Author Archive: pmichaud

Volunteers wanted for North Texas FTC Regional Championship

Hello everyone!

We are looking for volunteers for the North Texas FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Regional Championship.  The Regional Championship will be held on Saturday February 25th at Ford Middle School in Allen.  Forty eight (48!) of the top teams in North Texas will compete to determine regional winners and opportunities to advance to the next level of competition.

We’re planning this to be a showcase event for the year, and we’re looking for volunteers to help with the event in all areas.  Due to the expanded size of this event we need more judges, referees, and inspectors than in previous qualifier or league events.  Of course there are many other roles that we will be filling, including scorekeepers, runners, queuers, announcers, and the like. Don’t worry if you haven’t done this before or feel like you might not be qualified… training is available and we have experts to help guide you.  And if you’re looking at coaching or mentoring a team in future competitions, then volunteering (e.g. as a judge) is an outstanding way to see what the top teams are doing and understand how things work “behind the scenes”.

Judging is an all-day commitment consisting of panel interviews and observations of teams and robots in action.  Ideally, judging panels are comprised of people with a technical background along with those with skills in communication and outreach. No one will judge alone.

Referees observe team matches to observe rule violations and “call” them.  They also keep track of which elements have been scored and record these items on scoresheets.  There is online training to become a referee and a certification exam (which usually isn’t very hard). Refereeing also gives you “the best seats in the house” for watching the matches take place.  :)

Inspectors meet with teams in the morning to check robot designs for safety and compliance with build rules and restrictions.  This involves going through a short checklist of items for each robot, informing teams of any infractions that will prevent the robot from competing or certifying the robots as being compliant with the game requirements.  This also has training materials and a short certification exam for the role.

To learn more about FIRST Tech Challenge, check out http://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/ftc .

Registering as an event volunteer is a two-step process.  First go to the Volunteer Registration System site, https://my.usfirst.org/FIRSTPortal/Login/VIMS_Login.aspx .  It can be a bit confusing, so here is a video about how to create a new VIMS account: http://www.screencast.com/t/pTL7rCsb   If you already have a VIMS account from volunteering in a previous event or season, you should use that account.

Then select “Apply for an event” tab, select “FTC” as the program, select “Texas” as the state/province, and enter “North Texas” in the “Search event by name” field.  You can also search by ZIP code by entering “75002” as the ZIP code. You can then select the event and add any event roles you would like to have.   We’re always happy to have “Assign Me as Needed” volunteers, but we also encourage you to indicate your preference for any other roles you would like to have at the event.  We will want an array of volunteers: concessions, referees, judges, inspection, load in, load out, queuers, etc… so please feel free to forward this information to any friends or colleagues who may be interested in helping.

Please contact Patrick Michaud at <patrick.michaud@utdallas.edu> if you have any questions.  Thank you so much and we hope to see you soon.

 

Some notes from regional FLL referees

Yesterday several of the region’s FLL referees met with Joe Varnell (North Texas Head Referee) to review the rules and common situations encountered this year’s game. We also reviewed some of the questions and topics that have arisen during the many scrimmages. Here’s a summary of some of the more common ones, so that you can be aware of them prior to arriving at competition. This is just a summary recap — please carefully read the mission descriptions, rules, and game updates for full details.

Rule D08 – Models: Teams are not allowed to attach models to other objects, including other models. For example, in scrimmages (and some YouTube videos) we’ve seen teams try to attach the Chicken to the studs on the top of the Octopus, in violation of rule D08. Any models that violate D08 will not be counted as scoring.

M10 – Demolition: When demolishing the Building, the Robot must not break the bracket in the process of doing so. If the Robot breaks the bracket or separates its Dual Lock while demolishing the building, this mission will not score. (Rule R15 — Field Damage)

M05 and Plastic Bag Removal: Although the game video shows the plastic bag being removed from the Sorter by hand, this is NOT allowed. (Robot Game Update #2 and rule GP5)

M03 – Transport mission: In order to score 110 points for the Truck/Yellow Bin mission, BOTH scoring conditions must be visible at the END of the match. If at the end of the match the Yellow Bin is on the mat, or anywhere such that the Truck is not supporting all of the Yellow Bin’s weight, then you don’t get the 50 points for that part of the mission, even if the Yellow Bin was on the Truck at some point earlier in the match. (M03 and Robot Game Update #14)

M08 – Composting: Some of the composter models seem to be a little finicky, even when apparently built correctly. We’ve seen cases where a robot triggers the model properly but the model fails to release the compost for no obvious reason. While referees and field reset personnel will do their very best to keep the composters working, we know that sometimes things still don’t work out.

If a composter fails when it’s clear that it should’ve worked, referees will try to manually release the Compost (or provide an alternate) in a timely manner if that’s possible. If it turns out to not be possible, referees will apply GP3 (“Benefit of the Doubt”) to decide how missions related to the Compost should be scored.

However, there are some common situations where leniency won’t be granted. For example, if the Robot hits the composter hard enough to cause its “green lid” to fall backwards into the pendulum mechanism, then any failure to release the Compost is considered normal and the referee will not attempt to reposition the lid, restart the pendulum, or manually eject the Compost. The same goes for other strategies where a Robot activates the composter in a rough or uncontrolled manner.

R13 Interrupting: Penalties for touching / interrupting a robot outside of Base are applied the next time the robot is Launched out of Base (rule R13). Historically such penalties have often been called “touch penalties”, but it’s not the touching of the robot that incurs the penalty — it’s the returning to Base for re-launch that is penalized.

Thus a team that stops or interrupts a Robot and leaves it place (or doesn’t re-launch the robot from Base) doesn’t receive a penalty for that final interruption.

R10 “Hands Off”, R12 “Launching”, and R14 “Stranding”:  Anything that the Robot causes to happen outside of Safety stays that way — teams and referees do not attempt to “reset” or fix them by hand. (Exception: The Careers mission grants some leniency to R10 for the Sorter Model.)

So, if the Robot leaves a Model or a piece of equipment completely outside of Safety, it’s considered “Stranded” (R14) and remains there until the end of the Match or the Robot moves it (R12 bullets 4 and 5). Each piece of equipment (mission models are never “equipment”) still outside of Safety at the end of the match incurs a Junk Penalty (D09 bullet 2).

Anything that is completely in Safety the team gets to pick up and keep.

Things that are stranded partly in Safety get special treatment that occurs at the moment they are stranded — i.e., when the Robot loses contact with them:

  • Equipment that is stranded partly in Safety is taken completely into Safety (the team keeps it) and immediately incurs a Junk Penalty (R14 and D09). Again, mission models are never considered “equipment” or “junk”.
  • BARS of any color that are partly in Safety are immediately taken completely into Safety, and normal rules and scoring then apply for them being in Safety (Robot Game Update #6).
  • All other models that are stranded partly in Safety are immediately picked up by the referee and taken out of play (R14). This generally means that these models can no longer be used to score missions.

The end result of this is that nothing is allowed to rest partly in Safety, other than the Robot itself and the things it is transporting.

I hope this is useful to teams, and we all look forward to seeing your robots at competitions!

Pm

New sensors from Modern Robotics

In the past week Modern Robotics has announced two new sensors to its lineup, a color sensor and an integrating gyro.

The color sensor claims to support a passive mode, which allows it to detect color from an external light source (such as the LEDs of the Res-Q game beacons).  It also supports an active mode, where the sensor has its own light emitter to detect the color of a reflected target (similar to how the LEGO Mindstorms and HiTechnic color sensors work).  The color sensor is available now, but as of Sep 21, 2015 the FTC Robot Controller App doesn’t have libraries to support the sensor.

 

The gyro sensor is a 3-axis gyro that does onboard integration of the z-axis, thus it can be used to calculate heading with greater accuracy than if the calculation is performed on an Android or PC host.  The gyro is slated to be available for sale by mid October 2015.

 

FIRST Tech Challenge 2015-2016 season plan

(reprinted with permission)

From: Dr. Carter Tiernan
Subject: FIRST Tech Challenge 2015-2016 season plan
Date: Fri, 21 Aug 2015 17:00:23 CDT

Dear coaches,

I hope your school year is starting off very well.  This message will give you an overview of the plan for the FIRST Tech Challenge season in North Texas including the structure, a few dates, and some future year plans as well.

As most of you know, US FIRST is moving the FTC competition structure from the previous format of qualifier competitions only to a format of league play.  We had hoped to start large-scale implementation of leagues this season.  However, there is a state-level effort in Texas that is expected to have a big impact on teams and participation in FTC starting this year and this effort has changed our planning regarding league implementation.

Therefore, for the 2015-2016 FTC season we in North Texas we will be using a blended format of both qualifiers and leagues.  As the default, we will be continuing to implement FTC with first level qualifier tournaments that will have space for all teams to compete in.  The Southwest Regional Championship at UT Arlington is scheduled for February 20, 2016.  The qualifier tournaments are expected to be held in December and January.  Dates and details will be given as they become available.  Teams that compete in qualifiers will advance from a qualifier tournament to the Southwest Regional Championship.

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