Twin Tweaks ...
TEAM 1079'S ENTRY INTO THE 2006 FIRST VEX CHALLENGE.
Raytheon really speaks to the enduring benefits that FIRST
provides both to students and engineering companies. In
addition to funding, Raytheon provides support in the form
of mentorship — something that provides students with a
valuable window into the work of a real world engineer.
The investment of time given by professional mentors is
one of the things that really made an impact on us during
our time with FIRST. One of our favorite events sponsored
by SCRFF was the Fall Workshop at Cal State Northridge,
where professional mentors from companies like Raytheon
and Northrop Grumman would take time on a Saturday to
teach classes to FIRSTers on topics ranging from 3D drafting
to programming, to arms and lifts. It was a veritable merit
badge day of robotics, with students filling notebooks with
the words of wisdom given by mentors as excited to be
there as the students were. Even though the FIRST program
has evolved and even though it has been years since our
yearly treks to CSUN, the Fall Workshops are still going
Even with all that support, though, the FRC is still a
major investment of money and time on behalf of the
teams and their mentors. Once again, the introduction of
THE FIELD FOR HANGIN-A-ROUND — JUST AS
CLEVER AS ANY FRC GAME.
70 SERVO 01.2012
smaller scale competitions like FTC has proven to be a
lifeline for smaller and newer teams. FRC can be pretty
capital intensive – the kit of parts, the software, and the
shipping doesn’t come cheap (rookie registration runs
about $6,500), especially if teams are the first FIRST team
in an area because local businesses may be unsure about
supporting a program that they don’t know much about.
The registration fee and kit costs for FTC come to about
$1,200, and the VEX Robotics Design System starter kit is
only about $200.
Once teams have an FTC or VRC season under their
belts, raising funds for the FRC is typically much easier.
Teams have the confidence of a successful season, a
physical robot they can demonstrate, and perhaps even
an award or two. One of the most powerful marketing
tools for Team 1079 for wooing sponsors was to
demonstrate our rookie season robot MO. MO became
quite the well-traveled bot, making demonstrations
everywhere from JPL to a meeting of our local Economic
We would always bring some totes with us, because a
demonstration of the stacking required for the 2003 game
Stack Attack is what convinced sponsors that our ragtag
group of high school students was quite capable of building
a sophisticated robot, and that their money and support
would result in something tangible and impressive. The
same holds true for veterans of the FTC and VRC that want
to raise the money necessary to get into the big leagues of
the FRC. Even though the robots are smaller, the ability to
manipulate the objects of a devilishly clever FTC game is an
impressive feat, and the inspiration instilled in the students
is undeniably evident to prospective sponsors.
Uncurb Your Enthusiasm
Keeping team members excited and inspired during the
off-season was always a tough challenge for Team 1079.
After the competition, students have to focus on class work
that hopefully wasn’t too neglected during the frenzy of
the build, plus during the summers, people tended to part
ways for internships and vacations. One of the ways in
which we tried to combat this off-season ennui was by
building Protobot – an amalgamation of unused kit parts
and a brain transplant from Modos (our second season
Protobot was a great project, and it still serves as a
great platform for experimentation (see the May ‘09 issue
for another brain transplant involving Protobot), but in
some sense the project was lacking. Protobot was a lot of
fun to build, and we were motivated by a recently
completed FIRST season to test out some new ideas. We
did indeed test out a new drive train design, but the core
issue with the Protobot project is that it was somewhat
anticlimactic. Once we finished, we were able to drive the
robot around the driveway and take it down to the
community basketball courts for a more wide ranging test.
However, without something more the initial enthusiasm of