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!

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.

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!

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.

OH MY, OCTOBER!

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.

WITH MUCH GRATITUDE…

Even though it’s still summer, we’re already full steam ahead into the 2012-2013 FTC season.  We are very fortunate to have a variety of companies supporting our efforts this year.  RAYTHEON is returning as our main sponsor.    We are very grateful they continue to provide both financial and mentor support.  We want to thank BrickBuildr who is helping the team by providing our tournament give-aways this season. Pretty cool– so stop by our Pit!    We have a new partner in Earthrise Space, Inc. and Google Lunar X Prize Team, Omega Envoy.  They have offered us the use of their facility and technical assistance this season fabricating parts.  And finally, Team Brick Buddies has been lucky enough to team up with THINK GEEK to receive refurbished robotics kits for Outreach projects.  Awesome!   We have had such a great response from the community.  Thank you to all of our partners!

EXTENDING OUR REACH

  Even though we’ve all been busy with projects and camps, we’re still happy to get the word out about FIRST Robotics!  Last year, Team Brick Buddies was the only official FTC team in Pasco County and it’s getting a little lonely.  We do have Smoke & Mirrors and Duct Tape nearby, but it would be nice if  the school system got on the bandwagon in our area. While FIRST is about competitive robots, we are a pretty collaborative and friendly group.  Last season, we helped schools in the area get three First LEGO League teams off the ground.  This year, we hope to give a few FTC teams a start!   Our first stop was to visit our new friends at Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School who are hoping to be the first school in the county to field a team.  Team members from Brick Buddies shared their robot and experiences as a rookie team.  They talked first-hand about learning the Tetrix building system and RobotC programming.  We told them about the Game, the season schedule, how to form a team, budgets and most importantly, all the great resources in our region!

How Lucky Can We Get!

We are a small cohesive team, sometimes for better or worse. There is no hiding in the background on our team! There is no time to ‘learn the ropes.’  So, with all of that in mind, we are so pleased to welcome our newest member, Sumukh Shivakumar, who will be a sophomore this year in the IB program at Land O Lakes High School.  He comes to Team Brick Buddies equipped with some mean JAVA programming skills from an extensive program at USF.  He is active in Mu Alpha Theta and competitive mathematics!  He plays the Indian drums and piano and likes playing tennis. Sumukh enjoys challenging problem solving games like Sudoku, Minesweeper, and Chess. We are happy to help add FIRST Robotics to Sumukh’s wide variety of activities!