Heartwarming Robotics Bedtime Stories

So the saga of Leon Robotics continues! At their first competition, the 3D printed wheel hubs that they had made kept breaking. By the end of the first day of the matches, they used all of their spares and were one more break away from forfeiting the rest of the competition. They looked for other teams to help, but because they used a uniquely designed wheel hub, no other teams could help them…except for Roaring Riptide. Our team was the only one out of 60+ teams that had compatible wheels…and we had a bunch of spares. To go with our team’s image, that year we designed our wheel hubs to look like life savers. Little did we know that they would be literal life savers for Leon, allowing them compete for the rest of the competition.

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Here’s the last part to my story about Leon Robotics. The following year we (Roaring Riptide) helped mentor three new teams. One of these was from a really rural part of Florida and had almost no support from their school or community. To give you an idea, their school gave them a budget of $100 for the year (travel, robot parts, registration, etc). Even worse, due to a miscommunication, they had only booked hotel rooms for one night of the regional. So it’s the second day of a three-day competition, their team was not doing well, and they just found out that they had nowhere to stay and no money to pay for one. They were ready to pack up and leave the competition a day early, totally defeated. Enter Leon Robotics, who came back roaring their 2nd year with a team that was twice the size it was previously. When we explained to them what was happening with the new team, they immediately offered to work with us to find a way to keep the rookie team until the end of the competition. We were so focused on helping other teams, we never realized that one of the unintended, yet wonderful, consequences of mentoring other teams is they themselves internalized the importance of helping others in need. We were so proud to work together with Leon to find a place to stay for that team. Leon Robotics is still going strong. Here’s a recent photo they posted, complete with their team cheer!
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In eighth grade, basketball was Logan’s life. It was all he ever wanted to do, and fortunately for him, he was quite good at it. Even at this young age, high schools were scouting him so that he would hopefully play for their team. It seemed all but certain that Logan was destined to be a great basketball player, but fate had another plan. Partway through the season, he injured his knee, preventing him from playing on the team. After two weeks of him moping around, his mom had enough. She told him to stop feeling sorry for himself and go out and find something else to occupy his time.

By fate or by luck, his school had just started a FIRST Robotics Competition team, Roaring Riptide. The students had six weeks to build a robot to play a game. What was the game this year? Basketball!
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When Logan joined the team, he was extremely shy. He might not say more than five words at a meeting, but he listened to everything and learned quickly.
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Since it was Roaring Riptide’s rookie year, their robot wasn’t very competitive…in fact, it was a veritable liability on the field. However, the team was also allowed to have a human player that could try and score points by sinking half court shots. As the human player, Logan was able to score more points than the robot.

In the next couple years, Logan gained more experience driving the robot. The more practice he got, the more his confidence grew until he became an extremely competitive driver. He had the ability to make a mediocre robot look great. The spatial and temporal awareness that he developed while playing basketball all those years paid off. When playing defense, he knew exactly how to position Riptide’s robot to make the opposing team’s lives miserable. Just watch as he was able to singlehandedly shut down three robots at once.

His sophomore year, his driving helped Riptide reach the semi-finals twice! However, Logan’s competitive nature was not satisfied. His junior year, he came in with one goal: win a regional. Would Logan be able to help lead Roaring Riptide to their first competition win? You’ll just have to wait to find out because that’s a tale for another night.
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Siege Robotics selects Team Resistance to join our alliance!

It’s the last day of a three-day robotics competition. The top teams were choosing the teams that they want to form an alliance with to compete during the elimination rounds. Roaring Riptide had a rough start to the competition. The welded grabber mechanism that they made broke twice during the practice rounds. Unable to find a welder, they had to design a new mechanism with the spare parts they brought. It was a stressful situation, but they found a solution and the new grabber mechanism was working well. Really well. Riptide was ranked 17th out of 64 teams.

The Moose would like to choose Get Smart to round out our team!

The top eight teams are allowed to chose two other teams to be part of the alliance, so Riptide felt like their chances of being part of an alliance were pretty good. Even if they weren’t picked, it had been a good competition. They were able to make friends with a lot of great teams. For example, Riptide made friends with another team staying at their hotel, Walton Robotics, after they shared their leftover BBQ with them.

The RadioActive Roaches would like to pick The Funky Monkeys to be part of our team!

The available spots left were quickly dwindling. They were down to the final three.

The Ninjaneers would like to select Stallion Robotics to be part of our alliance!

Final two.

M.C.: Second seed, who would you like to invite?

Student Representative: Can we have two seconds?

M.C.: One…two…they need more than two seconds…

The student representative checked their pick list and frowned. The audience fell silent as the seconds dragged on. It appeared that everyone that they wanted to select were already chosen. Not being able to stand the silence, a member in the audience stood up and shouted, “Roaring Riptide!” Just like that, other teams started to scream their team names, with the hopes that they might be picked for the elimination rounds. The din was deafening.

Student Representative: Ok.

M.C.: Are you sure?

Student Representative: Yes, I’m sure.

M.C.: It’s a really big decision.

Student Representative: It is! Ok. Walton Robotics would like to invite Roaring Riptide to be part of our alliance.

The Riptide section of the stands erupted in cheers! Was Riptide chosen because they gave Walton Robotics BBQ? Or maybe because they heard Riptide’s name shouted in the stands? There was no time to ponder these questions. The alliances were set, Walton, Shark Attack, and Riptide were going to the elimination rounds. It was time to go to work!

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Their alliance cruised through the quarter and semifinals. Each match, the three robots seemed to be more in sync. In fact, they developed such a good rhythm, their movements almost seemed choreographed.
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However winning the finals would not come easy. The opposing alliance was the number 1 seed, and if they could pull it off, had the ability to score more points than Walton, Shark Attack, and Riptide. The game that year involved stacking boxes on top of each other. The higher you stacked them, the more points you earned. The opposing alliance had two robots that could make stacks of 6 boxes. No one on Riptide’s alliance could stack higher than 4. If they were going to win, they would have make more shorter stacks to compensate for their rivals’ taller ones.

During the first finals match, the opposing alliance worked at a breakneck pace to stack the boxes. With just 30 seconds left, by placing another stack of 6 boxes, the opposing alliance would take the lead. They rushed to deliver it to the score platform, but they went a little too fast!

BOOM! Boxes went flying everywhere as the 6 stack came crashing down! Riptide won their first match in a best of three series.
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The next match, the opposing alliance was more careful and came closer to victory, but even their best was not enough. As the final seconds counted down, one of the mentors leaned over to the president of P.K. Yonge (the school Riptide was affiliated with) and asked her, “Do you know what this means?” She looked at him and shook her head. “It means we’re going to the World Championship!” The buzzer rang!

As Logan looked up at the scoreboard, with the crowd screaming around him, he savored the moment. Smiling to himself, he knew his mission was complete.
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The drive team headed back to the stands to sit with their team, excited to be called down to accept their trophy. However our story doesn’t end here, fate had one more surprise for Logan. As he began to climb the stairs to the stands, one of the event volunteers asked him, “Hey, are you Logan from Riptide?” He nodded. “Good, you’ll want to hang out down here. Confused, Logan stayed down by the field while the rest of his team went back to the stands. In the stands, the rest of the team wondered, “Where is Logan? He worked so hard to help the team win their tournament, they couldn’t accept the award without him.

After they announced several awards, it became clear. At each competition, two students are recognized as Dean’s List Finalist. The volunteer pulled Logan aside because he knew that he would be coming right back down again since Logan was one of the students selected as a Dean’s List Finalist!
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It was the perfect ending to a tale you might find in a storybook. However, Riptide’s season was far from over. They had to get ready for the World Championship in St. Louis, but that is a tale for another night.
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Those are all of the stories that I currently have written, but I’ll be sure to add more to this thread in the future. Until then, I encourage you to share your own stories! Also, if you’re interested in learning more about assistive technology (AT) and how your team can use the skills they develop through FIRST to help your community, ATMakers is going to host a an AT showcase this Tuesday (4/28/2020) at 7:30 PM EST. Roaring Riptide, Degrees of Freedom, GRA-V, Penn Robotics, and more will be featured along with the great work that they do. You can find more information along with the link to watch it here,

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I enjoy browsing this thread, you surely have a lot good robotic bedtime stories to share with the community.

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Thank you for this thread! I loved reading it so much. I’ll try to think of any good rookie year stories I have.

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In case you missed it (or you just wanted to watch it again), here’s the recording from the ATMakers Robotics Team Showcase. It featured four teams and the inspiring work that they do for their communities. If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, I recommend tuning in at 59:21 where Chris talks about how one team helped him fulfill a 50-year-old dream of flying a radio-controlled vehicle.

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So if you’ve been following along in this thread, you’ll recall Jeanette and how she helped create the Navajo Code Writers FTC team and was selected as a Dean’s List Finalist. Another member of the Code Writers that has been a part of the team since their first competition is Jeanette’s cousin, Brianna, who joined as an 8th grader. Since Jeanette graduated, Brianna has followed the path that Jeanette created and has become a leader of the team in her own right. This year she also was selected as an FTC Dean’s List Finalist! If you’re watching the FIRST Virtual Showcase today, join me in wishing Brianna good luck and cheering for her if she is selected!

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Then this happened :slight_smile:

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To help the students on the team I mentor cope during this difficult time, all of the mentors decided to surprise the students by delivering them care packages. Here are their reactions!

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To celebrate the end of the 2020 season, a couple of the mentors from Degrees of Freedom decided to do something special for the team’s students by writing and recording a song for them. Hopefully it brightens your day as well! :slight_smile:

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Last summer, when the future of FRC was uncertain, FRC Team 6413: Degrees of Freedom, made the decision to start a new FTC team. They wanted the team to still be associated with Degrees of Freedom, but also have an identity of it’s own. Thus, they decided to name the new team, Da Geese of Freedom!

When the team couldn’t safely meet in person to work on the robot, they established the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Bot” and transported the robot from house to house. The students were able to build a driving chassis despite never meeting in person.

When the team needed money to fund the season, one of the student leaders sold dozens of loaves of bread to raise hundreds of dollars to support the team.

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When the team’s parent organization wasn’t able to hold their annual camp, the students organized and ran their own virtual STEM camp for the community.

When they learned that a local children’s shelter needed supplies, they organized a supply drive for them.

When students at a local school needed toys that were adapted so that they could be operated without needing fine motor control, the team used the technical skills that they developed in FIRST to help them out.

And what’s better than being selected as a Dean’s List Finalist? How about being selected as a finalist along with your teammate?

Not to mention that they built a pretty amazing robot, aptly named, “The Untitled Goose Robot.”

I’m so proud of these students and everything they were able to accomplish during this difficult year. Does anyone else have any inspirational or heartwarming stories from this past year that they would be willing to share?

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Another season in the books! It was great to be able to see everyone in person again and watch the robots on the field. Writing and sharing these stories helped me personally stay positive during the challenges of the past couple years. Hopefully they have helped others in the community as well. One idea my team is thinking about is converting a few of them into short animations. In the next few weeks, I plan on sharing a story from this past season. In the meantime, did anyone else have an inspiring or uplifting story from this year (or even a previous year) that they’d like to share with the community?

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*tw thoughts of wanting to not be alive

I don’t know if this is what you are looking for in terms of bedtime stories but I want to share this anyway.
Six months ago, I started having problems with chronic pain. For months, I went to many doctors appointments, with verdicts ranging from “you are making this up” to " I don’t know how to help you". I’m still on the waitlist for the pain clinic, which is a year before you can even schedule an appointment. I would wake up every single day and be in horrible pain and there was nothing I could do about it. I have sensory processing disorder, which means I am barely responsive to any pain medication so I have just had to suffer. Months of not being in control of my body, and I started wanting to die. I felt like there was no escape from pain and I wasn’t able to do things that made me happy. I was almost hospitalized because of it.
And then competition happened.
Robotics gave me enough of a goal to work towards that I was able to get out of bed every morning. I had a very fufilling experience at competition and it gave me a chance to focus on something other than pain. I returned, almost immediately, to feeling purposeful and wanting to have goals and hopes and dreams. I don’t have depression usually, so it was very scary to feel like life wasn’t worth living, and it was such a relief to feel truly alive again. I can honestly say that first probably saved my life.
Now, I’m still dealing with the exact same pain, but I have a diagnosis and a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m now the captain of my team and I’m slowly getting better. I’m really grateful to robotics for giving me a reason to keep going.

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I appreciate you sharing your story. I’m glad that robotics was able to help you during this difficult time. I hope that you’re able to get the help that you need. Congratulations on being selected to be the captain of your team! I’m sure that you’ll do a great job!

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I apologize for the delay everyone. Something remarkable just happened, and I was inspired to write a new series of stories. They document the journey of a robot named “Minnie.” Despite being built from humble beginnings, she would overcome many trials to achieve greatness! Here is the first chapter.

This is the story about a young FIRST Robotics team named Degrees of Freedom (DoF). In 2019, they had big expectations for their robot. It was going to be able to accomplish every game task there was and be the best at it. However, that turned out to be a lot more difficult than the team originally thought. They had signed up to attend a scrimmage called “Duel in the Desert,” but since they didn’t complete the robot in time, they spent their time sitting on the bleachers observing other teams, rather than testing their own robot.

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The team’s troubles continued that season. Due to their robot’s overly complicated design, it led them to not having enough time to test the robot nor practice driving. After a rough season of dilapidated drivetrains, wiring woes, walking into competitions with an unfinished robot, and consistently being ranked at the bottom, they decided enough was enough. DoF was going to make some changes regarding how they designed their robots.

Later that year, DoF was invited to compete at the Arizona FIRST Robotics Competition State Championship. However, there was one slight problem. Their robot from that season did not survive its last competition. Using this as an opportunity to start fresh, they decide to build a brand-new robot: Cassie the Chassis. Cassie’s simpler design reflected the change in the team’s design philosophy.

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Rather than trying to accomplish every task within the game, they focused on just a couple and focused on consistency. While DoF still ranked near the bottom, it was still a major improvement. The robot was able to consistently score a few points and they won more matches than their last two competitions combined! For the first time in a while, DoF was really proud of the robot they had built.

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While it was a small success, DoF was excited for the upcoming season so that they could continue to build upon it. However, fate was about to throw a few curveballs into their plans, but that is a tale for another night.

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Looking to build on their previous success with Cassie, the next season DoF made it their goal to build a simple robot in four weeks and use the extra time in the season to practice driving and refining the design. This year they wouldn’t be sitting in the bleachers during the Duel the Desert. However, early in the season fate threw its first curveball. Just a week or two into the new season, they had to leave their build site. Scrambling to find a new home, they eventually found a living room floor they could use. The team had to roll out a blanket to protect the floor every time they worked on it.

While the team was appreciative of having this new space, it presented additional design constraints regarding the tools and materials the team could use. Even more challenging, the team only had three active students. For simplicity, DoF choose to use the kit of parts chassis since it was reliable and didn’t require any special equipment nor a lot of people to assemble. To give it a bit more power though, they did add a couple “Slim CIM” motors.

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Slotted aluminum extrusion was used so that adjustments could easily be made to the robot without requiring any machining. While the equipment they had access too was very limited, they still had access to an offsite laser cutter, so they focused their design to be made primarily out of plastic to take advantage of the laser’s precision. The overall simple design of the robot allowed the team to accomplish another goal, creating a complete CAD model of their robot.

Another challenge was that the largest vehicle the team had for transporting the robot was a Chevy Sonic. As a result, the robot also had to be designed to be modular, so that it could be taken apart easily for transportation. In other words, the top half was designed to be easily detached from the rest of the robot.

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Despite these extra challenges, the team met its goal in building a robot in four weeks and was ready to test it at Duel in the Desert. They were just one of a handful of teams that were able to drive and score points at the scrimmage. It was then that the team finally gave their robot a name, “Minnie.”

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On the drive home from Duel in the Desert, fate threw its next curveball, or rather a couch to be exact. The vehicle that was carrying Minnie was totaled in an accident involving a couch that fell onto the highway. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured, including Minnie. It seemed that no matter what life was throwing the team’s way, they found a way to persevere. As a result, the entire team was really optimistic about their chances at the next robotics competition. They believed that Minnie could win a competition. However, fate had one more curveball to throw. Just a few days before the competition, DoF received an e-mail notifying them that it had been cancelled due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The team was devasted. They had been working tirelessly for nearly a year to prove to themselves that they could build a competitive robot, and just like that, their opportunity disappeared. They had done everything right this time, built a reliable drivetrain, made a CAD model of the whole robot, focused on doing a few tasks really well, but it still didn’t matter. With no competitions to go to, Minnie was moved to another home to quarantine with some of her other robot friends. While things looked pretty bleak, Minnie would eventually get her chance to compete, but that’s a tale for another night.

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As the world adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic, FIRST Robotics did as well. The 2021 season promised to look very different from those in the past. Instead of traditional in-person competitions, teams could complete in a series of challenges at home to earn points. FIRST understanding the difficulties many teams were grappling with, allowed teams to use the robots they had built from the previous year.

In the previous season, DoF made the intentional decision to design a robot that could only complete a couple of tasks. Unfortunately, the tasks the team had chosen were no longer relevant to this new competition. So as the world and the FIRST Robotics Competition changed, Minnie had to grow to achieve the new objectives. As originally designed, Minnie could only compete in 2 out of the 5 challenges, so major changes were made to her ball launcher and to her code. In fact, the entire top half of Minnie was redesigned to account for the updated game.

The hard work paid off! The team finished 18th out of 30 in their group. The middle of the pack wasn’t exactly where the team wanted to be, but it was a big improvement from the last time they competed. And with that, Minnie finally had her chance to compete. While it wasn’t the traditional competition that the team had hoped for, it was still something. Having fulfilled her purpose, Minnie was officially retired and regulated to the occasional driver practice and testing of new mechanisms like the intake and climber for the 2022 robot.

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However, Minnie’s story doesn’t end here. Fate had one more surprise for this tired and old robot. In her twilight years, she was going to be offered the opportunity that she had been waiting for her entire life, but that is a tale for another night.

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Here is the exciting and unexpected conclusion to Minnie’s story!

It was the end of the summer of 2022, a full 2.5 years after Minnie was first built. In that time, Degrees of Freedom (DoF) had grown substantially from three active students all the way to 25. With so many new students, the team was looking for ways to prepare them for the upcoming season. When DoF was invited to bring a second robot to an off-season competition, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to train a new pit crew and drive team. So, Minnie was dusted off and brought out of retirement. After all these years, Minnie was finally given the opportunity to compete at an actual competition. It was a dream come true…or would have been if not for one small detail. Minnie was designed to play a completely different game. Unlike the previous year, there was no time to redesign Minnie for the new game, so the team decided to have her play defense.

With a rookie drive team, Minnie took to the field for the first time. It was apparent that Minnie’s age would be a factor during the competition. After taking hit after hit, parts of her started to fall off onto the field. The drivers did their best to compensate, but with her aging chassis and not having the ability to score any points, Minnie did not rank well. To be exact, she was dead last. Despite this, she was still able to contribute to her alliance during matches by slowing the other teams down with effective defense. She put up a good enough show to catch the attention of the number one seeded alliance, who choose her as their 2nd pick.

Nearly four years ago, the bleachers in that gymnasium were filled by DoF students watching other teams practice as their own robot sat unfinished at home. As a response to the challenges of that season, they built Minnie, a simple robot that never received her chance to compete. Now those same bleachers were filled with DoF students cheering for their robot. The alliance didn’t lose a single match, and just like that, Minnie had officially won the competition.

It was the perfect ending to a story about a robot built from humble beginnings and the team that loved her. Minnie, a nearly 3-year-old robot built on a living room floor by three students, survived multiple redesigns, a car wreck, and a global pandemic to finally compete in a game she wasn’t designed to play, driven by a rookie drive team. Even though she was unable to score a single point and ranked dead last, as she had found a way to do her entire life, Minnie found a way to persevere through it all to help DoF win their first competition.

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