Monday, April 02, 2007

LasVegas FIRST Regional

Friday, March 30, 2007 – Las Vegas

The Carl Hayden Robotics club is in Las Vegas for the FIRST Las Vegas Regional competition. We left Phoenix late Wednesday night and drove in a caravan of three school vans, 1 pickup truck and 2 cars. A lot of us have ham radio licenses and we use the radios to play Trivia Pursuit among the vehicles. I think I’m the only one who knew the original McDonald’s hamburgers were 15 cents. I don’t know if I’m proud of knowing that or not, but I am very proud that so many students have earned their FCC licenses.

Yesterday we unpacked our robot which had to be shipped directly from our competition in San Diego. Teams are not allowed to work on their ‘bots between competitions. Little Jerry was in fine shape and we sailed through inspection and we played in the days’ practice rounds.

For the first 15 seconds of a game the robots run autonomously. No driver intervention, just the robot running on its internal program. Not a lot of robots do anything in the first 15 seconds. In San Diego, we had a program that would send Little Jerry half way across the field. We decided to reprogram him to go three fourths of the way across the field and make a 90 turn and proceed to bump into any opposing robots that were attempting to score points. It had to be accomplished in 5 seconds if we wanted to be effective.

Our robot has a second high speed gear, so we set the program to run straight for 3 seconds in high gear. So at the next practice round, Jerry shot across the field and slammed into the far wall at high speed. It was the most excitement the crowd had seen all day. It broke Jerry’s tube lifter, but we replaced it in a few minutes. The officials warned us not to let it happen again.

For the next practice, we had Jerry’s forward run shortened, but he still crossed the field and ran into another robot. No damage, but the officials told us that if it happened again we would be disqualified for the rest of the event. We have decided to forget improving our autonomous high speed run, at least in Las Vegas.

Our plans are to play more defense than we did in San Diego. After the wall crashing, I know a lot of teams will be a little wary of us.

We were told that the Las Vegas competition will be webcast:
Click on the Las Vegas webcast link after 9am (MST, PDT) Friday and it will be active again 9am Saturday.

Saturday, March 31, 2007 – Las Vegas Day 2

Three wins, three losses and a tie. We are ranked 32 in a field of 51 teams. We have two more seeding matches to play later this morning.

The last match of the day was our best. We were allied with 2 robots that can’t score with the tubes. Our opponents would be two robots who probably would have difficulty scoring and one that could run up a lot of points. We decided that we would play a totally defensive game and try to have one of our robots climb our ramp at the end. Our opponents also had a ramp, but we felt they would have difficulty with a robot climbing it. The game went exactly as we wished. You can view the game here: and then click on nv_57.wmv.

One of our losses and our tie was the result of human error. We finished with the high score, but we received a 10 point penalty which changed the outcome of the game. One penalty was an alliance player stepping outside of the player’s box and the other was our fault: our robot after deploying our ramp touched the “foul line”. We had a chain come off of one wheel and it made it difficult for our driver to steer.

One of the judges is Steve Wozniack, cofounder of Apple, and really the engineer of the first popular home computer. He spent time in our pit area talking to the kids who were ”on duty” there. What a thrill!

One student, Kelly, has been wearing the Flacon mascot costume throughout the San Diego and Las Vegas competition. Eight hours a day in the suit, she dances, jumps and keeps the crowd pumped up. It gets really hot in the feather suit and we keep reminding her to drink water and she does, but she really never takes a break. Everyone finds a job on the team and it’s exciting to see how they go way beyond expectations.

Sunday, April 01, 2007 – Phoenix

We had quite a day in Vegas.

We tied one and lost one of our Saturday morning seeding matches. Penalties by our alliance played a part- again. We wound up ranked 34 out of 51 teams. Not very promising. However, the third ranked team picked us as an ally for the regional championship matches. They had watched our strong defense and felt a good defender would compliment their scoring robot.

To move on to the semi finals, an alliance has to defeat the opposing alliance twice. In our first match, we were told to play offence and we did. Our side lost 16 – 84. Strategy was changed and we played defense in the second match and the outcome was a lot better: we won 40-32 and there was a lot of very tough bumping and pushing going on. In the final tie breaker, Our robot drivers played a perfect game. The whole alliance was chanting, “Jerry, Jerry…”. It looked like we won 16-2 and then the announcer said there were some penalties. One of our alliance robots was assessed two ten point penalties so the final score was 0-2 and we were finished for the day.

During the day, several judges returned to the pits and talked to the kids, including the “Woz”. We were beginning to think maybe we would receive one of the safety awards or a judges award. We were shocked at the awards ceremony to be presented with the Engineering Inspiration Award, the second highest award (after the Chairman’s Award. Robot championship is the 3rd highest). The kids were ecstatic.

One of the criteria for the award is the team’s effect on our school and community. Well, the kids have been very active and they are making a big difference on campus, community and the state of Arizona with all their public speaking/presentations and congressional lobbying.

One incident that the judges liked was the story about the cross country team running to the AZ regional and watching about an hour of play. I just found out from one of the kids that when the cross country boys ran back to school, the coach had seen them on the webcast from the venue. He reprimanded them and had them do pushups. We decided that we have to do something for the X-country guys. The coach is a good guy, but we will have to think of something fun for him too!

In ten days we head off to Atlanta for the International championships. We hope our robot does well, but we have our eye on the top award, the Chairman’s award.

Pictures of our Las Vegas trip at the school page.



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