TAKING STEM GLOBAL

Our team was recently approached by Sony Pictures and XPRIZE to serve as an Ambassador Team for the global robotics contest, XPRIZE After Earth Challenge.  Although, a tremendous opportunity, we didn’t enter into the decision lightly.  For our small community team, it was, we’re either “all in together” or we’re not.  We don’t consider it Team outreach if it’s one or two of us; instead it’s a commitment we make as Team Brick Buddies.  Additionally, it was a large amount of work compressed into a short deadline during end of year exam time.  We could not have had the experience without the support of each other, our families, and our schools.

Team Brick Buddies with Will Smith

Team Brick Buddies with Will & Jaden Smith

We were extremely proud that XPRIZE felt Brick Buddies could represent their brand in this way and recognized we run a “kids do the work” program.  When we signed on, we anticipated it might be exciting.  We really had no idea the team would be on stage and get interviewed by Will & Jaden Smith or that they would be walking the Red Carpet for interviews.  And when your team is featured on Will Smith’s Facebook page with 42 million followers– that’s really a whole new level of outreach, we can’t even comprehend!   While we can’t compete in the XPRIZE After Earth Challenge, we hope to see a lot of familiar faces take it on.  You could wind up the Grand Prize winner and be featured on the DVD– talk about awesome outreach!  The deadline for Phase I submissions is June 7th!  So, check it out, now!  www.xprizeafterearth.com

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CAMP 2013

2011-07-13 001  It’s that time of year again when we start thinking about summer and summer camp!  We’ll be heading back to the Dunedin Recreation & Parks this year, where Brick Buddies summer programs originated!  We’ll be hosting two sessions of LEGO Lab the week of July 15th.  Camp registration starts April 6th.  Our sessions fill up fast, so don’t wait to register. We always have lots fun and our Jr. Counselors are ALWAYS camp alumni!  For more information go to www.dunedingov.com

WE RANG IT UP AT THE FLORIDA CHAMPIONSHIP

While other teams were busy with scouting or last minute Outreach or second guessing their design and making changes on the robot, here in the Brick Buddies garage this past week, it was quiet.  We practiced on our regular Sunday afternoon, tweaking our autonomous, replacing our lift string and packing our robot box for State. We then sent everyone home for the week. For us, it wasn’t about what we could rush to do in a week, but capping a whole season’s worth of hard work.  It was all or nothing for us.  We didn’t change our chassis; we didn’t add enormous weight to our robot and we decided against a ramp.  We knew our strengths and the kids kept their focus.  At the end of Qualifying Rounds, we finished 3rd and were one of the four Captains of teams moving into the Alliance Round. Being an alliance captain meant we had a shot at captaining the winning alliance with a bid to World Festival.

JD & Brian discuss alliance picks

JD & Brian discuss alliance picks

  Many people were surprised when Brick Buddies gave up that opportunity and accepted an invitation from Team Maelstrom into their alliance. And a lot of people have since asked why we made that decision.  We felt, partnering together, was our best shot at Winning the State Championship and that is what what the FIRST robotics program is all about– not about us getting to say we were Alliance Captains, but rather we helped our friends win their way to Worlds.  What most people didn’t know is that we had close relationship with Maelstrom all season.  While we were extremely competitive, often battling it out at Hillsborough Meets, finishing 2 and 3 all season and trading State ranking spots by mere points, we were also always helping each other and cooperating. Throughout the season, we talked pros and cons of chassis and grabber changes on our robots. We attended an out of League Meet together early in the season; we scouted together at the Pinellas League Championship and after the incident regarding the field damage, they were the only team in our League to let us know how it might affect us.  This type of relationship among teams is actually what Woody Flowers was talking about when he coined the term Gracious Professionalism. At the end of the day, after all the alliance rounds were finished, we were proven correct.  Together we were the best.  Both robots finished the day with one loss, the best record of any teams. We’re proud to say we are a part of the Florida State Championship Winning Alliance.

1800 DIAL A MENTOR

You know how at Thanksgiving, cooking experts man the Butterball Turkey ‘hotline’ to field all kinds of questions.  I called once and shockingly I was cooking, not a turkey, but a really big chicken, but I digress…  Several years ago, we met the family who created Team Landroids, John Yeh and Pearl Hwang and their son Karlin while we were all volunteering at World Festival.  We have remained close (working long 12 hour days will do that!) and their team has been a great role model for our own community robotics team.

Veteran Team Landroids mentors long distance

Veteran Team Landroids mentors long distance

We have often passed back and forth advice, strategy, and feedback.  When you need expert robot advice who would your team want to call?  Brick Buddies calls the 2012 World Festival Inspire Award recipients!  Although, we had empathy for the recent blizzard, it enabled us to get in a quick mentor email session.  They provided us detailed feedback and advice on some improvements we could make as we prepare for our State Championship. And apparently, we’re not alone. Other teams come to them for mentoring as well!  And, if you ask me, these kids should hang out a sign like the Peanuts cartoon character, “Lucy.”  People pay for consulting, for tutoring… this could be a whole Livingston Robotics Club expert consulting empire!  But, we’re grateful, for their great GP–for giving of their time and talent for free, for the time being!  Thanks Team Landroids; Here’s to long distance mentoring!

SUPER SENIOR WEEKEND THIS SUNDAY!

With official news of our State Bid assured, we’re taking a break this weekend to work with FIRST’s youngest group of kids!  We’re hosting Super Jr. 2013 at LEGOLAND this weekend.  We have over 30 teams attending! (We have an issue turning people away!) Sunday will be largest gathering of Jr. FLL teams in Florida.
We have teams coming from all parts of the State–  from Tampa to Orlando, to Jacksonville, to Mount Dora, to a local team right there in Winter Haven. IMGP5667 The weather is going to be great and we are excited to see all the LEGO models and talk to the teams.  We’ve been prepping like crazy making dozens of trophies and I know it’s hard to believe, but we may be low on LEGO now!

Wanna join in!  The Jr. FLL Expo runs 10am – 2pm at the LEGOLAND Lakeside Pavilion.  This is also “Friends Weekend” at the Park, so if you’re a passholder, we’d love to see you this Sunday, February 10th!

ON THE ROAD AGAIN!

Before team members head back to school Monday, Brick Buddies took to the road one last time this season out to the Seminole League Meet at University High School in Orange City. (What are the odds that there were two Meets at Florida on the same day at two schools called University High School?).  Their League boasts some of the friendliest Tournament volunteers we’ve met to date and some really great teams and stiff competition.  Lyman High School teams, B.A.D (3045) and G.O.O.D (4228) had a huge presence but displayed great GP on and off the field offering their help if we needed it since we had traveled.  Both teams have all around great game play and despite BAD, being called Built & Dangerous, they’re definitely both dangerous on the field! We were also impressed at all the great alliance partnering in the Seminole League.

JD, praying the robot doesn't fall off before the buzzer!

JD, praying the robot doesn’t fall off before the buzzer!

We won one match thanks to some great driving by our alliance partners, Electric Narwhals (132). And,Team 4227, Kiss My Bot is really showing Florida FTC how it’s done, when it comes to perfecting the End Game Lift.  We were excited to find ourselves in an alliance with them!  It’s a shame they couldn’t have traveled to any outside Meets this season, because their End Game Lift is show not to be missed. The Seminole League also seemed to have a huge contingent of female FTC competitors, more it seems than we’ve seen anywhere else!  Even the MC, was a gal.  A whoop, whoop to them. We had a great time with some great teams!

Having An Impact!

Florida First LEGO League is very competitive with 48 qualifiers going on across the State, as teams battle to secure a spot at Regionals. Brick Buddies has been trying to track the progress of some of our Workshop Day teams.  And we are proud to hear that many have earned Regional Bids already!  We’re so proud of them and we’d like to say congratulations and give them a shout out for all their hard work so far this season.  Team Ibots from Brandon is burning up the Table this season and grabbed a spot.

Winthrop Mindstorms

Winthrop Mindstorms

Rookie Team, Winthrop Mindstorms, from Valrico earned a Regional spot at the their debut tournament.  Pasco County’s Patriot Robots will be their county’s first team to reach the Regional level. We also heard that local team Cyborgs earned a bid as well as another Rookie Team from Fort Myers, Panther Tech! Way to go teams.  If your team qualified, we’d love to hear from you.

FIRST of many…

It was quite a weekend of firsts for our FIRST Robotics team this weekend.  We attended our ‘first’ Out of League meet, going to Orlando. IMGP5329  It was great fun and it made us long for the days of the old Qualifying Tournament system when you got to sign up for different tournaments and meet new teams and see a diverse range or robots.  Saturday was the first time our newest member, Sumukh Shivakumar, tackled the high pressure of being on the Drive Team.  We also made him responsible for aligning the robot during autonomous.  Why take on one role, when you can have two is our team motto!  DSC00451On the field, Saturday, was the first time we successfully participated in an end game lift (with Motor Monkeys), the only one of the day!  In another, not as positive ‘first’… Saturday marked the first time our robot got flipped over.  We’re still smarting from that Match.  Our poor little bot looked so helpless.  The only saving grace was we flipped by the rack and prevented additional scoring from that side  I guess you call that inadvertent defense! We know we’ve got a busy holiday break ahead of us with some repair work looming.

ROBOTS AT RUSHE – GREAT FLL DAY IN PASCO COUNTY

The reviews and results are in from our inaugural FLL Qualifier in Pasco County this past weekend.  STEM is catching on in Pasco!  We saw a lot of success in the all of the new Pasco County middle school based teams that participated. IMGP5272 We hope the First LEGO League program will expand to include some elementary teams next season as well.  Because 4th and 5th graders can be tough competitors.  The community team from Brandon’s Tech Playzone proved that with their young group of Techno Whizards who were awarded Tournament Champions.  Team IBOTS and Terrapins Reds tied for the high score of the day, both scoring a Table Run of 305 points, a huge score at early tournament!  Newcomers from Chasco Middle School, Gigabotz won the coveted FLL Core Values Award.  Team IBOTS won for Robot Design.  In the Project Category, Patriot Robots, from Bayonet Point MIddle, took 1st Place.  Also from Bayonet Point, Patriot Robotics, were recognized with the Rising Star Award.  From John Long Middle, Green Flames took home the award for FIRST Spirit, for showcasing great sportsmanship and Gracious Professionalism.  Teams that advanced to Regionals were Techno Whizards, Patriot Robots, and Terrapins Red.  Congratulations to everyone!  We had a blast.

NOVEMBER NEWS

We had some trepidation about going to the first Meet in the new League system a month earlier than normal qualifying tournaments.  But our hard work paid off in a great showing for our team, going 5-2 with our robot.  We enjoyed catching up with some friends but we certainly missed the diversity and friendly nature of the old Tournament system.  The team is already back to work making some adjustments and improvements for the next Meet.  We lost a servo at the first Meet and we want to firm up our electronics and be more reliable on the Field.  Several coaches asked us how our small team is so successful.  I think they owe a lot to their FLL background with the philosophy, “Kids Do The Work.”  We see a lot of adult involvement on the FTC level– in teams’ practices, in their Pits. I’ve never seen so many adults with their hands on tools and laptops. But our kids build the robot; they know how it works; and so they can problem solve to fix things and improve things.  That’s how it works for us.  The team is also busy preparing to host Pasco County’s first FLL Tournament on December 1st.  It’s hard enough to learn one Game’s scoring, rules, and penalties, but two Games– we’re getting dizzy!