Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Robot

This is Alex. Ever since November 15th, we have been working on nothing but the robot (except for yesterday). We have made a lot of progress so far. We now have three whole missions perfected. We can consistently do the levees mission, the house mission and the floodgate mission. We have also come much closer to being successful with the final mission, where we deliver everything to the research area. For the most part, we've given up on raising the house and setting up the directional arrows. I haven't been working on the robot myself very much, because I've been working on the skit.

We performed the skit at the Open Minds co-op Open House. We got a lot of good feedback but we were also told how we can improve it. We also got some practice with answering questions.

We tried to upload the video of our presentation to YouTube, but it was too long, so we're going to have to edit it.

Below, see a photo of us after we performed our skit at the Open Minds Co-Op Open House.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Field Trip

This is Alex. On Friday we had our field trip to the Brazos River Authority which is where they make the biosolid fertilizer. It was a very interesting tour and we learned a lot of things about biosolids that we would never have found out before. For example, 100% of Belton's waste goes to the factory, and 66% of Temple's waste goes there. All that stuff smelled absolutely toxic. We also learned exactly how the biosolids are processed. It is a long and complicated process and I am quite glad that my mother was paying such strict attention.

They have to take the water and filter out all the large bits of junk.

Then, they completely remove all the water to turn it into sludge cakes (which smell worse than they did before). After that's done, they put it through another machine to make sure it's composed of exactly the right minerals and microscopic organisms, and then they pile it up so big that it combusts itself like a compost heap.

Believe me, it's more complicated than that, but we're going to go over it in more detail on Sunday. We are also, hopefully, going to get some more work done on the arrows and floodgate mission. I think we need to use the ultrasonic sensor to see when we're the right distance from the far wall before stopping and turning. If we can get the distance down straight, I'm pretty sure it'll make it a lot more consistent. So, that'll be one of our main objectives. That's all for now. bye.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

November 2nd, 6th and 9th

This is David and Alex. On the second of November, we worked on nothing but the robot. We worked on the house mission, and got it to the point where we can almost always gather all of the items. We tried to get the light sensor to work, but it was very difficult and we did not choose a very good line follower program.

That was pretty much all that we did on the second, but in between the second and the sixth, we found a new line follower program. On the sixth, we worked on the house mission again. We still couldn't get the light sensor to work so, we found yet another line follower program.

On the ninth, we tried the new program. It worked much better at the beginning, but then we decided to revise our plan and not raise the house or open the window. Now, we have decided to work on the directional arrows and the floodgate. We have a very good idea for how to set up the arrows. It's also very simple, but the only problem is that it takes up a lot of memory on the NXT. It shouldn't be that big a problem, but it could be. In any case, we'll do it and see where it gets us. While we worked on programming, Nic and Cheyne built a duplicate robot. They decided that the best way to differentiate between the robots was to make the second one as luridly colored as possible. So, all the arms are yellow, green, red, or other unconventional colors. And, they're not put on in any kind of pattern or style. So, we know which is which.

We also did a teamwork challenge, where we had to make two pillars to hold a yardstick up over a box, and then build a cradle for a pool ball to stand on top of the stick. It was difficult, but we got it all done in time.

That's all that we did for those last three meetings.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

October 26th and 30th

This is Max. On Sunday the 26th we discussed what we learned at the Maker Faire. Our skit wasn't precise enough so we started rewriting it. We made our skit to be a combination of Risk and Star Wars. Cheyne and Nic are still going to be the bad guys, but our good guys changed. I am not going to be the Limer. I'm going to be a good guy who builds dams and irrigation systems, but we haven't come up with a cool name yet. David is going to be a Chinese super hero and I get to be his translator. Alex is going to be a scientist.

We worked a lot on the house missions and finally successfully gathered the computer, bike and insulation and delivered it to the green grid.

On Thursday we worked on the skit some more and are almost done with it. We built an arm for the house mission, but it's not heavy enough to raise the house. We added some weighted bricks, but are having trouble with the arm working and not breaking.

We practiced the skit twice and did more rewriting so that now at the end we talk about our climate problem, our sister community and our solutions. Nic and Cheyne are also going to talk about our field trips and the way we shared our project with others.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

October 19th & 23rd

This is Alex and David. On Sunday the 19th, the team, except Max, went to the Maker Faire to perform and share the research we have done. We performed the skit four times, the last time was for the engineer, who couldn't find us in time for the earlier three presentations. She gave us feedback on the skit and the research board that we had created. She said that we needed to do a better job presenting what we had found about Argentina and its climate problems and solutions. Apparently, we needed to put that kind of information in our skit.

On October 23rd (today), we had another meeting. We went over what we had been told by the engineer. We decided to completely rewite the skit. We are considering having a Risk board (huge wall map) where Nic and Cheyne put rain cloud and sun stickers on the places that they have destroyed with their powers. Then we can have our heroes put their stickers on the map, too.

After that, while we started writing this blog, the other three worked on the levee mission. They figured out a way to deliver the people along with the levees and it worked four times and it was perfect (it works best with the people in front of the levees). They are going to work on being able to deliver the cage to the research center. Then, we were told what they did so that we could write it down like we just did.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

October 16th and 17th

This is Alex. On Friday, we had an extra meeting to work on our research board. We began by choosing the layout for the board. There were many ideas and many changes of ideas, but we ended up with the climate problems of Central Texas and Rosario, Argentina on the left side of the board. We have the current solutions on the far right side, and the team's solution in the middle part.

Alex, Cheyne, David, and Nic working on the research board.

On Thursday, we worked on our skit. The skit is going very well indeed. Almost everyone has their lines memorized, and those who don't are confident that they can get their lines memorized by Sunday. We practiced the choreography for the light saber fights, and we have them down really well.

Nic laying on the ground after being beaten in a light saber fight.

Alex and Cheyne fighting as the Gelly and Lord Flood.

Nic showing nothing but a smile, and Cheyne trying not to smile.

On the 19th, the team will go to the Maker Faire in Austin, where we will perform the skit and present our research to a group of scientists. An engineer from UT will evaluate us and give us feedback on our presentation.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

October 9th & 12th

This is Alex. On October 9th, we met and went over our homework from the last meeting, so we had to pick one of the three communities that Nic had found that were similar to Central Texas as far as climate is concerned. We decided that Rosario, Argentina was the most similar to Central Texas, since they have to deal with the same problems that we do. We also had David write a thank you note to Farmer Grandy. Most of the meeting was taken up by the research project, but we spent a little bit of time at the end working on the house mission. We now have the ultrasonic sensor mounted securely, but we're changing the program so that the mission runs more smoothly. At the end of the meeting, we decided on homework for Sunday. I had to write the basic outline for the script, and the other team members had to find what solutions were being used for drought and excessive rain in Rosario.

On October 12th, we had another meeting. We went over the homework and talked about a substance that worked just like the biosolid fertilizer, but it was a kind of gel. The entire name is gel-tech root gel.

We also went over the skit that I had come up with. We still have to come up with each person's dialogue, and since no one was very eager to do that on Sunday, we're going to come up with the dialogue on Thursday instead.

We also had a teamwork project. We had a pool ball, and in front of it was a small cardboard wall with a hole cut in it. We had to build and test an arm that we could operate to reach through the hole and pull the pool ball back through. We came up with an arm that was like a pair of scissors, but with claws at the ends instead of blades.

The last thing that we did was work on the house mission. We're getting close to finishing it, but it's difficult having to fine-tune the programming.

That's pretty much all that we did.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

October 5th

Hello, this is Alex and Nic, but mostly Nic. We started today off by writing the blog for the field trip. After that we decided on our theme for the research project, extreme weather due to climate. We also assigned specific roles for the research project. We then did a practice teamwork challenge. We had to build a tower nine inches high to support a pool ball and move the ball six inches sideways.

Alex, David, and Nic, getting ready to build the tower.

We didn't finish making it in time, and then Alex's father showed us a better way to do it. The team tried to design a long platform nine inches tall and six inches long with a gear train to ferry the pool ball across the gap. We should have built a ground level gear rack with a 9" tall tower.

David, Nic, and Max looking at the tower that Mr. Jaworski built.

Oh well. We continued work on the house but eventually decided that the light sensor was a bad idea. Later people.

October 3rd

We went to the farm and met Mr. Grady.

He was a very nice man, and told us all about the experiments on the farm, and what they were doing with biosolid fertilizer (A.K.A. human waste).

He answered all of our questions about climate and we got a lot of useful information.

He drove us out to one of the fields with biosolid fertilizer in it.

Despite what you might think, it only smelled a tiny bit bad when we were stepping in it. They had sprayed lime on it so it didn't smell so bad. The useful information about the climate includes the following facts: when there are periods of excessive rain or drought, the crops do not grow as well. Extra rain is good for the hay, to a point. After that point, the plants become less healthy because there is too much water for them to absorb, and it drowns them, in a way. When there is a long period of drought, the farmers simply have to buy extra water for the crops. The biosolid fertilizer also helps during drought because it absorbs more water than the natural soil, meaning the hay has better access to water.

Friday, October 3, 2008

October 2nd

This is David and I'm reporting about what we did. First, we talked about what questions we would ask the farmer at the field trip on Friday. We each came up with two questions to ask him each. We then began to work on the house missions. We came up with lots of ideas, and we can now gather the bicycle, insulation, and computer, but we still haven't gotten them to the house itself. Nic made an attachment to the robot that will enable us to deliver the cage to the research center. I wrote a thank you note to Dr. Polley, thanking him for all that he had done for us. Nic also came up with an arm that will allow us to open the window of the house, and turn off the lights. That's all for now.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

September 28th

This is Max. We started today by working on the blog as a team.

Then we started the Teamwork Challenge we do every week.

Today we had to create a device which had 2 axles and a crank and when you turned the crank twice, it turned the other axle once. We used gears, a crank and chainlink to achieve our goal. We were able to create our device and take it apart in about 8 minutes overall.

The final activity for today was for the team to work on a mission for the research center however, we ran into a problem. Our touch sensor on our robot fell apart and when we put it back together again, it wasn't quite where it was before so it touched the wall at the wrong time and messed up the ice buoy part of the mission. We had to spend time recreating our touch sensor and now it looks a little different (simplifying it so if part of it comes off, the rest of the robot is intact) and we tested it twice -- and we had 50% success.

Alex and David worked on updating our worksheets to reflect what we've tried to do with our robot and the levee missions so far.

September 26th

This is the team. On Friday we went on a field trip to the Blackland
Research Center.

We met Dr. Polley and he took us out to the research area and showed us the biodomes in which they were growing plants in different carbon dioxide and soil conditions. There were three types of soil: A sandy type from Bastrop, a condensed clay type from Houston, and a plain clay type from Austin.

There are two rows of biospheres. One row has carbon dioxide concentrations from 200 years ago to the present. The other has current carbon dioxide levels up to what scientists predict the carbon dioxide levels will be 50 years in the future.

Dr. Polley also showed us some of the equipment that he was using for the research.

Several of the meters recorded the temperature of the various biodomes. When the temperature passed a certain level, it would squirt chilled water through the bottom of the biodomes to prevent the plants from overheating.

We asked him several highly intelligent questions about carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and how it relates to the climate and plant growth. We took notes on the answers to our questions.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

September 25th

This is Nic. Today we began our meeting discussing our individual research projects and what we learned from them. We discussed our climate and our planet's climate. We now have a general idea of different climates around the world. We discussed different climate-related problems in our area and what we might or might not choose to research.

Tomorrow we have a field trip to the Blackland Research Center. We spent some of our time today thinking of different things we could ask Dr. Polley, the lead scientist who we'll meet tomorrow. Coach Jaworski read an article about allergies - specifically ragweed - we suffer from in Central Texas. I (Nic) will be investigating if we can use this (climate-connection) for our research project.

Regarding our robotic competition, we finally got the levee program to work with 100% accuracy! We ran the program 5 times and were able to successfully: deliver all the levee parts to the red grid, retrieve the ice buoy and activate the storm system (tires) to test the strength of the levees. This is worth a total of approximately 55 points, but it can be worth another 25 points once we deliver the ice buoy to the research center. We're also thinking about how to attach the little men to deliver them to the red grid area.

Alex confirmed our field trip for tomorrow at Blackland. We also talked about a field trip for next week with a local farmer.

Alex confirming the field trip with Dr. Polley.

Nic, Cheyne and Max prepare the robot to run the levee mission

Robot delivering the levees

Robot retrieving the ice buoy

Robot tripping the storm system

Our little brothers completed the Robotic Invention System training missions. Here is a picture of them with their completed robots:

Justice (Cheyne's little brother)

Oliver (Nic's little brother)

Simon (Nic's little brother)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

September 21st

This is Alex writing. Today, the first thing we did was go over our homework from Thursday. We had each chosen a question related to climate and had looked up answers to our question. We presented what we had found to each other, and talked about it. Unfortunately, Nic couldn't come to the meeting today. But the rest of us did a pretty good job on our homework. Our coach is teaching us to not say "um", "like", and other things while we're talking about important things. It's good practice for when we're talking to the judges, she says.

After that, we did a teamwork challenge. We had to make a chute with a gate or release mechanism that would allow a pool ball to roll at least twelve inches across the table after it was released. We built it and took it apart in ten minutes. This was the first time for us to have assigned roles for each of the team members. We rebuilt the chute later for my dad to see, and he was very pleased with it. He said that the way we constructed the tower was very good, with the cross-bracing holding it together and keeping it from wobbling. He also liked how we lengthened the rails by adding smaller beams to the sides; he called the small ones splints. The connection of the rails to the tower was also good, he said. It was a lot better than adding extra braces to it.

Team members roles: Designer - Cheyne; Captain - Alex; Builder - David and Part Gatherer - Max

The completed chute.

After that was done, we worked on missions. We're having trouble with the levees and ice buoy mission; if we succeed with one of them, we fail with the other one. We're working it out, but it's difficult. So, we're almost done with that mission. Once we're done, we'll have to decide which other mission is best for us to work on.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

September 18th

This is Cheyne. Today Max, David and I worked on pushing the levees into the red grid area. We did some trial and error with a few different programs for it, but in the end we were able to successfully deliver the levees to the red grid area. This is program #1 and it's called Levees.

Our robot delivering the levees to the red grid area.

Nic and Alex worked with Coach Jaworski on the research project. Alex called Dr. Polley and they set up a field trip date (September 26th). Alex and Nic also made up questions to ask Dr. Polley during the field trip. They also made a script to call a local farmer and Mr. Everett to find out how climate has affected Scouting in this area. We hope Mr. Everett will be our guest speaker during one of our Sunday meetings. Alex left a message for Mr. Everett to call him back.

Nic, Coach Jaworski and Alex working on the research project.

Alex on the phone with Dr. Polley.

Coach Jaworski and the research team has assigned the first research projects for each team member to research for Sunday's meeting.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

September 14th

This is David.

Today we met with Mr. Jaworski who created a Teamwork Challenge for us. We had to make a (LEGO) chassis that could move a 10 pound brick across the pool table. Mr. Jaworski gave us 30 minutes to come up with a design and to build and test it.

Nic, Alex and Cheyne were the main designers. They had an idea of having a lot of wheels (22!). Max and David were pulling the parts for the chassis. Once we finished building the chassis and testing it, it worked! Some of the problems we encountered were: some of the connectors we initially chose had too much friction and we were a bit unorganized because we didn't know exactly what each person was supposed to be doing.

After we completed our task, Mrs. Jaworski came in and explained to the team about the rubics involved in the Teamwork Challenge. She used the Coaches' Handbook to show us the different dynamics involved in the competition. We have a lot of room for improvement.

The team brainstormed the different roles that we should practice so that we do better. We decided to have:

a Designer (who will bring paper)
a Captail (who will take notes)
2 Builders
a Part Gatherer

Next Sunday, when we have our challenge, Mrs. Jaworski will assign roles to each boy. Then we'll rotate so everyone has a chance to do all the roles, and then we'll see who excels at what role.

Mr. Jaworski talked to us about the characteristics of a good chassis. Our chassis was good, but we could have axles that went all the way across. The use of a lot of small wheels was good because it kept our chassis at a low center of gravity which helped it move the brick across the table well. We could have used more plates, but the beams and plates we used worked.

After the Teamwork Challenge, we broke into groups. I'm writing the Blog. Max is programming (the levee program) and Cheyne, Nic and Alex are in the teamroom working on the Levee Challenge. We're trying to deliver all the levee pieces at the same time to the red area to get maximum points. The team decided to go ahead and activate the storm system before we deliver the levee pieces and we think at most, we'll lose 5 points doing it that way.

Nic ran over the floodgate and it worked great. So that might be how we get those points. Max suggested we add another arm that will activate the floodgate while we deliver the levee parts.

Cheyne, Alex, Nic, David and Max testing the chassis.

Alex, Nic (testing the chassis) and the other team members in the background.

Coach Frank Jaworski testing the chassis with the team.

Coach Frank Jaworski examining the chassis the team built.

Because Nic's family had evacuees due to Hurricane Gustav, his little brothers didn't come over. Justice came with Cheyne and built a tractor. See the picture below.

Justice with his tractor.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11th

This is Max. We broke into small teams to work on the research project and the robotic project.

Max, David and Cheyne worked on the robot. We decided which mission to start with which was creating the levees and collecting the ice buoy. Cheyne built an arm to create the levees. David helped a little while, but then moved to the research team to work with them. Meanwhile, I used our new Mission Planning form to start writing out the order of the missions.

Cheyne and Max working on our robot.

Max, David and Cheyne working on our robot at the competition table.

Alex, Nic and David were in Mrs. Jaworski's office working on the research project. They were looking at the Leon River to find maps and research projects which might be of use to our team. Nic also made some phone calls to try to set up a field trip. Alex sent an email to the Blackland Research Center requesting a field trip and Coach Jaworski called and left messages at two facilities.

Alex, David and Nic doing research about the Leon River.

Nic trying to set up a field trip for our team.

Alex sending an email to Blackland Research.

The younger brothers also worked on their projects. See pictures below.

Oliver, Justice and Ezra

Oliver and Simon