After showing Mr. Nichols our robot and game, his main suggestion was to try experimenting with LIDAR and similar sensors to track the robot’s position. He sent us a few sensors we could purchase online and suggested we try them, but we found that the most interesting one, a 2D spinning LIDAR sensor, was unfortunately illegal in FTC. He was very excited about FTC and we suggested he volunteer to become more involved. We will continue to work with him on solving different software systems as well as to get specific sensor recommendations in the future.
Jackie showing off our lift system and Henry in the background teaching a kid how to drive
Every year, our team spreads excitement for STEM in kids around our school district by demoing at several local Y-Care events. This year we were only able to demo at one due to scheduling conflicts, so we made sure to go above and beyond to make this event special for the kids. We started this demo by displaying our robots and the different mechanical systems. Afterward, we let them take turns driving both robots and playing around with a couple of LEGO robots. All of them had a blast and we hope they go on to join robotics programs in the future.
Soldering the crab robot (left) and posing with Cosmics next to the iterations of Recon’s robots (right)
Our team joined two members of Coding the Cosmics for a tour of Recon Robotics. Recon Robotics makes durable and mobile scouting robots that can access dangerous areas humans can’t. They make these robots for the police and military and they explained their extensive testing process and design iterations. The robots have a camera and other features that make them useful. It’s incredibly well built, being able to be shot out of a potato cannon and survive while weighing only 1.3 pounds. The Cosmics had invited us to attend a soldering class with them at Recon so we also learned some soldering skills while making a crab robot from a kit. We really enjoyed learning about Recon’s cool robots and practicing soldering with the Cosmics. It was super fun and we want to return to give the company a robot demo.
Seeing the history of the pacemaker (left) and learning about the pugh matrix (right)
Our team met with Boston Scientific engineers and learned about the medical devices they manufacture as well as the processes they use when creating new technology. We had a Q&A session with the engineers asking them questions about their careers, what they studied in college, and the ways they tackle challenges in their jobs. It was really interesting to learn that some of the elements we are learning in FTC can be found in the real world. They also gave us important strategy advice like using integration events, where we put everything together to see how it works. While talking with the experts they introduced us to the concept of a pugh matrix. This is a way to evaluate systems and rate them to see the best options. We also learned about the role of a Systems Engineer and their importance in managing the timeline of different systems before becoming the final product. Later on, Mr. Taher, an electrical engineer, gave us a tour of their huge facility. He showed us how the pacemaker was developed over the decades and how each iteration surpassed the previous. Overall, we learned a lot about the medical technologies field and how their engineering teams work. We look forward to incorporating methodologies like the integration events, the Pugh Matrix, and Systems Engineer role into our team’s season.
Teachingkidshowtodrive our robot (left) and showing off our robot to people at the convention (right)
The CONvergence Convention is an annual get-together for fans of Sci-Fi and Fantasy in all media forms. We showed off our robot at the convention and let kids and adults drive it around the field. The people driving our robot had the chance to pick up the freight and deposit it onto the hubs around the field. We also drove our robot all around the convention to get more people interested in robotics as well as driving the robots. This event allowed us to spread awareness about FIRST and FTC and get more people interested in joining STEM fields.
We were invited to demo for two days at the Benton County Fair. We had a field and table set up in a barn with other FIRST Programs such as FRC and FLL. We had a total of three robots on the field, two of them were ours and one was from another team, Cat in the Hat Comes Back. Many kids and adults had a chance to drive around the robots and deposit freight around the field. The adults were very curious and the kids had fun trying to drive the robot. We also explained to people how our robot works and what FTC is as we had many people ask about who we were and what we were a part of. This event helped us spread awareness about FIRST and FTC and get more people interested in STEM.
Every year our local library hosts several “storytimes” where they read stories to kids in the community. This is our fourth time doing this demo, and we were excited to return again in person. We were able to demonstrate our robot to the kids and have it dance with them. We also let the kids drive our Skystone robot and pick up stones. We had a lot of fun, but sadly this will be the last time we can do this demo since our team will be graduating. We invited Potential Energy to shadow us and see the demo so that they can continue the library’s Robot Storytime in our place in future years.
We had a Q+A session where we interviewed the engineers. One engineer told us that he got a physics degree and ended up in engineering. He said that you don’t need an engineering degree to become an engineer. Colton showed us some of the different 3D printers Stratasys makes and how each one prints differently. Besides FDM printing, which is what we use, Stratasys also uses other technologies such as PolyJet, SAF, and P3. Polyjet allows Stratasys to make colorful prints to create replicas of final models. SAF uses melted-powered polymers to create large volumes of parts with even strength. P3 uses light to cure resin to create fast low tolerance prints. Overall, we enjoyed the experience and we’re glad we returned.
Our team contacted the counselor of Biomedical Engineering (BME) Admissions at the University of Minnesota and we set up a zoom call to speak with her. Ms. Essig spoke about the general setup of both the BME and general engineering paths that the University had. She explained the class outline for someone majoring in BME and talked about what classes in the College of Science and Engineering look like. We asked her questions about research, classes, and job opportunities related to engineering. This meeting was very helpful for us as we are all preparing ourselves for college and two of our team members are planning on majoring in BME specifically. It was great to talk to Ms. Essig personally and she told us to ask if we have more questions about BME, engineering, or admissions.
One of the Trane employees showing us how the system works
We invited some of our mentee teams to tour a building automation company called TRANE Industries. During the tour, we learned how TRANE manufactures the printed circuit boards used in their building control systems. We got to see the machines they use to place the components onto the board as well as the machine that solders the parts onto it. In their testing room, they test new software and maintain old versions of their products so they are able to help their customers if a product breaks. Finally, we received a demonstration of their control systems in which they showed us how all the sensors, lights, doors, and HVAC systems work in conjunction with each other in a building. After touring their company, we told the employees at TRANE about FIRST and youth robotics as well as demonstrated our robot’s capabilities. They had the opportunity to drive our robot and many of them asked questions about it and our engineering notebook. Some of them were interested in getting involved so we encouraged them to volunteer at tournaments. We had lunch with some of the engineers at TRANE and they gave us lots of good advice for our future careers. The event was really fun and we would love to go back and learn more.