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.



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!



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.

BACK TO SPACE, sort of…

We had a quite a whirlwind weekend of robotics this past week.  With so much excitement, it’s easy to lose sight of such silly things like school and work!  Saturday was the big FTC season Kick-Off in Orlando and everyone was so eager to get started, that we met again on Sunday to start strategizing and get the Field Build going. Tossing rings and lifting robots.  We were all a little dizzy!  But before all that, we took our ‘work-in-progress’ MoonBots Game and went to check-in over at Earthrise Space, Inc. with our favorite Google Lunar X Prize Team, Omega Envoy.  It was great to catch up and get an update on their progress.  And, we thought we were busy!  Ruben and Joe are pretty busy. A lot has changed over there since we visited in June.  They are expanding their Lab and work spaces. We got a full tour!  We saw the Tilt Table they made for testing the rover — pretty awesome.   We also got to see what the “clean room” was like.  We got to meet Max, who is new to the Team.  Who doesn’t want to work on getting back to the moon?  We talked about MoonBots Phase II, the upcoming deadlines, and they gave us some great feedback on our Lunar Landscape.  We showed some of our preliminary Game Missions, including our top secret Mission for Marvin.  As always, can’t wait to go back!

FLL Senior Solutions Challenge Released!!

Hey FLL friends.  Several coaches have asked where the Robot Game video is posted.  If you went on the FIRST website today, there is a FLL informational video posted and then Scott Evan’s video explaining the game is linked halfway down the page.  It looks to be a great season.  Don’t forget to read the Mission and Game Rules!  Here is a link.  


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!


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!


  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!

BYE, BYE ‘Bowled Over’!

Well, we laughed, we argued, we laughed more!  Team Brick Buddies is ready for a well earned break and to enjoy some community events this Spring.  FTC definitely presented us with some challenges we weren’t prepared for– the cost of fielding a highly competitive robot is enormous; finding adequate practice and workshop space was exhausting; all the great friendships we developed, totally unexpected!  FIRST Robotics in the Tampa Region is unparalleled!  At the State FTC Championship, five out of the six Judged Awards went to Tampa area teams.

Elizabeth, JD, & Alex

These great teams have motivated and inspired us all season and we were proud to be among them at the end.  ROCKWELL COLLINS INNOVATE AWARD: Team Minotaur; PTC DESIGN AWARD: Schrondinger’s Army; CONNECT AWARD: Team Duct Tape; MOTIVATE AWARD: Masquerade and Team Brick Buddies earned the THINK AWARD, capping a great season

Congratulations to everyone and good luck to the teams heading to World Festival, DITU, Masquerade, Team Duct Tape.

Middleton Madness Tournament

Well, we survived our first FTC Tournament.  We had a fantastic day!  Both the team and robot performed great– way beyond our expectations.  Everyone from tournament officials, to the Refs, to the Florida Director of FTC kept saying how impressed they were with how well the kids were working together in the Pit and Driving on the Field.  FTC is a great program!  The matches are exciting and challenging and chaotic.  You’re up; you’re down!  You’re against one team, one round and alliances five minutes later!  It’s quite a roller coaster. I am proud of how our kids handled themselves their first time out!  We also learned, we still have a lot to learn.  We’re novices at strategy and scoring.  We had no idea what QP and Ranking Points were or their importance.  We lacked scouting skills and really didn’t think we’d need to utilize them until we found ourselves an Alliance Captain in our very first tournament.  Can’t possibly know everything in one go-round!  And couldn’t have asked for a better experience.  What a great day day!

Team Brick Buddies wins PTC Design Award