Archive for the ‘Robotics’ Category

Cleveland 2009: The Rest of It

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

The rest of my Cleveland trip was just as fun as the first afternoon. Lets call cover it in parts:

We're team 677. In the Center.
There is a lot to be said for being a spectator and not actually a member of the team. Although, most of it involves being able to skip out on most of the opening and awards ceremonies without setting a bad example. Although I later felt a little bad blogging through one I did go to, although; I did finish before Mr. King, Dublin FIRST teacher and mentor extraordinaire won the Woody Flowers award. As far as the rest of the competition results are concerned Dublin and Homeschool both lost in the semifinal round. That is, there was a 75% chance (ignoring skill) that one of OSU FIRST’s three teams would be in the finals and the other 25% happened. CSG came in 48th of 59 teams, but I have confidence they will do better in Torronto. I’ve told EC I’ll go to Atlanta for nationals if they team wins the chance. By told, I mean I said yes when she asked if I would.

Binary Note
Thursday before lunch one of the girls, Lauren, received a note in binary encoded ASCII from a boy on another team. The boy, had overheard how much she liked his teams button, which included something in binary on it; although, I never got a good enough look to figure out what it was beyond what appeared to be a 24 bit number with at least bits 0 and 23 set (meaning its not a team number). This reminded EC of the troubles we had a few years back with some girls who were at the competition primarily to flirt, but that was clearly not the motive here so we helped Lauren decode the message. Unfortunately we did have to call someone to look up what the values for ‘A’ and ‘a’ were. I remembered 65, but I forgot what base that was in, and well as if it was for ‘a’ or ‘A’. It said “Hey What’s up? I’m from team ” which was significantly more benign that we were expecting. Some girls from the boy’s team came and explained/apologized to our team, and Lauren, as far as I can tell refrained from humiliating the poor guy. Hey, at least his note got read; cause, yeah, that’s unlikely to happen even at the segway/geekfest that FIRST competitions are.

Good Answers
The Robot in the Pit
Josh and I visited the pit once on Friday afternoon. This is in stark contrast to our years on the team, when I lived in the pit, and even last year when we helped the girls do some real time debugging. We went down and found about 5 girls preparing to work on the robot, which had just finished it’s last match of the day, if I recall correctly. Josh and I corned a freshman, Ann, and started asking questions. The following is like how the conversation went:

Me: What’d you do on the robot?
Ann: Software, but for the JV robot
Me: Oh, how is the software for that robot different from this one?
Ann: They are the same
Me: How does that work?
Ann: They use the same mechanism and controls. We designed it that way.
Me: How do you deal with constants related to the motors themsevles or other bits that do vary from robot to robot?
Ann Well, we’ve actually got two copies of the software each with the different tweaks, but otherwise they’re the same.

I was impressed. I’m pretty sure that the robot controller doesn’t have a use accessible file system, so the only next best idea I could think of is impractical. So, not only is it a good design for something that is not actually a robot problem, but a meta problem caused by having two robots, but one of the freshmen was able to speak intelligently to the design and implementation.

Team Dinner and Nightlife
At the team dinner I sat near EC and three other freshmen girls from the team. These girls were huge Gilmore Girls fans; much larger than me. This served a good conversation starter, although; they did not like my answers to the standard questions. I think they are pretty good answers, I didn’t like theirs either. I guess its somewhat comforting that I’ve got a different outlook on it than they do. Moving on from that topic, it was a really fun dinner, and talking to the girls all night brought back at lot of the vibe I remember from being on the team. After dinner the mentors went out to a posh bowling ally/ bar on the same block. The previous night we’d bowled a few games there. I came in second until we had to finish the third game before they closed the lanes down in five minutes and things got sloppy. These reminded me of the great team parties we used to have, and complimented the vibe I had from dinner.

The Only Nice Block in Cleveland
My college room mate George, who loathes living in Toledo every day, came to see Josh and I in Cleveland for a three hour reprieve from looking outside and seeing Toledo. He made it just in time for the final match of the competition, which I’m sure made the trip more exciting. Afterwards we skipped out on the awards to grab a bite to eat before heading back to Jersey. We again went back to the one nice block of restaurants on 4th street for dinner. Before we left, I forgot to give EC back her phone charger, which had been left in our hotel room along with her chap stick, which was returned successfully. Over a text conversation during dinner we decided she’d simply have to come to Boston to get it back…

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Friday, February 27th, 2009

I’m blogging from the Friday awards ceremony at the FIRST Buckey Regional, but when I arrived in Cleveland on Wednesday my first stop after the hotel was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It is, of course, the only thing I thought there was to do in the city. Josh and I were surprised at how un-interactive the exhibits were. Most were simply clothes, cars, notes, posters, or records sitting in glass cases. Well, the cars were not in glass cases. It did have quite a lot of exhibits, but since we’re not very well versed in music many of them amounted to, “so who’s that?”

Afterwards we went out to dinner. We were surprised to find a pedestrian only street lined with all sorts of restaurants, Mexican, Vietnamese, Mediterranean, Irish, American. We gave the Mediterranean one a try. It was called La Strada. We started with a free fried eggplant appetizer because they were out of the one we actually wanted. I had a chicken and cuscus dinner. Everything we had there was excellent. However, after dinner they kept offering us all sorts of things. Desert, coffee, complimentary fruit, then later tea, and a wet hand cloth. It was a little too much, made me feel sort of bad that all I wanted to do was pay and leave. Actually, I didn’t have to pay because Josh owed me a dinner since the Red Sox & Yankees tied the season series last summer at 9 games apiece (we decided due to extenuating circumstances that I would win ties).

2008 Boston FIRST Robotics – Sunday

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

EC Coding as a Senior

EC stayed an extra day, taking up the spots on the couch vacated by Rob and Josh as they drove back home on Sunday. It has been a very long time since EC and I talked. She is one of my girls from the team. Pretty much anyone I directly mentored falls into that category, but the more I was able to teach them more I consider them in that group. She was the first, and I probably taught her the most. She was so easy to teach, and so eager to learn. A teacher’s (or mentor’s) dream student. Its just amazing how far she has come. For the uninitiated EC has come to be a pillar of the team. From two years as a student to two years as a mentor and now, already, one year of leading the team. She has come a long way from when I met her, and the team has come with her. This was made clear by her winning of the Woodie Flowers’ Award, which goes to in simple terms, the best mentor at the regional. It has been fun to watch, and I’m very proud of her.

On Sunday after dropping of another my girls, Katie, who had some special return trip circumstances EC and I made our way to a meeting with a CSG and team 677 alum, Mikell who was part of the team running the regional and also won an award. EC was really looking for some direction on how to take the team to the next level and win the highest awards, that have, in the past, felt out of reach. At least from my perspective. Mikell had some excellent advice that I won’t bother you with. Sitting in on the meeting made me want to get back in to volunteering with FIRST, although maybe not on a team. I think I picked up a bit of EC’s wanting-to-be-Mikell virus.

Afterwards EC and I attempted to get a beer and a burger at Harvard Square’s Bartleys’ burgers, but apparently they are closed on Sundays. What kind of hippies run that place I’m not so sure about anymore. So we stumbled upon John Harvard’s Brew House, which had beer, but no burgers. Their microbrews were interesting. Not being a beer person I didn’t like all of them, but the Pale Ale was alright. EC was fond of that and something that was essentially a hybrid between an Irish Red and a Guinness. We talked there engaged for hours, oh how I wish that was a more common occurrence.

It was so great, that I didn’t notice that my dinner group, who came up many times in conversation, was actually coincidentally sitting at the table behind me. Granted, if I had been facing them I would have seen them, but I was not. Carney came over while EC was in the restroom to say hi, I was so surprised. Apparently they had been there for quite a while. They were trying to discern my relationship with the girl across the table, was it a date, was it not, who was this girl. They arrived at the conclusion that she was most likely my sister. Score, that made my week, go WND Group! That is exactly the kind of relationship I strived for with the girls I was mentoring. Although, it did make me a little self conscious that I was talking a little too loud, as have a penchant to do.

2008 Boston FIRST Robotics – Pictures

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

Ok so things are a bit out of order. The Ski trip occurred before the robotics team arrived. I don’t have detailed daily posts, but here are some fun pictures from the event. Pictures appear in chronological order.

3/28/2008 @ 4:36pm
Steve Wozniak

3/28/2008 @ 5:03pm
EC Wins the Woody Flowers Award

3/29/2008 @ 12:53pm
Blue Man Group

3/29/2008 @ 1:10pm
The Robot

3/29/2008 @ 1:17pm
Tessa and Josh Looking at Code

2008 Boston FIRST Robotics – Wednesday

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

On Wednesday of last week I got a surprising IM, EC and my former FIRST Robotics team were in town. I expected them Thursday, but they decided to come a day earlier for logistical reasons, and so began a long, hectic, fun week. I left from work to Coolidge Corner (where their hotel was) directly. Coincidentally WND was also in Coolidge that day, which made for easy planning. I went and said hi to EC and Mike who were already at the nearest Radio Shack (of course), but they had eaten, so I went and had dinner with my dinner group at a run of the mill Indian restaurant called Rani. I didn’t think it was as good as India Quality from a few months back.

After dinner I went up and lent a mentoring hand to Tessa with the robot code. Tessa, on her first year programing was doing impressively well, and she had at least one well organized component design team member helping her out. The programing mentor for this year didn’t make the trip, so Tessa has some questions, which I tried to clear up. I wasn’t much help. She fixed it the next day, and it wasn’t anything I said it might be. I was also happy to see echo’s of the methods and design I tough two years ago had been passed down by the girls, and were evident in this years code. I had tired really hard to find an easy, straight froward design to weave together the code the girls were writing. This was for the very purpose that, with a good design (the hard part) laid out the girls could take more ownership of the code, and not have things bog down as they easily could with a bad design. That this is exactly what has happened makes me very happy. More to follow as I have time to write it.