Team 2980 2023 Open Source Thread

Ok…Hmmmm…Where to start.

Today we did things a little differently than we historically have. Instead of going to a kick-off, we hosted our own. A few parents came in at 6:45 and made the kids breakfast. They all ate together in the staff lounge, and then we went up to the robotics lab and watched the kick-off. They actually sat attentively through the speeches before the game animation with very little talking…

The game? It is really hard because a number of the kids pretty much immediately started acting as though they already had it all figured out. It is going to be really hard to keep them from insisting on running with their first ideas over the next week. Really it won’t matter because the parents/community are the ones who have the final say over our design.

I am really hoping that I get a few kids who are really into looking deeper into this game. I mean kids who will spend a bit more time on Chief Delphi getting a feel for what other teams/people are thinking and hopefully take my team out of its own heads.

My thoughts on the game? I am really unsure with this one. I’m reminded of 2011 mixed with 2012? Maybe a little recycle rush thrown in for good measure?

I am thinking of the semi-rigid game piece placement structure and multiple types of game pieces 2011

Balancing 2012

and large safe zones Recycle Rush?

Not sure though because teams will have to cross the field in order to load game pieces.

Thinking allowed here: Some teams could be runners that go get the game pieces while others focus on placing. Smaller bots will be better suited to fitting multiple robots on the charge station. I wonder about robots using a tail or something to hold the charge station in a known state until all of the robots have driven on and then releasing it to get the balance?

I am sure some team is thinking of using their battery as a counter weight. A quick look through the manual didn’t turn anything up, but I literally just did a search for “battery” .

I sort of wonder which one of my kiddos will suggest mounting the battery on an arm on top of the robot and swinging it back and forth to balance the robot. I should probably delete the above to make sure they don’t get the idea from reading this blog.

As the kids have more ideas I’ll try to post more info and ideas.

enough for now,



Off to a good start…Off to a slow start…Off to some sort of start.

One of the problems with this year’s game is that the kids are struggling to see the problems with this year’s game. As the kids are sitting with their various design groups, I keep hearing kids say things like, “Well you just…” and “Oh…just drive faster.” Worse is the “Well, if this, this, this, this, this, and this happen, then we should be able to…”

A few times while volunteering managing practice fields at various events I’ve seen teams doing the things above after “building the wrong robot”. (my team has built the wrong robot several times in the past. What I mean by that is building a robot that is either not at all suited to the game at hand, or has some fatal flaw that makes it non-operational in a competition setting.) There was this one team, I forget the game, but basically they had their robot set up so that if the game piece fell into a certain spot and landed in a certain orientation perfectly, then they could pick it up with their manipulator and score a goal. So they came out to the practice field, and a kid on the team kept moving the game pieces from where they were to that perfect orientation.

Some of my kids are talking this way about the cones. “well, we should have our human player practice dropping cones so that they always land standing up.” “If a cone falls crooked we can come up with a way to plow it into the low goal.” “We are just going to get cones off of the sliding shelf and ignore the other feeder stations or cones placed on the ground.”

On the other extreme they have a 4 DOF robot arm with a pneumatic gripper on a swivel so that the driver can floor load cones in any orientation.

While I am not saying that these things aren’t possible, I am certain they absolutely are, I am also not positive they have completely thought through the ramifications of trying to use a 4 DOF wobbly arm from however many feet away the other side of the arena is.

The other thing I am seeing is kids going with last year’s drive base Swerve mounted on a KOP frame, or going with a frame that I drew in about 30 seconds based on a glance at one of the RI3d robots. There is very little thought of what could be vs what currently is.

Yes, we can build last year’s drive base quickly, but it probably isn’t right for this year’s competition. Coming up with, or thinking beyond the immediate is difficult, but we also need to be able to take on that challenge.

Hope springs eternal.

On a more human note I am starting to get to know them. COVID really did a number on our team. This group…They went around the room the other day, each one saying how long they had been on the team and what they were looking forward to. Some of them have been connected with the team for 8 or more years! Pretty cool…That said, they have always been in a position where the older kids did things for them. I don’t mean the older kids built their robots, but they have very little idea how much I rely on the older more experience kids on the team for things like managing team business, or coordinating events. Kids on the team used to communicate with the public on a regular basis to schedule outreach events or coordinate special projects. Hopefully we can grow back to that point. Fingers are crossed.

Today I am going to take them into the woodshop and have each team design something to prototype that they think they will have difficulty describing/explaining to the community. I’m hoping that this helps them out. So… here is to 2 days of prototyping…



I’m a huge fan of this thread every year. Glad to see that it’s back.

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It is too early in the season for this, but I am already staring at a broken machine.

Every year our team divides up into three different groups for the first week after kickoff. Each group designs a robot for that year’s game, and then the community, NAVY volunteers, teachers and other staff, admin, parents, and sponsors meet in the school library and vote on what the team should build.

This year is a bit different in that due to COVID, most of the kids on the team were at best, in a following position on a design team in year’s past. Last year sort of counts, but somehow not really. They basically made a larger version of our 2020 robot with swerve.

So…This year they are really supposed to be leading the new kids and we are seeing mixed results.

Yesterday I asked the teams to spend 2 days in the woodshop prototyping things that they thought the community would really benefit from seeing. Basically making quick and dirty things that they can use to show the community that their ideas will work.

So…one of the kids asked to use the laser cutter to cut some gears out of acrylic for making a prototype gripper.

Now here is where there was a complete breakdown of oversite, and I need to accept that the ultimate responsibility for this falls on my shoulders. I should have made sure that the kid in question actually new what they were doing or insisted that someone else who actually new what they were doing did the cutting. Another mentor accompanied the kid down to the laser, but the kid waved them off saying that he knew what he was doing and everything would be fine.

Well…he didn’t.

I came in a little while later to see how things were going. The automatic table was all the way down, he had the cutting bed out of the laser, and had a can of WD-40 close at hand.

So…what I am pretty sure happened…

The kid has extensive experience using the wazer waterjet in the next room. When setting up the wazer you lower the cutting head until it is in contact with a spacer to set the height, and then you home the laser from there.

I would guess he tried to do the same thing with the lazer, only there is no spacer, only the autofocus probe.

So…He slammed the probe into the table, and then tried to home the laser dragging the probe across the bed.

This probably made a horrific sound, so he then lowered the bed only to find that it wouldn’t go back up again because the probe is completely jammed and looks a little bent.

He then probably kept lowering the bed bit by bit trying to get it to come back up again, not knowing what he had done.

What he says happened?

First he said, “It just went down and wouldn’t come up again.”

I asked him what he did, and he said, “Well…all I did was home the laser, and the bed just went down and wouldn’t come back up again.”

And…that is the most he will admit to.

According to him, nothing else happened…He didn’t do anything else. nothing hit anything else, he has no idea how it broke. Maybe the last person to use it broke it and didn’t say anything. (I was the last person to use the machine btw, and his description of events so didn’t happen that it undid things that actually did.)

So…I checked with full spectrum and the only solution is to replace the probe at a cost of $250. :frowning: I can try using a probe from Amazon for ~$45 but I have no way of knowing if that will actually work.

The other question that I doubt I will get an answer to is if he actually sprayed wd-40 into the machine anywhere. Not even sure what his plan was for getting it out in the first place.

So…Why am I really mad? I’m not mad that he broke the machine. it is annoying, and a total hassle, but really in the end doesn’t matter too much. For me, the problem comes down to honesty. I can’t trust him. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened, and every time he just denies everything.

Again, this comes down to me and poor leadership. I shouldn’t have let a kid use a machine that I wasn’t 100% certain they actually new how to use. (One problem is our school district doesn’t have a written test for things like the laser cutter. Kids are supposed to watch a mentor demonstration and then do their first few cuts under observation. It is the same for the 3d printers.)

Perhaps I am going to have to change things…

As for the prototyping, one group actually watched this video that I posted in the google classroom: [3200 Cone Retriever System - YouTube](https://youtube video of an automated cone picker upper) Who knows, maybe they will listen?

Nah…who am I kidding.

Ok…enough for now.



So…I’m all messed up today. See…I have my clothes lined up in my closet…One outfit for every day of the week. This being the first week of build season though I got confused. I wore Tuesday’s clothes on Monday, and Wednesday’s close on Tuesday. Now I’m wearing Monday’s clothes on Wednesday. Probably should have gotten my yoga workout in this morning because this is going to bother me all day.

On another note, I managed to fix the laser cutter. The focus offset probe’s cone was pretty badly squished at the end where the probe comes out and a little bit bent. I managed to ream it out and fiddle it back in line enough that it doesn’t snag on the plunger anymore. Go me?

Had a talk with the kid. Still hasn’t admitted to anything but did admit that having expensive machines constantly break when he uses them is a problem. Also admitted that he needs to go get help when things initially go wrong instead of trying to figure things out on his own and breaking them worse…Again though, it is fixed so…Now I just need to find a way to fix the kid.

I’ll try to post more information about the different design ideas either later today or tomorrow. So far this has been more of a stream of conscience blog than anything else.

So…what do I want to see in our robot this year? I’ve been thinking about this and struggling a lot. I can see a number of ways that a person could do a lot of things fairly reliably if you give up on floor loading, but then I think that would limit our potential for future growth…Something I want to test today is how cones behave on carpet…I don’t think they will slide around the way they do on concrete and I worry that we will be in for a huge surprise.

So…the three teams.

  • 2 of the teams are planning on loading from the sliding shelf. One using the same mechanism they plan to use to deploy cones. I think it uses a vacuum on a stick? I’m not sure how the other one is doing it.

  • 1 of the teams wants to use a semi complicated floor lift system. Not sure that I am happy with that. Really though it isn’t up to me…More of how much of a headache is it going to turn into when the community selects it.

I sort of think a middle ground might be viable. something that can either catch cones/bubes (ball cubes) dropped from the slide on the substation or fold down to scoop up cones or balls, the cones would be in a semi random configuration which might be problematic, but the main point for that would be to score in the low goal, or, to manipulate the cone ones it is already in your possession on your way back to scoring, but that again might end up being so complicated that it isn’t really worth doing…

As for placing the things?

I think most of the groups are planning on a linear slide device mounted at a ~45% angle. Not sure if they are going for the top of the grid, but I believe they are for the most part. I think one group is planning on using a piston to change that angle, while the other groups are planning on having a fixed angle. key though is that one of the groups is planning on having their acquisition device, a 2-3 DOF gripper also be what they use for placement.

Did I mention that one group is planning on using vacuums?

I believe the vacuum device is also supposed to be articulated in some way.

Ok…I’ll try to get either pictures or some better descriptions of different design ideas to add to this either later today or tomorrow.

Enough for now though.



Ok…Design competition is in about 2.5 hours.

Yesterday we had a bit of a freak out when we figured out that all three teams had designed what is essentially the same robot. The community doesn’t like that because then they don’t have a real choice in the matter. I don’t like it because it shows a severe lack of creativity on the part of the kids. So…

The main differences between the robots?

  1. Minor differences in drive base frames. 2 use the KOP drive train modified so that they mount swerve modules in the corners. Looking at something like 24 * 28 inches in order to facilitate a triple balance.

One of them uses 1by2 aluminum square tube with the modules mounted from underneath.

As for game piece manipulation, 1 uses an active funnel to funnel cones into where the gripper is. That one is supposed to be able to also get cones from the single Substation by having them slide down into the funnel.

I’ve been trying to get pictures and stuff posted but I can’t figure it out at the moment…

Here is a link to the design competition:


So…the community decided…Sort of. Ended up going to a coin toss in order to get them out on time. Probably would have stuck it out all night if I let them. It didn’t exactly get intense, but people got pretty grounded in their thinking of what was good vs what was bad.

A couple former team members ended up on opposing sides. One was a little more honest in their reasoning, but in order to not put my finger on the scale I mostly resisted pushing back, but some of the arguments were pretty dubious at best.

What they had to choose between?

1 of the robots collected cones from the shelf using 8020 linear slides.
2 of the robots could only floor load.
One had a fancy intake thing that got the cones into a specific orientation based on cone picker upper. The hard part is, that group didn’t tell the community that that picker upper was active, in that the front part moves in order to get the cones to flip over. (semi active) which would most likely require driver intervention as they drove over a cone.

The third robot has more of a passive cone funnel that gets the cone into 1 of 2 states. Then a gripper at the end of an arm that picks up the cones and flips them so the wide part is on the bottom. The arm drags the cones through the robot and extends out the back to place the cones after the intake comes in…Or at least that is the case hypothetically.

That is what the audience chose. They also wanted the fancy cone picker upper thing based on the video, and I’m not sure we will be able to deliver that one. The kids really started working through that seriously on Sunday/Monday.

So, our robot will have an active funnel style cone, feeding an arm that passes back through the robot. The intake funnel will lift up before the arm extends out the back placing either a cone or a cube…or at least that is the current goal…

Hopefully I’ll have block CADD or something to show for it pretty soon.

As for the team…The community told them what we were doing on Friday Night. Saturday started with a bit of a rebellion. Some of the kids were unhappy with the communities choice and felt that the community didn’t have all of the information they needed…(um…that was their job wasn’t it?) They complained thinking that the community was wrong…What if we just build the other one and tell the community that they made a mistake later…A whole bunch of what ifs.

They started using math to try and prove that the communities plan wouldn’t work…

I put my foot down. Hopefully if I’m wrong and the robot is a complete failure the kids can blame me.

I’m pretty sure they will be OK if we stick to the process but damn…They sure did try hard to get me to change my mind. And…Honestly? I’m not thrilled with the communities choice. I think it may work out to be less efficient than if we went with a simpler design using just linear slides at the right angle, and the intake is getting more and more complicated every second…

This robot has things spinning around things spinning around things spinning around things, and my mind is having serious trouble keeping track of where everything is going to be.

So…one of the kids on the team ended up threatening to quit. Not directly, but it did get back to me. Kid has been with the team in some way or another for 8 freaking years.

In anycase, I was trying to direct the team through starting to CADD the robot. We were literally just starting. Didn’t have anything planned at all. So…I asked for us to figure out one thing. Yes I know that thing is based on other things, but so is literally every other aspect of the robot so…

I asked them to figure out how high the robot’s shoulder had to be in order for there to be enough space for the arm at maximum compression. (did I mention the arm is going to have to extend after it lifts up?

And…He sort of flipped out demanding that I answer other questions.

It all came to a head when he asked where the electronics were going to go. I asked him to not worry about that just yet, lets just focus on the arm. He came back demanding that we needed to decide right then and there where the electronics were going to go. So…I told him again that we weren’t going to worry about it and then went on to say that 1) all that mattered was that the electronics weren’t going to be where the intake is, or where the arm could be, and 2) that we may have to distribute the electronics throughout the robot because we may not have room for a dedicated box. (most recent year’s we have had a dedicated place on the robot where all the electronics will go.

And things sort of escalated from there.

The two of us “went for coffee”, a euphemism for going into another room to talk things out in private. He said that I was "shutting him down in front of everybody and that he was legitimately concerned about where the electronics were going to end up because he didn’t want it to be a last minute decision “like always.”

I tried to explain what I was trying to get the team to work through. I may have ended up being too harsh, but I also think his demanding that I tell him anything was pretty darn inappropriate.

Did I mention that another kid on the team, (one of the ones who decided the arm idea was impossible and would never work," Had already started CADDing a frame including everything down to where the battery would go?

So…Where I am/was coming from…

When you put something into the CADD model, it becomes almost as hard to change that thing as it would be if you had already started building the robot. Once it is in the CADD model people start working around that thing. It is really easy to get yourself into a corner that way IMHO…So…I wanted to prioritize the part that in my mind is going to be the hardest to get to work.

Well…that and we needed to start somewhere. We did have some general idea of the frame perimeter…but nothing set in stone.

So…After the meltdown the rest of the team got to work. The wounded kid came back and sat off by himself CADDing…We sort of realized anything he did was going to conflict with the other people who were CADDIng, so some of the kids got him to rejoin Society…

Things are sort of back to normal. There is a little bit of tension, but meh…

Hopefully I didn’t hurt anything too badly.

Sorry for not posting more pictures of things. I’m sort of exhausted. I will really try hard to get stuff to share tomorrow.

Enough for now.



One thing about the kid who struggled the other day. A huge part of the problem is that they A) keep forgetting that they are part of a team, and B) have little experience in other CTE classes in which they actually make anything.

That isn’t to say that they aren’t a team player, but more to say that they thought they had to CADD the entire robot on their own. They were approaching the problem as if they were the only brain working on a solution, while in fact there was/is the entire rest of the team.

They also don’t think the same way someone who has built a lot of things would think, so they tend to design things in ways that would make them incredibly difficult to actually make, things that physically won’t work in any practical way, or things that are incredibly wasteful in terms of materials.

When I have suggested that they maybe take a shop class the response is that they "just don’t have room in their schedule because they are doing band and robotics.

I can’t stress how true that is.

Yesterday one of the kids looked at the gantt chart and according to that we are behind schedule. Another student noticed that the last week of the gantt chart was just labeled…“panic”. So they decided to move a couple of the panic days up to the front of the chart so that we can panic now and get it overwith.

We aren’t really behind schedule, we just didn’t build a KOP drive base with swerve wheels mounted in the corners this year which means we needed to take more time CADDing the drive base before we started assembling it.

That said, I think things are starting to fall into place?

Enough for now.


That student has future management potential.


I wrote this on Saturday at the end of the meeting. I originally planned on writing more but never got a “round tuit”.

I put that there because.

Today was an interesting day.

The team started cutting out the frame elements, most of the team worked on building the grid…2 kids struggled to drill all the holes in the frame on their own. I played with the plasma cutter so whole bunch of brackets got made and a couple other kids played in CADD.

So…Things got a little out of hand for a minute.

The two kids drilling holes in the frame members were sort of grumbling to each other while the kid who CADDed the majority of the frame sort of hid by himself on the other end of the room. At some point the kid who did the CADDing noticed that the kids drilling the holes had drilled all the way through a member where the holes on the top and bottom didn’t line up, but the holes in the top and bottom were close enough together to make drilling the bottom hole impossible if you had already drilled the hole from the top all the way through.

They started yelling at each other across the room…

Did I mention that I was playing with the plasma cutter.

The plasma cutter is in the metal shop and eventually someone came and got me to come take the kids yelling at each other for coffee…This basically means I take them to the other room and talk to/at them…Not yelling mind you, just hoping to show them how we can work together to make things better.

I sat them next to each other. I asked the one CADDing to open the fad files. I asked the kid doing th assembly to use the CADD model to show what he didn’t understand, or what was wrong.

They sat next to each other and actually talked through everything. They came to conclusions about what was right and what was wrong, and they made changes and improvements. Go figure.

In the end the kid doing the assembly drilled a bunch of holes in the frame at 3/8th instead of 9 mm…So…All of our progress was for nothing. I know that doesn’t seem like a big deal, or a big difference but the holes were for rivet nut inserts and the ones we have don’t hold in 3/8th holes so basically all of the frame elements that got cut on Saturday are scrap now.

I should have been more on top of it.

Two steps forward and all them steps back…

I figured out how to post pictures in a way that I can share them here on Chief Delphi. Now to collect all the pictures so I can post them.

He he…honest I will.

Enough for now.



A basic overview of what we have CADDed so far. The intake for floor loading cones isn’t a real thing yet, nor is the “cone scooper” which is supposed to get the cones up off of the ground once they are in the robot.

Some on the team seem to think they won’t bother with that until after their first competition. :frowning:

This shows the arm in the upright position. The plan is for the arm to telescope out to put cones on the higher levels of the grid.

The frame so far. So many steps forward followed by so many steps back?

A closer look at the arms.

The arms partially extended. The gripper isn’t mounted yet because we don’t have the right type of linear bearings. We will probably make a temporary mount to get us through until the bearings come in early next week.

This shows the prototype for the gripper. The actual gripper uses sloped slots which allows the motion of the arms to be smoother. Eddy also made the slots closer together so the robot would be able to clamp down on cones and cubes more easily.

This shows the baseplate we will actually be using on the robot. You can see that the slots are rounded instead of straight. This is supposed to make the movement smoother. Eddy did the CADD for this and didn’t share it with me so…

This is the gear box setup we will be using to rotate the arm. We may mount a large weight behind the motor in order to balance things out and lessen the load on the gearbox as the arm rotates depending on how much weight allowance we have. I joked a while back about using the battery as a counterweight…I’m not saying we actually plan on doing that but… :crazy_face:

Ok…so where are we and how do I feel at the moment?

I went into today having the following thought…"The team is stalling out.

While that was true two things also happened today which made today much less productive than normal.

First, there was a band competition today? Kids in band played music for judges…So…a large number of people didn’t show up for robotics today.

Second, the kids built a wheelchair ramp for a family in town. While we normally try to resist taking on special projects like this during build season, this was an emergency that needed to get taken care of in a hurry. They needed the ramp yesterday and it was a small one that we could build quickly.

But…None the less, the team has largely stalled out and stopped making much forward progress.

So…a huge part of the problem:

Our school got a CNC plasma cutter.

I have wanted one for years. I was repeatedly told that I couldn’t have one because I didn’t have room in my classroom.

I asked if we could put it in the metal shop teacher’s classroom. They said no.

I asked if we could put it on wheels and store it outside, or if we could build an outdoor workspace solely for holding the plasma cutter, or if we could put it in the art departments out door covered cage area so they could use it…No…No…No.

SO…last summer the metal fabrication teacher finally gave in and got one.

The company came out and set it up over winter break.

Now to be honest, it isn’t the best at cutting aluminum…but…it works, and it works quickly. The cutting envelope is way bigger than anything we will ever need for FIRST, (probably shouldn’t say that) and it is really fast and wonderfully accurate.

So…the reason why it is a problem…

In years past we had a group of kids who spent all their time doing CADD. We had another much larger group of kids, (Almost everyone) who could use a bandsaw and drill press to make just about everything. We would print out a part on paper, and they all knew how to glue it down on metal and cut it out.

We used other tools also, but you get the point.

Thing is, the plasma cutter cuts out all of the kids who aren’t CADDing.

We go straight from the computer to a part with just a little bit of filing and chasing some holes.

You have been replaced by a robot.

So…things are going really fast, but most of the team is left with very little to actually do. But here is the really hard part.

The only stuff that is left is the really really really hard stuff.

The, things moving around things type stuff.

So…The team has stalled out.

Today Conner spent hours staring at an intake design that Branson started over a week ago, and he basically just sat there looking at it trying to figure out how to mount it on the robot despite the fact that as it was currently designed it would not work. at least he tried.

There is a kid on the team. She is taking college classes while in high school through our schools “running start” program. Kids can take classes at our local community college while in high school.

So…she doesn’t show up very often.

For kids who don’t show up very often there are two paths. One group will come in and immediately start asking for things to do.

The other group comes in, maybe looks around, and doesn’t engage at all. They sort of sit and wait for someone to ask them to do something, and since CNC plasma cutter is doing almost everything besides CADD work, the group that waits just keeps on waiting.

Today during lunch she was watching an interactive barbie movie on netflix. Some other people from the team joined in watching. Lunch ended up running long, then most of the team had to go install the wheelchair ramp. She has a vehicle, so she took a bunch of people over to work on the ramp.

They put the movie on the large screen at the front of the room, and paused it right before barbie finally kissed ken on the Ferris wheel.

So…oddly, a whole lot got done while not much got done all at the same time. It sort of broke my heart a bit. More time does not mean more productivity. More people does not mean more productivity. More does not = more…except maybe more passion, or more dedication…

I fear that at some point in the relatively near future the kids will wish they had more time…just a few more hours.

Thing is…I could have put a stop to it. I could have put my foot down, but until someone is willing to tackle the harder problems then it doesn’t really make much of a difference now does it.

Meh…We’ll see tomorrow I guess.

Oh…I forgot to post this. It is a link to a folder with our current CADD model and all of the assets as an inventor pack and go:

Enough for now.



Today I’m going to try really hard to get the kids to tackle 2 mystery boxes on the robot. Fingers crossed this actually goes somewhere. I’ll let you know what happens.


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So…The intake was tackled, as was the arm. I spent most of the 7 hour session today working with Connor on the intake. It is a holy mess of a thing with bits basically everywhere, and the crappy part is, because of the way I ended up drawing a couple parts it will need to be completely redone.

Here is what it looks like?

Or well…what my computer thinks it will look like. The whole thing is a mess of things connected to things.

Here is the main carcass of the thing. Now that I look at it, I think I know how I need to change it in order to make it actually work.

Or well…in order to actually make it makeable.


Sorry…I am exhausted. I’ll write about today tomorrow. I just wanted to get this up and out before going to sleep.



Today’s meeting…

We have started doing a thing. Sort of “show and tell”, especially on Mondays so that the kids on the team who missed the weekend meetings can know what is going on. So…I called a few of the kids up to talk about what they had gotten done.

I talked about working with Connor on the intake. After going over it with the team a kid raised their hand and asked a question about how wide it was. We told them…and they said, "Well…I just wanted to make sure it fit within the frame perimeter.

This bothered me a little bit because obviously if we had gone through doing all the work to design this stupid thing, most of the day Sunday btw…We probably started out by figuring out how much room we had and how to make everything work in that space, but…Ok…

So then another kid asked about where we were going to mount the arms that allow it to pivot out of the robot.

Now…that isn’t completely worked out yet, but the kid in question was worried about making space for the gripper, which was legitimate…So then it was the next person’s turn, and Eddy came up and started talking about the arm, and how he was planning to move the gripper in and out of the robot.

It was a feeding frenzy of complaining. One kid after the other was peppering Eddy with questions about why he chose to do this or that or the other thing. Finally I had to lay into them a bit.

Eddy did the work. No one else wanted to or was up for the challenge. If they had problems with his choices, then they were welcome to CADD a solution of their own.

Another kid got up to present the battery cart and robot cart that they had designed. We will be making both next Saturday btw. He too had kid after kid trying to point out mistakes that they thought he had made.

This continued. Another kid was trying to explain the work that he did getting the shoulders mounted so that the hex hubs all line up and you can slide the hex shaft through. People kept interrupting him and speaking over him.

He got pretty upset and had to go step outside for a while.

I brought him a soda and spent some time with him.

So here it is.

I love my team, and I absolutely hate seeing them at their worst. They were being mean to the kids who actually did the work that they were unwilling to do.

I don’t ever want to make kids feel unsafe speaking up when they see a problem, but this went beyond that. They were literally ripping into each other trying to score points that won’t get them anywhere.

I hope I stood up for the kids who needed standing up for, and that I didn’t make it so that kids don’t feel safe speaking up when they see a problem, while also making clear that what happened today wasn’t that.

I still see it as my goal to say the right thing at the right time to make the difference that is needed and change the trajectory of what is to come for the better.

Lofty goals I guess.

Ok…I am tired.

Enough for now.



When you are supposed to be doing lesson planning and instead you find yourself browsing Chief Delphi…


Hi Again,

First of all love your posts. Second

I come from a background of asking a ton of questions to get an understand what is going on and get a full picture. With that in mind I don’t think its the worst to ask questions as it relates to design. Yes it sucks getting your design questioned but I think there is a fine line between asking questions and telling an individual their design sucks. I guess my question is in your opinion where is the line?

Thanks for your help

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I’m pretty sure that wasn’t what was happening. It has to do with the way in which they were asking each other questions. It was much more of an attempt at being Perry Mason. They were interrupting the people presenting, asking questions, and then interrupting them before they could finish answering with another question completely unrelated to the first.

As for the line? I think it is definitely important to point out when something is actually wrong. For example, a kid on the team designed a new robot cart with a shelf for our driver’s station. But…The drivers station is 5 inches tall, and the shelf is only 4. That simply isn’t going to work out no matter how nice we try to be about it. it is also a pretty easy fix. It also has to do with the follow up. Jim Wright, a mentor that I really look up to, has a thing about doing robot inspections. When he is working with a team, he points out a problem, and then stays with the team until the problem is fixed.

If you point out or see a problem with someone’s design, or someone’s solution to a problem, then you should be willing to work with the person to come up with a solution. Really though in the end it comes down to intent. Maybe I’m reading what was going on in the wrong way…The kids presenting definitely interpreted things the same way I did though so…


It moved?

This is a front view. The arm still isn’t installed, but it is thinking about coming together. The kids took a break from working on it to run a mad dash to get the robot moving under its own power. I’m assuming they will get back to working on the arm in the next couple. One suggested that we could have everything fully functional by the end of next weekend. That would be nice.


The intake made its first moves from CADD to reality. Things lined up enough for us to spin it up using a drill. It is basically revers gearing from the SDS swerve modules. So…it spins pretty fast. We’ll probably have a 5 to one planetary driving the whole thing, so it won’t sound quite as much as if it is trying to eat itself…One can dream I guess.

The star wheels were able to push a cone, but, they aren’t exactly very stiff…that said, the bubes just flew through it. Go figure?

It does tend to eat the bevel gears if they aren’t tightened down properly. I believe the teacher in the room next door printed a set out of metal, we will also probably fill a print chamber with nylon ones to take to competition and maybe change them out all the time if need be.

I have some thoughts on the more emotional side of things. A young woman/former member of the team came in to talk to the kids on Saturday. It was so nice to see her. She is doing some pretty amazing things in the world. It made me really happy to see.

I’ll write more tomorrow, but for now it is late and I am tired.



I’m struggling with a kid.


I keep seeing this post on my Facebook timeline about how the kids who need love the most will always ask for it in the most unloving ways.

I need to sit with that for a while, maybe do a few yoga practices and meditations on it…How do I put this into practice when working with the team?

I’ve got a kid who really seems hell bent on pushing my buttons. When we first started this build they were the one insisting on knowing where the electronics board was going to go before we had even started thinking about a design, and when I pushed back they threatened to quit and were looking to see if they could take half the team with them.

Yeah…so not at that level anymore, but still edgy and rude. When I ask them to do things they roll their eyes at me and often times just do whatever they want anyway.

not sure if I am at the stage of calling in parents. Dealing with the kid directly gets more of the same so maybe?

Really though my current plan is to ignore their antics and just work with the rest of the team. Not saying I won’t slow roll it when they ask for me to do things for them.

I love my team, and I love doing this, or I am supposed to. There are days when I go home and talk to myself for the whole 45 min drive. Sometimes I carry that stuff with me for days.

So…is it worth it? If you asked me just before I left for work this morning I might have said no.

So…ask me again tomorrow.

As for the rest of the team…

So this happened during FTC also. The kids had this hell bent sort of mad dash to get the robot to move under its own power. They start doing really desperate /destructive things in the process They do this generally as soon as they physically have enough or a robot to think it is possible. Then they sort of stop and focus solely on that, the moving robot, and ignore everything else.

In our current case we are running swerve drive. They got it driving over the weekend. sort of. The wheels don’t line up and one of them is spinning funny…But it is driving. That said, the arm isn’t much more than some 8020 and a dream. The intake isn’t even thinking of being mounted, the gripper…Well…It is about 16% complete (a little more than half way done with 1/3 of the total design?) and the 3 or 4 most active members of the team are focused solely on getting the robot to drive properly.

The rest of the team is focused on awards, (the kids not really interested in robots,) art, (also kids who aren’t really interested in robots, only these ones can draw pretty well.), and hanging out in the hallway asking if there is anything for them to do. (There is a list on the board, but that isn’t what they are asking for.)

So…what do I actually need from those 3 or 4 really active kids?

I need them to each take on one of the hard things, the parts of the robot that don’t exist yet, and actually start designing solutions and finishing jobs.

More importantly, I need them to start bringing some of the other people along in earnest. Inviting them to help out with designing things and making parts.

I need them to get over the excitement of having something that can move, and instead focus on making progress with the long list of stuff that is still completely unknown.

All of the easy questions have already been answered. All of the easy jobs have already been done.

Ok…enough for now.



I follow these threads every year, and I never seem to notice any mention of other mentors. What’s the mentoring situation like for you guys?