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.

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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.

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!

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!

We Love Real Gracious Professionalism!

We are watching the growth and progress of Coleman Middle School robotics team, Bioharzardous.  This team, which has members that have grown up through the old Dale Mabry Destroyers Elementary School team are emerging as one of the veteran FLL teams on the West Coast.   Biohazardous combined some practical problem solving and outreach, devising a ‘cat wagon’ for the senior partner they’ve been working with for this year’s Project.  She related she was unable to drive her cats to the vet but still wanted to maintain her independence by walking there, if she could.  The team members modified a radio flyer and it looks like these cats will be riding in style thanks in part to some good kids with some great GP, who took time out from their Project to reach out!  It’s one thing to memorize the FLL Core Values, it’s another thing to actually incorporate them into your everyday interactions.

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.

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

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.