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View Full Version : FYI: FIRST E-mail Blast 9/26/03


Rich Wong
09-26-2003, 05:17 PM
Greetings Teams:

Welcome to the opening of registration for the 2004 FIRST Robotics Competition season. FIRST has worked hard during the summer to make changes to continue enhancing the program. We hope these changes improve the experience of participating in the 13th FIRST Robotics Competition season. Please remember first event registration opens promptly at 12:00 noon est Monday, September 29th.

The rumors are true; a new control system is coming. The new RC has a user programmable Microchip PIC" controller operating at 10 MIPS, gives direct access to I/O, has interrupts, and is programmable in C. Please do not contact Innovation First requesting information as more details will be available at www.InnovationFirst.com in the next few weeks when the product ships.

Last year all teams received the FIRST EDUrobotics kit to assist in preparation for the FIRST Robotics Competition season. Based on the overwhelming response and positive feedback from teams for survey results, FIRST will again offer the FIRST EDUrobotics Kit to the incoming rookie and returning teams that did not compete last year. After these teams register for an event, and upon receipt of a $500 deposit at FIRST, they will receive the kit that will include the new Innovation First Control System. All deposits are applied toward the $5,000 registration fee; however, once product is shipped the deposit is non-refundable. In order to allow everyone to build familiarity with the system, all teams that received the FIRST EDUrobotics kit last year will receive the new control system when they register. On-line instructional materials will be available on our website at www.usfirst.org. Both items should start shipping approximately October 15, so register early.

In order to provide the new robot controllers and other new parts in the kit this coming year and stay within budget constraints, it is necessary for FIRST to make some changes to the kit of parts. Battery chargers, joysticks and compressors will be supplied to teams in their first and second year. Veteran teams should have two sets of these parts and can use them on their 2004 robot. We hope you find some of the new parts exciting and challenging.

Discussions are still ongoing concerning qualifying criteria for The Championship. There are many factors to consider and FIRST aims to make the system as fair as possible. In order to have sufficient time to test various models, the opening of registration for The Championship will be delayed for approximately two and a half weeks. We apologize for any inconvenience this causes teams.

FIRST has contracted with a new company for hotel reservations in 2004. The THS Company specializes in tournament housing solutions and handles many clients with requirements similar to FIRST. They are making excellent progress on the hotel arrangements and we expect the reservation system to open by the end of October. Team Travel Coordinators will receive detailed information on the process prior to the opening of reservations.

Regional Chairman's Award submissions this year will be completed electronically. The format will be identical to last year but files will be e-mailed so FIRST can distribute them to judges prior to each event. Since the Chairman's Award is based on sustained excellence and impact of the team's overall program, rookies will not be eligible for the Chairman's Award. We recommend they still document their program as the process is a valuable component of the FIRST experience.

At each Regional, FIRST is implementing a new Woodie Flowers Award Finalist in 2004 to recognize mentors and their significant contribution to teams and students. The regional winners will form the finalist pool for the Championship Woodie Flowers Award.

It has been a very busy summer for all of us at FIRST. Welcome to the 2004 season, we hope these changes improve and enhance your FIRST experience!

Sincerely,



Bob Hammond
Director, Robotics Competition

Elgin Clock
09-26-2003, 05:32 PM
Originally posted by Rich Wong
FIRST has contracted with a new company for hotel reservations in 2004. The THS Company specializes in tournament housing solutions and handles many clients with requirements similar to FIRST. They are making excellent progress on the hotel arrangements and we expect the reservation system to open by the end of October. Team Travel Coordinators will receive detailed information on the process prior to the opening of reservations.

You can run, but you can't hide from the internet!!

The THS Company's website! (http://www.thsweb.com)

Nothing on the site FIRST-related as of yet.

sanddrag
09-26-2003, 06:12 PM
I'm okay with everything except no joysticks. Those things break pretty easily and we really like getting new ones because these days we use four to control the robot anyhow. We also like to keep a control board for each of our past robots. At least we can probably still buy them.

/me hopes for 4 Chias to be the "exciting parts" of the kit.

Matt Krass
09-26-2003, 06:13 PM
Who cares about that stuff? :D J/k, but looky new RCs, programmed in C! It's confirmed!

*Does Happy Dance*

Rickertsen2
09-26-2003, 07:56 PM
Umm who sent this email?

Jeff Waegelin
09-26-2003, 08:01 PM
Originally posted by Rickertsen2
Umm who sent this email?

It's an official FIRST e-mail blast. It was sent out to the main contact for every team. If you read the end of the e-mail, it was sent by Bob Hammond, the director of the FIRST Robotics Competition.

Jeremy Roberts
09-26-2003, 08:26 PM
This great news. Our kids just started working with a Microchip pic about a week ago (Me so happy). Finally a regional Woody Flowers award! Yes!!! FIRST is doing a great job this year:)

miketwalker
09-26-2003, 08:56 PM
I like the new regional Woodie Flowers Award, should be very good to help recognize more people that deserve these awards. I don't like them getting rid of the compressors, joysticks, and battery chargers though... because like someone else said... the joysticks break easily and sometimes u even redo it to make it part of your control board, plus repeating what someone else already said again... how're we going to control past year robots? I see for the joysticks you can probably just reconnect them the way for that year, but you can't easily swap back the compressor when you want the old robots to work. Also, the battery chargers aren't the highest quality and break relatively easy, I don't even think ours from previous years works, even though we kept decent care of it, it just doesn't have a long-life... but I guess we have to use more money to buy these items, and our budget is already tight :-/ Overall I do like the new ideas though.

Jeff Waegelin
09-26-2003, 09:05 PM
The one thing I really disagree with is the compressor. I know my team uses all of our compressors on old robots that we still do demos with. Now, we'll have to take apart one of them to have a compressor for this season. If nothing else, FIRST should allow teams to buy a new compressor if they want one.

Jeremy Roberts
09-26-2003, 09:28 PM
Many this for the FIRST kit are donated, but the compressor is not one of them. I think that there has been a grant that has been paying for the compressors etc. in the kit and that the grant is expiring soon. Older teams will just have to make do or purchase new ones out of their budget if it is needed (I think they are going to let us purchase them if we wish).

KenWittlief
09-26-2003, 10:42 PM
If we have to buy our own compressors this year, Im getting mine from Sears and Sawbucks

two stage, 8HP with a 100 gallon tank

can you say 'KangarooBot" ?

Matt Krass
09-26-2003, 11:36 PM
Originally posted by KenWittlief
If we have to buy our own compressors this year, Im getting mine from Sears and Sawbucks

two stage, 8HP with a 100 gallon tank

can you say 'KangarooBot" ?
You know FIRST is gonna have restrictions on it if you can buy your own and I don't think they would allow that :D but who knows?

computhief263
09-27-2003, 12:18 AM
So am i the only person that thinks it bytes that we have to use previous year joysticks, batteries and compressor?

*sad glare at WCS*

sanddrag
09-27-2003, 12:35 AM
Whoa hold on. It never said we had to re-use batteries. That would be absurd. It said battery chargers. I think it's okay about the battery chargers because until just last year they were all junk anyway and even last year's isn't that impressive. We went out and bought a couple of our own selection and are very happy with those. Now, we have never used pneumatics before so I can't cry about that either.

Now, the joysticks I think they should still give because we keep our old robots runing (well, we try) and would like to have a separate control board for each. Also, the past two years we have used four joysticks for the one robot.

Matt Krass
09-27-2003, 01:05 AM
Don't worry about Tom, it's past his bedtime and he made a silly mistake. Anyway I hope we get Metrowerks software for those chips, I use it for C/C++ dev on my win2k machine, I love it.

computhief263
09-27-2003, 01:08 AM
ok, so i read it quickly and missed the word "chargers". OPPS!

*blames mixup on half a bottle of vanilla coke and lack of sleep*

SarahB
09-27-2003, 08:26 AM
Tom, if you'd of read any of the team forum notes you'd of known already that FIRST was thinking about making non-rookie teams buy the charger, joysticks, and compressor this year to defray the cost of runnig the competition.

Do you think now with the regional Woodie Flowers award they would let a college mentor win it?

Andrew
09-27-2003, 09:35 AM
Compressors
I suspect that teams which have not used their pneumatics and which have saved their compressors would be willing to trade for motors, speed controllers, etc. There are probably 2000 unused compressors gathering dust in storage (assuming that the compressor has been the same for the past three years).

Joysticks
Since we can't modify the kit joysticks anyway, what good are they? We were already planning to do a fully custom OI this year because of that rule.

C/C++
I hope that FIRST supplies us with the C compiler for the PIC and that it is a good compiler. Otherwise, there goes another $500. [OK, I was just looking for an excuse to get a C compiler for the PIC.]

BTW, does anyone know if egcs can be set up for the PIC?

Battery Chargers
Well, we're all set for battery chargers. I've been giving them away to save room. But, teams that only have the 2003 and the piece of crap 2002 battery charger might wish for one more.

Eligibility
I almost started a pool to see when the eligibility requirements would be out and how late into the pre-season it will be before registration for Nationals is open. I'm glad that they're "play-testing" the rules before releasing them. I just hope the delay won't take them past the second regional registration deadline. That wreaked havoc last year (regionals filled up and then emptied).

Anyway, good for FIRST! It looks like they're really moving in the right direction. All of these changes (especially the RC) are for the best.

Matt Leese
09-27-2003, 09:57 AM
Originally posted by SarahB
Do you think now with the regional Woodie Flowers award they would let a college mentor win it?
I never saw why a college mentor couldn't have won it before. I know some really dedicated college mentors out there. I'm not quite sure if they reached the national Woody Flowers Award level however.

Matt

Matt Reiland
09-27-2003, 10:58 AM
You all can go out and get PIC ANT C compiler for the Microchip PICs right now, and you can download it for free!!

http://www.picant.com/c2c/c.html

IMDWalrus
09-27-2003, 11:57 AM
Random question: does anyone have any idea if programming in PBASIC is still an option? Does FIRST want us to switch to C/C++ or is it optional?

vladg12
09-27-2003, 12:05 PM
I have also worked with PICAnt in the past, and it is an good compiler. However, it doesn't support any of the PICs that operate at 10 MIPS. Microchip has its own development tool, MPLAB, which is outstanding and very well dosumented and supported, although a little hard to work with originally. You might also consider HI-TECH's PICC lite, which is free and a very good compiler, despite the DOS interface. There is a great book in the Robot DNA Series called Programming Robot Controllers by Myke Predko, which comes with PICC Lite, MPLAB, and explains how to program PICs covering everything from the basics, to how to use interrupts, and even how to throw in some simple assembly. I highly recommend it to all of the teams that have not worked with PICs before.

vladg12
09-27-2003, 12:12 PM
It might be possible to still use PBASIC, depending on the PIC. Just googling PBASIC PIC compiler, I found one such compiler at http://www.melabs.com/products/pbc.htm.
However, it only supports a couple of processors (the PICs that operate at 10 MIPS are the PIC18 family, which it doesn't support.) However, this is just the result of a quick search, and I'm sure there are many other compilers out there for programming PICs in basic, just probably not in PBASIC.

generalbrando
09-27-2003, 01:20 PM
Compressor, batteries, chargers, joysticks.....

If I'm not mistaken we were always instructed in the past to use only parts from the current building year, including batteries. In this new situation, we're allowed to use past parts of these four items. What I'm thinking is that there are teams who haven't been using all of their batteries, chargers, compressors and joysticks over the past years and have some extras lying around. I'm willing to bet that teams who are in need will find it really easy to find some one through CD who is willing to let them have/trade/borrow any of those items. I remember the last time I visited Team Hammond, a veteran several years now, they had a whole table in the practice room full of batteries and chargers. I'm sure there are lots of teams like that, so I suggest that anyone who feels they are at a great disadvantage from this change to create a thread asking for some team to help you out.

FotoPlasma
09-27-2003, 01:29 PM
Originally posted by vladg12
I have also worked with PICAnt in the past, and it is an good compiler. However, it doesn't support any of the PICs that operate at 10 MIPS. Microchip has its own development tool, MPLAB, which is outstanding and very well dosumented and supported, although a little hard to work with originally. You might also consider HI-TECH's PICC lite, which is free and a very good compiler, despite the DOS interface. There is a great book in the Robot DNA Series called Programming Robot Controllers by Myke Predko, which comes with PICC Lite, MPLAB, and explains how to program PICs covering everything from the basics, to how to use interrupts, and even how to throw in some simple assembly. I highly recommend it to all of the teams that have not worked with PICs before.
I was just looking at PIC C compilers, and found the HI-TECH compiler. The free version compiles for many of the 12, 16 and 17 series processors. I believe you have to pay for the verson which supports the 18 series, which, as vladg12 pointed out, is the only series which supports 10 MIPS.

Their website is http://www.htsoft.com

sanddrag
09-27-2003, 02:01 PM
Originally posted by generalbrando
Compressor, batteries, chargers, joysticks.....

If I'm not mistaken we were always instructed in the past to use only parts from the current building year, including batteries. In this new situation, we're allowed to use past parts of these four items. What I'm thinking is that there are teams who haven't been using all of their batteries, chargers, compressors and joysticks over the past years and have some extras lying around. I'm willing to bet that teams who are in need will find it really easy to find some one through CD who is willing to let them have/trade/borrow any of those items. I remember the last time I visited Team Hammond, a veteran several years now, they had a whole table in the practice room full of batteries and chargers. I'm sure there are lots of teams like that, so I suggest that anyone who feels they are at a great disadvantage from this change to create a thread asking for some team to help you out. No one ever said batteries! Chargers people, chargers. Just read. They never said we are not getting new batteries.

Adam Y.
09-27-2003, 02:09 PM
I hope that FIRST supplies us with the C compiler for the PIC and that it is a good compiler. Otherwise, there goes another $500. [OK, I was just looking for an excuse to get a C compiler for the PIC.]
Nah it is not that expensive. If you are really cheap you could program a pic with under 20 dollars. Im a happy boy. I have probably 80 dollars worth of books on the pic microcontroller. Oddly enough that amounts to two books.

Rickertsen2
09-27-2003, 02:31 PM
I wonder what specific pic they will be using. *eyes go starry thinking about DSPic*

generalbrando
09-27-2003, 03:00 PM
Sorry about saying batteries. It's chargers. Chargers. But still, you could ask over teams for chargers.

Frank(Aflak)
09-27-2003, 03:11 PM
heh, no biggie about the joysticks. I mean, besides the fact that we are a second year team and will get them anyway, they are easily destroyed : I have the grip from one on my desk, while the base wallows away somewhere . . got broken) but EASILY and CHEAPLY replaced. Joysticks of that nature can be had for about 10 dollers . . . only hard part is findind them with calibration wheels, and even that shouldn't be too hard.

Haveing four of one kind of large motors (four drills or four chips) would be awesome, but I doubt that it will happen (we can always hope).

The controller change is cool because the new one uses C, and that means our programmer can finally use his native language.

It sounds like we will all recieve four more victors and four more spikes, so this should not be an issue.

It sounds like mostly good changes are happening, with a few setbacks (no new chargers and compressors and whatnot) but it doesn't sound like that big of a problem.

Tristan Lall
09-27-2003, 06:07 PM
Originally posted by Frank(Aflak)
heh, no biggie about the joysticks. I mean, besides the fact that we are a second year team and will get them anyway, they are easily destroyed : I have the grip from one on my desk, while the base wallows away somewhere . . got broken) but EASILY and CHEAPLY replaced. Joysticks of that nature can be had for about 10 dollers . . . only hard part is findind them with calibration wheels, and even that shouldn't be too hard.
You might be surprised: those aren't the low-quality joysticks that pollute your average Radio Shack. Here they are, at CH Products website. (http://www.chproducts.com/shop/gameport.html) $39.95 (USD) for one, plus $7.24 ground shipping, that makes $47.19 a piece. So they're not cheap, but then again, they're not cheaply made either. They are, however, unpardonably ugly.
So, you could replace them with Radio Shack's finest, for $10, but I doubt your drivers would thank you for the erratic performance and poor durability.
-Tristan Lall

generalbrando
09-27-2003, 10:15 PM
Don't forget to shop around.

http://www.pcconnection.com/scripts/productdetail.asp?sku=57245&SourceID=k15505
They have them for just $31.

Or if you want a more reliable business, amazon sells them I think. I remember last year we bought a couple more and for some reason I remember them being only $7, but I can't find anything cheaper than $31. Don't hold me to $7 - but maybe that's motivation for someone to find a cheaper price.

AlbertW
09-28-2003, 12:32 AM
I guess that rules out using PSX plugs on the OI, considering that FIRST wants teams to use the old joysticks.

Ian W.
09-28-2003, 07:34 AM
I think the best and easiest thing to do is simply go out and buy the cheapest joystick(s) that have similar functions, and, well, look a lot cooler :p.

Now, theoretically, can we modify our joysticks, so even if we buy our own, they look pretty? :)