2015-2016 FTC Season: FIRST Res-Q was the rookie season for the Girls of Steel Juniors, FTC team 9820
The Girls of Steel 2015 FTC team was comprised of 16 8th grade girls from 10 schools including home school/cyber school, independent school, and public school. The FTC team was founded due to the growth in the junior member program. The junior member program, founded in 2013, was designed to allow 8th graders to shadow high schoolers on the FRC team. The first year, the program had 4 junior members, and the following year the program had expanded to 18 members. Due to the expansion in the 2nd year, the 16 junior members who joined the program in 2015 were given their own competition to work towards. The FTC competition allows the junior members to collaborate on robot of their own, rather than only shadowing and assisting on the FRC team.
At the beginning of the first FTC season in 2015, the team of 16 was split into 4 separate teams. The teams were drastically smaller than the current team, and allowed for each member to have a larger role. Through these teams, each member learned the ropes of programming, building, and driving by building the standard FTC K9-bot. The 4 team set-up was ultimately abandoned and the knowledge learned by each member through the K9 process was an advantage in the long run to the team.
One of the ideals the team is focused on is exposure. This encompasses the exposure for not only the team as a whole, but also for the individual. Rough subteams, including build teams and mechanical teams, were set up and the girls were encouraged to try out each. Throughout the course of the season, the girls met for a total of 29 meetings. These meetings were packed full with learning, testing, building, programming, and lots and lots of troubleshooting.
The rookie team participated in the FTC Build Workshop hosted by the TeraBytes, the Programming Workshop hosted by team RobotiX, and the Pittsburgh Area Scrimmage at Peter’s Township Middle School to prepare for the qualifying competition on January 16, 2016. At the build workshop, the girls learned to build a basic chassis and learned how to program it. At the programming workshop the girls met students from other teams and learned various programming and build basics. At the scrimmage, the girls competed against 8 other teams. This not only gave the team practice for the competition on January 16th, but also gave the girls ideas and inspiration about how to redesign the robot. At the scrimmage, the team was also focused on meeting other teams and learning from veteran FTC competitors. The first change to the robot was the addition of a cardboard “cow catcher”. Eventually the electronics modules were moved from the bottom of the robot, and a permanent “cow catcher” was added. Since the scrimmage, there has been lots of robot testing at CMU.
The AG Life team contacted Girls of Steel in the fall and asked us to contribute videos as an “Awesome Girl” for one of their upcoming episodes. Turns out we were featured as an “Awesome Team” in the AG Life video called “Get Your Science On!” We are thrilled that the video has over 130,000 views because that means more girls know about the possibility of building robots, even as middle school students.
We were excited to give a demo of our robot, Dori, at the Girls of Steel Holiday Open House on December 17th where we were able to show how high the robot can climb up the mountain. In early January we even had a visit from FTC team 7143, Fluid Fusion, at CMU! Other outreach activities include attending the Pittsburgh Maker Faire with the Girls of Steel and volunteering at the FLL scrimmage that was hosted by Girls of Steel at the practice field.
To continue the journey…
The FTC competition season consisted of two competitions. Each of these competitions allowed the girls to learn from their fellow teams and helped FTC team 9820 evolve through various situations that occurred at the competitions. Overall, the team ended the season as members that could contribute evenly and had knowledge of all of the various aspects of FIRST robotics.
The first competition was held at Shady Side Academy, and nearly all of the members of the FTC team attended. However, at the competition, the robot, Dori, malfunctioned. It would not work at all, so the girls spent a majority of the competition troubleshooting. Since troubleshooting couldn’t be completed with 13 girls working on one problem, the team split up into units. The units were one for troubleshooting the robot, one for checking the code, one for scouting, and one to answer the judges and other teams that visited us. Near the end of the competition, after all of the qualifying matches were over, another team member saw that our robot was malfunctioning and offered help. He gave us new wires that were sturdier than the current wires, and after all of the wires were switched out, our robot worked. However, because our robot had not worked at all during the actual qualifying matches, the team was unable to move onto the semifinals nor qualify for the awards.
Because the team as a whole were very exasperated at the situation that occurred at the first competition, we wanted to go to another competition to run our robot and prove to ourselves that it could work properly. Our team asked our mentors, and they found a competition in Emmaus, PA on Valentine’s Day and registered, where we were placed on the waiting list. We were admitted to the competition, but since the planning was last minute and the competition was more than 250 miles from Pittsburgh, not all members were able to make it. We still had a sufficient number of girls able to make it, however, so we decided to go to the competition!
Before going to the “I Heart Robots” competition, the team made many changes to improve the robot and our team presentation, and built a second robot called, the twin. The second robot was used for drive practice and testing new ideas. We were split into three sub teams, the design team, build team, and programming team. The design team designed a new claw and different wheels, the build team carried out these designs, and the programming team changed the code so that the designs would function. The team also revised the presentation to suit the number of girls attending the new competition and updated the format of the engineering notebook to fit the FIRST standards.
At the competition, the team once again split into units, one for troubleshooting and checking, one for scouting, and one to answer any questions judges and others had. The robot itself worked perfectly during the first two qualifying matches, but after that, the claw began to malfunction. The servos were not working properly, so the claw could not be controlled precisely. This meant that we could not pick up debris, but the robot was still able to push debris and climb up the mountain, so our team was still able to gain a large amount of points. Yay! We finished the 2015-2016 FTC season at the “I Heart Robots” competition and placed 13th of 23 teams. We traveled pretty far, competed well, and met lots of new people.
This FTC season taught all of us many different skills and ways of dealing with robotic problems, such as programming and how to troubleshoot the robot. Overall, the girls ended the rookie season as experienced members that could contribute evenly and had knowledge of all of the various aspects of FIRST robotics. We look forward to what the next season will bring to the Girls of Steel Juniors. Until next season, we are shadowing the high school members of the FRC team 3504 while they work on their 2016 robots, Byte and Bug.
2016-2017 FTC Season:Velocity Vortex video
Well, the new season has finally arrived and the junior team is about to welcome it’s 16 members at the new girl orientation meeting on September 27th. Several of the new girls first met Girls of Steel as members of the Girls of Steel FLL teams.