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  #31   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 02-24-2005, 02:09 PM
sanddrag sanddrag is offline
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Re: If you could change one thing....

The conceptual design process took too long without getting much done. Too much work was put on one student who knew Inventor very well. The arm mount and "end effector" were not thought about carefully enough. If the HexaMax transmissions work well, we will go smaller and lighter next year. Also we spent way too much time on design yet we still ended up hand drilling lots of holes and hand fabricating lots of parts. Last, the robot lacks color.

Hopefully all these issues will be addressed next year.
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Unread 02-24-2005, 04:27 PM
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Re: If you could change one thing....

I would have liked to get the #@$&# camera to track the correct color.
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Unread 02-24-2005, 05:04 PM
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Thumbs down Re: If you could change one thing....

As far as the build goes, I think our robot was very good....especially compared to last year when the only thing we had working was the drivetrain. I wish we could have finished our work on the autonomous period, but unfortunately, we had some major team issues two days before shipping. I wish we had mentors like some of the ones described here. Our mentors did nothing but stand around talking about work like they didn't want to be there, criticize new ideas that students came up with and think of every possible reason why it will not work.

Lastly, and worst of all, two days before shipping, all of our mentors refused to stay past the scheduled end time (6:30 PM), which we knew was necessary if we wanted an autonomous period. Our lead/only programmer and I (President) came back later that night intending to finish up the autonomous period, which was necessary if we wanted to have any chance of winning; however, one of the mentors showed up because of suspicion and was extremely angry about us being there. He literally took the robot hostage to his house, cancelled most of the meeting time the next day (because he was at work and couldn't bring the robot back), just to prevent us from working on the robot any more that night. Because we were told not to come back, the team now did not have any code written (our programmer had it all).

So, the night before shipping, all of the mentors start to realize that they are in trouble without the code, so they worked until 1:30 AM on the morning of shipping to get some basic drive code to work. So, while our mentors put family over finishing the autonomous period, they obviously cared about the drive code.

Hopefully next year, we'll have either better mentors or no mentors at all. This year they only hindered the progress of the students.
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Unread 02-24-2005, 05:15 PM
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Re: If you could change one thing....

i wish we could have found a better joystick for the arm or at least have microsoft be a little more user friendly and compatible with the FIRST electronics. Other than that this year was the best our team has had yet. For once we didn't have to pull 3 straight all nighters and find out the robot doesn't work at the competion.
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Unread 02-24-2005, 05:16 PM
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Re: If you could change one thing....

Quote:
Originally Posted by richardmcc2
As far as the build goes, I think our robot was very good....especially compared to last year when the only thing we had working was the drivetrain. I wish we could have finished our work on the autonomous period, but unfortunately, we had some major team issues two days before shipping. I wish we had mentors like some of the ones described here. Our mentors did nothing but stand around talking about work like they didn't want to be there, criticize new ideas that students came up with and think of every possible reason why it will not work.

Lastly, and worst of all, two days before shipping, all of our mentors refused to stay past the scheduled end time (6:30 PM), which we knew was necessary if we wanted an autonomous period. Our lead/only programmer and I (President) came back later that night intending to finish up the autonomous period, which was necessary if we wanted to have any chance of winning; however, one of the mentors showed up because of suspicion and was extremely angry about us being there. He literally took the robot hostage to his house, cancelled most of the meeting time the next day (because he was at work and couldn't bring the robot back), just to prevent us from working on the robot any more that night. Because we were told not to come back, the team now did not have any code written (our programmer had it all).

So, the night before shipping, all of the mentors start to realize that they are in trouble without the code, so they worked until 1:30 AM on the morning of shipping to get some basic drive code to work. So, while our mentors put family over finishing the autonomous period, they obviously cared about the drive code.

Hopefully next year, we'll have either better mentors or no mentors at all. This year they only hindered the progress of the students.
Sounds like you guys need to have a team meeting.
Immediately.
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Unread 02-24-2005, 05:20 PM
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Re: If you could change one thing....

Quote:
Originally Posted by richardmcc2
As far as the build goes, I think our robot was very good....especially compared to last year when the only thing we had working was the drivetrain. I wish we could have finished our work on the autonomous period, but unfortunately, we had some major team issues two days before shipping. I wish we had mentors like some of the ones described here. Our mentors did nothing but stand around talking about work like they didn't want to be there, criticize new ideas that students came up with and think of every possible reason why it will not work.

Lastly, and worst of all, two days before shipping, all of our mentors refused to stay past the scheduled end time (6:30 PM), which we knew was necessary if we wanted an autonomous period. Our lead/only programmer and I (President) came back later that night intending to finish up the autonomous period, which was necessary if we wanted to have any chance of winning; however, one of the mentors showed up because of suspicion and was extremely angry about us being there. He literally took the robot hostage to his house, cancelled most of the meeting time the next day (because he was at work and couldn't bring the robot back), just to prevent us from working on the robot any more that night. Because we were told not to come back, the team now did not have any code written (our programmer had it all).

So, the night before shipping, all of the mentors start to realize that they are in trouble without the code, so they worked until 1:30 AM on the morning of shipping to get some basic drive code to work. So, while our mentors put family over finishing the autonomous period, they obviously cared about the drive code.

Hopefully next year, we'll have either better mentors or no mentors at all. This year they only hindered the progress of the students.


This is a pretty harsh assessment of your mentors. I wonder if you have tried to evaluate the situation from their point of view?
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Unread 02-24-2005, 07:32 PM
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Re: If you could change one thing....

Quote:
Originally Posted by MissInformation
Of course, there is always some wish that everything had gone smoothly and perfectly, but in the long run, I think overcoming obstacles together builds a stronger team. Sometimes lessons learned the hard way are the best lessons learned.

I do wish I could have changed the amount of stress and frustration everyone went through, especially our animation team (I'm not going to go into their nightmare). I like everyone to be happy, and it bothers me to see people upset, which is kind of hard to avoid during the crazy six weeks of build.

Heidi
Heidi won’t, but I will.

Sit back for a minute while we tell a bedtime story. I have dropped out a lot of the details, but it is still long. The following events are pieced together from the observations I was able to make while running back and forth between the computer lab and the robot lab. Some details may be a little off, but the heart of the story is there.

First, the disclaimer: our animation team is composed of about a dozen students this year, up from the three that did it last year. The two returning student animators from last year – Steven and Tristan – created their own Autodesk software course and taught their compatriots the software all on their own. They run the entire show. No adults provide any assistance – none of us even know the software.

As things came down to the final 96 hours, our animation team was all set to start rendering the final version of the animation they had been developing for the past six weeks. They had made special arrangements to use the computer lab, and had a 70-node render farm established and ready to go. They had the system all set up and ready to knock about the 900 frames of animation with an expected 3000 hours of computer time. A "start rendering" deadline was set for 7:00pm on Friday … which came and went.

First the render farm computers couldn’t find the textures embedded in the images. They worked this for several hours until we got thrown out of the school when it closed down. The first signs of "will we make it?" worries began to creep in. With special permission, they were back at 7:00 Saturday morning. Some of the renders started, but then the render farm couldn’t find the full scenes. The network wasn’t properly converting the aliases into the actual locations for the model and texture files. After a few screams of anguish, they started to manually convert the file names and restart the process on all 70 machines. Then as the models began to render again, the network choked once again on the file references that still were not converting properly. Slightly more screaming. Steven plugged his personal machine in to the network to serve the models to the rest of the render farm. Then they had to segment the entire job and manually command each node on the farm to start chewing through the first scene, six frames at a time. The only way to get everything done in time at this point was to make the anguishing decision to drop some items and some details, over which they had poured days of effort, from the final animation, and keep their fingers crossed that it would be done in time. So they started things up again, just in time to get thrown out of the school again late Saturday night.

Return at 7:00 Sunday morning to manually queue up more frames on the render farm. Everything seemed to be working, and like they might make it – until 11:00am. That is when the central server on the school network crashed. The main G Drive on the whole system goes down – hard. The I.T. tech support guy, who happens to be at the school, says it has overheated, and they need to call in their service contractor to get it up and running again. That is not a problem – except it is a holiday weekend and the rules do not allow him to place the call until it is passed through the county I.T. office on Tuesday morning. Oh yeah, and the G Drive is where all of the second scene happened to be stored. This time, MUCH more anguished screaming. Spend hours trying to find any fragments of the animation on any local machines. Then figure out how to reconstruct as many of the models and textures as possible from those versions – which were several days old. Find out how to drop some of the textures from the scene without destroying the models. Re-create others. Watch the clock, because we are getting thrown out of the building again at 6:00pm. Manually queue up all 70 machines to run as many individual frame renders as possible overnight.

Back at 6:30am Monday morning. A reasonable estimate of the rendering progress says they need another 500 hours of computer time. That is not including the frames that have to be re-rendered because somewhere in the network confusion a few hundred frames were rendered at low resolution and cannot be used. The animation team is on the edge at this point. The "will we make it?" worries morphed into "there is no flippin’ way we will finish, is there?" questions. All practical estimates of the work to be done result in a "no" answer to that question. But everyone jumps in and works to find a way out. Pull in a few more personal computers. Manually recover individual textures from old model files. Piece things together that were never designed to be combined. Dump everything onto Steven’s pseudo-server. Drop some details from the rendering, and one short scene, and then create new ones to preserve the quality of the final animation. Manually segment the rendering queue again. Collect the frames as rapidly as they can be finished. They have permission to be in the school until 9:00pm, due to a basketball game in the gym. But the game ends early, the school closes earlier than expected, with crucial frames unfinished. Aauugghh! Hunt down the custodians and beg and plead for an extra 30 minutes – "You can just start closing the building from the other end, can’t you? And get to the computer lab last?" It works! The partial render finishes, and they take what they have. Take them over to the house and dump the collected frames on one machine. Run the compositing software, test the codec output quality, drop in the audio tracks, and create the final version. Then keep trying until 4:30 in the morning to upload the final product to the Buzzsaw server to submit it – which takes at least three tries to get a valid version that can be downloaded properly.

Through it all, they never gave up. There were a few times that were close, but they refused to throw in the towel and admit defeat. With each new obstacle there were a few screams of anguish, but then they went ahead and pounded their heads against the problem until they found a way out. They improvised. They overcame. They persevered. And they succeeded. They proved they were ready to deal with the sort of real problems that a production graphics shop has to overcome. They behaved like professionals, and kept to their commitment to deliver a professional-quality, complete product without compromising their standards.

I cannot remember being more proud of a group of students with which I have been associated.

So what would I change about this season and their experiences? Not one single thing.

-dave
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Unread 02-24-2005, 08:29 PM
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Re: If you could change one thing....

Lavery stories always rock! This one, however, captures the essence of the FIRST experience down deeper than most. Chaos is supposed to occur. How everyone reacts is the question. When you have the rare opportunity to be a part of the kind of team Dave just described, hang onto that experience and love every minute of it. There is no feeling greater than being a part of a group that would walk through fire with you. Complete commitment, complete trust, and total respect. The future is definately in good hands.
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Unread 02-25-2005, 12:20 AM
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Re: If you could change one thing....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rich Kressly
Lavery stories always rock! This one, however, captures the essence of the FIRST experience down deeper than most. Chaos is supposed to occur. How everyone reacts is the question. When you have the rare opportunity to be a part of the kind of team Dave just described, hang onto that experience and love every minute of it. There is no feeling greater than being a part of a group that would walk through fire with you. Complete commitment, complete trust, and total respect. The future is definately in good hands.
Well lets see. Being my first year this was all interesting to me. Started something like this.

First meeting well lets clean this dirty place up. The second build session started around designing and building gearboxes. One gearbox had worked quite well. So about week two we have 3 gearboxes one that is terrible and 2 decent gearboxes. Its been about um. Lets say three weeks finals are over. Still 3 gearboxes. A mentor in college says I told Yoni you have to sand the shafts or they don't fit. He was right everything that fit was pressed in. So the mentor has me rip the decent boxes apart. Sand the shafts he trues the ends to size. I make them smaller and the key slots lots sharper of course didn't try to slit his fingers with the edge of the keys Well 2 or so weeks left I call the captain the night before the dude loaning us his shop and his son a mentor another mentor and the captains haved stayed up tell 5 in the morning making a running chassis well basically its not a build a piece At time its OK 1 day robot works another day theres the working arm. Well luckily we have a month to do coding and stuff planning what we have to do to make a running robot win? add support and hold downs for meshing gears don't bind. Thats about it good luck to all and the L.A. area your gonna run for your money.
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Unread 02-25-2005, 11:15 PM
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Re: If you could change one thing....

I wish we could have stored tetras in our arm since our arm is definitely strong enough... we thought it wouldn't have enough torque but that thing lifts up the Center goal!

I wish we could have actually gotten autonomous to execute so i could have tested runned, the 5000 lines of "theoretical " autonomous code i had written....

lavery i know all those darn animation woes.... i hate leaving stuff overnight and coming back to find some wrong resolution or missing textures etc... but hey it always somehow works in the end...
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Unread 02-25-2005, 11:41 PM
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Re: If you could change one thing....

Dave, that is a great story. Mad props to the 116 animation team! A product is always better when people sweat over it.

Overall, for us, I wish that there was another Inventor guy on my team. For the second year in a row, I got stuck doing it all. Also, I wish we had more time for the programmers, they still have a ways to go, and I regret having them to stay up so late.

See everyone at regionals,
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Unread 02-25-2005, 11:49 PM
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Re: If you could change one thing....

hookd up arm on both sides so weight isnt relying on one sproket on one side
and make the steel bar part of our robot aluminum, otherwise we're good
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Unread 02-26-2005, 07:57 AM
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Re: If you could change one thing....

I wish we had thought more about the end of our arm. If it hadn't been the day before we had to ship we could have put a bigger gear and had much more power. I think we'll end up shortening the arm to give it more power.
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Unread 02-26-2005, 10:40 AM
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Re: If you could change one thing....

We deffinatley could have used more time to do autonomus, we quite literally had 4 hours to test the code our programmer had been writing, as thats when we had a completed robot to test on

Yeah, it was another close finish this year for us
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Unread 02-26-2005, 12:40 PM
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Re: If you could change one thing....

Probably would have spent more time before building to get a final design, and not worried so much about money. We spent less than $1000 on the whole robot, building everything we needed ourselves (students). Maybe would have gotten our mentors more involved...though they helped a lot. All in all, I'm very proud of our team and grateful for all the help our mentors gave us. For a rookie team I think we handled it very well. Oh yeah... I think more autonomous work would have helped.
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