Team 2980 2022 Open Source Thread

Late to the party.

It’s been so long I can’t remember if I posted one of these a day or one of these a week. So many feels this year. So much newness to it. I feel like I am starting off on the wrong foot and I don’t know if I’ll get my feet back under me before our first competition is over. And based on that…Who knows if I’ll be able to come up for air before it’s all over. I know that isn’t exactly how it is, but that is exactly how it feels.

How things work on the Whidbey Island Wildcats…

Kick off…Normally we go down to MountLake Terrace high school for kick-off, and to pick up our kit of parts. We usually make nuisances of ourselves by spending way longer than anyone else in the lunch room reviewing what we learned in our breakout sessions and going through the kit of parts box. The team Oohs and Ahhs over the various game pieces and someone with a sharpie, Usually Marcus, but now Wheels his younger brother as Marcus graduated and moved on…writes our team number of the game pieces as they are passed around the team. SOme of the more sly, (go getter) kids start planning the robot of their dreams. Others are happy to just be there and see. The new kids try desperately to take it all in, drinking out of the firehose.

This year…

We tried this year to make the most of it.

We gathered in the robotics room. Didn’t have to leave home quite so early…Not as far of a drive. And we struggled to figure out how to get the twitch stream of the kickoff up in the classroom given that twitch is blocked district wide. I ended up using my phone as a hotspot. It was laggy and glitchy, but we got through it.

We repeated the game animation a few times on youtube. A part of me feels like we should have just waited and done it that way to begin with.

I made 9 copies of the rules and the team set about going through them. Engineering notebooks out. Trying to find relevant rules that affected the ideas they had in their heads. I tried also, but I kept being called away by kids who had questions or kids who had ideas.

They talked until noon and then left for the day.

For a time we had a full meeting on kickoff day. Going from kickoff back to the high school to start reviewing the rules and brainstorming ideas. A bunch of years ago we let that go and used Saturday afternoon to say goodbye to our families. To celebrate with them as we bellied up to the table that is build season and began to gorge ourselves on robots.

Sunday morning we drifted into it. I had planned on coming in early to get the room setup and to get myself settled. 3 or so of my more eager students knew that I would most likely be there and showed up early also. They were waiting for me outside the gate.

The rest rolled in over the next few hours. The team split into three groups. Each group is going to try to come up with their own solution to this year’s game for our community design competition on Friday. 6:00 PM rolled around way faster than it had any business doing.
And there it is. Just like that there was no more getting ready…It was time. Build season…

I don’t know if I have it in me this year. I know I do because it needs to get done…so I’ll do it…I’ll even try to put my heart into it. I’ll find the 30 extra hours a week…somehow.

This morning it was a pile of unfolded laundry, a wife out sick (stomach bug) and a bare refrigerator. I was thinking of what I could make for lunch and came up empty handed…So…I figured I would stop at the grocery store. But instead of getting lunch for the week, I just picked up a salad and a sandwich…Ate half of it in my car during my prep period. I need to go shopping for groceries…I need to clean up the dishes in the sink…I need to walk my dogs…But it is build season. We have a parent meeting after our team meeting and then I agreed to help one of the mentors install some glass shower doors. It means another late night, and there will be 2 more this week alone. Thursday we have judging for FTC and Friday we have “virtual pits” and our design competition.

Saturday the team is going to an FTC inter-district competition. I don’t go to those. It was part of the agreement with the wife when we started an FTC team. (I wouldn’t go to competitions.) the wife seems to have forgotten that I was only supposed to help coach FTC for the first 2 years. If anyone asks this is year 2 for us…as will be every year so I can keep doing it.

Reading back over this…It seems like a giant pity party. Sorry for the downer vibe. I guess I’m just struggling a little to get into the spirit of things and see past the overall tired of it. Maybe just writing this and getting it out there will improve my mood.

Our three design teams are well on their way.

The first design team Wheels is the first person on the list, is looking to use belts to move balls into the low goal. Their objective is to be quick gathering and scoring balls focusing on floor loading.

Wheels’ team is looking at a quick ramp style climber aiming for a quick climb on the low rung. They decided to move the climber further back more centrally located to avoid the risk of the robot tilting one way or the other.

The second team, Jack is first on the list, is going to try to recreate last year’s robot with a bucket on the top for dumping balls into the low goal. They are hoping they can also use it for loading from the player station.

Jack’s team is also looking at using the climbing mechanism from previous years. Or well…something very similar. I am not sure the community will go for it though because they may see it as a cop out. They may also see it as smart given how new everyone on the team is.

Only one of the kids has been through a build season before.

The third group, Isaac first on the list, is planning on shooting. They plan to focus on being able to shoot into the low goal, and maybe going for a high goal as a reach goal.

I believe Isaacs group is thinking of using either a rack and pinion climber or a centrally located winch coupled with pulleys to help balance out the load.

Looking at their shooter I’m personally thinking the ball won’t have enough time in contact with their flywheel. Might need some work in that department.

All of the groups want to use swerve drive. We have been a strictly KOP drivetrain team for a few years now and we purchased swerve a few years ago in the hopes of embracing something new…learning and growing.

A part of me is a bit concerned about the age of our swerve modules and the lack of availability of replacement parts.

We got the swerve drive a few years ago and the team that makes it has moved on several versions. I’ll have to push the board to let us upgrade…Seems like a waste, but maybe we can use the old ones on a special project.

Enough for now. I’ll try to post often enough that someone could follow along.


Not gonna lie, this is the 2022 build thread I’ve been waiting for. Your prior one was such a nice read and always felt so wholesome.

For what it’s worth, reverse engineering is not a cop out and is still very difficult and a great learning experience. As long as you’re within the rules, this is a smart play.

You may also want to consider the COTS climbing solutions out this year from Thriftybot, AndyMark, and WestCoast Products.

Best of luck!


I love how very real and honest this is. Thank you.


The build thread I didn’t know I needed, please share what you have time to, it’s a great read!


Trying to See Things In a New Light

First off…links to pictures:

Wheels’ group

Conveyor belt concept:

Climbing hook:

Drive base:

Jack’s group:

Drive Base:

Isaac’s Group:


About today:

Paradigm shift: yesterday a classroom full of relatively green kids worked using their engineering notebooks to communicate their ideas while other kids worked to get the engineering portfolio submission done for FTC. Parents came in after the meeting when they got there to pick up their kids, and stayed for the meeting. Staying to ask questions late into the night. We have 3 different ideas for tackling this year’s challenge. I’ll have to struggle hard to not make my preference known…but the reality is, they are all good ideas.

Good enough that a part of me wants them to design an “everybot” ala the robonauts FRC team 118…A way to stretch the minds of the tinkers on the team…Another part of me knows better…Knows that what we do will be hard enough on its own and we are not the robonauts. That said, the thought is still there. I’ll be glad I let the idea go in 4 weeks when we are scrambling to make things work as is. (I somehow always seem to reach way past where I should.)

Another part of me wonders at Jack’s group’s idea. Last year we added a launcher module to the robot. It was a separate configuration. The dump bucket we used last year weighed next to nothing and we were well under weight. Realistically it made it possible for us to compete at all last year. Personally, I think it was one of our best robots to date though the kids don’t see it that way. For the most part they don’t know the history of our team. I would say last year’s robot is as good as if not better than our steamworks robot. Probably helped having 2 years to work on it.

So…trying to see things in a new light…

Today I went down to the nurse to learn how to give covid tests so that I can test the FTC team before their next competition. The person I learned to test on, tested positive. Then I got an email from a parent that their kid, a member of the team is out sick, and several members of the family have covid. They weren’t at the last few meetings, but came yesterday…went home and got sick.

Good news is I’m supposed to test a bunch of kids on the team on Thursday…wonder how many are going to be positive.

So…why trying to see things in a new light is really really important.

My kids are relatively new. I have mostly kids who either were here last year, doesn’t really count, or this is their first year with our FRC team. A lot of them…don’t’ get it. I’m starting to think a lot of them never really have…but it is what it is. The robot isn’t going to build itself, so…I’ve been pushing the team. The past couple of days I may have let a little bit of anger show because the engineering portfolio for FTC was being ignored…and I’ve been asking people nicely to take it on for a long time now.

So a bunch of kids from one of the design teams stepped up and started working on it. YEAH!

This left another kid on the team in charge of the design team for which Isaac is listed first.

So…the kid who was sort of in charge, more because no one else was, is a kid that a number of adults in our school believe has real leadership potential. They worked on a project that won some awards in Skills USA and they are one of those really nice kids to work with…Talented…The thing is…They really don’t do well when working with other people. They aren’t inviting. They are quick to anger first and usually end up apologizing later.

There is another kid on the team who shows up. Honestly I don’t know why they show up, but they do. Sometimes they just keep to themselves in the hallway. Other times they joke around with other kids on the team in the room. Rarely, they do things that are helpful, but we all have a lot going on and I try not to ask too much of this kid, or at least any more than they have to give. I’m hoping they will grow, and if they aren’t here anymore then I can’t help to make that happen.

The design team got to work, the kid who shows up and is a part of that team…not so much. The talented kid who is often put in charge of things because walked over and screamed at the kid who shows up. It was quick, and the kid who has been relied upon to lead stalked away quickly making it hard to catch it in the moment. The kid who shows up completely shut down as did the two other kids in the group. Their design progress stalled. The kid who is seen by many as a leader left for a while, and when they came back they sat on the other end of the room working by themself. I made the call to let it lie for now, try to help the kids who had shut down get back on track and go for a walk with the kid who is seen as a leader later when they were calm.

Not much worked, and not much got done.

So…the lesson. Part of the lesson is for me. I’ve been pushing the team hard. I’ve let out a little bit of frustration, more at a few of the things they have done that showed a lack of consideration than anything else, and for some of them, that is interpreted as using aggression to get people to do what I want. I need to work harder at creating a loving, caring, and inviting environment, and knowing what I can get out of which kids…which kids to push, and which kids to let show up.

Using aggression, pushing hard, doesn’t work.

It may lead to you getting what you want in the short term, but the quality of work will decrease, and the people will respect you less and fear you more. It may result in a kid no longer wanting to come into this space, and if that happens then I lose. I have this thing that I think is amazing and want to share it with as many of them as possible. Getting angry because they haven’t seen what I have seen yet doesn’t work.

Unfortunately for the kid who people see as a potential leader… They are earning a reputation on the team and being someone who should be avoided. That for me is the scariest part of all of this. I have backed off on asking this kid to do things or put them in this position, but everyone else already sees them as someone who should be a leader. :frowning:

So…I spent part of today’s meeting mending fences. I started with the kid who got yelled at. We went for a walk and talked about how inappropriate it was for them to get yelled at. They tried to justify being yelled at and said that apologies had already been exchanged but that sort of makes it worse. I’m glad that they showed up again today…I will try to do better, and let them know that I would.

The kid who showed aggression…We also went for a walk. They were upset with them self over the incident. They said that they didn’t mean to yell, and that they had things going on at home and in life and were under a lot of pressure.

I apologized for pushing the team as hard as I have been, and for teaching them that aggression is an ok thing to show in order to get what you want. We talked about creating a more inviting environment, and going to war with the army that you have and not the army that you want.

I asked if there was anything else that I could do to help them, or if there was any way that I could help them with the stress of life…They said no.

Hopefully that resolved things for now. Being a year round team sucks sometimes. It is way too early in build season to be dealing with this sort of conflict. And to be this tired.

I’m trying hard not to use identifying information or pronouns to protect the kids that I am talking about…which might make this confusing to read.

On another note, I washed the dishes this morning…I forgot to put the dogs up before leaving for work, but the sink is empty and the dishwasher was running when I left. And nobody died in my classroom!

See…It has been a good day.

Bonus FTC videos of our robot doing stuff:


Absolutely. Thing is…jack was an 8th grader when that climbing mechanism was created and he is leading his group towards basically updating the previous design for this year’s game. Not the same thing because he has access to all of the prior CADD models…I’m ok with the team doing whatever the community decides, and I also want this to be a growing experience for them…but you can’t always get what you want.

As for the COTS climbers, that might be the way we end up going, but I"m not sure it will be possible or necessary. The kids have to find COTS climbers that are in stock. Might be an option, might not. We will see what the community decides.

I have been avoiding (most of) these build threads if I didn’t know the team.

I clicked on this one tonight on a whim. I am so glad I did. I have for most of my coaching career (20+ years; 38 seasons of wrestling, soccer, baseball, football and now robotics) I have strived to be a transformative coach rather than a transactional one. I will be honest, too many times I have transactional than I care to admit.

After a very tough weekend that followed a very difficult fall in the realm of coaching and education, these posts were therapeutic to say the least.

@eedoga - Please keep this up. If nothing else, it gives all of us mentors a bit of grounding that we desperately need during the build season.


Please keep these up. I think that mentors that read your posts can learn a lot, and become better mentors. There are definitely lessons I’ll take away from what you’ve posted so far.


Progress Puts Its Hands In Its Pockets While Dream’s Dreams (Are) About The Size of a Bus
Jim Infantino

Isaac’s Group:

Jack’s Group:

FTC Robot Auto:

There is something magical about the “now of this”. The “now” where there is so much potential, Where it seems like we can do anything. Where people still say things like, “That’s easy” and “you just…” This is the part where we get to dream without restriction. Where everything will work out just like we imagine.

Or it should be.

I don’t know if I have gone too far in trying to manage the team’s expectations. I hope not, but This year’s FTC robot was a pretty stark lesson. Going into our first competition we felt so confident about it and it’s capabilities…

They came out of their first competition in the middle of the pack. A lot like we expected, but…They didn’t score as many points as other teams. This was something the team seemed to struggle with. We figured out that the intake didn’t work as designed, and came up with a solution.

After that practices went really well! They drastically lowered their cycle times and greatly improved their ability to score points. At competition, not so much. This time things went even worse. They kept getting penalties for hitting the shipping container.

They kept getting penalties. As in…They got a penalty for doing something, and then in the next match did the same thing again. And again…and again…

This is what happens when you have a really young team. They didn’t understand how serious getting a penalty was…They thought if they were “more careful” they could avoid doing it in the future, but…the penalty they got required a completely different overall strategy to avoid. And instead they kept doing the same thing…trying to be more careful, but still getting penalties.

I should have been there…I can’t be there…I won’t be there next time either.

And I guess that is it isn’t it. Not that…With FTC it is after the first competition, and with FRC it is after the reveal videos start getting posted. There is always someone on the team that points at some other robot and asks…Why didn’t we just build something like that. Or the parent who comes back and suggests we should start over from the ground up after the first FTC competition because… “bad design”. A complete redesign is necessary!

So…When they came back, we redesigned the drive base of the FTC robot. The drive team wanted us to cut 2 inches off of it. Two kids on the team apparently got into an argument when one (drive team) suggested to the other (pit crew) that we just “make it 2 inches shorter”. (Tensions run pretty hot when things aren’t working out as you planned.) We managed to shorten it by 1.625. It wasn’t as easy as just “making it shorter”. But the kids got it done.

I had a talk with the drive coach. They had all sorts of reasons why they kept getting penalties. I just tried to impress upon them how serious a penalty is. 30 points…Ugh. The first time that happened should have meant a change in strategy.

So now going into inter-districts they have a working robot and it even has an autonomous program that might score points. It is shorter and strafing doesn’t work as well as when it was longer, but it is back together and working.

The kids actually seem to have come together enough to put together their engineering portfolio, but they haven’t had time to practice their presentation (I don’t think they have written it yet, but progress is progress.

The kid who shows up and got yelled at and the kid who did the yelling yesterday are sitting at a table together talking about pokemon. See…Pokemon bringing the world together 2 kids at a time.

And……The FTC portfolio is submitted! (I wrote this part at 5:45 or so.


The meeting today is going pretty quietly. I’ll try to get some more pictures of progress. If I get them I’ll post them at the top of all of this.

Oh…and a kid on the team rides a ripstik home after meetings. I “borrowed” it and learned how to get along on it without having to hold the walls. It is pretty fun. Might just have to get one to keep myself from getting too involved in the robot part of this.

It is 9:00. Just put my lunch in the microwave. Didn’t get to eat during school because I had to cover for the teacher I tested for Covid yesterday. I normally go out and eat in my car. Can’t take my PAPR off in doors or around any other people. My plan was to eat right after school during homework hour but I also had to cover then because another teacher is out.

Darn it…I think I missed an IEP meeting today.

Sorry all.

I stopped on the way home to one of the other mentors on the team to install a shower door. Those glass doors are heavy. The dogs are going a bit crazy…tomorrow and friday are going to be late nights also. FTC judging

I don’t know how the teams with 70+ kids manage.

Saw the wife for 10 or so minutes before she went to bed. I’ll head to bed myself as soon as I post this…and check some emails…and make sure I graded all the late work…


Enough for now.
Good night all.


FIRST isn’t conducive to exemplifying a good work life balance.

I got to eat lunch today.

All the kids I tested for this Saturday’s competition came back negative. So…all is good.

I wonder if they will switch from requiring unvaccinated to get tested to either not allowing unvaccinated or requiring some sort of application for exemption. The only reason why is the test shortage is hitting our school and they are probably going to start limiting testing at some point until tests come back in stock.

They are already suspending the test to stay for close contacts until further notice…How long before they say they don’t have enough tests to continue testing sports teams. I wonder how many kids are just going to not be able to go to competitions because they couldn’t get a test in time.

The whole thing is turning into a mess…around here.

So…back to FIRST…

FTC judging from 6:30 - 7 tonight
FRC design competition from 6:00 - 8:00 Pacific time Tomorrow…Friday 01/14/21
FTC virtual pits
FTC competition starts at 7:45 on Saturday…

So I’m giving the kids Sunday morning off.


Oh…and we are meeting on Monday…From 10 - 6

I will probably bring the dogs in on Monday. They are pretty good shop dogs…and they help to keep the tinkers distracted and out of the way…though…maybe not because I think we are building field elements…That is always good for the tinkers to tink with.

This afternoon while waiting for / practicing their FTC judging presentation (virtual this year) They took the balls outside and played wall ball/kick ball…It was nice to see them blow off steam and relax a bit. No bad yelling…

The wife wants me to flotest our PAPRs tonight…Can’t forget to do that…

Then again, one of the parents brought us dinner. Looking forward to this brisket sandwich with a side of mac and cheese…not going to complain…Not one little bit. I will wait till I get home

The kids are presenting for judges right now. Some of them talk like robots…Our team is too big though so it really ends up being practice. We’ve debated breaking FTC up into several different teams, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.

One of the kids just gave the most amazing answer to a question. Freaking gold.
She talked about how none of the other schools she has gone to had anything like our robotics team, and how she just came by to check things out and the people were all so nice and inviting. <3 She kept going but you get the point.

So I’m home now. I flow tested the PAPRs. They are both fine. I didn’t walk the dogs, I’m out of bags. (not really a good excuse) Part of the problem with bringing your own bags to the grocery store…Don’t have bags around for cleaning up after the dogs unless I buy them. Guess that is good though because we buy the biodegradable kind. The coffee pot is set for the morning. The wonderful looking brisket sandwich with a side of mac and cheese is heating up in the oven. (not going to ruin this in the microwave…I am going to eat really good tonight.

So back to the original topic. I am most definitely burning the candle at both ends. I’ll get up tomorrow and do yoga before work. And in the morning as I putter around the house getting ready I will repeatedly remind myself that everything is in fact OK and that I am not forgetting anything too important.

I will stop at the grocery store in the morning to buy lunch once again because I haven’t had time to cook the food the wife bought at the grocery store earlier in the week. Hopefully I can cook for the week on Saturday while the kids are competing.

For me…this is a window of healthy that I have no idea when will close. I’m not going to die mind you, at least they don’t think…Things will just suck again for a time before going back to a new normal slightly worse then the last cycle left me. I say that I am at 80% of 80%. I’m past the initial danger zone after the last time, but I really have another year or so before I can relax and figure on getting 5 - 15 years before the next round. If COVID doesn’t take me out in the meantime.

So…my why.

Today when the parents dropped dinner off. The kid whose parents brought the food was so excited. They struggle with interacting with others. Most meetings are spent exploring interacting with other people and studying their responses. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if that was what was written down in their engineering notebook.

“Tried repeating a joke that I heard earlier today. The other people did not laugh and asked me to explain. I repeated the joke. They made laughing noises, but I do not think they were really laughing. Will try again tomorrow.”

So at some point they were all outside throwing the balls around and “having recess.” His phone went off and he started running back and forth shouting “The food is here! The food is here! At the top of his lungs. Then he ran out through the gate to the parking lot. I called after to see if he needed a cart, but he was already gone.

And there it is.

He was so happy to share something with the team. He was so excited.

(Sorry…just took a bite of that brisket sandwich and Oh man!)

I don’t know how long he will remember that moment. But here is what I do know. He will remember this team. Just like the other kid who found a welcoming place, or the kid who showed up and got yelled at. Or the kid who is in charge of team spirit. And a lifetime from now they will look back on this time and think they won the whole thing, or that they lost the whole thing, and either way they will look back on it with fondness.

The time before last when I got sick, a student asked if I was going to die. At the time I wasn’t sure. But here it is. It didn’t matter. If I died tomorrow I would die smiling thinking about how excited that kid was about bringing food to the team. I would die happily knowing that a kid for a time found a place to be. Knowing how many lives FIRST has allowed me to be a part of.

So…I do it. I wonder if I am doing harm, teaching a kid to not take care of themself when they get older and have too much on their plate…

I hope I am doing more good than harm.

Ok…Sorry if the blog got too morbid and personal. ( Oh man this sandwich is good) If you would like to participate in our design competition tomorrow we will be live streaming it. We will be trying to read out the comments as part of the stream.

We will also be posting links to google forms for voting.

6PM - 8PM pacific time.

Ok. Enough for now.


Ok…Dinner is here. Parent bought burgers…Looks really good again. The design competition starts in 45 minutes. FTC judging followups are in a little over an hour and the youngest member of our team, (7) just told me all about Koalas. They want to be a veterinarian who specializes in Koalas when they grow up.

Not a bad goal all in all.

I think of this will work. The video production kids are awesome and helping us out.

Sorry today’s post is so short. Won’t be posting tomorrow, but I should be back on Sunday.

Here is a link to the design competition youtube stream.

Wish us all luck.

Enough for now.



That was awesome. Thank you to everyone who popped in and gave us feedback.

1 Like

This is fine:

I ended up writing this over a few different days. I am sorry if it is discombobulated.

First, the links:

The design presentations:


I don’t know how to feel about the past few days.

So…Going back to Friday. Getting ready for the FTC competition on Saturday, I tested all of the unvaccinated kids on Thursday. All came back negative. I tested 1 vaccinated kid whose parent “just wanted to make sure”. Negative…I sent a test kit home with one of the mentors whose son needed a negative test in order to return to college on Friday. He tested positive. His brother, one of the vaccinated kids on the team is symptomatic, but they had to send his test out and it may be back today (Sunday) but they probably won’t hear until tuesday. So…I’m down a mentor and at least 1 kid, and several kids on the team are “out sick” but untested at this point, and I’m not sure that we will test them…Just stay home for 5 - 10 days I guess.

Friday the district decided they were running low enough on rapid tests that they are using the slower method that they have to send out to a lab. They are also not necessarily testing vaccinated kids who are asymptomatic. So…One kid on the team is vaccinated and symptomatic, and his brother is positive, but his girlfriend, who is also on the team and vaccinated, was not tested.

I strongly considered pulling the team from the FTC competition on Saturday.

We met the rules to attend, but we also were taking a risk given how closely all of the kids on the team interact with each other…

So…after reaching out to FIRST and talking with the board, we decided to let the kids who met the requirements go to the competition. Our school Nurse figures that most of the teams are probably in the same situation anyway.

I am so glad that we let them go. The team did really well! Not sure how things went with the robot, but from everything I heard the team held together and everyone got along. They were chosen for an alliance and they held together really well as a team. Even got recognized as runner up for an award. (I think that is because our team is too big and we are ineligible for awards, but I can’t be certain of that.

All in all Saturday was a good day for the team.

I started writing this yesterday, but I sort of ran out of time and life…

So…It is the next day. One of the kids who has a brother who is covid positive but tested negative himself yesterday just came in. And here is the issue. Two of the other kids on the team immediately walked over and hugged him. It is probably fine…But…if we are socially distancing then we need to not hug each other.

So…here is where I am.

I am trying pretty hard to not…Some of them are waiting for me to give in. Don’t do it! I did it a little bit…I CADDed the swerve drive base. But that is it! I’m not “helping” any more. I’m going to be good and just work on this blog and my youtube channel.

I realized what it was about today. It was that the kids were all doing the things that they like to or feel comfortable doing, and not the things that needed to get done.

So one kid…We’ll call then Jack just so we have a name to use…they really likes to build stuff. So…They spent the past two days building the drive train. They were supposed to be working on blocking out the CADD model so we could assign people subsystems. So, while having a working drive train is helpful when it comes to prototyping and the like, having a blocked out CADD model is more useful because then everyone can start working on solving problems and making progress.

Another kid…We’ll use Jill for this one, really likes programming. So…Instead of leading a group of kids in assembling the drive base, they left it to Jack and focused on programming…On their own.

The kid we are calling Jack did periodically yell over to the two kids who were trying to CADD, but didn’t have enough information to go off of and weren’t really about looking things up in the manual, about how we could put a part here in this spot, or over there in that spot, sort of vaguely holding things in different places in the air in the general vicinity of the drivetrain, ignoring the fact that we didn’t really know anything about what might be in any of those spots at all because we still haven’t blocked out the robot.

I keep forgetting just how green this team is. So many of them just don’t get it yet. Hopefully they will.

Mr. Thayer made some serious progress building field elements. They have most of one part of the hub built, and in the least they have it cut out.

The tinkers really want to build the model of the terminal despite the fact that our robot is designed to floor load and won’t really be taking anything directly from it. Thayer left it up to them what they wanted to build, so I can look forward to that thing taking up a huge chunk of real estate in my classroom.

In the least they were kept busy.

In the end we had a block model of the robot that a few kids can understand. The drive base is assembled, it needs electronics in order to drive on its own, but something is there…And we have part of a few different subsystems and a prototype ball elevator started.

We also made progress on a cart that a physics teacher asked us to make for them to ride on.

I didn’t do too much…and…the kids were happy.

Now…About Saturday for me…not the kids.

It is Monday night, pushing 11 PM, and I got everything I needed to done this weekend, but Saturday…It was the only day I will get for a while, and I spent the whole day feeling like I was wasting it.

I wanted to go Kayaking because I won’t really get another opportunity to for a while. There was a tsunami warning though so the wife and I decided against it. I didn’t get any grading done. I didn’t get any robotics work done, or any planning. I didn’t even get any editing done for my YouTube channel. Instead I sat around watching TV for a while, then I went up to school and made a stand for a steering wheel so I could play Forza Horizon 5 from the comfort of my couch. When I got back I drove around virtually for a few hours before packing it all up.

Picture of my setup:

I’m not even good at the game.

So…the sad part is, I feel guilty about the whole thing. I feel guilty about not being more productive, and for not relaxing more. All this week every time I am scrounging to get something done last minute I will think back on Saturday and wish I hadn’t wasted the day. For the next month and change every time I’m driving to work and see glass like water and interesting colors in the sky I will wish that I had gone out on the water on Saturday.

For the next who knows how long, every time something isn’t enough I’ll look back on Saturday and think…Well…If only.

And…I have to remember…The kids today…for the most part, left with smiles on their faces.

10 years from now they will look back on this and think it was the best time of their lives. They will remember it as being a part of something way bigger than themselves.

So…for now…It is enough.

Alright…enough for now.



I need to remember.

Last night I got to have a quick convo with the wife before she went off to bed. I was going off about something the kids did or another. She patiently reminded me that we are in the middle of a global pandemic and this is the first time the kids have tried to do anything like this. She reminded me that the kids are living in a world where going to competitions isn’t a sure thing. Where going to school isn’t a sure thing. And they are doing the best they can.

This morning’s yoga practice ended with the gesture of no fear, one hand giving and the other receiving. Not sure if that is a real thing or not, but this morning it spoke to me.

I need to remember that it will get done. Maybe not as well or as quickly as I might like, but it will in fact happen. All of the problems will get solved…One way or another, and really we need to accept help and offer help and be open to both possibilities.

And here is a hard truism about FIRST. I’ve got a team that is struggling to get anything done, and another team just posted a 5 ball autonomous during week 2. It is really hard to remember that we are not those teams, and to celebrate our accomplishments instead of measuring ourselves against some of the greatest FIRST teams on the planet…It is hard to hold that thought in one hand, while simultaneously wanting to be one of the greatest FIRST teams on the planet.

Then again, we chose our path a long time ago, and it isn’t having a 5 ball auto in week 2. I’m not saying that is an easy thing to do, or something we could even think about tackling, more that if FIRST was an RPG game like dungeons and dragons, we would have put all of our character’s points into charisma.

So Today was a good day. The kids ended up spending the first 45 minutes working on awards. It was good to have them do that, and we are going to make that a regular Tuesday thing. Then they paired up, each group working through CADDing and communicating. At one point one of the kids started telling another group how to CADD the electronics box, but they quickly backed down when they realized that they didn’t necessarily know any more than anyone else did on the subject, and they had their own issues to solve and things to work on.

I worked with one of the kids to design and CADD the intake mechanism. We ended up ordering a set of 2.25 inch mecanum wheels to help guide balls towards the center of the robot.

The kids on the team actually wrote things down in their notebooks!

Some of the kids may prototype the ball elevator tomorrow.

Fingers crossed.

A number of kids were out today. No sign of where they went or if everything is OK. I told the kids they needed to reach out to each other and make sure everyone on the team is OK. I need to do that too.

Ok…sorry this one is so short.

Enough for now.



In this picture the wheels are sitting ½ inch lower than they were originally.

Encountering other human beings is the smoothest way to reshaping one’s own dreams.

Oh man. A friend from art school posted this on Facebook this morning and it hit me way too hard.

In a way I see it like the meme about only being able to say 3 words to your 18 year old self and asking…what would you say. I see two types of response, people trying to warn themselves away from or to hang on to something they regret, and people telling themselves everything would be alright.

I oscillate back and forth between a number of different stances on that one. Saying anything would mean risking the life that I currently have. Maybe things worked out in the best possible way. Maybe I’m happier than I would ever have been had I made different choices in the past. But there are also times when I think, what if I had…

What if.

Today we started off our meeting by watching the Robonauts reveal of their everybot, low resource robot. Yes…We are totally stealing the climber idea, only probably modifying it by adding two short throw 2 inch diameter pistons to the bottom so that we don’t have to slam into the bar in order to climb, possibly dislodging another robot.

Basically it gives us options that we wanted, but didn’t already have.

I also discovered that our frame sits way too low to the ground. I brought it up. One of the kids contradicted me and told me that I was wrong and that there are no obstacles on the field…I didn’t want to push it…I figured I would let them figure it out on their own.

I worked with 2 kids to CADD an intake. Hopefully I had the wherewithal to post a picture at the top.

A couple other kids worked on field elements with Mr. Thayer, and a couple kids worked on building a human sized cart for one of the physics teachers to use for demonstrations. I’m hoping that can be done and delivered by the end of tomorrow’s meeting.

Another thing crossed my mind.

Our team didn’t learn what chief delphi is until our 4th year? I’m thinking the year with the mini bots. Our first year was the year with the moon rocks. I remember kids talking about how to simplify our minibot. They got it down to a switch with magnets and wheels. It actually worked pretty brilliantly. That was also the first year we used CADD to design our robot. We may have had Mecanum wheels that year also? Can’t remember…but I somehow think so.

This year’s robot makes me a little bit nervous. I am worried that we are going to figure out all too late that we built the wrong robot. Of course we will figure that out when we get to competition, or watch other team’s reveal what they have come up with.

I am also worried that it is going to be too heavy. Might need to pair some things down now to save ourselves some trouble later.

When I got home the wife was already in bed. She was watching star trek surrounded by cats. She has a sleep disorder and needs a lot more sleep than most people. I am sort of the opposite in that respect.

Today was a good day. Today was a tiring day.

Enough for now.



Story Time:

A bunch of years ago our team had some part on it that required using some weird combination of tools to work on. I don’t remembre the year, or what it was. I’m thinking something like logo-motion, so 2011? Maybe even later than that. It was after we started having our official mentors volunteer at events and just leaving the kids with 1 our parents taking turns standing near the pit. I was walking by and the kids were tearing the pit apart looking for something.

It turned out that they were looking for that “special” thing they needed in order to fix that special part on the robot, and they had a really quick turn around between matches.

They didn’t find it in time, and had to drag their non-functioning robot out onto the field. I feel like they just sat it in the corner and our drive team danced around for the 2-3 minutes waiting for the match to be over.

There was this dad whose kid was on the team. I was walking by after they left to go out to their match and he pulled me aside. He laughed and said…”That thing they were looking for…It was right here the whole time.” (lifting a coat on top of one of the tool boxes) “I watched one of them put their coat down on top of it. Guess that will teach them to keep their pit clean and organized huh…”

Why am I bringing this up now?

Last night I was thinking about something that happened at yesterday’s meeting.

I don’t know why, but I was looking through the rule book looking for any obstacles that are on the field. I remembered hearing or reading about something that robots could get stuck on, but I couldn’t remember what it was. I checked the Arena pages first looking at the carpet under the hanger…But a picture sort of stood out, right there at the top of page 4 of the arena section (fig 5-4).

Our robot is using the MKII swerve drive modules from SwerveDriveSpecialties mounted to a KOP frame. This is all perfectly great, until you look at where the KOP gearboxes are supposed to sit. These are on the inside of the frame and difficult to see. They currently sit 3/8ths of an inch off of our robot’s assembly table.

So yesterday at the beginning of the meeting I pointed that out to the kids. I layed out some different options they have for addressing the issue and was going to leave it at that, but a kid on the team interrupted me to tell me how wrong I was.

The thing is, I disagree with the dad in the above story. The kids would probably have learned just as much if he had shown them where they went wrong, and explained exactly why it was important for them to be more careful moving forward.

I think about all the times that I had a hard lesson to learn growing up. I remembered the times when an adult pulled my feet out of the fire instead of letting me get burned.

I don’t want to be that type of person to the kids. I want to extend grace where I can. I know that wasn’t the last time we had to ask them to clean up the pit, or to leave their coats and backpacks in the stands.

I wonder what would have happened had I not said anything about the cable protection. The kids would have learned a whole lot after their robot high centered itself on the gearbox flange the first time. I can just imagine them taking an angle grinder with a cutoff wheel to the frame, the robot tipped up on its back…trying to figure out how much cutting that thing off was going to affect things. I wonder how many matches they would miss over it.

I wonder if they know this is the sort of stuff mentors lose sleep over.

It is tomorrow morning.

I fell asleep without finishing or posting this. I actually fell asleep listening to a book on tape and woke up near the end. Luckily I don’t remember any of it so I can rewind and listen through without things being ruined.

Yesterday’s meeting was good. One of our CADD kids was not there and our most senior kid on the team is in covid quarantine. Younger sister tested positive. I hope they are ok. It is going through our school like wildfire…An administrator let us know at our Wednesday meeting that 25% of our kids are out at the moment, and they are hoping if we keep up this rate that all of them will have had it in the next few weeks. They are going with the “let it wash through” plan. Part of what I wonder is if they realize that for every kid who is actually out with covid there are a bunch who are just out because they are close contacts…

We have a bond measure in the next election. Maybe sanity will return once that is over with.

So…Yesterday we continued working on CADD. The Cadd kids who were there were pretty good about it. They at least had a couple people looking over their shoulders. I worked on the climbing hooks with a few students. Not sure how we are going to pull that one off btw.

Going with a dual hook system that can climb from the low or mid level so we can maximize our utility in that department. A more difficult multi-level climb would be nice, but wasn’t in the community’s plans for us for this year.

No meeting today, though I am still taking care of some robot stuff…Dropping off 16 mostly there EV3 kits to a friend from another school down in Seattle. My class is moving up to the SPIKE Primes and I need to liberate some space in my classroom. Things are pretty tight in there as is. I have a small CNC milling machine that we have used in the past for making brackets that I need to get down there also, but there is only so much room in the wife’s car.

Alright…Enough for now.



The General Sense of Unease

Pre-reworked wiring:

In process rewiring:

The physics cart:

The start of the dump bucket:

CADD of the climber:

The climber on the robot:

Extended for mid level climb:

So…I started writing this on Monday and didn’t finish it. I didn’t get to write over the weekend,though I think I had several false starts on that front. Here is another one…I’ll leave it in there for the sake of openness.

[stale post from monday]

Can I start off by saying that I feel like Friday’s Dr. Appointment was a wasted opportunity? Not really given that it actually did take the whole day. Left the house before 8AM and didn’t get home until after 8 PM. Sort of got screwed by Covid on that one.

See…The ferry is down to one boat. (Our team is located on an island that is normally about an hour north of Seattle. Because the ferry has a labor shortage they have eliminated sailings on almost all of their routes. This means either waiting in a long line for the boat, or driving up and around to the bridge adding 1.5 hours to the trip. So…It was a bit more than an hour wait getting off of the island, and a more than 3 hour wait to get back on.

I did manage to let my wife take care of a few things. She wanted to go to a few second hand sporting goods stores in order to look for a new snowboard, and she also dropped off donuts at her sisters’ houses. (Don’t worry…I picked up donuts for myself as well.)

The time with my wife was nice, though she slept through a lot of it in the car, but I still left the day feeling like I somehow didn’t get enough done, or didn’t take advantage of not being at work for a day despite the fact that I wasn’t at work because I had a full day already planned. I suppose I could have also stopped at TAP Plastics on the way home…

Now…with the team there is something that I don’t know how to handle.

Well…I know how I am handling it, but maybe you could help me out a bit for the future.

The kids continue doing things they are comfortable with, instead of things that need to be done. For example, We have very few kids on the team who are capable of CADDing parts for the robot. One of our Cadders spent the entirety of CADD week designing a box, while one of our other capable CADD kids sat next to him, seeming to just wait until he was done. Not really sure if any advice or help was given, but it was really hard to watch two of my more skilled CADD kids tied up completing a task that should have been relatively easy to do.

I invited the second kid to work on designing/CADDIng the climbing mechanism while I worked with a few kids on the ball elevator, and I think there was a start to the work, but it was quickly abandoned in favor of cutting out the parts of the box which ended up getting bent in the wrong order necessitating starting over. So…in a week two of our best CADD kids designed 2 boxes.

Our third CADD kid instead focused on getting the drive base assembled. Which was necessary, but could have been completed by a number of other kids on the team.

The displaced assemblers ended up working on building a cart for a physics teacher at the high school, and riding it up and down the hallway to “check to make sure it went straight”. I get it, they are waiting for the design work to get done so that they can get to making parts, and instead of just waiting, they found something productive to do.

So…Here is the problem.

During the second week we work to refine the design directives the community gave us. I try to get the kids to solve all of the bigger problems digitally and on paper so we can have a clean looking well thought out robot that everyone can understand. In the past we have had a CADD team working to work out all of the various problems and finalize an actual design, but we just don’t have enough willing CADD kids. The kids who do have the capability seem to shy away from the harder problems. The climbing mechanism is one of those problems.

So…I spent Saturday working on CADDing the ball elevator with a couple of the students. It was nice, and we worked out various problems using our engineering notebooks. I was willing to do the actual CADD side of things because they were as involved in the process as they were capable of being.

On Sunday…One student sat with me and we worked together to CADD the climbing mechanism. I projected my screen on the big TV in the front, and other kids periodically looked over to see what we were working on…Most ignored the process all together. Most of the kids did things that they were comfortable doing instead of trying to do any of the things that actually need to get done. They fell back on me to do the work, but for the most part didn’t really hold up their end of the bargain.

But…the damage is already done isn’t it.

And there it is. I’ve answered, or partially answered my own question haven’t I. I have the competing desires to see them have a successful season, but I struggle to define what success is.

It is difficult to decide where there is too much intervention on my part and not enough on theirs.

[/stale post from Monday]

Part of why posting was so difficult over the past few days is because i”ve been sucked into things in ways that I probably shouldn’t have been. Yesterday was a great example of that.

One of the kids on the team has been trying to get our drive base up and running. Realistically this shouldn’t be so hard because they had it working before they took it all apart before putting it back together again with a few modifications. As for wiring, he was just sort of putting wires in places. I think a lot of it was grabbing whatever wire sort of fit the bill from the electronics cabinet and going with it. (I really need to throw a bunch of that old wire away.) CAN wires were all sorts of different colors, Power wires were all different lengths and just all over the place…

So I asked him to take a bunch of team members and redo the wiring. The instruction was for him to keep his hands in his pockets, and tell them what to do. They were supposed to try to make it look nice and do the wiring in different levels. So…Normally (when working on robots of my own) I do, power then signal, keeping everything nice and as organized as possible as I go…

Another kid on the team really likes to push people’s buttons. Started interrupting asking questions that didn’t really need to be asked at that time. He made it impossible for the kid trying to do the teaching to teach. The kid trying to do the teaching stormed out.

So…I had to step in. The kid who was pushing the buttons went off to go do what he originally wanted to be doing. The kid who was supposed to be teaching wouldn’t come back in, and the kids who were supposed to be learning were just there…trying to do their best.
First I went outside to try and talk to the kid who stormed out. He was justified in being angry, and I also assured him I would talk with the kid who was pushing buttons.

Then I had to go and help the kids who had been left to their own devices when it came to wiring. I had them start by pulling all of the wires out, and we worked running wires much more carefully. It was slow, but went OK. In the end we didn’t actually get very far because we actually took our time with the process and made sure each connection was good before moving on. Because I was doing that I didn’t get to put in the order for parts that we need to get in, or work on writing this.

Just like CADDing the climbing mechanism with little help from the team. 1 student struggling to think through a problem while I show them how I would go about CADDing a solution is way different than 4 or 5 working out the math in their engineering notebooks and telling me what to enter and what to put where.

It goes from being their design, to being my interpretation of their design.

Different teams have different levels of mentor involvement. On our team mentors are allowed to get their hands as dirty or keep their hands as clean as they think is appropriate. My key belief is that the kids should be learning no matter what.

Over the past couple of days I think I taught them the wrong lessons. Maybe…

Did I teach them that giving up when things are hard is OK?

I asked them to figure out the climbing mechanism, and I asked one of the more experienced CADD kids to start CADDIng it…they didn’t and instead waited until I did if for them.

I asked a more experienced kid to A) clean up the wiring, and B) teach the other kids what to do and how the setup works. That didn’t happen either, and I ended up doing the teaching part myself…Looking at the CADD and the robot, I did way more of the CADD work than I maybe feel comfortable with, and I am not sure they learned much of anything from it. (By learning anything I mean, how to solve a problem that may or may not be difficult to solve.

A much bigger problem:

My team is a bit more divided than I would like and it is starting (has been for a while) a problem. The kids are dividing up into camps, and it is all turning into a way bigger problem than it should ever have been allowed to grow into.

On the one side there is the kid who yells at other kids, the kid who pokes people’s buttons, and other kids who they are and were friends with before coming to and outside of the team. That group can have or show a very clean cut exterior which lends to the problem. A number of them are in band, and they take a lot of honors/AP classes. On the other side, the kid who I asked to teach people about wiring, and their friends, a number of whom are less clean cut, rougher around the edges, less likely to be taking honors and AP classes if at all.

So why did I mention the kids exterior appearance? Because some of the adults around the team don’t see past the exterior veneer. Which means when there are problems, the roughly exteriored kids get the bulk of the blame.

A few adults around the team despite repeated talkings to and invitations to see things otherwise come down on the kids who are rough around the edges, and ignore the behavior of the kids who have more polished exteriors. This further fuels the problem, the polished kids feeling like they are both correct in the things that they are doing, and punishing the kids who are rough around the edges for simply being who they always were.

I’ll need to work on that one.

As for today? Some good things happened. The kids worked on awards for a while, Some kids cut out some parts. Some kids learned how to do anderson connectors. Some wiring was done really improperly and will need to get done again tomorrow. (that part is getting tiring, and some kids decorated boxes for a blanket drive we are hosting for our local homeless shelters.

One of the newer kids worked on making the parts for the dump bucket while being coached by another kid on the team. All in all they did well.

Sorry if this reads like another pity party. Things honestly aren’t that bad…I just need to keep an eye on them and work to get out of the way more.

Alright…It is not exactly late, but late enough that I think I can end this one here.

Enough for now.



I really enjoy these posts and this thread - comes across very raw. Also reads like a gritty noir detective speaking which is fun.

At my day job, we begin every meeting discussing whatever the leadership fundamental of the week is. One that speaks to me regarding your last post is:

#21- Appreciate differences. Listen for and pay attention to the things that make people different. Everyone has a special and unique purpose, gifting, skill-set, and perspective. Leverage your differences for even greater total team success.

Questions for consideration
What’s a good neighbor to you?
Are you a good neighbor?
What types of risks, issues, and pitfalls could you help your team-mates avoid?
What best practices do you have that you could share with your team-mates?
Why is sharing these things with your team-mates important to your own growth and success?
How should you go about giving someone a head’s up?
How should you go about receiving a head’s up from someone?
How do you feel when someone gives you a genuine and sincere head’s up?
How can practicing this fundamental have a positive impact on your team relationships?
How can you and your team-mates use this fundamental to strengthen your team?
What things might prevent people from practicing this fundamental?

Consider starting each of your meetings with a group discussion over one or two of these prompts. “Encourage” everyone (Students and Mentors) to participate in the discussion. I believe it could be a low time investment - but high value exercise for your team.


This! I bet many mentors feel this way, this year.


This is our season right now. My team captain is designing an update to our battery mount. We were looking at the old robots last night, one of them has a pair of angle brackets with some slots for velcro. I asked how long he thought it took to design… His first answer was one week, my counterpoint was 15 minutes.

What I didn’t get into in that conversation was that we are out of practice at making snap design decisions to get a stake in the ground and start the improvement process. The situation is a reflection of habits and experiences, not innate capability. He is innately capable of making a design, and eventually making a design quickly, But I forgot to say that out loud and I hope that he isn’t forgetting it.

We almost have a drive-base in CAD…