Looking for Volunteers for the 2006 season!

Quick summary: We need volunteers for the 2006 season, help out your fellow Robotics teams by running the RFAS!

Hey all, Ferazel2001 here with an update for the FIRST Aid station for the new year. We have started it nearly entirely from scratch, and this year its all digital!

To explain to teams who are unaware, the Robot FIRST Aid Station is an inventory of exactly what parts each team are willing to give to the community. If a team has zip ties, they mark it in the database and when someone needs zip ties they come to us and we send them off in the right direction. This decreases the announcements of “Team ___ needs a philips screwdriver!” which get oh so annoying after a couple hours. Also the RFAS is a hub of information, if your programming has gone awry you can come to us and we will send out one of our Roaming Programmers to help you out and explain what was happening and how to fix it.

The game plan for this year is this:

We recently acquired about 12 500mhz IceBooks from an unused cart in our school (Granada Hills Charter High-school in Northridge, CA). One of these has been under constant development by me for over 3 months now, I have been developing Ruby on Rails, learning about databases, practicing with simple applications, and completing small tasks on the larger project of a completely online Robot FIRST Aid station.

We need at least two volunteer teams for each event we will not be going to, (Tel Aviv, Israel, for example. :)) to be the RFAS representatives in that area. Currently it looks like we are going to SoCal and Arizona, but we haven’t raised the money for Arizona yet… so thats a maybe.

Each volunteer will get a web link for: Instructions for operating the database, debugging simple problems, and a download of the latest Database and the latest software.

What is required by the volunteers is a Mac running OS 10.4 (or above) and a wireless adapter (Airport card or other) and resources for making a banner advertising the FIRST Aid Station

This is the pilot year for this technology, so please, let me know what everyone thinks!

I will be setting up forums for the sole purpose of talking about the RFAS, suggestions, bugs, general discussion, announcements on the progress and such. These forums will probly go up tomorrow.

Thanks to everyone who volunteers!

Reasons for Editing:
Removal of Laptops (We cant afford shipping for all events… If you are really enthusiastic about participating but lack resources email me and maybe we can figure something out.)
Removal of Banner (Same as previous line)

sounds like a great idea! wouldn’t mind looking into this and helping out. keep me posted.

mike o’brien

Not having needed it much, I’m curious how much of a workout others gave the Robot First Aid Station last year at LA. I really have no idea of the volume of requests they receive and direction they give. So, how many teams have used it?

Sorry if this diverts the thread, if so, don’t let it. I was just curious.

No problem, to answer your question: Each year that I have been in this team i have worked in the FIRST aid station, the load average we get per day is enough to make it a full time job for at least two.

The reason that this year MIGHT be different is because of the introduction of the Wireless FIRST Aid station. A team with a wifi laptop will be able to go to the station and get Bonjour for Windows installed, then they will be able to go to rfas.local in any browser and access the FIRST Aid Station remotely.

This is exactly the type of thing I would expect to see at a FIRST event!! Awesome! Not only is it convenient, it is also self policing. GP will be expected and a trust that the information information provided by the community will be accurate will also be in effect. :slight_smile:

Because of my professional experience, I would also like to give this caveat. This Wireless environment can also be a huge open door to spreading virus’s, worms, Trojan Horses and the like. This can happen without anyones intent or awareness. :ahh:

If I am reading your comments correctly, users will have to bring their wireless devices by the RFAS to get Bonjour installed. If this is correct, that would be a great time to request/inspect each laptop/device to verify that some flavor of Anti Virus is installed and updated with the latest definitions. In addition, make certain that the device hosting rfas.local is protected as well.
It is my hope that all FIRSTers would practice safe computing without ever having to mention it. Sadly, we are all human and we all feel invulnerable to these types of infections at one time or another… until reality smacks us in the face, and all our precious data is lost. :frowning:

Unless, of course, the computer running it is a mac. :slight_smile:

Seriously though… not piping Hot Mac Propaganda here, but with all of the latest security patches the RFAS SHOULD be 100% safe, considering it does not accept files being uploaded.

As I said above, we cannot send out laptops (Money issue) so… If you can obtain a mac or already have a mac, please get in touch with me ASAP so I can get beta versions going (The more people testing the better this software will be) and if you cant… also get in touch with me.

Also, thank you for your enthusiastic response billbo911, :smiley:

I have an old 500mhz iBook, but i dont think that i have 10.4 on it, but would still love to help out too.

I will test the server out on 10.3… it should work, but I need to test to make sure.

To tell you the truth, it might be running 10.2, i would have to check and i wont be able to till thursday night



These are the forums I put up for the purpose of discussing development and design of the web interface, please go there and get an account if you want to help!

Thanks again for the enthusiasm,

  • Devon

I’ve got a question, and please don’t take this the wrong way.

Why did you choose mac’s? You’ve already said that anyone wishing to use this now needs a seperate piece of software installed. What’s wrong with setting up a normal 802.11 access point? I’m in no way a mac expert (The last one I used was… 5th grade), but I’m assuming it has a standard ethernet port. You could easily connect this to a access point, and eliminate the entire software aspect. It just seems like a waste to me to have that extra software running.

Also, if its running as say… a php app under apache, the operating system really doesn’t matter.

One last thing. If you are going to be installing stuff on multiple computers, don’t use a flash drive. All it takes is for one person to have a virus, and you have basically infected everyone there.

Are you going to have a spot on this database so teams can look at what other people need?

It would also be nice to have a preffered time they want it by on there if possible. And maybe and urgency level. Like a scale of 1-10 of how badly they need it or how critical it is to making their robot work. Like team who needs zip ties isnt in as much trouble as a team who needs a new motor for something.

If you need to you don’t exactly need a laptop. If you get the right software you can turn any computer into a server.What about if you even just get a old desktop computer, put Apache on it then run the scripts on that.

Actually, the piece of software is in no way required. I am in no way an expert with web servers, and cannot get FCGI working… I am now on my 3rd webserver that I am trying… I think im missing a configuration somewhere on all of them. If I dont get it working this time im going to nuke a computer i have laying around and experament with Apache’s mod_ruby, which should decrease server load and runtime.

The reason we chose to use a mac as the hub is because of all of the benifits that using a mac provide. For example, setting up an Ad-Hoc network is no more then 1 click away from any wireless enabled mac’s desktop. I actually appreciate you asking, the software I am suggesting (but in no way demanding) people install is Bonjour for Windows, an implementation of Zero Conf, which lets any computer with it installed access any other computer with it installed by simply typing <computer name>.local into any application which would normally accept an IP. firstaid.local is much more simple then, don’t you think?

Also, thank you for your word of advice on the installation of the software, I plan on burning it onto a couple of CD’s, probly with default code and this years version of the compiler and all… the software is a couple megs… and its not like some godawful Linksys application that constantly blinks in the taskbar, I believe it is a simple configuration file that when installed does some magic to make windows do all the work instead of having an application sit as a proxy between your computer and the outside world.

So as I said, its not required, but its certainly one of the better things that could be added to any windows installation.

(PS: Sorry for the long post, I wanted to answer all of your questions thoroughly)

I plan to add a pulldown next to every item so you can select Surplus, Adequate, Needed

The idea is that each team at an event will have at least one of everything needed, so all someone needs to do is go to any laptop on the floor and access the database to find what they need.

The main reason that I would rather keep the server on a mac is simple ease of use. I know most of the software like the top of my keyboard, and frankly, even though I have a windows computer and keep it well maintained and am on it nearly as much as I am on my macs, I hate it thoroughly. I am not going to go on a windows bashing rampage here, I believe in the “To each his own” approach for the most part.

Another reason, (however low) is the threat of viruses. Personally, I have a virus sitting on my desktop right now that I received in an email. I keep it there as a little shrine to the iMac who’s desktop it graces.

In closing, I would like to make sure that everyone knows my standings: EVERY os sucks. Windows just sucks a whole lot more then the competition. (</windowsbash>)

I would like to leave the whole Windows Server thing up in the air… im not turning my back on it completely, but for now I would like to stick to what I know and feel comfortable with.

(BTW, there WILL be a web-based Master Database, so if someone with a really good wireless router wants to take it with them and figure out how to get internet to it, that may increase the number of events the RFAS will reach)

Thanks all for your continued ideas and support, keep the questions coming!

Woohoo! I have the beta up on the net, http://devonst17.is-a-geek.com/ ! Check it out, (sorry about the colors, I said I needed a visual developer, didn’t I?)

also, page generation time is anywhere from 2 seconds to 10 seconds, so be patient (I haven’t gotten the FastCGI plugin for Apache working yet)

I’m the owner of a web hosting company and I’m interested in assisting on this project. I think you’re underestimating the load that will be required at one of these competitions. I’d recommend using a Linux box with a SQL server. I have a Linux box here that I’d be willing to dedicate to this task at the VCU competition. Please send me an email with some source code if available. I’ll take a look and see what I can do.

Feel free to IM me on any available messenger as well.