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

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sunday, September 7th

This is Alex. Today we had our usual meeting. We finally know what the different missions actually are. The first thing we did was decide which robot to use. We decided on the one with four wheels instead of the one that had treads. Then we talked about what we had learned at the Kick-Off. Max and Cheyne hadn't been there, so we were able to explain everything to them. We decided that the first mission we should do is gathering the balls to deliver them to the underground reservoir. We started to work on that while Mrs. Jaworski (our coach), Mrs. Kwan (our co-coach), and Mr. Murray (our mentor) dual-locked the pieces to the mat.

David and I built a cage for the polar bear to keep it from falling over.

In the meantime, Mr. Murray went over the missions and then he taught us the importance of creating a feasibility list for the different missions. After the team discussed the feasibility of the missions, we decided that the house, the research area (the ice floe and the mat behind it), and the levees are the best missions to work on since they give us the most points.

With the feasibility list, we had to consider how well we thought we could accomplish the missions reliably and in the allotted amount of time (2 1/2 minutes) as well as what resources we had to accomplish our goals and the commitment each team member was willing to make to the plan. This is the first time our team has ever created a formal feasibility plan.

With the introduction of the regional qualifiers we have to plan differently than in past competitions. Instead of just working to do as well as possible by the competition, we now have to decide what we should do to make it through the qualifier, and then work harder to win the state competition, and then we'll do more for the international tournament. It's very different, because we have a month or so less time to prepare for the regional qualifier than we have to prepare for the state competition. I'm pretty sure we can win the state competition this year. :-)

September 6th

This is Alex and Nic talking about what happened at the Central Texas FLL Kick-Off event. It will be a very challenging competition because of all the new rules and regulations. There are now eighteen different missions, with a maximum score of four hundred points and forty different outcomes. However, we can combine many of the missions because they involve gathering and delivering various objects to three different areas.

We went to three different thirty-minute sessions and learned about the new format f0r the competition, with the regional qualifier. We also got a chance to see the table setup and talked to the chief judge about what could and could not be done.

Pictures of the table with all the pieces in the proper places. (We apologize for the bad lighting):-{

Thursday, September 4, 2008

September 4th

This is Cheyne and I'm working on the blog today.

Today Max and I have been working on perfecting the ice core mission. Max and I have gotten it, but not as accurately as we'd like, so we still have lots of work to do with that mission. We decided to move on to another mission, since we've done okay with the ice core. We tried to retrieve the buoy (the orange thing on the table) and to trigger the storm system. The biggest problem we had with triggering the storm system was that the wheel got caught and made the robot veer off course. Max and David created a simple program to trigger the storm system without attempting to retrieve the buoy (while I wrote this).

This is Max and David programming the robot.

Alex and Nic have been working on the ice core mission with the other robot. Their robot has treads and is very powerful. They have been successful a couple of times on the ice core, but their robot is still inaccurate and destructive.

This is Alex and Nic making the robot more secure.

Meanwhile our little brothers worked on their LEGO projects. See pictures below.

Monday, September 1, 2008

August 31st

This is Alex again. Yesterday the team had its regular meeting. David was out of town, but we still made great progress. We still don't know which robot we should use, so Cheyne worked on one, and Nic and I worked on the other. Max did the programming for us. We have arms and touch sensors on both robots, but neither one of them are very accurate yet. The one that Cheyne was working on is closer than the one I was working on. His robot has wheels, and mine has treads, so his goes rather faster than mine. It also takes less rotations. And mine has a problem with veering to the right, which means that it runs into the wall quite often. Nic and I worked on it so that it consistently makes it to the ice core.

Alex and Max aiming the robot.

The problem now is that the arm doesn't always go through the ice core to pick it up. Max and Cheyne have succeeded in getting their robot to pick it up several times. Now they have to get it back to base.

Max and Cheyne's robot grabbing the ice core.