Saturday, February 22, 2014

Life Goes On... (FTC Qualify Tournament!)

Well, I haven't just written a update on my life for awhile, so I figured that while I'm up at 3:00 AM not being able to sleep, I might as well write one!
So, basically, my life consists of school. Yep.
Tomorrow (or later today, depending on your perspective) is the second Debate Round Robin of the year. I would be more excited about it if I wasn't sitting here NOT sleeping, and being able to function during debate. So why exactly am I up right now? Because I can't sleep. I'm sick, and getting sicker by the minute (it's an odd sensation when you can literally feel the sickness spreading through your body...very odd, but fascinating at the same time), and summed up, I can't sleep because of it.

Back to the subject at hand: Life.

Well, as some of you know, I was part of an FTC (First Tech Challenge) Robotics Team this year! It was a really cool experience. I basically got dragged onto the team because besides the twins, there was only one other person, and they really needed someone who liked to write, and would do the whole documentation thing for them. So, I joined the team (with some reluctance, but only because I knew how busy I already was), and so started a long and tiresome, but very rewarding journey. I came in thinking that this would be a piece of cake, I mean...I'm just writing stuff down! But nope. That's not at all as easy as I thought it would be. Ha! No, I had to learn a whole new language, all that programming talk. Scary stuff. I had to learn how to extract the information I needed out of the boys. I'm sure I seemed to be quite the pest, especially when they'd tell me something and I would insist upon being told what that actually meant, and why it mattered. Anyways, so we just had our second qualifying tournament last weekend. It so did not go well! Well, at least the field part didn't go well, you know, when our robot is actually supposed to do stuff. It was SO much worse in that area then the first event!

There's a few different Judging areas for FTC, the first is the obvious one: your robot, how it works, why it's special, how it's programmed, etc. We have 5 rounds on the field. Each time we go on, we team with another team and their robot, and attempt to get more points then the other team set we're going up against. There are three sections to the field time; the first is Autonomous mode. At this point, just just press a button and pray that your programming behaves itself! You can get points in two ways during this 30 second time frame. You can get a pre-loaded block into one of the baskets, and drive up onto the ramp. You can do either one, or both. Obviously both is worth more points! The second part of the time (2 minutes and 30 seconds), is the manual mode. There are two controlers, who get to drive the robot. This can be either a really good thing, or a really disasterous thing. Basically, you either have to let one person do all the driving, or you and that person had better be able to work REALLY well together! There's a two ways to get points during this time: get blocks under the baskets, and get blocks into the baskets. And then there's the third part, the end game. You can continue with the block collecting, but two more options are opened up at the point which are worth loads of points. The first is raising your flag, and the second is hanging on the bar above the ramp.

So, at our first competition, our robot could do everything except hang and put blocks into the basket. We ended up in 4th place, which was GREAT for our first competition! We didn't make it to State that time, but we thought we had a decent chance at our second (and final) qualifying tournament. That's the one that was last weekend... Well, so much for having a decent chance!

We made some modifications to our robot between the two events, that we were working on perfecting. Honestly, we would have gotten it done, and probably gotten to State...but something happened that totally messed up our meeting schedule, and hence the time we had to work on it. A totally unexpected FOOT of snow! I mean, this is OREGON people, we don't get a FOOT of snow!!! Wowsers. Well, we had a ton of fun playing in the snow! It was great. But it kinda made it so we couldn't get to McMinnville and work on our robot...And since we couldn't perfect our modifications, we went to the competition last weekend with a robot that looked really good, but we weren't sure if it would actually work that great.

Turned out our uncertainty was spot on.
Before you can actually compete, your robot has to pass inspection. We passed pretty much fine, until we got to put our robot onto the field. Well, not that we actually failed inspection, but one of our gears slipped out, and was basically making this horrible grinding sound, and we could barely move.
Thankfully we were able to fix it before our first round started, but our troubles certainly didn't end there.

Round 1: Ethan went to the robot, pressed the button, and we watched as our robot proceeded to do absolutely nothing during autonomous mode. Well, we were disappointing, but figured we could make up for it during manual time. Well, when that time came, Jonathan and Ethan picked up the controllers...and then something terrible happened. All the sudden, the program that was SUPPOSED to run during autonomous, ran during manual! We were all just like "Huh?!". Of course, since it was running a auto program, this meant that we had no controls for our robot. So after our robot ran the program, we just sat there for the rest of the round, looking at eachother blankly.

One of the volunteers told us what our problem was; Ethan had opened the right folder, but unfortunately from the wrong area. This made it so it took it a while to actually run, and messed with it so that it just ran during manual instead of when it should've run during autonomous. Well, to make things worse, we couldn't get it all the way fixed before our next round started. The rounds were going really quickly because there was two fields set up, which made it so the time between our rounds was at the most 10 minutes. This was extremely unhelpful during the entire day.

Round 2: Well, more technical difficulties. Because we didn't have enough time to actually fix our robot (as because of opening the file wrong, it renamed stuff, which makes it so we can't run it) basically the first round repeated itself, and we sat there despairing as we watched our robot do absolutely nothing.

Thankfully we had enough time to finish fixing the programs before our next round. So, everything looked great. We did a test run on the practice field, and everything was going smoothly. We still had a chance!

Round 3: We put the robot on the field. Autonomous ran fine, we got onto the ramp and it was all going well....until about 10 seconds into the manual period when one our motors burned out. Not good. All we could was go in a circle, we couldn't move! So, once again we watched as our robot could do nothing.

We BARELY managed to switch out motors before our next round, and so we rushed to put our robot onto the field, feeling confident in it's ability. At this point, we were so far behind in the competition, we really had no chance of catching up. But we figured that if we could just get our robot to work, we'd be happy considering how poorly the day had gone thus far.

Round 4: Our autonomous mode ran perfectly. There was absolutely nothing wrong with our robot anymore, and we thought it would all go smoothly. Our autonomous ran, and we were up on the ramp, waiting for manual to start. Well, guess what... the other teams ran autonomous too...and since none of us actually have any way to control where the robots end up, we watched as the opposing team's robot also came up onto the ramp, and proceeded to push our robot off the side of the ramp, and wedge it between the balance beam holding the baskets for the blocks, and the ramp. Oh the frustration! We tried and tried during manual to get it un-stuck, but it was impossible.

Things only got worse. We got our robot off the field, and guess what happened? Our wheel fell off, and the gears had slipped out again because of how much our robot had been whamied by the other robots. We had like 3 minutes before our final round, and our robot was literally falling to pieces! Well, we were trying to screw the wheel back on before our round started.

Round 5: We were standing in line, our robot about to go onto the field, trying to fix the gears, and put the wheel back on. We got the gears fixed, but the we had to put the robot on with the wheel not fully attached. So, we resigned to the fact we wouldn't be able to move, and placed our robot on the field in position to raise the flag during end game, because that was the only thing we could do without moving. We waited for the end game to start, and when it got there, we were ready. But, oh big shocker, another motor died, and made it impossible to use the spinny thing to raise the flag! Talk about bad luck, eh?

Well, that basically was our day. We ended up in 18th place.

Really, the only upside to the day was that we ended up winning an award, for being the most connected to our community. Ethan, Jonathan, and Kezia are teaching a 4th Grade FLL (First Lego League) class at our Homeschooling Co-Op, and apparently the Judges REALLY liked that our team was so involved with the kids and stuff. So, we won that award.

Honestly, it was a really kind of amazing experience to go through. I don't think anything could've gone any worse! It was really impressive, and looking back, kinda funny. Even though this day in a way really sucked, it's really not that big of a deal in the big scheme of things. Life goes on.

Okay, so this post ended up being more about FTC then life in general, but FTC has been taking up a lot of my life recently, so hey, it works. Maybe I'll get around to writing another, more general, life post sometime soon :)
I'm gonna try to get to sleep. I hope that this has exhausted me enough to make me HAVE to fall asleep, though I kinda doubt it, since I'm not feeling too drowsy.