Get Involved in FLL or VEX IQ this season

We’ve had a lot of inquiries recently about getting kids involved in local STEM programs since Brickworld.  The most often questions from parents are how do I get my kids involved in something more organized than a club or after school program and what in the world is ‘competitive robotics?’

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First LEGO League robotics for youth 9-14 is already underway this season.  The The Tampa Bay area has a great Regional Director, Desh Bagley.  Information about how to get involved and form a team can be found at their website.  http://www.suncoastfll.org

VEX IQ Robotics is another inexpensive robotics platform that was recently showcased at Brickworld. VEX IQ is for kids as young as 8 years old.  Information about getting involved and starting a team can be found here. http://www.vexrobotics.com/vexiq/

Get involved this season!

Quadcopter Build: Update

So, several weeks later, actually, we were finally able to get back to our quadcopter project after waiting on some parts, which had been backordered.  We have been very fortunate to be working with GetFPV.com, who helped supply us with some our parts and we are documenting our Build and working in partnership with the Tampa Hackerspace, so others can follow our build and get involved.  Since we started, we’ve had a lot of people contact us with questions to start their own project.  We’ll answer some of the more FAQ about Building Your Own Quad!  Picking The Frame:  This is probably one of the least expensive parts of your quad if you are not doing a RTF quad.

Working with Tampa Hackerspace

Working with Tampa Hackerspace

We researched DOZENS of possibilities before deciding on a frame.  And that was key!  DO YOUR RESEARCH.  Don’t just order something off Hobby King, or download a model off Instructables and 3D print one without first considering what your goals are.  Is your goal Learning to Fly RC, Stunt Flying, or FPV Filming– because you have to consider size and weight of the Quadcopter, the weight of the motors, battery and any camera equipment you may be carrying.  You can make a quad frame out of PVC, Aluminum, or Wood, even LEGO!  High Quality frames are carbon fiber or a combination, because they absorb the vibration of the motors and props. How we chose our frame:  1. Our quadcopter was going to be financial investment, motors, flight controller, GPS, camera– several hundred dollars.  We thought it would be foolish to skimp on the frame when were investing a lot of time and money into what was being attached to it.  2. We wanted a quadcopter frame that could accommodate camera equipment. 3. After doing a lot of reading and talking to experts, we knew wiring was going to be our biggest challenge and we wanted to get that right, because Speed Controllers and Motors are expensive.  (Having been around FTC, everyone is sensitive to the costs and wiring of their Tetrix DC motors and Servos, so that was already ingrained in us!)  We determined using a Frame with a Power Distribution Board would be the most efficient. 4.  We selected a Quad type and frame based on our estimate that we would most likely have to replace parts.  We wanted to pair a frame with motors/speed controllers that were the most reliable and least likely to fail (also a lesson we’ve learned from robotics) and propellers that were inexpensive and readily available.  We have since already had our first successful flight!  All the advance work we put in on the project has paid off.

JD attaching the Power Distribution Board

Attaching the Power Distribution Board

All of our wiring and soldering was perfect.  We were wise to invest the time in a Power Distribution Board.  This functions exactly as described– distributing your power evenly across your motors and speed controllers.  When you build a quad, it’s all wiring, you’re wiring the ESC (Speed Controllers) to the Motors and those to the Flight controller and then to your battery and then to your camera.  If you just start soldering or plugging stuff in… ouch!  That’s a lot of time and money that can go awry pretty quick!  Our next goals are learning to fly our quadcopter without crashing it!  We also need to do more research with our Radio/Transmitter that we selected.  We know it works and Sumukh did a good job binding it to our Quad, but we need more practice with the controls and its features.  We also haven’t installed the GPS with our Naza Flight Controller yet and haven’t attached our camera.  Keep Tuning In!

WE’RE BACK!!!! Join Us…

Well, it’s probably no surprise to our friends, fans, and family– FTC Team Brick Buddies is returning for the 2014-2015 season!  Some teams didn’t even know we took the year off, considering we still volunteered for FTC and conducted Hardware Inspection at League Meets.  It was great, that everyone said how much they missed us and wanted to see us come back. It motivated our decision to return.

COMING BACK TO FTC

COMING BACK TO FTC FOR 2014!

Our kids were never far from their roots, still doing robotics, still hosting our annual FLL competition. Although, the break enabled our team members to hone new skills: Some learned CAD (finally), some started high school and we’re able to become involved in other activities (remember we were middle schoolers!) and one of our kids took the time to get a perfect score on the Math section of the SAT.  And for Jon and I, we can’t say, it wasn’t so terrible having some free weekends with our respective families. So, in all, it’s been time well spent.  But, FIRST is a family and we missed it.  The kids missed being together.  They missed building a robot.  And, when THE KIDS say they wanna build a robot, that’s when it’s time to put back on the team shirt!

This season, we’re also accepting applications for a few new team members.  We’re a Community Robotics team.  We’re looking for high school students, ages 14 and up.  We’re looking for students who are interested in Programming (C+) or Building skills or have experience working with tools or something else you feel might be a great asset to a competitive robotics team.  We typically practice on Sundays.  If you are an FLL kid, aging out, or maybe you were on an FTC school team and you are unable to stay after school for their meetings, and a weekend team would work better, let us know.  Interested students should fill out an  FTCapplication and email it to kappelers@yahoo.com.  If you have questions, please contact us.  Can’t wait to see everyone at this season’s Kick Off!

Quad Build: Week One

We took inventory of all our parts.  Our (4) motors are backordered.  Our Radio Received and Transmitter also didn’t arrive because of the snow storms up North last week.  Additional items that don’t come with quad components are extra wiring and soldering materials.  We had these items from FTC, so we were okay.  We first talked about all the Lumenier parts provided by our partner www.GetFPV.com .  We are grateful that this local Distributor took interest in Brick Buddies and our Build Project. We looked at what parts of the Build we could move forward with, minus the motors. photo 2 We decided we would be able solder the Speed Controllers to the Power Distribution Board.  The QAV 250 makes a nice integrated Board as part of this small Quad. Lumenier provides some good support and assembly instructions for the Frame of the QAV 250.  No soldering instructions come with the Parts, so we searched Youtube for video, to confirm we were on the right track.  We each took turns soldering the (4) ESCs to the Board.  This was A LOT of soldering. photo 4  The QAV has also two integrated LED strips which we also completed soldering and attaching to the Board.  We will meet again when our other parts arrive.  At our next practice, we hope to attach the motors and bind the Radio to our Quad.  We think get all the wiring correct with the electronics will be the most challenging part of the Build!  We will document our Build and provide a Resource Page for people who want to get involved in the Quadcopter Hobby and buy or build their own.

New Partners, New Projects

We told ourselves we were on hiatus this year, taking a sabbatical, a respite from the roller coaster of STEM activities that had so encompassed us in 2012.  But, then came VEX, and hosting our FLL tournament, and FTC called for help with Hardware Inspections and then FLL Ref season and then a sabbatical was something that probably needed to involve a deserted island.  But then something interesting happened involving STEM here. The Tampa Hackerspace opened and people came and people joined and projects and ideas have come to life and it’s quite a community of innovation and hobbyists!  For that reason, it’s time to officially come out of hiatus, not that we, ever, were on one. IMG_0372 So, we’re on to a new Project with our friends at Tampa Hackerspace.  We’re working together and we’re building some quadcopters.  We’ve had a lot of interest.  So many people are interested in this hobby.  Tampa Hackerspace will be doing a Quad Project for the USF Engineering Expo, February 21-22nd.  Come by and visit us. With the new Embry Riddle Aerospace Program at our school, I get asked about this all time.  We hope to even offer a future class at the Hackerspace on how to get started and take away some of the mystery of this hobby.

Robots At Rushe – Just Around The Corner

Time flies when it’s November and the first FLL Qualifying Tournament on the West Coast is just weeks away.  Brick Buddies is hosting their Annual Robots At Rushe tournament on Saturday, November 23rd from 9am – 4pm.  The event is free and open to the public to come watch.  Charles S. Rushe Middle School, Land O Lakes, Florida. IMG_0190  Robot Rounds will be held in the school cafeteria.  16 teams will be competing from the following area schools: Rushe Middle; Bayonet Point Middle; Crews Lake Middle, Chasco Middle School, Walker Middle Magnet, Roland Park Elementary, Robles Elementary, and Academy of the Lakes.

You can watch the Robot Competition from 9:00 – 2:00pm.

FLORIDA FLL & JR. FLL BACK IN ACTION

Kick Off is right around the corner for the FLL and Jr. FLL season.  Hope everyone is registered for Nature’s Fury and Disaster Blaster!  We have updated our blog to reflect all the new information about getting involved in Florida this season.  Everyone is knocking down the door asking about Workshop Day 2013.  It’s back, it’s back!  And, it’s even bigger.  Thanks to Rich Berglund, FRC Team Minotaur has offered to host Workshop Day at Middleton High School, Saturday, October 12th.  We’ve got more space; we’ve added workshops and we’ll start offering training on the new EV3.  Download the Registration Form WORKSHOPDAY2013  We’ll post updated information regarding the event as we get  it from Minotaur.

FLL WORKSHOP DAY

FLL WORKSHOP DAY

Jr. FLL is also in full swing across the state.  We get calls everyday about how to get involved in Jr. FLL.  Check out our Jr. FLL page on how to get started.  It’s so easy; don’t hesitate to start a team.  If you have any questions, feel free to contact us and we can put you in touch with the RIGHT people.

New Adventures in Robotics!

When we founded Brick Buddies several years ago, it was out of necessity. There were very few STEM opportunities in our area. The FLL team we were on, folded; camps were few and far between. There wasn’t a single school fielding a robotics team on any level in our county.  But fast-forward a few years, dozens of outreach events and mentoring later, and all that has changed.

Sunlake Robotics

Sunlake High School Robotics

This is a photo of JD, helping his new VEX teammates set the Field Elements for this year’s Game, “Toss Up” for their rookie season as part of a new Applied Robotics Magnet in our County.  After years of lobbying the school board, and convincing and mentoring their CTE schools to start competitive robotics teams, and hosting the County’s first tournament, we are able to reap the rewards of our own impact!

Brick Buddies has always preached the measureable impact of outreach.  We have never been involved in FLL and FTC for awards or Blue Ribbon recognition.  Anyone can show up and demo a robot somewhere.  We challenge teams to think about the affect they can have in their own community.  And not care, whether it’s good for Judging.  Brick Buddies will be taking a sabbatical and not participating in FTC for the 2013 season.  We’ve made some long lasting friends here that we know will endure through our other robotic endeavors. Nobody is ever really far away!  We’ll be volunteering and I’m sure we’ll still see everyone this season.  And we plan to continue our normal outreach activities.  Because, it’s outreach, not a photo-op.

XPRIZE After Earth Challenge

The XPRIZE After Earth Challenge is in full swing.  It’s for teens, ages 13-17.  Phase I video submissions are due by June 7th.  Information about team registration and official rules can be found online. www.xprizeafterearth.com.  Here are some tips if you are working on Phase I.

1. Choose the video essay that best represents your team.  There are two distinct questions, one exploring a team’s views on sustainability and one imagining a  scenario for your robot visiting Nova Prime.  It has been our experience to select the topic that most interests your team members.

2. Your team should brainstorm what ‘type’ of video to make.  Is it going to be funny, informative, etc… What is going to be the setting?  Is the video going to have a narrative or tell a story?  How are you going to film it?  We suggest you look to answer these questions early in the development of your video essay.  You don’t want to research and plan a video and then decide to make a clay or LEGO stop motion movie two days before the deadline.  Ask yourselves these questions?  Where can we shoot our video?  Is it going to be a live action video?  Does someone need to write a script and do lines need to be memorized?  Are you including narration or voice over?  In a previous Challenge, we used a storyboard and a shot list, to keep track of our Video Essay project and manage our time.

Working on a stop motion video

Elizabeth & JD timing a stop-motion video.

3. Use of copyrighted music and photography. When creating a video that will be uploaded to the internet, make sure you read the rules to any contest or Challenge you are involved in.  It is illegal to lay down a track from off your top iTunes playlist that’s copyrighted!  There is a lot of free or non-licensed music you can use or perhaps you have a team member with some music talent.

4. Be yourself and be involved in the video.  It’s not about making the most professional video production there is.  It’s about creating a video and conveying your message.  Remember, the Video Essay for After Earth can be no longer than (2) minutes.  Good luck teams!

Team Brick Buddies, XPRIZE After Earth Ambassador Team.