Exciting Changes to Match Play

Blog Post from: http://firsttechchallenge.blogspot.com/2017/09/exciting-changes-to-match-play.html

Over the past decade, FIRST® Tech Challenge has continued to grow, serving the FIRST mission of creating excitement and exposing students to the wonderful world of science, technology, engineering and math. With growth, must come change, as most of our community has seen through our evolution of robot technology. We continue to work to make this program more accessible and affordable, while still engaging and challenging students of all skill levels.

Since the 2015 season, FIRST Tech Challenge has moved away from a centralized control system to the Android based platform you see today. The increased reliability of the Android based/REV platform, is allowing us to improve the flow of the matches. We are making significant and exciting changes that teams and volunteers need to be aware of for the 2017-2018 season.

Autonomous to Driver Controlled Transition

Starting in the 2017-2018 season, there will no longer be a hard stop following the autonomous period to transition to the driver controlled period of the match. Once the autonomous portion of the match ends, the emcee/game announcer will tell the teams to pick up their driver station. As a visual cue, the scoring system will display to teams that they must pick up their driver station. Teams will only have 5 seconds to pick up their driver station, so they should make sure to pay close attention! After the 5 seconds, there will be a 3-2-1 countdown and the driver controlled period of the match will begin right away.

Why make the change?

  • Since the reliability of our technology has come so far, the large gap between autonomous and driver controlled periods of the match is no longer necessary.
  • The game design doesn’t require field reset between the autonomous and driver controlled periods.
  • The shortened break between autonomous to driver controlled period increases engagement by keeping the excitement of the match going.
  • The shortened break will encourage teams to build smarter and create sturdier robots, that can move successfully from autonomous to driver controlled unhindered.

What does this mean to teams?

Teams must remember is to keep an eye on the match timer display, and listen for the cues from the Emcee or Game Announcer to pick up their driver stations. The transition will happen quickly, and the scoring system will automatically run the rest of the match. Since the robots are not tied directly to the scoring system, teams must make sure they are ready to run their driver controlled programs after the 3-2-1 countdown.

How does this impact the number of matches played?

This will not impact the number of matches played at an event. From League Meets to State Championships, teams will still be able to play between 5 and 6 matches, depending on the specific tournament. Teams will still receive a minimum of 7 minutes between each match. Super Regionals and World Championship events will have additional matches. The number of matches at these events will be announced at a later date.

Up righting/Untangling/Reconnecting Robots

Because of the shortened transition from autonomous to driver controlled period, field personnel will no longer enter the field to upright or untangle any robots. Robots that have lost connections will not be reconnected by the Field Technical Adviser. Teams should take this into consideration when building and designing their robot.

If you have any questions about the new changes to our match play format please email ftcteams@firstinspires.org. Happy Relic Recovering!

Click here to watch the New Changes to  Match Play video on YouTube!

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The Static Solution

Most teams know the wrath of static, what it can do to your robot, and how bad it can be during a match. If you don’t know what it does, here is the easiest way to describe it.

When there is a lot of static on the field it can cause trouble for the robots. It can be triggered simply by two robots touching, or a robot bumping into an object on the field. It affects your robot by sparking the main power system, which causes your robot and phone to go into a loop, and you are unable to fix it unless you do a hard reset at the end of the match. Long story short, it disables your robot for the rest of your match!

Of course, when building your robot, you should go through the process of zip tying all your wires down, mounting your electronics on plastic instead of the metal frame, and insulating your wires to reduce static, but those are harder to do and more time-consuming. We do highly recommend that you do all of these above first to minimize your static risk.

But now, there is a simple solution to help reduce static, and just about everyone has them in their home.

Dryer Sheets!

It might sound weird, but let me explain how it works. When you are driving around, your robot wheels are collecting electricity from the floor mats, the beacons, the corner vortex or even other robots. When your robot collects too much static energy, it gets hard to control what happens and when it discharges. It usually discharges when it hits another robot because they also have a lot of electricity built up. When your robot and another robot collide, they have a battle to see who can give off the most static, and the robot who earns more static suffers the consequences.

The spots that collect the most electricity are your side walls if you have plexiglass, or if you place your phone in the middle of your robot.

Dryer sheets are easy to use! All you need to do is take a dryer sheet and wipe down pretty much everything on your robot, from the wheels to the modules, to the side walls, and even the motors and battery. Dryer sheets are an easy way to reduce the static by evening out the amount of positive and negative charge from the robots.

We used these in our last tournament, and we wiped our robot down every other match and found out that it worked for us. We noticed that when we wiped down our robot, the static seemed to be a lot less than for other robots.

Also if you need to reduce static before a match, make sure to place part of your robot that has metal against the wall that has some metal on it. This helps dissipate any charge buildup.

Our team wanted to share this information with other teams because we have noticed that static can be a major problem, and this is an easier solution than making the anti-static spray.

dryer_sheets

 

 

How FIRST Students Can Win More College Scholarships

Written by FIRST guest blogger, Monica Matthews
Source: http://www.firstinspires.org/scholarships/blog/leverage-first-experience

FIRST Team members and their Parents get very excited when they learn of the thousands of scholarships available to students through the FIRST Scholarship Program. What happens, however, when the school that the student is hoping to attend does not make available Scholarships as part of the FIRST Scholarship Program, or the family needs additional scholarship funds to help pay for college?

FIRST Team members looking to win college scholarships have a huge advantage over other applicants if they to market themselves wisely. They can do this by referencing the many values and lessons that go hand-in-hand with being on a FIRST Team directly in their scholarship applications. As a parent of a FIRST student and a team sponsor, I have personally witnessed FIRST team members experience the following:

  • Leadership
  • Safety
  • Mentoring
  • Kindness
  • Cooperation
  • Team-building
  • Patience
  • Strategy
  • Problem Solving
  • Commitment
  • Career planning
  • First Aid
  • Marketing
  • Engineering
  • Organization
  • Creativity
  • Volunteerism
  • Website design
  • Computer Coding

Real-life experiences and details pertaining to future careers and aspirations that are written about in scholarship applications are extremely valued by scholarship reviewers. The essay is the heart of an application, and scholarship seeking FIRST students and Alumni need to share personal and specific details about how their lives have been impacted as a result of their FIRST participation in their writing.

For example, a future engineer can write about how learning to build a robot has cemented their decision to enter the engineering field, and give specific details about events that took place during the build season.

Students entering the business field should focus their essays on the leadership, organization, and strategy skills that were used and modeled by team leaders.

Future medical students can use the knowledge taught by the Safety Captains and discuss the importance of first aid the correct use of power tools when working on the robot.

Students who volunteer with their FIRST Teams have a unique opportunity to combine helping others with their love of STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) and can apply for more community service scholarships.

All FIRST team members can look back at the events that took place during the build season and at each competition and share what they learned when applying for scholarships.  The powerful impact of Gracious Professionalism™ is a wonderful way to impress scholarship judges, so students need to be looking for concrete examples of how this concept has made them a better person.  In my FIRST experience, I have witnessed gracious professionalism in the following ways:

  • Our student team leader spent two hours on a Saturday morning (before spending six hours at our meeting) helping another FIRST Team who was having trouble with their robot, even though that team would eventually compete against ours.
  • During a competition when another team (who we were about to face on the field) told us about a minor problem with our robot that might have gotten us a warning or disqualification.
  • I felt gracious professionalism during matches when I sat in the stands and saw the intense excitement and encouragement that all the teams showed to EVERY team and not just their own.
  • I heard true stories of gracious professionalism at competitions, when teams would offer to help other teams, go the extra mile in loaning out tools and robot parts, and expressed unwavering kindness and uplifting words to every team, regardless of where the team was from, language barriers, or their current standings in the game.
  • I saw gracious professionalism in action when exhausted teams volunteered to stay after competitions were over to clean up the pit areas, playing fields, and stands.

In addition to writing about their experiences, scholarship seeking FIRST students can increase their chances of winning by starting the scholarship hunt early, applying for every scholarship in which they qualify, and learning how to submit memorable applications that stand out to the judges. Students who work hard and tie their FIRST experiences into their quest to win scholarships will have a huge advantage when it comes to winning money for college.


Monica Matthews is a FIRST Robotics parent and sponsor of Da MOOse FRC Team 5926. She is also the author of How to Win College Scholarships, a detailed guide sharing how she helped her son win over $100,000 in scholarships. She truly has “been there, done that” in regards to helping parents and students navigate the scholarship process.  Ms. Matthews’ step-by-step scholarship guide has taught desperate parents to help their own students win thousands of scholarship dollars.

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Safety Check!

Hello Teams

This information is to remind you of the major safety rules at tournaments and when working on your robot at meetings. Be safe, good luck at your tournament, and have fun!

FIRST things first
We all know how important safety is to the FIRST community. Everyone is responsible for safety during team meetings and the design, build, travel, and event phases of the competition. FIRST believes that teams that take the lead in developing safety policies have a positive and lasting impact on each team member and mentor, in addition to their communities and present and future work places.

be_safeBe safe while working on your robot
Here are important safety tips you need to know while working on your robot at team meetings and at tournaments:

  • Work in a safe and responsible manner. Maintain a healthy attitude regarding safety.
  • Make sure before working on the robot, that it is turned off and the battery is unplugged.
  • Keep full control of your robot at all times.
  • Use protective equipment properly – eye protection, ear protection when needed, gloves, and wear closed-toed shoes.
  • Use safety glasses (or face shield) when doing any work on the robot including grinding, drilling, soldering, cutting, welding, etc.
  • Use safety glasses when there is a risk of exposure to flying particles.
  • Before using any hand tool, check to see if it is in good condition. DO NOT use any defective, dull or broken tools.
  • Use all electrical tools properly and safely according to guidelines.
  • DO NOT use any battery that is visibly damaged in any way. It is dangerous!
  • Keep a first aid kit on hand, in case of injury.

At tournaments
When at a tournament, it is important to remember these few safety tips:

  • Properly use power strips (do not daisy chain – plug one power strip into another).
  • Keep work area neat and orderly.
  • All participants must be wearing safety glasses at all times in the pit, the playing field, practice field area, or any area posted requiring eye protection, such as machine shop.
  • Wear appropriate footwear, that covers entire foot (no open toes).
  • Report any unsafe or hazardous conditions to FIRST volunteers.

Make sure to have fun, but be safe, and show gracious professionalism!

How to Prep for an Event

photoBlog post from: http://firsttechchallenge.blogspot.com/2016/11/how-to-prep-for-event.html

It is well into the FIRST Tech Challenge Season and events are in full swing. If your team has not done so, make sure to connect with your local Affiliate Partner and register! If your event is just around the corner, this blog post is for you.

Events can be stressful, not only for Rookie teams, but also Veterans. You may ask yourself, “Do you have all the tools you will need? Do you have your Engineering Notebook? Did you remember to pack the Robot?”

What to Pack

When asked what to pack, the same response is often given by Veteran teams, “Pack everything… and just in case, pack it twice.” The point they are getting at is that at an Event, you never know exactly what you will need. Your Robot could break down during a Match and you will need spare parts; the code you have been working weeks on may not initiate properly and you will need your laptop to proofread; your team may want to show off their team spirit and pride with team swag, banners, and an exciting pit display. To ease things, here are some areas you want to keep in mind while packing:

  • Tools
  • Spare parts
  • Safety glasses (enough for team, mentors, parents, friends)
  • First Aid Kit
  • Extra surge protector
  • Phone chargers
  • Battery chargers
  • Gamepads
  • Phones
  • Laptop
  • Engineering Notebook
  • Team Swag and pit display
  • Your Robot

How to Prepare

  • Practice, Practice, Practice – Test, Test, Test – Practice your presentation, practice for your judge interviews, practice driving your Robot; test your programming, test your autonomous mode, test every part of your Robot. Practice and Testing are how top teams prepare for their events.
  • Understand the Rules – Make sure your team has read Game Manual Part I and II. Not only do they include the game and tournament rules, but they go over the criteria for each Judge Award. The more you understand before Event Day the easier your Event will go.
  • Understand Judge Interview Process – Judge Interviews occur first thing for Events (with the exception of League Meets). Download and review the Team Judging Self-Reflection. Practice in front of friends, family, and strangers to help prepare for your Judge Interview. Remember to keep current on your Engineering Notebook (review the Engineering Notebook Guidelines) and continue even after the Event concludes.
  • Pack – How are you traveling to your Event? That changes how much and what type of packing you will be able to do. Traveling by Car?  Truck and trailer? Airplane? How far away your event may also play a factor into your packing plans. Make sure to plan ahead and pack the essentials. Create a packing list for both checking everything is packed away (and where they are located), as well as to make sure they return home with you.
  • Get Excited! – Everything you have worked hard for is here. Get excited and make sure to have fun!

FTC Hardware Tutorials – 8 Videos

photoFIRST Tech Challenge has created some hardware tutorials to help you get your robot build on. This would be helpful for rookie teams, and possibly veteran teams as well.

  1. How to Mount Motors & Wheels
  2. Connecting Driver Station to Robot Controller
  3. Powering & Wiring Your Robot
  4. Configuring Your Robot
  5. Configuring Gamepads
  6. Testing Motors
  7. Testing Servos
  8. How to Connect Beams Using Bolts & Nuts

FTC Tip #10 – Electro Static Discharge Mitigation

FIRST has been conducting electrostatic discharge (ESD) tests with the new Android-based platform for the past year. In general, the new platform tolerates ESD well. According to our engineering contacts at QTI, the test standard IEC/EN 61000-4-2 outlines the procedure that is used for smartphone ESD testing. Most Android smartphones typically adhere to even higher ESD standards, with the ability to withstand a minimum 10 to 12 kV air discharge, and an 8kV contact discharge. Similarly, the electronic modules that are used with the new platform were also designed to tolerate ESD events.

In our testing over the past year, we have found that the new platform tolerates ESD very well. We have used an electrostatic voltmeter and conducted several driving and Van de Graaff generator tests with various test robots. We have conducted discharge tests where the surface voltage on the frame of our robot (as measured with our voltmeter, which has a limit of 25kV) exceeds 25kV without any disruption to the robot. However, we have received credible reports from the field and have seen in our lab testing that ESD events can disrupt the reliable operation of the robot. In our lab testing, the observed number of suspected incidents is low (on the order of 6% or lower), but we do believe that an ESD could occasionally affect the operation of a robot.

Based on our observations over the past year, the risk that a large ESD event can disrupt a robot is relatively low. However ESD is a regular, naturally occurring phenomena and there are steps that teams can take to help reduce this risk even further:

Static Dissipation
• When Teams arrive at the Field, a member of the drive team should touch the metal frame of their robot to the metal frame of the Field perimeter prior to placing the Robot on the Field.
• Doing this should help dissipate any charge buildup that occurs off of the Field.

Robot Construction/Wiring
• Mounting the electronic components of the robot onto non-conductive substrates (such as a sheet of dry plywood, a piece of PVC Type A, or even a polycarbonate sheet) and using non-conductive fasteners (such as zip ties or nylon bolts and nuts) can help reduce the likelihood that an ESD event will disrupt the robot operation.
• Using shorter runs of cables and wires, and keeping the cables and wires off of the frame of the robot (for example, by routing them through PVC Type A pipes or some other non-conductive conduit) can help.
• Covering or cladding the exterior parts of a robot with a non-conductive material reduces the risk that metal parts of the robot will touch a metallic object on the field and cause an ESD event. Wooden bumpers, cloth/tape and other non-conductive coatings can help.

Copied from FTC Forums

FTC Tip #9: Social Media

FTC Tip #9: Social Media

There are many different social media directions that teams can devote time to.  Always remember to have parent and mentor permission before creating an online presence on Social Media sites and follow FIRST’s Social Media Guidelines and practice general Internet safety.  Make sure to connect with other FIRST teams.  Connecting with Local teams is fun and it gives you something in common when seeing teams at tournaments and outreach events.  Connecting with other teams also helps you see what they are doing for both the game and for outreach.

Social Media Guidelines and Recommendations

Living in the technology era means the quickest way to connect with people is often via the internet and social media. Sharing information about your team or program, promoting your events or outreach projects, and helping to spread the word about FIRST and FIRST Tech Challenge can all be done online.

However, being successful at using the internet and social media to achieve your goals isn’t as easy as most people think. We have put together some information to help you be successful

Creating an Online Presence

First, why do you want to create an online presence? Is it to share information? Is it to spread the word about FIRST in your community? Is it to thank your sponsors? Is it to connect with other FIRST teams and alumni? Is it to teach about robotics? You need to identify your purpose so that you can decide the best route to take.

For example, if it is just to share information, a website is often an easy tool with which to do that. However, if you are making regular updates to the information you are sharing, then perhaps Facebook or Twitter is a better strategy. We talk about the various options below.

Second, who are you trying to communicate with? The general public? The volunteers in your state? Students at your school and in your community? Parents and sponsors? Again, this will impact the choice you make: we recommend that you find out which platform your target audience is using the most and start there.

Third, bigger isn’t always better. Don’t try doing too much at once or you might end up making more work for yourself and will have a harder time being successful. How much time and resources can you devote to this project? Is it something you can do every week? Every day? A couple times a year? Most social media outreach works best if there is a regular presence.

Lastly, what is the personality you want to create with your presence? Is it professional? Is it silly? You need to identify the tone that you want to set so that you can be consistent and people will know what to expect.

For more guidelines & recommendations, see FIRST’s Social Media Guidelines

See our team’s Social Media Presence at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & YouTube

FTC Tip #8: The Interview

• Relax.  Smile.  Enjoy the experience.  The judges are usually involved as mentors with other FLL, FTC and FRC teams.  They are not expecting perfection from you; they just want to understand what you have learned, what your robot can do and what your team is doing for the community.  These volunteers want you to have a positive experience while gaining experience with public speaking.

• Interviews last about 10 minutes.

• Be on time, interviews cannot be rescheduled.  Interviews take priority over other scheduled tasks.  You can always go back to Inspections after your interview is complete.  If you arrive late for your interview, do not expect to be given the full 10 minutes!

• Plan to have about an 8-9 minute presentation ready and be ready to answer Judge questions during and afterwards.

• Everyone on the team is expected to speak in the interview.

• It is perfectly fine to use paper or note cards during the interview.  Try not to read directly from them, but use them to make sure that you talked about the important stuff.

• Have a ‘Point Person’ who will lead the interview for the team.  They will introduce different team members and functions, and they are responsible for watching the time to make sure that everything that is important is talked about in the time given.

• Topic examples that different members can talk about:
– Design
– Engineering (can break this down by parts of the robot, drive system, arm, etc.)
– Programming and Electronics
– Outreach (The PRIDE has a separate scrapbook that we bring to interviews and keep out on our pit table that shows all of the outreach activities that we’ve done through our 3 seasons in FTC)
– Notebook (refer judges to look at certain pages in the notebook that you want them to take notice of, give them time to see the page before telling them about the next page you’d like them to see.)
– Social Media
– CAD (bring examples of 3D Printed parts and hand them to the Judges while you are discussing what your team has created.)  Make sure to know where CAD files came from if you got them off of the internet, or if it is a team designed part, talk about where you got your ideas from.)

• Judges may ask you any questions, whenever possible don’t say “I don’t know anything about that, Bob can tell you.”  Answer the best that you can, if Bob feels like chiming in after your response is completed, that’s OK too.

• Don’t lie!  It’s not that hard for judges to check out what you are saying.

• If you don’t know something, it is OK to say it, but answer with a positive reply like, “That’s a great question and I don’t know the answer right now—but, I’m looking forward to learning the answer as soon as I can!”  Follow through with learning the answer before your next competition as it is possible to get the same Judge at multiple tournaments.

• Keep things positive.  Don’t bring up negative ideas, unless you are specifically asked about them, then be truthful.  Attitude counts for a lot here.

• Mentors may attend the Interview, but they must not speak or give the team clues on how to answer questions.  I try to sit in a spot where the team can’t easily see me so that I don’t accidently influence them.  Take notes to offer suggestions for improvements for next time.

• Teams are getting more savvy on ways to leave a lasting impression on the Judges.  The PRIDE has left pens and buttons with our logo on them for Judges, and FTC Team 7655 – The Q is Silqent from Eagan, MN leaves the Judges with “Q-Tips” (Q-Tips are short robotics tips/ideas taped to lollipops.)

• You will be leaving your Engineering Notebook with the Judges at the end of your interview.  They will be reviewing it as it applies to the various awards.  You will get your Notebook back at the end of the Awards Ceremony at the end of the day.

• If you are applying for the Control Award, make sure that your submission form is included with your Notebook and that you mention to the Judges that you are applying for the Award during your interview.  This should be the job of the ‘Point Person’.

Thank you to FTC Team 7655 – The Q is Silqent (Eagan, MN) for these tips and experiences!