This year, FIRST Team 2168 was selected to beta test the new control system. The first phase of the testing involved making sure the new version of the LabVIEW development system would work on our team's computers. After that, we ported last year's robot code to the new version of the software, ensuring that it all worked. Any hiccups or problems were reported to the development team at FIRST.
For the Kinect, the first phase of testing again involved installing new software. Here, the software would enable communication to the Kinect sensor. Once we had set up the software and the sensor itself, we created a program to integrate the Kinect into the new version of the LabVIEW software, so we would be able to control the robot with it. It was less difficult than we expected- the software that FIRST provided for the Kinect did most of the work for us. The output of the FIRST software was a pair of virtual joysticks- one for each arm- that we could then bring into the program we were creating in LabVIEW. The end result allows you to operate the robot with your left arm controlling the left set of wheels and your right arm controlling the right set of wheels. We determined that it was fun, but it would not be a valid way to control the robot for an entire match.
At the end of the beta test program, we held an open house for area teams to see what we had done. We held the open house in the school cafeteria- a nice open area. We had the robot running from the Kinect, and everybody really enjoyed it. We also had our practice robot running to demonstrate a new communications protocol that debuted last year, and we had a couple of powerpoints running with the new beta test hardware and software features. The open house was a great success, with many local teams attending.
On January 7th, 2012, the Aluminum Falcons attended the 2012 FIRST Kickoff at Dominion Millstone Power Station. Along with several other FIRST teams including 1699 Robocats, 2067 Apple Pi, and 3719 STEM Whalers the team viewed the Simulcast with an audience of over 100 eager FIRST participants. The questions among the room were: What would the new field look like? How would the Kinect be incorporated into this season? and What would this year's game be? Although, there were technical difficulties at the beginning of the simulcast, thanks to the cooperative spirit of the room it was returned shortly. After hearing speeches from FIRST spokesmen Woodie Flowers, Bill Miller, and Dean Kamen, the game was revealed:
In this game each Alliance competes by trying to score as many basketballs in the hoops as possible during the 2 minute and 15 second match. Balls scored in higher hoops score Alliances more points. Alliances are awarded bonus points if they are balanced on bridges at the end of the match. In matches where opposing Alliances work together to balance on the white bridge, all participating teams earn additional valuable seeding points.
The team later reassembled at the Groton Public Library to discuss game rules and fouls. Carefully analyzing the manual, the student members began to formulate their design for a championship-winning robot. The next day the team met again at Fitch High School to discuss their game strategies and robot designs along with all of their mentors. Each student presented their design strategy and simultaneoulsy answered their peers' questions. Common strategies among the team were to score high and replace the Kinect system during the Hybrid period with a reliable autonomous mode. The team then finally went through a group discussion about the important concepts of the game and percentage estimates on different gameplay strategems. The Aluminum Falcons, FIRST Team 2168 are ready to rebound and rumble for the 2012 season.
"FOOTBALL-er-I mean BASKETBALL!!!!"
On Febuary 18th, 2012 FIRST Team 2168 traveled to Suffield, CT to compete in Aces High 176 Suffield Shakedown. For 11 years, this scrimmage has given teams a chance to test their robots the weekend before bag-and-tag day. This gives teams an opportunity to see how the new game is played, what they should improve in their robots, and how competitive other FIRST teams may be this season. We proved by our showing at the Shakedown we were one of those competitive teams. Impressive designs were seen throughout the entering teams pitting us against robots such as the 1991 Dragons and 175 Buzz Robotics.
Aluma Fett soared during this competition displaying an impressive autonomous mode and being capable of shooting into the highest basket. We made it into eliminations, semi-finals, finals, and eventually became Suffield Shakedown's 2012 champions. Being the first competition win for the Aluminum Falcons this was a monumental experience for the entire team. Even though the hard work of our students and mentors for the past six weeks led to this point, we could not have done it without our alliance partners: FIRST Team 176 Aces High and 716 Who'sCTEKS.
The Aluminum Falcons also came home with four trophies: Most Impressive Autonomous, Highest Score, 1st place Alliance, and the Dave Leenhout's Award. The Dave Leenhout's award was started by head coach Dave Leenhout who originally started Aces High Robotics. It is given to the student-nominated mentor who displays the vision, dedication, and inspiration towards spreading FIRST. Our head coach Brian Chidley received this award for his tireless and often underappreciated work towards keeping the Aluminum Falcons soaring. Click here to view our winning essay
This was a great competition for our team and an amazing way to start of the season, but we still have a lot of work to do. We have a few days to perfect our design before the dreaded bag-and-tag day. If today was any indication of how we would do this season, Rebound Rumble may be an explosive season for FIRST Team 2168 the Aluminum Falcons.
"A BIG Congratulations to the Aluminum Falcons for winning Suffield Shakedown Championship and Autonomous Award... And a special congratulations to Mr. Chidley.. Mr. Brian Chidley... Where is he? Go get Mr. Chidley..For winning the Dave Leenhouts Mentorship Award!"-Paul Kelleher (USN)
"You guys are more winning than Charlie Sheen. Congratulations Team and Mr. Chidley! Hope I can go to one of your events (World Championships amIright?)"- Dominick Twitty (2011 Alumni)
"Proud mentor tonight. FRC2168 wins Suffield Shakedown with FRC176 and FRC716, good work everyone"- Justin Foss (Lead Mechanical Mentor, Parker Hannifin).
This was possibly one of our most impressive performances yet.
On March 16th-18th, 2012 the Aluminum Falcons competed in the annual New York City FIRST Robotics Regional. Fine tuned and not only ready to rebound, but rumble, FIRST Team 2168 went to New York City prepared to spread their wings. This was the team's first time competing in the NYC Regional. Aluma Fett worked amazingly throughout the qualifications rounds. Out of 66 teams competing, the Aluminum Falcons were ranked #1 with an (8-0-0) record entering eliminations. Being the first seeded alliance captain, we were joined by third seeded alliance captain FIRST Team 1676 Pascack Pioneers from Montvale, NJ and FIRST Team 329 "Raiders" from Medford, NY. Although the team had performed well in the quarterfinals, due to communications problems and other technical difficulties, the alliance was eliminated in the semifinals.
On a positive note, we did not leave empty handed, winning the Innovation in Control Award for their impressive button box that was utilized by the Drive Team during the competition. Although the team did not leave with the win, the experience the Aluminum Falcons witnessed was the product of our exponential growth.
Only two years ago, to get that far would have been a dream. FIRST Team 2168 will take what they have learned from New York City and apply it to their final showdown at the Northeast Utilities FIRST Robotics Regional on March 29th-31st.
"Had a blast watching you guys compete. Congratulations on getting this far! I'm very excited for the future of the team"-Anthony Tadros (Alumni; 2009 Team Captain)
"We did great this weekend and I think everyone had an awesome time, I know I did. Now we can just let this serve as increased motivation to destroy at Hartford; as seen in the past, one small loss will definitely not stop the mighty Aluminum Falcons"-Zack Nado (Programming Captain)
"It hurt for a while, but I'm back to remembering the undefeated run through the quals, and the absolutely brilliant quarterfinals. Everyone was very impressive and I am proud of you all"-Brian Chidley (Head Coach)