Outreach

Being on a robotics team isn’t just about the competitions. It’s also about spreading the word about robotics and FIRST and STEM to the community. It’s about inspiring others, encouraging others, helping others–even those on other teams. We strive to reach out to the educational, civil, and engineering communities alike to demonstrate and hopefully extend our passion for robotics. Outreach takes many different forms and even the smallest of actions can have an impact.


2016-2017

Mechanical Design Review with Mr. Cotton

On Friday, March 10, Eric Cotton, a mechanical engineer who formerly worked for Sikorsky and now is at Dark Field Technologies, came over for a design review of the robot. The build team was especially excited to hear his perspective on some new concepts for improving the lift speed. He was great in helping to facilitate ideas from everyone on the team, the brainstorming session proving very helpful as the team gets ready for Super Regionals! It was great having him come over, and the team is ready to get started on the new ideas discussed with Mr. Cotton.

Library Demo with New Haven Bomb Squad

On Saturday, February 11, our team gave a joint presentation with the New Haven Bomb Squad at our local library to bring attention to FIRST and STEM. The bomb technicians became interested in FIRST after we visited their headquarters in November. We talked about the FIRST programs, offered a detailed explanation about how each program works, and game strategy. The Bomb Squad joined us with two of their robots and spoke on their work as bomb technicians. They brought the largest robot used to move larger objects and the smallest robot used for reconnaissance. They showed off and described the specialties and capabilities of these robots to the audience and answered questions about them such as how they wirelessly communicated with the larger analog robot. We demoed our own robot, Orion, while explaining about this year's challenge, and how our robot was designed to complete these tasks. The audience aged five to eighty five was on the smaller side but enthusiastic and engaged. Many younger kids had a blast driving Orion, and shooting balls into the center vortex. Older members of the audience were also engaged and talked with team members and the bomb squad about the importance of documentation and our engineering notebook, the practicality of the bomb squad robots, and when the bomb squad uses each of their robots. Sayem and the coach, Ms. Beecher, from Tech Lions, were also present. They met Dennis Wong from the Sunrise Rotary Club, Tech Lions major sponsor. It was really great to finally connect them. Sayem reached out to another student who was from another Bridgeport school and invited him to come participate on his team at Bassick HS. Overall, This presentation was fun and informative for everyone involved. We hope everyone learned a lot and that we inspired a few younger kids to join a FIRST team in the future!

Meeting with Bassick Tech Lions

On Wednesday, January 28, the Bassick Tech Lions came over with their mentor to prepare for their upcoming CT qualifier. The focus of the meeting was to find solutions to issues they had at the Gator Bowl Qualifier. Since the entire team is very new to the program, we worked to introduce them to the many different aspects of FIRST. For new members, they know a lot already, and have a strong strategy going into the next qualifier. The Tech Lions left the meeting ready to finish preparing for the competition, and it was so much fun to spend the afternoon with them!

Overview of Civil Engineering with Mr. Gikas

On Wednesday, January 27, the team met with Nick Gikas, a civil engineer. The team was eager to learn more about civil engineering, especially from someone who has worked on such major projects in New York City. In the meeting he showed us step-by-step CAD drawings for several projects he had done. It was great to see that the CAD skills we are learning through robotics are applicable in an entirely different engineering discipline. The current project he is working on is converting the current EZ pass tolls to the overhead system on the Triborough bridge. He discussed that similarly to us in robotics, they have a certain set of criteria they must meet, in this case steel couldn’t be within 4ft of the sensors. The team was excited to be exposed to a project that has such a large impact, and left with a more in-depth understanding of civil engineering.

Girls Mech E Workshop

On Wednesday, January 25, seven girls joined us for a Mech E workshop at Bedford Middle School! This was a successful follow-up to our EECS trial workshop at the Westport Library. Our team feels it is important to inspire young girls to get involved in STEM, especially during the Middle School years. It was encouraging to see these girls so engaged and interested in the robot-building process! To start, we introduced FIRST, FTC, our team and Mechanical engineering with a small presentation. Then, we split the girls into two groups and began to build the robots. As opposed to the EECS workshop, this time we had bigger, more intricate robots with tetrix parts. The robots included four wheels, two of them powered by motors. After we finished, Nathanael helped with a bit of basic programming, and the girls were able to run both robots! Although we ran into a few problems along the way, it was all part of the learning process. We hope this girls had as much fun as we did, whilst learning a bit more about robotics. They were very interested and excited about STEM, and we hope that their enthusiasm will carry into their high school years!

Volunteering at Gator-Bowl Competition

On Saturday, January 21, eight of our team members volunteered at the Gator-Bowl event in Greenwich, alongside our friends Team 5017, RoboEpic. We helped out as queuers, robot inspectors, FTAs, and a few of our parents helped as judges, FTAs and with registration and inspection. In addition to volunteering, we assisted many teams with programming and mechanical issues. At the start of the day, Megan helped register the 18 teams who attended the event. Luke worked as field inspector, and Neal in robot inspection to help the teams ready for competition. After opening ceremonies, Phoebe and Greg helped with queuing, which kept the event on schedule. Greg also worked as a photographer. Theo worked closely with a number of teams, helping them with programming, and assisted the FTAs on the field. Nathanael and Luke acted as FTAs throughout the day. We were excited to see the Bassick Tech Lions at the event with their new mentor, Ms Beecher. Their new principal came just in time for finals and to see what FIRST is all about. Thank you, Dr Ramirez for joining us!

Release of i²draw

On January 14, we released our sensor product, called i²draw. In the past we have noticed many teams, including ours, having difficulty with power draw issues, so this year we set out to rectify this. Over the summer, Luke designed and developed this sensor that allows teams to measure the current and voltage of their robots. This will help FTC teams with multiple potential problems such as blowing a fuse in a match, batteries draining quickly, or inaccurate autonomous programs due to varying voltages. But, not only does this sensor help FTC teams, it also supports the FIRST program in Haiti, as all of our profits will go directly to them. We had our design looked over by electrical engineer Elik Dvorkin from Presco Corporation. Please consider buying i²draw to measure the current and voltage of your robot, and support FIRST in Haiti! Visit our website www.i2draw.com and buy yours today! Please consider purchasing our product to measure the current and voltage of your robot, and support FIRST in Haiti! Visit our website at www.i2draw.com and buy yours today!

Collaborative Skype Session With RoboPandas

On Friday, January 13, we had a collaborative skype meeting with FTC Team 4017 RoboPandas from NY. Jack Chen, mentor of their team, reached out to us to see if we could discuss and collaborate on a number of robot related issues. Both teams had a few questions to be addressed, RoboPandas asked about programming and mechanum wheels, and we had questions regarding beacon pushers and the cap ball lift. Throughout the meeting, we exchanged tips and solutions about these issues, and discussed game strategy. Overall, we feel both teams benefited from this workshop, and we all had a fantastic time. We hope to talk again with the RoboPandas! Special thanks to Jack Chen, their mentor, for organizing.

Back to Nexus Design

On Friday, January 13, a few of our members returned to Nexus Design with one of our alumni, Peter Sauer. We laser cut both the robot side panels and cases for i²draw. We brought our design files, and used a cam software to convert them into a readable format for G-code. This software determined which passes were engravings versus cuts. First, we cut a prototype of the i²draw, which turned out too small, so we revised the design files. After adjusting, we made 50 cases. Then, we cut out the side panels which include our showcase sponsor, logo, team number and a pattern. We plan to edge light these on our robot so the LED light will shine through the engravings. As always, it was a great experience working with the engineers at Nexus Design! We thank them for this exceptional opportunity to improve the quality of our robot and our product.

Meeting with Ms Beecher

On Monday, January 9, a few of our team members met with the new Bassick Tech Lions mentor. The Tech Lions have been hoping to recruit a mentor for some time now, and Ms Beecher, a librarian at Bassick High School, stepped up to take on role as lead mentor. She has jumped in full force to help the Bassick Tech Lions succeed! Shortly after we found out she took the role, we arranged for Ms Beecher to meet us to learn a little more about robotics, and how we could support the Bassick Tech Lions. Luke, Will and Megan talked to Ms Beecher about the various aspects of robotics, including FIRST, the game challenge and the organization of a team. We advised her on the status of the Bassick Tech Lions’ robot, the team in general, and a few things she could focus on. It was great to meet with Ms Beecher, and encouraging to see a mentor for the Bassick Tech Lions so excited to help! We are looking forward to seeing the team at the "Gator Bowl" Event!

Meeting with the Bassick Tech Lions

On Friday, December 30, two members of the Bassick Tech Lions, Jackie and Sayem, joined us at one of our weekly meetings to collaborate with us and make progress on their robot. In addition to programming and building, the Bassick Tech Lions also worked on engineering notebook and started their presentation. Jackie and Sayem worked closely with Will and Phoebe on game strategy to decide on the best design for the Bassick Tech Lions this season. Once they determined the most desirable course of action, they began to work on the robot. Because this was Jackie's first time working on an FTC robot, Phoebe brought her up to speed on the tools and materials we use. Nathanael and Theo, our programmers, also collaborated with Jackie and Sayem to finish programming tele-op. At the end of the meeting, they were able to practice driving the robot and pushed a few beacons! However, building and programming aren't the only aspects of robotics. Megan and Will also collaborated with the Bassick Tech Lions to start writing their presentation and engineering notebooks. We also had dinner together, which was provided by one of our sponsors, Tengda. Thank you Mike! We all had a great time working with Jackie and Sayem, and we can't wait to see them again at the "Gator Bowl" Qualifier!

Volunteering at FLL Qualifier

On Saturday, November 19, we volunteered at the FLL Qualifier in Shelton, CT. It was inspiring to see these kids so invested in robotics, and we were excited to have the opportunity to work with them! Four of our team members participated in this event years ago, so it was interesting to experience it from a mentors perspective. We worked as technical and research project judges, team ambassadors, photographers, data compilers, and even a DJ. As technical judges, Will, Luke, Neal, Theo and Nathanael gained valuable insight on the judging process that we don't usually witness as team members. Ben, the team ambassador, helped the teams manage their time, and be punctual for their matches and judging appointments. Phoebe entered data from the judges to create a spreadsheet of team rankings, Greg documented the event, and Molly kept the teams positive with a custom playlist. We were also able to connect with many teams, including Sigma Six (formerly known as Team Mindcraft), a group of local kids from Coleytown Middle School who we have mentored in the past. They had a great day, improving in both robot performance and research project from last year. We all had a blast volunteering, and we hope to continue working with CT FLL teams!

New Haven Bomb Squad

On Tuesday, November 8, we had the exceptional opportunity to meet with the New Haven Bomb Squad! Three officers, Rosa Melendez, Charles Hebron and Jason Salgado, showed us the robots frequently used for detecting, inspecting and destroying bombs. We even got the chance to drive the robots, which was incredible! We were also able to relate to a few issues the bomb squad has with their robots. One thing in particular is the battery dying on the job, a problem we have run into more than a couple of times. It was great to see the real-world application of our studies! We gave a brief explanation of FIRST, FTC and our team, and they examined our engineering notebooks from last year. Greg shared our CT State Championships video, and the officers seemed very interested! Their robots were similar to one of our alumni's, the Smith Bot. This robot was built by an i²robotics Alumni at Smith's detection using an ACE ID, and although it is very small, it can detect many substances. We are planning to see the bomb squad again, hopefully setting up a robot demonstration for a larger audience . It was an incredible experience, and we would like to share that with others. Thank you so much, New Haven Bomb Squad, for meeting with us!

EECS Girls Workshop!

On Saturday, November 5, two of our team members, Phoebe and Molly held a workshop for girls from our local middle schools at the Westport library! Unfortunately, the ratio of girls to boys involved in STEM is small. Our team feels it is important to inspire girls to get involved with STEM and FIRST robotics! We brought Kratos, i²r's 2014-15 Cascade Effect Robot, along so the girls could see what a more complex robot (FTC robot) is like, and to show them what type of STEM and robotics programs is available to them in their future. The basis of the project was using arduino’s to control DC motors in small toy cars, and then programming those cars to drive around. Phoebe and Molly collaborated with the girls on both building and programming the car. At the end, they were able to decorate their finished products and have a race! We hope these girls had a lot of fun, and are willing to pursue robotics! This workshop was a successful trial, and we are hoping to mentor more girls in the future! We will be holding additional workshops for perhaps larger groups.

Spook-tacular Scrimmage!

On Saturday, October 29, we held our third annual "Spook-tacular" Scrimmage. We were able to serve two purposes with this outreach event: connecting newer teams to work with more experienced teams early in the season in order to gain more knowledge, and raise money for FLL in Haiti. Unfortunately, Haiti has recently been hit with another natural disaster, Hurricane Matthew. While it is critical to fund and support Haiti's most basic needs, our team feels its also really important to continue to support and fund FIRST in Haiti. FIRST offers a valuable opportunity to encourage students to take an interest in STEM and robotics giving rise to engineers that can influence and improve Haiti’s own infrastructure in the future. Robotics can also serve as an outlet for kids as they go through difficult times. At the scrimmage and with additional fundraising, we raised about $4,000 for FLL in Haiti! A total of eleven teams were in attendance for a successful day of fundraising for FLL teams in Haiti and working on robots! At the start, Luke announced our new power sensor, called i²draw, which will be helpful to many FTC teams. i²draw is a voltage and current sensor meant to help FTC teams understand their robots' power usage. It is being sold for $30, and all profits will be donated to FIRST in Haiti! We were able to work with many teams, including Tech Lions and Team TKG. Nathanael assisted TKG on Tele-op programming and helped them get their tank drive set up! Many teams had the opportunity to discuss robot mechanical issues with Jack Chen, a physics teacher and mentor of the FTC team RoboPandas. Jack’s participation was invaluable as he helped many robotocists think of multiple ways to solve problems! We encouraged all the teams to collaborate, continue to learn more about their robots, and have fun! Thank you to everyone who attended, Jack Chen, and Staples High School for making this a successful event!

Mentoring FLL Team Mindcraft

On Sunday, October 18, eight of our team members mentored FLL Team Mindcraft, a local Westport team made up of students from Coleytown Elementary School. To start off, members of Team Mindcraft explained the different aspects of the field and their ideas for achieving them. Together we determined the tasks of highest priority, including what Team Mindcraft could complete before the qualifier. After working on the robot aspect of the challenge, we discussed the research project. We helped them narrow down the best areas for research! It was truly inspiring to see how invested these students are in robotics. We feel it is extremely important to try and inspire these young engineers and inventors to follow their passions! We are planning on continuing mentoring Team Mindcraft as the season progresses.

Connect with Nexus Design Engineers

On Wednesday, October 12, Phoebe and Will connected with Nexus Design engineers John Laverack and John Pelosi. We were able to learn and clarify a plethora of problems, including clean CAD designs and laser cut parts! Mr. Laverack and Mr. Pelosi were extremely helpful in supporting us on our building process! Thank you so much, Nexus Design engineers for working with us. We are grateful for the opportunity to connect with Mr. Leverack and Mr. Pelosi!

Meeting With Sikorsky Engineer

On Friday, September 23, we met with Ms Yu to discuss our design process! Ms Yu is a mechanical engineer at Sikorsky and a frequent judge at FTC competitions. Last year, she helped us develop a plan for our design process. Having a design process is extremely important because it captures all of the good ideas, encourages team participation, and ensures communication and clarity in regards to reaching goals. This year, much to our excitement, she returned to work with our team. Using our design process, we evaluated various robot mechanism options to determine if they met the requirements. We made decisions based on this examination and now we are able to confidently move forward with proceeding with building the robot. Thank you so much Ms Yu for meeting with us!

Velocity Vortex Scoring App

The week of September 12, the scoring app was finalized and launched! This year, we developed an android app in addition to the IOS one, thanks to the new programming members on our team. This app will help FTC teams across the world keep score accurately during practice and competitions.

i2 STEM Camp Robot Demo & Presentation

On Wednesday, July 27, Nathanael and Ben visited the i2 STEM camp in Greenwich to present the updated Kratos with android control. About 50 campers listened to Ben and Nathaneal, two i²r team members, talk about the design and features of Kratos and how it performed in the 2014-15 competitions. While demonstrating the robot, Nathaneal launched balls into the audience, and the kids had a blast! A few kids stuck behind with questions, and we gladly answered. Thank you, Ms Sestito, coach of Robo Epic Team 5017, for allowing us to talk to these campers. We hope that the kids had as much fun as Nathaneal and Ben did, whilst learning a bit more about robotics!

Bridgeport Board of Education Presentation

On Monday, May 23, we presented to the Bridgeport Board of Education to help gain support in the expansion of the robotics program! Two members of Tech Lions, the local Bridgeport robotics team, joined us as we presented to about 200 people. In addition to discussing the significance of FIRST, we showed videos recapping the competitions and demoed Aether. We thank the Bridgeport Board of Education for giving us this enormous opportunity, and hope that the robotics program will be able to grow in the future!

2015-2016

Library Showcase

On August 22nd we held a robot demo at the Westport Public Library, and it was a big hit! Over 50 people, ranging from ages 2 to 90, came to see us! For the demo, we converted our Smiths Bot (a robot that carried an Ace ID scanner to detect hazardous materials) into a robot that is more kid friendly to drive and carries a basket of bracelets (for the colorflash 5k, an annual event that raises money for pediatric cancer) and team buttons that can be maneuvered up and down. We also brought last years’ robot, Kratos, that people got to see perform in action. Children of all ages were able to drive both Kratos and the revamped Smiths Bot. Many people came into the showcase with no prior knowledge of FIRST. But, after interacting with the 3D printer, the robots, and the team members, people came out of the showcase with an interest to join or even start a team. The event was a huge success and we had a lot of fun spreading the word about our team and FIRST. Special thanks to the Library for hosting us and Bill Derry for arranging it!

Kickoff and Res-Q Reveal

On Saturday, September 12, we held a Kickoff reveal at the Westport Public Library for the 2015-2016 game challenge. Seven teams from Connecticut, including teams from Bridgeport, Danbury and Greenwich gathered to see the new game challenge. Over 50 spectators arrived! Some of whom were simply just excited and intrigued about the new game challenge, and others who were considering joining or even starting a robotics team. We also talked to the Bridgeport coach about approaching the season, fundraising, and programming. After the game challenge, “Res-Q,” was revealed, we collaborated with other Westport teams to complete building the new field. We look forward to the rest of the season and are excited to “Res-Q” some climbers!

COLORFLASH 5K

The team had a great time walking/running to support our phriend and teammate, Phoebe Spear, who is a cancer survivor, at the COLORFLASH 5K. The COLORFLASH, held by Phoebe’s Phriends, a non-profit corporation, is a colorful fun run to beat cancer and all proceeds from the run are donated directly to the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for Pediatric Cancer Research. Over 2,200 people came to the event, and the i²robotics logo was printed on all the running shirts! Before the fun run began, Luke and the Orphenians sang the National Anthem. There was also a great DJ, food trucks, and lots of tutus (one of which Joe proudly sported). While the team walked/ran the 5K, we enjoyed getting doused with color at six different color stations along the run’s route by the Bedford Middle School teachers, the Black Duck Café staff, and even the Staples football team. Congratulations to Phoebe and her family for putting together such an amazing event! If you would like to support Phoebe and her non-profit, Phoebe's Phriends, please donate to help find a cure for childhood cancer at this link: http://www.phoebesphriends.com/how-to-help/

RES-Q iOS Scoring App

We recently published a new version of our previous scoring app for this year's challenge, FIRST RES-Q. The app contains a scoring system and timer, and can be used by teams around the globe to score matches both in practice and at competitions. We felt it was important to make this app for iOS since so many FTC developers only focus on Android.

Mentoring FLL Team MindCraft

On October 18, team members went to mentor FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Team MindCraft, a local team made up of students of Coleytown Elementary School. After listening to them give an overview of this year's FLL challenge, Trash Trek, we heard their ideas for their research project. The students shared their brainstorming process with us and we asked them questions along the way. These questions helped them to narrow their project's focus. As some of our members are FLL alumni, we were able to use our insight and past experiences to provide tips about what the judges look for in a presentation. Luke and Theo also advised MindCraft in programming. The members of MindCraft were very eager to learn and we were blown away by some of the creative and innovative solutions they came up with! Overall, we had a great time mentoring FLL team MindCraft, and we feel that we were successful in helping this team expand their knowledge and improve. We hope to continue to mentor them throughout the season!

Spooktacular Scrimmage

The scrimmage today was indeed spooktacular! The Halloween spirit was alive and well while we raised over $3000 for FIRST LEGO League in Haiti! We also had twelve teams participating, and students from two more. We had a great time interacting with all the teams and helping each other out with robot troubles. We were particularly impressed with how the Bassick Tech Lions focused on the task of building a robot. They only received their parts on Monday, and by the end of today they had a drive chassis and had made it move! In addition to all the students, we had visits from a number of local VIPs. This included Westport School Board members Mark Mathias and Karen Kleine, First Selectman Jim Marpe, State Representative Jonathan Steinberg, and two additional members of Westport Sunrise Rotary. A cameraman from Channel 12 news came, and that was a great opportunity to spread FIRST to the local community! Several FIRST representatives also attended, including Stacey Gray, the new Senior Mentor for CT, Lauren Jefferson, a FIRST VISTA, and two of the mentors who helped to run the FRC competition we attended over the summer. Gary Shaye, a representative from Save The Children, also attended. They both were extremely excited about the help we’re providing for Haiti, and for underserved communities.

CT Block Party Robot Demonstration

On Saturday November 7, team members demonstrated last year's robot, Kratos, at the CT Block Party event located at Stepping Stones. It was a great event as we got to meet a lot of amazing young builders, and talk to kids of all ages about FIRST, FIRST Tech Challenge, and FIRST LEGO League. We demonstrated our robot and had some of the spectators try out controlling Kratos' popper, lift, and dispenser. For the younger LEGO enthusiasts, we helped them learn about our robot's harvester as they rolled whiffle balls into the mechanism. It became a fun game for the kids, and it was great to see their faces light up as we taught them about the robot. We were honored to speak and demonstrate Kratos the event, which raised a lot of money to put towards the grant facet of CT Block Party. The CT Block Party is a 501(c)3 organization which provides grants and mentoring to promote youth philanthropy within Connecticut. Earlier this year, we were lucky enough to receive the "I Can Make a Difference" $1000 grant to start Bassick High School's (located in Bridgeport, CT) first robotics team, the Tech Lions.

Girls' Robotics Club

On November 10, we gave a presentation to a group of future S.T.E.A.M. (Science Technology Engineering Art and Math) leaders at the Westport Public Library. The Girls’ Robotics club is a programming class open to girls from ages 8-12 that occurs at the library every Tuesday from 4-5pm. Annie, Julia, Phoebe and Theo got a chance to talk to the girls about FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge), FLL (FIRST Lego League), why we decided to join robotics and what robotics means to us. In our presentation, we also showed videos of past robotics competitions and this year's game challenge. Theo showed his previous FLL lego creations to the club and all the girls seemed very fascinated with them! Then, we all split up into groups and built some of our own lego creations with starter kits. Overall, it was a very fun and we enjoyed spending time with younger roboticists! We hope these girls will continue with their love for robotics and maybe even start a FLL or FTC team!

Collaboration with FTC Team Tech Lions

At the beginning of the season, we worked with Kathy Silver, the principal of Bassick High School in Bridgeport CT, to help them start an FTC Team. We are hoping to give other teens within the Bridgeport community, an underserved area, the same opportunity to work on an FTC team. We will mentor FTC Team 10763 Tech Lions throughout the year in all aspects of FTC. Our goal is to help their team build a robot that allows them to compete successfully. So far, we have raised $7,000 for the Tech Lions, $1000 of which came from the CT block party grant and $3500 of which came from the Sunrise Rotary club. On November 13, the Tech Lions came to our workshop. We mentored them in many fields including building, graphic design, outreach, programming and coordinating the engineering notebook. By the end of the meeting, the Tech Lions were driving their robot around the field!

Sikorsky Tour!

We had the opportunity to tour Sikorsky! The tour first started out with a tour of a mini helicopter museum in the visitor center. In it, we saw Igor Sikorsky’s version of an engineering notebook (very old, very cool), many models of old helicopters, and letters addressed to Igor Sikorsky from many important people, including Helen Keller!Then, we were taken through the mechanical sections of Sikorsky, where giant pieces of metal were being molded and where assembly lines of giant Black Hawk helicopters were being built. It was amazing to see machines that were much bigger and more complex than the tools we use to build our robot. Finally, we were brought to Igor Sikorsky’s office to end the tour where we were given informational pamphlets about Sikorsky and helicopters. It was such a great learning experience, and we had so much fun! Special thanks to Xiaomei Yu for organizing this trip for us!

Volunteering at the Connecticut FLL Championship

On Saturday, December 5, five of our team members and parents went to Shelton High School to volunteer at the Connecticut FLL State Championships. We served as research project judges, technical judges, and ran the concessions. As research project judges, we listened to the FLL teams' research projects on subjects ranging from edible wrappers to the use of denim scraps to make paper. We asked the teams questions and evaluated them on their research, presentation, and the level of innovation within their proposed solution. The technical judge on our team was tasked with inspecting robots and programming, and scoring them in three categories: robot design, programming, and strategy. As competitors in FIRST ourselves, it was an exciting opportunity to see competition from the judges' point of view. We also really enjoyed seeing how creative the teams were with solving various environmental problems.

Field Trip to Nexus Design

On December 2, we went to Nexus Design to work with John Laverack, a mechanical engineer with a degree in industrial design. He has worked with us in the past, and was nice enough to mentor us again. He gave us a tour of Nexus, showing us what a future career as an engineer would look like. He looked at our design in CAD and showed us how to upload it to the software used by the laser cutter. By the end of the day we were able to set up and use the laser cutter on our own! The trip served as a great way to see real-world engineering and also laser-cut some parts of our robots! A big thank you goes out to Mr.Laverack and Nexus Design for giving our team this opportunity.

Volunteering at the "Robo-Joust" FTC NJ Qualifier

On December 13, four of our team members and three of our mentors went to Livingston High School to volunteer at a New Jersey FTC Qualifier “Robo-Joust.” We served as FTAs, Judge Match Observers, and Queuers. As Queuers, we made sure to get each team to their presentation, and matches on time. Our co-captain Peter worked as a FTA and assisted teams with their robot's technical difficulties. From our past experiences with connection issues in New Jersey, we felt it was important to take the lessons that we learned and give back to NJ FTC. It was an great opportunity to experience a FTC match from a volunteer’s point of view and see what goes on “behind the scenes” during a competition. We really enjoyed helping out and seeing familiar faces from other New Jersey events that we have attended in the past!

Connecting with Rotary Clubs

On October 15, Peter, one of our co-captains, educated a group of 50 local Rotarians at the Sunrise Rotary Club about FIRST and our team. He gave a presentation and even demonstrated our robot!On November 14, team members also spoke to the Council of Rotary Club Presidents about our team, FIRST, and ways we can work together to help spread FIRST and STEM in the community. We demonstrated last year's robot, Kratos, but explained that there are several aspects of FIRST besides the robot that makes the team function more like a business. We also talked to them about the outreach side of FTC and how they could help get more students, such as students in Bridgeport, exposed to robotics. The Sunrise Rotary Club graciously gave $3500 to the Bassick Tech Lions, a team we mentor from Bridgeport.

Meeting with NASA Engineer Will Baker

November 25 was a very exciting day as we got to meet with NASA engineer Will Baker! At the meeting, we discussed testing options for certain robot capabilities/functions to see how reliable our robot would be. With Will Baker’s insight, we were able to collect valuable data, which will be useful for the design of our robot. It was a great experience and we learned so much from him.

Collaborating with the Bassick Tech Lions

Sayem, a member of the Bassick High School FTC Tech Lions, came over to our workshop twice over the past few weeks to get some guidance on their robot. We helped him determine the next best task to accomplish, and how to do so. After looking at scores and difficulty levels of each task, we determined that picking up and scoring debris was the most worthwhile. We helped him design and prototype a mechanism to score debris, which will be very useful for the upcoming Connecticut State Championships. When he came over on January 22, we helped him with wiring and a dispensing method for the robot. It was great having Sayem over to meet with us. We look forward to meeting with the Bassick team again soon!

Sharing Knowledge About Our Winch

Over the course of the season, we've gotten numerous emails from both FTC and FRC teams around the country about our tape measure winch. We've been responding to them accordingly. Additionally, we have even gone to speak with FRC team 4055 NRG about the design challenges of the winch and how they could overcome them. This will be useful for NRG when they climb the castle for this year’s FRC challenge FIRST Stronghold. If your team is interested in learning more about our winch system, check out our video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJn3G7iRkTM or email us at info@i2robotics.org

Volunteering at the "Gator Bowl" Qualifier

We had a blast volunteering at the "Gator Bowl" qualifier at Greenwich Academy today! Numerous parents, mentors, and team members volunteered in different capacities. Our coach volunteered as a referee (or "zebra" as Jack in the Hat likes to call it) and head FTA. Mrs. Preiser also volunteered and worked at team registration. Peter worked as an FTA, ran field inspection, and helped troubleshoot a lot of phone issues throughout the day. The issues were caused by wifi-direct names with underscores or strange characters, so he ensured that every phone was renamed properly. He also built a faraday cage (a little trick we learned in New Jersey) to resolve the phone connectivity problems. Annie, Julia, and Theo worked as queuers and helped the day run smoothly by making sure that the teams were at the queueing tables at the right time! Joe was a hardware inspector in charge of making sure all the robots complied with FIRST's rules.

Volunteering at a FRC Qualifier

Two of our team members went to Wilby High School to volunteer at a Connecticut FRC Qualifier in the Waterbury district. We served as, Field Repairers/Resetters and Welcome Table Attendants. As Field Repairers/Resetters, we would change the defenses to a different pattern each match, and as Welcome Table Attendants, we would help spectators with any questions involving FIRST, the event and even where the bathroom was located. While volunteering, we ran into FRC Team 195, the Cyber Knights, who lent us their robot for the Wolcott FRC Invitational. It was so great to see them (and their hedgehog) again! Throughout the day, it was amazing to see the differences between FRC and FTC, whether it was the larger playing field, robots or teams. We learned a lot more about FRC as we got to see what goes on “behind the scenes” during a competition. It was an overall very cool, fun, and informative experience!

Bedford Middle School Presentation

Today we gave a presentation to Bedford Middle School. About 30 students signed up to hear us talk about our team, FIRST, FTC and FLL. We started off our presentation with both an introduction of our team and individual roles. Then, we talked about our robot, the game challenge (Res-Q) and showed them some of the videos on our youtube channel. We also brought down our robot, Aether, to demonstrate our robot in action. Finally, we ended our presentation with the non STEM aspects of FIRST, such as gracious professionalism, coopertition, fundraising, outreach, business and videography. Throughout the presentation, we answered questions about our robot design, fundraising, programming, and how to get involved in robotics. It was great to see younger students so interested and excited about FIRST and robotics. Some of the kids were even interested in joining or starting their own team. Thank you to Ms. Rondon, Dr. Sheetz and Dr. Rosen for allowing us to present at Bedford!

Meeting with Sikorsky Engineer Eric Cotton

Our build team met with Eric Cotton, a Mechanical Engineer from Sikorsky Aircraft. Using our design process, we evaluated design concepts in order to develop a mechanism that would allow our robot to perform more efficiently in matches. Mr. Cotton gave us some tips and provided us with some valuable feedback. In addition, we gave a brief overview of the robot, and discussed similarities and differences between FRC and FTC. Mr. Cotton is a mentor for FRC team 230, the Shelton Gaelhawks. He took photos of our winch mechanism to share with the Gaelhawks! Our whole team learned a lot from his visit, and we thank him for taking the time to meet with us!

Dinner with the Bassick Tech Lions!

Tonight, we had a celebratory dinner with Bassick Tech Lion team member, Sayem; Mr. Spinka, coach, ; Ms. Attai & Mr. Brandon, mentors; PTSO President of Bassick High School, Mr. Benejan; and Mr. and Mrs. Besto, Community Leaders of Bridgeport and Bassick High School! We had a delicious dinner at Vazzy's restaurant where we congratulated the Tech Lions on a great season and also discussed plans for their team for next year. We talked to the team and coaches about recruiting for next year, and how they can spread the word to incoming high school students and current students about the team through the upcoming PTA fair, flyers, announcements, and a demonstration after school. The Tech Lions are currently still working on the robot after school daily in order to gain more experience for next season. Lastly, we congratulated the Tech Lions on a "roaring" good season and ate a delicious cake. The Tech Lions accomplished a lot as a rookie team: they advanced to the CT State Championships, finished fifth after qualification matches, and were the captain of the third place alliance! We can't wait to continuing working with the Tech Lions next season! A special thank you goes out to Sunrise Rotary for supporting the collaboration between our communities and for the dinner together.

2014-2015

Haiti

On January 25th, Haiti FLL hosted its first event in 5 years. Our November 1st scrimmage contributed over $2000 to help fund the contest. Odule Augustin is the organizer of FLL in Haiti and coordinated the competition in Cap Haitian. More than 12,000 people were involved in the production, and a total of 8 FLL and 10 Jr. FLL teams attended (about 200 children). The next step for the teams and coordinators of the event is to take the champion team to the World Festival! Haiti once had a thriving FLL program for middle school students. After the earthquake, funding in Haiti for FLL dried up, and there hasn’t been a tournament in three years. Now, Haiti’s FLL program is returning. This season, 72 students are developing technology skills and know-how by building robots and conducting research into the problems of education in the 21st century. i²robotics therefore thought it was incredibly important to help these Haitian students in their quest to become the engineers of the future.

Discovery Museum in Bridgeport

The team has been working throughout the season on a simulation Mars Rover which we designed and built for the Discovery Museum and Planetarium in Bridgeport, CT. The robot is equipped with a wireless camera and drives around a Martian environment with a custom designed mat and hand-crafted foam rocks. The Discovery Museum plans on using this robot as a platform to get kids excited about space, science, and robotics. From driving it down the hallway of the Discovery Magnet School, to having projects where students design interchangeable sensor modules for the robot, to letting students give it a whirl in classrooms across the city of Bridgeport.

On April 16th, the team delivered the rover to the museum, and gave a demonstration of its abilities to members of the Discovery Museum staff, including David Mestre, Manager of Space Science Education, Lynn Harris Olins, Director of Education, Adam Zuckerman, Director of Exhibits, and Danielle LaChance, Manager of Education and Guest Services.

On May 2nd, the team demoed the rover at the museum during a special event for Staples High School Alumni. The team demoed the rover to attendees, including Westport Board of Education member Mark Mathias, and was recognized by Discovery Museum Executive Director Stephen Baumann for our service to the community in building the rover.

Scrimmage

The team held a scrimmage at Staples High School, Westport, CT on November 1st. It was an opportunity for teams to practice, as well as receive help on from other teams. At the start of the event, only one robot was capable of driving on the field. By the end of the day, seven out of the eight drove and a few competed. Aside from the robot competition, the scrimmage served as a fundraiser for FIRST's FLL program in Haiti. Thanks to all those who contributed, the team raised over $1800 (at the event and from outside sources), ensuring that the FLL program will make a come back this year after the devastating Earthquake in 2010. It is the team's intent to continue to help FIRST in Haiti rebuild by building a relationship with those involved in their program.

Mentoring Team SNAP

The team continued to work with FIRST Lego League Team SNAP this year. Many i²r members are alumni of SNAP, and have experience with FLL. The team had been able to help them in various ways, from diagnosing difficulties with their line-following program to how to formulate a presentation focus. Once they had a presentation ready, they presented to team members, and received feedback on how to focus it into 5 minutes. Since both teams have advanced to the FIRST World Championship, we have been collaborating on many fronts, from advising them on pit decorations and how to safely transport robots, to planning joint meals to leverage greater economies of scale.

Mentoring Team MindCraft

On November 2nd, the team went to mentor MindCraft, a FLL team located in Westport. Their team is made up of students from Coleytown Elementary School. i²r team members helped them come up with a problem statement and a problem to solve for their research project, and help out with their programming. The team talked with them about different learning styles (kinesthetic, auditory, and visual) and how different types of lessons maybe more effective for one style or another. They also learned about prioritization of certain missions, which should help them speed up their progress and help them prepare for their first competition.

Fairfield County Hazard Materials Team

On November 4th, the team took a field trip to a local hazardous materials handling team with the “Smith's Bot” (which was developed by team alum Jun Pritsker). He built it during an internship at Smith's Detection in an effort to create a long distance material identifier that can keep operators out of potential harm. It had an Ace-ID scanner mounted on the front, with two cameras for navigation. The team wanted to show the HazMat team its potential, and gave them a demo of the capabilities.

Volunteering at the Shelton FLL Qualifier

Six team members went to Shelton High School to volunteer at the FIRST Lego League Qualifier. Team members participated as technical judges, assistants, and video technicians. The team brought along the robot, balls, and a rolling goal, to demo our robot and show FLL teams what was in store for them at the next level of FIRST. i²r members that were technical judges were tasked with inspecting robots and programming, and scoring them in three categories: robot design, programming, and strategy.

2013-2014

ESD Research

Throughout this season, many FTC teams have had trouble with electrostatic discharges affecting the performance of their robots. Static often builds up on the wheels, transferring charge from the mat onto the robot and causing problems with the onboard electronics. When the robot comes into contact with a conductor, such as another robot or the field perimeter, energy often makes its way to the NXT brick, causing it to freeze, and the robot is unable to compete for the rest of the match. Because of this recurring problem, we decided to do research to find a way to solve the problem. We've written a report with our findings. Download it here.

Saturday Academy of Girls

On March 22nd, we went to Norwalk Community College where the Saturday Academy of Girls founder Dr. Cynthia Barnett hosted a workshop for 115 middle school girls to promote STEM. We presented to 50 of the girls about our team, FTC, and FIRST. The girls were fascinated by our robot, and parents and teachers were impressed with what our team had accomplished.

Discovery Museum in Bridgeport

On Tuesday, March 4th, part of the team took a trip to the Discovery Museum to visit middle school students in a STEM program. We brought our presentation board and robot, and demoed for everyone. We explained how the game worked, including the field set up, how points are scored, and the importance of Gracious Professionalism. We wanted to be clear that this was friendly competition, and the goal was not to destroy the opponent's robot or use malicious tactics to win, but to cooperate with alliance partners, and help other teams when in need. Also, we talked about what we do during meetings, including the importance of keeping record in an engineering notebook, communicating and coordinating with one another, and building the robot. Finally, we drove the robot around, and showed everyone all of its abilities, including scoring blocks, lifting on the bar, and raising the flag. We generated a lot of interest in the robotics programs, and one of the students even asked “Where can I sign up?” We informed them about FLL, the program for younger children interested in STEM and robotics.

Work Session with the Flaming Marshmallows

FTC Team 7028 Flaming Marshmallows was formed this year by Dr. Cynthia Barnett, founder of Saturday Academy, Inc. and Amazing Girls Science. Dr. Barnett was present at the Westport Mini Maker Faire and was inspired by our FTC station to continue the Amazing Girls FLL team into high school as an FTC team. Since then, we have encouraged, supported, and mentored Flaming Marshmallows and on February 8, 2014 they invited us to their work space. We worked with them to create an agenda and helped them with both robot and non-robot tasks. Specifically, we helped them improve their autonomous and flag-raising capabilities. We also gave them advice and tips on the presentation, promote video, and presentation board.

Block Party! Scouting App

Jordan has designed and programmed a Block Party! scouting app for iPad. With is, teams can take detailed notes about other teams, which is especially useful in scouting potential alliance partners or to strategize against upcoming opponents. At present, it is still under some development, but will be released on the App Store soon.

Dragonoids

On January 24, 2014, we invited team 4286 Dragonoids to our workspace. We helped them improve on their robot’s design and gave them ideas for parts. Additionally, we worked with them to resolve Samantha and programming issues they were having. Unfortunately, they did not have a practice field at their own work space, so we practiced robot driving with them on ours. In our second session, we worked mainly on bettering their robot and programming, adding proportional control to their driving and working on their arm to optimize it for the challenge, and make sure that no motors burned out by using correct gearing. It was extremely important that they be as prepared as they could be for the CT Qualifier at Loomis Chaffee School on February 1st; the Dragonoids are hosting the CT State Championships at Greens Farms Academy and it would be a shame if they could not participate in their own competition. To that end, the three teams from Westport—i²robotics, Wreckers Robotics, and Dragonoids—were the winning alliance at the Loomis Chaffee qualifier, guaranteeing the Dragonoids their spot at CT States.

Field Trips

Part of community outreach includes reaching out to the engineering community, not just the general public. i2robotics took two educational field trips this past January: one to Smiths Detection and the other to Nexus Design.

Smiths Detection

Smiths, one of our chief sponsors, invited us to tour their facilities and learn more about engineering in the real world on January 20, 2014. While there, we spoke with Dr. Mike Frunzi and Dr. Brian Sporano and learned about spectroscopy—and its role in materials identification—and optical design. Previously, we were having issues with using solvent bonding to keep a part from falling off. Dr. Frunzi ran spectroscopy tests on the part and explained to us the reason solvent bonding didn’t work: the two parts were composed of different plastics. With this knowledge, we rethought our approach to keeping that part on. Later, Dr. Sporano taught us about optical design and how we might use edge-lighting to enhance the aesthetics of our robot. While we there, we demonstrated our robot and gave a presentation to the employees and their children about our team and FIRST. We generated a lot of interest in the engineers present.

Nexus Design

Nexus Design works closely with Smiths Detection and we took our second field trip to their facilities a week later, on January 26. There, we met with general manager and industrial designer, John Laverack, who explained to us that industrial design is really a balancing act between the practical, industrial elements of engineering and the aesthetic elements of design. He worked with us to design and laser-cut acrylic side panels for our robot. Using the optical design concepts and knowledge we learned from Dr. Sporano, we successfully implemented edge-lit side panels into our robot. Additionally, we also had the opportunity to meet with Matt DeDenato, a former FRC team member with a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in Robotics Engineering. Currently, Matt is leading a team for the DARPA Robotics Challenge and he shared with us his robotics experiences with FIRST and in the real world.

Scrimmage

Throughout our two years’ experience thus far with FTC, we’ve found it incredibly helpful to go to as many events as possible. These don’t always have to be competitions; indeed, the ability to work on one’s robot and practice matches in a noncompetitive environment is just as beneficial. On January 4, 2014, we hosted an FTC scrimmage—one of only two in Connecticut—at Staples High School in Westport. Including us, twelve teams attended for a collective total of 120 students. The morning saw open robot-work and field practice for all teams. After lunch, there was a presentation on judging and the engineering notebook followed by competition-style matches and rounds.
Gracious professionalism abounded; experience teams offered help, parts, and ideas to less-experienced teams so that they might get the most out of the scrimmage. In fact, one team, team 7028 Flaming Marshmallows, arrived at the scrimmage without a working robot; by the end of the scrimmage, with guidance from experienced teams, they achieved sixth overall in the afternoon rounds. Above all, besides the physical achievement of building a working robot, team 7028 left the scrimmage that day inspired and energized to continue FIRST robotics.
Through food sales and donations, we raised over $1700 for the Staples Engineering Lab. Additionally, the scrimmage received press coverage from News 12, Westport Now, Norwalk Hour, and Westport News. On the whole, the scrimmage was a huge success.

Block Party! Scoring App

Peter designed and programmed a free Block Party! scoring app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. With it, teams and spectators alike can score matches as they occur or keep score for practice purposes. At present, it has over 300 downloads. Search “Block Party Scorer” on the App Store

Judging FLL

For the past two years, we’ve had team members volunteer as technical judges at FLL competitions. They enjoyed the experience and plan to continue volunteering for subsequent competitions.

Mentoring Team SNAP

Our interactions with Team SNAP didn’t stop there either. We mentored and assisted them in making an iPhone app as part of their research project for the 2013 FLL challenge, Nature’s Fury. We look forward to welcoming them soon to FTC.

Westport Mini Maker Faire

On Saturday, April 27, 2013, the Westport Public Library held its second Mini Maker Faire. “Makers” from all around flocked to Jesup Green to showcase their work, from 3D printed sculptures to farm-fresh produce to—you guessed it—fully functional robots. i2robotics worked with FIRST Lego League (FLL) Team SNAP to run two stations, each with a field setup for the FLL and FTC challenges respectively. We demonstrated the robot and talked about FIRST to spread awareness to the community. Meanwhile, at the FLL station, children could try out the challenges with Team SNAP’s robot.