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.



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!


It doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out how four kids are dividing up all the programming and building responsibilities of two different robotics competitions.  There is no sitting on the sidelines on our team. No mentors doing the work; no dads building the robot; no heading out to somebody’s shop.   It’s literally all hands on deck by Brick Buddies team members at practice these days.  In order to meet the demands and deadlines of both MoonBots and Ring It Up, the kids split up tasks every Sunday.  Two members tackle MoonBots, from building all the Game Elements and LEGO Models, to building and programming the NXT Mindstorm. Then, in a coordination similar to a army tactical order, the 6×6 Game is packed and shipped off to a team member’s home for the week, so work can continue!  Right now, two members at a time, hold down the FTC duties, (and you thought we were small when we had three!)   Team members had to divide and conquer to first get the field cut and put together.  While everyone discussed game strategy and robot design, two members are working to order parts and get a chassis built.  While other teams will have some clear advantages over us, time, manpower, access– the kids have become extremely bonded working so closely together.  And, also in the middle of this craziness, Brick Buddies is host to the largest Workshop Training Day in Florida on October 27th.  Teams will becoming from across the State for team workshops and coaches training.  It’s tough right in the middle of the Build Season, but we enjoy giving back and seeing all the teams.


We were shocked and delighted yesterday to see Brick Buddies among the Phase One winners of the MoonBots Challenge!  We are excited to be among the finalists moving on in the competition.  The MoonBots Challenge is an international Robotics Challenge in conjunction with the Google Lunar X Prize.  This year, over 145 teams entered the competition.  We know we face some stiff competition ahead of us, not to mention the double-duty of competing in both FTC and MoonBots, simultaneously this Fall.  We’ve got quite a schedule to work out!  So, we’re going to enjoy our day of jubilation and then tomorrow, it’s back to practice.  Thanks to all our supporters, our parents, and our new partners, Earthrise Space, Inc. for helping us in this effort!


We have opened up our application process for potential new team members for the upcoming Fall 2012-21013 Robotics Season!  We are looking for a few good guys and/or gals who have an interest in engineering, programming, or mechanical building.  Team Brick Buddies is a North Tampa/Pasco Community Robotics Program.  Our FTC (First Tech Challenge) Team is for kids who are age 13 and up.  In our rookie season, we never ranked lower than 3rd at our Qualifying Tournaments.  We were part of a Winning Alliance Team and Inspire Award Winners.  At the State Championship, the team was recognized with the THINK Award, for documenting the engineering lessons they learned as rookies and that their robot design was solid and reliable all season. We play hard and practice hard!  In the Fall, we practice once a week on Sunday afternoons in Land O Lakes.  During the competition season, we practice twice a week.  The FTC Robotics season runs from late August until late February.  If you and your family might be interested in competitive robotics, fill out a Team Application.  FTCapplication

“Build By The Bay” LEGO Event, Saturday April 7th

Brick Buddies is very excited to welcome a full slate of Jr. First LEGO League teams to its Regional Jr. FLL Expo this Saturday at the Glazer Children’s Museum.  Jr. FLL is a program for kids, ages 6-9, who are interested in exploring new topics in science and learning to work together as a  team, using a LEGO-based program.  Glazer Children’s Museum is our partner in this great event.  Come out on Saturday and learn how you can get your child involved!  There will be a lot of fun activities– LEGO Challenge Build, Workshops about FIRST, LEGO Education and Building Tips from LEGO Masters. We also have a Robotics Champions Showcase of Award Winning Teams from all of the FIRST programs.  And, plenty of Museum activities are also scheduled!  We’d like to welcome all of our teams: Jr. Buddies, Homeschool LEGO Leopards, Dino Dangers, Peace Bots, LEGO Warriors, Robo Stangs, Lomax Panthers, South Florida Robotics, Snacula, LEGO K-9s, Super-Cocoas, and Thundercats!

Inspiring Minds….

This past weekend was the Seminole High School SpecTECHular FTC Qualifying Tournament.  There were 16 Robotics teams participating, some from as far away as Miami!  It’s always great meeting kids from out of the Tampa Bay area.  It was a crazy tournament.  One minute you’re on top, the next minute another team has bumped you off!  The kids were consistent and on top of their game the whole day.

Proud Winners

Team Brick Buddies has a fantastic showing– being awarded the top award of the Tournament, the Inspire Award and then went on to win with their robot as part of the Winning Alliance with Minotaur from Middleton High School. The team also secured a bid to the State Championship, February 18th in at Embry-Riddle University.

Start A Jr. FLL Team in Tampa!

Do you have a child that loves building with LEGO or learning about the way things work?  Or maybe LEGO isn’t really their thing, but they are a good friend and work well together in a team setting.  Those are skills kids work to develop as part of the noncompetitive program, Jr. First LEGO League, for children who are between the ages of 6-9.  We are a FIRST Robotics team that is helping grow and mentor new Jr. FLL teams this season in the Tampa Bay area.

William shares a Jr. FLL model

We are encouraging parents and teachers to start new teams at their schools, a community center or even start one in your own living room!  Jr. FLL is a low cost program and you can tailor the program to run anywhere from a month to 6 or 8 weeks.  To recognize Jr. FLL Teams, we are hosting a Jr. FLL Expo, Saturday April 7th at the Glazer Children’s Museum.   Start a team!  Check out our Jr. FLL section and download our Resources.  We help answer your questions and give you a curriculum to get you going! Get involved with FIRST today!


Busy Building

Well, it’s time to get down to business.  Being a small team, we’re at a slight disadvantage and everyone has to really take on specific roles so that everything on the Task Lists gets accomplished.  We split up our practice so the programmers could focus on some autonomous programs and playing with the sensors we decided to use this season.  Meanwhile, the Build Team worked separately to get the first part of chassis going, while we are waiting on a part order from PITSCO.  Thanks to Coach, Paul Bresnan for helping us keep everything in perspective.

Who Said We’d Be Building Robots??

There has been a lot of team effort going on with Brick Buddies team members and parents this past week!  The Pillai Family devoted a weekend to making our rookie team a Field Perimeter and we were able to track down all the scoring elements for the Game.  With the help of another local team, we are going to split the cost and shipping, giving us a both a great savings!  With the help of the Kappeler men, we also got a jump on building the other Field Elements and will be ready to go with a practice field when the team starts developing its chassis.  Thanks to everyone who pitched in, getting us off to a great start!