To prepare this Lessons Learned Report, each member of the team was asked to write a short essay on that topic.

Simeon Richards (11th Grade)

When we signed up for a computer science and programming class, we had no idea that FIRST was even on the radar. About a quarter way through the year, however, we agreed that it would be a good course of action for our class to take. We registered immediately, and began to design our robot. This led to the first lesson we learned: Design the robot, but quickly. We learned this the hard way; we spent two weeks designing the thing. Next year we are going to limit our design period to maybe a week. This will give us the time to debate a general design, make the necessary modifications, and stick to the plan. Unfortunately, this led to the second lesson, build it. It sounds simple, but we spent a long, long time theorizing about the design during the building process. We built one part at a time, making sure it was perfect. There was nothing wrong with being careful, other than the fact that it slowed us down considerably. Next year we might consider branching out and giving everyone a job to speed up the process. Speaking of branching out, I believe our design style needs to change. At our first two competitions, the teams with the most specialized robots tended to win. One would take on a task, another would take on another, etc. However, at the state level and world, the teams with three jack­of­all­trades robots won considerably more often. I believe our design style should be less specialized and more comprehensive of the entire game. Once we got to our first competition, I was just a little unprepared. I had not expected the level of energy in that place. This is my next lesson: Get sleep and coffee. The level of intensity the other students bring that place to is the most potent mix of sensory overload and stress adrenaline I have ever experienced. Long days of about 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. didn’t help either. This left us barely enough time to eat dinner and crash. As you might guess, by the time we went to bed we were completely exhausted. This led to (several) alarming lessons: double check your alarm. More than once someone had to come wake us up because I had set an alarm for 6 p.m. instead of a.m., and other equally embarrassing mistakes. We were never late because of it, but we got a premature shot of that stress adrenaline I was talking about.

Erin Wiser (9th Grade)

FIRST Robotics was definitely a great adventure. From finding out about doing the competition in October to going to the World Championship in St.Louis in April it has been such a great journey. When kickoff came in January getting to see the game had me thinking “how are we ever going to get this accomplished in 6 weeks.” Shortly after kickoff we attended a rookie build event in Petoskey and built a very basic chassis and got to learn all of the basics of building and programming. I had no idea that we would get so far at the event and was surprised that as the day ended teams started to leave with a robot that moved. Although we were the only team to leave without a moving robot we would have been so lost if we hadn’t gone.

In the airport during our weather hold up we live on an island and a winter storm left us stuck on the mainland for a full day) and when we got back home we had the task of making the robot run which was challenging but worked out in the end. We were so excited when it moved; you would have though we won something expensive. Shortly after our robot moved we were running it in our gym and heard a clicking sound from one of the gearboxes. So we decided it’s better to be safe than sorry and took it all apart to find nothing wrong. When we put it back together and the clicking was gone. So, apparently, that is just one of the things that happen.

Brainstorming ideas of how we wanted to build our robot was interesting because we all had different approaches and we were all learning as we went. We eventually decided on our plan and moved our building from school to the shop. The building was a lot of fun for me personally because I got to learn how to use tools that I had never used before and I got to see how things worked like welding and fabricating. During the building process we tried very hard to be able to shoot high goals but we ultimately realized that they were not consistent enough for it to be worth it.

Going through the build season was definitely an adventure—a very quick adventure, we changed our plans a lot and we learned about how to really problem solve as things didn’t always work. Something that I learned is that in the end it can really be the little things that trip you up. You can have a great robot that does everything, but if you don’t bag and tag correctly your out so you have to pay attention to the little things. At our first competition, we really didn’t know anything; we weren’t sure how to play the game or how competitions worked in general. Our very first match we played alone because neither of our alliance partners arrived to play. This kind of ended up helping us because it appeared we won the match and one of the teams in the alliance we were facing was the team that picked us in alliance selection. (I say it appeared we won because it turned out the field scoring system wasn’t working properly and we had to replay the match several times later in the tournament.) Our first match opponent who later picked us to be on their alliance taught us so much. They not only helped us learn how to play the game but also helped us with the programming to make our robot more successful. So even though after many replays we ended up losing that first match, it gave us the boost we needed as a rookie team. After our first event, we realized we need something to get the ball out of the bucket so we constructed a kicker. Although it was a time-consuming process it helped us out a lot in our next competition where we were 3rd alliance captain.

All of the problems that were solved and all the alliance experience landed us a spot at the Michigan State Championship. There, we tried to enhance our autonomous mode. Some challenges with that caused us to struggle a bit (we had trouble calibrating for differences in the field surface), but we pulled through and had a great time. We got to meet Governor Snyder and I even got to be interviewed by Robozone for Fox Sports Detroit. We rounded off our time at state in 57th place which we later found out qualified us to go to Worlds. bIrobot was Saint Louis-bound.

Our little rookie team of 5 people was ready to take on the FRC World Championship Event. We left the island after several of our team members completed the SAT and PSAT. Roughly 13 hours later we arrived in Saint Louis. The next morning we got up and went to the Arch. After that fun experience we were ready to go to the pits. We found our pit, Carson division aisle P, pit 16. Worlds certainly was the next level. The Edward Jones Dome and The America Center together made for a lot of space to be covered. But we figured out the routine. I was amazed by the way they ran everything so smoothly with all of those people—not only all the FRC people and their families but all the Junior FLL, FLL and FTC people as well.

Worlds was a great experience. Just getting to be there and be part of it was incredible what with competing as a rookie with all of those teams that have been doing this for ages. We had struggles just like at any other competition we competed at, but it was all a great learning experience. We didn’t make it past qualification rounds but ended in 54th place in the Carson Division, and had the highest number of crossing points earned in that division and near the top for all divisions (which was a primary mission of our robot).

Overall robotics this year has been a crazy, rewarding, inspirational, and incredible learning experience.  While much hard work and stress went into building our robot, nothing is more rewarding than when you see all that work pay off. Getting up at five and then competing all day, eating dinner at ten o’clock, and then not falling asleep until one is definitely exhausting, but the experience and all of the nice people who put in the same amount of work as us made it worth it. I am so grateful to everyone who helped make it possible for us to have a robotics team and to go so far. So thank you to everyone who donated money, time, and resources. I will never forget bIrobot’s rookie year and am looking forward to what next year has in store.

Jared Robert (6th Grade)

My name is Jared Robert. This is my journey in the world of First Robotics. Robotics hasn’t been easy and it’s been a long trip since it started. I’ve learned some valuable things along the way. I’ve learned how to program in Python, work with EV3 Lego robots and how to use a Raspberry Pi. I also learned to work as part of a team, and how to deal with something when it doesn’t work. I’ve also learned about building complex designs, being careful with equipment, learning about about S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.), and—most of all—patience.

CLASS

Class is a big part of robotics and it is the place where we come up with lots of ideas and design projects. Class is on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; it starts at 2:00 and ends at 3:20. Our teachers are Mr. Boyle and Mr. Doig. The thing I like best about Mr. Boyle is that he’s on track and organized so we don’t get mixed up. The thing I like about Mr. Doig is he’s so funny.

CHALLENGES

Some of the challenges we face as a team are that we have a small team of five, we have a shortage of supplies and most of the things we use we must make ourselves. We don’t have any big hardware stores, and we have to deal with unique traveling expenses. Because we live on an Island, we have to pay one hundred dollars per person and we have to weigh our luggage and pay for it by the pound.

COMPETITION

Competition is really the biggest part of robotics and First. In competition, you are either on your toes or kind of disappointed. Either way, you need to have gracious professionalism in and out of the game. Our first match was in Standish Sterling and we got second place and the Finalist’s Award. In Marysville, we got third place, the Highest Rookie Seed Award and the Rookie Inspiration Award. After Marysville, we went to state competition in Grand Rapids. It was amazing! After state competition, we went to World Competition in St. Louis Missouri. We got to be on the Carson Field and out of the 70 teams in it we earned the most points for crossing defenses.

CONCLUSION

Although we are a first year team, we made it to the world competition and we are very proud of our selves! We can’t wait to see what other challenges we might face in the world of Robotics.

Gage Anderson (6th Grade)

My name is Gage Anderson. I was lucky to get in the robotics team because it was only supposed to be high school and middle school. The first couple days of robotics we learned what was really in a computer and how to put one together. Next, we got Lego EV3 kits and learned simple programming on them. Then, we got Raspberry Pis, which are little computers that we programmed. The programming languages that we have been using are Python and Scratch on the Pi. In Python, I turned lights on and off. In Scratch I programmed a game. I also built a Lego EV3 Rubik’s cube solver. It solves the Rubik’s cube in 30 moves or less so far.

Our first competition was at Standish, MI. During our first game there, we were alone, with no other robots on our alliance and we still won 5 to 0. At that competition, we ended up at second place and got medals and one award. On our second trip, to Marysville, MI, we got 3rd place and won another two awards. We went to state which was at the Delta Plex in Grand Rapids, MI and got 57th place. The last place we went to was the World Competition at St. Louis, Missouri. We got 53rd out of 75 teams. We had the highest points weakening defenses in our field.

Our robotics team faced many challenges. The first part was we had to make parts from scratch like gears. Another thing is the unique traveling expenses. The robot has to go by airplane which is about one hundred dollars and each ticket for the one person is one hundred dollars. Every time we go over, we have to rent one to two vans for a week or less which costs more money.

Lessons Learned

We talked about our essays and came up with the following list of lessons learned in the 2016 season:

  1. Hard work pays off.
  2. First impressions matter.
  3. Sleep matters, but careful planning may matter more. Check the time when you set your alarm.
  4. Careful planning is good, but it needs to be part of a quick cycle design, build, test and refine process.
  5. Design for the long haul and flexibility so features can be added based on experience within the time frames available during out-of-bag times after build season.
  6. Design for serviceability.
  7. Complexity can be your enemy.
  8. Learn the programming language(s) and design tools in the off-season. The work begins in the fall, not in January.
  9. Communication with alliance partners is critical to success.
  10. Have fun.

 

Student Quotes:

  1. In competition, you are either on your toes or kind of disappointed.
  2. I was lucky to get in the robotics team because it was only supposed to be high school [and I’m in 6th grade].
  3. The level of intensity … students bring [to the competition field] is the most potent mix of sensory overload and stress adrenaline I have ever experienced.
  4. Overall robotics this year has been a crazy, rewarding, inspirational, and incredible learning experience.  While much hard work and stress went into building our robot, nothing is more rewarding than when you see all that work pay off.

Team Number: 6098

Team Name: bIrobot

Lead Mentor/Coach: Kevin Boyle

Team Website: https://birobot.org

Form(s) of sponsor recognition: Stickers on robot; logos on website; individual hand-written thank you cards; free team t-shirts