2016-2017 FTC Season:Velocity Vortex video
Well, the new season finally arrived and the junior team welcomed 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.
This season, our second year competing in FTC, was a groundbreaking season for the Girls of Steel Juniors, FTC team 9820. The Girls of Steel 2016 FTC team was comprised of sixteen 8th grade girls, coming from 13 different schools. These schools included home/cyber schooling, independent schools and public schools. The Girls of Steel FTC team was founded two years ago in response to the large amount of interest in the Girls of Steel Junior Member Program. This program was created to allow 8th grade girls to shadow Girls of Steel members on the FRC team. Last year, the Girls of Steel integrated the FTC competition into the Junior Member Program, allowing the girls to gain experience working on a team, make a robot, and meet some of the FRC girls before shadowing them during build season. As this year was the second year of the Girls of Steel’s FTC team it was not a rookie year for the team, though it was the rookie year for the girls on it. Only one girl from last season’s team continued with this FTC team, after over 50% of the 2015 FTC team moved onto the Girls of Steel FRC team (3504). Being a rookie team made this group of young women work even harder to learn how to design, build, and program a working robot that could compete all of the tasks that were presented to them and maximize the amount of points earned.
The Velocity Vortex season started out by watching the competition video and splitting into groups of three to go to the practice field and design manipulators. Once we had finished designing, the team came together and decided on some designs to prototype. Our mentor, Austin, helped the team to build two chassis, using CAD instructions, and the team split into two groups. Each group worked on building a chassis. Having two chassis allowed us to test different prototypes of shooters, beacon pressers, and collectors. The smaller groups also allowed our voices and opinions to be heard, made all of us able to work on the robot at once, and gave all of us a chance to try out building and programming skills.
Some of the girls from the FTC team represented the team at the Maker Faire at the Children’s Museum with the FRC team on October 15 and 16. This gave the girls exposure to different technologies and to how an Outreach event works. Girls of Steel also hosted the FTC “Drive It!” workshop at NREC, our practice field, on October 30, 2016. We were able to bring the chassis that we had made and test them on the field with other teams who did not normally have access to the field. This allowed us to talk to other teams and get inspiration for the manipulators that we had not built yet. We went back to CMU the next week to update our robot and work on ways to make our robot more efficient.
We participated in an educational scrimmage at Peters Township Middle School on November 12, 2016 and decided to compete with C.I.E.L, which was the second of our two chassis. We placed 7th out of 9 teams after a long and hard day. We were proud of ourselves for all we had accomplished at the scrimmage. It was sad that we did not place higher, but when we thought about it more, we realized that had still placed higher than two teams as a rookie team of 8th graders. When asked what she thought of the first scrimmage, Abbey M. said, “I learned that whatever we got at the championship was going to be impressive, even if we came in last, because most/all of the other teams were high-schoolers that have been doing this for years.”
We went back to CMU after the scrimmage and decided that we should combine both robots together to create a robot that could complete the most amount of tasks possible. We took the idea of the collector off of C.I.E.L and put it on the first robot Michelle, because that robot had a sturdier chassis. Every meeting, we split into small groups and worked on a specific component of the robot. These groups of 3-5 ensured that everyone could have a chance to build, design, or program something on the robot. One group worked on the robot and the others built separate manipulators that we attached to the robot at the end of the meeting. We also started to attend extra Thursday meetings as the competition came closer. These building sessions allowed us to finish things on our robot and learn extra things such as CAD (Computer Aided Design), which is a subteam that one of the girls from the FTC team is shadowing on. We also were able to practice for the judges’ interview, which is a critical part of the competition.
The FTC team had a chance to demo their robot at the Girls of Steel Holiday Party. This was an awesome opportunity to have the other people in the Girls of Steel pipeline see what we had been working on. Over the break some members from the FTC team also represented the Girls of Steel at Barnes and Noble, working as gift wrappers. We also hosted a “Book Fair” fundraiser at Barnes and Noble to raise money for the team.
Once we got back from the winter break, the team had to work harder than ever to finish the robot. We again split into groups, with one working on programming with our mentor, Austin, and the others working with other mentors of ours within the team. Everyone had a chance to help Austin with the programming and we ended up creating an autonomous program that could score over 40 points! We attended extra practices for driving and strategizing and made sure that our robot was stable and ready to compete. In the end, our robot could shoot into the center vortex in TeleOp and Autonomous, move the cap ball in Autonomous, and collect and hold particles in TeleOp and Autonomous. We could also press a beacon, although we thought that it would be best to shoot into the center vortex in the competition because that was reliable, efficient, and gave us a lot of points.
The FTC Qualifying Regional was held at Upper St. Clair High School on January 14, 2017. We talked to our alliance partners before every match and scouted the rest of the teams. It was really interesting to hear their insight into their FTC experience. A lot of the teams were older than us and had a lot more experience, but they were all really friendly. Even though we were the rookie team, we did extremely well at the competition, coming in 5th at the end of the qualifying rounds. That meant that we might be picking an alliance! The team came together and made a list of possible teams to choose and we sat down for the alliance selection ceremony. We nominated Caroline K. to represent Girls of Steel Juniors in the alliance selection. The first place team chose the second place team, which meant that we were 4th alliance captains! Once they got to us, all of our choices had already been chosen, so we came together and decided on two more teams to select. Teams 8867 and 6961 graciously accepted and we moved onto the semifinal rounds. We lost both rounds in the semifinals so we sadly could not move onto the finals, but it was still one of the most amazing experiences yet. We left the qualifying competition without any awards but extremely happy and proud. We had come in 5th to 25 teams, with the other teams most full of high schoolers!
The 2016-17 FTC team was an amazing experience for all of the girls. When asked if she would recommend the Girls of Steel FTC team to an incoming 8th grade girl, Ananya R. said, “Yes! It was a great experience and you really learn about robotics and being on a team. It is also a nice transition to the high school team”. This team taught the girls many different technical skills, exposed them to outreach, allowed them to meet the members of the FRC team, and helped them learn how to work on a team. Michelle is now being taken to many different Outreach events/demos, like the 2017 PETE&C Student Showcase, and is going to be used as inspiration for next year’s team, as well as Dori from the 2015-16 team. Now the FTC girls are shadowing an FRC member inside a self chosen subteam to prepare them for joining the FRC team next year. Onto the 2017-18 season! For more information about joining the junior member program next year, email us at email@example.com or register here.
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.