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!

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.

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.  

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

Area Jr.FLL Team Getting Ready for April Expo!

Team Homeschool Lego Leopards  consists of homeschool students from Pinellas & Pasco county. Everyone on the team is a rookie, including the coach! The kids embraced the concept of teamwork and really got involved in the project.  They selected pizza as their snack and have been busy researching how the ingredients get safely to our homes. We enjoyed an informative field-trip to Publix to learn about food safety in their stores. Once the team started building they couldn’t stop! They have built several models of things that were meaningful in their research including: a refrigerator with working fan and miniature food, a sink with moving faucet, a remote control delivery truck with a delivery person, and a garden where their crops were harvested. It was great to see the teamwork and how the kids communicated and worked with everyones ideas. They are very excited to attend the Jr. First LEGO League Expo at the Glazer Children’s Museum, Saturday, April 7th.  If you are interested in getting your child into this organized LEGO program, join us next Saturday and see how you can get involved!

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.