Articles by tag: outreach

Articles by tag: outreach

    2018 Worlds Day One

    2018 Worlds Day One By Ethan, Evan, Kenna, Austin, Charlotte, Abhi, Tycho, Karina, Justin, Janavi, and Shaggy

    Task: Present and play first match

    It was a dark, surprisingly non-humid, Houston morning. Tarballs blew through the parking lot from dusty, abandoned oil refineries down by the bay. One by one, phones went off in the hotel looming above the lot, waking up their inhabitants. In these rooms, their occupants dusted off their Bucees wrappers and Iron Reign shirts and stumbled to the tournament.

    The first day was relatively short, with a lot of waiting. There were two main parts of the day, presentation and first match.

    Presentation
    Our presentation went well. We were able to get all of our information across effectively and we got in-depth questions from all of the judges (including our first question about coding all season). Throughout questioning, we were able to hand off questions so that no individual member dominated the questioning time.
    One problem we had with the presentation was that the rooms were constructed within the competition hall with fabric. This made it so that sound did not carry very well within the rooms, and that sound could carry over from other rooms, so the judges had difficulty hearing us at some points depending on the speaker. Despite this, we're confident that the majority of the information came across.

    Game 1
    We won this game, 319-152. Both us and KNO3 outdid ourselves in robot game, scoring more in autonomous that our opponents did the entire match. In telop, we lagged behind, but there was already no catching up for our opponents.

    2018 Worlds Day Two

    2018 Worlds Day Two By Ethan, Evan, Kenna, Austin, Charlotte, Abhi, Tycho, Karina, Justin, Janavi, and Shaggy

    Task: Compete in robot game

    It was the beginning of Day 2. Our members rolled out of bed, covered in old Fiesta receipts and Chipotle wrappers. One by one, they stumbled onto their charter bus, unprepared for the new day.

    Game 26
    We lost this match, 213-401. Our robot wasn't working reliably on the field and we were still debugging issues. Because of this, there was only one true competing robot on blue, and it couldn't keep up against two bots.
    Game 34
    We won this match, 428-172. Both us and our partner had high-scoring autonomii and teleop, and we were able to score the relic while our opponents weren't.
    Game 55
    We won this match, 484-405. We were about evenly matched, but we were more than pushed over the top with the 180 penalty points from the other team. However, we were partnered with RedNek Robotics, the top team at the tournament, so we should've done better than a slight penalty win.
    Game 73
    We won this match, 459-441. At this point, we had gotten in the groove and were actually competitive in the robot game for once. We got 200+ points in autonomous *and* teleop, a feat that we'd never done before. While our competition was equally matched, we had a slight initial advantage that was never overcome.

    We also entered the block design competition this day. AndyMark released a form on their Twitter a few weeks before to enter, and we requested 64 blocks. We settled on a throne design, using a bread carver to add more details. We had teams from all over gravitate to our pit to sit in our chair and get help in their own designs.

    2018 Worlds Day Three

    2018 Worlds Day Three By Ethan, Evan, Kenna, Austin, Charlotte, Abhi, Tycho, Karina, Justin, Janavi, and Shaggy

    Task: Compete in robot game

    It was the beginning of Day 3. We awoke, covered in metal parts and broken servos, took our sleeping-caps off, and went off to the Houston Convention Center.

    Game 82
    We won this game, 467-442. This was personally, our best game. We went against the BLUE CREW and won, which was no small feat (they went undefeated until this match). On top of that, we completed a full cryptobox, which we had never done before.
    Game 99
    We lost this game, 254-333. Our autonomous didn't work well, so we lost a good amount of points. As well, we just couldn't keep up with the blue alliance in TeleOp.
    Game 116
    We lost this game, 431-492. Like the last, we just couldn't keep up with our opponents.
    Game 131
    We lost this game, 232-408. Our phone fell off our robot at the beginning and disconnected :(.

    See awards information here.

    Contacting Mark Cuban

    Contacting Mark Cuban By Abhi

    Task: Get Funding from Mark Cuban

    At the World Championship this year, Dean Kamen, the founder of FIRST, talked about getting celebrity involvement in the robotics program. Very few celebrities support FIRST (will.i.am being the biggest) and will.i.am. sent a request through Kamen to all teams to reach out to close by celebrities to get them involved in FIRST. As I sat in the crowd at Minute Maid Park, Kamen's words stuck with me on my journey home. I thought about how cool it would be to have celebrities support Iron Reign. However, I had no idea who to contact.

    Still on the quest, I sat down to watch TV one day. As I scrolled through the channels, I found Shark Tank (one of my favorite shows). Then it hit me: I wanted Mark Cuban, a Dallas native, to support Iron Reign.

    Mark Cuban, investor on Shark Tank and the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, has been very important to Dallas. I decided to reach out to him to see if he would be willing to support us. I asked people at school if anyone knew Cuban or knew people who knew him. Luckily, my friend's father went to the same gym as him! Through my friend (Amanda), I reached out to Cuban. I drafted an email which would be sent through Amanda to Cuban.

    Next Steps:

    Now all I can do is wait for a reply!

    Response from Mark Cuban

    Response from Mark Cuban By Abhi

    Task: Reply to Cuban

    After sending a small email to Cuban, he replied very soon asking for more details (shown above)! With this, I felt more confident I could make things happen. In my following email, I provided more details explaining the FTC program, from last year's challenge (Relic Recovery) to the work we have done for Dallas. I also asked to present to Cuban about the team since Iron Reign tends to get information across best through presentations.

    Next Steps:

    Once again, it's time to wait for a reply!

    Conversing with Mark Cuban

    Conversing with Mark Cuban By Abhi, Ethan, Janavi, Christian, Kenna, and Charlotte

    Task: Explain Iron Reign

    Once again, we got a positive response from Cuban! Unfortunately, we couldn't meet in person but I was still pursuing the sponsor path. For the next message, I decided to get some other members of the team on the project. Since this was our one shot to convince him, I drafted a much longer sponsor email, inspired by older emails to our sponsors. In this email, we provided specifics into what we can do with Cuban's support. With a monetary donation, we will either spend money on robot parts or save it to act as a seed donation for kick-starting a non-profit organization for Iron Reign. Since we are somewhat limited in our monetary abilities due to DISD "red tape", we wanted to develop this organization to better fund our team for years to come. Explaining all these details, our email came to a close. However, I still wanted for Cuban to "meet" the members of the team. From this stance, I decided that making a video from our team members would do the job. After some quick script writing, we developed the video shown below!

    Next Steps:

    Again, we wait for a reply!

    Iron Reign sponsored by Mark Cuban

    Iron Reign sponsored by Mark Cuban By Abhi

    In this post, I would like to thank Mr. Cuban for supporting Iron Reign. Today, we received a message from Mark Cuban's assistant stating that he would be contributing $2500 to Iron Reign. There is no end to how much this helps our team for the following season.

    FIRST is an organization dedicated to promoting young minds in STEM. However, to participate in the program (specifically the Tech Challenge), many materials are needed. A successful team often needs funding to sustain itself for years to come. Mr. Cuban has allowed Iron Reign to actualize this through his support. With his help, we hope to continue to influence young children through our outreach and build better robots. Hopefully, we can return to the World Championship and bring Mr. Cuban to the greatness of FIRST.

    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.

    Summer Chassis Project - July Meeting

    Summer Chassis Project - July Meeting By Kenna, Ethan, Charlotte, Karina, Shaggy, and Abhi

    Task: Compare & Collaborate on Chassis

    At Big Thought's offices in downtown Dallas, three teams met. Technicbots (Team 8565), EFFoRT (Team 8114), Schim Robotics (12900), and Iron Reign are all part of the North Texas Chassis Project. The goal is for each team to create any number of chassis and improve their building skills by learning from the other teams.

    The meeting began with an overview of all teams' progress. Each team presented their thought process and execution when creating each bot and discussed why/how everything was done. At the end, we all reviewed the rule changes for the 2018-19 season. Once all questions had been asked and answered, testing began.

    Austin Lui of Technicbots gets their chassis ready for testing.

    Using leftover tiles from last season, we set up a small field in Big Thought's blue room. Technicbots provided a ramp to do enhanced testing with. All teams plan on testing:

    • Forward speed
    • 3 second turn
    • Up/Down ramp
    • Balancing stone
    • Weight-pulling
    • Straight line drift
    • 90/180° turn offset

    Connor Mihelic of EFFoRT adds some finishing touches.

    We know from Google Analytics that our website has about 200 visitors a month but we rarely meet the people who read and use our blog posts. Today, we got to meet the mentors of Team 12900 from a middle school in Plano, TX. When they and their students were starting out as a team, they utilized our tutorials and journal. Apparently their teams members are avid followers of our team, which was very meaningful to hear. Some non-FTC friends visited as well and were introduced to cartbot.


    Terri and Grant Richards of Schim Robotics.

    Next Steps

    Using what we learned from the other teams, we will begin to improve all of our chassis. Most of them are at varying levels of completion so now we want to concentrate on getting all of them to the same level of functionality. Garchomp is, notably, the most behind so he will be getting the most attention from here on out.

    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.

    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.

    Mentor Involvement from MIT

    Mentor Involvement from MIT By Abhi

    Task: Discuss potential support from MIT

    In a previous post, I mentioned how the knowledge I gained in machine learning at MIT could help the team. But another way our team could be helped is with mentor involvement from MIT. I couldn't have done the research I did at MIT without the help of my amazing instructors. I wanted to bring them on board the Iron Reign way so they could also teach the rest of the team how to be awesome and help us grow. Currently, Iron Reign is speaking with two of my instructors.

    Lyle Lalunio (leftmost in image) is a freshman at the University of California at Berkley. He was an intern this past summer at MIT as part of the Laboratory of Computational Physiology and also the Medlytics program. He is proficient in numerous programming languages including Java and Python. He is pursuing computer science in college but is also interested in the medical applications of the science. Lyle has been an incredible mentor for myself and my teams during my month, inspiring me to invite him to the team.

    Dr. Danelle Shah (2nd from left in image) is a Technical Staff member in Lincoln Laboratory’s Intelligence and Decision Technologies group. Her most recent research has focused on the detection, representation and characterization of human networks by leveraging natural language processing and graph analytics. Dr. Shah earned her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University, where she developed algorithms to facilitate natural and robust human-robot interaction. Dr. Shah has also left a great impact on my life and has a background in robotic algorithms, inspiring me to invite her to the team.

    Next Steps

    Continue discussion with mentors about potentially joining Iron Reign.

    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.

    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.

    Dallas Chamber Leadership Council

    Dallas Chamber Leadership Council By Kenna, Janavi, Abhi, and Ethan

    Presenting to Leadership Dallas Class of 2019

    Today, we presented to the Leadership Dallas program, run by the Dallas Chamber of Commerce, to fundraise for Iron Reign and BigThought's Mobile Learning Lab program to cover the remaining $100k gap as well as our school programs.

    There were 2 groups of about 10 people who learned about Iron Reign & FTC and toured SEM (Science Engineering Magnet) & its classes. There were employees from Big Thought, Uber, Turner Construction, Ernst & Young, and Channel 8 News. We'd especially like to name Stephanie from Channel 8 and Ryan Dyer for helping us get a website visit from Antartica. We'd been working on having a visit from all 7 continents for all of last year, and it finally came true!

    After that, they got a tour of a deployment-ready MXP, full of laptops, 3D printers, EV3's, and teaching monitors. They were very interested in our SEM education and how it ties into what we are able to do as a part of Iron Reign and FTC. We discussed using our physics experience to conduct experiments for the materials we use on our robot, and SEM's freshmen Java class to do IMU coding.

    We all loved how enthusiastic they were about improving Dallas and learning more about robotics in a high school education. It was a huge opportunity for us to spread STEM and FIRST to the Dallas community, and we hope to do so again in the future.

    Next Steps

    We were lucky enough to talk to Leandre Johns of Uber about what the opportunities they could offer our team and our community in helping underserved communities learn about STEM.

    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.

    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.

    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!

    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.

    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.

    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.