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!

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Quad Build: Week One

We took inventory of all our parts.  Our (4) motors are backordered.  Our Radio Received and Transmitter also didn’t arrive because of the snow storms up North last week.  Additional items that don’t come with quad components are extra wiring and soldering materials.  We had these items from FTC, so we were okay.  We first talked about all the Lumenier parts provided by our partner www.GetFPV.com .  We are grateful that this local Distributor took interest in Brick Buddies and our Build Project. We looked at what parts of the Build we could move forward with, minus the motors. photo 2 We decided we would be able solder the Speed Controllers to the Power Distribution Board.  The QAV 250 makes a nice integrated Board as part of this small Quad. Lumenier provides some good support and assembly instructions for the Frame of the QAV 250.  No soldering instructions come with the Parts, so we searched Youtube for video, to confirm we were on the right track.  We each took turns soldering the (4) ESCs to the Board.  This was A LOT of soldering. photo 4  The QAV has also two integrated LED strips which we also completed soldering and attaching to the Board.  We will meet again when our other parts arrive.  At our next practice, we hope to attach the motors and bind the Radio to our Quad.  We think get all the wiring correct with the electronics will be the most challenging part of the Build!  We will document our Build and provide a Resource Page for people who want to get involved in the Quadcopter Hobby and buy or build their own.

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!

ON THE ROAD AGAIN!

Before team members head back to school Monday, Brick Buddies took to the road one last time this season out to the Seminole League Meet at University High School in Orange City. (What are the odds that there were two Meets at Florida on the same day at two schools called University High School?).  Their League boasts some of the friendliest Tournament volunteers we’ve met to date and some really great teams and stiff competition.  Lyman High School teams, B.A.D (3045) and G.O.O.D (4228) had a huge presence but displayed great GP on and off the field offering their help if we needed it since we had traveled.  Both teams have all around great game play and despite BAD, being called Built & Dangerous, they’re definitely both dangerous on the field! We were also impressed at all the great alliance partnering in the Seminole League.

JD, praying the robot doesn't fall off before the buzzer!

JD, praying the robot doesn’t fall off before the buzzer!

We won one match thanks to some great driving by our alliance partners, Electric Narwhals (132). And,Team 4227, Kiss My Bot is really showing Florida FTC how it’s done, when it comes to perfecting the End Game Lift.  We were excited to find ourselves in an alliance with them!  It’s a shame they couldn’t have traveled to any outside Meets this season, because their End Game Lift is show not to be missed. The Seminole League also seemed to have a huge contingent of female FTC competitors, more it seems than we’ve seen anywhere else!  Even the MC, was a gal.  A whoop, whoop to them. We had a great time with some great teams!

Having An Impact!

Florida First LEGO League is very competitive with 48 qualifiers going on across the State, as teams battle to secure a spot at Regionals. Brick Buddies has been trying to track the progress of some of our Workshop Day teams.  And we are proud to hear that many have earned Regional Bids already!  We’re so proud of them and we’d like to say congratulations and give them a shout out for all their hard work so far this season.  Team Ibots from Brandon is burning up the Table this season and grabbed a spot.

Winthrop Mindstorms

Winthrop Mindstorms

Rookie Team, Winthrop Mindstorms, from Valrico earned a Regional spot at the their debut tournament.  Pasco County’s Patriot Robots will be their county’s first team to reach the Regional level. We also heard that local team Cyborgs earned a bid as well as another Rookie Team from Fort Myers, Panther Tech! Way to go teams.  If your team qualified, we’d love to hear from you.

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.

ROBOTS AT RUSHE – GREAT FLL DAY IN PASCO COUNTY

The reviews and results are in from our inaugural FLL Qualifier in Pasco County this past weekend.  STEM is catching on in Pasco!  We saw a lot of success in the all of the new Pasco County middle school based teams that participated. IMGP5272 We hope the First LEGO League program will expand to include some elementary teams next season as well.  Because 4th and 5th graders can be tough competitors.  The community team from Brandon’s Tech Playzone proved that with their young group of Techno Whizards who were awarded Tournament Champions.  Team IBOTS and Terrapins Reds tied for the high score of the day, both scoring a Table Run of 305 points, a huge score at early tournament!  Newcomers from Chasco Middle School, Gigabotz won the coveted FLL Core Values Award.  Team IBOTS won for Robot Design.  In the Project Category, Patriot Robots, from Bayonet Point MIddle, took 1st Place.  Also from Bayonet Point, Patriot Robotics, were recognized with the Rising Star Award.  From John Long Middle, Green Flames took home the award for FIRST Spirit, for showcasing great sportsmanship and Gracious Professionalism.  Teams that advanced to Regionals were Techno Whizards, Patriot Robots, and Terrapins Red.  Congratulations to everyone!  We had a blast.

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!