.

Next Steps

We need to print out the planetary gears and then mount the bevel gears to the turn-tables to ensure precision.

Fixing the Mechanum Chassis

05 Oct 2019

Fixing the Mechanum Chassis By Cooper

Task: Fix the old mecanum chassis from last year

Tonight, I worked on fixing the Iron Star robot from last year, since its a viable option for replacement of a chassis if there was ever a problem with ours at a competition. First we needed to strip it down to its bare form and take off the mecanum wheels. After that we took off the Tetrix axle holding blocks, as they were to thick and tall, and we printed out the holders from the minimech robot. We had to cut new axles since the ones that were used were very scarred. from there, the motors were removed and replaced with 20:1 planetary-geared REV motors. Then I attached the mecanum wheels back on.

Next Steps

In the future we need to attach the other set of mecanum wheels and add chains to the motors and the wheels. After that, we need to add on the general purpose mounting bracket that we are talking about making so that we can hot swap the subsystems on the fly.

Preparing for the Meeting with Representative Colin Allred's Office

05 Oct 2019

Preparing for the Meeting with Representative Colin Allred's Office By Bhanaviya

Task: Reach out to congressional representatives in our area to improve the implementation of STEM-based legislation

This summer, our team reached out to three congressional representatives in our district - Colin Allred, Eddie Bernice Johnson and Kenny Marchant. We emailed to them letters detailing our Mobile Tech Experience Program (MXP), our accomplishments over the Rover Ruckus season, and how our team has dedicated itself towards promoting STEM education in underserved areas of Dallas.

This week we received an email back from Representative Allred's office and they agreed to our request for a meeting with a member of their staff. The meeting will occur next week, during which we will discuss a bill pertaining to STEM education - more specifically, the H.R. Building Blocks of STEM A Act. This bill was passed this summer, after our correspondence to Allred. The H.R. Building Blocks of STEM is about improving female participation in STEM and in improving STEM education for younger children. As such, our meeting will focus more on discussing how best to implement the contents of the bill and how we can improve the MXP program to collaborate with Allred's office.

Next Steps

We are incredibly thankful to Representative Allred's office for giving us the opportunity to discuss STEM education with them. We look forward to the meeting next week.

Presenting to Representative Colin Allred's Office

10 Oct 2019

Presenting to Representative Colin Allred's Office By Bhanaviya, Karina, Jose, Aaron, Cooper, Trey, Ben, Paul, and Justin

Task: Meet with Representative Colin Allred's office to discuss FIRST robotics and STEM-based legislation

Today, we presented to Mr Andrew Krause of the 32nd District Representative Colin Allred's office to increase awareness of FIRST and the STEM Outreach that Iron Reign has done in the community. Last year at World Championship in FIRST, the founder of FIRST Dean Kamen emphasized the importance about reaching out to our local representatives to spread the word of FIRST. So, our team reached out to Representative Allred's office, and they agreed to our request for a meeting!

The legislative bill we wrote about in the email to their office was the H.R. Building Blocks of STEM Act. This bill focused on improving teacher training for STEM educators, increasing funding for STEM-based extracurriculars, and in reforming STEM based education to draw more girls to STEM. As a robotics team coming from a STEM-based school, all of these are issues that we care deeply about, and are issues that we have the privilege to address. During the meeting with Mr Krause, we brought up the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) Convention that Iron Reign presented at 3 years ago to highlight the importance of STEM teacher training. We also discussed STEM Spark since it was an all-girls event wherein Iron Reign taught middle-school girls how to code and 3D-model.

We were also able to bring our mobile learning lab, the Mobile Tech Xperience (or MXP, for short) to the meeting. The representatives we met with enjoyed boarding the vehicle to get a first-hand look at the activities we teach during our outreach events. We talked them through the actual process of how the MXP itself was built as well as the plans for its future expansion.

Next Steps

Although the Building Blocks of STEM Act was the bill we had reached out to the office about, our main goal for the meeting was to find ways to collaborate with Representative Allred's office to better spread STEM in our community. As students from a STEM-based school, we know that we are privileged in terms of opportunity, and through our existing outreach programs, we hoped to better spread that opportunity to other students in the Dallas community. At the end of today's meeting, we discussed the possibility of members from the Representative office being present at our school-hosted qualifier and our future outreach events. We are thankful for the opportunity to have gotten to present to Mr Krause and we hope to further collaborate with Representative Allred's office in planning our outreach events.

Gripper Testing

10 Oct 2019

Gripper Testing By Paul and Justin

Task: Test block gripper

Here is us testing the gripper we designed to pick up the blocks in this years SkyStone challenge. This gripper combines the Pivoting Accelerated User-Friendly Locker, P.A.U.L, one of our earlier gripper designs, and Aaron's Super Cool Gripper, a design from our Robot in 2 Days Challenge. It has a backplate similar to that of P.A.U.L's but instead of polycarb flaps, it utilizes the smaller Ninjaflex gears (a smaller version of the gears on Aaron's Super Cool Gripper) that Justin modeled so it is essentially a combination of our best design ideas so far. It doesn't have a name yet so it will be called P.A.U.L Version 2. It was mostly effective in picking up the blocks, however we need more structural rigidity to ensure that the blocks don't rotate while being picked up.

Next Steps

Next steps include reinforcing the gripper frame, and mounting it to our prototyping robot. We also need to cut off the excess rev rail, to reduce weight and make it a little less bulky.

Autonomous and TomBot Robot

11 Oct 2019

Autonomous and TomBot Robot By Karina, Jose, and Bhanaviya

Task: Autonomous coding and TomBot progress

DISD students have been blessed with a long weekend, which we plan to take full advantage of as our first scrimmage is closing in. Just as we started to test drive Frankendroid, we began to notice some faults with the robot. Lots of these were common errors, which can likely be attributed to the fact that we sped through the building of Frankendroid very quickly. For one, we left off a lot of pulleys on our belt and pulley system, which left the entire thing very loose and in need of tensioning. We also had an issue of bearings slipping out of their sockets for the gripper's elbow attachment. We promptly made sure that the axle and belt systems were set up properly.

So far, much of the team's focus has been on building a robot, and we're just now getting around to coding. So besides tuning up Frankendroid, we took a look at our autonomous program. To start, we drew an auto path (version 1). Then, considering Iron Reign already has a large code base from all its years doing FTC, we copied the pre-existing minimech code to start the code for Frankendroid. In terms of the drive train, Frankendroid is pretty standard with four mecanums in a rectangular shape, and so the hardware map was the same. We had some null pointer exceptions due to calls to nonexistent motors, sensors, etc. Additionally, the motor behaviors were not working such that doing the controls to move forward and backwards actually made the robot strafe, and strafing commands made the robot rotate. All of this was fixed in code. Afterwards, we calibrated

Lastly, we did build work on our work-in-progress TomBot. From wheel to wheel, the span was too great to fit within the polycarb frame we had previously cut. Everything (wheels, motors, extrusions) had to moved closer together on the main axle, and then centered. The two center extrusions intended to be a point of attachment to the polycarb frame extended past the perimeter of the frame, and so these had to shortened with a hacksaw.

Next steps:

Our code team is now gearing up for an intensive two weeks of writing and fine tuning code for the robot. Drivers will take this opportunity to practice driving and become familiar with controlling Frankendroid.

FrankenDroid - TPM Calibration

11 Oct 2019

FrankenDroid - TPM Calibration By Jose, Cooper, and Bhanaviya

Task: Calibrate FrankenDriod's Ticks Per Meter in preparation of programming autonomous

Today we worked on the calibration of FrankenDriod's TPM. This is used to accurately and precisely move during autonomous by having a conversion factor between a given distance and the unit ticks, which is used in the code. This was done by commanding FrankenDroid to move forward 2000 ticks. Of course this wasn't a meter, but the distance it did travel(in centimeters) was divided by 100 and multiplied by 2000(estimate used above) to get the approximate TPM. After a few times of getting the number of ticks perfect, we got it exact to the centimeter. This was also done for strafing and with that we now have an exact TPM that can be used when programming autonomous.

Next Steps

Now for the fun part, actually programming auto paths. These will be planned out and coded at a later date.

Beginning Auto Stone

12 Oct 2019

Beginning Auto Stone By Cooper and Karina

Task: Design an intake for the stones based on wheels

Initial Design: Rolling Intake

We've been trying to get our start on autonomous today. We are still using FrankenDroid (our R12D mecanum drive test bot) because our competition bot is taking longer than we wanted. We just started coding, so we are just trying to learn how to use the statemachine class that Arjun wrote last year. We wanted to make a skeleton of a navigation routine that would pick up and deposit two skystones, although we ran into 3 different notable issues.

Problem #1 - tuning Crane presets

We needed to create some presets for repeatable positions for our crane subystem. Since we output all of that to telemetry constantly, it was easy to position the crane manually and see what the encoder positions were. We were mostly focusing on the elbow joints position, since the extension won't come into play until we are stacking taller towers. The positions we need for auto are:

  • BridgeTransit - the angle the arm needs to be to fit under the low skybridge
  • StoneClear - the angle that positions the gripper to safely just pass over an upright stone
  • StoneGrab - the angle that places the intake roller on the skystone to begin the grab

Problem #2 - learning the statemachine builder

I've never used lambda expressions before, so that was a bit of a learning curve. But once I got the syntax down, it was pretty easy to get the series of needed moves into the statemachine builder. The sequence comes from our auto planning post. The code has embedded comments to explain what we are trying to do:


Problem #3 - REV IMU flipped?

This was the hard one. We lost the last 1.5 hours of practice trying to figure this out, so we didn't get around to actually picking up any stones. We figured that our framework code couldn't have this wrong because it's based on last year's code and the team has been using imu-based navigation since before Karina started. So we thought it must be right and we just didn't know how to use it.

The problem started with our turn navigation. We have a method called rotateIMU for in-place turns which just takes a target angle and a time limit. But the robot was turning the wrong way. We'd put in a 90 degree target value expecting it to rotate clockwise looking down at it, but it would turn counter clockwise and then it would oscillate wildly. Which at least looked like it found a target value. It just looked like very badly tuned PID overshoot and since we hadn't done PID tuning for this robot yet, we decided to start with that. That was a mistake. We ended up damping the P constant down so much until it had the tiniest effect and the oscillation never went away.

We have another method built into our demo code called maintainHeading. Just what it sounds like, this lets us put the robot on a rotating lazy susan and it will use the imu to maintain it's current heading by rotating counter to the turntable. When we played with this it became clear the robot was anti-correcting. So we looked more closely at our imu outputs and yes, they were "backwards." Turning to the left increased the imu yaw when we expected turning to the right would do that.

We have offset routines that help us with relative turns so we suspected the problem was in there. however, we traced it all the way back to the raw outputs from the imuAngles and found nothing. The REV Control Hub is acting like the imu module is installed upside down. We also have an Expansion Hub on the robot and that behaves the same way. This actually triggered a big debate about navigation standards between our mentors and they might write about that separately. So in the end, we went with the interpretation that the imu is flipped. Therefore, the correction was clear-- either to change our bias for clockwise therefore increasing in our relative turns, or to flip the imu output. We decided to flip the imu output and the fix was as simple as inserting the "360-" to this line of code:

poseHeading = wrapAngle(360-imuAngles.firstAngle, offsetHeading);

So the oscillation turned out to be at 180 degrees to the target angle. That's because the robot was anti-correcting but still able to know it wasn't near the target angle. At 180 it flips which direction it thinks it should turn for the shortest path to zero error, but the error was at its maximum, so the oscillation was violent. Once we got the heading flipped correctly, everything started working and the PID control is much better with the original constants. Now we could start making progress again.

Though, the irony here is that we might end up mounting one of our REV hubs upside down on our competition robot. In which case we'll have to flip that imu back.

Next Steps

1)Articulating the Crane- We want to turn our Crane presets into proper articulations. Last year we built a complicated articulation engine that controlled that robot's many degrees of freedom. We have much simpler designs this year and don't really need a complicated articulation engine. But it has some nice benefits like set and forget target positions so the robot can be doing multiple things simultaneously from inside a step-by-step state machine. Plus since it is so much simpler this year and we have examples, the engine should be easier to code.

2)Optimization- Our first pass at auto takes 28 seconds and that's with only 1.5 skystone runs and not even picking the first skystone up or placing it. And no foundation move or end run to the bridge. And no vision. We have a long way to go. But we are also doing this serially right now and we can recover some time when we get our crane operating in parallel with navigation. We're also running a .8 speed so can gain a bit there.

3)Vision- We've played with both the tensor flow and vuforia samples and they work fairly well. Since we get great positioning feedback from vuforia we'll probably start with that for auto skystone retrieval.

4)Behaviors- we want to make picking up stones an automatic low level behavior that works in auto and teleop. The robot should be able to automatically detect when it is over a stone and try to pick it up. We may want more than just vision to help with this. Possibly distance sensors as well.

5)Wall detection- It probably makes sense to use distance sensors to detect distance to the wall and to stones. Our dead reckoning will need to be corrected as we get it up to maximum speed.

Discuss the Impact of Our Robot in 2 Days Reveal Video

12 Oct 2019

Discuss the Impact of Our Robot in 2 Days Reveal Video By Bhanaviya

Task: Analyze the viewer statistics of our Robot in 2 Days Reveal Video

2 hours after the challenge reveal for Skystone, Iron Reign kicked off the new season with a new robot - FrankenDroid. It's been one month since then and FrankenDroid has undergone several significant build and code changes (to be revealed in our next few blog posts!), and the video we posted on our youtube channel, Iron Reign, has reached over 2K views. The whole purpose of the video was to inspire teams who were having trouble coming up with build designs for their robots. As a team who's had its fair share of build challenges, we know how Robot in 2 Days videos can be pretty helpful to look at when starting off the new build season.

As shown above, the release of our video led to our channel receiving over 3,300 views and has a watch time of 7,033 minutes. This is an instance of online outreach and is the primary reason why all our journal articles and videos are public. The NTX region itself is pretty large compared to many other regions competing in FIRST, which makes for teams with active build seasons. Posting videos of this sort allows our team to share our build progress to the rest of the FIRST communities world-wide who may not be as expansive as the North Texas region is.

Next Steps

We hope our video was helpful for any teams starting off the new build season. We look forward to posting another reveal video once our robot for competition is ready.

Auto Path 1

12 Oct 2019

Auto Path 1 By Karina and Jose

Task: Lay out our robot's path for autonomous

To kick off our autonomous programming, Iron Reign created our first version autonomous path plan. We begin, like all robots, in the the loading stone, its back to the field wall and with our intake arm upwards. We approach the line-up of stones and deploy the arm to its intake state over the last stone. At the same time, we have the wheels of the gripper rotating for a few seconds. The, we back up directly. Using IMU, our robot rotates 90 degrees, and then crosses underneath the skybridge to the building zone. About 1 foot past the end of the foundation closest to the bridges, we rotate again to the right and then deposit our stone. Afterwards, we retract the intake arm, back up, and then park underneath the skybridge.

Next steps: Improving autonomous by testing

The autonomous we have now is very simple, but this is only our first version. There are multiple steps that can be taken to increase the amount of points we score during autonomous.

In testing, I've noticed that (depending on how successfully we initialize our robot) the stone we pick up during autonomous sometimes drags on the ground. This creates a resistive force that is not healthy of our intake arm, which is mounted on the robot by a singular axle. To fix this, we can add code to slightly raise the arm before we began moving.

Eventually, when multiple teams on an alliance have an autonomous program, our own path will need to account for possible collisions. It will be strategic to have multiple autonomous paths, where one retrieves stones and places them on the foundation, while the other robot positions itself to push/drag the foundation to the depot.

Also, our autonomous path is geared toward being precise, but going forward into the season, we will need to intake and place more stones if we want to be competitive. As well, we will need to use robot vision to identify the skystone, and transport that stone to the foundation, since this earns more points.

TomBot Progress

12 Oct 2019

TomBot Progress By Karina, Justin, and Trey

Task: Start assembling the TomBot chassis

Today we made some progress on our round robot. We moved the rev rails and big wheels on the Bigwheel chassis to be able to fit inside the polycarb circle that we previously made. These movements gave us a good idea of where to position the rev rails, but the wheels were too close to the edge of the circle, to the point where cutting rectangular slots for the wheels would extend the slots outside of the edge of the circle. To correct this, we decided to first cut the slots, then adjust the wheel distance on the old chassis to fit the cuts.

To cut the slots we first needed to make a template to map out where to cut. We did this on a circular piece of cardboard the same size as the polycarb. After two attempts at aligning the rectangles, we transferred the template onto the polycarb and cut them out with a jigsaw. We planned to round the edges of the rectangular slots to match the shape of the wheels, but an error during the cutting process caused only the outside edges of the rectangles to be rounded.

Next we needed to mount the rev rail chassis to the polycarb circle and adjust the wheels to fit the new slots. One problem with the chassis is that the rev rails were positioned so that the wheels would sit towards the rear of the robot. After repositioning the rev rails, we marked and drilled holes, then mounted the chassis to the polycarb. TomBot now has the 2 big wheels

Next steps:

We need to add the 2 sets of omni wheels to the front and back of the robot to keep the base flat. We should build a basic wheel mount and design a 3d printed mount. The printed mount would be able to flex to soften to force of the robot on the chassis. The motors also need to be chained to the wheels.

Dr. Woodie Flowers, in Memoriam

12 Oct 2019

Dr. Woodie Flowers, in Memoriam By Jose, Bhanaviya, Justin, Paul, Trey, Cooper, Ben, Aaron, and Karina

Task:

As most people in the FIRST community know by now, Dr. Woodie Flowers passed away on October 11th. As a team who has met Dr. Flowers twice at the FIRST Championship, this saddened us greatly. Dr. Woodie Flowers was an MIT and Louisiana Tech Alumni, college professor, husband and co-founder of FIRST robotics. Launched in 1989, FIRST was created to inspire kids of all ages to find STEM as a fun, engaging and learnable concept. Ever since its founding, Dr. Flowers was an actively-involved member of the organization. He introduced innovative ways to encourage non-STEM motivated kids to the program, and introduced core values to make FIRST an all-inclusive, one-of-a-kind environment. He coined the term "Gracious Professionalism" as a way to persuade everyone to be competitive while also being respectful to themselves and their opponents. Today, FIRST has become a community - one where students of all ages, nationalities, and skill-sets have learned to make robotics and STEM a crucial part of their lives. From creating one of the most popular robotics classes in MIT, to co-founding one of the longest-lasting robotics programs in the world, Dr Woodie Flowers was a man who had dedicated almost his whole life to inspiring the new generation of inventors. His contribution to FIRST is what inspired many teams, including ours, to spend the better part of our schooling towards learning and spreading the influence of robotics to our communities. Rest in peace Dr. Flowers, you will be missed by us all.

Coding 10/19/19 (Putting meat on the skeleton)

19 Oct 2019

Coding 10/19/19 (Putting meat on the skeleton) By Cooper

Task: work on actually filling out the auto

As seen in the last post, the skeleton of the auto was done. Tonight My goal was to fill it out-- make it do the things it needs to at the points based on the skeleton. This Would have been a bit more automated had we put a distance sensor on the robot, as I could just tell it to do certain actions based on how far it was from something. Without that, all I could do was hard code the distances. This took most of the time, but was efficient since I did it in stages.

Stage 1 - The blocks

My first task was to pick up the first block in the quarry line. I started by going forward and estimating the amount I needed to go, then went into the arm. I needed to make sure that when I went forward, I would go over the block just enough that I didn't move in when moving, but low enough to be able to be picked up with relative ease. So I ran a teleop version of this and got the value for the arm above the block, grabbing the block and just low enough to clear the bridge, a value I'd need later. Then I did trial and error on guessing the distance to the block until the grabber was in position just over the block. Then I ran into a little issue. I wanted to run the intake servos while I put the arm down, but in the StateMachine class, we can only have one action happening at a time per StateMachine object. Therefore, I just set it to run the servos after the arm was put down.

However there was a separate issue concerning that as well. In the intake method, we assign a value to our servo PIVs to control the speed at which they run. This is how you are supposed to do that, the only problem is that that by itself is not compatible with our StateMachine. As we use Lambda functions, the code runs through the lines of .addState() repeatedly until the method call in the method call in that .addState() call returns true. For starters, we had to change the output method to return a boolean value. But isn't it, as if it was left as that, the lambda funtion would always get back a false from that .addState(), and be stuck like that until we stop it. So, I looked back on the old code from last year, and with the help of Mr.V, we found a .addTimedState() method. This takes in a method like a normal .addState() method, but a time to complete can be assigned. With the intake method always returning false, it means that the servos would run until the end of the time set and then it would end that action and move on to the next.

Stage 2 - The deposit

So, after the bock was picked up, the robot was told to turn to the other end of the field, where another set of estimations were used to move forward. This is where the value of just clearing the bridge came to play. To get under the bridge, we have to hold the block and arm in a certain position. After the bridge is cleared, the arm is set to move back up so when we turn to face the build plate, we could deposit. Now this was interesting. As hard as I tried I could not get the deposit to work reliably, but some of the accidental effects gave me ideas for how to get the most efficient way of placing the block. On one of the runs, the block was set down and it didn't quite sit where it needed to, as to say it was tilted back away from the robot. This led to the arm knocking it back into the correct place. I think this is a great way to have a more catch-all way make sure that the first block is correctly placed. I would have expanded on the idea, but I had to leave soon after.

Next Steps

I need to test more efficient paths for this auto, but other than that, I just need to finish this version of the auto for the scrimmage.

Investing in a CNC Router

20 Oct 2019

Investing in a CNC Router By Bhanaviya

Task: Invest in a CNC router using our grants from the previous season.

Last year was a very successful season for Iron Reign, financially speaking. We earned around $11,000 in grants and funding from FIRST in Texas, Texas Workforce Commission and Mark Cuban, to name a few sponsors. In addition, this year we received a $200 Gobilda product grant. Most of this money was invested in last season's expenses. But as we found out over the course of our build season, our team incorporates a wide number of 3D-printed parts into our robot, and especially since we were recognized for our design process at the Houston World Championship through Innovate Award Finalist, our design process was one that we could further improve now that we've seen the level of competition at Worlds. Part of this includes using a variety of materials, as illustrated in previous seasons where we've used ice-cube trays and turkey-coolers into our robot's subsystems. So, what better way to improve our design process and spend our grant money than in investing in a CNC router?

The router itself cost around $3000, and while this isn't cheap, it's a good investment since it now allows to cut our parts out of durable, inexpensive materials like aluminum and wood. So far, we have plans to use the router on the mounting under the turn-table of our robot and a logarithmic spiral that is being modeled to reduce the torque on our linear slide system. There's no end to how much this router can influence our overall design process. Our team is used to using Ninjaflex-printed parts but with the router, we can be more creative with the use of 3D-modeled parts on our robot.

Next Steps

Now, we can begin cutting the above-mentioned parts on the router once they've been fully modeled. We can also begin deciding what other parts need to be modeled that can easily be cut on the router.

Control Mapping

25 Oct 2019

Control Mapping By Bhanaviya and Cooper

Task: Map and test controls

With the Hedrick Middle School scrimmage being a day away, the robot needs to be in drive testing phase. So, we started out by mapping out controls as depicted above.

Upon testing the controls, we realized that when the robot attempted to move, it was unable to do so without strafing. To fix this issue, we decided to utilize a "dead-zone" of the left joystick. The dead-zone is a range of values in our code that is basically ineffective. Although this meant that that the zone did not have a purpose, we realized that its uselessness could be rendered to stop the robot from strafing. Although we do plan to implement strafe later on in our actual competition robot (TomBot), for the duration of the scrimmage, the deadzone in Frankendroid's (our scrimmage robot) controls will hold the set of values for strafe so that the robot cannot strafe at any point in time during the scrimmage. This will give our drivers more control over the robot during matches.

Next Steps

We plan to drive-test at the scrimmage tomorrow to ensure that the robot can move accurately without strafing. Once we begin code on Iron Roomba, we plan to orient strafe in such a way that it does not interfere with the rest of the robot's controls. At any rate, the dead-zone has given us a possible solution to work with if the strafe issue occurs on our competition bot.Since this is the control map for our scrimmage robot, we anticipate that the controls will change once Iron Roomba is further along in the engineering process. A new post featuring Roomba's controls will be created then.

Driving at the Hedrick Scrimmage

26 Oct 2019

Driving at the Hedrick Scrimmage By Karina and Jose

Task: Figure out what went wrong at the scrimmage

We didn't do too well in teleop driving at the Hedrick Scrimmage, with our max stone deposit being 2 stones. There are several things to blame.

In usual Iron Reign fashion, we didn't start practicing driving until a day or two before. Since we were not familiar with the controls, we could no perform a maximum capacity.

There were also more technical issues with our robot. For one, the arm was mounted wihh little reinforcement. Small amounts of torque provided when dragging a stone across the floor gradually made it so that the line of the arm was not parallel to the frame of the robot, but slightly at an angle. And so, picking up the stones manually was not as straight forward a task as it should have been.

This flaw could easily have been corrected for if Frankendroid could strafe. Frankendroid struggled with this. When extended, the weight of the arm lifted the back wheel opposite the corner on which the arm was mounted on off the ground. Thus, strafing to align with a stone when the arm was extended was a lengthy and tedious task.

Next steps:

Frankendroid has served its purpose well: it moved at the scrimmage and gave the team a better feel for the competition environment. But it's time to let go. Moving forward, Iron Reign will focus its efforts on building our circular TomBot Ironically, we will likely have to deconstruct Frankendroid to harvest parts.

First Season Scrimmage at Hedrick MS

26 Oct 2019

First Season Scrimmage at Hedrick MS By Trey, Bhanaviya, Ben, Jose, Justin, Aaron, Karina, and Cooper

Task: Compete and observe important things needed to continue the build of circle robot and for future competitions.

This Saturday Iron Reign attended the scrimmage at Hedrick Middle School. This scrimmage was for many rookies, the first exposure to a competition environment and the basic structures of team communication. Both the rookies and the returning team members had an opportunity to communicate with different teams and to get exposed to different ideas and their respective thought processes. Iron Reign used this scrimmage as a way to look at what robot designs were most effective and a lot of key aspects of the game we may have glossed over earlier in the season.

Many things determined a robot's effectiveness, for example, we noticed that the robots in the competition that did the best were the ones that had the most direct routes and were able to manipulate the stones efficiently and effectively. We also noticed that positioning and placing the stones on the towers was very difficult for us and the teams without programs that automatically line up the stacks. This strengthens our need for circle robot which when finished should be able to stack with much more precision than the average robot. The other thing that the circle robot would help with is lining up the arm to pick up stones which also proved to be very challenging for teams with grippers that need to grab a block in a certain orientation like us.

There were a lot of unexpected penalties that can change the tides of a game, for example, the human player can not place an object in the quarry if there is already an object in it. Doing this awards 15 points to the opposing team. Another thing we learned is that to receive the points from delivering a stone the robot must fully cross over the tape under the bridge. A lot of people with push-bots lost points because their robots didn't fully cross the tape. Overall, penalties and losing points were easy ways for a team to lose a match quickly and if we don't watch what we do we can potentially lose an entire competition because of them.

Next Steps

Our next steps are to keep working on the circle robot because it should be able to better complete the challenge. We also see like never before that even though this robot is not done, we still have Frankendroid and we still need to perpetually do driving practice with it because ultimately, the best teams will have the most driving practice. However, the biggest next step we are taking is that we are coming to practice more often because our first qualifier is so close but we are so far from a good robot. There is still a lot of work to do.

Coding Before Scrimmage

26 Oct 2019

Coding Before Scrimmage By Cooper, Karina, Bhanaviya, and Trey

Task: Finish the temporary auto and work with drivers for teleop

Tonight, the night before the scrimmage, We worked on making the depositing of the stone and parking of the robot more reliable. Or as reliable as possible, as we are planning to use FrankenDroid, which is somewhat in need of repair, which I also did with the help of Trey, Bhanaviya and Karina. This had a few changes come with it, as while we solved the problems of when we started the auto, there were still many that cropped up.

Problem #1 - dragging the base

In the auto, we need to drag the build area into the taped off section in the corner. This poses a problem, as dragging it can lead to major inaccuracies in estimated positioning. This, however can be solved somewhat easily once we have a distance sensor, which we could use in junction with PID based turning. Though in theory I could have done it with just the PID turning. While I would have loved to test that, there was another problem--

Problem #2 - problem with hook

There was a problem with our hook. I tried every time I ran auto to get the hook to work. I changed the return value, I changed the physical positioning of where it started, yet nothing worked. This was interesting, as it does work in the teleop. In any case, it prevented us to actually dragging the base in this version of auto. Looking back on it, there was a possibility that I needed to set it as a timed state, like the gripper, since we were using a servo to control it. While its unlikely, it's possible.

Problem #3 - PID Tuning?

This was the major issue of tonight, which we haven't found the root of just quite yet. During the auto, at the third turn, where the robot turns to heat to the foundation, there is a ~25% chance that the PID does not check where it turns and it just continues wherever it turns to. This usually leads to it overshooting and then ramming in to the wall. There is a temporary fix, however. For now, it seems that if only happens after we upload the code to the robot, or if we run auto fresh off of it being off. That is to say, if we run the auto at least for a second and then reset and re-init, then it will be good. This is a good thing however, as any chance we get to fix the underlying code's problems, that means we won't have to make a work around after in the season.

Problem #4 - putting the block on the build platform

This was the major fixable problem in the code. During auto, we need to take a block from the quarry and put it on the foundation. The problem is when we actually go to deposit it. When we go to put it down, we need to be very accurate, which with FrankenDroid is not easy. With no distance sensors, the best we can do is to tune the exact movements. While this isn't the greatest solution, this will do for now. In the future, we will have a distance sensor so that we can know where we are exactly in relation to the base.

Next Steps

We need to implement the distance sensors and other sensors on the robot. Obviously we aren't going to be using FrankenDroid for too much longer. TomBot may bring new innovations like a telemetry wheel which will make auto more accurate.

TomBot Suspension

26 Oct 2019

TomBot Suspension By Ben

Task: Design a suspension for TomBot

3 Different iterations of the passive suspension.

We've decided to design a suspension for our circular chassis for one reason. Under the neutral bridge, there is a 15mm lip on the floor plate to connect the bridge support. Traveling over this plate can cause significant depreciation of the chassis and connected subsystems.

We have currently made 3 different versions of possible prototypes. We will be using a passive suspension system. The suspension will be 3D printed in Nylon, as it is fairly strong and flexible. It is also shatter resistant, making ideal for withstanding large and nearly instantaneous forces.
Our first design was a triangle, but we determined that it was too rigid and wouldn't flex enough to absorb the impact of running into the floor plate at high speed. The next design was an ellipse. An ellipse has the capacity to expand outward, making it ideal for absorbing significant impacts. The first ellipse, however, was too small and unable to support the weight of the robot and flex enough to absorb the impact. The second ellipse is taller, enabling it to withstand the weight of the robot and forces from driving onto the floor plate.

The suspension will be attached to a 3D-printed wheel mount. This mount will have the capacity to slide vertically as the suspension absorbs any impact.

Wheel mount with example suspension

As of now, we haven't conducted actual trials on any of these prototypes. In the event we determine that Nylon is not ideal; we may look into designing a shock absorber made from NinjaFlex. NinjaFlex may be suitable due to its flexible nature. A part could be designed, such as a cylinder, with a thick hexagonal infill. This would allow it to flex while maintaining some rigidity.

Next Steps

After creating a few more different types of passive suspension systems, we will want to begin testing them. They will have to be attached to the robot and individually tested. We may also want to design a NinjaFlex suspension regardless of whether or not the Nylon suspension proves viable to see which is ideal.

Hedrick Scrimmage - Code

26 Oct 2019

Hedrick Scrimmage - Code By Jose and Cooper

Task: Discuss what went and what needs improvement in our code

Taking part in the annual Hedrick Scrimmage, we got to test our Robot In 24 Hours, FrankenDroid. Specifically, since both coders on the team are new to the sub-team, we wanted to see the code capabilities we could offer. For this event we had two autonomous paths: the first one simply walks underneath the skybridge for some easy 5 points, the other grabs a stone(we had no vision on FrankenDroid so no way to detect a skystone), moves to the building zone to drop said stone and parks under the skybridge. For being coded in a just a few days, these auto paths were both high in pointage and accuracy/precision. As well as auto, we wanted to test driver enhancements. These were coded at the event but proved to be useful. They include: a button press to move the arm to either fully retracted, perpendicular to the ground for strafing, and disableing strafing whilst in stacking or intake mode. These also proved to be effective on the playing field, making the drivers' life easier.

Next Steps

We need to incorporate vision into our autonomous, most likely Vuforia, to be able to detect skystones as well as speeding up the auto paths to be able to complete a 2 skystone auto.

Ordering a Slip Ring

26 Oct 2019

Ordering a Slip Ring By Jose

Task: Order a slip ring for the turn table

In order to spin the turntable on TomBot we need to use a motor with a specific gear to make it spin and as a bonus we can use a slip ring to transfer power to it. Slip rings can prove to be useful since there would be no need to worry about wires getting tangled after the turntable spins a certain amount in the same direction and if done correctly, the turntable can be spun continuously, allowing for the very much necessary victory spins. The specific slip ring we need should have 6 wires, be able to handle 20 amps and 12 volts, and be at least 20mm in diameter. After some research on various sites, we found what we needed on aliexpress.com. This company features various slip rings for various purposes, which includes our "custom project" need. We ordered one at a hefty price, but if it works, its benefits will be worth it.

Next Steps

Once the slip ring arrives we can begin testing it on a test turntable to verify its viability on TomBot.

Updating TomBot's model

27 Oct 2019

Updating TomBot's model By Bhanaviya and Ben

Task: Update the model to plan TomBot's build

With our first qualifier being less than a month away, Iron Reign embarked on an ambitious project to create a robot with a circular chassis named TomBot (which was, for reference, named after our coach's cat, Tom). Before we began the build of the robot, we planned out the chassis design in an earlier post on CAD. Now, with our chassis progress from last week, the model has been updated.

The updated model still has the same base chassis design from the earlier model, but it now has extrusion bars above the chassis that were added in to the actual robot last week. It also has a turn table mounted on top of it to support our gripper arm and a gripper arm. As of now, the turn table hasn't been built yet but planning it out in the robot model will make it more efficient for us when we do start building.

Next Steps

With our robot model in progress, we can now plan out all our steps ahead of time in CAD so that we will make less mistakes on the physical build. We will be updating the model as the season progresses.

Round Chassis Assembly

02 Nov 2019

Round Chassis Assembly By Justin, Trey, and Jose

Task: Attatch Omni wheels to Round Chassis

Today we finished assembling the round chassis for our circle robot, TomBot. The most important system we added was the omni wheels to the front and rear of the robot. Without the omni wheels, the robot would tilt like a seesaw around the central 2 big wheels. These omni wheels lightly touch the ground in the front and rear of the robot to keep the chassis parallel with the ground.

The omni wheels were attached so that we have 3 wheels in the front and 3 in the rear. We used 3 wheels to give us more points of contact and more stability at high speeds. The wheels mounted to our new Go Bilda bearing mounts. The mounts have a central bearing with 2 mounting points that branch off of the bearing in a Y shape. The difficulty with this system of mounting the omni wheels is finding the correct height from the polycarb base to mount the bearings. The wheels should be as close as possible to the same height as the 2 big central wheels. The threads in the branches of the Y-shaped bearing mount are very short, which means that almost all the height adjustments need to be done with spacers and long screws. We used the longest screws we had, and after screwing them in to check if the height was right, we found that they were pretty close to what we needed. They still needed spacers to keep the screws from pushing up through the polycarb base, so we used the spacer heights to fine tune the height to get the omni wheels as even as possible with the big wheels. We found that exactly 1 and a half white plastic spacers looked pretty close to the height we needed.

After assembling both sets of wheels, we placed the robot on the field and checked to see how much it tiled back and forth. We found that the 1 and a half spacers was the exact height we needed, as the robot doesn't tilt or wobble at all, and the big drive wheels still have plenty of traction on the field to drive the robot.

These omni wheels allow us to use the chassis to test and work on our other subsystems, but we see some potential flaws in the wheels. The most significant flaw will occur at high speeds. The platform in the middle of the field has a steep edge to it, so driving over it at high speeds will cause those front omni wheels to take a lot of force. Since the mounting is rigid, that force will affect the whole robot and could either jam the robot up against the platform or cause the robot to hop and get shaken up a bit when it drives over.

Next Steps:

One of our modelers is working on 3d printing a suspension system to allow the omni wheels to retract under force. For testing purposes, and for our first qualifier, the rigid system should be fine, but later on the suspension will allow us to move at maximum speed. Our next step is to start assembling the rest of the robot to the chassis.

Transition from Expansion Hub to Control Hub

02 Nov 2019

Transition from Expansion Hub to Control Hub By Jose and Cooper

Task: Discuss the transition from using the Expansion Hub to using the Control Hub

Over the past month we have used the control hub our robot in 24 hours, FrankenDriod. This was a great way to test its viability before implementing in onto our competition robot. We have already used the control hub at the REV test event where we were given a sample control hub to replace the existing expansion hub in our Rover Rockus bot. This proved the control hub to be much better than the expansion hub since there was no worry of a phone disconnect mid-match. This was no different on FrankenDriod, as we had less ping, didn't have to worry about a phone mount, and most important of all, we could push code to it via wifi. This is a useful feature since modifications to the bot's code can be done on the spot with no need for a wired connection. The only downside we see as of now is that an external webcam must be used for vision, this of course, is because we no longer have a phone to this. This is fine since we are used to using a camera for vision anyways so there is no difference there.

Next Steps

Considering that our team is one of the NTX teams who have received permission to beta-test a control hub at qualifiers, we will now use it on our current competition bot, Iron Roomba, especially since we have proven the control hub to be fully viable on a competition bot, having used FrankenDroid at the Hedrick Scrimmage.

Stub Gripper

02 Nov 2019

Stub Gripper By Jose

Task: Building gripper iteration #7

As our 8th gripper design we modeled a stub gripper, inspired by 7129’s Ri30H. Several of our previous grippers were designed with the intention of being mounted our scrimmage/Robot in 2 Days bot Frankendroid. This is our first gripper design modeled with the full intent of being mounted on our circular chassis bot, TomBot. In essence, this gripper has some bars to align the gripper with the stone and grabs it by one of its stubs. The benefits of this design is that it’s the most compact of all our grippers and it can grab a stone from either its long or short side. The drawbacks are that it requires great driver precision and whatever we use to grip the stub needs to have lots of friction to not lose grip since there are few points of contact.

Next Steps:

We will add this design to the others and decide which one is best to actually implement it on TomBot.

Turn-table Assembly

02 Nov 2019

Turn-table Assembly By Aaron and Trey

Task: Finish assembling the turn-table

During today’s meeting, we were able to complete the mounting of the pinion motor assembly to the turntable. This included drilling out holes and routing out a square in the polycarbonate disk that we are using as a base for mounting. We also rebuilt the pinion mechanism and implemented it into a smaller configuration.

The idea with the turn-table is to eliminate the need for strafing. In this game, precision is key. Strafing allows for the robot to precisely move from side to side, however, with a turntable, the robot won’t even have to move. We can attach the gripping mechanism to the turntable and move the gripping mechanism side to side independently from the actual robot itself.

Next Steps:

Next we can mount the turntable on to the actual robot itself. We now have a slip ring that will allow the turntable to turn freely without worrying about wiring getting caught up in the motion.

3-Fingered Gripper

09 Nov 2019

3-Fingered Gripper By Jose and Aaron

Task: 3D Model and build an 8th gripper design

As our 8th gripper design we are trying out a compact design known as the 3-fingered gripper. This was 3-D modeled before being built as a proof of concept. The back of the gripper has two bars to orient the stone before being grabbed. One bar contacts the stone and the other does too as TomBot continues to approach it. The actual grip comes from a plate that can open and close via a servo. Once the design was modeled it proved to seem reliable, especially because of the two bars orienting the stone.

Now for the fun part, actually contructing the gripper. REV extrusions were used for bars at the back since their width is ideal for the job. From here we used GoBilda parts such the plates and a hinge for the rest of the design. Optimizations were made for the attachment of the GoBilda plates since they aren't the exact length needed, and once another plate was attached to the first via a hinge we added a servo. This servo opens and closes the gripper(of course), to do so a polycarbonate bar was used to connect the servo and the hinged plate. Finally, we added grip material to the back bars and the gripping plate. By using a servo tester we were able to test its functionality. Tests proved that grabbing the stone is really easy, but the grip could use work.

Next Steps

Compared to the other gripper designs this one seems to work best so we will optimize it some more add it onto TomBot.

Gripper Iterations Summary

09 Nov 2019

Gripper Iterations Summary By Bhanaviya

Task: Go over our 9 gripper iterations

This season, we experimented with 9 gripper models - both for our robot in three days project and for our competition bot. While we do not plan on using all 9 of these models, they allowed us to effectively implement the engineering process within our build season. Experimenting with each gripper helped us to identify the potential of each design as well as how two individual designs could be combined to create a more efficient one. Each of these designs has its own article but this is just a summary of all of our gripper designs so far.

1)Wheel Gripper

This was one of our first designs and was intended mainly for our robot in 3 days bot. This was also the very first gripper we actually mounted onto our robot. It started out as a rolling intake but then was modified so that the standard rev wheels on the gripper could swivel to grab the skystones.

2) Parallel gripper

This gripper functions with two rev extrusion bars moving inwards parallel to a stone to grasp it. We never actually implemented this design into any of our robots but it allowed us to understand that for it to work it would need to be mounted in front of a more solid back-plate. We later used a polycarb back-plate for a couple of our later designs.

3) Rack and Pinion Gripper

We've never used rack and pinions in our subsystems before so this was also a relatively new idea to test. We used polycarb grips to test out this gripper. While this gripper worked, it was also rather slow to function and we needed a faster gripper. While we didn't use these, we used the polycarb grips for our later gripper design.

4) Aaron's Super Cool Gripper That Works 100% Of The Time

This gripper has two ninja flex grippers to swivel to grab skystones. This was the second gripper that was used on Frankendroid after the wheel gripper. It also has a polycarb back-plate for stability.

5) Pivoting Accelerated User-Friendly Locker

This gripper, P.A.U.L for short, is modified version of the rack and pinion gripper. It has the polycarb grips but instead of a rack and pinion system it has two servos that control two gears mounted on a polycarb back-plate. This gripper was also mounted on Frankendroid. This design was later modified to create a more improved version.

6) P.A.U.L Version 2

Speaking of improved versions, this gripper replaced the polycarb grips on Gripper #4 with ninjaflex gears. It combines design #4 and #5 to create a more effective sub-system as it had more space to rotate to grip around the blocks. (this design does not have one single post but two - one about its testing and one about modelling the ninjaflex gears).

7) 3-Finger Gripper

This gripper has a plate attached to a servo such that the plate can move vertically to close down on the stone, with two extrusion bars on the back of the gripper to support the stone as it is being lifted. This is one of our newer designs but it has been tested, and we plan to mount it onto TomBot to determine its precision.

8) Stub Gripper

The stub gripper grabs onto mainly the stubs of the skystone. This gripper hasn't been built yet either but it has been modeled on Fusion 360. The effectiveness (and challenge) of this gripper relies on it being able to pick up a stone with minimal contact to the stone itself.

9) Cylindrical Gripper

The cylindrical gripper is being modelled on Fusion 360. It comprises of a c-shaped tube rotating and closing in around the stone. While we don't have any immediate plans to use it, its an idea that has potential and we plan to experiment with it once we've narrowed down the most efficient gripper ideas for the TomBot.

Next Steps

Now that we have analyzed all of our gripper designs so far, it will be easier for us to streamline which design will be the best to implement on the robot. Right now, we are leaning towards the 3-finger gripper since it's compact, easy to function, and is the only gripper made with the specific intention of being implemented on TomBot.

CNC Turntable Mounts

10 Nov 2019

CNC Turntable Mounts By Justin

Task: Model and CNC way to mount the turntable to the chassis

Today we worked on creating a 3d model for a CNC cut part to mount the turntable to the chassis. Since the turntable already has bolts sticking out of the bottom, we decided to use those as mounting points for our part. The most efficient solution to mounting the turntable is to cut a plate that attaches to the turntable bolts and has points to attach legs that will attach to the polycarb base. For convenience, the legs will be vertical tapped rev rails.

Our first decision was deciding where to mount this plate. We determined that there should be 2 plates that attach to opposite sides of the robot. The plates would be curved and attach underneath the nylon gear. Each plate would attach to the turntable using 3 of the turntable's bolts, which uses all 6 of the bolts for mounting. Next, we needed to create bolt holes for the legs to attach to. In order to be able to drop bolts through the holes, this plate must extend slightly outside the turntable, because the plate will be flush with the nylon gear. We created a common radius from the center of the turntable where these holes will be placed, so that there is enough distance between the holes and the nylon gear. These holes would have to be placed so that the attached legs aren't blocked off by the rev rail already on the chassis. To fix this, we decided to put 7 total holes on each plate to mount the legs, all equally spaced around a common section of the circumference. This way we can play around with the mounting points, since we only need about 3 for each plate.

Next we decided whether to mount the plates to the front and rear, or the left and right of the turntable. We counted up how many mounting points were available for each orientation and decided that the front and back mounting would give us a stronger attachment. The front and back are also where the turntable will want to lift up and push down under heavy loads, so it makes sense to mount at those points.

During mounting, we found out that the spaces between the turntable mounting holes and the leg mounting holes at 3 points on each plate were too small to attach a REV rail leg. This is because the bolt from the turntable prevents the REV rail from being flush with the plate. To fix this, we used longer bolts on the turntable and used the revrail legs as both supports for the table and nuts to keep the plate onto the nylon gear/turntable.

Next Steps:

Our next step is to mount the legs to the plate, the plate to the turntable, and the whole thing to the robot. We need to measure out what length of rev rail legs we need to allow the turntable to spin freely without interfering with the chassis. We then need to mark and drill holes in the polycarb base to attach the whole subsystem. These mounting plates still need to be tested with the full capacity of the robot. Any issues should only come from the rev rail legs, which can later be replaced with a more custom solution.

Mounting the Slip Ring

10 Nov 2019

Mounting the Slip Ring By Aaron

Task: Mount a slip ring onto TomBot's chassis

On our robot we have a turntable in order to increase the degree of precision at which we can maneuver skystones. We have one REV Hub under the base of the bot, and one on top of the turntable. This means, however, that we need 360 degrees of rotation between the two Hubs. Our solution to this problem was to use a slip ring. By using a slip ring it allowed us to have a center of rotation for our wiring to move freely around the point between our robot base and the turntable.

We mounted said slip ring to the circular piece of polycarb that is bolted down to the outside of the turntable. We then ran the multitude of colored wires through two separate holes drilled through the previously mentioned polycarb circle and through the base of the robot to the underside and to the REV Hub mounted to the bottom of the robot.

Next Steps

Our next step is to ensure that the turntable on the chassis is mounted securely enough so that the motion of the slip ring won't cause it to topple over. To do this, Justin has modeled turntable mounts which we will mount onto the robot during the next meeting which will be the Saturday morning of the Woodrow Scrimmage.

Responding to Girl Scouts of Desert Southwest

13 Nov 2019

Responding to Girl Scouts of Desert Southwest By Bhanaviya

Task: Respond to an email about the MXP to the local Idaho STEM director of Girl Scouts.

The Mobile Tech xPerience

Today, Iron Reign received an email from the STEM director of the Girl Scouts of Desert Southwest saying that they are seeking to create their own mobile learning lab, similar to our Mobile Tech xPerience (MXP). As such, in the email we were asked for the story of the MXP - its deconstruction, construction, design and the like. Considering the MXP is nearing its time for expansion, it was fitting that we received this email. Since the correspondence comes from Idaho, this will also be our first out-of-state connect opportunity of the season.

In a brief summary, in our response we detailed the interior construction of the vehicle. Buried in this blog's archives is a series of posts that details the whole deconstruction and reconstruction process of the vehicle. Of course, no one from our current team was involved in this process and as such, we made sure to accredit the interior furnishing of the vehicle to our team alumni. This process included replacing the carpeting with wood-grain vinyl, adding new shelving to store LEGO robots, installing new wide-screen monitors, and creating a bay to stock 3D printers.

The floorplan for a second vehicle

We also made sure to explain how the MXP is operated. For reference, the vehicle is operated by Big Thought, our programmatic partner, and during the vehicle's deployment at outreach events like Moonday, our team mans and runs the MXP booth where we teach students how to block-program LEGO EV3 robots to battle one another, and how to 3D-print a keychain on SketchUp that they can take home. Now, the MXP is nearing end of its lifetime and Big Thought has plans to expand the program by creating a new, bigger vehicle.

Next Steps

We were very gratified by the STEM director of the Girl Scouts of Desert Southwest reaching out to us about the plans for their mobile learning lab. Being able to take part of the MXP's mission to bring STEM education to students in the greater Dallas area has been one of the best opportunities Iron Reign has recieved, and its one we intend to pass on to others in our community like the Girl Scouts. We wish them the best of luck in putting their plans to fruition and are looking forward to answering any more questions they have on the plans for the vehicle.

Logarithmic Spiral Design

15 Nov 2019

Logarithmic Spiral Design By Ben

Task: Design a system that could linearly reduce torque.

Since last season, we have conducted a significant amount of experimentation on our elbow and slide mechanism. We are using a similar design because we have prior knowledge on how to construct and maintain the subsystem; however, our slide this year is larger due to our desire to stack the stones higher. Although our elbow could lift the entire slide, we want to reduce the strain on the system by designing a component that would apply torque to the slide. Reduced strain will decrease the maintenance we will have to perform and will also increase the efficiency of the elbow by assisting it. The part would be attached with a bungee from the part to another part also on the turntable a few inches away.

We decided to use a logarithmic spiral (r=ae^(bθ)) because it would reduce the torque exerted on the elbow linearly. To create this spiral in Fusion360, we had to write a script because there is no native spiral/equation builder. The code can be seen below and was adapted from code that can be found here. Once the code was executed, it created a sketch of the spiral, which you then had to spline into a line. Since we wanted the spiral to be tangent to the gear it would be attached to, we imported a model of the gear and aligned it with the spiral to find the optimal a & b values. Another requirement was that the spiral must be under 3 in and preferably 2.75 in to allow for space between the elbow and turntable plate. These values were a = 0.2 & b = 0.6, which were determined through various trials.

 1
 2
 3
 4
 5
 6
 7
 8
 9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
import adsk.core, adsk.fusion, adsk.cam, traceback, math

def run(context):
    ui = None
    try:
        app = adsk.core.Application.get()
        des = adsk.fusion.Design.cast(app.activeProduct)
        root = des.rootComponent

        # Create a new sketch.
        sk = root.sketches.add(root.xYConstructionPlane)

        # Create a series of points along the spiral using the spiral equation.
        pnts = adsk.core.ObjectCollection.create()
        numTurns = 5
        pointsPerTurn = 20
        distanceBetweenTurns = 5
        theta = 0
        offset = 5
        a = 0.2 #aVal
        b = 0.6 #bVal
        for i in range(pointsPerTurn * numTurns + 1):
            r = a * math.exp(b * theta) #Definition of a logarithmic spiral
            x = r * math.cos(theta)
            y = r * math.sin(theta)
            pnts.add(adsk.core.Point3D.create(x,y,0))

            theta += (math.pi*2) / pointsPerTurn

        sk.sketchCurves.sketchFittedSplines.add(pnts)
        ui  = app.userInterface
        ui.messageBox('Spiral Done')

    except:
        if ui:
            ui.messageBox('Failed:\n{}'.format(traceback.format_exc()))

Final design over original spiral

Once we had the design, we printed it onto paper through the Fusion draw tool. We then confirmed that the holes aligned with the gear.

After confirming the design aligned, we began preparing it to be machined on our CNC. For this part we went with 1/8in aluminum because it is both durable and inexpensive. It will also withstand the forces that will be exerted on the part.

The finished part came out nicely with a few tabs that had to be removed. The part fit correctly and was successfully attached to the elbow and gear.

Next Steps

Our next steps will be to machine the part again, creating an identical copy, and printing the same design out of nylon, but taller. The nylon component will be sandwiched between the aluminum pieces and will have a cutout that will connect a bungee cord to it. We also have to design a part that will connect the bungee to the other side of the turntable. After introducing the bungee, we will have to conduct trials on the elasticity to determine the best bungee length or composition. These are necessary because we don’t want to apply too much force, restricting the elbow from lowering, yet we want to apply enough force to considerably assist the elbow when lifting.

Presenting Our Engineering Notebook

16 Nov 2019

Presenting Our Engineering Notebook By Karina, Justin, Bhanaviya, Cooper, Jose, Ben, Aaron, and Trey

Task: Share with other teams how Iron Reign creates its engineering notebook

This weekend Iron Reign attended the Woodrow Wilson Scrimmage. On top of participating in the scrimmage, we were invited to present on Engineering Notebook Success as part of the morning workshops. The team went through our slides, going back and forth with our audience when they had questions, with two major focuses: journal content and the physical notebook. You can access the presentation below:

Iron Reign would like to emphasize that this is how our team creates its engineering notebook, not that it is the "right" way.

One thing we want to emphasize is that unlike previous years, presentations only run for 5 minutes before being cut off. And so, the engineering notebook is the main way teams can advocate for themselves to the judges outside of face-to-face interactions. Therefore, teams must effectively communicate what they want judges to know about their team through the notebook. Iron Reign does this by highly organizing content through the use of tabs and highlighting to correspond with specific awards. We included other suggestions, such as table of contents and a "how to read this notebook" page, all for the convenience of the reader.

Woodrow Scrimmage

16 Nov 2019

Woodrow Scrimmage By Trey, Bhanaviya, Ben, Jose, Justin, Aaron, Karina, Cooper, and Paul

Task: Compete and work on TomBot at the scrimmage at Woodrow HS.

This Saturday Iron Reign attended a scrimmage at Woodrow High School. Woodrow offered a variety of activities that improved the capabilities of our team like for example, the mock judging sessions. Our session gave us insight into how our judging presentation needed to be reformed and cut down to fit into the new five-minute time limit. It also gave us a chance to see who was going to do each slide and how long they should talk about it. Other criticism we received was founded on the same basis that we were not owning up to our story, were not motivated enough, and were more focused on the infrastructure we were given rather than what we had done with it. All of these points are entirely valid and were worth looking further into and making better.

Iron Reign also held a journal workshop where Rookie and veteran teams alike were able to learn the basics of constructing and preparing an engineering journal for competition. It went through the most important organizing structures, writing techniques, and time management practices. This workshop went well and we would definitely do it again in the future.

When it came down to performing in the robot game we did not surpass our expectations even though we made first place out of all the teams there. This was because we were using Frankendroid, the barely functional robot we built in two days. This robot was only capable of producing subpar results fully functional but at this particular competition, it was not fully functional. This means that Frankendroid was only able to make at most ten points because of a broken encoder cable that rendered the arm nonfunctional. However, we are not going to use this robot at the first scrimmage next Saturday. Instead, we are going to use TomBot which was being worked on the entire time. In that time we were able to attach the arm and gripper and write some basic code to control the robot which is still being debugged.

Next Steps

Iron Reign is working around the clock to make sure that we don’t show up with a robot like Frankendroid at the first qualifier. We are well on our way to finishing the arm and turntable on TomBot. We are also working to better the judging presentation and to fit it into the newly established 5-minute time limit. So far it looks like we are going to get there by Saturday.

Linear Slides on TomBot

19 Nov 2019

Linear Slides on TomBot By Justin

Task: Mount linear slides to the robot.

Today we focused on getting the arm and linear slide ready to be powered up. Our first task was to move down one of the stages of the linear slide to align the slides. We also adjusted where the carriage stops to further align the slides.

Next, we began to run the belts through the pulleys. We needed to run the belts around the motor and accidentally put on an extra pulley, but we got the slides to move by pulling on the belt. To let the motor power the slide, we had to attach the both ends of the belt to the same carriage. To reach the below the slides from the top carriage, we had to attach a bracket with a screw sticking across to tie the belt onto. The bracket was made out of a bent GoBILDA flat plate. The hole spacing on the plate matched exactly the hole spacing on the nylon mounts for the final stage, which were also CNC drilled into the metal bracket. This made attaching the mount and bent plate to the metal bracket very easy. We extended the bottom row of the bracket out to one side to place the crossing screw away from the gears of the arm. The plate has a slight flex to it under the load of the belt, but will function fine as a tensioner for now.

Next steps

Next, we need to check the robot for sizing and mount the last stage and gripper to the arm. The gripper mounting system needs to be decided, because wire won't hold up this weekend.

Coding TomBot

20 Nov 2019

Coding TomBot By Cooper and Jose

Task: Use existing code from the code base to program TomBot

To code TomBot, we decided to use the codebase from Frankendroid, as its the one we were most comfortable with. This will change after the qualifier, as we recognize that the robot is more like last year's robot, Icarus. This will, in the long run, help us as we will be able to minimize the amount of refactoring we have to do. But in the meantime, we made 4 major changes in the code for Tombot.

Change #1 - Mecanum Drive to Differential

The first was the change from a mecanum drive to a differential, arcade style control. This was done by commenting out the lines for strafing, and changing the method call to a dormant method, which was a remnant from some testing done with a linear op mode for an early version of FrankenDroid. We got rid of the power assignment for the front motors, and just used the back two motors to represent our 2 drive motors. This gave us some trouble, which I’ll cover later. After that trouble, the method was still broken, as the left stick y was controlling the left motor, and the right stick x was controlling the right motor. This was due to the incorrect power assignments in the code. With that fix done, it drove as it should after the switching of an encoder cable.

Change #2 - Rolling Gripper to 3-finger gripper

The next 'big' change was the change from the rolling gripper on frankenDroid to the 3- finger design on TomBot. I use the word big lightly, as it wasn't more than commenting out the lines for one of the servos. However, this will have a major impact, which can be seen in the details in our grippers post. This is also note worthy in terms of auto, as it will have adverse effects on auto. This is due to the current instability and overall unpredictability of it. So, in auto, we will have to compensate for it.

Change #3 - Turret

One of the biggest changes to the code base we made was with the Turntable class that I wrote. This was also, therefore, the hardest part. Due to the fact I'm still relatively new to this, I got a lot of my examples from the Crane class that Ahbi wrote last year. I started first by tackling making a basic skeleton, including methods like rotateTo() and rotateRight(). Then I started filling them in. For some reason, the first go around at this, I decided to through out all the things they taught me in school and use rotateRight() and rotateLeft() as my lowest level method, instead of rotateTo(). Another thing I failed to realize is that I didn't fully get the Crane class, and made a redundant positionInternal variable for the encoder values that is assigned at the rotate method calls and then another variable called currentPosition was assigned to that, and then the encoder value for the motor was set to that. This sounds stupid, because it was. This cost me a good day of working and was a great lesson in taking my time understanding something before I go off and do it

Once I had realized my misunderstandings of the Crane class, I was able to move on. I cut out all the unnecessary positionInternal code, using the other variable (currentRotation) to be changed in the rotate mehtods. Speaking of, I also got some sense into me and changed the rotate methods to use setRotation() as its lower-level method, making the code more professional in nature. This, still, was not our only problem. Next was encountered a bizzare glitch-like attribute to using the rotate methods. There was a sporadic, sudden movement whenever we pressed the button assigned for turning the table (the a button as it was just a test). After many looks at all the possible variables of failure, we whittled it down to be the fact that we assigned it to the controllers A button. What we observed was the turntable working, just not how we thought we were telling it to. In the button map, there was a method called toggleAllowed() infront of all the boolean-value button. This, unbeknownst to me was actually a toggle method written by Tycho many years ago. This toggle made it so the action assigned to the button only happened once, which is useful for things like latches and poses, as the driver could overshoot it if left to un-press the button in the correct amount of time. This, however, in our case led to the turnLeft() method (the one assigned at the time) only happen once, which was that sudden, sporadic movement after the a button.

Once we changed it to a trigger, it worked-- almost. there was still some bug in the code that made it do some pretty funky stuff, which is hard to describe. After we whittled it down to just a small error of changing a negative to a positive, it worked perfectly.

Change #4 - XML file

During the Woodrow Scrimmage, I spent most of my time dealing with null pointer exception errors and incorrect XML assignments. This was, again, due to a lack of knowledge of the code base. I tried to comment out certain motors, which led to the null pointers, and tried to get rid of those null pointers in the XML file. After awhile of this loop, I realized my mistake in that the null pointers were due to a method call on an uninstantiated object. When I put all the assignments back in the Init, I was finally able to get it running

Next Steps

My next steps are to tune the PID values for auto, so I can use the skeleton from FrankenDroid. Then I need to take some of the sounds from the driver phone, like the critical error one, as it can severely affect workflow and my sanity. Finally, I need to change the turret to make it so that it uses the IMU heading instead of entirely the encoder value from the turntable.

Morph Chart

20 Nov 2019

Morph Chart By Bhanaviya

Task: Create a morph chart to analyze all our designs so far in this season.

Iron Reign has seen several iterations of several subsystems over this past build season. With our first qualifier being 2 days away, its finally time to come full circle and identify the different iterations of different subsystems coming together. To do this, our team used a morph chart. A morph chart shows the various subsystems of our 2 robots in this system - our robot in 2 days bot Frankendroid and our competition bot TomBot.

The left axis showcases the different subsystems like gripper designs for both robots, chassis designs and progressions, and extension mediums. A morph chart is often used by professional engineers to document the cyclical nature of choosing and moving through various designs. So far, Iron Reign has been through 9 types of gripper designs, 2 chassis designs, 2 linear slides systems differing in lengths and a third one incorporating the logarithmic spiral described in an earlier post.

Across each row, alternative designs for each subsystem have also been depicted. As of now, our current robot has a circular chassis as shown in the second design in the fourth row, a flat gripper system as depicted in the first column of the third row, and a linear slide system supported by a logarithmic spiral in the fifth column of the fifth row.

Next Steps

Placing all of our designs in one chart like this allows us to see how iterative our design process has been, and how much of an influence each design has had on another. With all of our designs so far placed in the morph chart, our next step is to continue to update the chart after our first qualifier so that we can have a pictorial summary of our entire build season for reference.

Last Minute Code Changes

22 Nov 2019

Last Minute Code Changes By Cooper

Task: Debug some last-minute code to be ready for our first qualifier of the season

This article may seem a bit rushed, but that's because it is - for good reason. Tonight is the night before the qualifier and it’s roughly 2 in the morning. Tonight we got a lot done, but a lot didn’t get done. We can explain.

We finally have a robot in a build state that we could use to test the code for the turntable properly. The only tragedy - it wasn’t refined, per say. But it’s good enough for tonight. There are some random discrepancies between the controller and the actual turning portions of the turntable, but they seem to be largely minute.

Next, we had issues just a bit earlier tonight with the elbow. First off, the elbow was backwards. The elbow would count the ticks backwards, such that down was a positive tick direction. Looking through all the code, we saw that the motors’ encoder value was flipped through a direct call to the DCMotor class. So we turned that one off and tried it but that didn’t work, so we then found another and put back the first in a different position in the code, thinking they’d cancel out. But, eventually, the solution was as simple as taking out the encoder values, which allowed the elbow to count the ticks forward. We plan to fine-tune our solution after the qualifier, but for now, it will allow the elbow to work.

Next steps

Get some sleep and then refine and complete the code tomorrow morning at the qualifier, and hopefully write some auto

Night Before Competition Build

22 Nov 2019

Night Before Competition Build By Aaron, Cooper, and Trey

Task: Transform a mass of metal into a functional something in the span of one night in time for the qualifier tomorrow.

Twas the night before competition and the robot was most definitely not competition ready. This is what usually happens, but once again we found ourselves scrambling around to get everything together before the end of the night. We ended up mounting the gripper, setting up the belts, making hooks for the foundation and of course a whole lot of minor fixes and adjustments.

Mounting the gripper was actually something that we completely finished at competition, however the night before we decided the previous mount would work. Although ingenious, the previous mount would have been to wiggly and not reliable. We ended up opting for a less simple design, however more stable and efficient. With the design we came up with, we realized we still wanted a degree of rotation on the x axis so that when stacking, gravity would automatically align the stone to the rest of the presumed tower. We achieved this in the simplest way by having two c shaped bars connected by only one screw in the middle on either side, allowing it to move back and forth.

The belt was probably the most difficult part. What we needed to mount the belt was a piece that went up and over the rest of the slide then back down the other side, in order to have an attachment point for the end of the belt. This piece would be attached to the back of the top slide, and would be the highest point of the robot, which presented its own challenge. We needed this part of the robot to be able to fit under the bridges, and couldn’t make it go over not even just a bit or it would get caught and ruin the whole game. We tried constructing this piece by drilling a line of holes into the section of the metal we wanted to bend, making it weak enough to bend, however that ended up in just breaking the metal. We then decided it would be much stronger if we used the already bent L channel and just used two of them attached opposite ways.

The hooks for the foundation were pretty last minute and ended up not being very functional. This resulted in us immediately changing them when we got back from competition. The hooks we had at competition were two polycarb L shaped pieces the simply would rotate downward. We mounted them onto and axle driving by a core hex motor. The main issue what that they didn’t have enough contact area to the foundation and we couldn’t effectively move it. We also realized that if we wanted to efficiently move the foundation, we would need to be able to rotate it, which would require contact from the back as well.

Next Steps

With the robot completely (mostly) built for our first qualifier of the season tomorrow, our next concern is driver-practice. As of now, we have no drive practice so this is something which we will be trying out for the first time this season with TomBot tomorrow on the practice fields.

Match Play at Allen Qualifier

23 Nov 2019

Match Play at Allen Qualifier By Jose, Ben, Aaron, Bhanaviya, Trey, Cooper, Justin, and Karina

Task: Compete in Qualification Matches and maybe some Playoffs

Today was our first qualifier at the Allen STEAM Center and we were able to compete with our official competition robot, TomBot, at the event. With its build being done the day of and its code also minimal, we didn't have high hopes coming into this competition in terms of robot game. Nevertheless, the following ensued. For reference, we have a separate post underlining the analysis of the qualifier that does not include match analysis. This post merely details how each one of our matches went, and we will have a future post discussing our drive issues at the competition.

Match 1(Quals 6)

We lost 113-36. This match was a though one against 7172 Technical Difficulties, who managed to almost set a new world record alone. We had no autonomous at this point and very little driver practice led to our low score.

Match 2(Quals 11)

We lost 5 - 29. Early on in the match the wires that control the entire arm of TomBot were caught on the team number side shield, making the bot virtually unusable during the rest of the match. (insert sad face here)

Match 3(Quals 18)

For the second time in Iron Reign history we tied 10-10. With still no autonomous at this point we had an early disadvantage and to make things worse, the servo that controls the stone grabber disconnected, making TomBot a pushbot for the rest of the match.

Match 4(Quals 28)

We won 29 - 38. In this match we got to play with our sister team 3734 but against our other sister team 15373. Despite never practicing together before we had great synergy throughout the entire match and even pulled off a double park at the end.

Match 5(Quals 31)

We lost 36-50. Our luck ran out here despite the improvements shown in the last match. We were able to run a ten point autonomous with 15204 but our opponents closed the gap during Tele-Op.

We finished the qualification matches seeded 22nd out of 28 but that didn't stop us from asking the 3rd seed, 11629, if they would like to have us in their alliance, after a quick discussion they said they liked our bot and added us to their list. This ended up working out as we were their 2nd pick during alliance selection.

Semis 2-2

We won 58-38. This was a great match where our autonomouses combined scored 20 points. From here we used a feeding strategy where 15176 fed us stones while we stacked them. During end game we also managed to get a double park.

Finals 2

We won 48-28. In this tense match against the 1st seed alliance we were able to do our 20 point auto again and executed the feeding strategy like before. During the end, however, a quick attempt at a park caused the tower we build to fall, but luckily so did the opponents' stack.

Finals 3

We lost 38-86. Both our autonomouses failed which resulted in some time wasted during tele-op to push the foundation to the building site. We were able to pull off the normal tower we build and double park, but this wasn't enough to overcome 7172's and 9161's massive lead.

Next Steps

With so little driver practice done ahead of the qualifier, we hardly expected to receive the Finalist Alliance award but the opportunity to compete in the finals match allowed us to analyze what code and build changes need to be made to our robot to put us in good shape for our next qualifier at UME Preparatory Academy on January 11th.

Allen Qualifier

23 Nov 2019

Allen Qualifier By Bhanaviya, Karina, Cooper, Jose, Trey, Aaron, Ben, and Justin

Task: Compete at the N. TX Allen STEAM Center Qualifier

Right off of a subpar performance at the Woodrow Wilson Scrimmage, Iron Reign walked on shaky ground to the qualifier at the Allen STEAM Center. In the 2 weeks leading up to the tournament, Iron Reign worked hard, with countless changes to our blog and robot. Despite this, we had virtually no driver practice for the qualifier, and did not expect to do exceptionally well at the competition.

Inspection

For possibly the first time in Iron Reign history, we passed inspection the first time around! Our robot fit well within the sizing cube, though we will need to improve our wiring management after the qualifier.

Presentation

We walked in, and started off out strong. Half of a good presentation is the energy, and we certainly had a good amount of energy going in. We were also able to finish our presentation within the 5 minutes allocated, which gave us more time for questioning. Unfortunately, during our robot demo in the questioning demo, one of our chains slipped which meant that our demo was not as successful as it could have been. The plan for the robot demo was that while the turntable rotated, the circular chassis would rotate in the counter direction. However, the slip-up with the chains also took away time from our questioning, so we were unable to convey our information as effectively as we could have.

Robot Game

To start off, we didn't really have a working robot. However, as the day went on, we were able to make additions to our robot that eventually rendered it capable of being picked for a semi-finalist alliance, and from there, advance to the finals. For reference, this is merely a summary of the entire day, and does not serve as our match analysis. The match analysis has been documented in a separate article.

Match 6

We lost 113-36. With no autonomous, and little driver practice, we were no match for our opponents.

Match 11

We lost, 5-29. The wires on TomBot got caught on our side shields, rendering us useless for the rest of the match.

Match 18

We tied 10-10. We still lacked autonomous and we were basically a pushbot for this match.

Match 28

We won, 29-38. Our autonomous wasn't solid, but both us and our alliance (our sister team, Imperial Robotics) were able to double park.

Match 31

We lost, 36-50. We had a semi-working autonomous, but our tele-op performance wasn't enough to catch up to our opponent's.

We finished qualifying matches in 22nd, but talking to the 3rd seed team Todoians prior to alliance selections, helped us secure a place in their alliance for semi-finals.

Semifinals Match 2-2

We won, 58-38. At this point, both us and our alliance partner, Broken Axles had a working autonomous and were able to double-park at the end of the game.

Through our performance in the semis, we qualified for the finals matches!

Finals Match 2

We won 48-28. Although our autonomous worked well, both ours and our opponent's towers collapsed, which led to a low point win.

Finals Match 3

We lost 38-46. Both us and our alliance's autonomous paths failed and although we double-parked, our opposing alliance took the lead.

In summary, although we did better than we expected robot game-wise, there is lots of room for improvement that we will work on over the weeks leading up to our next qualifier.

After-Judging and Awards Ceremony

While we thought we hadn't done well in judging, we were quickly rebuffed. A good measure of judging success is if the judges come back to talk to you, and this was no exception. We had four separate groups of judges come up to us and ask us about *every* component of our team, from business, to outreach, to code, to design.

In the ceremony, every single member of SEM Robotics waited. Iron Golem had been the 11th place ranked team; Iron Core had been the 16th - both impressive ranks for rookie teams at such a competitive qualifier; Imperial had been the 2nd seed alliance in semi-finals; Iron Reign had multiple in-depth discussions with judges. As award nominations went on, Iron Reign has not been nominated for any of the awards, which could be a good or bad sign. Then came Inspire. We heard two names echo off as nominations; neither of them SEM Robotics teams. Finally, a speech flew across the arena as Iron Reign stood for their Inspire Award.

Next Steps

Even though we won Inspire, we have a long way to go. We are going to compete at at least one more tournament, and we aim to get all 3 of our sister teams qualified. Although 4 teams from one program at regionals is unusual for any team, we believe that all of our teams have the potential to qualify at the next competition on the 11th. In the meanwhile, there will be several post-mortem posts for our performance at Allen, and we hope to analyze our results at the qualifier with both the current and alumni members of Iron Reign.

Inspire at Allen

24 Nov 2019

Inspire at Allen By Bhanaviya

This weekend, SEM sent four teams to the first qualifying tournament of the FIRST Tech Challenge 2019-2020 season. Iron Reign (6832) was a finalist in robot game and won the top award (Inspire) and has advanced to the Regional Championship in February.

Left to right: Karina Lara, Justin Bosnell, Benjamin Bruick, Aaron Daane, Cooper Clem, Bhanaviya Venkat, Trey Davis, Jose Lomeli. Not shown: Paul Lea and mentors Karim Virani, Catherine Lux and John Gray.

Imperial Robotics (3734), was 8th place in match play, the highest qualification ranking of our 4 teams, and made it into the semifinals playoffs, but was then eliminated in their second semifinals match.

Iron Golem (15375) was 11th in qualifying rounds, and won 3 out of their 5 matches. Their impressive performance at the first tournament for this all rookie team has set them up for a more successful experience at the next qualifier on January 11.

Iron Core (15373), another all rookie team, was 16th in qualifying rounds, and demonstrated coolness under stress as they experienced persistent issues with robot disconnections. They are already hard at work aiming for their next qualifier.

Our thanks go out to all of the people and sponsors who have supported us already this season, including but not limited to: Mr. Schelanko and Mr. Marx and the Dallas ISD STEM Department, Mr. Gray our faculty sponsor, Mr. Palacios and SEM staff, Ms. Huitt, The Texas Workforce Commission, FIRST in Texas, DEKA, Patrick Michaud - our FIRST FTC Regional Affiliate, Fried Elliott - Regional Judge Advisor, and the Virani / Lux family.

Build Post-Mortem

24 Nov 2019

Build Post-Mortem By Bhanaviya and Aaron

Task: Begin analyzing long-term build improvements

Moving on from the Allen qualifier, there are a couple issues we need to fix. Aside from the usual wear and tear a robot experiences in it’s relatively short life-span, there are some specific opportunities we have for optimal robot performance which we hope to act upon.

First, our grippers don’t have enough degrees of freedom to rotate fully. Being able to rotate gives the ability to pick up stones from any orientation. As such, we plan to create a swivel mount which will allow them to turn enough to grab and place skystones.

Second, our grippers don’t have the best grip potential, so we hope to find more “grabby” materials to improve their grip. This can be anything from 3D-printed parts to some oven-mitts, which we have been considering using for a while now.

Third, our robot moves slower than we’d like it to and the turntable lacks control when turning. Part of this comes with having motors and gears with a “good enough” amount of torque to give us more control or vice versa for speed. As such, we hope to calculate the exact amount of rotational force acting upon the robot to determine how to improve its speed or control in functioning. This can be as simple as finding new motors.

Finally, we want to build a completely custom-built robot. Other than being a pretty cool flex, customizing our parts allows us to have a greater degree of control on the functionality of our robot subsystems, as demonstrated with the logarithmic spiral we printed to reduce stress on the elbow. Part of having a custom-built robot means documenting all our current parts in a bill of materials and identifying which of these parts we can manufacture in our new CNC Mill. Although we know this isn’t a goal we can accomplish before our second qualifier on the 11th, it is one we can have done hopefully before regionals.

Next Steps:

This time, we want to test our build improvements more often since testing is one thing we haven’t been too keen on during preparation. This is mainly a long-term list of goals we want to focus on but other smaller improvements will be detailed per usual in blog posts.

Drive Issues at Allen Qualifier

25 Nov 2019

Drive Issues at Allen Qualifier By Justin, Karina, Jose, and Aaron

Task: Identify points of improvement after driving at Allen

While using our untested code and inexperienced drivers at the Allen STEAM Center this weekend, we encountered many issues while driving. Our biggest issue was with the turntable, which bugged us the whole day. First it was really slow, then it turned but after a 3 second delay, then we finally made it driveable but it turns to the opposite direction a little bit before going the correct direction. This was a problem the whole tournament. The turntable also had runaway, and would drift to either side. To counteract these issues, we maintained a static turntable and used the chassis to rotate. We only needed to spin the turntable maybe twice to extend into the safe zone at the end of the match. We also encountered the claw getting stuck on the side numbers when we rotated it or extended it to the side. We determined the locked straight position was the best for today.

This wasn't a prevalent issue in this tournament, but the robot not being able to drive over the middle bridge could be a problem later on. Driving this robot around the field was so easy. We didn't have to worry about bumping into things and the claw tucked in very well. After about our first match, our coder added preset positions to the controller. This made grabbing and placing blocks very easy, and ultimately displayed the capabilities of our robot to other teams and judges. This also helped us actually score points. The gripper was very basic for this tournament, which was actually helpful as it made learning how to drive the robot very simple. They claw required very little adjustments during the match to pick up stones, and did so reliably. Adding a point of rotation to joint might allow us to pick up weirdly rotated stones. Something we noticed during this tournament was the amount of robots, including ours, that couldn't pick up stones that had been tipped on their sides. Being able to pick up sideways stones as easily as upright stones could give us a unique and very effective advantage over other robots.

Next Steps:

Our biggest task is to smooth out the turntable both in code and build. The presets and smoothness of the turning need to be tested and improved. We also need to free up some room on the robot to allow the arm to swing around while the claw is fully retracted. The changes to the arm should be made pretty soon, to allow enough time to drive and test the robot. The chassis issues mentioned earlier are not an immediate worry, but we should continue testing and improving our work in progress suspension system. The suspension, when functioning, will allow us to drive over the middle bridge, which increases our mobility and allows us to perform different strategies during matches. We will prototype a way to rotate the gripper on the arm to allow us to pick up blocks from more orientations. We will also compare the benefit of picking up sideways blocks with the difficulty of picking them up, and determine whether or not that is something worth prototyping.

Post-Qualifier Code Debugging

25 Nov 2019

Post-Qualifier Code Debugging By Cooper

Task: Debug code after the Allen Qualifier

After the qualifier, along with articulation plans, we had a long list of bugs in the code that needed to be sorted out. Most of them were a direct effect of not being able to test the code until the night before the qualifier. In hindsight, there were some issues which needed to be debugged in the turntable and turret.

The first one that we tackled was the turntable wind up and delay. This was one of the bigger problems, as it led to the instabilities seen at the qualifier. These included random jerking to one side, inconsistent speed, and most importantly the delay. As described by Justin, it was a 2-3 second time period in which the turntable did nothing and then started moving. This was especially important to fix for stacking, as quite obviously precision and careful movements are key to this game.

So we started at the source of what we thought was the discrepancy— the rotateTurret() method. This was under scrutiny, as it was the lowest level call, or in other terms the only code that assigns new tick targets to the motor. In the rotate methods that are called by other classes, we assigned a new value to a different value called currentRotation. Once one of the rotate (right or left) methods were called, then the new value would be assigned to currentRotation. Then where the update() method for this turret class was called in the loop, it would call rotateTurret(), which would them assign currentRotationInternal to currentRotation, and then subsequently call the setTargetPositon() giving currentRotationInternal as it’s new tick value target position.

We also started going through the demo mode that was written last year. We have this idea for a great cool demo mode that will be documented once it’s in progress. However, to get there we need a working IMU. We technically had an IMU that worked at the competition, though it was never properly used or calibrated. So, we decided to look into getting the IMUs running. We started by looking at the current demo code and seeing what it could do. Most of it was outdated. But, we did find what we were looking for- the maintainHeading() method, in which we called another method, driveIMU. We then wrote a new maintainHeadingTurret() which works pretty well. Granted, we need to adjust the kP and kI values for the PID, but that is quite easy.

Next Steps

Continue tuning PID values in both the turn-table and turret.

Mentoring FTC Team 6964 Igutech

26 Nov 2019

Mentoring FTC Team 6964 Igutech By Bhanaviya

Task: Respond to a request for outreach help from Team 6964

Recently, Iron Reign received a request for advice on how we run our outreach events from FTC Team 6964 Igutech from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. They are organizing their first outreach event for a STEM club at a local middle school and reached out to us to ask our team on how we organize our outreach events.

As a team that has participated in several outreach events around the greater Dallas area, we were happy to respond. We started out by explaining the activities we have at our events - this includes bringing Big Thought's mobile learning lab, the MXP, to the event location and using its resources to teach students how to 3D-model a keychain using ninjaflex and block program a LEGO EV3 robot (similar to the kind used in FLL), and demo-ing our competition robot, and on occasion, letting kids test out the controls themselves by driving the robot around. Something that our team takes pride is being able to get students with little to no background in STEM interested in robotics. As such, in our correspondence to Igutech, we made sure to emphasize that one thing Iron Reign focused on was trying to create an interactive experience for all participants involved.

Next Steps

We were very gratified by Team 6964 reaching out to us about the plans for starting off their outreach program. Being able to connect with teams so far outside the NTX region like 6964 in Pennsylvania served a good opportunity for our team to realize just how expansive the FIRST community is. We wish Igutech the best of luck for their first outreach event, and we look forward to hearing from them soon.

Swivel Mount

26 Nov 2019

Swivel Mount By Aaron

Task: Design a swivel mount to improve the degrees of freedom on the gripper

After the recent competition, we realized that a good way to increase precision would be to add, of course, another axis of rotation. This was the most efficient way to be more precise and pick up a stone from all angles. With a swivel mount, the gripper would be able to rotate on the y axis, via a servo. We already have a simple mount that rotates on the x axis, not motor driven, that utilizes gravity to automatically align the stone with the tower in stacking it, however we realized that a lot of time during teleop was wasting in trying to achieve the right angle at which to grip the stones.

The way we achieve a swivel mount is by mounting a servo facing downward directly onto the gripper, and yes, direct drive is never really a great idea and maybe the easiest thing to do right at that moment was to just mount it directly to the gripper but a swivel mount is a more universal solution for when the gripper needs to turn a certain angle. The only problem is that we also use a servo to actuate the gripper arm mechanism, meaning that we will have a wire that will limit the rotation of the gripper itself. We could get an itty bitty slip ring if we really wanted to, but in reality we don’t see ourselves actually needing the full three hundred sixty degrees of motion.

Next Steps

Now that we have a swivel mount, our next step is to test, test, and maybe even test it. We don't know what degree of control we have on the swivel mount so testing it out will help us analyze what changes need to be made on our gripper.

Finger Gripper Version 2

26 Nov 2019

Finger Gripper Version 2 By Jose

Task: Design a swivel and add ninjaflex parts to improve the finger gripper

From what we learned at the Allen Qualifier the gripper needs some major improvements before it will work at its max performance. The first change that needs to be made is replacing the current grip material with some more flexible material, such as ninja flex which we have used before as a gripping material. The print we have on the gripper is large but when the gripper closes its flexibility allows for it to grip the stone much better.

The second improvement was to add a swivel to the entire gripper. This was done by adding some REV beams to the top of the gripper and attaching those beams to a servo. After some experimenting with the placement of the new, larger gripper we found a place that gives it over 180 degrees for motion. This will prove to be useful as not even the turntable will have to be turned to grab a stone, increasing the amount of stones we can score.

Next Steps

We need to implement some code that will allow a second driver to control the swivel as well as add some articulations now that we have a new degree of freedom. Additionally, we will need to add a damper to the oscillatory motion of the whole subsystem while in action.

Adding to TomBot model

27 Nov 2019

Adding to TomBot model By Ben

Task: Update the current robot model

Prior to updating the model, the model purely consisted of the chassis and the primitive turntable. Since then, both the turntable and chassis have been updated to reflect the current state of the robot, along with the addition of the elbow and slide. The elbow component consists of GoBILDA shafts, gears, and connectors, along with the logarithmic spiral. The elbow can be seen below.

The next addition is the linear slide. This consists of different slide components which were taken from a model constructed in PTC Creo and a linear slide gear mount. The slide can be seen below.

With this updated model, it will be much easier to develop strategies based on different articulations since we can now accurately visualize the robot. The updated model also allows coders to better visualize the robot, increasing programming efficiency.

Next Steps

As you can see from the model above, there is no gripper. Our next steps will be to model the gripper which is to be constructed and attached to the next version of the robot.

Allen Qualifier Post Mortem - Code

27 Nov 2019

Allen Qualifier Post Mortem - Code By Jose and Cooper

Task: Analyze our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for our code at the Allen Qualifier

Fresh off our first qualifier at the Allen STEAM Center, we decided to begin a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis for code. While we will have other posts specifying what issues we needed to debug after the qualifier, and what articulations we need to implement within our code, this article mainly focuses on our code progress at the qualifier, and what can be improved in time for the next qualifier.

Strengths

  • We have completely overhauled our codebase to be completely compatible with TomBot
  • We know how to use state machines to code autonomous much easier

Weaknesses

  • Our autonomous only scores 5 points
  • We had few driver enhancements so many manual overrides were used

Opportunities

  • We can have a tower height variable that makes the arm go to a certain height when stacking
  • We have plenty more things to do during autonomous and can make use of the turntable to make it faster
  • We can use a color sensor directly on the stone gripper to detect skystones during autonomous

Threats

  • Any team with a 5+ point autonomous
  • 7172, they have many of our ideas for code improvements already implemented

Next Steps

Focus on building upon our opportunities, and begin creating plans for future articulations (which will be detailed in a later post).

SEM Robotics Tournament

27 Nov 2019

SEM Robotics Tournament By Coach and Bhanaviya

Qualifying Tournament needs Volunteers!

Iron Reign (team 6832), The School of Science and Engineering and the Dallas ISD STEM Department are happy to announce that we are hosting our third annual FIRST Tech Challenge qualifying tournament at our Townview campus on December 14th. Thirty Two North Texas robotics teams will compete for awards plus approximately 4 or 5 advancements to the Regional Championship to be held in February, and 4 advancements to the Wildcard Qualifer for another chance.

This is the third time our school has hosted an official qualifying tournament and we will need your help to make it a first-rate experience. This is a full day event on Saturday, December 14. There are also options to help with setup Friday afternoon December 13. Please feel free to circulate this message to everyone in the SEM community who can contribute their time and expertise. And if you can suggest a business that might want to sponsor the event, we'll be happy to talk with them.

Volunteer Roles

One group of volunteers that support the running of robot matches include referees, score keepers, inspectors, field managers. Some of these roles require training and certification and we will generally draw from mentors already involved in FTC. Other roles supporting match play do not require training and include field management, pit management and queue management.

Another group of volunteers will support judging of teams for awards. Judges can be drawn from industry or academia and can have an engineering background or a general business backround in a technology industry. Judges assess the merits of teams' robots, their engineering process and journal, their strategic decisions, team dynamics and outreach. Judges will be led by a Judge Advisor, but will need to understand the awards criteria ahead of time.

Another group of volunteers will support the event overall. This includes team registration, crowd control, DJ, photography, A/V support, floaters, runners, concessions, load-in/load-out crew, etc.

This is just a summary of the most common roles, but there are many specialty roles. Full volunteer info can be found here.

For some roles it helps to understand the run-of-show for the day.

How to sign up as a volunteer

FIRST is the governing body of these competitions and they have a volunteer sign up system so that we can assure that all roles are filled by vetted volunteers. We are trying to get all volunteers processed through this system. It does involve creating a FIRST account if you have not previously done so.

Please sign up for as many roles as you feel comfortable fulfilling. We may need to be flexible with assignments depending on who is available and which roles can be fulfilled by our regional managing partner. Students may volunteer for certain roles and as event hosts, Iron Reign team members will be supporting the event throughout the day.

To begin, go to the volunteer signup page for our event: https://my.firstinspires.org/Volunteers/Wizard/Search/2?EventId=47076

If you have not previously registered with FIRST, you'll need to sign up / register and activate your account first. Then you can go back to the link above and indicate your preferences. We truly need your help and look forward to working with you to create a great tournament for our students. We hope this event will showcase SEM as the premiere home for future scientists and engineers.

All our Thanks,

Karim Virani and Cathy Lux

Location

Tournament day is very involved for the teams and volunteers. Here is a typical schedule of the day:

  • 7:00 Doors open for volunteers
  • 7:30-8:30 Teams arrive, register and load their robots and gear into the pit areas
  • 9:00 - 10:30 Teams present their robots to Judges for the awards competition. They also get their robots inspected and approved for the robot game
  • 10:30 Opening ceremonies and then qualifying matches of the robot game begin. Judges are observing teams in their pits and on the competition field
  • Noon - Lunch will be provided for the teams and volunteers. Judges share information with each other about the teams they interviewed.
  • Afternoon - qualifying matches continue until each team has competed 5 times. There are 4 robots per match and we'll have two alternating competition fields to speed things up.
  • Mid-to-late afternoon is Alliance Selection, top teams from qualifying rounds will build alliances to compete in the elimination / playoff rounds. Judges continue deliberating.
  • Playoff rounds usually take a bit over an hour
  • Closing Ceremonies and Awards
  • Pack up fields and equipment

We plan to end the tournament by 5:30pm, but events often run long. All volunteers are encouraged to stay until the end of the tournament - it's at the awards ceremony where it becomes clear how much your service matters. But it's not required if your role is completed earlier in the day.

Finger Gripper Version 3 CAD

28 Nov 2019

Finger Gripper Version 3 CAD By Jose

Task: Design a more comapct and efficient gripper design

This version of the finger gripper is going to be mostly custom made to make it as simple and as compact as possible. This is just the CAD model of the actual design and we plan to update a little more before we can actually make the physical change on the actual gripper. The design remains the same but the gripper now has a new addition, a capstone deployer. The idea is to have the capstone preloaded on the gripper and have a mini servo drop it on the last stone we are placing. The design of this capstone is in another blog post, but the idea is to make it as small as possible to not make the gripper much larger.

Next Steps

We need to make this design perfect before printing, once that is done we can do so and begin its implementation on the robot.

Creating a Robot Handle

29 Nov 2019

Creating a Robot Handle By Paul

Task: Create a handle for the robot to make it more inspection-worthy

The robot handle is a revolutionary piece of precision engineering, designed to allow the robot to lifted by a carbon-based linear motor, known as a human arm. The handle is made of a composite material, consisting of a matrix of polyurethane fibers surrounded by a carbon-based synthetic thermoplastic polymer sheath. This cording material shall henceforth be known as “Bungee cording”. This “Bungee cord” is wrapped around two aluminium support struts to ensure structural stability and ensure that the forces induced by the carbon-based organic linear motor don’t exceed the ultimate structural limits of the attachment points, which would result in the uncontrolled acceleration and subsequent sudden deceleration when the robot impacts the surface below. This would be bad because the robot is expensive and the ground is usually hard.

This bungee cording helps protect the puny little meat sticks we call fingers, because for some reason that getting your fingers sliced open by the robot is bad or something. The meatbags that our team consists of need to be protected as per FTC regulations.

Next steps:

Enhance the carbon-based organic linear motors so our engineers can lift the robot without looking weak. Also maybe a little more padding to help protect people’s fingies.

Bill of Materials

30 Nov 2019

Bill of Materials By Bhanaviya, Trey, and Jose

Task: Create a list of parts needed for the new robot

To determine all the materials we need for the new robot, we started a Bill of Materials. To do this, we first analyzed TomBot sub-system by sub-system. We determined the parts used for each sub-system and placed it into a spreadsheet. Upon doing this, we needed to get each part's exact measurements so that we could save time when trying to cut the new parts. Additionally, we needed the quantity of each part as well as which manufacturer it was from. Something new about the new robot is that we hope to have a completely CNC-ed bot with as many custom parts as we can incorporate. Using a good number of custom parts will allow us to be more creative with the robot design itself since everything we add to it will be custom-printed. This will also allow us to improve our engineering process as we iterate through multiple different versions of a part. This was critical because at the end of the day, the task was to build a better version of TomBot but using, more or less, the same parts.

Next Steps

We will update the bill as we iterate through more parts. As of now, TomBot has several build issues that will be discussed in our post-mortem posts. Part of rectifying these issues includes ordering/printing more parts and editing the bill accordingly.

Capstone Version 3

30 Nov 2019

Capstone Version 3 By Jose

Task: Design a minimalistic capstone that can be deployed by the stone gripper

This version of our capstone is to be 3D modeled and printed as well as be as compact as possible to be deployed by the gripper. The basic idea is that the capstone is flat while meeting the minimum size for length and width. The capstone will be an 'I' shape to fit around the nubs of a stone. From here a small beam will be attached on the hole which is extended out of the 'I' as shown above. This will be 3 inches long, making this capstone technically legal. This capstone is small enough to allow another capstone to be placed on top if needed.

Next Steps

We need to fully 3D model this capstone and change the bottom of the gripper so it can be deployed easily.

Short-term Post-Mortem Talks

30 Nov 2019

Short-term Post-Mortem Talks By Bhanaviya, Cooper, Paul, Aaron, Ben, Jose, and Trey

Task: Begin analyzing our performance at the Allen qualifier

It’s officially been a week since our first qualifier at Allen. Although we succeeded in qualifying there’s still a lot of work to be done before it we’re ready for the regional championship. Before we could begin any preparation for regionals, we needed to start off by analyzing our performance at Allen. To do this we created a SWOT (strengths, weakness, opportunities, threats) analysis.Today was simply a short-term version of this analysis and there will be a separate post detailing our comprehensive post-mortem analysis as well as other post-mortem posts for our build and code subdivisions.

We started off by analyzing our performance at judging. In the past, timing is an issue we’ve struggled to nail down during judged presentations. As such, this year we worked to make our presentation as concise but thorough as possible. During the actual presentation, while we hit the 5 minute mark there were other areas in which we could have been improved - particularly, our robot demonstration and our ability to explain our build decisions with calculations. To solve this, we plan to design a research poster for regionals which explains our mathematical reasoning for every aspect of the robot. The poster will allow us to allude to our calculations during both presentations and pit visits. As for robot demo, it is more a matter of being prepared with working controls which is an issue we will cover in our long-term post-mortem.

On the short-term, we also plan to better organize our bill of materials which will streamline our process of building our new robot. For reference, TomBot is our current robot. Before regionals, we plan to build a similar circular-chassis based robot but with more custom built parts which we plan to design using our new CNC mill.

On the issue of drive practice our solution is simple, effective and fully on-track with the Iron Reign way: double it and try not to break the robot. In all seriousness, the only way to resolve lack of drive practice is doing more of it. Part of this includes documenting our driver practices with statistics for us to better analyse our progress (or lack of thereof).

The final issue we discussed during today’s post-mortem talks was how we plan to organize our schools qualifier on December 14 . Although this isn’t related to our performance at the Allen Qualifier, our experience at the tournament allowed us to better understand what needs to be done to get all 4 of our teams ready to host a 31-team qualifier. Part of this includes all members registering for roles as well as ensuring that we have monitors, playing fields, and enough adult volunteers to pull off the whole event.

Next Steps:

Over the course of next week’s meeting, we will finish our post-mortem talks and will continue our preparations to host the Townview Qualifier. In addition, we will also detail our SWOT analysis on this blog when our post-mortem talks are finished.

Allen Qualifier Post Mortem

07 Dec 2019

Allen Qualifier Post Mortem By Karina, Bhanaviya, Jose, Ben, and Paul

Task: Plan for upcoming tournaments

So our Allen qualifier was a success! Iron Reign won the Inspire Award, which we are so honored to have been given. We did a detailed SWOT analysis to identify our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Strengths

  • Preparation
    • Earlier preparation of the engineering journal
    • Productivity greatly increased under pressure
    • Everything was up on blog
    • Content was organized well
    • Functional robot
    • Judging box was prepared and had everything we needed
  • Judging
    • We were effectively able to communicate the reason behind our robot's unique shape
    • Good transitions between ideas
    • We were able to talk fluidly about our robot despite not having speeches prepared
    • Able to redirect judges to specific highlights
    • Storytelling abilities kept judges engaged
  • Robot Performance
    • We passed inspection the first time around
    • Physical build was solid
    • Focused on building/improving even throughout the competition
    • Great teamwork - everyone was coordinated and on task
    • Batteries were charged
  • Scouting and Pit Engagement
    • Good at queueing one another during pit visits
    • Demo worked better than at presentation
    • Scouters got to all the teams

Weaknesses

  • Preparation
    • Workspace is realy disorganized which made it hard to find tools and equipment that we needed
    • No drive practice until the morning of the tournament since gripper was only mounted then
    • Not enough people for load out
    • Control Award submission
    • Missed items on the checklist for materials
    • Lack of rest
  • Judging
    • Redirected to topics that don't have a lot of substance
    • Not enough calculation based posts to talk about
    • Lack of driver statistics documentation
    • Hand off between different speakers could be smoother
    • Did not clearly discuss our focus on sustainability of the MXP
    • Robot demo did not work since chains fell off
  • Robot Performance
    • All drivers need to learn game strategy
    • Poor wire management
    • Compact design was also the reason behind the turn table knocking chains off of wheels' sprockets
    • Set screws came loose often
    • We had no autonomous at the beginning of the day
  • Scouting and Pit Engagement
    • Need to be more systematic about checking team's claims
    • Did not get video of all of our matches personally
    • Not enough people at the pits to represent the team
    • Unable to seed questions
    • Lacking in enthusiasm
    • Pits were a mess with backpacks thrown all over

Opportunities

  • Preparation
    • Taking up more afterschool and Sunday practices
    • Allocating more time to preparation in the weeks before competition instead of days
    • Preparing a pit design to optimize organization and places to put up banners
    • Create business cards for handouts
    • Post-event follow through: plugging in phones, charging batteries, etc.
  • Judging
    • Be more aware of what a judge is looking for/what award they are judging
    • Make our binder stand out - aesthetically and by creating helpful guides such as a robot manual
  • Robot Performance
    • Allowing time for driver practice
    • Making sure that everyone gets enough sleep the night before competition
    • Test grippers
    • Better collaboration with alliance partners
    • Control swivel mount on gripper
    • Fully automatic gripper with distance sensors
    • Turn-table needs to stay in position while robot turns
    • Completely CNCed robot (base - polycarb with aluminum sides)
    • Dampen swing on gripper
    • Make model for gripper before build
    • Articulations - more accurate presets specifically for elbow
    • Create a bill of materials with links
  • Scouting and Pit Engagement
    • Design pit layout ahead of time
    • Dress up our pit with tent and banners
    • Have a laptop ready with important info
    • Detailed accounts for each match we do/play by play
    • Have someone assigned to watch matches so that we can personally gauge other team's strength, weaknesses, opportunities for collaboration, etc.
    • Take the chance to talk to other teams
    • Make use of a scouting app

Threats

  • Preparation
    • Not getting focused until it is too late
    • Busy schedules
    • Not being able to prioritize
  • Judging
    • Rushing through important ideas because of the time limit
    • Judging panel is always an uncertain variable
  • Robot Performance
    • High performing teams
    • Time management
    • Acquisition of all parts
    • Enough time for modeling all the robot parts
  • Scouting and Pit Engagement
    • Sitting around looking at phones looks like disengagement even if we are researching stuff
    • Lack of robot data and statistics to present potential allies with might drive them away

Next Steps

We're at the point now where we are prepping for our regionals tournament. Thankfully we will have another opportunity to test out TomBot at the ____ qualifier. Between the work we do now and up until the regionals tournament, we hope to achieve a full autonomous with greater stacking capabilities.

Capstone Iterations

07 Dec 2019

Capstone Iterations By Bhanaviya

Task: Go over all 3 of our capstone iterations

So far, we have experimented with 3 capstone models. While we do not intend to use all 3 of these models, they allowed us to effectively implement the engineering process on our robot. Although the capstone isn't physically a part of a robot, its various iterations influence the model of the gripper being used since the ideal gripper must be able to pick up both the skystones and the capstones over the duration of a match. As such, this article analyzes these designs to help us determine which gripper is best for use at our next qualifier on January 11.

1) Aaron's Super Cool Capstone That Works 100% Of The Time

The capstone that we made and used at the competition wasn’t the prettiest thing, but it had heart, and was destined for greatness. It was constructed from prototyping wire and duct tape. The basic design was a ring with a spherical top over it in order to not fall off when dropped onto the tower. It also had four large screws on each side in order to weigh down the capstone so as to not slip or slide off the tower when dropped. While this capstone was firm in structure, it requires a lot of precision to be placed on top of the stone itself. Since this year's game is very speed-based, a precision-based capstone is not the most effective.

2) Jose's Super Cool Capstone That Works 100% Of The Time

The next capstone was custom-designed and printed at our very own Robo Dojo. Simply put, it is a much flatter, rather 2D version of a skystone. It had two large rectangles in the center to drop onto both the stubs of a stone on a tower. It also has a small rectangular tab at its edge which will allow the gripper to pick it up. But given its shape, an issue would be the ability of our gripper to pick it up and drop it onto the tower without tipping over the entire stack. Once again, while it was destined for greatness, it was not built for the unrelenting force that is time and it would take too much control and seconds to be capped onto a tower.

3) The I-shaped Capstone That Works 100% Of The Time

Our latest capstone design is also custom-designed and 3D-printed out of nylon. Structure-wise, it is a flat 'I'. But in terms of capacity, it is the easiest of our capstone models to be picked by the gripper and drop onto the skystone. This capstone aims not to be dropped on the stubs of the stone but rather in in the middle of the capstone where it requires less precision to be dropped and is less likely to fall. It comes with a small tab similar to the one on our second capstone which allows the gripper to pick it up with ease.

Next Steps

Now that we have analyzed all of our capstone designs so far, it will be easier for us to streamline which design will be the best to implement on the robot. Right now, we are leaning towards the I-shaped capstone since it's less precision-based, smaller, and easier to be picked up by our current finger-gripper.

Future TomBot Articulations

07 Dec 2019

Future TomBot Articulations By Cooper

Task: Plan out potential robot articulations to improve game strategy

Getting back from the tournament, we were able to immediately start to think about what was the big problems and possible improvements to the articulations of the robot. Overall, we ended up coming up with several ideas, both for fixing things and for efficiency.

1- Turntable Articulations

In the competition, we realized the extreme convenience that having some articulations for the turret. Not to say that we hadn't tried to make them before the competition, we were having some issues writing them. plus, even if we didn't have those convene, it would have been improbable that we would have gotten them tuned for the competition. Anyways, even though we agreed on needing to have these presets, we could not agree on what they should be. One argument was that we should have them field-centric, meaning that it would stay in one position from the POV of the audience. This was cited to have a good number of use cases, such as repetitive positions, like the left/right and forward of the field. However, another idea arose to have them be robot-centric. This would allow for faster relative turns.

So, what we've decided to do is write the code for both. The field-centric will be turns and subsequent static positions will implement the IMU on the control hub mounted to the turret. The robot-centric version will be based on the tick values of the encoders on the turret's motor. Then, we will have the drivers choose which one they prefer. This we believe is effective, as it will allow for a more consistent use of the turntable for the driver.

2- Move to Tower Height Articulations

this is one of the more useful Ideas, which would be to extend the arm to the current height of the tower. How would we do it? Well, we have come up with a 2 step plan to do this, in different levels of difficulty. The first one is based on trig. We used the second controller to increment and decrement the level of the current tower. That value is then used in the extendToTowerHeight() method, which was written as the following:

public void extendToTowerHeight(){ hypotenuse = (int)(Math.sqrt(.25 * Math.pow((currentTowerHeight* blockHeightMeter),2)));//in meters setElbowTargetPos((int)(ticksPerDegree*Math.acos(.5/ hypotenuse)),1); setExtendABobTargetPos((int)(hypotenuse *(107.0/2960.0))); }

As you can see, we used the current tower height times the height of a block to get the opposite side of the triangle relative to our theta, in this case the arm angle. The .25 is an understood floor distance between the robot and the tower. This means that the arm will always extend to the same floor distance every time. We think this to be the most effective, as it means not only that the driver will have a constant to base the timing of the extension, but we minimize the amount we have to extend our arm. If we assumed the length of the hypotenuse, there would be overextension for lower levels, which would have to be accounted for.

The next phase of the design will use a camera to continue to extend the arm until it doesn't see any blocks. not only will this allow for a faster ascension and more general use cases, It will eliminate the need for a second controller (or at least for this part.

3-Auto-grab Articulation

Finally, the last one that we came up with is the idea to auto-grab blocks. To do this we would use vison to detect the angle and distance that block is away from the robots back arm and extend to it. Then rotate the gripper, snatch it and reel it back.

Next Steps

Use a culmination of drive testing and experimentation to refine the robots movements and ultimately automate the robot’s actions.

Townview Qualifier 2019 - Set Up

13 Dec 2019

Townview Qualifier 2019 - Set Up By Ben, Jose, Karina, Justin, Bhanaviya, Cooper, Paul, and Trey

Task: Prepare Townview for the upcoming qualifier

Tomorrow, December 14th, Iron Reign will be hosting the 2019 Townview Qualifier. 31 teams will be competing and we expect several hundred people to attend the event. We have recruited volunteers from Imperial, Iron Core, and Iron Golem, along with PTSA volunteers from our home schools, SEM and TAG. For our competition, we required over 31 individual tables for each team, 4 queuing tables, and about 6 other tables for snacks, equipment, and inspection. Three fields were also set up, two were brought in as competition fields, set up in the main cafeteria, while the third was provided by Iron Reign as a practice field in the far corner of the cafeteria. Two large monitors were provided by the schools to display match information during matches, along with live results, while the other was used to display inspection status and ranking. The competition fields were setup to the east of the cafeteria with several rows of chairs for spectators. Behind the fields were 4 queuing tables, two per field. We initially placed 4 chairs at every team table, however, more were available along the walls for teams to use. On every team table, we placed 2 signs with the team numbers of the team assigned to that table. Teams were organized by team number to make queuing easier.

A tournament also required judging rooms. Because the tournament was on the first floor of the building, we transformed 5 classrooms into judging rooms. This usually meant moving many of the tables and chairs off to the side to allow teams and judges to move easily about the room. We posted maps around the building and marked every judging room with the judging room number.

Next Steps

Although we finished most of the preparation, there are still a few things left to do. We will need to construct a map of the pits, transport volunteer supplies (like snacks and water), and provide training for volunteers.

Townview Qualifier 2019 - The Day Of

14 Dec 2019

Townview Qualifier 2019 - The Day Of By Bhanaviya, Jose, Paul, Aaron, Justin, Trey, Ben, Karina, Cooper, Jayesh, Tycho, and Max

Task: Run the Townview Tournament

On Saturday, December 15, Iron Reign hosted 31 teams and 300 students at the Townview Magnet Center, our home school's campus. With 31 teams, this was one of the biggest qualifiers in the North Texas region. A video play-by-play of the matches can be found in a separate entry here. This entry serves more as a description as to how we got to the point of hosting the qualifier and what to consider when hosting one.

To start off, a full-fledged qualifier requires a large number of volunteers - both student and adult. While there are certain roles that are limited to adults only, many roles need a good number of younger volunteers - especially queuing and judging assistance. If the host team is not participating in the qualifier, then a good way to meet this cap is to recruit from a school's robotics program. In our case, student members from the Iron Reign Robotics program filled in positions such as game announcer, emcee, disc jockey, concessions, and around 10 queuers and runners. Prior to the start of match-play all our members helped with judging assistance. This includes ensuring that all teams are queued up on time outside their judging panels and ensuring that all teams have gone through field and robot inspection. This helps ensure that all teams are on schedule for the start of match-play. Below, you can see what specific roles which Iron Reign members helped fill during the tournament:

Townview Qualifier Member Work Log

Team MembersTaskStart TimeDuration
KarinaReferee7:0012 hrs
JustinQueuer and Runner7:0012 hrs
BhanaviyaEmcee and Queuer7:0012 hrs
BenQueuer and Queuer7:0012 hrs
JoseGame Announcer7:0012 hrs
CooperQueuer and Judge Advisor Assistant7:0012 hrs
AaronQueuer and Runner7:0012 hrs
PaulDisc Jockey7:0012 hrs
TreyQueuer and Runner7:0012 hrs

A good qualifier also needs adult volunteers. We had 2 judges in 4 judging rooms and one room with 3 judges. In addition, we also had 6 referees and one scorer. All of these are adult roles which meant we had to seek volunteers from a variety of sources including prior FTC Tournaments, alumni from our team, and even our own families. All adult volunteers must go through background checks as well as complete other training certifications on the FIRST website so this proccess must start at least 3 weeks in advance to recruit enough volunteers. To do this, we posted a request for volunteers on this blog for any visitors to our website to sign up.

Fresh off of the Allen Qualifier, we knew the pressure that teams felt at a qualifier - whether its caused by a lack of driver practice, tools or just undulated anxiety, we wanted to alleviate this stress. So, we ensured that a practice field set up away from the pit area for teams to practice right before their matches. We also kept a spreadsheet with inspection results on 2 monitors in the pits so that teams could be updated, and made pit maps so teams could find one another. These maps are also helpful to runners who need to find teams to queue them for their matches or for their judging panels. With so many members of our team floating around the pits, we were also able to provide any build or code assistance to teams who might need it. Finally, one trait all FTC team members share on the day of qualifier is the perpetual need for sustenance so we collaborated with one of our school's, TAG, PTSA to set up a concessions stand while the DISD STEM Department ensured that all volunteers received lunch.

Next Steps

By the end of the qualifier, we were able to advance 4 teams to the North Texas Regional Championship, and another 4 to the Wildcard Qualifier on February 1st. The qualifier could not have gone as smoothly as it did without the help of all our volunteers for committing so much of their times on a weekend to promote FIRST and STEM. We'd also like the DISD STEM Department for proving all our volunteers with breakfast and lunch, to The School of Business and Management and our sponsor, Mr John Gray, for supporting the event. Finally, we'd like to thank our coach Mr Virani for managing all of the logistics for the event, including its set up and the qualifier itself.

Third Annual Townview Tournament a Success!

15 Dec 2019

Third Annual Townview Tournament a Success! By Coach and Bhanaviya

Thank you to all our volunteers!

Thank you to all the volunteers that gave up their Saturday to contribute to the FTC community in North Texas. Because of you this tournament was a rousing success. We served 31 area teams and 300 students. We advanced four teams directly to the Regional Championship in February and gave another four a second shot at the Wild Card tournament. More importantly, all teams received a fair chance at competing with excellent Judging and Refereeing - and we are certain that all of them learned how to improve. We really could not have done this without our volunteers carrying the load.

We extend our deepest appreciation to all volunteers, to the business school and our sponsor for supporting the event, to the TAG PTSA for providing concessions, to the leadership of SEM for hosting and to the STEM Department for feeding our volunteers and Dallas ISD students.

-Karim Virani, Dr. Catherine Lux, and the students of Iron Reign, Imperial Robotics, Iron Core and Iron Golem

For those interested, the full standings are up on The Orange Alliance and awards should follow soon.

We also were doing a test of streaming for future tournaments in our region. Because we had little time to set it up, there were issues with quality on one camera and a complete lack of audio for about half of the tournament. But most of the matches are visible (with the exception of the final match) and most of the awards ceremony was audible. We know what to improve and can hope for a better stream at some following tournaments. Here is what we got:

Turret IMU Code

22 Dec 2019

Turret IMU Code By Jose and Abhi

Task: Code some driver enhancements for the turret

With the return of the king(Abhi - an alumni of our team) we were able to make some code changes, mainly dealing with the turret and its IMU since that is our current weak point. At first we experimented with field-centric controls but then realized that for ease of driving the robot, turret-centric control are necessary. After a few lines of code using the turret's IMU, we were able to make the turret maintain its heading, as the chassis turn, so does the turret to maintain its position. This is useful because it will allow the driver to turn the chassis without having to turn the turret as well.

Next Steps

We must continue tuning the PID of the turret to allow for more stable and accurate articulations.

Finger Gripper Version 4 CAD

25 Dec 2019

Finger Gripper Version 4 CAD By Jose

Task: CAD a slightly different capstone version to improve upon v3's issues

On this minor update to our flat gripper design a dropper for the latest capstone was added. Our capstone design (which can be seen here: E-65 ) is minimalistic to allow it to be placed on the gripper and only deployed until the last stone in the match is placed to cap it. The basic idea for this capstone dropper is to have a bar which has the number 6832 on it to match the 6832 indent on the capstone. This dropper will keep the capstone in place until the gripper is opened to beyond 45 degrees. To allow the gripper to actually close, a triangle was cut off the dropper as seen in the image above. Here is the final design:

Next Steps

Once the design is finalized(there may be a 5th version if a change is needed) this will be 3D printed and will replace the current gripper on the robot.

Materials Test Planning

26 Dec 2019

Materials Test Planning By Bhanaviya

Task: Create a system to test our materials to better understand their grip potential

Here at Iron Reign, we're used to using off-the-shelf materials for our robot. For this season, these include silicon oven-mitts and ice-cube trays, since we find these grip skystones pretty well. However, we need to do a thorough investigation of these materials before we can determine their efficacy on the robot.

Specifically, we plan to implement these parts on the underside of our gripper, to improve its friction when in contact with a stone. Our current gripper uses parts of ninjaflex gears but these aren't the most effective in picking up stones quickly. This is a bit of a concern since this year's game is so speed-based. As such, the time has come for us to replace the material on our gripper. However, before we can decide which material would have the best grip, we need to test them to determine their on-robot properties. To do this, we will implement a slip test as shown below.

The main thing that we want to test is the amount of energy they have while rotating and then the amount of energy they lose upon collision. We plan to test this through the coefficient of friction of the mitts. Simply put, we will place the skystone on top of the of the silicon oven-mitts/ice-cube trays and will tape down the material being tested on a flat surface. Then, we will lift the surface and using simple inverse trigonometric properties, we will calculate theta, the angle at which the stone begins to slip from the material. The bigger the angle, the higher the friction coefficient of the material, which equates to it having better grip.

Next Steps

With our testing planned out, we will next begin documenting the angle at which the skystone slips from each type of material. The calculations from the actual testing, including the equation we used, will be inputted into a separate post.

Code Developments 12/28

28 Dec 2019

Code Developments 12/28 By Cooper

Task: Gripper swivel, extendToTowerHeight, and retractFromTowerHeight. Oh My!

Today was a long day, clocking in 10 hrs continuously. In those ten hours, I was able to make tremendous progress. Overall, we have 4 main areas of work done.

The first one gets it’s own blog post, which is the extendToTowerHeight, which encompasses fixing the 2nd controller, calculating the TPM of the arm, and calculating the TPD for the elbow.

The second focus of the day was mounting and programming the swivel of the gripper. Aaron designed a swivel mount for the gripper the night after the qualifier, which was mounted on the robot. It was taken off by Aaron to finish the design and then today I put it back on, and then wired it. Once we tested to make sure the servo actually worked, we added a method in the Crane class that swivels the gripper continuously. But, since the servo is still a static one, I was also able to implement a toggle that toggles between 90, 0, and -90. With a couple of tests we were able to determine the correct speed at which to rotate and the code ended up looking like this:

public void swivelGripper(boolean right){ if(right == true) gripperSwivel.setPosition(gripperSwivel.getPosition()-.02); else gripperSwivel.setPosition(gripperSwivel.getPosition()+.02); }

The third development was the retractFromTowerHeight() method that was written. This is complementary to extendToTowerHeight, but is significantly less complex. The goal of this method was to make retracting from the tower easier, by automatically raising and retracting the arm, such that we don’t hit the tower going down. This was made by using a previously coded articulation, retract, with a call to setElbowTargetPos before it, such that it raises the arm just enough for the gripper to miss the tower. After a couple of test runs, we got it to work perfectly. The final order of business was the jump from ticks being used on the turntable to IMU mode. It was really out of my grasp, so I asked for help from Mr.V. After a couple of hours trying to get the IMU setup for the turret, we finally got it to work, giving us our first step to the conversion. The second came with the changing of the way the turntable moves, as we made a new low level setTurntableTargetPos() method, which is what everything else will call. Finally, we converted all of the old setTurnTablePos() methods to use degrees.

Next Steps

As of now both extendToTowerHeight() and the gripper swivel are good. On the retractFromTowerHeight(), it may be important to think of the edge cases of when we are really up high. Also, the turntable is unusable until we tune PID, so that will be our first priority.

Extend to Tower Height and Retract from Tower

28 Dec 2019

Extend to Tower Height and Retract from Tower By Cooper

Task: Develop the controller so that it can extend to tower height

Since we have decided to move onto using 2 controllers, we can have more room for optimizations and shortcuts/ articulations. One such articulation is the extendToTowerHeight articulation . It takes a value for the current tower height and when a button is pushed, it extends to just over that height, so a block can be placed. This happened in 2 different segments of development.

The first leg of development was the controller portion. Since this was the first time we had used a 2nd controller, we ran into an unexpected issue. We use a method called toggleAllowed() that Tycho wrote many years ago for our non-continuous inputs. It worked just fine until we passed it the second controllers inputs, as then it would not register any input. The problem was in the method, as it worked on an array of the buttons on the controller to save states, and there was conflict with the first controller. So, we created a new array of indexes for the second controller, and made it so in the method call you pass it the gpID (gamepad ID), which tells it which of those index arrays to use. Once that was solved, we were able to successfully put incrementTowerHeight() on the y button and decrementTowerHeight() on the x button. The current tower height is then spit out in telemetry for the second driver to see.

Then came the hard part of using that information. After a long discussion, we decided to with a extendToTowerHeight() that has a constant distance, as having a sensor for distance to the build platform would have too many variables in what direction i t should be in, and having it be constant means the math works out nicely. So this is how it would look:

Now, we can go over how we would find all of these values. To start, we can look at the constant distance measure, and to be perfectly honest it is a completely arbitrary value. We just placed the robot a distance that looked correct away from the center of the field. This isn’t that bad, as A) we can change it, and B) it doesn’t need to be calculated. The driver just needs to practice with this value and that makes it correct. In the end we decided to go with ~.77 meters.

Then before we moved on we decided to calculate the TPM (Ticks Per Meter) of the extension of the arm, and the TPD (Ticks Per Degree) of the elbow, as it is necessary for the next calculations. For the TPM, we busted out a ruler and measure the extension of different positions in both inches (which were converted into Meters) and the tick value, then added them all up respectively and made a tick per meter ratio. In the end, we ended up with a TPM of 806/.2921. We did similar with the TPD, just with a level, and got 19.4705882353. With a quick setExtendABobLengthMeters() and a setElbowTargetAngle() method, it was time to set up the math. As can be seen in the diagram, we can think of the entire system as a right triangle. We know the opposite side (to theta) length, as we can multiply the tower height by the height, and we know the adjacent side’s length, as it is constant. Therefore, we can use the Pythagorean theorem to calculate the distance, in meters, of the hypotenuse.

hypotenuse = Math.sqrt(.76790169 + Math.pow(((currentTowerHeight+1)* blockHeightMeter),2));//in meters

From that, we can calculate the theta using a arccosine function of the adjacent / hypotenuse. In code, it ended up looking like this: .setElbowTargetAngle(Math.toDegrees(Math.acos(0.8763/ hypotenuse)));

Then we set the extension to be the hypotenuse:

setExtendABobLengthMeters(hypotenuse-.3683);

While it has yet to be seen its effectiveness, it should at the very least function well, as shown in our tests. This will help the drivers get into the general area of the tower, so they can worry more about the fine adjustments. For a more visual representation, here is the position in CAD:

Next Steps:

We need to work on 2 main things. Tuning is one, as while it is close, it’s not perfect. The second thing to work on is using a custom vision program to automatically detect the height of the tower. This would take all the stress off the drivers.

Testing Friction Coefficient

28 Dec 2019

Testing Friction Coefficient By Bhanaviya

Task: Measure the coefficient of friction of our potential gripper materials

We want to measure various constants of materials on our robot. These materials serve to improve the grip on our gripper. But before we can decide which material will be most effective on our gripper, we need to find the friction coefficient of these materials through a slip test. The slip test is detailed in a separate post in E-67. This article serves mainly to show the specific friction coefficient produced by each material in the slip test.

To measure the coefficient of friction, we first had to simplify an equation to determine what values to measure.

Based on these calculations, we realized that the best way to calculate friction coefficient would be by deriving the angle of incline at which the skystone begins to slip from the material, which is placed on a flat wooden board. If we take the length of the side of the board being lifted to be the hypotenuse, and the height at which the board is being lifted to be height, then theta, the angle of incline, is arcsin. As the board is lifted, the stone begins to experience slippage and the angle at which it slides off the material being tested will be marked as its friction coefficient. The higher this value, the more grip the material has.

The materials we will be testing are a green silicon oven-mitt with hexagonal ridges, a red silicon oven mitt with small rectangular ridges, and an ice-cube tray with cubical ridges. The wooden board on which this the materials and skystone are being placed on has a length and width of 23.5 inches. This will be the hypotenuse for the purposes of this test.

Green Silicon Oven-Mitt

When the wooden board was lifted with this material on top of it, it took a height of 10.3 inches before the stone began to slip. Using arcsin, the angle of incline for this material was 26 degrees. By using the equation above, we can find that the coefficient of friction is tan(26) which 0.48.

Red Silicon Oven-Mitt

When this material was tested, the board had to be lifted 13.7 inches before the stone began to slip. The angle of incline for this material was 35 degrees so the coefficient of friction is tan(35) which is 0.7. Since this value is higher than the green oven-mitt, the red oven-mitt has the better grip.

Ice-Cube Tray

The board reached a height of 12.2 inches when the stone began to slip from the ice-cube tray. The friction coefficient for this material was 32 degrees, and its coefficient of friction was hence 0.66, putting it above the green oven-mitt, and slightly below the red oven-mitt in grip.

Next Steps

The material with the largest friction coefficient will be attached to the gripper on the robot. Since the red silicon oven-mitt had the largest angle of incline, this will be the material we will use in the next iteration of our gripper.

Sliding Foundation Grabber

28 Dec 2019

Sliding Foundation Grabber By Trey, Jose, and Aaron

Task: Design and create a more efficient and compact foundation grabber

Moving the foundation throughout a match is an important part of the overall gameplay of a team. The builders on Iron Reign went through many different designs before reaching the one we have now. Early in the season, we simply settled for a simple hook attached to a servo on the front of the robot; however, this proved to be quite unstable. The foundation wobbled back and forth when the robot was in control of it and with this in mind, we went back to the drawing board. The second design we had in mind was a lot like the first but with two large, unwieldy, polycarbonate hooks that spanned at least four inches. These were often great at keeping a stable grasp on the foundation but they were made out of polycarbonate and flexed quite a bit and also were just too big in general.

The design we have now consists of a sliding metal door that is controlled by a servo with a spool of string on it. The metal door models something of a guillotine that lifts to let the edge of the foundation in and then drops to secure it. This door, with its wide bottom, provides a great amount of stability and the base that its mounted to makes it so that the force inflicted by the foundation is passed into the base and then into the drivetrain. The fact that the grabber is not only attached to the servo but also fixed to the robot makes it so that the moving parts are less likely to snap or slip. And all of the components fit into a small space that should not be too much of an obstruction to the arm. Overall, this foundation grabber checks the boxes that the previous ones did not, It's compact, controls the foundation well, and definitely won't bend or snap.

Next Steps

No design for any part on any robot is perfect and this grabber is no different. The spool and string that is used to control the door is most likely temporary because there is probably a better way to open and close the door of the grabber. However, one thing that can and will be improved upon with the spool and string is that if provided with an upward force, the door of the grabber will open. This can be fixed by making the string on the spool continuous which will prevent this from happening by providing an opposite force, holding the door in place.

Finger Gripper Version 2.1

29 Dec 2019

Finger Gripper Version 2.1 By Bhanaviya and Aaron

Task: Replace the ninjalfex gears on the finger-gripper with a material with more grip.

The finger gripper is the pinnacle of technological evolution, with class, durability and most importantly, metal. But it does lack one defining feature - grip. Currently, the underside of the metal plate on the gripper has parts from our ninjaflex gears used in Relic Recovery, and while it has all the refinement of an almost 3-year old part, it could be improved. Introducing the Finger Gripper 2.1, brought to you by Iron Reign. (although this change is being made after version 3 and 4 of our gripper, it is listed as 2.1 since 3 and 4 have only been designed in CAD and we are yet to translate this into a physical change.)

On the matter of choosing which material to replace the ninjaflex gears with, we had 3 options to chose from. The first was a red silicon oven-mitt with rectangular ridges, a green silicon oven-mitt with hexagonal ridges, and an ice-cube tray with cubical ridges. To determine which material would work best, we put them a slip test, which can be found in E-69 . Of the 3 materials we tested, the red silicon oven-mitt had the largest friction coefficient. This makes sense, considering it had the sharpest ridges of the three, hence allowing it to grip the stone better. Hence, we replaced the material under our current finger gripper with a small piece from the red silicon oven-mitt. Although changing the material underneath the gripper seems like a minor design change, the improved grip will allow us to rely less on precision and more on speed during the actual game.

Next Steps

Next we will test the actual gripper to see if the material lives up to its results from the slip test. Once version 3 and version 4 of the finger gripper have been fully modeled we will print these designs and modify the gripper accordingly.

Last Coding Session of the Decade

30 Dec 2019

Last Coding Session of the Decade By Cooper

Task: Gripper swivel, extendToTowerHeight, and retractFromTowerHeight. Oh My!

Today is the second to last day of 2019, and therefore the same of the decade. Thus, I want to spend it at robotics. Today I worked solely on vision testing and attempt of implementation. However they ended up being fruitless, but let me not get ahead of myself. To start the day, I tried looking at the example vuforia code that was provided. After which I hooked up a camera to the control hub to try any see it in action. We learned that in the telemetry, there are 2 lines of values spit out, which are the local position in mm and the XYZ values of the block. For the first bit of the day when we were testing, we thought to use the XYZ values, but they seemed to be unreliable, so we switched over to the local position. Once we had gotten that down and gotten a map of values of where the skystone would be, I tried to tailor the concept class to be directly used in our pipeline from last year, and then refactor all of it. But this didn’t work, as it would always throw an error and for the life of me I could not get it to work.

Today wasn’t a complete waste, however, as I have learned a valuable lesson -- don’t be lazy. I was lazy when I just tried to use the example code provided, and it’s what ultimately led to the failure.

Next Steps

Take another stab at this, but actually learn the associated methods in the example code, and make my own class, so it will actually function.

Assembling the Turntable Bevel Gears for a REV Motor

31 Dec 2019

Assembling the Turntable Bevel Gears for a REV Motor By Trey and Justin

Task: Assemble the bevel gears to the turntable to fit a rev motor

Today we assembled a second version of our bevel gear assembly for the turntable. Our previous design used an Andymark motor, which was very fast but couldn't provide enough torque for precise movement. The custom geared REV motors allow us to power the turntable with our desired torque. This is further explained in our Calculating Torque at the Turntable post dated 2020-01-01 . The Gobilda motor mount was designed to fit motors wit 6 evenly spaced mounting holes, while the new REV motors have 8. We decided that the most efficient solution was to mount a rev rail motor mount to the Gobilda channel. First we had to make sure the holes lined up and the motor shaft was centered in the channel; the holes lined up perfectly and centered the shaft in the channel. The sides of the motor mount were too wide and had to be cut to allow the mount to slide in the channel enough to line up the mounting holes. Due to the apparent standardization of mounting holes, we could easily mount our new motor to the gears. The rest of the assembly was just following the Gobilda instructions for assembling the bevel gears and bearings. We were ready mount the new motor assembly to the turntable.

Next Steps

Next we will remove the old motor assembly and replace it with the new one. We also need to test the strength of the mounting plate under the load of the turntable. We should also use the time with the turntable off to inspect the nylon gears for any wear.

FIRST in Texas Grants

31 Dec 2019

FIRST in Texas Grants By Bhanaviya

Task: Detail the FIRST in Texas Grants and understand how it will improve our business plan

It's the last day of the decade! With a new decade, comes new money, and similar to last year, Iron Reign is supporting 3 sister teams, Imperial Robotics, Iron Core and Iron Golem, the latter two being veteran teams with rookie members. This programmatic growth also comes with a financial curve to overcome. As such, we've applied to the FIRST in Texas grants to find funding for all 4 of our teams. This allocates a total of $2000 for the Iron Reign program, but if Iron Core and Iron Golem are considered rookies due to their new members, then our program can receive around $4000.

This, alongside the $3200 from University of Texas at Dallas for hosting the Townview Qualifier, the $200 GoBilda Product Grant and the the $4000 from DISD STEM Department, which covers our season registration fees, 4 REV FTC kits, and a full practice-field. This brings our total funding up to $11,400 for the Skystone Season . There is no end to how this funding can help with finding new parts, and investing in any machinery like our new CNC Mill. Additionally, since Big Thought our programmatic partner who owns the MXP vehicle, has agreed to invest in building a second, bigger vehicle for the program, this funding can also help us in improving our outreach efforts.

Next Steps

We have also reached out to other companies in our area for increased funding and we hope to expand on our business plan as the new year progresses. In the meanwhile, we here at Iron Reign wish everyone in the FIRST community a happy almost new year!

Control Mapping v2

01 Jan 2020

Control Mapping v2 By Jose

Task: Map out the new control scheme

As we progressively make our robot more autonomous when it comes to repeated tasks, it's time to map these driver enhancements. Since we have so many degrees of freedom with TomBot we will experiment with using two controllers, where one is the main controller for operating the robots and the second handles simpler tasks such as setting the tower height and toggling the foundation hook.

Next Steps

We need to experiment with the two-driver system as well as implement a manual override mode and a precision mode where all the controls are slowed down.

Calculating Torque at the Elbow

01 Jan 2020

Calculating Torque at the Elbow By Bhanaviya

Task: Design an equation to model the torque at the elbow linearly

In order to maximize our robot performance, we need to be able to use motors and gears with the most ideal gear ratios. This means having the right amount of torque to produce the most efficient performance out of our robot arm. As the arm extends, there is quite a bit of torque on the elbow. We want to model this torque as a function which will allow us to better analyze how much rotational force is being exerted on the elbow and whether the gear ratio of the gears at the elbow could be improved by using a different gear set.

The torque at the elbow is a dynamic variable that changes as the arm is extended further and further. As such, we decided to model this equation as a function. Torque is generally T = Frsin(theta). F is force which can be derived by multiplying the mass of the arm (m) with g, the acceleration due to gravity. g can be otherwise defined as g = G, the universal gravitational constant, * (m/r * r). r is the distance from the center of mass of the arm when fully retracted to the axis of rotation, which is, in this case, the elbow. This value can be defined by 170.4 meters. However, since the center of mass changes as the arm extends, r is not a constant and as such can be modeled as C + x, where C is the constant for the center of mass when the arm is fully retracted increasing by x, wherein x is the value in meters by which the arm extends. C can be defined by 2358.68 grams. As the arm is extended, the axis of rotation is in motion so theta, the angle in degrees between the vertical and the position of the arm changes linearly and as such, cannot be represented as a constant. However, since this angle is more difficult to derive, and since the angle between the position of the arm and the horizontal is already shown in the code for the controls operating the elbow, theta can simply be stated as 90 - theta_0, wherein theta_0 is the angle between the horizontal and the position of the arm. The torque due to gravity at the elbow can be represented as the function T = 2358.68 grams g(170.4 meters + x)sin(90 - theta_0) wherein theta_0 and x are parameters which can be taken from the articluation positions.

Next Steps

Being able to model torque as a function will allow us to understand how much torque is needed for the robot to stack a certain number of stones. By identifying the non-constant values of the torque function, we will be able to analyze what specific values produce the best robot performance, as well as whether that performance can be improved by lightening the load on the arm.

Logarithmic Spiral Update

02 Jan 2020

Logarithmic Spiral Update By Ben

Task: Update the Logarithmic Spiral

As the design and build of the robot progresses, many components must be updated to be compatible with the current design. The logarithmic spiral, which was used to linearly decrease the load on the elbow with a bungee cord, is one of these. The article for the original design is numbered as the 45th post in the engineering section and is dated 15-11-2019. Prior to updating the design, the part would interfere with the drive shaft for the elbow. This typically wouldn't have been a concern, as it provided a safe way to limit the movement of the arm, yet we have determined that we need a greater range of motion. To do this, we simply cut a small half-circle out of the spiral. This was a relatively simple fix which would allow us to stack the blocks higher, scoring even more points.

The next fix was the mechanism for attaching the bungee to the spiral. We plan to attach a bungee from both the front and back of the spiral to generate a greater rotational force. A design issue we encountered was running a bungee to the back of the spiral. There was no simple method for attaching and containing the bungee. To overcome this, we decided we would attach the bungee to a string from the back of the spiral. The final spiral design required two individual machined parts. Each part would have a chamfered edge, forming a channel when the two were put together, allowing the string to run within that channel. The two parts would be connected using three new holes to prevent the string from wedging itself between the two.

The image below highlights the changes made to the original part. The chamfers along the edge were added along with three holes to connect two of the parts. The half-circle is also highlighted. These changes should enable us to assist the elbow in lifting the arm with greater efficiency than with the previous version of the spiral.

Next Steps

Our next steps are to machine the two parts and determine how much tension we need on the bungees to generate enough torque to assist the elbow.

Modeling TomBot Articulations

02 Jan 2020

Modeling TomBot Articulations By Ben

Task: Model TomBot's Articulations in Fusion360

Modeling articulations is important for many reasons. The first of which is being able to effectively strategize. Having an idea of how the robot can move allows the team and drivers to understand the physical limitations of the components as well as enabling the drivers to determine how to control the robot most efficiently. Without such abilities, the drivers would only be able to visualize the robot's movements once it was constructed or a prototype was created. Drivers may also require new articulations which could be modeled and tested without having to program the movements.

The second reason for creating robot articulations is to assist the coders. It is important for the code team to visualize articulations because it allows them to better choreograph the movements of specific articulations. Coding is hard enough as is, but having a reference is certainly helpful after coding something for hours and hours without an end in sight.

To enable articulations on the model, joints were added in Fusion360 to allow motion. For our model, we added three rotating joints. One for the turntable, elbow, and gripper. The model also required 3 slide joints for each stage of the linear slide, all of which providing me with considerable trouble for something that supposedly just moves in a line. Fusion also allows us to set restraints to limit the motion of the joints in the model. This is useful because it allows us to animate the joints like how they would function in a real environment, along with making it dance until it apologizes for all the strife it has caused me throughout my lifetime.

Next Steps

The next steps for the robot model are to update the gripper to the most recent gripper. This gripper has already been modeled but needs to be added to the robot assembly. We would also like to begin modeling our second robot from scratch. Modeling the second robot is critical if we are to use the CNC to construct components for the new robot.

Calculating Torque at the Drive-Train

02 Jan 2020

Calculating Torque at the Drive-Train By Bhanaviya

Task: Calculate torque at the drive-train and analyze our choice of motors

During drive-testing, one issue we noticed was that our robot was not as fast as could be, and in a speed-based game, this is not ideal. So, we decided to calculate torque at the drive-train, which currently runs on two Neverest Classic 40 motors. Currently, we are looking to replace these motors with REV HD Hex Motors with a 3-part cartridge. As such, we will find the torque acting on the drive train with both these motors to identify whether replacing the motors is the best choice, and if so, what combinations of a cartridge we ought to use on the new motors.

Currently, we have 4 gear sprockets for the two 8-inch wheels on the chassis. However, since these are all of the same gear ratio, they do not need to be included in the calculations to find torque. The Classic 40 Neverest motors have a ratio of 40:1 and a stall torque of 2.47 Nm, both of which are values which can be found in the individual part specifications. Using this information, we can find that the torque acting on the drive train to be 2.47Nm * 40 which is a total rotational force of 98.8Nm.

The Neverest motors give a significantly high amount of torque so looking to reduce it would help us increase the drive-train's speed which is our intended goal. A good replacement would be the REV Hex motors with the planetary cartridge but choosing the type of cartridge is the challenge. Ideally, three 3:1 cartridges would give the least torque but this combination would lack too much control. Especially since our supply of these catridges is limited, we want to choose a combination which gives a "good" amount of torque but also produces a decent speed. Currently, the Neverest motors are not slow and we only want a little more speed on the drive-train. Taking this into account, we want to choose a combination which is closest to the 40:1 ration but still falls under it. So, a combination of 3:1, 4:1, and 5:1 cartridges would be the best choice since it provides a compounded gear ratio of 36:1. Considering the stall torque of the Hex motors to be 2.1 Nm, we can calculate the torque to be 2.1Nm * 36 75.6 Nm.

Next Steps

The hex motors with a 36:1 compounded gear ratio are not only the closest in ratio to the Neverest motors, but also have a significantly lower torque with enough to maintain good control. As such, we are going to replace the our current motors on the drive train with this specific cartridge. If we find that the drive-train's performance could be improved, we will find more cartridge combinations or go altogether with a different motor to improve control.

Calculating Torque at the Turn-table

02 Jan 2020

Calculating Torque at the Turn-table By Bhanaviya

Task: Analyze torque at the turn-table and how it affects our choice of motor sets

We want to know if we are using the best possible motor set on our turntable. Since our turn-table is programmed to rotate at the fastest possible speed, we are not too concerned with a motor that turns faster but rather one that has a higher level of control and produces a higher output torque. A faster turret gives us less control when we are turning on the field and we want to reduce the time we spend trying to get the turntable in the right orientation. So, it's time to replace its motors. Currently we are using a Neverest orbital motor on the bevel gear on the turret which has a stall torque of 0.23Nm. With a torque this low, we are not utilizing the turret to its maximum capability. We want to replace this with a REV HD Hex Motor with a double planetary cartridge. REV offers a manual which allows the user to see the exact gear ratios and output torque produced by each combination of cartridges. Based on the cartridges we have right now, two 4.1 cartridges have the highest output torque as per the manual. But we don't want to replace our current motor just yet, until we calculate the exact amount of torque and analyze whether this is a good amount.

The gears operating the turntable are an 8:1 pinion gear and a 2:1 bevel gear. Thus, their compounded gear ratio is 16:1. Using this, we can find the output torque produced by our current motor which can be found by finding the value of 16 * 0.23Nm * 3.7 which gives us an output torque of 33.6. Now, this value can be higher so if we switch out with the double staged 4.1 HD Hex Motor, we get a compounded gear ratio of around 13.1, according to the REV manual. The stall torque for these motors are 2.1Nm which is significantly higher than the amount produced by the orbital motor. Plugging both these values and the 16:1 gear ratio of the turntable gears, we can find that the output torque produced by the turntable REV planetary motors can be found using the equation 16 * 2.1Nm * 13.1, which equates to 440.16 Nm.

Based on these calculations, we can find that the planetary motors produce a significantly higher amount of torque and will give our turntable much more control and precision when operated. This amount of torque may cause some concern on how much the slower the turntable will be; as such, we also calculated the linear speed of the turret. To do this, we have to find the rotations per minute (RPM) of each motor. The no load RPM for the 3.7 motor is 1780 RPM. By dividing this by its gear ratio, we can find the RPM which is 1780 RPM/3.7Nm which is equal to 481.08m/s. As for the REV motor with more torque, its no-load RPM is 6000 RPM and when divided by its gear ratio of 13.1, we get a linear speed of 458.02m/s.Although this is a lower linear speed, the difference is very little, showing that the new 13.1 motors will not reduce our speed by much but will have a much larger effect on the output torque of the turret, thus maximizing the turntable's efficiency.

Next Steps

Since we determined that our current turntable motor needed to be replaced, our next step was to make the physical switch on our bevel gear system on the turret. However, we are yet to test how much of an improvement the replacement will be so that will be our next goal. If we find that the motor set can be further replaced then we will use calculations similar to the ones in the article depending on whether we want to reduce or increase torque. Our next qualifier is this upcoming Saturday, so the new motors should improve our turntable control for the match-play portion.

STEM Expo Preparation

03 Jan 2020

STEM Expo Preparation By Bhanaviya

Task: Plan for the DISD STEM Expo

An FLL Team Gathered Around Iron Reign's Robot at the 2019 STEM Expo

Next week, a week after our second qualifier, Iron Reign along with members from our 3 sister teams, is participating in the DISD STEM Expo for our fourth year. As we have done for the past 3 years, we are bringing the Mobile Learning Experience Lab to the event area in Kay Bailey Hutchinson Center. The purpose of this event is to connect with children in the DISD Area by helping them a foster an appreciation for engineering and the sciences. With the support of the Dallas City of Learning, a non-profit organization operated by Big Thought which helps schedule The Mobile Tech Xperience (MXP), Iron Reign will have a featured exhibit within the MXP. To maximize event productivity, we will be working alongside volunteers from Microsoft and Best Buy who will help us ensure that the exhibit runs smoothly.

Iron Reign on the Student Passport at the 20202 DISD STEM Expo

For reference, every year that we have held this event, Microsoft, Best Buy and Big Thought provide volunteers to help teach kids on 3D-modelling and block-programming, the two key highlights of the MXP program. As the youth voice for this program, we teach these volunteers on how to teach the activity to younger students with little to no STEM experience. For the first time in our years organizing a booth, Iron Reign has been recognized as a vendor on the student passports which will be given to all participants!

As part of the exhibit, we will have events similar to those hosted as part of our summer outreach events. This includes the LEGO Mindstorm Sumo Robots Event as well as our 3D Printing keychains activity. We will also be bringing our field sets, so both us and our sister teams can demonstrate our robots to participants.

It is worth mentioning that this may be the last year we run this event with the current version of the MXP. Since Big Thought has approved plans for funding a new, larger vehicle, we hope that we will be able to present the new and improved MXP next season, in time for the STEM Expo.

Next Steps

At the end of the day, modeling and coding are two of the many aspects encompassed in STEM, and more importantly, FIRST. In introducing these activities, we hope to promote a student initiative in FIRST Robotics. And who knows - tomorrow, we might just meet the future members of Iron Reign.

Testing Two Drivers

04 Jan 2020

Testing Two Drivers By Justin and Aaron

Task: Practice driving with two drivers

Today we started testing out our new two controller setup. The goal is to have one driver control just the base, and have the other driver control the arm and turret. With the early stage of the 2 driver code, we were able to practice maneuvering around the field and placing blocks. unfortunately the code wasn't completely sorted, so the turret controller lacked many features that were still on the drive controller.

An issue we noticed at first was that the drive controls were backwards, which was quickly fixed in code. After the robot was driveable, we spent most of our time practicing picking up blocks and testing out new code presets. Throughout the day we transferred functions between controllers to divide the workload of the robot into the most efficient structure. We found that whoever controls the base should also be responsible for placing the arm in the general area of where it needs to be, then the turret driver can make fine adjustments to grab and place blocks. This setup worked well and allows us to quickly grab stones off the lineup shortly after auto.

Next Steps

Next we will practice becoming more fluid with our driving and look for more common driving sequences that can be simplified to a single button.

Driver Optimization Developments 5/1

05 Jan 2020

Driver Optimization Developments 5/1 By Cooper

Task: Improve driver optimizations

Today we worked on driver optimizations, since Justin was here. We changed around the controls for the arm to be more like the drivetrain and the D-pad on controller 1, with the left stick by controlling the elbow, the x controlling the turret, and y on the right stick to control the extension of the arm. This was cited to be more natural to the drivers than the previous setup. Then we tuned the PID values for the turret, while also reducing the dampener coefficient of the controller for the turret. Though here we ran into some issues with the dead zone rendering the entire axis of the given controller stick useless, but we shortly fixed it. There was also a problem with our rotateCardinal() method for the turret that we fixed by redoing our direction picking algorithms. Finally, I worked on tuning auto just a tad, but then had to leave.

Next Steps

Analyze more driver practice to get more concise controls for the driver, and finish auto.

Drive Practice 1/6

06 Jan 2020

Drive Practice 1/6 By Justin and Aaron

Task: Practice driving with new code

Today we worked on driving the robot with new presets. Over the weekend, our coders worked on new presets to speed up our cycling time. The first preset the drivers learned was the cardinal directions, which allows the base driver, but potentially both drivers to quickly rotate the turntable 90 degrees. This made switching from intakeing to stacking directions very fast. To further speed up our stacking time, our coders implemented a stack to tower height, which allows the driver to set a height and the gripper will raise to it. This took a lot of practice to correctly distance the robot from the foundation for the preset to reach the tower. To avoid knocking over our own tower, we decided that the arm driver should stop the 90 degree rotate before it fully turns, so when the arm is extended it goes to the side of the tower, so the driver can rotate the turntable and still place the stone.

We also worked on dividing the control between the two drivers, which involved transferring functions between controllers. We debated who should have turntable control and decided the base should, but we would like to test giving the turret driver control. The extend to height controls were originally on the drive controller but were moved to the turret to allow for a quicker extension process. The gripper wobble greatly slows down our stacking, even after dampening it.

Next Steps

Our next steps are to practice driving for our next qualifier and modify our gripper joint. A lot of our robot issues can be solved with enough drive practice. We need to start exploring other gripper joint options to allow it maintain orientation but not sway.

Dissecting the Turret

09 Jan 2020

Dissecting the Turret By Karina and Cooper

Task: Figure out why the turntable isn't turning

Just as Iron Reign was at the point of getting driver practice started and hunkering down to do autonomous, the turntable stopped working. The issue was that there was heavy skipping of teeth between the planetary gear and pinion gear which drove the turntable. Still, there was no obvious reason for why the gears had suddenly disengaged.

To get to the root of this issue, we took to dissecting TomBot. We had to detach the metal frame which supported the turntable from the chassis just to get a better view of the problem area.

Ultimately we chalked it up to the metal plates shifting on the polycarbonate circle of the turntable from all the movement. Our solution was to shift everything on the turntable over a small amount in the direction of the point along the planetary gear where the pinion gear engaged so that there would not longer be skipping. We got to work with but drivers and pliers to detach the turntable attachments from the turntable, and then the slip ring, and then the circular polycarbonate plate from the mass of motors, wiring, gears, linear slide, and the gripper that make up the arm. Once we had the circular polycarbonate plate isolated, we used a dremel with a drilling bit to widen the holes through which the bolts attached the entire arm system to the plate. We figured shifting out the turret may alleviate the issue.

Next Steps

We will have to find a more solid solution for this in the event that this becomes a recurring problem. I suspect that the underlying cause is that the materials that we used for either printed planetary gear or the polycarbonate plate upon which the whole arm rests could not handle the stress of the torque and speed of the turntable. Going forward we can conduct some material strength tests to determine if they can handle the stress, or if we should find a replacement. To be frank, even after dissecting Tombot, we were not certain about the cause behind the planetary gear disengagement.

Finger Gripper Morph Chart

10 Jan 2020

Finger Gripper Morph Chart By Jose

Task: Create a morph chart to analyze all our 3-finger gripper versions so far in this season.

Just like with our gripper designs, we've also gone through a number of changes with our final gripper - the 3 Finger Gripper. This calls for one thing - a morph chart! A morph chart shows us the various subsystems of the 3-finger gripper as it went through its different stages of design. The left axis addresses each part of the gripper like its grip material, back fingers, front finger, and capstone deployer. The right axis shows the different versions of each component visually. Right now, we are at a whopping 4 versions of the same design with 3 grip materials, 3 back and front fingers, and 2 different capstone deployer designs. The latest version has REV Extrusions, a GoBilda plate for the fingers, a red silicon oven-mitts for the grip material (and for helping with the turkey, of course), and no capstone deployer just yet.

Next Steps

By putting all of our grippers in one chart, we can see how our gripper has evolved from its humble beginnings, and lets us see which ideas we could possibly recycle. To read about our comprehensive gripper morph chart, visit our article on Gripper Designs Morph Chart. As the finger-gripper undergoes more modifications, we will create another, more updated morph chart later on.

Match Play at UME prep. Qualifier

11 Jan 2020

Match Play at UME prep. Qualifier By Trey, Ben, Aaron, Bhanaviya, Jose, Cooper, Justin, Karina, and Paul

Task: Compete in Qualification and Finals matches

Today Iron Reign competed at our second qualifier at UME Preparatory Academy with TomBot which could have been better in terms of autonomous, driver practice, and build. But regardless of this, we were still able to be in the winning alliance and the following are descriptions of the match play that made that happen. For reference, we have a separate post underlining the analysis of the qualifier that does not include match analysis. This post merely details how each one of our matches went, and we will have a future post discussing our drive issues at the competition.

Match 1(Quals 3)

Match one was a little bit of a disappointment even though we won 26-19 because we made almost no points from auto (which we didn’t have) or the tele-operated period. The 25 points we did make in the endgame were made because we moved the foundation out of the build zone with the foundation grabber, which didn’t line up very well.

Match 2(Quals 10)

With the driver practice from match one, we entered match two, stacked two blocks, and tried to move the foundation again but the grabber kept getting stuck. And it didn’t help that In this match our partnering team did not contribute very much which led to the overall score of 8 vs. the opposing alliance’s score of 55.

Match 3(Quals 15)

We won this match 52-15 because of 40 points form the opposing alliance’s penalties and only 12 from what we accomplished. Those 12 points mostly came from moving three stones under the bridge and placing two on the foundation. We didn’t get very many other points because we still can’t move fast enough and sometimes when we place a stone on the foundation we knock it off shortly after.

Match 4(Quals 17)

We lost this match by 77 points. This was mostly because we were against 7172 Technical Difficulties and because we still weren’t able to quickly or accurately move blocks onto the foundation, with only one block in the end. We also were still having difficulties with the gripper and the foundation grabber, which kept getting stuck.

Match 5(Quals 26)

Things actually started to come together in this match and we won 72-16 because the drivers had a better feel for the robot and we fixed the foundation grabber. In the end, we were able to get 3 stones on the foundation and stack two of them. The other points came from parking and our partnering team’s auto which scored 15 points.

Semis 1-2

Contingent on the fact that we would place a capstone on their tower, 7172 decided to make us their second choice alliance partners. Together in the match, we scored 92 points even though, our capstone got stuck in the gripper. This meant that we contributed almost no points to the final score which was sad.

Finals 2

In this match we had the same strategy as the last one, sit around with a capstone and place it at the end of the game. The only difference between the placement of this capstone and the other one was that this tower was 2 blocks higher. And even though the tower’s height caused us to mess up and knock the whole thing over, we still won 51-89.

Next Steps

Overall, the match play of this qualifier did not go plan. Between the awkward flexibility of the gripper’s attachment point, the jamming of the foundation grabber, the lack of driver practice, and the severe absence of a functional autonomous, we only made up to 20 points per match. And if we want to have any hopes in robot performance at regionals we need to do better in all of the aspects mentioned starting with driver practice and autonomous, the two factors that contributed the most to our overall performance.

UME Qualifier

11 Jan 2020

UME Qualifier By Bhanaviya, Karina, Cooper, Jose, Trey, Aaron, Ben, Justin, and Paul

Task: Compete at the UME Preparatory Academy Qualifier

A solid month or so after our first qualifier, Iron Reign walked through the doors to our second qualifier at the UME Preparatory Academy with our three sister teams. Compared to last season, we had gotten significantly more driver and presentation practice, but we still weren't as organized as we could have been and in a robotics qualifier, this is a bit of concern. Nevertheless, we were optimistic (though wildly unprepared) for the day ahead.

Inspection

Just like at our first qualifier at Allen, we passed inspection the first time around! While this was a minor victory, it served us well later on in the day.

Presentation

Having practiced more the second time round, our presentation ran relatively smoothly. We did lack enthusiasm, however, and as one of the earlier teams to go through judging, this was not ideal. Unlike last time, though, our robot demo worked significantly better. Still, our questioning period could have worked off better and the transition from each question is something we will be focusing on improving before regionals.

Robot Game

First off, the turret on our robot had to be entirely dismantled the week of qualifier, and there had been a storm the previous night, and since robots and rain don't generally make a good combination, we didn't have too much driver practice. We had practiced in the couple weeks leading up to the qualifier though, so needless to say, we were in much better shape than previously. For reference, this post will not discuss our robot performance at UME and merely serves as a summary of our day in each sub-category. There will be another post detailing our match-play soon.

Match-Play

With a win-loss record of 3-2, our qualification rounds weren't the best. But somehow, we managed to scrape through to be ranked 8th! Our sister teams Iron Golem, Imperial Robotics and Iron Core had placed 6, 10 and 12 respectively, an impressive feat, especially considering that 2 of these 3 were rookies. Though our rank wasn't as stellar as it could have been, we were able to demonstrate TomBot's Tall-Mode and its capping abilities to the 1st seed team Hockabots and them and their alliance partner Technical Difficulties picked us during selections! Additionally, for the first time in the history of our robotics program, all 4 of our teams were selected during alliance selection for the semi-finals match.

Semifinals & Finals Matches

Ultimately, our alliance's performance in the semi-finals served us well into our advancement to the finals... until it didn't. Nearing the end of finals, our attempt to cap Technical Difficulties' tower ended up knocking over the stack. Fortunately, our alliance still ended up winning, but finding accuracy in our stacking, especially with regards to capping is something we plan to work on going into regionals. Currently, we have gone through 3 different capstones and capstone-droppers but those still require more testing in order to ensure our capping abilities improve by regionals.

After-Judging and Awards Ceremony

While we didn't have high expectations for our success, we did manage to garner several visits from judges to our pits. A good measure of judging success is if the judges come back to talk to you, and at UME, we had four separate groups of judges come up to us and ask us about each component of our team, from business, to outreach, to sustainability, to our robot design.

In the ceremony, every single member of the SEM Robotics program waited. With all 4 of our teams having made it to semi-finals, this was by far our most successful qualifier match-play wise. Since Iron Reign had already advanced at the previous Allen Qualifier, we were ineligible for the Inspire Award but we were still relatively hopeful. At the end of the day, we were finalists for the Design, Innovate, and Connect awards, closing off our day with 1st Place for the Think Award!

Next Steps

Although only one team from our program has advanced to the regionals, this season was successful both on a program and individual-basis. All three of our sister teams performed impressively well at the qualifier, and although their match seasons might be over, their robots still have a while to go. Next week Iron Reign is helping organize and coordinate a booth at the DISD STEM Expo, where all three of our sister teams will be demo-ing their competition robots to students with little to no STEM experience. As the season progresses, Iron Reign is looking forward to recruiting new members from our sister teams, 2-3 at the least. While this may have been our last qualifier, we still have a lot of progress to make leading up to the North Texas Regional Championship. Our post-mortem analysis detailing our performance at UME and preparing for our next tournament will be on our blog soon.

Growing Pains and Reigns

16 Jan 2020

Growing Pains and Reigns By Bhanaviya, Shawn, Mahesh, and Anisha

Task: Expand the Iron Reign Robotics Team

One of our biggest challenges this year was learning to adapt our robotics program to the large influx of new recruits. Last year, most of us current members on Iron Reign were the new recruits, so to see the sustainability progress from a whole other outlook this season was at first jarring. However, just like last year, we expanded our robotics program to support 3 teams - Imperial Robotics, Iron Core and Iron Golem, bringing up our program count to a total of 30 active participants.

Each of these three teams have underwent their own successes and failures through the Skystone Season. However, moving on from our program's last qualifier of the season, it's time to take a look back at our highlights. From competing at a grand total of 2 scrimmages, 2 qualifiers, and hosting one tournament, our program as a whole has progressed to a different, higher level. Moving on from here, our next step is to discuss recruitment for Iron Reign specifically. For reference, our team serves as the varsity team in our robotics program and everything you've seen in this journal thus far is specific to our team. With our regional championship being 3 weeks away, recruitment for our current 9-member team is a question we have yet to answer. As of now, our team comprises of mostly underclassmen - 7 to be exact. Based on this count, and our sub-team specific needs, we have decided to recruit 3 new members from our sister teams as we go into the next level of competition - Shawn Halimman, Mahesh Natamai and Anisha Bhattaru.

Next Steps

While we don't have any immediate plans to increase our team count further, we're confident that our 3 newer members will make a strong addition to our program as the season flies. All of us on this team were recruited from one of Iron Reign's sister teams, and being able to expand our team alongside our program will help SEM Robotics remain sustainable for years, if not decades to come.

DISD STEM Expo 2020

18 Jan 2020

DISD STEM Expo 2020 By Ben, Justin, Jose, Cooper, Paul, Trey, Mahesh, and Shawn

Task: Operate an exhibit at the DISD STEM Expo

DISD STEM Expo has been our busiest event this year. Many kids, ranging from elementary school to high school visit the expo to learn more about STEM and the great things it has to offer. This is our 4th year bringing the Mobile Tech Xpansion Program to this event, but this will be the last year we bring the MXP as it is. For reference, Big Thought received a grant of $150K last year to expand the program, and the MXP is almost at the end of its pilot stage. This is also the first year we have been named as our own exhibit at the STEM Expo! We accumulated well over 1000 students to our exhibits. Being able to interact with an audience of students this big, many of whom have little to no STEM experience, gave us a great opportunity to not only introduce them to robotics, but also to meet the next generation of engineers. The purpose of this event is to spread STEM programs to students in the Dallas area who otherwise would have no access.

Although the season has ended for most of Iron Reign Robotics’ teams they were still invited to help us run the exhibit. This gave them the opportunity to get a head-start on their journals for next season by providing an amazing community outreach opportunity. For reference, although all 4 of the teams in our robotics program participate in events like the expo, Team 6832 takes the lead in the MXP events, as Big Thought's programmatic partner for the program, and as the varsity team.

Preparing for the STEM Expo was a little tricky because the MXP had to be parked in the convention center on Friday night, meaning we had to get all the materials onboard on Thursday. This wasn’t too difficult because most of the learning materials stay on the vehicle. On Saturday morning, we had to setup the practice field, tables, prepare 20+ laptops, reconstruct several sumo-bots, and prepare 4 3D-Printers for the hectic day that was to come.

The New MXP Floorplan

Once preparations were complete, iron Reign had to educate the volunteers on how to run the Sumo-Robots session. The Sumo activity required many volunteers, many of which were from Dallas City of Learning or BigThought. We also set up a practice field for our sister teams to demonstrate their robots for our visitors. Inside the MXP, several Iron Reign members hosted a 3D-Printing activity that allowed kids of all ages to build a small keychain and print it on their own. Outside, the vehicle, the rest of us worked with Big Thought volunteers to teach students on how to code an EV3 robot, the kind used in FLL, so that students could experience their first foray into FIRST. Being able to work with Big Thought's volunteers in teaching these students is what sets the expo apart from our other outreach event - apart from the expo being our biggest event of the year, the opportunity to work with these volunteers also gives us a chance to help Big Thought operate the MXP, a role which we hope to continue next year. In addition, since Big Thought approved the purchase for the new, bigger MXP vehicle this year, our team will be helping design the actual vehicle this season as the student voice of this program, and working with Big Thought at events like the expo helps us further solidify that role.

The great thing about the MXP program is that usually, the participants in these events like the STEM Expo have not had any experience with robotics, and they tend to perceive the concept as something that is beyond them. Being able to show kids that robotics is something that anyone, regardless of age, can understand and enjoy, helps lead them towards considering pursuing a career in STEM. As such, the Expo was a huge success because we were able to reach many students of all ages and technical experience. We met with many VEX IQ and FLL teams and gave them demonstrations of our robots to show them what FTC is about and excite them about their FIRST future.

Next Steps

This STEM Expo will be the last Expo with the MXP in its pilot stage. BigThought has officially agreed to purchase the next vehicle with $150K they received in the past year and and move the program out of the pilot stage. We are truly grateful for all of BigThought’s help in maintaining the MXP along with all the help we received today at the Expo! Next year we'll have a bigger and better vehicle which will allow us to reach even more STEM-minded students and show them what they can achieve through FIRST.

Auto Developments at the STEM Expo

18 Jan 2020

Auto Developments at the STEM Expo By Cooper

Task: Improve autonomous and tune IMU

During the STEM Expo, while also helping volunteer, we worked on auto. There were a series of cascading events that were planned and completed. The first of which was to calculate the TPM of the base. There was, however, a problem before we did that. Our robot has a slight drift when trying to drive straight, which could be solved by driving based off of the IMU. However, we had discovered a couple of days ago that it doesn’t run. This made no sense, until a critical detail was uncovered -- it sets active to false. With this knowledge, Ahbi sluthed that the action was immediately being completed, since it was in an autonomous path. We then took a break from that and calculated the TPM a different, and far less complex way- we drove it a meter by hand and recorded the tick values. After we did that, we averaged them up, and got 1304, which in the end we decided to use, since just after that Ahbi figured out the problem with the driveIMU() method, and it went perfectly a meter. The issue was rooted in one wrong less-than sign, which was in the if statement to detect if we had gotten to our destination yet.

Next Steps:

This is the first time we've actually tuned auto since the UME Qualifier, but now that Mahesh is trying to implement Vision, we plan to improve the sensor capabilities of our robot as well.

Code Changes At STEM Expo

18 Jan 2020

Code Changes At STEM Expo By Mahesh, Cooper, and Abhi

Task: Use Vuforia To Detect Skystones And Tune Ticks Per Meter

This Saturday, we had the privilege of being a vendor at the Annual DISD STEM Expo. While this event served as a good way for us to showcase TomBot at our booth, it also gave us the much-needed chance to experiment with vision. With this year's game rewarding 24 points for locating skystones and placing them onto the foundation, vision is an essential element to success. To detect skystones, we could have gone down three distinct paths: OpenCV, Vuforia, or Tensorflow.

We chose to use Vuforia instead of Tensorflow or OpenCV to detect skystones since the software gave the rotation and translation of the skystones relative to the robot's position, which could then be used to determine the position of the skystone, either left, center, or right. Additionally, Vuforia has proven to work under different lighting conditions and environments in the past, whereas Open CV requires rigorous tuning in order to prove flexible for a variety of field settings.

The second major task we worked on during the STEM Expo was calibrating ticks per meter. The issue we encountered when driving both wheels forward a set number of ticks was that the robot drifted slightly to the right, either meaning that the wheels are misaligned or that one wheel is larger than the other. To fix this issue, rather than tuning PID Coefficients, we figured out a separate ticks per meter measurement for both wheels, so that one wheel would move less than the other to account for the difference in wheel diameters. After experimenting with different values and tuning appropriately based on results, we arrived at a ticks per meter number for each wheel.

We could have used a more mathematical approach for calculating ticks per meter, which would be equal to (ticksPerRevolution * driveGearReduction) / (wheelDiameter * PI), with "wheelDiameter" being measured in meters. However, this solution would require a very precise measurement of each wheel's diameter, which our caliper is not wide enough to measure. Additionally, this solution would not account for wheel slippage, and for these reasons, we chose the latter approach.

Next Steps

Unfortunately, the vuforia vision pipeline did not work at the STEM Expo, which may be a result of bad lighting or some other code error. Moreover, constants such as the camera's placement relative to the center of the robot have not been measured as of now, which is a task for the future. In order to make sure vuforia is working properly, we should send the camera's feed into FTC Dashboard in order to debug more effectively and pinpoint the issue at hand.

For last year's game, three different vision pipelines were used, Tensorflow, Vuforia, and OpenCV, and all three were compared for their effectiveness for finding the positions of gold cube mineral. This strategy can be employed for this year as well, since building a robust OpenCV pipeline would be impressive for the control award, and comparing all three options would give us a better idea as to which one works most effectively for this year specifically.

Snapdragon - The Beginning

19 Jan 2020

Snapdragon - The Beginning By Bhanaviya and Aaron

Task: Begin our 10th gripper design

As you could probably tell from our plethora of gripper articles, here at Iron Reign we have one too many grippers. And now its time for another one! We could do a whole post-mortem analysis on what went wrong about our build at our last qualifier, but for the most part, the design was consistent, with one underlying exception - our gripper. The finger gripper was a revolutionary piece of work, and has gone through a whopping 4 different iterations. But as all good things, its time must end. The issue was that the finger gripper lacked precision when it turned and was not quick enough in picking up blocks, requiring excessive control on the drivers' end to be able to focus on a stone and pick it up. In a speed-based challenge like this year's, this was not ideal, so it had to go.

A slapband in action

In it's place stands the Snapdragon, its quicker, more rugged replacement. The snapdragon functions as a passive gripper - at its core, it works as a slapband would. A slapband is, simply put, a wristband that wraps around one's wrist when slapped with enough force. Similarly, the snapdragon's closing action is an elastic-powered snapping action that is physically triggered when the gripper is lowered onto a stone. It's ability to grip is a direct result of the lower metal "flap" below the larger rectangular plate above. The effectiveness of this flap relies on the precise placement of rubber bands holding the flap to the plate above it. However this also means that the plates must be triggered in a very specific manner so that the gripper closes down at the right time.

Next Steps

The beauty of the snapdragon relies on its ability to be self-triggered. However, it would still need to be reset after "snapping". This would require use of a servo. The servo would need to be able to close down on the stone, but this also means that the movement of the gripper needs to be controlled such that it does not snap upon contact with any other surface. Trying to find a balance between this passive action and the servo's movement will be our primary task since the gripper isn't ready to be mounted yet.

Engineering Notebook Binder CAD

20 Jan 2020

Engineering Notebook Binder CAD By Jose

Task: CAD an engineering notebook binder that is to be custom made

We want to utilize our new CNC as best as we possibly can. Since we plan to CNC the second version of our current robot TomBot for regionals, the only companion that could serve a CNC-ed robot is a CNC-ed engineering notebook! Plus an aluminum-plated journal would also help us emphasize the iron part of our name to the judges (hi there, if you're reading this!). The first step is to make a CAD file for this binder which is what we have shown above. The most custom part is the cover, it features our team logo, name, team number and even outline of our robot. As per GM1, we can have 2 engineering notebooks so we will make 2 custom notebooks, one that reads "Engineering Section" and another that reads "Team Section". We plan to use piano hinges to joint all the panels of the binder, use polycarbonate as pockets, and steal some binder rings from other binders to be used for these. The panels of the binder will be made of aluminum and the cover will be carved out using our CNC.

Next Steps

The outline of our robot, TomBot, may be changed in the future but other than that all we need is to CAM the binder CAD to be able to make it using our CNC. Once the journal is printed, all that's left to do is add the rings, panels, and pockets to the actual binder.

Snapdragon - The Sequel

24 Jan 2020

Snapdragon - The Sequel By Bhanaviya and Aaron

Task: Improve the precision of the Snapdragon.

Last week, we prototyped a new gripper called the Snapdragon. Now it's time to give it more complexity. The Snapdragon is a passively-triggered gripper which closes down on a stone upon an impact-heavy contact with it. The main issue we're focused on solving is the impact which triggers the gripper - the gripper needs to be able to close only upon contact with the skystone and not with any other surface. To solve this problem, we added the servo horns, which make the snapdragon look like an actual dragon, for an increased comedic value. Before the servo horns, an abrupt stop by the metal plate of the gripper and the momentum of the "flap" below it were needed to grip a stone but this requires too precise placement of plates. With the addition of the servo horns, the servo horns physically trigger the drop so that the rubber bands holding the gripper in place can be tighter and have more grip.

In addition to the servo horns, we will also be using a capstone dropper. The capstone dropper is mounted between the two servo horns, and has three small wired which will go through a hole at the base of the capstone. The dropper will be pre-loaded with the capstone and be released during the endgame. The capstone dropper has not yet been tested but we will get to that once we have controls to release the capstone.

Next Steps

We need to test the Snapdragon's new version extensively so that our drivers can get a feel for it. Next, since this is a passive gripper model, it would need more grip, so we also need to conduct materials testing on more materials to determine which material has the best grip and can be mounted on the gripper.

Coding the Snapdragon Gripper

25 Jan 2020

Coding the Snapdragon Gripper By Cooper

Task: Code the new Snapdragon gripper

Last night we installed the new Snapdragon gripper, which means we needed to re-work the gripper code. We started out by getting the positions the servo would go to using a servo tester. Then we decided whether to make it an articulation, which originally we did. This articulation would set the servo to pull up the gripper front and then return to its relaxed position. After doing some testing, that method was not working.

So, we moved on to reformatting the gripper update sequence we had for the last gripper. There we still saw no success after that. So, we decided to call it a night, as it was getting late. The next morning, with a clear mind, we realized that the wire connection was flipped on the perf board, wherein after flipping it it worked fine.

Next Steps:

We still need to test it with drivers, see if there are any quirks.

UME Prep Qualifier Cumulative Post-Mortem

25 Jan 2020

UME Prep Qualifier Cumulative Post-Mortem By Jose, Bhanaviya, Anisha, Mahesh, Karina, Cooper, Justin, Paul, and Trey

Task: Analyze what went wrong at the UME Prep Qualifier

It has officially been one week since the UME Prep Qualifier and we are now 4 weeks away from the Regional Championship. This is not great but it does mean one thing - a post-mortem talk! A post-mortem talk allows us to analyze our performance in full detail and take a closer look at our strengths, weaknesses, potential opportunities and threats in a cumulative SWOT analysis. The analysis itself is detailed by each of our subteams and on our performance throughout the day, and in our preparation efforts. You can see the analysis down below:

PREPARATION

Strengths

  • Earlier preparation of the engineering journal
  • Turret needs a better history - in an earlier post?
  • Driver practice
  • Robot Demo
  • Content was organized well
  • Functional (semi) robot
  • Judging Box - more cohesive

Weaknesses

  • Disaster zone that is a flurry of parts and tools who knows where
  • Pit needs to be better organized
  • N A T U R E
  • There weren't very many match videos that were taken
  • Packing List
  • Need a rack for bags
  • Resizing images
  • A lack of people staying late on Friday
  • Presentation
  • Last minute preparation the day of (logistics)
  • Lack of Autonomous
  • Gripper mounted too late
  • Not enough people for load out
  • Control Award
  • Karina and Ben did all the packing the day of

Opportunities

  • Afterschool & Sunday Practices
  • Allocating more time to preparation in the weeks before competition instead of days
  • Tent, banners, business cards (for handouts)
  • Post-event follow through: plugging in phones, charging batteries, etc
  • Research posters
  • Control map needs more hype

Threats

  • Laziness
  • Busy schedules/low priority

JUDGING

Strengths

  • We won Think 1st place!
  • Nominated for all awards except Motivate
  • Had a good explanation for robot shape (mentioned center of gravity, turn table)
  • Find a better way to show outreach separation
  • Transitions at slides
  • Very good at redirecting
  • Storytelling
  • Pit visits:
  • Good at getting queues from one another
  • demo worked better than at presentation

Weaknesses

  • Choices for content that doesn’t link to awards
  • LACK ENERGY
  • Don’t redirect to topics that don’t have a lot of substance
  • Conclude better?
  • Didn’t redirect
  • More calculations based posts
  • Document specific driver calculations
  • Referring back to their questions
  • Clarity about past achievement: We present a lot of information about outreach and prior accomplishments in our presentation but because of the sheer amount of information that we share, judges get the idea that our current team isn’t completely responsible.
  • Hand off between presenters needs to be smoother
  • Having our broom H A T S
  • Having more people at the pits to rep team
  • Did not seed questions
  • Discussing our focus on sustainability effectively (MXP, etc)
  • Needed people placed at pits to talk to judges

Opportunities

  • Be aware of what a judge is looking for
  • Emphasize that circle helps with strategy
  • Make our binder stand out - create robot manual
  • Create a table for our swivels - qualitative research with Nylon, Ninjaflex
  • Polycarb?, Aluminum swivel, CNC-ed robot

Threats

  • Not being able to communicate to judges effectively

ROBOT PERFORMANCE

Strengths

  • Inspection passed the 1st time
  • Advertised well to 1st seed
  • Physical build was solid
  • Focused on building/improving throughout competition
  • Teamwork

Weaknesses

  • Learn game strategy, learn to wave
  • Less gripper wobble - fix dropper, improve placement
  • Wire management
  • Set screws

Opportunities

  • Driver practice - allocate time and practice match play
  • CNC Bot:
  • - Create a base plan + turntable
  • -Gripper less jank: the ninjaflex part could use nylon
  • - Jiggle test?
  • LEDS MAKE BOT LIT
  • Joystick compensates for distance - being able to change heights for extend to tower height
  • Gripper less jank - measure elasticity
  • Slow down arm movement - precision mode
  • Test grippers
  • Collaborating with alliance
  • Fully automatic gripper with distance sensors
  • Completely CNCed robot (base - polycarb with aluminum sides)
  • Articulations - More accurate presets specifically for elbow
  • Dampen swing on gripper
  • BoM with links

Threats

  • High performing teams(I would have never known!)
  • Time Management(ok…)
  • Acquisition of all parts
  • Enough time for modeling all the robot parts

SCOUTING & PIT ENGAGEMENT

Strengths

  • Hand off between presenters needs to be smoother
  • Having more people at the pits to rep team
  • Did not seed questions
  • Discussing our focus on sustainability effectively (MXP, etc)
  • Enthusiasm
  • Organizing pits (backpacks at pits - keep them in car)

Weaknesses

  • Follow through on checking other teams claims is anecdotal, not systematic
  • Did we get video of all of our matches?
  • Having more people at the pits to rep team
  • Did not seed questions
  • Discussing our focus on sustainability effectively (MXP, etc)
  • Organizing pits (backpacks at pits - keep them in car)

Opportunities

  • Be aware of what a judge is looking for
  • Make our binder stand out - create robot manual
  • Design pit layout ahead of time (Ben and Paul responsible for this)
  • Dress up our pit with tent and banners
  • HAVE LAPTOP READY WITH IMPORTANT STUFF
  • Center of Gravity for our hats
  • Business cards - have robot
  • 3D printed tiny robots?
  • Detailed accounts for each match we do/play by play
  • Watching other teams’ matches to see how good they are
  • Take the chance to talk to other teams
  • Scouting App

Threats

  • Sitting around looking at phones looks like disengagement even if we are researching stuff
  • Having one person REIGN during pit visits
  • Lack of data - stats
  • Dominant autonomous teams

Next Steps:

We will work to implement the opportunities mentioned as well as rectifying all of the aforementioned errors before regionals. As we get closer to regionals, we will have to update this list, but as of now, it serves as a to-do list for the next following weeks.

TomBot Calibration Sequence

31 Jan 2020

TomBot Calibration Sequence By Cooper

Task: Create a calibration sequence to find a starting position for autonomous

Today we worked on the calibration sequence. This has been a problem for awhile now, as the robot has so many degrees of freedom, and not a single flat edge to square off of (other than the guillotine, but that isn’t necessarily orthogonal to anything), it is rather difficult to come up with some way to ensure precision on startup, and this year its integral to the auton.

To start, the arm is in need of a good way to calibrate. In theory, we have a couple of constants. We have a hard stop to the elbow, thoughtfully provided by the logarithmic spiral. We also can get the ticks from that position to a point that we define as zero. In terms of extension, we have a hard stop on the full retract, which is really all that is needed. So, we start by retracting the arm and increasing the angle of the elbow until it stalls, and we set that as the 0 for the extension. Then, we go down -elbowMax while extending the arm, such that it doesn’t hit the robot, and quickly set that elbow position as the 0 for the robot.

Previous to this revision, we had different juxtapositions of the robot in terms of the arm and the base, because we couldn’t figure out what was the best compromise of precision and ease. This time around, we decided to have the robot and the arm face the north wall. In this way, the north is common between both alliances and sides, and we can just tell it with a button push which alliance it’s on. So, with that in mind, the next steps of the calibration are to raise up the arm and turn to be orthographically square with the wall. Then, it uses a driveIMUDistance to go back and tap the wall. This is how this sequence will probably stay relatively similar throughout the rest of the time with this robot, as this seems to be what we’ve been trying to achieve for awhile now. There, however, are still things that could be added.

Next Steps

In the future, we could add a magnetic limit switch between the turret and the base, so we can automate turning the turntable to the correct position. Also, we could add distance sensors to the (relative) back, left and right, as to ensure that were in the correct position based on the distance to the wall.

Preparing for the Meeting with Deloitte

31 Jan 2020

Preparing for the Meeting with Deloitte By Bhanaviya

Task: Reach out to companies and their branches in the local Dallas area

Previously this season, Iron Reign has reached out and presented to various companies and individuals in the Dallas area. So far, we have been able to communicate and present our team to the political, non-profit and engineering sectors, including Representative Colin Allred, Big Thought, Best Buy and the Dallas Personal Robotics Group respectively. The one facet with whom we have not yet gotten in touch with , however, is a multinational corporation. As such, this year, we emailed a representative from Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, one of the world-wide "Big Four" accounting services, with a request for sponsorship and a meeting.

This week, we received an email back from Deloitte's Dallas Branch and they've agreed to meet with us! While Deloitte isn't an engineering company, we are specifically meeting with their Bot-Development team and members of the Dallas Branch with an interest and appreciation for robotics. During the meeting, we plan to deliver our usual judging presentation, alongside an introduction to FIRST Tech Challenge and Iron Reign. We also plan to bring TomBot and demonstrate its capabilities. As such, this meeting will focus more on the technical aspects of our team, but we will dedicate a portion to discussing our business plan, specifically the MXP and its expansion, as well as our plans for the rest of the season, moving into, and hopefully beyond regionals.

Next Steps

We are incredibly thankful to Deloitte's office for giving us the opportunity to discuss FIRST and our robot with them. As one of the biggest multinational corporations in the Dallas region, we believe this meeting can help us further expand our robotics program nation-wide and further, as we plan to do with the MXP as it moves out of its pilot stage. We look forward to meeting with them this upcoming week.

Updated Bill of Materials

01 Feb 2020

Updated Bill of Materials By Bhanaviya and Paul

Task: Update the list of parts for TomBot for regionals

Being around 2 weeks away from the North Texas Regional Championship, Iron Reign has made significant new changes to its Bill of Materials. s of now, TomBot has several build issues that will be discussed in our post-mortem posts. Part of rectifying these issues includes ordering/printing more parts and editing the bill accordingly. But the beauty of the bill of materials relies on the fact that we will be building our second, improved version of TomBot soon - a little after regionals - and having a corresponding bill will streamline this process. We would like to iterate that regardless of whether we qualify at the Regional Championship, Iron Reign's build season will not end with the competition, We plan on furthering ourselves in our build season by creating a more custom version of TomBot, one which incorporates as many custom-cut parts from our CNC mill as possible, and documenting all of our existing parts allows us to better analyze which parts we can possibly custom-cut.

Next Steps

We will update the bill after regionals, once we've finalized which parts we can custom-cut and which subsystems need a complete change. As of now, since we've shifted over to a new gripper, this was a big change we had to highlight in the bill and we will continue to do these with our other updated subsystems.

Preparation for the Dallas Personal Robotics Group Meeting

01 Feb 2020

Preparation for the Dallas Personal Robotics Group Meeting By Shawn

Task: Create a presentation for the Dallas Personal Robotics Group Meeeting Next Week

In a week, we will be giving a presentation to the Dallas Personal Group, or DPRG. The DPRG is an engineering-based organization in the Dallas area that has monthly meetings to discuss robotics. DPRG has been involved with Iron Reign for years now, and they have volunteered at our annual Townview Qualifier as well as hosted an exhibit with us at Moonday at the Frontiers of Flight Museum this season. They are one of the biggest engineering groups we have connected with this season. In addition, we have been giving them an annual presentation about our build season for the past 4 years, this year being our fifth time. Through our presentation, we hope to gain engineering-based feedback on our robot but also with regards to our overall presentation. Below, you can see DPRG’s preview of our presentation at their monthly meeting.

Part of the preparation for this presentation includes drive-testing TomBot and getting it ready for demoing. Last year, when we presented our season to them, they provided us feedback with our robot and our vision capabilities, which was pivotal to our accomplishments through the season. As such, alongside the demo, we will also be bringing our judging box, engineering journal and create a separate deck of slides for our code and vision progress this season.

Next Steps

The visit to DPRG will be a good opportunity to practice our presentation in front of an actual audience and ask for feedback on our robot and journal. We have been considering a custom binder cover for our journal made out of engraved aluminum, and we also hope to receive feedback on whether we should proceed with this new design or keep our existing binder for regionals. The article about how the presentation went will be detailed in a later post.

Friction Coefficient and Energy

02 Feb 2020

Friction Coefficient and Energy By Trey

Task: Calculate the friction coefficient of various off-the-shelf materials

Before our last qualifier, we ran a couple material tests to find the friction coefficient of different materials. Now, since we've upgraded to a new gripper - the Snapdragon - a passive-intake gripper - we will need a newer material with much better grip than the ridged silicone oven-mitt we used for our previous 3-finger gripper. Since our new gripper works by slapping onto a block and clasping it, a better grip material will allow the skystones to latch more easily. As such, we ran a new series of materials tests to find a better material.

The materials we are testing are a blue ice cube tray, a green oven mitt, a red oven mitt, a black shelving liner, a rubber cement pad, and a plate dipped in Plastidip. Three of these materials we have already tested before, which you can read about in Post 69 of our Engineering Section, but we will still conduct another test on them to keep our values in the new test consistent. The surface we are using is a 24in*24in wooden board. To conduct the tests we put a block on the selected material at the top of the board on its side and its bottom. Then we lifted the board while the block was placed in both positions and measured the height of the top of the board from the ground. We used the average of the heights in both positions to calculate the angle that the board was at using some simple trigonometry seen below. Then we used the friction coefficient equation which you can learn more about here in post 66 of our Engineering Section.

Blue Silicone Ice Cube Tray

When the wooden board was lifted, with this material keeping the block on it took 11.5 in until the block started to slide off. Using the equation: sin(θ)=O/H to calculate the angle at which the board was tilted which was 28.63°. Then, using the equation tan(θ)=friction coefficient, we found that the friction coefficient of the blue ice cube tray was 0.55.

Green Silicone Oven Mitt

We did the same thing that we did for the blue ice cube tray as we did for the green oven mitt. We lifted the board 12.75 in before the block slipped, which translates to a 32.09° angle, and a friction coefficient of 0.63. This is slightly better than the Blue ice cube tray but not the best by far.

Red Silicone Oven Mitt

We ran the same tests on the red oven mitt, the material we have on our robot now, and it was raised 12.5 in before the block started to slip which means that the angle was 31.39° and the friction coefficient was 0.61. This makes it an ok material just like the ice cube tray and the other oven mitt. If we were to use these materials, the grip of the robot would be fine; however, the testing of the materials is not about finding an acceptable material, it is about finding the best material.

Black shelving liner

This material was one of the best by far, with a height of 16.5in. The height translated into an angle of 46.43° and a friction coefficient of 0.96 which is a very high friction coefficient. This explains why this material is used on many robots like ours that want to effectively grab blocks. Another interesting note of this material was that unlike, every other material when this material surpassed its limit it didn’t slowly slide down, but it just fell all the way down the board all at once.

Rubber cement pad

The rubber cement pad was the most interesting and most effective material. It was made by freeze-drying some rubber cement in a mold. When it was dry it has the friction of a sticky hand. We lifted the board 18 in before the block slipped. That means that we had to lif the board at an angle of 48.59° which means that the friction coefficient was 1.13. The only downside to this material is that it has to be cleaned before match to get the best results out of it. Plastidip. This material was not very good. For one, It does not look very clean because of how clumpy it is. It also only had a height 12 in when the block started to slip, which means that the angle was 30° and the friction coefficient was 0.58.

Next Steps:

With these numbers in mind we are now able to decide which material we are going to use on the gripper which is going to be the rubber cement. We also know that for future seasons we can use both the shelf liner and the rubber cement to grab game elements. We are also going to continue to calculate the friction coefficient of different materials so that we can make sure that the Snapdragon gripper is the best it can be. This includes Geko Tape which we might use in the future.

Post UME Drive Changes

02 Feb 2020

Post UME Drive Changes By Justin, Aaron, Trey, and ben

Task: Improve Robot Driving

Since the qualifier at UME, we have been focusing on tuning controls to make driving smoother. Our first set of improvements was changed turret controls. The turret driver now could turn slowly with the joystick and quickly with the triggers. This allows the turret driver to quickly move the arm when the base is driving and still be able to stack precisely. Next we noticed that manually moving the arm from a tower to a safe position was faster than our preset recall. We sped up this process to speed up our transport time. Drive practice has increased our capabilities with the robot a lot, and we hope it can make us competition ready.

The biggest improvement to driving was the addition of the Snapdragon gripper. The gripper allows us to align over a block and slap down to grab. This reduces the precision necessary to grab a stone, and reduces the time it takes to close the gripper. This gripper makes a lot of noise so as soon as the base driver hears the snap he or she should start heading towards the foundation. The increased speed of the turret allows the turret driver to move the arm out of the way while the base moves to the foundation. The use of progressive joystick movement makes precise placement of the base and arm much easier and gives our robot a smoother look in matches.

We have also made some adjustments to the extend presets for intaking stones. We have added a medium and long distance extension to allow the arm driver to quickly approach the stones, and quickly reach the safe zone from a distance during endgame. Practice with the arm has greatly sped up our cycle time and stacking ability.

Next Steps

We plan to continue training our primary drivers as well as secondary drive teams. We plan on playing practicing matches using the other teams' robots to practice moving around a busy field. We also need to make stacking at higher heights easier for the driver.

Cumulative Drive Test Log 2/3 - 2/6

06 Feb 2020

Cumulative Drive Test Log 2/3 - 2/6 By Jose, Justin, and Aaron

Task: Summarize the driver practice done throughout the week

Over the course of the following week we have done much driver practice so we can improve our skills as drivers and also make some driver enhancements. On Monday we reached an average of 3.7 stones per match - this includes the endgame procedures but not the stones delivered during the autonomous period. We had a rhythm of driver 1 controlling the drive to have the wheels parallel the driver station wall while grabbing a stone and perpendicular when stacking. Both these alignments help driver 2(who controls the arm) stack much easier.

On Wednesday we increased our average stones per match to 4.5, with more fine tuning on the movement between the zones and increased coordination we can keep decreasing cycle times. Finally, today we achieves a 5.4 average stones per match, although not very competitive, we are playing with no autonomous or alliance partner. We also got the idea of having a button to automatically raise the arm up and slam down to grab a stone. Since the gripper works similar to a mouse trap, all we need is force to close it and the process of getting this force can be sped up dramatically.

Next Steps

To continue to decrease our cycle times we can keep adding driver enhancements as well as learning to coordinate between the two drivers. These improvements will show up in a later post when implemented.

OpenCV Grip Pipeline

06 Feb 2020

OpenCV Grip Pipeline By Mahesh

Task: Develop An OpenCV GRIP Pipeline To Detect Skystones

With this year's game awarding 20 points to teams than can successfully locate Skystones during autonomous, a fast and reliable OpenCV Pipeline is necessary to succeed in robot game. Our other two choices, using Vuforia and Tensorflow, were ruled out due to high lighting requirements and slow performance, respectively.

With many different morphological operations existing in OpenCV and no clear way to visualize them using a control hub and driver station, we used FTC Dashboard to view camera output and change variables realtime. This allowed us to more rapidly debug issues and see operations on an image, like in a driver controller and expansion hub setup.

To rapidly develop different pipelines, we used GRIP, a program designed specifically for OpenCV testing. After experimenting with different threshold values and operations, we found that a 4 step pipeline like the following would work best.

The first step is a gaussian blur, used to remove any noise from the raw camera output and smoothen the darkness of the black skystone. Next, a mask is applied to essentially crop the blurred image, allowing the pipeline to focus on only the three stones. An HSV threshold is then applied to retain colors which have low values; essentially black. Afterwards, a blob of white pixels appears near the black skystone, who's center can be determined by using a blob detector, or even by finding contours, filtering them appropriately, and placing a bounding rectangle around them, then taking the center of that rectangle to be close to the centroid of the black skystone blob. Here is a visual representation of each stage of the OpenCV pipeline:

Next Steps

The next and only step is to integrate the GRIP pipeline with our existing FTC Webcam capture system, which uses Vuforia to take frames, and decide which x-coordinates of the skystone coorespond to which positions of the skystone. Specifically, we have to take the width of the final images and divide it into three equal sections, then take the boundaries of those three sections to decide the location of each skystone.

Presenting to Deloitte

07 Feb 2020

Presenting to Deloitte By Bhanaviya, Karina, Jose, Aaron, Cooper, Trey, Ben, Paul, Justin, Mahesh, Shawn, and Anisha

Task: Meet with Deloitte's Bot-Development Team to discuss

Today, we presented to Deloitte LLC's Bot Development Team in their Dallas branch office to introduce them to our team, our robot, and FIRST. Deloitte is a multinational consulting company and we had reached out to them around 3 weeks ago, with a request for a meeting with their Bot Development Team and they agreed to meet with us last week!

We gave them our judging presentation but a more extended version of it. Since we were presenting to professionals in bot development with an interest in engineering and robotics, we also spent a significant portion of our presentation demoing our robot for them and answering their questions about this year's challenge, and how our robot's design stood out in solving this challenge. Before we begun our presentation, we also showed them this year's reveal video, giving them more context into our robot capabilities and needs.

We were also able to discuss the possibility of corporate funding from their office to our team. Especially since this year, we want to construct a new version of TomBot, corporate funding could bring our scope for innovation to whole new level. Once our presentation ended, we had a short Q & A session with the participants, all of whom were very interested in hearing about TomBot's potential and about how we had conceived the idea for its construction and capabilities. ONe feedback we received was that our focus on TomBot's turntable reflected our innovation with regards to our build season strongly. As such, this will be one point which we will be sure to hammer during the actual presentation.

We even met one professional who had connections to a gecko tape research program at a bio-mimicry lab in Villanova University, and who mentioned she would be able to reach out to the lab to answer any of our questions about potential gripper materials. Since, we are currently looking into implementing gecko tape for our gripper, this was great to hear. Then, we were taken on a tour of their branch, where we were able to see the large variety of tech and virtual media they had implemented across their offices.

Next Steps

We would like to thank Deloitte for giving us the amazing opportunity to present at their Dallas branch. We really enjoyed being able to bring FIRST and our robot to their office, and we are incredibly grateful for their interest in our robotics team (and their generosity in providing us with cookies at the end of our visit!). We plan to reach out to them after Regionals, regardless of our qualification status, to find out about the possibility of partnering with them.

Control And Vision DPRG Presentation

08 Feb 2020

Control And Vision DPRG Presentation By Mahesh and Cooper

Task: Present Control And Vision To DPRG And Gather Feedback

This saturday, we had the privilege to present our team's Control and Vision algorithms this year to the Dallas Personal Robotics Group. During this event, we described the layout of our robot's control scheme, as well as our OpenCV vision pipeline, in order to gather suggestions for improvement. This opportunity allowed us to improve our pipeline based on the feedback from more than a dozen individuals experienced in the designing, building, and programming of robots. We were able to demo our robot on a playing field, showcasing the mechanics of its design as well as semi-autonomous articulations to help improve driver performance.

Here are is the slideshow we presented to DPRG:

For this year's game, we chose a four step vision pipeline to detect skystones, which comprised of a blur, followed by a mask, then an HSV threshold, and finally a blob detector to locate the centroid of the black skystone. Although this pipeline worked fairly well for us, differences in lighting and the environment we are competing in may result in varying degrees of inaccuracy. To combat this, the DPRG suggested we used some kind of flash or LED in order to keep lighting of the stones consistent throughout different settings. However, this may result in specular reflections showing up on the black skystone, which will interfere with our vision pipeline. Another suggestion thrown was to detect the yellow contours in the image, and crop according to the minimum and maximum x and y values of the contour, allowing us to focus on only the three stones on the field and discard colors in the background. This suggestion is particularly useful, since any tilt of the webcam, slight deviation in the calibration sequence, or skystones lying outside the boundaries of the mask will not affect the detection of skystones.

Next Steps

The most significant input that DPRG gave us during the presentation was the cropping of skystones based on the size of the yellow contour present in the input image, allowing us to detect the black skystone even if it lies outside the mask. To implement this, we would have to test an HSV threshold to detect yellow contours in the image using GRIP, filtering those yellow contours appropriately, and cropping the input image based on the coordinates of a bounding box placed around the contour. Although this addition is not absolutely necessary it is still a useful add on to our pipeline, and will make performance more reliable.

Presenting to the DPRG

08 Feb 2020

Presenting to the DPRG By Bhanaviya, Cooper, Jose, Justin, Karina, Ben, Mahesh, Paul, Anisha, Shawn, and Trey

Task: Present to the Dallas Personal Robotics Group about robot vision and Iron Reign

We reached out to the Dallas Personal Robotics Group to present. The DPRG are an organization in Dallas who have monthly meetings for robotics projects In past seasons, we've given them presentations about our seasonal progress in build and code. This year, we wanted to present again on computer vision, as this is something that they were very interested in, but we also wanted to give our actual presentation as practice for Regionals. Our presentation was advertised here.

We presented to an audience of around 15. The initial agenda is hosted on our website, but briefly put, we started off by showing them this year's reveal video, gave our judging presentation, demonstrated our robot, and gave them a presentation on our codebase, particularly vision and our usage of the control hub. You can read about the vision presentation in the Post 94 of our Engineering Section. We recieved and answered questions about everything spanning our design, our approach to this year's game challenge, and on our code decisions. The entire presentation went a little over 2 hours. You can find the link to a video of our presentation here. We're going to upload the video here soon. We also asked for feedback from the listeners, especially with respect to our codebase, and our journal organization

The main feedback we received for the journal was to keep our introduction at the very beginning of the engineering section shorter and more summarizing of the current robot design. We also recieved feedback with regards to over decision to CNC a journal cover - especially to use either a plywood, acryllic or something more metallic for an edgy feel. In terms of vision, we recieved feedback as to crop our skystones based on the contour of the image. A more detailed summary of how our vision presentation went can be found in post 94 of the engineering section.

Next Steps

We are incredibly grateful to DPRG for giving us the opportunity to present and showcase our robot at their monthly meeting, and for giving us substantial feedback about our robot and engineering journal. Overall, our presentation to DPRG was a great experience for us to gain insight from a group of engineers on how to improve our robot performance and other factors of our overall standing at NTX Regionals. Regardless of how regionals goes for us, qualification-wise, we plan to reach out to DPRG later on as we move into the next stage of TomBot's build, which is creating a second, CNC-cut version of all of its subsystems.

Final Weekend Before Regionals - Meeting Log

08 Feb 2020

Final Weekend Before Regionals - Meeting Log By Anisha, Cooper, Trey, Paul, Aaron, Bhanaviya, Karina, Justin, Shawn, Mahesh, Jose, and Ben

Task: Use feedback from our presentation at DPRG and get ready for regionals

A couple hours ago, we presented our robot at the Dallas Personal Robotics Group (DPRG), and we received insight on not only our robot, but also on our presentation, codebase, and our engineering journals. With this feedback in mind, and considering that we have a week before regionals, Iron Reign returned to the RoboDojo to do what we do best - panic, cram at the last minute, and repeat. (For reference, all our subteams will go into detail about their version of the scramble before regionals in separate posts. This is just a broader summary of our meeting).

Today, the Code team mainly worked on improving driver controls, improving the implementation of a GRIP pipeline, and finalizing our autonomous path before regionals. Having just returned from presenting the works of our code-base at the DPRG presentation, the code team gained more insight on improving TomBot’s autonomous which will be their focus leading up to regionals.

The Build team worked on Plasti Dipping the bottom of the foundation grabber for better grip when dragging the foundation. Plasti dip forms a layer of rubber on top of whatever’s being dipped in it and makes it stickier. Unfortunately later on, problems were discovered with the turntable. There had previously been cracks in the turntable from previous driving incidents but now they had gotten worse and were interfering with TomBot’s wheels. Because of a part of the turntable hanging off, the chain was being interfered with and stopping the robot. This was one of the most important tasks to do because obviously, without a functioning robot, there ain’t gonna be dubs at the competition.

Before the problems with the turntable revealed themselves, our drivers got a decent amount of driver practice. They mainly focused on stacking as fast/efficient as possible. Towards the end of practice, they were also able to train new members of the team on driving. During practice, they also collaborated with the coders on improving the controls.

The editorial team mainly focused on adding some finishing touches to the judging presentation after getting some great feedback from the Deloitte, and DPRG presentations (both of which have separate entries in our team section). They also worked on creating a research poster and a timeline of our notable events this past season to display at our pit during regionals.

The design team mainly worked on improving the polycarb base of TomBot’s drive-train to CNC after regionals. To claify, our team is planning on creating a fully CNC-ed version of TomBot after regionals, regardless of whether we qualify to the next level of competition. As such, finalizing the CAD designs of each robot system will better prepare us to CAM these parts to create the next version of our robot. However, we currently plan to still replace the current polycarb base with the custom one since as mentioned earlier, our current base is not in the best shape. The design team also worked on creating a model of our pit design for regionals, which you can see down below. Having a well-organized pit benefits both us and any pit visitors, and regionals was no exception. Finally, they also worked on the CAM of the binder for both our Team and Engineering Sections, which will be custom-cut in aluminium using our CNC mill. For more information on the to-be CNC-ed binder, you can take a look at the “Engineering Notebook Binder CAD” post.

Next Steps

Although we had a significant amount of progress today, there's still plenty to do. Over the next weelk, our main goals will be finalizing our autonomous, getting our binder and new polycarb base manufactured, and ensuring that our journals and posters are ready to print for regionals.

Designing a New Build Plate

09 Feb 2020

Designing a New Build Plate By Ben

Task: Model and CNC a new build plate for TomBot

The renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.” This, however, is not the case for our build plate. Throughout the course of the season the plate has seen extensive use and has endured much abuse, which can be seen in the large cracks forming on the plate. Although there are many temporary remedies, such as attaching plates to hold it together. These are not permanent solutions and not only appear bad, but can only temporarily reduce the problem, as more cracks will inevitably form.

The first build plate was cut from Polycarb on a bandsaw from a pattern. This process resulted in many imperfections and uneven cutting, subtracting from the sleek circular design. This second time around we’re going to completely CNC the whole plate, including the wholes for bolts and wires. Using a CNC ensures a greater precision and guarantees a higher quality build plate.

Cracks weren’t the only problems facing the first build plate. Drive testing revealed a major flaw with the design, the flaps that folded down from the plate were too short, causing the foundation to get stuck under the robot during matches. This is obviously undesirable as no one likes a robot who drags a giant plastic plate around the whole match. To fix this we just slightly extended those flaps on the model to extend past the height of the foundation. There was also another issue, the bolts that secured the omni-wheels to the build plate were difficult to access because they were to close to one of the Rev rails. To fix this we just slightly increased that distance but also had to ensure that there was enough length on the ends of the axle to comfortably secure the wheel mounts. Other, smaller, issues such as wiring holes were also solved by providing adequate space for wiring next to the expansion hub mount.

Above you can see an image of the completed build plate. To ensure accuracy one side was developed them mirrored. This removes any variability within the model and creates a symmetric object. The screw holes were created by imposing the turret mounts and rev rails from the previous robot model onto the current one, providing an accurate placement for each hole.

Next Steps:

After completing the model, we will print the pattern on a large sheet of paper and verify the placement of all the components that are to be attached. If there are any inaccuracies they will be fixed. We then have to develop a CAM path for the CNC machine. Construction of the second robot will begin once the second plate is completed.

Big Thoughts for xPansion

09 Feb 2020

Big Thoughts for xPansion By Bhanaviya

Task: Put the budgetary and technical plans for the second MXP in motion

A long, long time ago, - well, 4 years ago really - alumni members of Iron Reign converted an old 90’s RV into a fully equipped Mobile Learning Lab with 3D-printers and FLL robots. Today, this vehicle is operated by Big Thought, funded by Best Buy and other donors, and taken to outreach events, by our team, Team 6832, where we introduce children with little to no STEM experience to robotics, and FIRST. We call this program the Mobile Tech xPerience and it’s been in service for around 4 years now! For reference, in the outreach events we take the MXP to, both our team and our sister teams participate, however, Iron Reign 6832 takes the lead in these events , from the set-up, to interacting with younger participants, and training Big Thought’s volunteers, to whom we show how we teach younger students block programming and 3D-modelling.

Our team specifically and Big Thought, a Dallas-based company, are programmatic partners of the MXP program. Through the success of this program, Team 6832 has proven that the concept of a STEM classroom works, and this has inspired other organizations, like the Girl Scouts of Desert Southwest, who have reached out to us about creating their own version of the MXP.

With the influence the MXP has had on students in underserved areas of the Dallas community, Big Thought was motivated to make the decision in 2019 to upgrade to a second, bigger version of the vehicle, and as their programmatic partner, our team has been heavily involved in the process, from creating the floorplan to actively seeking out sponsors like congressional representatives and multinational companies like Deloitte. However, this week, we are pleased to announce that Big Thought has voted to begin the budgetary and physical planning of the second vehicle and Iron Reign - 6832 has been provided a budget of $400,000 to map out the utilities and technology of the second vehicle. Additionally, we have been tasked with the responsibility of creating a virtual blueprint and model for the second vehicle in CAD, which Big Thought’s professional engineers and architects will use to complete the physical construction of the vehicle. The new vehicle is expected to have a digital media aspect, with a green screen wall and voiceover booth, and the floorplan will include a wheelchair access lift and 2 slide outs.

The senior director for the Dallas City of Learning - a Big Thought program which encompasses the MXP program - has created an official title for 6832’s members as the Mobile STEM Ambassadors for the second vehicle. The first MXP was just a concept - a pilot program. The second however will be bringing this concept to reality and it is expected to be unveiled in the summer of 2020. Unlike the first, the newer one will be staffed year-round, meaning that while our team members are off doing non-robotics based activities, like school, Big Thought’s team for the MXP will be filling our roles, keeping the vehicle as sustainable as it can be in one season. The idea is still the same - bringing STEM and FIRST robotics to students who haven’t yet seen its potential - but the quality of execution will improve significantly, with our team, Team 6832 Iron Reign, still taking the lead on the MXP program during its larger outreach events.

Next Steps:

Once the new vehicle is unveiled, we expect to go on more deployments as opposed to our normal count in the summer. In the meanwhile, we look forward to planning out the virtual model of the second MXP and discussing how best to use the $400,000 budget big thought has authorized for the planning, going into and after regionals.

Research Poster

09 Feb 2020

Task: Create a poster encompassing all of our calculations from this season

From analyzing the friction coefficient of a variety of different materials, to calculating torque for our various robot sub-assemblies, and creating an equation for our tower-stacking abilities in our autonomous, Iron Reign has seen several different series' of calculations this season. Since these calculations are spread throughout our journal, we have compiled all of them in a single poster for us, and visitors to our pit to refer to at the NTX Regional Championship. Below, you can see how the chart is organized:

Torque and Gear Ratios

The first column covers the torque and gear ratios of TomBot's elbow and drive-train. You can read about these calculations in Calculating Torque at the Elbow and Calculating Torque at the Drive-Train which are posts 75 and 78 of the Engineering Section respectively.

The second column also covers torque and gear ratios but this one focuses more on the torque of the turntable and on the logarithmic spiral, a custom-made part by our team to linearly reduce the torque on the elbow. You can read about these calculations in post 79 for the turntable, and 45 as well as 76 for the logarithmic spiral.

Materials Testing

The third column focuses on calculating the friction coefficient of various materials like silicone oven-mitts and rubber cement, which we used for our gripper materials. You can find the math behind the decision to use these materials in post 66, 69 and 91 of the Engineering Section.

Extend to Tower Height

The final column focuses on a method we implemented in our drive-controls which uses trigonometry to automatically calculate the height needed for the arm to extend to place a stone at a specific tower height. You can read about this method in post 68 of the Engineering Section.

To take a closer look at these calculations compiled together, you can take a look at the chart in the very front pocket, or come visit us in our pits to see a much larger version of this math!

Spicy Side Shields

10 Feb 2020

Spicy Side Shields By Jose

Task: Design and CAD/CAM some spicy side shields

In order to increase the spice factor for TomBot, we need to custom machine our own side plates out of aluminum using our CNC. The design is pretty simple, just a plate with our team number, but there are some other features such as the curved top. This keeps the side plates from being sharp and add some aesthetic to the design. Also, since the team number is to be put out of the aluminum, the circles inside the '8' need some strokes to keep them in place. To follow the font used these were at a set angle and thickness as seen above. The stroke for the '6' was also thickened to add some support as previous years' side shields have proven this stroke to be weak. Finally, there are holes on the top corners for the alliance markers. The idea for these is that a rectangle with both a blue circle and a red square is screwed to the top and is spun to show the color corresponding to the alliance we are in while the other color is hidden behind the side shield(of the spicy variety).

Next Steps:

With a CAM file of these (if not already obvious)spicy side shields already made we can immediately machine these on our CNC during our next meet as well as screw them onto TomBot. Since we have a circular chassis we will have to bend the aluminum, which shouldn't be too hard.

Milling The Side Shields

14 Feb 2020

Milling The Side Shields By Jose, Justin, Trey, Paul, and Shawn

Task: Mill the spicy side shields for the competition tomorrow

In typical Iron Reign fashion we are making our side shields the night before regionals, as with many other things. The paper side plates look too jank on our robot that we are trying to make look professional, so we are going to use aluminum instead (a post covering the CAD and CAM of these can be found in a previous post). Since we are still fairly new to using our CNC it took us a while to get started, we broke 8 3mm mills before any major portion of the first side plate was done. After a few hours we were able to complete the milling of the numbers which we can use to label things like CartBot. To finish quickly as we were getting impatient, we used a 6mm flat mill to do the outside contour, some loose placement of the aluminum led to it drifting as this final stage occurred, but overall it finished quite well! After all these hours of suffering we still had to mill a second one this took a while, but not as long since we were used to the procedure.

Next Steps:

All that's left is to show off these aluminum side plates tomorrow at regionals!

The Night Before Regionals - Code

14 Feb 2020

The Night Before Regionals - Code By Cooper and Trey

Task: Fix our autonomous path the night before regionals.

Twas the night before regionals, and all through the house, every creature was stirring, especially the raccoons, and boy are they loud.

Anyways, it’s just me and Trey pulling an all nighter tonight, such that he can work on build and I can work on auto. Right now the auto is in a pretty decent shape, as we have the grabbing of one stone and then the pulling of the foundation, but we need to marry the two. So our plan is to use The distance sensors on the front and sides of the robot to position ourselves for the pull.

Another thing we are working on is a problem with our bot that is compounded with a problem with our field. Our robot has a wheel that is just slightly bigger than the other. This leads to drift, if the imu was not used. But since our field has a slope to it, it drifts horizontally, which is not fixable with just the imu. So we plan to use a correction method, where the distance from where we want to go and the distance to the block to create a triangle from which we should be able to get the angle at which we need to go and how far we should go to end up perfectly spaced from the side of the build platform.

Our final task tonight is to simply speed up the auto. Right now we have points at which the robot has to stop so that we don’t overshoot things, but that is fixable without stopping the robot.

Next Steps

Mirror the auto onto blue side and practice going from auto to teleop

Wylie Regionals 2020

15 Feb 2020

Wylie Regionals 2020 By Bhanaviya, Cooper, Trey, Justin, Karina, Aaron, Paul, Ben, Shawn, Jose, Mahesh, and Anisha

Task: Compete at the North Texas Regional Tournament

Preparation

Breaking our packing-the-night-before streak, we managed to start the night before. It helped that we had the day before the big day off, and had a decent sized packing list. Over the course of our preparation, we had our side-shields machined, presentation practiced, journals prepared, and autonomous in feverish motion. More detail on our last-minute robotics onslaughts will be detailed in a separate post, but to summarize, we were (mostly!) ready to go.

Inspection

We passed! This is one streak we haven't yet broken which is bit of a relief.

Pit Decorum

Unlike last season, our pit was much better organized and planned this year, decked with Roman Galea, 4 posters, and of course, Ducky. The clean outlook of our pit drew several visitors, including teams who wanted to get a chance at trying on our helmets.

Judging

Compared out last two qualifiers, we had much more practice at our presentation this time around, and we tried to maintain a decent amount of energy during the real deal. Unfortunately, after being accustomed to longer presentations from our visits to DPRG and Deloitte (which you can read about in earlier posts!), we were cut short. However, we were able to address most of the things we couldn't cover in our first 5 minutes during the questioning period, and the dmeoing of our turret on TomBot - our most unique subassembly. The overall outlook we presented, however, could have been more charismatic, which was our main concern after the session.

Pit Visits

However, we were able to bring back more energy during our pit visits. We recieved three panels of judges for what we guess were Connect, Motivate and Innovate panels. We were able to direct our visits to the posters in our pits, and something we recieved a lot of attention for was our financial and technical plans for the second MXP, which you can read about in T-50.

Iron Reign: Bringing back Imperial Roman Energy since 2010

Robot Game

We will have a separate post detailing our match play-by-play and the technical and human errors in each one. Overall however, our match performance could have been better. During our first 4 rounds we experienced losses, finally scraping through and pulling a victory during our final two. However, from both an awards and rank perspective losing a match is never great since part of the picture is the consistent functionality of at least one sub-assembly. We did not employ the functionality as well as it could have been, with regards to our autonomous, tele-op and endgame and this is something we will be focusing on extensively going into the build of our second robot.

Awards Ceremony

By the time the ceremony started, our energy levels were not stellar, especially considering a lack of sleep from the previous night. However, our energy quickly skyrocketed when we first received a finalist for the Control award! Following this, we also recieved the Connect Award, which was exciting especially considering that our plans for the MXP and its expansion were put into drive this season. Then, we were nominated as a finalist for the Think award! And finally, as Inspire nominations were beginning to come up, we heard the announcement, "Inspire 3rd place goes to Team 6832 Iron Reign!" It was safe to say at that point, that Houston, we did indeed have a problem.

Next Steps

This season being our 3rd moving into the World Championship, we couldn't have done it without our partners and sponsors, the DISD STEM Department, Mr Andrew Palacios, our principal, our sponsor Mr John Gray ,and the VIrani-Lux family! It's worth mentioning that this is the first time where 3 DISD teams, in addition to our own, are moving onto Worlds! Our main goals moving into Worlds will be preparing for our next competition, the UIL Competition for Texas, and in solidfying the creation of the second version of our robot. We will be detailing our post-mortems and these preparations in the upcoming few posts. Until then, see y'all in Houston!

Driving at Regionals

15 Feb 2020

Driving at Regionals By Justin, Aaron, and Jose

Task: Drive at Regionals

Driving at regionals was unfortunately a learning opportunity for our drivers. In our first few matches, for some reason we couldn't get our robot moving; we faced code crashes, cables being pulled, and incorrect calibration during the transition from autonomous to tele-op. These issues combined with our weak autonomous (sorry coders), led to a very unimpressive robot performance for our first few matches.

When we finally got our robot working, our lack of practice and coordination really showed. The lack of coordination between these drivers and coders resulted in drivers relying on manual controls, rather than preset articulations. Our articulations were also very harsh and untested, some resulting in constant gear grinding, which pushed the drivers to use manual controls. This slowed down our robot and made us very inneficient at cycling. The presets that gave us the most issues were transitioning from stacking or intaking to moving. The intake to north preset, which pointed the arm north after picking up a block, practically tossed the stones we picked up out of our gripper. The stacking to intake preset, which raised the arm off of a tower and pointed it south, would keep raisign the arm up, stripping the gears. This made us rely on our very slow manual arm and turntable controls. A failure in the capstone mechanism caused the capstone to fall off the robot during matches. With all of these issues, we stacked at most three stones during a match; not nearly enough to make us a considerable team for alliance selection.

Next Steps

We need to get consistent driver practice while coordinating with coders about the effectiveness of their presets. Many of our failures at regionals could be solved by driver practice. Our drivers being comfortable with the robot, both manually and with presets, would allow us to stack much faster and speed up the robot's in code to make our robot as efficient as possible.

Match Play at North Texas Regional Championship

15 Feb 2020

Match Play at North Texas Regional Championship By Trey, Ben, Aaron, Bhanaviya, Jose, Cooper, Justin, Karina, Paul, Shwan, Mahesh, and Anisha

Task: Compete in Qualification and Finals matches

Today Iron Reign competed at the North Texas Regional Championship with TomBot which was a mess, to say the least. But regardless of this, we were still able to win a few matches and qualify for worlds, which we should be able to do much better in. But regardless of this, we were still able to be in the winning alliance and the following are descriptions of the match play that made that happen. For reference, we have a separate post underlining the analysis of the qualifier that does not include match analysis. This post merely details how each one of our matches went, and we will have a future post discussing our drive issues at the competition.

Match 1(Quals 2)

We lost this match 51-148 because our robot contributed almost nothing to the alliance’s total score. What we did contribute consisted of two stacked blocks and parking. The other points in the match came from the other robot which stacked 4 blocks into a tower that later fell. However, their auto did the most for the outcome, racking up a total of 12 points. Overall, it was a pretty disappointing match that set the tone for the rest of the day.

Match 2(Quals 7)

At this point, most of us were thinking “this couldn’t get worse, could it?”. But we were very wrong. The reason why we lost this match 20-64 was that we were prevented from running the calibration sequence before the match. This plus a Vufora fail at the start of the match made our arm stuck at a 45-degree angle for the whole match. And on top of that, the other robot in our alliance disconnected. The only points we made were from moving the foundation out of the building zone and parking in the end game.

Match 3(Quals 13)

Continuing on the downward slope, somehow we managed to do worse with a functional arm. Losing this match 14-67, this may have been the lowest point of the day. Some of the faults with our robot in the match were being the only team without an auto, taking more than 10 seconds to pick up a block, repeatedly dropping blocks, and not parking in time.

Match 4(Quals 20)

After seeing us stoop as low as we did last match, the head judge, Freid, decided that he needed to talk to us and try to get us to do better. He gave us an inspirational speech about how we are going to have to live with the results of the competition for the rest of our lives and when we look back we would regret it if we didn’t give it our all. This helped us pick up our act and things started to get better. However, our robot disconnected mid-match and we lost 15-77.

Match 5(Quals 29)

Somehow the combination of 8 matches worth of time to prepare for the next match and Freid’s talk picked us up enough to win this match. With a lead of 9 points, we won our first match of the day 65-56. However, as seen by the low margin, this doesn’t mean our robot is never going to lose another match again. There were still many problems like how our auto still didn’t function and how the gripper still took to long to pick up blocks.

Match 6(Quals 33)

This was our last and most successful match of the day. We won 75-64, however, once again it should not go without mention that our alliance partners scored most of these points and stacked over half of the 6 stone tall tower. But it is also important to mention that our robot, and more importantly our drivers, preformed way better in this match than any of the other matches so we were clearly making progress.

Next Steps

After reading a short summary of the disappointing match play we had at regionals, it would be easy for one to point their finger at a particular team involved in the physical build and design of the robot. However, these results are a result of a failure to collaborate between teams and preform within teams. For example, it was common to see builders and coders need the robot at the same time. The solution to this problem was building a second version of the robot so that coders have their own robot and builders have their own robot. This will reduce friction between the two teams and overall, increase the efficiency of the overall team which will put us in a better spot for worlds, where we will hopefully not lose 4 matches.

Wylie East Regional Qualifier Code Post-Mortem

15 Feb 2020

Wylie East Regional Qualifier Code Post-Mortem By Mahesh and Cooper

Task: Reflect On Code Changes And Choices Made During The Wylie East Regional Qualifier

Despite putting in lots of effort in order to pull off a working autonomous before regionals, small and subtle issues that surfaced only during testing at the competition as well as various other small bugs with our autonomous routine prevented us from performing well on the field. Trying to write a full autonomous in the last week before competition was a huge mistake, and if more time was dedicated to testing, tuning, and debugging small issues with our code base, we could have accentuated the theoretical aspect of our code with actual gameplay on the field. The issues experienced during the Wylie East Qualifier can be boiled down to the following:

Improper Shutdown / Initialization of the Webcam and Vuforia

We frequently encountered vuforia instantiation exceptions after attempting to initialize the camera after an abrupt stop. We suspect this issue to have originated from the improper shutdown of the Webcam, which would likely result from an abrupt stop / abort. During later runs of our autonomous and teleop with multiple, more complex vision pipelines, we saw that attempting to reinstantiate Vuforia after it has already been instantiated resulted in an exception being thrown. This issue caused us to not play in certain matches, since our program was either stalled or its execution was delayed from restarting the robot.

Disconnection Of The Webcam (Inability To Access Camera From Rev Hub)

Ocassionally when attempting to initialize our robot, we saw a warning pop up on the driver station which read "Unable to recognize webcam with serial ID ..." indicating that either the webcam had been disconnected or was for some other reason not recognized by the rev hub. On physical inspection of the robot, the webcam appeared to be connected to the robot via USB. The solution we came up with was to quickly disconnect and reconnect the webcam, after which the warning disappeared.

This issue prevailed in other forms on the competition field, however. Sometimes, during gameplay, when the webcam was accessed, the blue lights on the rim of our webcam would not light up (meaning that the webcam was not active), and our program would stall on skystone detection. This happened despite getting rid of the driver station, warning, and is most likely another result of improper initialization / shutdown of vuforia after an abrupt stop or abort.

State Machine Issues

At the end of our autonomous, if the statemachine had completed, our robot would proceed to spin slowly in a circle indefinately. This unexpected behaviour was stopped using a stopAll() function which set all motor power values to zero, effectively preventing any functions which messed with the robot's movement to be ignored at the end of our statemachine's execution.

Lack of Testing / Tuning

By far the biggest reason why we did not perform as predicted at the qualifier was because of the lack of testing and tuning of autonomous routines. This would include running our statemachines multiple times to fine tune values to minimize error, and debug any arising issues like those that we experience during the competition. A lack of tuning made the time spent on our skystone detection pipeline completely useless as our crane did not extend to the right length in order to pick up the skystone, a direct result of inadequate testing. All of the above issues could have been prevented if they had surfaced during extensive testing, which we did not do, and will make sure we follow in the future.

Next Steps:

In the future, we ultimately plan to put a freeze on our codebase at least 1 week before competition, so that the remaining time can be spend for building, driver practice, etc. Additionally, we have agreed to extensively test any new additions to our codebase, and assess their effect on other subsystems before deploying them onto our robot.

The Revenge of TomBot

16 Feb 2020

The Revenge of TomBot By Bhanaviya

Introducing...The Revenge of TomBot!

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there was a robot named TomBot. TomBot was a circle, a spinning circle with a turret and an arm that could extend to glory. Sadly, his reign was not destined for longevity - his cruel creators cut it short before he could enrich the FIRST world with his greatness. But TomBot remained scheming for many, many days, and in his wake followed... The Revenge of TomBot.

That's right, we're building another robot! Even before our disasterous robot performance at the North Texas Regional Championship, we realized that our current robot, TomBot, lacked one defining one feature - class. Of course, only way to give a robot class is to bring a CNC Mill into the picture. The essential design of the robot will remain the same, but all parts, from the polycarb base to the the turntable mounts will be custom-cut and designed. Being able to custom mill our parts for every subsystem of the robot will also give us better control over the functionality of TomBot's design.

Next Steps

We will still be using TomBot in its original version for testing our code and drive practice and their corresponding blog posts. However, from this point onwards, every build post in our engineering section will refer specifically to our new robot - The Revenge of TomBot, coming to theatres near you.

Meeting Log Post Regionals

22 Feb 2020

Meeting Log Post Regionals By Anisha

Task: Get back to work after Regionals

Alright kids, back to the usual grind now. As Iron Reign came back from regionals taking a lot away from it, we immediately got back to work because we still had a lot to do before being ready for UIL or Worlds.

Because one of our main weaknesses at regionals was autonomous, our coders came back even more ready than ever to start working again. They worked collaboratively to continue calibrating the code for the most efficient and consistent function of the autonomous and also continued their work in Vuforia so it could systematically detect Skystones. They will continue to code autonomous and calibrate each and every part of it for consistent function in the next couple of weeks and hopefully by UIL we’ll have a really fresh auton.

Since Tombot hung out with the coders majority of the time for auton testing, the builders mostly had a chill day, brainstorming new ideas on how some parts of the robot could be improved, so that when they build the new robot, it can be really clean. Some people even helped out by trying to organize different parts that were found all over the Iron Reign Headquarters so that in the future when building picks up again, people wouldn’t have to flip the premises upside down just to find a single part. Doing this also helped free up some space inside the house and it was here where we realized how much room it actually had.

The modelling team worked on the finishing touches of the build plate for the new robot so that it can be CNC'd ASAP. They also worked on modelling the other parts of the robot, making frequent visits to where Tombot resided for accurate measurements of the parts.

The editorial team worked on really reflecting on how our presentations went at regionals to analyze what the team can improve on. They also worked on figuring out what really worked for the award blurbs in the journal and what weren’t too clear because after all, the judges shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by the thick journals.

Next Steps

Overall it was a pretty productive meeting considering that it was the first after regionals and we look forward to making rapid progress in the next couple of weeks. Although Houston feel like a long time away, we know they’ll arrive quicker than anticipated.

Wylie East Regionals Post Mortem

22 Feb 2020

Wylie East Regionals Post Mortem By Karina, Bhanaviya, Jose, Justin, Ben, Cooper, Mahesh, Shawn, and Trey

Task: Reflect on what went right and wrong at the regionals tournament

Iron Reign is so excited to be advancing to the World Championship. But there's no denying that across the board, we did not perform as well as we were expecting. Following the long day, first we feasted as per tradition. But then at a later time, we all sat down to discuss where things could have gone wrong, and found that in the weeks leading up to the regionals tournament, our team was already showing signs of underperformance. This is more of a long term issue that needs to be adressed, starting with in depth retrospection and a frank conversation among ourselves.

Preparation

Strengths
  • We had more than two people packing
  • Journal was printed and tabbed and color-coded and everything the night before
  • We kind of had a packing list going
  • The gamer station we made proved to be worthwhile
Weaknesses
  • We did not check off of a packing list as we loaded the vehicles (we could have missed something)
  • Very little dedicated drive practice and so coordination between the two drivers was lacking
  • We goofed on printing the timeline that shows events we have gone to, professionals we have met with, progression of the robot, etc.
Opportunities
  • log drive practice hours and scores
  • Aim to have a code freeze so driver don't have to deal with unexpected changes
  • Split the robot manual into two different documents: one that shows and summarizes each subsystem and one that lists step by step how to build TomBot
  • Fix the loose broom heads on the hats (but this is definitely not a priority)
Threats
  • Not having everything with us due to travel restricted packing

Judging

Strengths
  • We got 3rd place Inspire, 3rd place Think, and 1st place Connect which we can probably say was due to the engineering journal and our presenting skills since our robot performance was not stellar
  • At this point we've had a lot of practice
  • Handing judges materials from our presentation box at the right times
  • Manual demo of the robot was successful
  • We got across all of our more important presentation material before the 5 minutes were up
  • Anything that we didn't get to during the five minutes we were able to cover in questioning
Weaknesses
  • Since we were tired, we sounded kind of low energy and unenthusiastic
  • At the same time, we were talking super fast trying to get through all of our content
  • There was not much interest in our robot demo
Opportunities
  • Rework our presentation to focus on the most important information (at this point we have realized we will not have enough time to talk about everything we have done this season)
  • Make good use of the questioning time - invite the judges during the initial 5 minutes to ask questions about our team's highlights after the 5 minutes are up
Threats
  • The 5 minute time restriction
  • Lack of sleep bringing down our energy levels

Pits Presentation and Conduct

Strengths
  • Our pit setup was super clean with everything hidden away under table covers, and our posters and aquila
  • We had people stationed at the pits at all times to receive any judges who had questions
  • Some people were drawn to our pits because of our hats!
  • People also came to our pits when we displayed match results on our monitor
Weaknesses
  • We didn't have a good scouting strategy and the scouting team was also lacking sleep
  • Not everyone got an opportunity to speak during pit interviews
  • As far as we understand, we did not get any pit interviews from design focused judges (we need to sell this more during judging)
  • Though displaying match results attracted people, it also created traffic in our pit area
Opportunities
  • Have a working rotation of people at the pits, scouters, people watching matches, etc.
  • Have a more active scouting team
  • Redesign some of the older cross banners
  • Still display match results but find a way to minimize the mess created by this
Threats
  • Not having scouting
  • Not making conversation with other teams/forming connections
  • Poor pit organization
  • Team members being off task in the pits

Robot Performance

Strengths
  • Physically, the robot worked alright
  • The foundation grabber worked
  • Parking also worked
Weaknesses
  • We did not do a good job demonstrating the components that did work
  • We had to slap Snapdragon down multiple times on a stone before it would snap closed over the stone
  • The polycarb base plate is heavily cracked and needs replacement
  • While a lot of our autonmous functions worked in theory, they were untested, and so naturally they did not work
  • In one of our matches we lost functionality of the arm because a wire came loose
  • Capstone was never deployed
  • The mounts for distance sensor was bent
  • Drivers were unfamiliar with autonomous set-up
Opportunities
  • Design a new 3D printed part for the gripper that triggers the snapping motion more effectively than the bent metal strip we have now
  • Cut and bend a new polycarb base plate
  • Better wire management
  • Adding LEDs - make TomBot look more snazzy
  • Add more sensor-assisted capabilities, such as stone retrieval
Threats
  • Having to overcome the bad impression we gave at Regionals for the World Championship
  • All the teams who have a super fast wheel intake

While there is a fair amount of time before the World Championship in Houston, we don't want to get too comfortable. We will be using the list above as a broad guide as to we should accomplish for the championship. We will be increasing the amount of afterschool meetings we have to develop autonomous and practice driving TomBot. The UIL tournament will serve as a good place to practice in a very realistic setting. Additionally, we are excited to be creating TomBot V2 for the World Championship, and seeing if we can create as iconic a reveal video as the previous year's.

CNC a New Polycarb Robot Base

24 Feb 2020

CNC a New Polycarb Robot Base By Justin

Task: CNC a new robot base

We finished manufacturing our new base today, with very little difficulty, but a few flaws. The CAM was already designed so all we had to do was run the operations on the CNC. We drilled out the various sized holes, cut out the inner wheel slots and cable holes. Next was the groove along the edge to fold the side flaps along, which was a leap of faith because the orientation and position of polycarb on the CNC had shifted, which meant we didn't know exactly where we had it originally. We got it as close as we could remember and then ran the funky groove operation, which turned out to have pretty close to perfect alignment. Finally, we cut out the outline of the base, with flaps to fold down to increase the strength of the polycarb and to reduce flex. After looking at our finished project we noticed that the center slip ring hole was not cut. The hole is for general cable management and for the slip ring wires to reach the REV hub under the robot. We checked the CAM and found that it had been left out of the inner contours, so we made an operation for it, and cut it out separately. The build plate was finished on the CNC side of its production.

Next we used attempted a new way to fold down the side flaps to make the structural ring of the base: some tasty oven baked aluminum. The plan was to heat the aluminum above the working temperature of polycarb, then place the edge of the hot aluminum in the groove and use the edge to make a straight 90 degree bend. We found that aluminum and polycarb just don't transfer heat very well, and ended up with a hot piece of aluminum and cold polycarb. Our less preferred alternative solution was the classic torch bend, which was prone to bubbling if rushed. We took our time and were very careful about how much heat we applied, so we only ended up with a few bubbles. Regardless, this was a major improvement over our previous build plate.

Next Steps

We are now ready to start mounting our subsystems onto the new base. We should first start with the drivetrain and the turntable. We also should document any errors we encounter with the new build plate, so we can fix them in CAM and make another more polished attempt. Our next CNC parts include boring out gears to fit on our big wheels, and cutting out more banana shaped mounts for the turntable.

TomBot v2- Gripper Triggers

25 Feb 2020

TomBot v2- Gripper Triggers By Jose

Task: CAD, 3D print and test new, better, and more aesthetically pleasing gripper triggers

Since our gripper follows a design similar to a slap-band it needs a trigger to close it, for too long we have used a bent REV beam with screws on the end to hit the nubs of a stone. This proved to be very inconsistent as proven by driver practice before and at regionals since the screws were too small of a plane to hit the stone, forcing the driver to be precise to hit close the gripper. To help with this some better triggers were CADed by using the CAD of a stone as reference. since there is a servo on the top of the gripper the triggers have to work around that so a loft was made between the bottom circles and the attachment point on the gripper. Some filets were used to clean up some edges and this was sent to the 3D printer. At first the triggers were too short so they were extended by 2cm later on.

Next Steps:

With the print done we can test these triggers on the actual robots to test its viability on TomBot v2.

Code Changes The Week Before Regionals

28 Feb 2020

Code Changes The Week Before Regionals By Mahesh and Cooper

Task: Assess Code Changes During The Week Before Regionals

Numerous code changes were made during the week before regionals, the most signicant of which were attempted two days before regionals, a costly mistake during competition. Firstly, three different paths were layed out for respective position of the skystone (South, middle, and North), which involved rotating to face the block, driving to the block, extending enough distance to capture the block, and driving towards the foundation afterwards.

Next, we proceeded to add small features to our codebase, the first of which was integral windup prevention. We saw that when tuning gains for our turret PID, we experienced a build up of steady state error which was counteracted by increasing our integral gain, but resulted in adverse side effects. We used the following code to declare a range which we refer to as the integralCutIn range, and when the error of the system drops below that threshold, the integral term kicks in.

This code was put in to account for a phenomenon known as integral wind up; when the theoretical correction given by the system surpasses the maximum correction that the system can deliver. An accumulation of error results in more correction that can possibly be given in the real model, so to prevent this, the integral term is active only within a small range of error, so that the robot can deliver a reasonable amount of correction and avoid overshoot.

We continued to tune and tweak our autonomous routine Tuesday, making minor changes and deleting unecessary code. We also encountered errors with the turret which were fixed Wednesday, although the biggest changes to our algorithms occured in our skystone detection vision pipeline on Thursday.

On Thursday, code was added in order to select the largest area contour detected by our vision pipeline, and avoid percieving any disturbances or noise in the image as a potential skystone. We achieved this by first iterating through the found contours, calculating area using Imgproc.contourArea(MatOfPoint contour), keeping track of the maximum area contour, and using moments to calculate the x and y coordinates of the blob detected. The screen was then divided into three areas, each of which corresponding to the three skystone positions, and the final position of the skystone was determined using the x coordinate of the blob. A snippet of the code can be seen here:

On the final stretch, we added localization using Acme Robotic's roadrunner motion profiling library, which will be expanded on in the future. We also tuned and tweaked PID gains and ticks per meter. Finally, we added code to read distance sensors, which will be used in the future to detect distance to the foundation and follow walls. In addition we integrated the vision pipeline with the existing addMineralState(MineralState mineralState) method to be used during the start of autonomous.

Next Steps:

In the future, we plan to use the features we added during this weekend to expand on our robot's autonomous routine and semi-autonomous articulations. These include incorporating odometry and localization to reduce the error experienced during autonomous, and even drive to specific points on the field during teleop to improve cycle times. In addition we can now use distance sensors to follow walls, further improving our accuracy, as well as determine the distance to the foundation, allowing for autonomic placement of skystones using the extendToTowerHeight articulation.

Narrowing Down the Configuration of the New Vehicle

11 Apr 2020

Narrowing Down the Configuration of the New Vehicle By Bhanaviya

Introducing MXP 2: Electric Boogaloo

As we have explained in earlier posts, Iron Reign is currently involved in the process of creating a new version of the Mobile Tech xPerience vehicle, a mobile STEM classroom which we, along with our programmatic sponsor Big Thought, take to various outreach events around the greater Dallas area. Given the success of the MXP through its lifespan, we are currently moving into the stage of creating a new vehicle, for which our team will be creating a virtual design plan as well as a financial plan.

We'd like to make it clear that this 2020-2021 season, our team is not claiming any credit for the construction or events associated with the original vehicle but instead for the creation of the blueprint of the second vehicle. Now that schools all over the country are restricted to virtual learning, the best way our team can bring STEM to students across our community who lack the access to it is to move ahead with the virtual design for the new vehicle in hopes of bringing STEM in mobile fashion to them when the current COVID-19 pandemic has cleared. As such, we created a virtual model as created above of te exterior of the new vehicle. Using this student-designed plan for the new MXP, the board of directors in Big Thought were able to get a sense of our ideas for the new vehicle. Using this design, Big Thought has moved into the next stage of design, which is allowing their graphic design team to use our 3D-modelled version of the MXP to create a sketch for the design on the exterior of the vehicle . For a better sense of what this design can look like, you can refer to the image below of the design scheme for the pilot stage of the MXP.

Next Steps

Although our scope of action is limited under quarantine, access to STEM education and the technology associated with it has allowed us to move forward in designing the MXP. As such, our main focus will be narrowing down the quality of our current virtual design, and possibly move into designing the virtual floorplan. Similar to how many teams in the FIRST community have taken action to bring their knowledge of STEM to improve the quality of life in their community, our collaboration with companies like Big Thought to find a way to bring STEM to more students is our response against the current pandemic, and we hope to re-double these efforts over these next few weeks. From us here at Iron Reign Virtual HQ, we hope that everyone in the FIRST community stays safe!

Meeting Log

11 Jul 2020

Meeting Log July 11, 2020 By Bhanaviya, Jose, Anisha, Paul, Shawn, Trey, Justin, Aaron, Ben, Mahesh, and Cooper

Talking Heads: Summary July 11, 2020

Task: Prepare for the 2020-2021 Game Reveal season

Today kicked off our first meeting for the new Ultimate Goal season. Since the actual challenge for this year hasn't been released, the most we can do is to speculate what the new challenge might pose, and what we can do to prepare for it.

Recruitment

As most of our members have moved on to our Junior year, our team is now primarily upperclassmen-led. This means that within 2 years, we will need to recruit enough members to keep the team sustainable after our graduation. Unfortunately, due to the current pandemic, we will need to ensure that the Iron Reign program has the funding needed to maintain 3 teams in addition to ours. At the moment, our focus has been on keeping our own team viable over the virtual season, and this may mean that we will have to cut back on our recruitment and pick it back up closer to our senior year on the team.

Outreach

In an earlier post, we went over the plans for a new mobile learning lab. To clarify, the Mobile Tech xPansion program is owned by Big Thought, a non profit organization dedicated to education, but its outreach events are executed by Team 6832 Iron Reign. During these events, our team travels to low-income areas around the Dallas community with little access to STEM education, and teaches younger students about robotics and CAD to improve their interests in STEM which can sometimes be hard to discover without the access to a strong STEM-based education. Recently, Big Thought approved the plans for funding and expanding this program and our coach was able to purchase a new vehicle for the second, improved version of this Mobile Learning Lab. However, due to the ongoing pandemic, the plans for this vehicle have been put on temporary hold since most of our outreach events happen over the summer. As the count for COVID-19 cases in Dallas has been relatively high, there is no safe way for our team to interact with younger students and teach them hands-on robotics. As such, we will be placing our MXP outreach program on hold until the pandemic has improved (which will be, hopefully, soon).

3D-Modelling and CAD Design

Jose has been working on modelling various robot designs in anticipation of the upcoming season. The first is a kiwi drive, with a triangular chassis with 4 omni-directional wheels on each side of the chassis which enables movement in any direction using only three motors. The render of the robot itself is built using custom and goBilda motors. Another design was for an Inspirenc CAD Challenge, which resembled our Superman design from two seasons ago, but with a more rectangular chassis. All of these designs created over the summer will be within their own separate entry - this is merely a summary of our summer progress. Since we don't yet know what the challenge this year will look like, nor how much we would be able to meet in-person in light of COVID19, we plan on starting our build efforts with CAD designs to streamline the engineering process with an online reference in hand.

Next Steps

One of the hardest things about this year's season will be trying to cover all our usual grounds virtually since the number of team members who can show up to in-person practices has been severly limited. In the meanwhile, we plan on using our Discord group to map out the skeleton of our new season - journal and CAD will, for the most part, progress business as usual but we'll need to rely on CAD and our planning calls much more heavily to go through with build, code, and outreach. We plan to keep up our pace as a World-class team as best as we can over quarantine, as uncertain as our plans for this season may seem.

Connecting with Motus Labs

08 Sep 2020

Connecting with Motus Labs September 08, 2020 By Bhanaviya

Reaching out to Motus Labs September 08, 2020

Task: Reach out to potential sponsors in light of the 2020-2021 season

Earlier in the summer, we learnt of an engineering group whose focus lies in innovative robotic gear drive designing and manufacturing. Prior to the start of this year's game season, we had sent Motus Labs an email in an effort to present our robotics program, team and robot to them and better understand how a professional robotics company operates (especially during the current pandemic). This week, we recieved a response back!

In the email response, a representative from Motus Labs conveyed their interest to meet with us and discuss opportunities for sponsorship and to try out their new gear like the M-drives. As the younger generation for robotics, we are interested to meet with professionals in the field - particularly since they are a Dallas-based group like our team is. We have currently planned to schedule a time with them in January of 2021 to discuss any potential opportunities for mentoring.

Next Steps

We are incredibly thankful to Motus Labs for giving us the opportunity to discuss FIRST and our robotics team with them. As an up and upcoming robotics company in the Dallas region, we believe this meeting can help us further expand our robotics program from robotics groups to corporations as well. We look forward to meeting with them in these upcoming months, whether that may be virtually or in-person.

FTC 2020-2021 Game Reveal

12 Sep 2020

FTC 2020-2021 Game Reveal By Ben B, Jose, Anisha, Shawn, Bhanaviya, Justin, Mahesh, and Trey

Task: Watch the FTC Challenge Reveal event live

Game Reveal:

Today was a significant day; the FTC 2020-2021 challenge was unveiled. However, this year was very different from previous years, where we would attend a local kickoff event. Due to global circumstances, only a couple of members met in person while the rest of the team had to meet online. We joined a video call and watched the live event as a group.

One of the major issues we foresee is ensuring accuracy in the launching mechanism. The clearance for the highest goal is significantly smaller than that of the lower 2 goals. We will prioritize launching the rings into the highest goal since it awards 2 more points than the lower goal. Because of the small clearance, if the driver or robot made an error and the ring fell into the goal below it, the other team will be rewarded those 4 points. Accuracy will also be necessary for knocking down the power-shot targets during the endgame since each target will award 15 points. Missing one of these targets would be a waste of precious time during the game's final moments.

We also discussed how we would aim the launcher. One method would rely on a targeting system that would automatically horizontally and vertically align the angle of the launcher based on the robot's position relative to the goal. This would be done through code and would be controlled through a preset. A second method would be based around the GPS location of the robot. When a button is pressed, the robot would go to the shooting line directly across from the goal. By doing this, the launcher's angle could be predefined and the only action that would have to be done is launching the rings. The GPS position where the robot would have to travel would be calculated at the start of the game based upon the robot's starting location. The driver would have to go the approximate position and a preset would take care of the rest. The launcher could either be attached to an arm to angle the robot, or we could utilize our “superman wheel” which has been developing over the past 2 seasons.

This season also comes with some unique challenges, one of which is the playing field's size. With our current setup, we can only fit the field and cannot accommodate the goal and human players. Luckily for us, remote events will only take place using half a field.

Next Steps:

Our next steps will be to conduct experiments with the rings to determine how we could construct a launcher. While we don’t currently have the foam rings, we can 3D print a prototype. We will also have further to discuss strategy and model different types of launchers.

Robot in 2 Days - But in CAD

14 Sep 2020

Robot in 2 Days - But in CAD By Jose

Task: CAD a robot for the Ultimate Goal Challenge quickly in order to get ideas for a final robot design and prototypes

A new season, a new design challenge, and more opportunities to compete. Last season we participated in the Robot in 3 Days Challenge where teams race to build a robot for the new season as quickly as possible in order to accelerate the brainstorming and prototyping phase of the season. Due to certain circumstances this couldn't happen this season but overcoming the situation the idea of transferring the challenge to CAD arose.

Day 1

The first step of course is to come up with a design for this robot. Many ideas came and went, many ideas were inspired by previous seasons' robots, but ultimately the main design was decided over a few hours and a basic CAD model was made. A time lapse of this can be seen here:

Since I was really lazy today, I mean since coming up with the design of the robot took a while and I was very busy today not much could be done in the first day. I began working on the claw to grab the wobble goal and taking inspiration from the one used in the xRC Sim version of the game(the sim can be found here: https://xrcsimulator.org/downloads/) I decided on a simple arm mechanism with a hook. The hook is designed to be passive, it's wide enough to go around the pvc pipe of the wobble goal, but small enough such that the top of the wobble goal can't escape as easily. Since the wobble goal isn't as heavy the arm doesn't need such a high gear ratio, so I went for a 30:1 final gear ratio.

Day 2

Day 2! Time to do everything I was too lazy to do yesterday, I mean too busy to finish. The first step today was to check how much length I had left over for the ring intake, this turned out to be a little over an inch, not much, but enough. Since I am going for a conveyor design for this robot a base is needed below it to not only support the conveyor, but to also make sure the rings don't fall since they will be travelling below the conveyor in order to feed into the shooter. Some supports were added with REV extrusions, which made things start to come together.

Up next was to actually have a way to power the wobble goal grabber. However, this was really simple as I just needed to add an ultraplanetary motor and a belt.

Next on the list for today was to actually make the conveyor belt, this will have "spikes" in order to grab the rings. The conveyor is about 6 inches long to allow for some extra room when intaking. Spikes are in pairs and spaced about 3 inches apart. This was a simple assembly and I was able to move on to adding the pulleys and bearing shortly after. As far as a gear ratio goes, a direct drive 19.2:1 should do.

It's the final countdown..[plays the final countdown music], time for the final sub-assembly, the shooter. This was very simple to make. Holes in the polycarbonate base were made to allow for the shooter wheels(I used the new goBilda Gecko Wheel) and these were also direct driven with a 5.2:1 goBilda motor. This may be too slow but since this is CAD, it isn't very easy to test this. The process of getting renders of this robot proved to be resource demanding but it got done and here is the final product:

The First Launcher

10 Oct 2020

The First Launcher By Trey and Paul

Task: Create and Test a Arm Disk Launcher

One of the centerpieces of any robot this year is going to be the disk launcher. It’s likely that most robots in the competition are going to be built around their launchers, so one could logically conclude that that’s a good place to start when building a robot. This is no different for us; however, we didn’t just want to build a flywheel like most other people. Instead, we started to look into other designs. One of the designs that came into mind first was some sort of arm that is powered by an elastic or bungee cord that throws disks sort of like a clay pigeon thrower.

But why did we start with an arm design? Wouldn’t a flywheel be easier? We started with an arm because we thought it was interesting and customizable. Yes, a flywheel would be easier but that would be at the cost of customizability. With a flywheel, there is only so much to change. You can change pretty much only the motor, the wheel, or the speed of the motor. This is good for a team that just needs a launcher that works but we want to be able to make a customizable launcher that we can tailor to our needs easily. There is a lot of open space and customizability with an arm launcher. For example, we can change the arm material, length of the arm, strength of the bungee, the time the disk is in contact with the arm, and much more.

So that’s what we built and it works to a degree. Yes, it does launch a ring, in fact, it can launch a ring across the field to a height of 55 inches at an angle of 44 degrees with an easily retractable arm; however, in its current state it breaks easily, isn’t consistent, and is quite big. The first two are fairly easily fixable because they are mostly because the base of the launcher is made out of particle board which falls apart easily but the last one isn’t quite as easy to fix. Cramming this design into a smaller space could provide a difficult challenge. The function of the design is to accelerate a ring over a distance with an arm which can be difficult in a small area because with a smaller arm you have to use a stronger bungee to achieve the same results.

Next Steps:

I have only touched on a few major things to be improved. There are quite a few; however, the results that we observed from this design definitely warrant a second version, and there will be one. At the very least, I am thinking of new designs and improvements for this system. There are also many other things we can try and I know that regardless of what I have said about a flywheel launcher so far, it would have its advantages, mainly compactness, so I know we will definitely build one of those as well. There is still much more to be made and built for this robot.

Code Planning For The New Season

17 Oct 2020

Code Planning For The New Season By Mahesh

Task: Plan changes to our codebase for the new season.

This year's game saw a significant boost to the importance of the control award, now being put above even the motivate and design awards in order of advancement. Therefore, it is crucial to analyze what changes we plan on bringing to our codebase and new technologies we plan on using in hopes of benefitting from the award's higher importance this year.

Firstly, the very beginning of the autonomous period requires the robot to navigate to one of three target zones, specified by the quantity of rings placed, being either 0, 1, or 4. Since the drivers will not be able to choose an opmode corresponding to each path, we will have to implement a vision pipeline to determine which of the three configurations the field is in. This can be done with OpenCV, using an adaptive threshold and blob detection to differentiate 1 ring from 4 rings through the height of the detected color blob.

Secondly, ultimate goal's disk throwing aspect opens up the opportunity for automatic shooting and aligning mechanisms and the software to go along with them. If a robot can use the vision target placed above the upper tower goal or otherwise localize itself, projectile motion models can be used to analyze the disk's trajectory and calculate the necessary angle and velocity of launch to score into the goal given a distance from it on the field. Such automation would save drivers the hassle of aligning and aiming for the baskets, allowing them to focus on more complex strategy and improve cycle time. Vuforia and OpenCV pipelines can be used to figure out the robot's location on the field, given the vision target's orientation and size in its field of view. If OpenCV is also used to allow for automatic intake of disks on the ground, then most gameplay could be automated, although this isn't as simple a task it may seem.

Asides from using the webcam, another localization technique we dabbled with this summer was using GPS. We were able to get +- 4 cm accuracy when using a specific type of GPS, allowing our test robot to trace out different paths of waypoints, including our team number, the DPRG logo, etc. If this level of accuracy proves to be viable in game, GPS could be considered an option for localization as opposed to the odometry sensors many teams employ currently. Another sensor worth noting is the PMW3901 Optical Flow Sensor, which acts similar to a computer mouse, in that its movement can be translated into a horizontal and vertical velocity, giving us more insight into the position of our robot. Regardless of how many different gadgets and sensors we may use, an important part of the code for this year's game will be automatic scoring, no matter how we choose to implement it.

As always, we hope to have this year's codebase more organized than the last, and efforts have been taken to refactor parts of our codebase to be more readable and easily workable. Additionally, although it is not necessary, we could use multithreading to separate, for example, hardware reads, OpenCV pipelines, etc. into their own separate threads, although our current state machine gives us an asynchronous structure which emulates multithreading fairly well, and implementing this would give us only a slight performance boost, particularly when running OpenCV pipelines.

Next Steps:

The most immediate changes to our codebase should be both working on refactoring as well as implementing bare bones for our teleop and autonomous routines. Next, we should work on a vision pipeline to classify the field's configuration at the start of the game, enabling the robot to navigate the wobble goal into the A, B, and C drop zones. Afterwards, the physics calculations and vision pipelines necessary to auto-shoot into the baskets can be made, starting with a mathematical model of the projectile.

Contact Us

E-Mail: ironreignrobotics@gmail.com Website: In the address bar