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Kicking off the New Season

September 9, 2017



Today, our Robotics team attended the FTC kickoff down at Auburn High School. It was difficult getting the team there at 6, but one of our members broke a running record to get to the bus before we left! Once there, we got tickets, and each got the choice of putting them in a bag with a plastic game-piece in front of it. The objective was to guess which one was going to be used in this year's game. Most put their's in the bag with a gold plastic figure of a man. This year, the presentation was in the gym rather than in the auditorium like it was last year. The movie seats in the auditorium sure do beat bleachers, but, we managed, as we learned that one team, Perpetual Velocity, was one of just two teams to make it to Houston for the World Championship; that team was #8923; Perpetual Velocity. There was another team there, FIX IT (#3491), characterized by neon green cowboy, and cowgirl hats, which also made it to Houston. We all clapped and cheered for them because we practice something they remind us to practice at every kickoff and competition; gracious professionalism; celebrating the success of others, and succeeding yourselves without sabotaging, or discouraging the other teams to do so. Then we watched the video. The theme this year is "Relic Recovery." The game feild is set up with a pile of foam blocks that they call "glyphs" in the middle, plastic golden man figures, larger than the one in front of the bags we put our raffle tickets in, balancing stones (platforms), and crypto-boxes where we arrange the glyphs. We have to decipher a message to put the glyphs in a certain order, and, in the end game, move the golden guys outside the game field to a designated picture on the floor, among other things. Watch the video here for a more complete game-play:

Afterwards, we found out that it was indeed the golden man that a lucky team won from the raffle, and they were given the actual big one instead of the smaller one from a previous competition, so they had one less thing to buy. We got to get a look at the field, and the main challenge seems to be the glyphs. They do not scoot well, so they can't be pushed. We brainstormed there and then and thought of rubber wheels that could grip it and push it away to utilize it's stickiness, or use a metal plate to slide under it, or a combination of the two, among other ideas like mechanical grips on the sides. Then we tried to solve the dilemma of decoding the pattern in which we would have to arrange the glyphs, and worked out that it would take some image processing. Luckily, one of our programmers has spent last year, and this summer coming up with the software we will need. We do need a special sensor though. Then we broken into groups. There was a judging one, a "Kickoff to Competition one," that had to do more with building, and a programming one. The programming one turned out to be one of the most important since this game, more than any other, requires speed, so we learned of a coding technique called a StopWatch, which frees up the TeleOp driver to do other things while the robot carries out some pre-programmed commands simultaniously. Previously, many teams used the "wait" command, which shut everything down. There is also sample code for a color sensor to change the color of the control screen corresponding to whatever color is beneath it, making navigation easier for the drivers. Then we left, went to KFC, had a good time, came back, and fine tuned our ideas for a half hour. So far, we are thinking of two cranes, one to get the golden guy (the relic) outside the field upright, and a forklift sort of apparatus with a plate to push the glyph out on top of another glyph. 




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