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!

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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!

BUDDING ENGINEERS WANTED

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