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Watching a FIRST Competition Robot Being Built (Video)

Roblimo posted about a year ago | from the way-beyond-rock-em-sock-em-robots dept.

Education 29

We have shown clips from FIRST Robotics Competitions before on Slashdot, with a concentration on the Dexter Dreadbots because they're the "home team" for Slashdot's home office in Michigan. Today we hear from team mentor Jennifer Bryson and watch as the team works on their 2014 competition robot. They need to have it finished by February 18, so they're in the home stretch of the robot-building task. The competition itself starts on February 28 and keeps going until the world championships are held during the last weekend in April. The Dreadbots did well last year. This year? Who knows. But win or lose, it's all For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, AKA FIRST, also AKA "The ultimate Sport for the Mind." And if you're not near Ann Arbor, MI, check for a FIRST competition near you. It's an international organization, so you're likely to find one -- and if you don't, perhaps you can help start a FIRST team where you live.And for those of you who don't see the video below, here's a link to it.

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Slashdot beta is pretty good (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46240511)

Just want to say, beta is really floating my boat right now. All the greybeard whiners have gone off on their silly 'boycott', leaving the a quality slashdot audience here to enjoy the site. Let's face it, we're the future! Hip, younger, more sociable, more trend-orientated and 100% more employable than the old crowd. Dice knows where their future revenue comes from and they know it isn't with the oldsters.

Back to beta. I have a few suggestions that would really improve things even further and hopefully will make it into the final slashdot 'release':

-Slightly larger font and font spacing between lines. A lot of us read on HD tablets don't forget!
-More content that is relevant and engaging with today's IT crowd - so topics like ruby on rails, PHP, wordpress plugins, apple products, SEO. And less stuff on boring out-of-date technologies like UniX and Sun.
-More comment posting formats - like inline images, youtube vid embeds, code containers etc.
-Less comment nesting - say 2 or 3 max, to make viewing on smartphones more comfortable
-Lose the 1990s scheme! Seriously, teal? Take a look at apple or microsoft's website if you want some perfection in design with modern web standards.
-Make slashdot more social - like integrated facebook and twitter feeds on the left hand side of the page from the top 10 users or something.

Thanks! Joey.

Re:Slashdot beta is pretty good (1)

dkman (863999) | about a year ago | (#46241601)

http://i141.photobucket.com/al... [photobucket.com]

I'm not going to go all F.B. because I'm not a sailor, but as a techie site this definitely looks silly.

Re:Slashdot beta is pretty good (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | about a year ago | (#46242029)

Your post being offtopic aside, if you really mean what you are saying and aren't just engaging in elaborate trolling, send everything you posted to: feedback@slashdot.org with Beta Feedback in the subject line. They really do take such emails seriously. I've been on Slashdot since 1997 - hell, I even remember Chips n' Dip. And I will admit that the beta site is starting to grow on me. I sent them an email a few days ago about what I like and don't like and Timothy (I think it was Timothy) emailed me back the very same day. So the bottom line is, this is not the place to be communicating the content of your post. Copy and paste it into an email and click send.

Okay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46243573)

And judging by the "younger crowd" there brainless when it comes to reporting/commenting on anything remotely truthful.
That's not to say the younger crowd won't comment and correct slashdot stories, giving a more rounded and honest opinion of from slashdot's status quo of sensationalism and false reporting. But the younger crowd seems to be hard-lined in being to the left or right, and not staying in the middle, of course the older crowd is like that as well but they fail to admit to it.
I don't have a problem with the look of, the "new" slashdot. But I have to open a new tab to read the entire story, which really doesn't matter since I did that anyway with the old slashdot to read the comments.

(Video) ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46240525)

Which link is the video?

FIRST robot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46240567)

Is that some kind of robot that automatically posts "FIRST" in comments sections

Unfair competition (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46240593)

My daughter has participated in the last year's competition. It was a shame to witness how less talented but better funded teams came out on top just because they were better funded. The kids tried real hard but with shitty equipment and mentors, there's not much they could do.

Re:Unfair competition (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46240625)

Good sir, welcome to the new Slashdot.

Re:Unfair competition (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46240775)

Posting anonymously because I am an FRC mentor.

Parent couldn't be more right. FRC is mostly about raising money and getting sponsors. Additionally, if you want to be a prize contender the mentors will need to be doing most of the design. Many teams (including the one I "mentor") have several professional engineers doing the work. The reason for this is two-fold. First, the build time is limited and there just isn't any to waste on trying bad ideas (the mentors know the ideas won't work but the kids don't, all they see is nobody wanted to try their idea). It would be very beneficial for the kids to actually try out as many approaches as possible and then the kids learn from the ideas that just didn't work. Secondly, these robots are about $10K each. The parts are expensive, funding is always short, and a team can't afford to build both a spring loaded AND a pneumatic ball launcher (for example) to see which worked out better. So what you end up with is a bunch of real engineers building and designing (and solving all the related problems) because every component of the robot needs to work right on the first try. There is no time or money for rework.

It's also disappointing to see that parts may only be bought from a handful of vendors. The stated reason for this is so that all teams are on the same footing. But could it be that the reason is that there is a ton of money to be made every year from FRC? There are over 1,000 teams, and at $10K in parts each that's quite a bit of coin. There's at least one company that exists solely to supply FRC, FTC etc. AndyMark I'm looking at you.

Re: Unfair competition (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46241203)

FIRST of all (see what I did there), as a mentor on a 5th year team, I can understand some of the frustrations being voiced in here. However, if you're spending $10k on your 'bot, then you are about $6k over the limit set for spending, and that must mean you are fudging your Bill of Materials. We have never gone over on cost, and we made it to World Championships our rookie season with a shoestring budget and only 6 kids on the team.
As far as Mentors doing the work goes, while we do help on our team, we make sure the kids do the vast majority of the work, as well as all concepts. Will we steer them in the right direction if they are way off? Of course, that's our job as mentors. But our job is also to get these kids to take ownership and motivate them to complete the work on time. This season, we tried 3 seperate concepts, mocked up and tested them all, and have completed fabrication with a week to spare ( which was a first for us). I will be the first to admit the teams with huge budgets have an advantage due to what they can do in the off-season, but the most disappointing thing to me is walking around at competition and seeing nothing but mentors working on robots in most of the pits.
I too get frustrated at the lack of availability of places to get parts, but I have also spoken to teams that used to have to scour the internet and obscure places to find what they were looking for. Is it a cash cow for places like AndyMark and Vex? Sure, but I'm not going to hate on them for being entrepreneurs. Kinda what built our country.
If mentors are doing all the work, then you're not recognizing the entire point of FIRST. That's why the Chairmans Award is more prestigious than winning the tournament. Sounds to me like there are some teams that really need to look at "Gracious Professionalism" and what it means to them. If you're doing it for the wrong reasons, then you're just another parent building the pinewood derby car for them, or the youth sports coach more interested in a winning record than actually teaching the kids to play a sport. In short, I think there are some "mentors" out there who are missing the point.
Make no mistake, I'm not sitting here with rose-colored glasses. Are there things that can be improved? Absolutely. That, too, is out job as mentors. Speak up. Give a solution for the problems, don't just vent about it. Anyone who has been around me knows I don't shy away from "sharing" my opinion. But they also know I won't complain without providing a possible solution as well.

-Matt Jenkins, Team 3352
(And I wrote this on my phone, so I apologize for any typos)

Re:Unfair competition (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46241543)

I tried to join a FIRST team back in '06 or so, and this was my experience. The mentors ran the show, which was incredibly frustrating as a bright high-school student.

What is really being taught (0)

Spiked_Three (626260) | about a year ago | (#46241875)

is how to cheat and how to lie.

Watch the video - "companies hire first kids because of their experience." That is a good example lie. No company is going to hire into robotics, a kid with just a high school diploma.

To be competitive you MUST lie about your costs, and your mentor MUST do the majority of the work. The kids are only there for appearance, sponsored by the mommies and daddies with the most money.

And face it, today's STEM mentors think hardware is all that is needed, they are totally clueless about software. An LED blinking arduino is sure to be the best robotics can offer. It is why none of the DARPA entries had any kind of resemblance to a decent software development environment (not needed). Any idiot knows you don't need modern software, or things like debuggers, or source control systems that make sense. And good old terminal based editors are still the best you can get! Seriously, STEM disgusts me. It is people finding way to take more corporate welfare pretending it is helpful to kids that deserve it.

Re: What is really being taught (1)

Matthew Jenkins (3536931) | about a year ago | (#46242129)

Ok, just curious spike, are you actually a part of FIRST or just frustrated with STEM as a whole? Because I can guarantee that is not what is happening with our team. And if so many mentors are so unhappy with the program, then why are you in the program? This whole thing is voluntary.

Re: What is really being taught (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46247223)

I'm the GGGP (?) mentor above you replied to as AC, not spike the anti-STEM guy. This is actually my first year as a mentor, I probably won't do it next year. I'm sticking around until the competitions are done this year because I don't want to send the signal to the kids that it's OK to quit a team effort once you've committed.

We have about 5 "regular" mentors and 2 others that are only present to build stuff (they don't really mentor in any capacity). Most have been around for better than 5 years so it's difficult to just show up as the new guy and "shake things up".

It's good to hear more of the FRC teams are about the kids and mentoring (it's what I signed up for). I do feel less negative towards the whole FIRST organization hearing some of the replies on here. I may switch to mentor FLL or maybe FTC next year - as it's less about the $$$ (and I'm sure the mentors are less entrenched).

It would seem that you could get just as good of a STEM experience with a smaller and cheaper (but still as complicated) robot?

Re:What is really being taught (2)

cslibby (626565) | about a year ago | (#46243381)

> Watch the video - "companies hire first kids because of their experience." That is a good example lie. No company is going to hire into > robotics, a kid with just a high school diploma. f people are hiring for a factory, a kid who has been in FIRST will be picked over a kid who has not. As to Engineering and Robotics, most of the kids from FIRST continue on into College and after obtaining their degree, My company, and many other companies I know, will hire these kids fresh out of college, because they have that extra experience of designing and building robots. > To be competitive you MUST lie about your costs, and your mentor MUST do the majority of the work. The kids are only there for > appearance, sponsored by the mommies and daddies with the most money. My frustration with the whole program is more those who look in and think this is a RICH kid's program. I guaranty that our small team does not have very many "Rich" kids. Factory worker's kids, Law Enforcement Kids, Farmer's Kids, Teacher's Kids ... THOSE are not the RICH kids. The team I am with was build from scratch and when the first robot was built they had NO money left to even go to the world championship competition after they had won their first competition and earned the right to advance. The Sponsors picked up the bill. Oh, and these kids also participate in the 4H Program, and the Boy and Girl Scouts too. Is FIRST perfect? Not by a long shot, but this competition makes these kids learn how to problem solve on a budget, learn to work as a team, learn to market their team to the community, and sooooo much more. Go Flaming Monkeys Charles Libby Mentor Team 3352

Re:Unfair competition (3, Interesting)

Chelloveck (14643) | about a year ago | (#46240787)

My son is on the Dreadbot team, the one in the video. Last year was his first year, too. The team is only four years old and is not well funded, but we managed to get into the world championships last year and make almost all the way to the top of our division. For the record, we're not particularly well funded; we had to beg for money from local businesses so we could afford to go to the state and world competitions. I know some teams get a lot of funding and mentoring from big engineering companies, but a talented team can go a long way without that.

Re: Unfair competition (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46241473)

Allow me to dissent. Let me also note that we won Regionals and then State and are headed to World/Globals in St Loius in April.

There is no funding for us other than $100/kid. That is less than an 8 game Rec Soccer league. A couple parents bought the Mindstorm and then the EV3.

The robot score is a small part of determining who wins. We finished 16th in robot scores. The FIRST part about your presentation is the big thing if you want to win.

We told all kids/parents that all coding (every line) must be done by kids. All presentation material must be done by kids. The interviews at competitions reveal teams that cheat. Maybe that's why we won, but we have exceptional kids! We teach them how to run things and get organized. We ask questions, but cannot tell them what to do or how to do it. We can show them resources that will help. Not every team has these rules.

Your team needs good mentors. That should still be OK in the world. FLL isn't about throwing some parts at kids, locking them in a room, and seeing what they come up with.

In short: stop whining. Stop focusing on the robot score. And, get busy.

Re: Unfair competition (1)

LabratSR (1979718) | about a year ago | (#46326413)

You seem to be comparing FLL with FRC. Here's a dose of reality. This does not include the money for the Bot itself, which can be up to 4000 dollars http://www.usfirst.org/robotic... [usfirst.org]

Re:Unfair competition (1)

DeTech (2589785) | about a year ago | (#46243513)

If you're worried about who wins you're kind of missing the point.

Vendor lock-in (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46240713)

FIRST: Like scientology, only more expensive.

FIRST: Teaching budding engineers how to live a death march.


Home office? (1)

Clyde Machine (1851570) | about a year ago | (#46240765)

Slashdot's home office is in the Murder Mitten?

Re:Home office? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46241103)

Have you ever been?

Great program (1)

bguthro (136509) | about a year ago | (#46240821)

I participated in this program in 1996-1997, in Manchester, NH. Since the program was founded by Dean Kamen (of Segway fame) - and his offices were based in Manchester - the program was pretty big there.
At the time, my team was sponsored by PSNH (electric co.) - as a result, I learned a lot about engineering, and programming.
I really see it as a major influence in my decision to ultimately go to engineering school.

While it looks like the team now has a new sponsor ( http://powerknights.com/ [powerknights.com] ) - and they no longer go to EPCOT for national competitions, like they once did - it is great to see that this program is still active, and vibrant, since it really offers so much more than a "battlebot" type program.

Kudos to all the sponsors, and mentors out there.

No video (1)

jlv (5619) | about a year ago | (#46240937)

"MODULE ERROR. Problem downloading the player. Please check your internet connection."

Uh, right. My Internet connection is just fine, thank you.

FIRST Tech Challenge - FTC Block Party (2)

nevermore94 (789194) | about a year ago | (#46241095)

I helped mentor a first time high school team for the smaller FIRST Tech Challenge - FTC Block Party a couple of months ago and even that was a blast. We built a smaller 18" robot for collecting and dumping 2" bricks into baskets and doing a couple of other higher point challenges such as a flag raise and a pull up out of Lego MindStorms and Erector like Tetrix pieces. We did pretty good coming in 3rd out of 11 teams considering it was our first time ever at a robotics competition.

I hope they can eventually step up to the full size FIRST Robotics Competition at some point. We also had a guest team demonstrate their last year's Frisbee throwing robot at the event and it was pretty cool as well.

First! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46241253)

Had to say it. But my team won the first FIRST LEGO competition, so I'm entitled a little deference, right? ;D

Too many ads (1)

lexman098 (1983842) | about a year ago | (#46241767)

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