Tuesday, June 27, 2006

2006 ROV Competiton -- Houston

Thursday Morning, June 22, 2006 -- 35,000 feet above New Mexico

The Carl Hayden Robotics team is on our way to the Johnson Space Center in Houston Texas for the 5th annual MATE Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) competition. This is our third year in the university division. In 2004, the kids beat everyone and earned the 1st place trophy. Last year we placed third. Hopefully, the kids will do as well in the competition as they have been doing in practice.

Of the 50 or so students who are in the Robotics Club, we are only taking six with us. The MATE competitions only allow 6 team members to operate, demonstrate and represent the team. We are taking two ROVs, Ipski-Pipski and Otis. On this trip or roster is:
Annalisa – outgoing club president and Ipski’s co-driver. She has just graduated and will be attending Arizona State University (ASU) in the fall- Business & technology major. She has kept us organized and on task for the last two years.

Pablo – is a junior and is Ipski-Pipski’s driver. Pablo is beginning his third year in the club and has become the “guy who gets things done, no mater what”. Summer vacation began three weeks ago, yet Pablo has been at school every day (except Sundays) working on the ROV. He’s very quite but has more frequently shows an outgoing charm when he is in public.

Daniel – a junior and our new president. Daniel is a “hard charger” academically. He is taking college courses while in high school and is certainly college bound. Daniel is Otis’s codriver.

Cristian – of “La Vida Robot” fame is Otis’s driver. Like Annalisa, he has graduated and will be off to ASU in the fall in the Ira Fulton College of Engineering. His self-assured, quite intellect has been a tremendous asset to our team and he has been an inspiration to younger students.

Lorenzo – also of “La Vida Robot” notoriety is also moving on to college. Readers of Wired magazine sent in contributions and all the four kids in that story will be in college. Lorenzo will start out at the local community college. Lorenzo will be manning Otis’s tether. While in the water, the ROV is connected to the surface with a 100 foot collection of umbilical cords. It’s Lorenzo job to let out and bring in the cable as the ROV operates 40 feet below the surface.

Adam – a senior. Adam is new to our team. We were in desperate need of a programmer and Adam has taken two ears of programming at Carl Hayden and he was willing to commit to the hundreds and hundreds of hours it takes to complete one of these projects. During competition, he is Ipski’s tether man.

Fredi and myself are the main teacher/sponsors. We also have my wife and math teacher Debbie as female chaperone. Jim is a fellow Carl Hayden teacher and also Daniel’s dad. Jim will be doing a lot of our videotaping. Out two fantastic mentors will fly in early tomorrow, Karen and Jerry. Karen, a physicist, and her architect husband, Jerry, adopted our team two years ago and have been fantastic working and inspiring the kids. One of the reasons that we can compete successfully with universities is because our kids are exposed to top talent in the engineering community.

Tomorrow morning we will go to the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at the Johnson Space Center. It’s a huge in door crystal clear 40-foot deep pool as large as a football field. Underwater they have mockups of spacecraft and space station modules where EVA-suited astronauts practice tasks while “Floating in space”. We will get to test our ROVs in the pool and go through technical inspection and we should be ready for Saturday’s event.

Saturday the kids will do a presentation about our ROV and its mission to a panel of judges. Later in the day, they will put our ROV’s in the water for the half hour mission. We also will put up a poster display that will be judged. All the teams will complete their missions by Sunday noon and the winners are announced Sunday evening.

All in all, we are all excited and anxious to do our best against the top colleges and universities. It just all seems so amazing that a high school in the “hood” is in this level of competition!

Friday Evening, June 23, 2006 – Houston, Texas

This morning we went to the Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL) at the Johnson Space Center. Within the large building is a huge crystal clear 40 foot deep pool of water. We will be competing tomorrow amid full size space station modules. It’s such a chilling feeling to be amid all of the high tech props that the astronauts work with.
This year’s mission requires picking up a “probe” (really a 10 inch ling PVC pipe) that has a long rope attached to it. We have to string it through 4 waypoints and end up at a structure on the floor of the pool. We also have to bring a box from the surface down to this structure and insert it into the cabinet on the floor. Then we insert the probe into the side of the box. There is another probe on the floor that we have to pick up and insert in the pool.

We decided a few months ago, to build two ROVs to accomplish the mission. Otis is responsible for bringing the box down and inserting in the cabinet and opening a door on the side.

At the same time, “Ipski-Pipski” is responsible for retrieving the probe, stringing the rope through the 4 way points and inserting the probes in the cabinet. The six operators have been practicing in a 10 foot deep pool in Phoenix. Today we got to practice in the 40 foot NBL pool. We discovered two problems with Otis at the greater depth and pressure. Our big ROV sank too fast, but that was easily fixed by adding more buoyant material to it.
(Videos of our practice at Phoenix:
http://www.phxhs.k12.az.us/education/components/scrapbook/default.php?sectiondetailid=42960&pagecat=207 )
Otis has three cameras so Daniel and Annalisa can see what they are doing under the surface. One of the camera housings developed a small leak which shorted out the camera. Late this afternoon, we bought a replacement camera at Frys and new PVC parts for the housing at Home Depot. Cristian will be up an extra hour or two tonight fabricating the replacement. All-in-all we feel we are in great shape for tomorrow’s competition. We have a chance of completing all the tasks well under the allotted 30 minute time limit.

Last year we met Dayna Steele and her husband Charlie Justiz. Once again they invited us to their home for pizza and a swim and to introduce us to a few of their relatives and friends, including astronauts!! We all now have autographed pictures of Pamela Melroy (“We call her Pam) who is has been to space twice and will be the commander of an upcoming flight (STS-120). Imagine, Carl Hayden High School students talking technology with astronauts over pizza and soft drinks.

Dayna and Charlie and friends are fantastic people. The whole point of our robotics program is not to build machines; not even to educate students, but rather to change our culture. We want the kids exposed to people who are smart, exciting, moral and interesting. People who have educated themselves and enjoy their work. Our kids now have role models who truly care for them. Most kids, when immersed in a culture that appreciates and encourages education, aspire to do the same. Once they want to learn and see what they are capable of, there’s no holding them back.

It’s late Friday and the kids are practicing their oral presentation. They are impressive. Tomorrow morning the six students will do their oral presentation in front of the judges and the ROVs will perform in water in the afternoon. Results and awards will be Sunday night. Wish us luck!

Saturday, June 24, 2006, 1pm

This morning the team presented our ROV program to a panel of three judges. The six members spent 15 minutes with their presentation and another 15 in a Q & A session. Only two teacher/adults were allowed in the room with them. In previous years, we deliberately did not have any of our adults attend because we felt our presence would be of no help and possible add tension in the room. Besides, we are confident in the students’ preparation.

This year, however, Fredi and Karen monitored the presentation/interview. Last year a judge was especially harsh on one of the kids, asking Cindy, our newest member, what the two wavelengths of the laser light in the fiber optics were. Cindy is a fantastic, intelligent woman, but she is not our “science officer”. She explained how two different colors were used, one for two-way data transfer and the other signal for 2 video signals. He would not let Cristian answer and really pressed Cindy to admit she did not know. I doubt there were very few university students who could have answered the question. The rules stated that every member should have a general understanding of the principle involved, but very technical questions could be answered by the team expert. We wanted to witness this year’s session to see if something like that happened again.

It was a very fair interview. The judges asked probing questions to see the depth of the kid’s knowledge, but they did it in a very professional manner. All-in-all, Fredi, Karen and the kids felt they did well, but they were not perfect. There is a possible 70 points for the interview that goes toward the total competition score.

In two hours, we will perform the underwater missions. That is worth 170 points and there are bonus points possible for early completion. We replaced our faulty camera, however, it has not been tested in the water. If it fails to work when it goes to the bottom, Otis should still be able to complete his tasks with the renaining two on board. We are all trying to look calm, but I can tell all of us are feeling the little scary whine that starts building before a major performance. This is when the kids practice and training will take over.

11 pm

What a great day. 10 of the 16 “Explorer teams ran their missions this afternoon. Six of them did not earn any points. Their ROV’s simply sank to the bottom and were dead in the water. Two teams completed the entire missions and we were one of them!
The team that performed ahead of us, a university from eastern Canada, did all the tasks and received the 170 points. They finished with 15 minutes remaining so they also have a 15 point bonus. That meant that we would have to finish all the tasks within 15 minutes if we wanted the forst place rank.

As the timer began, Otis descended with the module that had to be inserted into the cabinet. Daniel and Cristian guided the ROV into the target area and quickly completed their first assignment. They then opened the door in record time.
At the same time, Pablo and Annalisa were having trouble getting Ipski-Pipski to pick up the first probe. They kept pushing it out of their reach. At last they finally had it in their grasp and started to weave the attached rope through the waypoints. It was taking a little longer than we would like, but they were ahead of the Canadian teams split time. They seemed to be having trouble rising above obstacles.

After passing the last waypoint, they went to insert the first probe in the module. Only 11 minutes had elapsed and we knew it was possible to complete inserting the last two probes in just a few minutes. This was shaping up into a great race.
Ipski seemed to be fumbling and wasting time. Seconds passed – a half minute then a whole minute, then two and still the probe was in the ROV’s claw. Then the kids started to pull the ROV to the surface by pulling the tether. Our hearts sank. Pulling on the tether is a five point penalty and it meant something was wrong. We watched as they retrieved Ipski and placed him on the deck.

The kids started to cut and move things around and we saw they were adding some buoyant floats. We could not think of any reason why they would be adding buoyancy. After a few minutes of M.A.S.H.-like operating, Ipski was put back in the water and descending to pick up the probes by the cabinets. It only took them 3 minutes to complete the last tasks of the mission and the two ROVs returned to the surface. They completed all the tasks in 26.8 minutes.

Our final score for the ROV performance is 170(perfect) – 5 (penalty for raising ROV by tether pulling) + 3.2 bonus for finishing early = Total 168.2!!
When we returned to the pits we saw what the problem was: Our “turkey pan” case that held the electronics had crushed in the four corners, thus we lost some of our volume and the ROV lost some of its flotation and could not rise above the bottom of the pool under its own power.

The kids had wisely brought it up, added flotation to compensate for the lost volume and completed the tasks. Their cool-headiness and decisive actions saved the day! In all the MATE ROV competitions, no one had completed all tasks, until today.

This evening we drove to Galveston and ate seafood. We told the waiter that it was Annalisa’s birthday and they made a big (and embarrassing) deal about it. She had to dance around Joe’s Crab Shack with two cones on her mouth like a seagull beak while the crowd sang the traditional Happy Birthday song.

Afterwards we walked around the historic town. It came so close to being hit by a huge hurricane last year that we all thought how fragile this community is. Surely some day a huge storm will once again wash over these cobblestone streets.

Tomorrow we will go watch the rest of the competition, including Arizona State University and Chandler High School from AZ.

Fredi is posting today’s pictures at: http://www.phxhs.k12.az.us/education/components/scrapbook/default.php?sectiondetailid=42960&pagecat=209

Sunday morning

The last of the underwater competitions are over. The results of the mission tasks are:
Team # School/Team Name Mission Score
15 Arizona State University 0
10 CATE Center -10
6 Carl Hayden Community High School 168.52
5 Clatsop Community College 130
16 Franklin W.Olin College of Engineering 0
14 Long Beach City College 65
4 Marine Institute of Memorial University 185.05
2 MIT 0
8 Missouri Sate University 0
9 Monterey Peninsula College 70
3 Palm Beach Lakes High School 20
7 Pasadena Memorial 0
11 UC Davis -15
12 University of Waterloo DQ
1 University of Wisconsin Milwaukee -5

This evening, at the banquet, the technical writing, presentation and poster scores will be disclosed and the total scores. It looks like we are the strongest team for second place. We’ll see in a few hours.

It's amazing to see how many teams wound up with 0 or negative points. The water pressure sure takes its toll. I guess we could boast that we beat MIT again for the third time, but our ROV almost crushed and sank alongside the collegiate ROV debris..
The most rewarding part of the competition was to watch our students diagnose the problem when Ipski almost was crushed, quickly come to a consensus on a possible solution, haul the ROV up, add buoyancy, place it back in the water and continue the mission. All the while the clock it ticking and there is no room for error. They never gave up and pulled a successful mission out of a near disaster. They were a professional engineering team!

Sunday evening

It’s one of those bittersweet nights.
We won the second place overall trophy and we were very happy about it. In the last three years we have placed first, third and now second. We are very proud of our record. It’s not often a high school can consistently rank that high in a university competition.

The downer part of the evening, was when they announced that next year’s competition will be in Canada. While we would all love to visit Newfoundland, Carl Hayden High School is predominantly Hispanic and many of the students at school are undocumented. Neither Fredi nor I want to have to investigate student’s legal status or risk leaving the country with children who may have trouble re entering the U.S. As a result, we will not be competing next year in the MATE ROV competition.
SO this year season ends.

Annalisa will spend a few weeks in Atlanta as an intern video producer and then return to Phoenix to begin her engineering/business career at Arizona State University.

Lorenzo will be working at a local scuba shop this summer and then begins classes at Phoenix Community College.

Cristian has a new laptop computer and he is always using it: games, internet and Visual BASIC programming. He begins his engineering education at Arizona State University.

Pablo, Daniel and Adam will return to Carl Hayden in two months and they will be the new leadership along with Airreal, Angelica, Marco, Victor, Eric and a dozen others to begin another school year.

Thanks for all the kind words. We’ll be back soon.

Monday evening June 26, 2006 --Phoenix

We spent this morning in our Houston hotel. Actually, Daniel and Adam did not wake up until after noon!

We received emails and phone calls from some local Phoenix news media and a couple of Spanish language papers.

At least two national outlets have contacted us.

You guys are sure sending these emails around!!!

Craig, our school district public relations guru wrote a press release and I’ve attached it to this email.

When there is going to be national news exposure, I’ll tip you off.

Today was also Annalisa’s 18th birthday and we celebrated all day. She wore a pink crown even when we eat a Luther’s BBQ.

Most of us arrived safely home this evening. The exception is Fredi who is somewhere in west Texas on U.S.10 driving the ROV’s and equipment home. He’s the most amazing guy. All of the robotic activity is above and beyond his regular teaching duties. He does not even get any extra pay for any of it. When asked why he does it, he replies, “It’s the most effective teaching I’ve ever done”. What a professional. I’m lucky to be working with him.

There are some wise companies that have sponsored our activities: Intel, Honeywell, Wells-Fargo, Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. Their community investment programs make this all possible.

One local home builder, Ira A. Fulton, attended one of our presentations. He asked how much it cost to go to Houston. We replied that with airfare, hotels, meals and parts it was close to $10,000. He said, “Ill pay for that.” He did and it sure helped.

Our mentors, Karen and Jerry and Marcos have been such a positive influence on the kids. They change lives. I realize they have changed mine also. What an inspiration they are.

Several small businesses in the neighborhood have opened their parts and raw material supplies “for the neighborhood’s robotics team”. You see their names on the front of our team T-shirts.

There have been so many companies, engineers, technicians, and other professionals that we call on when we are stuck who will teach us on the spot what we need to know to solve a problem. Many have become friends. We may be a high school, but we have access to the best minds in the country.

The kids’ parents and families have been fantastic. We keep their kids for many hours after school which mean missed dinners, strange pick up and drop off times and all the adjustments families make to accommodate our weird schedules.

Our school principal, Steve Ybarra, and our staff have put up with all our antics. That’s a risky proposition for a well-ordered school. They took the risk and I hope all the messes we made and all the late passes we wrote were worth it.

Our school district, from the school board, superintendent to the last hired clerk have encouraged us and have seen that our forgotten or last minute paperwork is completed.

“it takes a village…” Nah, it takes many more people than a simple village!

And of course there are the hundreds of people who have sent us emails, letters, and have met us in person. You guys have been fantastic. It’s not unusual to see a wet eye in the room when we read a bunch of your emails.

I’m tired and I’m going to sleep tonight!



Saturday, April 29, 2006

FIRST Nationals 2006 Saturday Final

Atlanta 2006, Final results

Our hotel is about a mile and a half from the Georgia Dome. The morning walk up and over a hill and the early day’s chill gets the heart pumping- as if we needed more stimulation.

Our spotting crew had a lot of intelligence on our opponents and we were teamed with mediocre allies for our first match, but we had all night to plot a strategy for our toughest game. Karen, Luis and the spotting crew told Jerry, Pablo, Marco and Jorge how they should attempt to score and defend. It was the most exciting match we played. However, we lost 19 – 17. It was a real cliffhanger. Even though Pablo piloted the robot around the field and held two of the highest scoring robots to 19 points was exciting, realizing how much of an advantage the “intelligence team” gave us made this almost victory a real team effort.

We lost our final match and our record was 3 wins, 3 losses and 1 tie. We were hoping to have a winning record, but at least we did not have a losing one.

There was a little disappointment, but it was short lived as championship matches played out. We knew we did not have a robot of the caliber of some of those in the final matches. As we all sat in the stands, the kids were coming up with ideas to make a better robot next year!

We waited patiently for the end of the games when they would announce the big award, the Chairman’s Award. Award after award was announced and then the final presentation. We were all SO EXCITED! They said there were three runner ups and in team numerical order they were 365, 503, 842. Team 842 is us. The kids were shocked. We really thought we would win the top award. Team 111 was the winner and as they read their accomplishments, it was apparent that the team had been doing great things for many years. With only five years of seniority, we are still newcomers to the FIRST league. Elizabeth spoke for all of us when she said, “I felt like the world came crushing down on us, smothering our hopes and dreams. I felt especially bad for the seniors.”

(All results can be found at: http://www2.usfirst.org/2006comp/Events/EINSTEIN/awards.html )

The kids worked all year for the Chairman’s Award and they were disappointed. The trudge back over the hill to the hotel with our equipment was actually therapeutic. There is a final party at the Olympic Centennial Park, and with some prodding we all went. After some exercise and some food, we were all in far better spirits and we were already proposing plans for nest year.

We will have to spread the message of FIRST which is to increase our society’s awareness of the role science and technology plays and how important it is to expose our young people to the rewarding careers available to them. We can’t do anything about the seniority of other teams, but we will do more to motivate our students and the young people we affect. The 2007 season has begun.

Sunday we went to the Atlanta Aquarium and we will have our “blow out” dinner at the Hard Rock Café in the evening. Our new friend Anita is taking us to her video production facilities Monday morning and then we will return to Phoenix in the evening.

When we return to school we will focus our efforts on our underwater ROV and get ready for the MATE underwater remotely operated vehicle challenge at Houston’s Johnson Space Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab.

Just like the kids we work with, we are a relatively young team maturing at an accelerating rate. We heal fast and we seem to thrive if we are kept active. And we have a lot of great people watching over us.


Friday, April 28, 2006

FIRST Nationals 2006 Friday

We gulp down a cheap breakfast and go to the Georgia Dome as soon as it opens to get good seats and to make sure the robot’s batteries charged during the night. Opening ceremonies conclude and the games begin.

We won our first match! Four more to go today and two on Saturday morning.

All the while, thousands of people are wandering around the pit areas and the kids are handing out buttons and smiles and conversing with everyone. There are kids here from all around the U.S. and many from Canada, Israel, Brazil, France… It’s a real education. The Falcons are meeting a lot of new friends.

One lady, Anita, who we knew from email messages, came by to see us. What a treat. She has her own video production company and wanted to meet all the kids and see what FIRST was all about. I think she had a great time. We enjoyed her company.

Well, one of Anita’s clients is the Hooter’s restaurant chain. (See the Wired article or the Reader’s Digest Article for the connection). She and her husband treated all of us to dinner. She even had Cristian and Lorenzo sign their magazine article and it may soon be on the wall of the Las Vegas Hooter’s. Lorenzo has finally received his wish and we have met a new friend!

Anyway, we lost our second game 75 to 72 and the kids were a little disappointed, but then again, we really didn’t think our robot would do real well at the national level. We came to win the Chairman’s Award.

We tied the third gam3 and won the last two of the day. We have a 3-1-1 record and are currently ranked 17 out of 86. We are doing very well indeed.

Annalisa, Luis and Daniel went to the interview room for their Chairman’s presentation and interview. They feel they did very well. We’ll see tomorrow.

This has been the year of the new kids. They are really “hauling their weight”. Jorge has become the tool man. He knows where everything is and keeps the pit area ship shape. He is always lending tools to other teams (“Gracious Professionalism”) and he always gets them back. He’s a godsend.

Our mentor Karen and senior Luis are in charge of scouting all the other robot teams. Five other girls on our team sit in the stands compiling reports on every match. How any points each robot scores in autonomous mode, how effective they are on defense, etc. They Have been very diligent and their “intelligence” is making a difference. I think that is why we have been doing so well as the games go on. We know how the opposition will act. We have never been so organized!

Fredi is posting pictures and they can be found at:

Tomorrow morning we play our last two seeding games and then we will find out if we are in the division quarter finals. We know we have some tough opposition in the morning, but we are contenders.

Late in the afternoon the final and most prestigious award will be presented. We are contenders for that one too.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

FIRST Nationals 2006 Day 1

Thursday, April 27, 2006 – Atlanta, GA

Yesterday sixteen students and four teachers left Carl Hayden High School and flew to Atlanta for the FIRST international robotics championship.

Today we went to the convention center and Georgia Dome and uncrated “Karen”, our robot who we have not seen since the regional competition in Arizona last month. Our ‘bot survived the shipping and storage, although her batteries were not charged. We were also joined by our mentors, Jerry and Karen (the robot’s namesake). Their batteries WERE charged!

We passed inspection and we participated in three practice rounds which went very well. Our robot is designed to shoot balls in a goal 8 foot above the field, all by herself in the first 10 seconds of the game. We were nailing 4 balls in the goal which earns us 12 points. After that, the team gets to drive the robot for the remaining 2 minutes of game play. We feel the robot is living up to her potential.

While seniors Cristian, Lorenzo (of La Vida Robot fame) Annalisa, Luis and Juana “know the ropes”, the younger students, Pablo, Marco, Daniel, Jorge, Jesus, Marco, Cynthia, Angelica, Yvette, Rebecca, Airreal and Elizabeth have been phenomenal and are the “A team” crew. Since we felt we did not have a killer robot this year, we decided to give the younger team members experience.

Our main goal this year is to win the highest award, the Chairman’s Award. It is given to the team that has promoted math, science and engineering education and has changed the culture. With all the presentations we have given this year (50) and the publications we have been in and with all the positive TV coverage we have been fortunate to receive, well, we feel we are frontrunners. President Annalisa and Luis and Daniel will make a 15 minute presentation to the judges and we will visited by everyone in the pits tomorrow and Saturday. Awards are Saturday afternoon.

Friday and Saturday’s competitions are being televised over the NASA channel and also webcast on their web site. There are four divisions and we are in the Curie division. Watch for us.

In a few minutes the pizza we ordered will arrive and we’ll all be talking about what we hope to accomplish tomorrow. The kids really understand what they have done for our school and neighborhood. They have taken the image of an “underperforming” school which is now being considered to be a model for all schools to emulate.

Juana was commenting on how so many good things have been happening to her during the last year. She is looking forward to college next semester. She has a tuition scholarship for Arizona State University. She’s worked very hard and she’s extremely talented. It’s really an honor to be around these young adults. Good things have been happening to all of us!

We would not be here without our sponsors who have given so much:

Arthur M. Blank Foundation
Ira A. Fulton
Wells Fargo, Phelps-Dodge Corp.
Southwest Fastner

And all the teachers, parents and friends that have given their support. It is really paying off.

… and to all the people who send us words of encouragement via emails and notes. We read them to the kids and it really means a lot.

Tomorrow will be something..

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Reader's Digest

We are in the May issue of Reader’s Digest.

Joshua Davis's "La Vida Robot" article in the April '05 Wired Magazine has been "condesnsed", re titled and published in the May 2006 Reader's Digest.

Reader's Digest is one of the most successful publishing stories in the history of global magazine publishing. It now appears in 48 editions in 19 languages (Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Indonesia Bahasa, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Thai) with just under 100 million readers every month.

The electronic English version is at:

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Politics & Publicity

The Robot kids at Carl Hayden have been very busy. Our FIRST robot was shipped from the Arizona Regional Competition to Atlanta where the kids will see “Karen” again on day before the national competition, April 27-28. Although Karen the Robot has been gone, there is no slack time.

We are constructing our underwater robot for the 2006 MATE competition in June in Houston. It’s amazing how skilled and competent the seniors have become. Since beginning learning about underwater robots three years ago, they have become masters. They are on the phones daily talking to marine suppliers, picking the brains of engineers thousands of miles away and reading everything on the Internet.

The kids are now involved in politics. They helped a local congressman write a bill that would help with extra curricular science and technology projects in Arizona public schools. They testified in Arizona House committee hearings and their bill passed to the House with a 7-0 bipartisan vote. Annalisa, our president, now has a dozen legislators that asked her to keep them informed. We hoped we would increase students’ interest in Math, Science and Engineering, but we never dreamed the teens would become “players in politics”!

Over the last 12 months, the team has made over 45 presentations in Arizona and elsewhere. One such presentation was delivered at FermiLab in Illinois. Usually they pay for one speaker’s expenses, but they invited both Fredi and myself to speak. Although none of the kids went with us, Fredi and I filled in for them. FermiLab tapes their colloquiums and ours is now on their webpage. It is at http://vmsstreamer1.fnal.gov/VMS_Site_03/Lectures/Colloquium/060315Cameron/index.htm

It takes about an hour to see the whole thing, but unlike the “real deal” presentation, you can fast forward pause and stop!

In the Rumor Department: It is not official and the whole thing my not even happen, but look for the “La Vida Robot” story in the May issue of Reader’s Digest. They claim they have almost 100 million readers. I told the kids, if it is published, they will be immortal because the Reader’s Digest issues stay in doctor’s offices FOREVER.

To all those who have sent emails of encouragement, we read them to the kids every Friday. This has all grown so big, yet they are still the nicest kids to work with. When we read emails like, “All of France is cheering for you”, or share some of the personal stories you have sent, it gets very quiet and brings home to them that it is a big world, but they have a big place in it. They are rising to challenge. Maybe its time to start a “Fix Global Warming Club.”



Saturday, March 11, 2006

FIRST Veterans Coliseum, Phoenix, AZ Day 3

Saturday March 11 2006. Veterans Coliseum, Phoenix, AZ

The kids won the top award: The Arizona Regional Chairman’s Award. We are all so excited. Winning one top award could be luck, but the kids have been earning top awrds for the last three years. They are not a fluke. They are the “real deal”.

This is the description of the Chariman’s Award:

The Chairman’s Award was created to keep the central focus of the FIRST Robotics Competition as our ultimate goal for transforming the culture in ways that will inspire greater levels of respect and honor for science and technology, as well as encourage more of today’s youth to become scientists, engineers, and technologists.

The Chairman’s Award represents the spirit of FIRST. It honors the team that best represents a model for other teams to emulate and which embodies the goals and purpose of FIRST. It remains the most prestigious team award FIRST presents.

FIRST will present a Regional Chairman’s Award at each regional competition. There are thirty-three (33) regional competitions scheduled for the 2006 season, therefore, there will be thirty-three Regional Chairman’s Award winners. Only the winners of the Regional Chairman’s Award will be eligible for consideration in the selection of The Chairman’s Award presented at The Championship.”

The kids have really worked hard all year and they were absolute hyper-happy to be honored.

We celebrated with our buddies from Mexico and our new friends from Chinle and Sierra Vista. Afterwards we took the kids out for pizza. It’s so much fun to see the reaction and pride in the new team members. It’s all so much bigger than they ever imagined!

Our robot wound up ranked 26th out of the 45 teams. We lost the last two competitions in the morning. We would have won the last match but because of a simple mental error we forgot to reconnect two wires that enabled our robot to fire the balls we carried, a potential 21 points. We lost the match by one point. Once again we learn the team that beats us the most is us.

Robot Karen was packed in her crate and we will see her in Atlanta for the championship April 27-29. We have our sights on the National Chairman’s Award. We made some adjustments to the robot before we tucked her in crate and we hope we worked all the bugs out.

The kids are now on a one week spring break. Fredi and I fly to FermiLabs in Illinois to speak to people who we really admire, but tonight, we sleep.

Thanks for all the encouragement.

Friday, March 10, 2006

FIRST Veterans Coliseum, Phoenix, AZ day 2

Friday March 10 2006. Veterans Coliseum, Phoenix, AZ

We lost our first games. Invariably, the balls would stick in our new ball holding tube or some other modification that we made would not work quite right. By noon we felt we really did not have a chance to perform well, Finally the last “fixit” worked and we won the rest of our matches. By the end of the day we are ranked 16th and there will be two more games Saturday morning. We may wind up playing in the quarter final matches Saturday afternoon. We’ll see.

A reporter from the Arizona Republic spent a lot of time with us. It’s exciting to see people “get it”.

This is not a robot contest. This is a convention of the most excited kids who have worked very hard to meet impossible deadlines and are now going public for the world to see what they have done. These are the people who will invent, discover, build and solve. While the media (well, I guess it’s all of us) has been obsessed with the lives and accomplishments of our sports and entertainment we haven’t noticed that we are losing our pool of engineers, scientists, researchers and innovators who have given us the standard of living that we take for granted.

Anyway, Connie the reporter even got to go into the judges room while our kids gave their presentation for the Chairman’s Award. They usually only allow the three student presenters and the judges in the room. The kids had a few minutes to make a presentation on how our team has affected our community. After all the publicity and all the presentations we have given and all the work the kids have done in neighborhood schools, the kids have a strong case on why we should be a model for other schools. Inagine: Carl Hayden High School that was labled “underperforming” just two years ago being considered as a “best practice”! The kids have accomplished a lot, but more importantly, their attitudes have changed. We will see if we won at Saturday’s award ceremony.

Annalisa, our president, has been fantastic. She along with Luis and Daniel, were our Chairman’s Award presenters. She also arraigned our lunches. Her parents arrive about 11 am and we have a tailgate party in the parking lot. The best part about it is that we also have included our good friends from Mexico’s team and our new friends from Chinle, AZ and Sierra Vista, AZ. At the end of this school year, Arizona State university is getting a first rate Chief Executive. Annalisa has earned scholarships that will pay for her tuition and her room and board thanks to the Maecenas Fund. www.MaecenasFund.org

I’m told that the competition was webcast, but not broadcast on the NASA TV channel, but Saturday it will be on TV. If you watch, look for team 842. Our strategy is to shoot for the center goal in the first ten second autonomous period and then play defense to minimize our opponents score. We should be the “linebacker” on the field. At the end of the game we should be atop the ramp for bonus points.

Also watch for the cheerleaders. We had the full squad there Friday and a lot of them will return for Saturday. They were awesome. Usually they attend event to cheer for a sports team. With us, they are on the team.

It’s 3 am Arizona time and it’s raining. We haven’t had rain in months. It’s been the longest dry spell since records have been kept. The dry spell is over. That’s a good sign.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

FIRST Veterans Coliseum, Phoenix, AZ day 1

Thursday March 9 2006. Veterans Coliseum, Phoenix, AZ

Today is practice and inspection day. Tomorrow competition begins.

We unpacked “Karen” our FIRST robot. She had to be packed and shipped by February 21st. We spent twelve hours repairing and modifying our shooting robot. We had a basket on the top of her to hold the nerf balls that we shoot, but the balls kept jamming. We have replaced the basket with a tube that curves up and forward. Karen now looks like a scorpion.

Pablo is a sophomore, but he has been on the team since his first day of school last year. He worked hard to be chosen as the robot driver this year and he is doing a fantastic job. He has the skills of the “Gameboy generation” and discipline to listen to Cristian, the “coach” on the driving team. We are allowed four players: Driver (Pablo), codriver (Marcos), Human Player(Luis) and coach (Cristian). They have only had a little practice, but they seem to be doing fine.

Our girls VEX robot team, the VEXens, set up a field with their robots. Even though today was not a “demo day”. They attracted a lot of attention. Our young ladies have come a long way. A few months ago, none of them had ever held a power tool and today they are showing people how they made everything and letting people try driving their ‘bots. I imagine there will be a VEX competition alongside the FIRST regional next year.

Well, the robots ready, the kids are ready and the opening ceremonies are at 9am tomorrow. I’ve been told the games “The event will also be broadcast on the NASA channel. Here is a link to that information. Please click on the Arizona event.

Look for us, team 842. We will probably be the only school with cheerleaders!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

We havn’t sent out a Carl Hayden Robotics Club update in a long time (June?). We have been very busy though doing presentations and such, but now it’s time to send out our “updates”.

It is competition time for the Carl Hayden Robotics team. Our schedule is:

March 9-11, FIRST Robotics, Arizona Regional, Phoenix AZ http://www.usfirst.org/frc/map/index.lasso?page=areasearch&area=AZ-USA

April 27-29, FIRST Robotics, National Championship, Atlanta GA

June 23-24, MATE ROV, National Championship, Houston TX

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is now an international event. http://www.usfirst.org/robotics/ This year’s game was announced January 7th. A thousand high schools began designing, building, and testing their robot and they had to be shipped by February 21st. We will next see “Karen”, our robot, at the Coliseum in Phoenix for our regional competition.

The Arizona regional, one of 40 regional competitions, will be attended by 50 high school teams. Twenty teams are form AZ, the remainder from around the U.S., Canada, and our “adopted” team from Mexico City.

While we hope we do well in the robotics competition, our sights are set on the Chairman’s Award. It is the highest award for the team that best exemplifies the sprit of FIRST and is help up as a role model. We won the award in Arizona last year and come in second best in the Atlanta Nationals.

We will keep you posted on our competition

WIRED’s La Vida Robot http://wired-vig.wired.com/wired/archive/13.04/robot.html brought a lot of public attention to the kids and their accomplishments in science and technology. The four students in the article are doing very well:

Oscar is a sophomore at ASU majoring in mechanical engineering. He started ASU’s ROV team and will be competing with ASU at the Houston competition!

Luis is at the Scottsdale Culinary Arts school and will be a Cordon Blue Chef and will have a degree in restaurant management.

Cristian and Lorenzo are Hayden seniors. Cristian will be going into the Ira Fulton School of Engineering at ASU and Lorenzo will be going to the local community college.

All four have “full ride” scholarships and very bright futures. The best news, is that these opportunities are not limited to the “La Vida Four”.

A businessman from Oregon heard about the kids and wanted to help. He started the Maecenas Fund to support hard working, aspiring students like ours to succeed in college. The Maecenas fund is going to provide support to four of our students. www.MaecenasFund.org

ASU inaugurated a new scholarship for high school students who have been in academic competitions like FIRST and the MATE ROV event. One of our students (Oscar) received that award.

Basically, every senior in the robotics club for the last three years has gone on to college or the military, most with scholarships. Their success is having a profound effect on many of the other kids at school who never thought they had a chance at a middle class American life.

During the next few months, we will email updates on the team and some of the individual students. If you do not wish to receive these notes, just let me know. A lot of last year’s reports are at: http://falconrobotics.blogspot.com/

Further information on just about all the stuff we do can be found at: http://www.phxhs.k12.az.us/education/club/club.php?sectiondetailid=27681&sc_id=1128473844