Friday, September 2, 2016

Surviving the FIRST registration process

FIRST has made significant changes to their web sites in the past year and, although it's not hard to do, there are some very unintuitive elements to it.  I'm navigating through this for the first time as an FLL Coach (registering the team, other coaches, inviting parents, etc.) but I'm also a parent of a first-time FIRST participant, so I'll try to keep it Parent/Student centric for the benefit of the larger crowd.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Getting OpenCV working with the Cocoa Frameworks on the Mac

Testing algorithms will be hard if we don't have a playground to work in. I (being kind of a big deal in the Cocoa world) like Cocoa for this. This is about how to do everything in Cocoa except the actual image processing.

First, install Xcode on your Mac.

Then, install OpenCV 3.1 on your Mac.  This involves installing CMake first.  The libraries and headers should appear in /usr/local/lib and /usr/local/include respectively.

Now you can download the example project that opens a file and converts it to grayscale.

Here is a link to the project:

Build and run it.

Here is the interesting code:
- (IBAction)processImage:(id)sender {

    // Get the original image as an OpenCV Mat
    cv::Mat matrix = [self.preImage CVMat];

    // Convert it to grayscale
    cv::Mat grayMat;
    cv::cvtColor(matrix, grayMat, CV_BGR2GRAY);

    // Make a new image from the Mat
    NSImage *postImage = [NSImage imageWithCVMat:grayMat];

    // Show it to the user
    [self.postImageView setImage:postImage];
One tricky bit: The Cocoa libraries define a macro called check() and OpenCV has a function called check().  One way to fix it is to just comment out the declaration of check() in opencv2/core/utilities.hpp.  The other way is to just undefine the macro before including any OpenCV headers:

#undef check
#include <opencv/cv.h>
#import <AppKit/AppKit.h>

If you have a Mac, your assignment is to get this sample working and then change it to do Gaussian blur.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

2016 World Championship Wrap-up

Global Dynamics traveled to St. Louis last Wednesday morning, eager to compete at the 2016 World Championship.  The bus ride started early and everybody got right to work when they arrived.  Wednesday afternoon was load-in, pit set-up, and time to make repairs and additions to the robot.  Teams are allowed to build additional components for their robot, but they must do so without access to the robot and the new features must be added and tested at the event.  We had a lot to do.

In the days before the event, we designed and built three different mechanisms to get the robot to climb the opponents’ tower (the robot bumpers must get 2ft off the ground and stay hanging for at least 5 seconds after the match ends).  The mechanisms included a 3ft long pneumatic piston and an entire pneumatics system, a scissor lift, and a telescoping arm.  The latter two were designed to just carry a hook up the tower and a winch would lift the robot from there.  The team debated long and hard about which system would work best and be easiest to integrate with the rest of the robot, and in the end, the piston was selected.  

Looking more like a weapon or a rocket than a climbing mechanism, we had a lot of spectators stopping by our pit to see what we were up to.  While mostly completed on Wednesday, due to an early, compressed match schedule, we weren’t quite ready to attempt a climb until mid-day Thursday.  While we successfully raised the robot in a number of matches, the system kept sticking just short of the required height, so during a long match break and lunch, we removed the entire system and rebuilt it on a new, longer piston.

The new piston required some modifications to our hook, and we were asked by an alliance partner to add a defensive shield to the robot, so we only got two opportunities to try it out.  One attempt missed hooking on, the other didn’t quite get the height we needed.  Our defensive shield (along with some terrific driving) was a great success for our match, completely shutting down the high-goal shooting of one of our opponents and giving us a win.

At the end of qualifiers, we came up a little short of our goal, ending in the middle of the ranks in our division and failing to get selected for an alliance in our final elimination matches.  The final rounds in all of the divisions were extremely competitive and exciting.  Many of the matches were decided by just a few points, hinging on a penalty or a slight miss in timing or alignment for hanging or challenging the tower.

In addition to the excitement of the games, the team got to meet other students from all over the world, gather new ideas for future robots, and see technologies from dozens of companies in the Innovation Faire - companies that are dedicated to STEM education and looking to hire these kids in the future.

The team would like to thank our sponsors, General Electric, Johnson Research and Development, The Decatur Education Foundation, Big Nerd Ranch, Hill Foley Rossi & Associates, Green Light, H&L Engineering, and the many generous donors who made this season possible and a great success.

While physically tired, everybody is already looking forward to building on this year’s foundation to grow the team and organize into a successful, sustainable program to promote STEM education, develop confident leaders, and to make sure as many of Decatur’s students experience the hardest fun they’ll ever have!  We’re ready to get back to St. Louis and make it to the Einstein Championship Field!  We’ll need more sponsors and mentors to make it happen!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Thank You!!!

We've had an amazing turnout for our GoFundMe effort to get the team to the World Championships.  We've got to get up in a few hours and hit the road, but you've earned a great big Thank You for all your generosity and support.
  • Susan Bailey
  • Adam Nowlan
  • Anita Corbett
  • Arthur Johnson
  • Aunt Maggie Bostick & Family
  • Betty and Harvey Yaschik 
  • Bill and Irene Jacobsen
  • Brent Darley & Dana Resop
  • Charles Brian Quinn and Katie Eidecker
  • Cheryl Nahmias
  • Chris and Tim Russell
  • David Goldfarb
  • Dayle Johnson
  • Doug Glasgow
  • Dr. Mary Lynn Crews
  • Eric Stevens
  • Garrett Goebel
  • Gena Major
  • Gretchen Craig
  • Henry Walton
  • Isaac & Lea Ragsdale
  • Jane Carr
  • Jay, Clare and Sofia Schexnyder
  • Jeff Hawthorne
  • Jeff Koon
  • Jennifer Rhett
  • Jollay  Masonry, Inc.
  • Josh Jackson
  • Judith Russell
  • Julie Semones
  • June Torrance
  • Kathy Moore
  • Kimberly  Rossi
  • Kumar Batra
  • Lauri Johnson
  • Lew Lefton
  • Luis Gonzalez
  • Margaret LaRocco
  • Mark Little
  • Marnie Grodzin
  • Mary Rigger
  • Master Family
  • Michael Rossi
  • Mike & Rene Iverson & Family
  • Nancy and Bill Jacobs
  • Nia Schooler
  • Paul Holbrook
  • Paula Goldfarb
  • Poppy & Nana
  • Rene Jacobsen
  • Rob, Julie & Connor Wilson
  • Robyn Ringgold
  • Sam Gassel
  • Scott and Parham
  • Scott Kelsey
  • Suzanna Hillegass
  • Talia Blanchard
  • The Dishman Family
  • The Drago Family
  • The LaRocco Companies
  • Tim Black
  • Tracy Oliver
  • Trish Bricker
  • Victoria Woodward

Monday, April 18, 2016

Peachtree District State Champions!

Global Dynamics finished the qualifying season ranked 14th in the state and went on to win the State Championship in Athens last weekend as the captain of the 5th seeded alliance! That means we're going back to St. Louis for the FIRST Robotics World Championship, April 27-30th for the second time in our short 5 year history.
We need your help to get there though, as transportation and lodging costs will be about $12,000.  Donations can be made through our GoFundMe page or directly to the Decatur Education Foundation, which has been supporting the team in so many ways.
Thank you again to all our sponsors, including GE Volunteers, Johnson Research and Development, The Decatur Education Foundation, Big Nerd Ranch, HFR & Associates, H & L Engineering, and all our donors, mentors and parents who helped make this season a reality!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Success in Columbus

Congratulations to the team for a great weekend in Columbus! Global Dynamics was a strong competitor throughout the competition and ended the qualifiers ninth in the rankings out of 40 teams.  During the finals selection, we were invited into the 5th seed alliance by team 5004, Gravity Loop, and were joined by team 3318, The RoboDragons.  Unfortunately, we were eliminated in the quarterfinals by the strong 4th seed alliance that eventually won the entire competition. The winning alliance captain was our good friends and neighbors at Johnson R&D, Team 4468, Fernbanks LINKS! Congratulations on their well earned win!

The team also won the Creativity award for our unique and effective intake mechanism, specifically the use of macanum wheels to steer the ball inward, regardless of where we hit it.  This made for a fast pickup without having to line the ball up exactly.

Now that everybody has had a whole day to rest up, albeit only a 23 hour day, we don't have time to relax.  There are repairs and improvements to be made before we head to Albany on Thursday for another event. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

All bagged up and ready for competition!

Build season is officially over!
Please resume your previous, semi-normal life.

Bagging crew.  From Left: Darien Craig, Jake Tockerman, Walden Hillegass, Sarahn Nazaret, and Nick Goldfarb
After 6 weeks of hard work, we're finally at the end of the build phase and it's time to rest up and then get ready for our first competition in Columbus, March 10-12.  We would love to have as many supporters as possible, so if you can, come down and root for the team.
We've got plans to rebuild the intake mechanism (it's too narrow and we're concerned about how resilient is really is) but we think we've got a good plan for doing that quickly.  Our dragon (or wolf, it's kind of hard to tell sometimes) arms will find a place on the final machine somewhere, but they're a weak point in the whole system and this could prove to be a pretty brutal game with all the defenses to be breached, so they're not right for the job.
We've still got lots of room for sponsor logo's so feel free to contact us!

All around the robot we go!

The cup-holder is optional equipment on FRC robots 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Last week to build!!!

Well, it's the last week to build the robot, bagging day is February 23rd!   We're planning some extra meeting times from 3-7pm every day this week.  Students and parents all got an email about the meeting times and the need for some communication about student attendance.

I'll post photos of the robot after today's meeting!  We've got a lot of things done, or very close to it, but I've been terrible about taking pictures.

See you there!


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

3D Printed Tools for FRC

Precision.  It's nice.  Water-jets and CNC machines are great for getting precise placement of mounting and joinery holes.  They're a wee bit pricey though.  What's a poor FRC team to do?

We've put together a few neat tools for make life easier for the FRC build.  The first is a set of marking guides that are useful for marking common drilling locations in 1" and 2" aluminum tubing.  Marking with standard tools takes a long time and is prone to minor errors that can sometimes cause major construction issues ("Why is that crooked?", "Aren't those suppose to line up?", "How do we get a shaft through there?").

Next, for a throwing arm, we needed to put a 1/2" hex shaft through a 1" tube with 1/16' walls.  That's not a super sturdy combination once you've drilled out that hole, so we added some AndyMark am-0096a hubs on the sides of the tubing, which is better, but still had the bolt holes as a weak point.  Enter the tubing insert, custom designed for just this situation!  Yep, it slides inside the tube and provides a fitted hole for the hex shaft and lined up holes for the bolts.  Plus, they'll be right in the center line of the tube if you used the marking guides, above.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Team Update from our Parent's Meeting

Thank you to everyone who was able to make it to last night's meeting.  I hope you came away with a better understanding of the exciting opportunities available to everybody involved with the program.  For those who weren't able to attend, I've posted a copy of the presentation (it's very short) that includes information about the team as well as this season's schedule of events.
January 9thFRC Kickoff - FIRST Stronghold Game Announced
Febrary 23rdLast day for robot build
March 10-12Columbus District Qualifier Competition
March 17-19Dalton District Qualifer Competition
April 14-16Peachtree District State Championship (Athens)
If we qualify.  Additional registration fees.
April 27-30FIRST World Championship (St. Louis)
If we qualify.  Additional registration fees.

The team is registered for the Columbus and Dalton qualifier events which are rapidly approaching.  Students are responsible for travel and lodging costs, though we will be coordinating carpools and lodging for the team.  Kris Lewis and Lori Jackson have graciously agreed to help coordinate for those events and we will need to know who will be attending ASAP.  Please contact them if you will be attending, can drive, or can help organize.

We are also desperately in need of sponsorships and donations for the team.  Karen Riggs will help coordinate the fundraising efforts but we will need EVERYBODY (students, parents, mentors, family, friends, neighbors, that guy, that other guy, the woman standing behind them, her dog, etc.) to help with these efforts.  
Donations can be made through the Decatur Education Foundation and they also list companies who offer matching donations.  It's important to note on any donation that this is for  "Decatur Robotics", "Team 4026", or the "FRC team".  Please feel free to send this information to anyone who may be interested in donating.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Parent's Meeting

Important Parent's Meeting

Hello Parents of Team 4026,
It's time to get all the parents, mentors and coaches together to begin organizing some of the other required elements for a successful team, including fundraising, planning for travel, meals and lodging for events, and discussing details of the event schedules.  We need at least one parent for every student on the team to attend so everybody can be u to speed on what's going on.  The Decatur Makers have graciously allowed us to meet in their space, but they have an open build night starting at 7pm, so we will need to start on time.

What: Parent's Meeting
When: Wednesday, January 27th, 2016, 6-7pm
Where: Decatur Makers Space, 605 W. Ponce de Leon Avenue (in the old gym behind the First Christian Church of Decatur, right across from the post office).
Add to your calendar: Google Calendar Link

Looking forward to seeing all of you there!
Coach Ken

Meeting Update for Saturday 1/23

Assuming it's safe to travel and MARTA trains are running, we will have our regular build meeting at Johnson.  Please remember, if you're not confident you can get to and from JR&D safely, then please stay home and we'll see you Tuesday.  We don't want anybody hurt or stuck!

Also, please check your email and/or Slack tomorrow morning.  If it's bad enough out there, we may cancel entirely.

When: Saturday, January 23rd, 2016, 1-5pm
Where: Johnson Research and Development

Sunday, January 10, 2016

FIRST StrongHold Game Announced

FIRST Stronghold, the 2016 FIRST Robotics Challenge game has been released.  We had a small group of students who braved the early morning chill to come watch the game reveal and brainstorm their ideas afterwards.

All team members need to read the game rules, start to finish and understand the components of the game and the constraints we have to deal with in our design.  There are a lot of different defensive obstacles to overcome and challenges on the offensive scoring side.

We're still in the design process, so all ideas are welcome, but it is necessary for you to draw up your designs for individual systems or, even better, a complete robot.  We don't have to answer all the questions, but the sooner we have a tangible design, the sooner we can work on it once selected.

There's a 4026 Slack channel available that will be heavily used for day-to-day communications, so please go join it and check regularly. You're encouraged to post any drawings or writeups of your designs there so everybody can access them.

There's also a Google calendar available with meeting and event dates.  You can add it the Apple Calendar app using this link.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

First Robotics Competition Kickoff 2016

All Global Dynamics students are welcome to join us at Georgia Tech for the Kickoff of the 2016 First Robotics Competition season (event details in the link)!

The event starts at 8am and we'll need to organize drivers for the team.  Check your email.  Following the game reveal, we'll pick up our Kit of Parts and head to JR&D to meet and brainstorm on some ideas.  The meeting will be from 2-ish until 5.

For any students who have not yet been to the Johnson facility, you are required to have a signed and notarized copy of their release form.

See you Saturday!