Articles by tag: motivate

Articles by tag: motivate

    Iron Reign earns FTC World Championship Motivate Award

    Iron Reign earns FTC World Championship Motivate Award

    Last week at the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Robotics World Championship in Houston, Team 6832, Iron Reign, from the School of Science and Engineering in Dallas ISD earned the Motivate award which ranks them at the top in the outreach category.


    Top Row: Justin Bonsell, Christian Saldana, Charlotte Leakey, Tycho Virani, Evan Daane, Austin Davis
    Bottom: Janavi Chadha, Kenna Tanaka, Abhijit Bhattaru, Karina Lara and Ethan Helfman
    coached by Karim Virani, Cathy Lux and Calvin Boykin

    Each of the 5,200 active robotics teams this year is expected and encouraged to share their passion for robotics and all things Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) with younger students who haven't had the same opportunities. One hundred and twenty eight of these teams from around the world earned spots at this championship, including teams from the USA, Canada, Mexico, South America, the Middle East, the Pacific Rim and China. Iron Reign received this recognition for their work in creating, operating and sustaining the Mobile Tech eXPerience, an RV that they converted to a mobile STEM lab in order to support the work of Big Thought and the Dallas City of Learning Initiative.

    On board the vehicle, students can learn to program one of sixteen sumo robots, design 3D objects and print them on one of the four 3D printers, learn to program in Scratch or create virtual worlds in Minecraft. The robotics team converted the vehicle and helped run the pilot program in summer 2016. This school year their goal has been to help Big Thought sustain the vehicle by continuing to support deployments, improve the curriculum and simply "make it loud." And now Big Thought is taking vehicle operations year-round. With this vehicle and accomplished instructors, Big Thought is bringing STEM exposure into under-served neighborhoods to help young students think of themselves as future engineers, scientists or technologists. This year alone the team has contributed 680 hours supporting 15 deployments of the vehicle to neighborhoods and large events. They've taught or spoken with over 3,400 students or parents at these events, and they've shared curriculum and the story of the vehicle nationwide by participating at the National Science Teachers Association STEM Expo.

    This video will tell you more about the MXP from the perspective of the team members:

    In the robot game the team finished 26 of 64 teams in their division, a good showing for a first-time Worlds team with a new young drive team. And Dr. Woodie Flowers, lead mentor of FIRST and Professor Emeritus at MIT signed and kissed our robot:

    The team is fully appreciative of all of the support they've received this year. Special mention goes to Big Thought, Jeff Marx and Joe Schelanko of the Dallas ISD STEM Department, the SEM PTSA, the School of Science and Engineering staff and our advisor Calvin Boykin, Principal Andrew Palacios, Executive Director Tiffany Huitt and the tireless parents of all team members.

    Please see the team website for more information. The team will be going to the UIL State Championship in Austin on May 18. Finally, here is our robot reveal:

    School of Science and Engineering Freshman Orientation

    School of Science and Engineering Freshman Orientation By Austin and Shaggy

    Task: Speak to 200 prospective recruits about Iron Reign

    Today, we attended the Science and Engineering Magnet's annual freshman orientation. All prospective students are required to attend.

    Since more than half of our team are going to graduating next year, we're already thinking about the 2019-2020 season. We want to start members early so we can ensure an effective transfer of knowledge between our rising juniors and new teammates. The best way to learn is through hands-on experience that this coming season could give them. This means that the recruiting season starts here and now.

    We drove it through the crowd and spoke to over 20 families about our work in FTC, the robot, competition, and more. There were many kids who were very interested in FTC. We answered much more specific questions with them, like what the time commitment is, why we chose specific parts, etc. It was great to see such enthusiasm for STEM at such a young age! At one point, they started giving us building suggestions like where to add support bars.

    Overall, the event was a big success. We made lots of meaningful connections with incoming students and have some prospective members. We look forward to attending next year and maybe welcoming some new teammates.

    You can watch a short video of the event here

    Turn Up! at Dallas Love Field

    Turn Up! at Dallas Love Field By Justin, Ethan, Charlotte, Kenna, Abhi, and Evan

    Task: Present at the Dallas Love Field for the DCOL Turn Up! Event

    Every year, the Frontiers of Flight Museum hosts Turn Up!, an event where kids can learn about science and math. Once again, we brought the MXP equipped with 3D printers, Lego sumobots, and our world class FTC robot, Kraken. We ran the sumobots on a table outside of the MXP and 3D printing inside. We also demoed Kraken and Argos, which were great attention grabbers to get kids interested in the MXP. The kids enjoyed programming the Lego sumobots and battling them against each other, as well as creating their very own customized 3D printed key chain. The 3D printers were very busy this year so we had to create extra space outside of the MXP for more laptops with the 3D printing software.

    We drove Kraken around the exhibition room and talked to many interested parents about the joy of robotics. While we talked to the parents, someone driving the robot would showcase the capabilities of Kraken by bringing kids glyphs and shaking hands with the relic arm. Kraken was great for showing families what FTC is about. We also had Argos for display but the steering was broken so we didn't drive it. Around 1100 people turned up to the event and we talked to most of them about what we do here at Iron Reign. Turn Up was a great opportunity to introduce kids to the world of STEM and robotics and we hope to have more opportunities like this in the future.

    2018-19 Connect and Outreach Strategy

    2018-19 Connect and Outreach Strategy By Ethan

    Task: Discuss Iron Reign's Awards Strategy for the Upcoming Season

    FTC is undergoing a series of changes next year that will most likely negatively impact Iron Reign's ability to advance to further levels. Given that there are about 5,400 teams in FTC for the 2017-2018 season and 256 teams advance to worlds, 4.7% of teams advanced to worlds this year. Next year however, the amount of teams will increase, but the amount of domestic teams advancing to worlds will stay the same. Effectively, the percentage of teams advancing to Worlds will decrease, so that some regions may lose advancement spots.

    The best plan to advance is still a dual focus on awards and game. So, we need to up our game. Talking about our RV, while still impressive, has lost its luster with Dallas-area judges. We're still using the RV, and doing our normal outreach, but we plan to aggressively pursue business and engineering contacts. We've already received around $5,000 from individual donors, and received a separate $2,500 grant from Mark Cuban. In addition, members of our team are working at companies such as Verizon, ESi, Abbott, Parkland, and more; all the while gaining contacts in those industries.

    We have our work cut out for us, this year will be additionally challenging, losing one of our coders and one builder. We're training people in the skillsets that we're losing out over the summer, and we're also seeking FRC teams to mentor (we want to flip the traditional dichotomy of FRC teams training FTC teams on its head). We really want to get to Worlds this year - its the last year that any of the original members are on the team, and we want to go out with a bang.

    Next Steps

    • Seek further business and engineering connections
    • Extend assistance for FIRST outreach
    • Continue team training
    • Continue RV outreach
    • Seek continued grants from TWC and other TX sponsors

    2018-2019 Recruitment

    2018-2019 Recruitment By Ethan

    Task: Recruit members for the upcoming robotics season

    At the end of last season, we had two members graduate, Austin and Tycho. Their upcoming "goodbye" posts will be posted here, the same as last year. So, we wanted to recruit at least one member to replace them. Recruitment methods that we had used in the past, such as posters and Townview recruitment seminars, had failed to gain any meaningful recruitment. So, we fell back on our secondary, having individual team members submit possible recruits, as well as recruiting from our JV team. This year, we already have Justin. Last year, we had Kenna and Abhi as a submitted recruit. The year before, we had Janavi and Austin.

    These prospective recruits are required to fill out a Google Form on our website, titled signup. We had this post stickied for the better part of last year. Of all the people who were asked to fill out this form, we had three people respond, with a fourth potential recruit being the younger sibling of our leaving members. Our current step is vetting the current recruits - we have two interested in coding, one in building, and one no-show. We're giving the recruits tasks to weed them out, the ones that are less experienced will be shunted back into our JV team.

    Next Steps

    We will recruit 1-3 members out of these recruits and teach them the other aspects that they don't have experience in: writing, code, tools, etc.

    Central Public Library Outreach Event

    Central Public Library Outreach Event By Ethan, Kenna, Charlotte, and Evan

    Task: Present at the J. Erik Jonsson Public Library

    This Saturday, we drove down to the J. Erik Jonsson library to present at the Dallas City of Learning Discovery Fair. We brought our sumo-bot equipment to the library, as well as a few of our new and old bots, such as cartbot (a mobile air cannon), bigwheel (a new testing robot), and Kraken (our Worlds robot).

    We presented for about 4 hours, talking to about 190 kids. We had multiple parents interested in starting FLL teams, and many other children entertained by our new mobile cannon.

    Moon Day 2018

    Moon Day 2018 By Karina, Ethan, Janavi, and Charlotte

    Task: Reach out to the community and spread the magic of robotics

    Iron Reign had a great time today at the Frontiers of Flight Museum for the 2018 Moon Day. We demoed three of our robots today: Argos, Kraken, and Big Boi. Kids were very interested in watching our robots drive. Big Boi was a fan-favorite because of its speed and the attached can launcher. Kids were also given the opportunity to drive Argos around. We were also able to interest kids in FTC when we explained Kraken, our robot from the previous season and demonstrated how it could pick up glyphs. In total, we spoke to approximately 200 individuals.

    Besides driving our finished robots, we made progress on Garchomp, another robot with mecanum drive serving as a replica for Kraken. We explained our design to people and why we like the mecanum drive so much. Many parents were interested in getting their children involved in a robotics team because they could see the build process at its middle stages in Garchomp and as well as the finished product in Kraken.

    Next Steps

    Here at Iron Reign, we value the community's interest in robotics. We will continue to make ourselves and our robots accessible to the community at future outreach event, and we will also encourage kids to get involved in STEM.

    SEM Nest Outreach

    SEM Nest Outreach By Arjun

    Task: Present about STEM to new freshmen at SEM

    Today Iron Reign presented at the New Student Orientation (NEST) camp at our school, SEM. All incoming freshman were there. We had two sessions, one with 3D modeling, and another with sumo-bots. We also drove around two of our robots from last year, Kraken and Argos. We gave the freshmen chances to drive around these robots. Most of the students were very interested in our presentation, and a few even signed up to join Iron Reign because of it. We spoke with around 160 students.

    Next Steps

    Here at Iron Reign, we value the community's interest in robotics, especially the students at our school. We will continue to make ourselves and our robots accessible to the community at future outreach events, and we will also encourage kids to get involved in STEM. We hope to recruit many of the students who were interested in robotics from our meeting.

    Best Buy Grant

    Best Buy Grant By Ethan

    Task: Receive a grant from Best Buy for continued MXP operation

    Last year, we received a $10,000 award to continue our RV operations, cover staffing costs, and pay for additional technology\repairs. This year, we received another grant of $10,000 for the same reason. This is another stepping stone in keeping Iron Reign and BigThought's MXP program sustainable for another year. In addition, any donation amount encourages more donations in a kind-of snowball effect.

    Next Steps

    We will continue to seek out grants for not only the MXP, but also so that our team can remain sustainable for years to come.

    Dallas Back to School Fair

    Dallas Back to School Fair By Ethan and Kenna

    Task: Present at the Dallas Back to School Fair at O.W. Holmes

    Today we brought the MXP over to O.W. Holmes Academy in South Oak Cliff for our usual presentation. We spoke to about 130 children, doing our usual sumobots and 3D printing sessions.

    Next Steps

    We have a few more outreach events before our season goes into full swing, so we need to get in touch with as many people as possible.

    Hey New Members!

    Hey New Members! By Kenna

    Hopefully, you're here because you heard our announcement or saw our flyers. Even if not, welcome! We are team 6832 Iron Reign Robotics. We've been a FIRST team since 2010 and currently compete in FIRST Tech Challenge. Some have been on the team for a few months, others over half their lives. We design, build, and code robots, but we also spend a lot of our time on the MXP. We won the Motivate Award at the World Championships for the creation and sustainment of the MXP. On our team you will learn practical skills, like how to solder programming wires, and soft skills, like how to present to a panel of judges.

    If you are interested, please fill out our form for potential members. We are also having an interest meeting at Townview Magnet Center on August 30th in room 363. Feel free to explore our blog or learn more about us.

    2018-19 Recruitment

    2018-19 Recruitment By Ethan, Kenna, Charlotte, Janavi, Abhi, and Arjun

    Task: Recruit new members for the 2018-19 season

    Last year, Iron Reign lost two members, so we're only looking for 2-3 members to replace them and their particular skillsets. However, our sister team, Imperial Robotics (3734) lost nine members. So, we decided to host a recruitment session at our school to find interested freshmen.

    We put up posters around the school, and got a healthy crowd - 30 people. We talked about Iron Reign's history, needed levels of commitment for various teams, and what the average person will do on the team. We also answered questions about the team from the crowd. Of those people who attended, 17 signed up for a testing session next week, including two former members of Iron Reign, Alisa and Trace.

    Next Steps

    We will hold training sessions to assess each potential members skills, then divy them up with Imperial Robotics.

    Bigwheel Presentation

    Bigwheel Presentation By Arjun and Karina

    Task: Present about Garchomp

    As a new freshman on Iron Reign, I took on the responsibility of a robot we called Bigwheel. Karina and I worked on getting the robot into something that could be put through load tests, meaning tightening the chain, fixing misaligned sprockets, and getting the wiring together. We participated in the Chassis Presentation workshop hosted by technicbots for teams all around the North Texas region to work on one or more chassis, perform various tests with them and then present their findings. We presented our chassis Bigwheel, which is driven by 2 large 8-inch wheels, with a pair of 2 free-spinning Omni wheels in the back. This can be seen in the presentation below:

    To create our chassis we used 2 8-inch wheels, each driven by 2 Neverrest 60 motors. There are also two free-spinning omni wheels in the back. The robot uses REV rails and plexiglass for it's main body.

    Our first test is the 5-second distance test. Our robot had a lot of torque due to the Neverrest 60 motors, so it moved slower than other robots, but was unaffected by the additional 30lbs weight.

    Our second test is the 3-second turn test. Again, some other robots could turn better faster than us. However, due to having no proper mechanism for restraining our weights, along with other mysterious problems such as battery disconnections that only happened during this test, we were unable to try this test with load, however we presume that due to the torque, the results should be similar to those without load. Our center of rotation is also off due to only the front two wheels being powered. As such, the back of the robot makes a wide arc as it turns.

    Our next few test results are unremarkable.

    Our robot had a lot of sideways drift, mostly due to bad build quality. If we intend to use it during the season, we will try to fix this.

    Overall, our chassis performed well under load, but could use a little speed boost. If we want to further develop it, we plan to use Neverrest 20s with more torque on our external gear ratio, so we can get more speed out of it.

    Garchomp Presentation

    Garchomp Presentation By Janavi and Kenna

    Task: Present in the Inviational Presentation Series

    Today, we participated in the Chassis Presentation workshop for teams all around the North Texas region; the project was to design robots and perform various tests with them, then present findings. We presented our chassis, Garchomp, a mechanum wheel chassis as can be seen in the slide photos below.

    Presentation

    To create our chassis we used 4 never rest 40 motors one for each wheel and the structure of the chassis was created by using tetrix rails. We connected the wheels to the motors by using a 1:1 gear ratio. While there are many benefits to using a gear ratio for your wheels be forewarned that if your wheels are not perfectly aligned attaching your chains to mechanum wheels will become a living nightmare as can be seen in our previous posts.

    One of the reasons that attaching the chains was so difficult for us was because we discovered that because we had used wooden sides instead of the aluminum sides that Kraken used our wheels became misaligned to the two different types of wood used for the sides.

    While our robot is not able to do a 360 degree turn as fast as some other robots presented today it is able to hold a considerable amount of speed while moving at a constant speed.

    Since this chassis was designed for last years competition it is able to consistently drive onto the balancing stone

    North Texas Invitational Presentation Series - Worlds

    North Texas Invitational Presentation Series - Worlds By Ethan, Abhi, Janavi, Kenna, Charlotte, Evan, Karina, and Justin

    Task: Present about Worlds to new teams

    This was our last presentation in a series of presentations in conjunction with teams from around Texas for new and returning teams in the North Texas region. This particular presentation was about strategies in awards and the game, as well as general thoughts about FTC and Worlds.

    Presentation

    2018 Kickoff

    2018 Kickoff By Ethan, Evan, Kenna, Charlotte, Abhi, Justin, Karina, and Arjun

    Task: Attend the North Texas FTC Kickoff

    Today, we went to the Rover Ruckus kickoff! This year's main challenge is getting blocks (gold) and balls (silver) into the main lander. The other side challenges, in order of hardness, are hanging, parking, and placing the team marker. The main upside of all of this means that it is theoretically possible to perform every single function on the field with the same mechanism.

    The main non-robot game changes are the elimination of Supers, the standardization of awards, and Worlds spot changes. The one that particularly piqued our interest was the award standardization. Historically, there have been huge disparities between the awards in North Texas and the awards at Worlds. For example, in North Texas, we continually won the Connect Award for our outreach (while in the rubric, it was the award for connecting with engineers). But, at Worlds, we won the Motivate Award instead.

    Next Steps

    We will do a brainstorming session to figure out are design paths for the next few weeks. In addition, we need to complete sorting of the new members.

    Iron Reign Grants!

    Iron Reign Grants! By Ethan

    Task: Detail the grant awards that Iron Reign and its associated teams received ($11k)

    So, Iron Reign is currently training an influx of new members - so much that we've started two new teams: Iron Star Robotics and Iron Core. Of course, with this programmatic growth comes plenty of growing pains. A major part of that is finding funding for new teams. In that regard, Iron Reign applied for grants for itself as well as for its other 3 feeder teams. Namely, we applied for the TWC grant(s) and the FIRST in Texas Rookie Grant (sponsored by DEKA) for the new teams.

    Today we reaped our results: we received $525 in funding for Iron Reign and Imperial and $1,525 for Iron Star and Iron Core from the Texas Workforce Commission, as well as $1,000 for Iron Star and Iron Core from DEKA. In addition, we've currently received $4,000 from the DISD STEM Department and $2,500 from Mark Cuban, for a cumulative total of $11,400 raised this season.

    Next Steps

    Even though this is a hefty amount of money - one of the largest hauls made by Iron Reign - it still isn't satisfactory. We now have two more teams, increasing Iron Reign's expenses and stretching simple resources such as 8mm M3s thin. So, we will always be seeking more funding.

    Recruitment Update

    Recruitment Update By Ethan

    Task: Plan for 30+ influx of team members

    So, as we've stated in prior posts, this year has been a successful year for recruitment. We have had 30 total signups, up from -5 last year. This wave of new recruits means that the Iron Reign family must grow. So, in addition to Iron Reign and Imperial Robotics, we are introducing TWO new teams to North Texas and the Iron Reign family.

    To accommodate this influx, we are changing the organizational structure of SEM Robotics a tad. 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/. Finally, we have the two new additions: Iron Star Robotics and Iron Core. Iron Star Robotics is a self-formed, co-op team of motivated freshmen; the other is a more lax training team.

    We'll 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.

    SEM STEM Spark Preparation

    SEM STEM Spark Preparation By Charlotte, Ethan, Janavi, Abhi, Karina, and Justin

    Task: Prepare for and set up SEM STEM Spark

    The National Honor Society at our home school, the Science and Engineering Magnet, has been working hard to prepare for the upcoming SEM STEM Spark event for middle school girls in North Dallas that they have been planning for since last May. A few of our very own members are members and leadership in NHS and have been working to include our robotics outreach as a featured activity as well as working with other activities we are passionate about, such as chemistry and environmental science.

    In the past few weeks, we have confirmed a spot for our outreach in the event and have been trying to recruit middle schools girls to attend the event. A few members even visited the middle schools they attended and spoke to their old science teachers to share information about the event and hand out fliers. Due to some complications, we weren't able to get registration for the event up until a week before, so recruitment has been a struggle and is very time sensitive. Our numbers are increasing quickly though, so we have hope that the event is going to be a success.

    The event is tomorrow, and today we spent a few hours setting up. On our day off, we went to our school and organized all of the materials we collected as donations along with those we bought with our own funds. We ran through each activity to ensure that they would fit in the allotted time frames. Everything seems to be running smoothly and we are ready for the event tomorrow. Fingers crossed! :)

    Next Steps

    We are very excited to run this event and have learned a lot from the work we have put into organizing it.

    SEM STEM Spark

    SEM STEM Spark By Ethan, Charlotte, Janavi, Abhi, Karina, Justin, Bhanaviya, and Alisa

    Task: Volunteer at SEM STEM Spark, a girls-in-STEM event

    For the past year, members of Iron Reign have been planning this event and getting approval. For those not-in-the-know, this event is a women-only STEM event with a guest panel and four different stations: environmental science, chemistry, engineering, and robotics. Iron Reign members had a hand in planning and assisting with 3/4 of these, as well as general logistics. However, most of this is detailed in prior posts - this post is for the actual event.

    Today, we talked to 140 girls in groups of 12-18, allowing us to be able to focus more intensely in our sessions and get more done. We taught them the 3D-printing program and sumobots. Finally, we had a member present as a panel member as a woman in STEM.

    Next Steps

    This event was a great success, and we plan to do more like these in the future. At the moment, we have a date set in March for a second event with entirely new activities.

    Travis High School Night

    Travis High School Night By Ethan, Evan, Kenna, Charlotte, and Karina

    Task: Present about Iron Reign to 120 prospective members

    Today, we went to the Travis H.S. Night to talk to prospective freshmen about our robotics team. The format of the night was this: four twenty-five minute periods, with twenty minutes about SEM and five minutes about robotics. To fit this time schedule, we condensed our usual recruitment presentation down to five minutes while also demoing our former Worlds robot, Kraken. We mainly talked about the main points of FTC: being well rounded, the emphasis on writing, business, and the like. Then, we answered questions from the audience for the rest of the time. Overall, we presented to about 120 parents and students.

    Next Steps

    We plan to hold more presentations and outreach events in the future. We've already stepped our recruitment game up, so events like these are crucial.

    MXP Expansion - $150,000 Grant

    MXP Expansion - $150,000 Grant By Ethan

    Task: Plan for major grant to fund replacement of MXP ($150k)

    First, for a brief backstory: Iron Reign built the MXP - or Mobile Learning Lab - two seasons ago so that we could do outreach to underserved areas within our community. To do this, we partnered with BigThought, who received grants for laptops and technology aboard the vehicle. We spent that entire summer renovating an old 90's RV so that it could become the Mobile Learning Lab. Then, last season, we presented at the National Science Teachers' Association in Kississimee, Florida, where we talked to educators in five other cities to start their own similar programs.

    Now, let's return to the present season. As of today, BigThought is receiving $150k in funding to create a second Mobile Learning Lab. This funding is all-inclusive: the RV and technology aboard. As far as we know, this is the single largest fundraising haul any FTC team has ever received. Now, let me be clear, this is not funding to team costs such as registration and parts, but rather a larger-scale programmatic fund to continue and increase Iron Reign's outreach frequency. Luckily for us, we've secured a lot of funding this season already through Mark Cuban, individual donors, and FIRST in Texas grants.

    Now, here comes the less-so-good news. Even though $150k is a monumental sum of money, it still falls short of the cost of a new MXP, by about $100k. However, the guarantee of over half of the necessary funding makes it much more likely that the additional funds will be secured to purchase the brand-new vehicle.

    Next Steps

    So the next steps are obviously to work with BigThought to find the additional $100k, but this is still huge - we may have broken a fundraising record. And besides that, this is what Iron Reign has always worked for: the platonic ideal of outreach. We have the ability to expand our program, make it more comprehensive, and make it sustainable on it's own merit.

    Full Circle

    Full Circle By Evan

    A reflection on my time at Iron Reign

    In 2012 I began competing in FTC. That year our team built a robot with a giant central arm on top of a six wheeled drivetrain that sported a ring bucket that the rings would slot into one or two at a time. The idea was that we would go bit by bit, slowly moving the rings onto the rack in the middle. This was a mediocre idea in theory, but an even worse one in practice. I think in that entire season, we only were able to score one ring, and it was when I was by myself on a practice field before a match. The whole season had led up until that moment. It was the year I learned how to wire things, how to solder wires, how to use a bandsaw, a table saw, a miter saw, and how to really think about the real world applications of what I was doing. When I scored that ring, I was so happy. I told the whole team because this is what we had been trying to do for three months without success. We never scored another ring that season, despite being in first or second place at our qualifier (which is really just a testament to how heavily you can be carried in FTC). Since then i’ve worked on, designed, and built numerous competition robots, making a smooth transition from FLL to FTC, and i’ve been there for basically every major moment in our team’s history, from the very first meeting at the Virani household to our trip to the World championship competition in Houston where we won the Motivate award. I felt the same walking up on that stage and accepting the motivate with my team as I did back in 2012 scoring that one ring. That feeling of success and pride in my work. That’s why I keep doing FTC.

    I say all of this because today I had to take apart the arm of the first robot I ever built, and I thought it was a little poetic how I was using the robot I helped build in the my first season of FTC as part of the robot in my last season of FTC. It was weird. I don’t know. It was one of those rare full circle moments that you only ever get a few of and half the time you don’t even recognize them when they’re happening and never really get to appreciate them. It really just made me think back on all my years of robotics.

    SEM Robotics Tournament

    SEM Robotics Tournament By Coach and Ethan

    Our deepest thanks to all 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 second annual FIRST Tech Challenge qualifying tournament at our Townview campus on December 15th. Thirty North Texas robotics teams will compete for awards and approximately 5 or 6 advancements to the Regional Championship to be held in February.

    Calling All Volunteers

    This is the second 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 15. There are also options to help with setup Friday afternoon December 14. 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.

    Our deepest thanks to all volunteers!

    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, videography and 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. If you have any issues or are finding the process burdensome, please use our contact form for assistance.

    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=39812

    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

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

    • 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 5pm, but events can run long. All volunteers are encouraged to stay until the end of the tournament, but it's not required if your role is completed earlier in the day.

    Mentoring SchimRobots at Rice MS Tournament

    Mentoring SchimRobots at Rice MS Tournament By Bhanaviya

    Task: Mentor a middle school team at the RMS Qualifier

    Earlier today, I attended the Rice Middle School Qualifier in order to mentor my middle school team, SchimRobots, as an alumnus. Last year, when I was a member of SchimRobots, we had qualified to regionals by attaining 3rd Place Inspire Award in a qualifier. Since the Inspire Award had a heavy focus on a team’s engineering notebook, I decided to help out by looking through their journal. The way 12900 operates is through units; there is a unit specifically dedicated to the engineering notebook, and the members in that unit are the ones who work on the notebook. However, as I’ve learned thus far, because different members are equipped with different skill sets, it is more effective for each member to record their personal experiences within the team, rather than for a smaller group to carry the entire load.

    SchimRobots Team Overview

    That was the first takeaway that I decided to pass on. The second was that all ideas, regardless of potential, must be recorded. The purpose of the journal is to document all ideas, despite their success rate. This documentation showcases how iterative a team’s thinking can be when attempting to solve a problem. Because an iterative process helps portray a team’s “journey” in overcoming a challenge, dedicating a portion of an entry to any idea a team considered implementing is an effective strategy in making one’s journal as thorough as possible.

    At the end of the day, we discussed the possibility of another meet-up, this one with more experienced members of Iron Reign to mentor the middle-school team, prior to their second qualifier.

    Next Steps

    The next step is to consider, with the rest of Iron Reign, the feasibility of organizing another mentoring session, taking into account where and how much help SchimRobots needs, and where and how much Iron Reign can offer.

    C.A.R.T. Bot Side Shields

    C.A.R.T. Bot Side Shields By Ethan

    Task: Design sideshields for the Townview Tournament

    Iron Reign takes pride in the Townview Tournament; we really enjoy making it a great experience for everyone. One small way we plan to improve the tournament is to turn our MXP into a robot repair shop for broken robots. In addition to this, we're turning CART Bot into an ambulance to carry broken bots that need repair. To do so, we're wiring a flashing light to the cart, as well as printing giant sideshields on either side. The shields are above.

    Townview Qualifier 2018 - Setting Up

    Townview Qualifier 2018 - Setting Up By Bhanaviya, Ben, Karina, Kenna, Ethan, Evan, Charlotte, Justin, Janavi, Austin, and Jayesh
    Task: Prepare Townview for SEM's qualifier on December 15th

    On December 15th, Iron Reign is hosting an FTC qualifier at Townview Magnet Center with around 30 teams competing. For the past 2 weeks, robotics alums, current members of Iron Reign, Iron Star, Iron Core and Imperial Robotics have been signing up to be volunteers for the very event. By Friday, the day before the qualifier, all our positions were confirmed for the tournament. In addition to getting assigned for the qualifier, we also helped with field set-up. Two fields were set up on each side of the cafeteria, to accommodate for the influx of teams competing. A field was set up behind the cafeteria to act as a practice field for queuing teams. Speaking of queuing teams, 8 tables were set up behind each field for teams to queue in. A monitor was brought in from Mr Boykin's room to display the teams' scores over the course of the match. We helped ensure that enough chairs were set up for the audience members, and that each team had a table of its own to operate their last-minute-panicked-robot-surgery on. In order to delineate the difference between teams competing on the two different fields, we put red and blue tapes on each table, after putting up a plaque card representing the competing teams' numbers.

    After ensuring that the actual competition area was set-up, we worked on setting up the judging rooms for judging presentations. We cleared out chairs in 5 rooms on the first floor, and set up two tables at the end of each room for the judges. Each room was marked with a piece of paper to represent the judging room number.

    Once we were finished setting up, we left to the Virani house, to set up the MXP. The purpose of the MXP being present at the qualifier was to provide the competing teams an area to work with Iron Reign on their robots, in the event they needed assistance. After ensuring that the vehicle was in driveable state, we worked on setting up laptops in the MXP. Then, we stocked it with tools that competing teams could use when needed. Next Steps Be prepared to carry out our respective roles as volunteers the next day, and lead competing teams through judging, queuing, and matches.

    Helping PiGuardians with Code

    Helping PiGuardians with Code By Arjun

    Task: Help teams at the Townview Tournament

    On Saturday, December 15, Iron Reign hosted 30 teams at the Townview Qualifier tournament. As a part of hosting the tournament, we wanted to ensure that all teams were able to compete at the best of their ability. As such, we made sure that we helped teams who needed our assistance.

    One such team was PiGuardians, team 14787. They had no code (except for the example teleop), and their programmer was unable to make the tournament due to a conflict. Without our help, they would not have been able to do anything more than be a pushbot. Iron Reign wanted to make sure that they were not excluded, so we assigned a programmer to help them out.

    We helped them write a teleop program so that they could participate in matches. We also helped them write an autonomous, using the replay program we designed over the summer to make developing an autonomous easier. With our help, they went from being a pushbot to having a full-blown autonomous.

    PiGuardians was extremely grateful for our help to them. They promised to reach out to us if they ever needed any help in the future.

    Townview Qualifier 2018 - The Day Of

    Townview Qualifier 2018 - The Day Of By Ethan, Janavi, Evan, Abhi, Charlotte, Karina, Kenna, Arjun, Jayesh, and Bhanaviya

    Task: Run the Townview Tournament

    On Saturday, December 15, Iron Reign hosted 30 teams at the Townview Magnet Center, our home school's campus. 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.

    First, for a tournament, you need a lot of volunteers of varied ages. Frankly, you need a good amount of younger kids for jobs such as queuing and judge assistance - this makes the tournament run much more smoothly. We had about 10 queuers throughout the day, and while this may seem excessive, we started out the day with a +10 minute surplus and kept every single match on schedule.

    There still needs to be adult volunteers. We had 2 judges per room with five rooms, as well as 6 referees. All of these must be adults. And, we had to recruit from a diverse set of groups to cover our bases - we recruited people from the Dallas Chamber of Commerce meeting, the Dallas Personal Robotics Group, prior FTC tournaments, alumni, teachers from our school, and even our own families. It's hard to get enough judges for a large tournament, so this process had to start early.

    The second item that we'd like to emphasize is the need to make everything accessible by teams. Being an FTC team ourselves, we wanted to make this tournament easier for others. So, we kept a spreadsheet with inspection results on a screen in the pits so that teams could be updated, made pit maps so teams could find one another, and built a practice field a decent distance away from the others for practice. In this, we hoped to take some stress off of teams.

    On the same topic of helping teams, we had volunteers assigned to help fix robots and to assist with code, as well as putting the Mobile Learning Lab in workshop mode for teams who needed it. Iron Reign has been stuck in bad situations countless times, and we wanted to return the favor to those who helped us.

    Finally, we'd like to thank all of our volunteers for being there. It was a hard, long day, but it was worth it, and we'd just like to extend our gratitude. We'd like to thank DISD STEM for providing food for volunteers and Townview Magnet Center for letting us host the qualifier here. Finally, we'd like to give a huge shout-out to our coach, Karim Virani, for doing the logistics of this tournament.

    Next Steps

    We're going to write up a few other posts about interacting with judges, supporting teams, and a postmortem on the tournament. We've got a lot to do over the break, and this was just the kickoff for it.

    Wylie East Qualifier 2019

    Wylie East Qualifier 2019 By Ethan, Charlotte, Janavi, Evan, Abhi, Arjun, Karina, and Justin

    Task: Compete at Wylie East

    Wylie East was Iron Reign's second qualifier of the year. Having qualified at the first one, we planned to use the tournament as an opportunity to practice the presentation and driver practice, as well as check up on other teams' progress. We didn't have a working robot going in - we had found that our latch was one-time-use only the night before, we had recently swapped intakes due to weight, and our autonomous was non-existent.

    Judging

    Unlike last tournament, we had actually done presentation practice, cleaned out the judging box, and revamped the presentation. We were missing a member, but we had already reassigned their slides well in advance so that people would practice them.

    And, our practice paid off. We had pretty seamless transitions, we had a good energy that the judges enjoyed, and our robot demo went really well. We got our content across, and even better, we finished way under 15 minutes so that the judges could ask us questions (even though they didn't have many to ask).

    Later, we had one group of judges come up to greet us. They mainly asked about our robot and its various functions and design choices. Our robot wasn't there, so we had to rely on old prototypes.

    Inspection

    Our robot passed field and robot inspection with flying colors and no reprimands, probably the first time that this has ever happened for Iron Reign.

    Robot Game

    Like above, we really didn't have a perfectly working robot. But, we performed much better than past tournaments due to improvements.

    Match 1

    For the first time in Iron Reign history, we tied, 211-211. Our autonomous sampled and we parked, and we were able to latch in the endgame, so it was a pretty good match all around.

    Match 2

    We lost the next match, 134-85. Our partner's robot shut down, so we couldn't keep up with the opponent. Our auto worked though, as well as latching.

    Match 3

    We lost this match, 102-237. This time, our autonomous didn't work, as our team marker fell off and knocked us off our path.

    Match 4

    We lost, 123-139. Again, our autonomous workde fine, everything else just failed.

    Match 5

    We lost, 122-154. Everything was going smoothly, but our alliance was blown out of the water during particle scoring.

    After Judging and Awards

    We weren't picked for an alliance, so we had to wait for awards. And, we ended with three awards: 1st Connect, 2nd Innovate, and 2nd Motivate. We were ineligible for Inspire due to our prior performance, but we don't believe we would have won it - the head judge stated that this was the closest tournament to regionals that we would get, so there was plenty of tough competition.

    After the awards ceremony, we came up to the fields to help clean and talk to referees. There, we were told something that we enjoyed; one of the refs told us that Iron Reign was one of the nicest and most graciously professional teams they had dealt with this season. We really liked to hear that, and it meant a lot. Also, we were told by another observer that we needed to make what our robot did more clear in the presentation, a point that we'll expand upon in the post-mortem.

    Next Steps

    See post-mortem.

    Tokens!

    Tokens! By Ethan

    Task: Design tokens to hand out at the North Texas Regional

    We recently taught ourselves how to use the laser-cutter. Now that we've gone mad with power, we've decided to make little handouts for other teams. We plan to cut these on wood, with vector cutting around the edges and raster engraving for the logo and text.

    Next Steps

    We're really excited to go to regionals and good luck to whichever team is reading this!

    Three SEM Robotics Teams have now advanced to the FTC North Texas Regional Championship!

    Three SEM Robotics Teams have now advanced to the FTC North Texas Regional Championship! By Ethan

    This Saturday our two all-freshmen rookie FTC Robotics teams took it up a notch at their last qualifier tournament of the season. Iron Core was 5th place of 30 in robot performance and made it into the playoff rounds, but were then eliminated by the highest scoring team in our region. Iron Star also made it into the playoffs and then advanced upon receiving 2nd place Inspire Award along with the Control Award.

    Iron Core: Mahesh Natamai, Ben Bruick, Jose Lomeli, Samuel Adler, Ephraim Sun (not present)

    Iron Star: Katelyn Cumplido, Harish Jai Ganesh, Benjamin Oommen, Shawn Halimman, Aaron Daane, Evan Branson, Paul Lea, Beau Aveton, Cooper Clem (not present)

    Iron Star joins our veteran teams Imperial Robotics who advanced on Jan 19th and Iron Reign who advanced in November and double-qualified on Jan 19th. Please congratulate our team members - we are the only school in the region with 3 advancing teams and it's unusual for a rookie team to advance. The Regional Championship will be held February 23rd at Wylie East High School. Five or six teams will advance from there to represent our region at the FTC World Championship in April.

    This coming Saturday, February 2nd, is the Dallas ISD STEM Expo. Our teams will be there representing SEM and teaching younger students how to program simple sumo robots and how to use 3D printers. Come see us at the Dallas City of Learning exhibit where our teams will also be demonstrating their advancing robots and staffing the Mobile STEM lab that Iron Reign built. Tickets are free but you need to register: here.

    STEM Expo Preparation

    STEM Expo Preparation By Bhanaviya and Benb

    Task: Plan for the DISD STEM Expo

    Tomorrow, Iron Reign along with members from the other 3 teams, is participating in the DISD STEM Expo for our third year. As we have done for the past 2 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 Learning Experience, 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.

    As part of the exhibit, we will have events similar to those hosted as part of STEM Spark! This includes the LEGO Mindstorm Sumo Robots Event as well as our 3D Printing Keychains activity.

    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.

    DISD STEM Expo

    DISD STEM Expo By Bhanaviya, Ethan, Charlotte, Janavi, Evan, Abhi, Arjun, Kenna, Justin, Karina, Ben B, and Jose

    Task: Present at the DISD STEM Expo

    DISD STEM Expo has been our busiest event this year. Overall, we met with over 1000 participants for both the 3D Printing event and the Sumo-Robots station. Despite the fact that this was a first-time event for many of the members helping out, STEM Expo ran smoothly. The purpose of this event is to spread STEM programs to students in the Dallas area who otherwise would have no access.

    We started out by setting up the MXP and the EV3 robots. After ensuring that the MXP was stocked up with laptops and 3D printers, we set up sumo mats, laptops and LEGO Mindstorm Robots in tables outside the vehicle. All the freshmen were given a quick crash-course on how to run the Sumo-Robots session, while the seniors ensured that all of the FTC robots were demo-ready.

    Since the participants were of varying ages, one of our biggest challenges was trying to convey the message of actually coding the robot across a variety of audiences. We learned earlier on that the best way to teach younger audiences how to code the robots was by letting them test out each block of code, so that they could get a sense of what they were trying to accomplish.

    We also had a few connect opportunities. Best Buy (Geek Squad) representatives boarded the RV to ask about our program. Our MXP is funded by Best Buy - we received a $10k grant from them earlier this season - and this was a great opportunity to talk to them again. We spoke about the history of the MXP program, what it currently does, and our plans to create a new MXP with the $150k in funding that BigThought received as well as our need for an additional $100k. Also present at the STEM Expo were several Microsoft employees. We've worked at Microsoft events before, most notably YouthSpark, and they've contributed to the MXP program, so we talked to them again over the same topics, trying to garner up support for the new MXP.

    Next Steps

    Our booth could not have operated as smooth as it did without BigThought, for helping us staff and maintain the MXP, and DISD for giving us the opportunity to introduce FIRST to such a large audience. As hectic as it was trying to teach block programming and 3D modeling to students with little to no technical experience, the event ran much more systematically than we could have expected. It was energizing to see children excitedly “battle” their robots, and to see them walk away, waving a 3D-printed keychain. We are incredibly thankful for having been able to interact with the next generation of engineers, and giving them a platform to see robotics as a comprehensible concept.

    Drive Testing at STEM Expo

    Drive Testing at STEM Expo By Ben and Abhi

    Task: Test robot performance at the STEM Expo to inspire younger kids and practice

    An FLL team gathered around Iron Reign’s robot

    We had the privilege of being a vendor and representing SEM at DISD's STEM Expo this weekend. Thousands of people cycled throughout our area during the day, so we had the opportunity to show off our robot to many people. Some of these people include FLL and VEX IQ teams, along with Best Buy volunteers. Our goal was to get kids excited about STEM and robotics, along with getting some robot practice in. We will be trying out the new latch, new presets, and prospective drivers.

    As soon as we started driving, we noticed a few issues. One of these being the belt drive repeatedly slipping. This may be a result of the belt loosening, the drive gear accelerating too quickly, heavy intake arm, or the preset causes the drive gear to keep operating, even when the arm is fully extended. We also struggled with keeping the intake box out of the way and prevent it from twisting around the “corn on the cob” intake. We will solve this by fastening the rubber band that was supposed to keep it in place. This; however, wasn’t our only intake problem. Once 2 minerals had been grabbed, they would usually fall out the intake box after lifting the arm. The intake box would turn vertical, making it easier for the minerals to shift out. This was especially an issue when trying to deposit the minerals, we would make several sudden movements, causing the arm to swing and minerals to fall out. A possible solution to this is adding a barrier between the floor of the intake box and the top of the box. This would allow for more freedom, as we could move faster without worry of losing minerals.

    Demonstrating intake arm for FLL kids

    Next Steps

    It will take a lot more practice to master latching and collecting, and even general driving. We will need to code better presets and either design a better collection box, or fix the existing one. Drivers will also have to be selected, which we will do by running several trials for each member and determining who is best at latching, scoring, and control.

    Woodrow Wilson Scrimmage

    Woodrow Wilson Scrimmage By Bhanaviya, Charlotte, Janavi, Kenna, Karina, Evan, Abhi, Jose, Ben B, and Arjun

    Task: Compete at the Woodrow Wilson Scrimmage with Woodrow teams

    This past Saturday, Iron Reign competed in the Woodrow Wilson Scrimmage. To ensure that the wiring did not become tangled when the robot moved around, we added an ABS cable-carrier to the arm of the robot.

    Overall, Iron Reign was able to establish a semi-stable deposit scoring game-plan in the match. Since we haven’t focused on practicing game play in a while, this scrimmage gave us an opportunity to pin-point build and code issues, as well as get a clearer idea of what our strategy for regionals needed to look like.

    Next Steps

    We are incredibly thankful for Woodrow Wilson and their teams for hosting us, as well running such an effective scrimmage. The opportunity to connect with other teams in our region has given a clearer idea of what we can learn from the teams around us to improve our overall team presence.

    Wylie Regionals 2019

    Wylie Regionals 2019 By Ethan, Charlotte, Evan, Kenna, Karina, Abhi, Arjun, Bhanaviya, Ben, Justin, Jose, and Janavi

    Task: Compete at the North Texas Regional Tournament

    Preparation

    Unlike other tournaments, we started packing before morning. We packed as if we were going out of state, bringing a bandsaw, all-new charging box, every replacement part imaginable, and a printer which would ultimately come in handy later. We relied on a packing list created by Janavi, detailed below.

    Because of this, we got to Wylie on time, turned in our notebooks, had the team rosters printed out, and were able to start right away.

    Inspection

    Breaking our all-season streak, we failed our first inspection, cited for our unruly cable management. So, we made a hasty retreat back to the pits and zip-tied the cables together and rethreaded our intake servo wires through the cable guards, then brought it back to inspection. We passed, but we were warned about possible size issues with the team marker. But, looking at RG02, we realized that it wasn't a major concern.

    Judging

    The main issue this time was not speed or knowledge but simple enthusiasm - it just felt off and a little uncharismatic. However, we received three separate pit visits for what we believer were Motivate, Connect, and Innovate. In particular, we were able to get the Motivate judges out to see the MXP and talk about expanding the program while keeping it sustainable. The Innovate judges focused on the Superman mechanism, as it's fairly unique, and we fielded questions about the design process. In Connect, we also talked about the MXP and its $150k grant largely because of our efforts.

    Robot Game

    Match 1(Q3)
    For the first time in the Rover Ruckus season, we won a game. Both us and Corem Deo had almost perfect auto and Corem Deo got plenty of mineral cycles into the lander. Unfortunately, BigWheel tipped over during end game so we couldn't latch. However it did not affect the match results significantly.

    Match 2(Q9)
    Unfortunately, we lost. Both our autos failed in some way and BigWheel ended autonomous with one wheel in the crater, wasting us 30 seconds during teleop just to get out. Also, most of our mineral cycles failed and we couldn't latch during end game and had to partially park in the crater.

    Match 3(Q15)
    To our surprise, we won. We were against Elmer and Elsie, who were seeded 1st before this match. We had a perfect auto this match while the other side had some issues with their's. During teleop we had some pretty successful mineral cycles and both robots hung onto the lander with the other side only having one hang and one robot partially parked.

    Match 4(Q26)
    We didn't expect to pull a third win but we did. Our auto also failed a little again but it didn't cost us any time during teleop like last time. We also had some very successful mineral cycles this time, but when attempting to hang BigWheel tipped when going into its preset position for hanging, even so, it didn't affect match results.

    Match 5(Q33)
    Once again we didn't expect a fourth win, but it happened. Before this match we wanted to test our autonomous with the Lamar Vikings to check if the robots would collide during autonomous, but due to mechanical issues on their side this was delayed and we had to queue without doing so. Indeed, our robots collided in the depot causing us to miss out on 75 points. During teleop one robot on the other side disconnected but on our side two of our servos disconnected, the mineral gate and the hook, so we couldn't score minerals or latch so we played some minor defense and partially parked in the crater.

    Match 6(Q36)
    Our luck ran out in this match as we lost. This was a very tight match against TechicBots, the first seed. Both sides ended autonomous 150-150. The mineral game was also tight, the lead switched between both sides many times as minerals were scored but the other side took the lead once BigWheel tipped over. We couldn't hang once again and both our opponents kept scoring, leading to our loss.

    For the first time this season, we were selected for Semis as the first pick of the third alliance.

    Match 1
    We lost. Our autonomous failed as well as teleop while the other side continuously scored minerals into the lander. And yet again we couldn't hang due to tipping.

    Match 2
    We lost again. We began a timeout due to technical issues with the phones and ultimately had to give up and leave BigWheel to sit idle on the field for two minutes and thirty seconds while the Lamar Vikings attempted to win without us.

    Awards Ceremony

    By the time the ceremony started, most of us had been up for 13+ hours, so we were all a little under the weather. We first received the Motivate award! It's always nice to have your efforts recognized and this was no exception. The Motivate award means a lot to us - it's what we got last year at Worlds. Then, we heard, "3rd place Inspire Award goes to...team 6832 Iron Reign!" And the SEM section went wild. We advanced!

    Next Steps

    The post-mortem will be in a later post. See y'all at Worlds!

    DPRG Visit 2.0

    DPRG Visit 2.0 By Abhi, Karina, Arjun, and BenO

    Task: Present to the Dallas Personal Robotics Group about FTC app and our modifications

    Today we had 2 goals: present the FTC control system and allow everyone in the room to create their own FTC app to deploy to our robot. In the beginning of our presentation, we had a slideshow to show the overview of FTC as well as our progress this season since they last saw us. After this, I went through the process of creating a working opmode for our robot, Iron Reign style. The presentation is given below.

    Project Management Mentorship

    Project Management Mentorship By Charlotte

    Task: Ensure skills are passed to underclassmen

    Since our project manager is leaving for college next year, there has been an effort to teach the younger students on our team to take on this role and its many responsibilities. These responsibilities include updating the Gantt chart, writing meeting logs, gathering information for meeting logs when you are not able to make it to meetings, leading and helping writing post mortem and roads to, ensuring general organization for the whole team in terms of Discord and other communication methods, writing articles about the ever-changing responsibilities of this role, managing competition day roles and management, leading and recording planning sessions, being part of leadership in the blog sub team, ensuring communication between the various subteams in Iron Reign, encouraging and understanding detailed explanations of each part of the robot, blog, code, and presentation, among much more.

    This is a lot for one person to take on, emphasizing the importance of gentle and detailed mentorship so that next year our new project manager has all the tools and much needed coaching they need to succeed and not get lost in what the role entails so that they can make the team a more organized unit.

    We have taken on many freshmen interested in assuming these responsibilities, notably Bhanaviya and Cooper. This mentorship begins with the meeting logs, which often take multiple hours to construct due to the fact that they must understand not only what each member of the team is working on, but also how that plays in the overall progression of the team. One big example is in conveying the progress of the coding team. This has been a challenge for me this year due to my lack of experience in dealing with robot code. Taking the time to have a longer discussion the the coders and demanding explicit details about the code changes and how these changes affect the overall progression of the code is what helped me with this challenge. This demand for detail is what is most important in the mentorship process, as it takes a certain confidence and assertion to do so.

    Aside from these soft skills, there are some hard skills to be had too. First of all, we mentored all the underclassmen on how to use HTML to write and post a blog post as well as an introduction to what their language should sound like in these blog posts. Rather than conversational, each post should be written in a professional, technical, or formal manner, depending on the subject matter of the post. Meeting logs have their own template and formatting, which have been taught to future project managers so that they can practice these skills. Bhanaviya has already written a promising number of meeting logs with impressive detail.

    As the season comes to an end, there a few things remaining to teach, especially planning sessions and the Gantt chart. The Gantt chart especially requires a lot of hands-on mentorship, as though the software is intuitive it is difficult to be in the mindset for that type of higher level organization if you haven't ever before and haven't been walked through it. Alongside this mentorship, I will have the freshmen lead planning sessions with me as an advocate alongside them, so if the conversation gets off topic I can supply them the confidence needed to call the meeting back to focus. Mentorship is a long process, but is essential in such an abstract role in the team and I will continue to be there as a voice of support throughout the whole process.

    MXP Expansion

    MXP Expansion By Ethan

    Task: Plan the next stage of the MXP

    In post B-7, we announced that BigThought received $150k on our behalf for the creation of a new MXP. Now, we've created a tentative floorplan for the new RV. The new RV will have these programs\features:

    • Voice recording booth
    • Green-screen - recording video
    • 3D printers - keychains
    • Laptops - 3D printing, EV3 coding
    • EV3s - sumo bots

    As well, the new RV will have two new slideouts, allowing for 20+ children to board safely. As well, the RV will be extended by 5', allowing for more space and a dedicated area to hold equipment.

    Next Steps

    Next, we need to create a full 3D model of the new MXP to send back to BigThought.

    Assisting Mechanicats with Code

    Assisting Mechanicats with Code By Arjun

    Task: Help Mechanicats, the other DISD team, debug their code

    Competition is always stressful for everyone. There's so much that can go wrong, and when something does, it feels like all your hard work has gone to waste. We know first hand how it feels when something breaks. That's why we volunteered to help out Mechanicats when there was an announcement over the intercom that a team needed help with vision.

    Mechanicats were having some trouble with their vision code. They told us they were able to sample correctly when they were on depot-side, but when they were on crater-side, they were unable to correctly identify the position of the gold mineral. We talked to them and helped them debug their code, and after a bit of testing, we were able to identify the problem for them.

    The issue was that the TensorFlow detector they were using was returning null when it had already been called before because it expected client code to cache the objects it returned. This meant that when there were lots of minerals in the background, the detector would reuse the same objects to be more efficient. Mechanicats did not realize this, and thus since they were not caching the response of the detector, when they were on crater side they were unable to detect minerals.

    After we fixed this issue for them with a few simple lines of code, we helped them exhaustively test it to ensure that it worked correctly. Mechanicats was extremely grateful for our help.

    Discover Summer Fair

    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

    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

    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.

    Frontiers Of Flight Museum Outreach

    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

    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

    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.

    Moonday

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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.

    2019-20 Recruitment

    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

    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.

    Mentoring Rookie Team Wattever

    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.

    New Recruits for the 2019-2020 Season

    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.

    Recruitment Update

    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.

    Presenting to Representative Colin Allred's Office

    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.

    Discuss the Impact of Our Robot in 2 Days Reveal Video

    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.

    First Season Scrimmage at Hedrick MS

    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.

    Responding to Girl Scouts of Desert Southwest

    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.

    Presenting Our Engineering Notebook

    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

    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.

    Mentoring FTC Team 6964 Igutech

    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.

    SEM Robotics Tournament

    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.

    Townview Qualifier 2019 - Set Up

    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

    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!

    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:

    FIRST in Texas Grants

    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!

    STEM Expo Preparation

    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.

    Growing Pains and Reigns

    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

    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.