FLL – attachments

I’m doing this a bit out of order, the chassis is the first thing to build. After that comes the attachments. I’ll write later about the chassis later.

Attachments are extra Lego pieces attached to the robot to accomplish a task. Sometimes motors are used for the attachment, sometimes it’s just the Lego parts to make an attachment. Some attachments use rubber bands or string to accomplish a task.

I’m going to talk about some of the simpler attachments that are not very specialized. It’s up to the kids to take the idea’s, modify them, and make them useful for this years missions.

First is a simple horizontal pushing rod. This can be made to stick out to the side of the robot to put things as it passes them.

It can push the arm down on the video calls, turn the cardiovascular exercise wheel,push over the similarity mission, push the lever of the shared ball game as it passes by the mission item.

The next simple attachment is the plow. This is for pushing cargo to it’s destination. In the picture below the plow has sides on the plow to keep cargo corralled during movement. This would be a good attachment to push the blue quilt pieces into place or after the chair has been retrieved and fixed, it would be pushed under the table.

Another attachment is a simple latch. The latch is used to drag something back to base. To use the latch the robot moves over an object, the latch clicks into position and as the robot backs up, the object is dragged back. The key to the latch is the Lego hinge is a gray connection piece, not black. the gray is designed to allow Lego movement.

A slightly more sophisticated latch can use a cage that drops when the latch is hit. It can also use a rubber band to make a cage to drop and hold. I’ll write more later about it and give a picture.

Mentoring and Robotics

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
— Benjamin Franklin

Technical mentoring is very important in any STEM (Science, Technical, Engineering, and Mathematics) and especially in Robotics. The kids typically have the desire but not the know how. They need the proper guidance and knowledge to go forward. I’ve worked with several FIRST teams and seen various styles of mentoring. Some good some not as good. I would like there to be more of the good mentoring.

First, some general ideas on mentoring. I was looking around the web at mentoring and there was a pretty good blog on mentoring at the Center for Mentoring Excellence where there is a wealth on Mentoring. I would like to encourage everyone to read about mentoring in general.

Second are some of the things I’d like to share on being a mentor in FIRST. Here are FIRST’s mentoring resources . Here are some of my thoughts specifically on Robotic mentoring.

  1. Before the Robot season starts, get to know the kids. Talk with them what they like to do, what are there area’s of interest, and who they are. A lot of the kids won’t know much about robotics or engineering, but if they have a desire, then it will be up to you to help them explore different area’s.
  2. Share your experience with the kids – let them know how you work in the real world. What is your job like, what you work on, how you work, and how your company works. Let them know sometime you make mistakes.
  3. Talk “With” the kids, no just to them – That means listen as well as talk. Listen to what the kids are saying and ask questions to draw out there thoughts and ideas.
  4. Guide the kids in their learning – Show the kids how to do something. Get the kids to do it while you watch them Then get them to do it. Get the kids to check each others work, because here always needs to be quality control.
  5. Help keep the kids focused – Sometimes this means keep the parents and other  mentors focused, too. When it’s time to work, try to guide the conversions toward the issues, at hand. That means if your brainstorming keep the conversations on the robot and not on the days events. Leave the other conversations for later.
  6. Have fun – Try to make it fun for the kids and have fun yourself. It all goes easier when there is some fun mixed in with the work.
  7. Learn from the kids – The kids have lots of ideas and creativity and you should always listen and learn. They have a lot to give.

One more thing, always watch for the quite kids. These kids have a lot to give and don’t always know how to express themselves. Work with these kids, get them involved, and guide. Theses are the introverted kids with more to give than you can imagine. I know because that was me when I was young and I needed a good mentor to draw me out.

For First mentoring, here are some preseason reading on FIRST resources.

Mentoring is a big part of FIRST Robotics program, or any of the robotics or STEM program for that matter.

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give. – Winston Churchill

 

Robotics – Getting Involved

I have a passion for Robotics, I want kids of all ages to be involved. If you’re a kids of younger age, typically K-12 (Kindergarten through 12th grade) you can participate on a team as a member. If you’re an older kid, Collage age and above (i.e. adults), you can participate as a mentor and/or a volunteer at an event.

For students, getting involved is fairly easy. You can either find a team that’s already started and join it. Some teams have student size limits, such as JrFLL (Junior FIRST Lego League) and FLL (FIRST Lego League). Or you can talk to a teacher or parent and start a team.

For adults, again, you can find a team and offer to help out. Most teams need adults to help out with building and programming robots, but adults are also needed to help with PR, fund raising, and dealing with kids. Adults can also either start a team or talk with a local school to about starting a team. However, be prepared for a background check.

Bottom line is Get Involved! If you need help or encouragement to get involved leave a comment or e-mail me, Joe Varnell, at FRC704mentor@qweztech.com

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is my favorite because their programs span a wide age range of kids involvement, adults can get involved helping with the ages of kids they feel most comfortable with, and it’s world wide.Event volunteers are needed to help make sure teams and robots are safe, robots are built properly, the event moves as it should. Volunteers don’t need to be technical to help. If you’re just wanting to help, there’s queuing, pit administration, crowd control, and safety. If you’re technically oriented there are jobs like robot inspector.  If you’re an adult and want to work an event you can register with VIMS (Volunteer Information and Matching System) with a step by step guide at VIMS Step by Step.

If you’re looking to start a team it all depends on the age of the team. Below are links on how to started on a team of the desired age.

FIRST Starting teams

JrFLL – grages: K-3; Season Aug – Jan: <Start a team page>  <Find a team to help>

FLL – grades: 4-8; Season registration May; Kickoff Sept; Events Nov-Feb; <Start a team page>  <Find a team to help>

FTC (smaller robots, less expensive) – grades: 9-12; Season registration May; Kickoff Sept; Events Nov-Feb; <Start a team page>

FRC (large robots) – grades: 9-12; Season registration – Oct; Kickoff Jan; Events Mar-Apr <start a team page>

You can sometimes find FIRST events and teams using the FTC and FRC Find teams and event.

Vex Robotics Competition
Vex Robotics
Vex robotics is a really great robotics program based on the Vex Robotics kit. They are also world wide with lots of events.  A robot challenge for the next year is given at the Vex Robotics Championships. You then use the Vex Robotics kit and Vex parts to build a robot to compete in the competition. You can find out how to start a Vex team here. Vex Events can be found at RobotEvents.com.

Best Robotics
Best robotics is smaller and less expensive competition. You’re given a a set of supplies and a challenge. From there you build a robot from the supplies to complete the challenge. Some of the supplies are consumable (i.e. wood, PVC, etc) and some you have to return to BEST (i.e. Robot controllers, motors, etc)

A few other links events

NASA robotics competition

Robotic Events