A Second Year of TIGER

Last year, The Zebracorns ran a summer program called TIGER, which stands for Teaching Innovation, Graciousness, and Engineering through Robotics. Before you read this, you should read a more complete description of TIGER in the first few paragraphs of Marshall’s post last year (https://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?t=159156&highlight=tiger+zebracorns)! But in summary, for the TIGER program, our goal is to mentor new FRC teams for their first three years - helping them overcome some of the sustainability struggles that many teams face. This mentorship includes providing tools, resources, help throughout the season, and two weeks of training at NCSSM over the summer.

Last year, we had three teams join the program and attend our summer training. Even after only one year, the TIGER program has seen amazing success! Team 6888 The Cav-A-Gears were on the winning alliance in the 2017 THOR offseason event, and won Rookie All Star at District Champs to go to Houston. Team 6729 The RobCoBots was on the winning alliance at a district event this year, and won the Imagery Award at the same event. And all three teams made it to the state championship!

This summer, we hosted a new TIGER team for two weeks! For the second week, we also hosted the veteran TIGER teams.

For the first week, we gave the new team an introduction to FIRST and FRC. In the beginning, they read some game rules, developed a strategy for a previous year’s game, and learned that the game manual sometimes presents interesting loopholes… We introduced them to team handbooks and business plans, and they wrote sponsor letters and business plans for their own team. The team learned about various technical topics, from motor controllers to battery upkeep to gears and pulleys to the Driver Station. And of course, they built and programmed their own KOP chassis and learned about all of the elements that go into a moving robot.

One of the goals of the first week was to catch up the new team to the veteran TIGER teams, so they could all participate in the same curriculum for the second week. For programming, we made an informed decision to transition the TIGER Teams from LABView to Java and this had the added bonus that all of the teams started off with the same level of programming knowledge. The decision to switch from LabVIEW to Java was inspired by many conversations we had with teams and suppliers over the past year and largely has to do with the level of support they can recieve from other teams (Over 60% of FRC Teams are using Java now).

By the end of the week, all teams had a drive base, mechanisms, and at least a Drive Forward autonomous mode, working and tested in Java. For mechanical, most of the information in the second week was fairly advanced, so it was new to all the teams. We covered CAD, pneumatics, The JVN Calculator, and mechanism choice – the teams even got to CAD and 3D-print their own sensor mounts - with some of them even iterating on their designs a few times. For the marketing and communication aspects that we wanted the teams to learn, the second-year teams could teach the first-year team the skills that they’ve learned over the year and it provided for some excellent in-person networking for all the teams.

Our goal over the coming months is to make all of the resources that we used to teach the TIGER teams this year available not just for their reference, but for everyone’s! These resources are perfect for non-TIGER rookie teams, teaching new students, or even teaching new teams, if you’re crazy ambitious. And if you ARE crazy ambitious and you want to host something like TIGER in your own state (or even another one in NC!), please reach out to us because we can help! We really believe in what this program can do to improve the sustainability of FRC teams and we would love for every area to have something like this.

Just like last year, we have many people to thank for making this year’s TIGER program possible. A huge thanks to Rick Phillips and Sharon DaFour, two mentors from the NC team f(x) and committee members from FIRST NC who were invaluable teachers and resources, from the development of curriculum to the last day of the program. NCSSM, its Engineering Department (Especially the Dean, Dr LoBuglio), and its Summer Accelerator program made the room, board, and evening activities for the TIGER students possible. Thank you to the mentors on the TIGER teams who gave up their time to come out and participate in the program and learn along with their teams.

And of course, a huge thank you to Meg, Marshall (who are finally married!!!), and Kevin, the Zebracorn mentors who were gracious enough to give a lot of their time to the program as well.

We will post some updates once our new team has a number and we’ve made our content available. Lastly, a big thanks to team 1610 who will be meeting with the new team in the coming weeks as they continue to prepare for going to the Rumble in the Roads off season event. We sent a ton of information to 1610 and they graciously agreed to help out our new friends in Gates County, NC since they are so close.

Wooooooo! A big thank you to all of our awesome TA students for this summer! Good work!