Worlds 2011 - Foster Blog

I thought I’d do a few posts about the World Event here at Disney.

We flew in on Tuesday and spent the evening doing Downtown Disney, a really nice seafood dinner and then watching La Nouba, 90 minutes of the most amazing circus acts I’ve seen.

On Wednesday headed out to be at the ESPN center about 9 AM. Found lots of almost done pits, fields, etc. Found my co-Middle School Director Tonya and Rick TYler. Got the lay of the land, created a list of stuff to do and started working the list. Lots of easy things, move inspection tables, track down and hang pit signs, move drapes, get the Disney staff to mop floors, etc.

First high point of the day was tracking down robots that had been shipped to Disney. Got a back stage tour of the loading facilities in the HP building the Josten building (2 docks) and the stadium. It was then that you realize how big this place really is.

At 1:58PM everything was perfectly in place in the Middle School section and we opened for business promptly at 2. By 2:10 we had our first team inspected and we were under way. For the next 4.5 hours we had 53 teams (over 1/2 of the total expected) show up. 35 of them cleared inspection with 11 additional teams being partially inspected. With a little bit of luck we will get the other 51 teams in, and have them all inspected by noon.

Number 1 failure rate (as predicted) is being too big. Lots of teams making small adjustments to slide under the measurement frame. Some software inspection fails, but they got cleared up pretty quickly. We have a RobotC and EasyC expert on site, they are able to clean the teams up pretty quickly.

Lots of amazing robots in the first 53. While I’m loving the VEXMEN robots, there are quite a few that have very interesting designs. On of the China teams has a holo-drive is that is ultra fast and has a scissors lift to go to the top of the ladder. Very very cool.

Got to meet Cody (SmartKid), Andrew, Andrew, Chuck (love the new KTOR shirt), UncleJoe, the roboteers from Dock, two teams from NZ (North Shore and Wellington) and then went over to Green Eggs for a soul crushing experience. They have developed one of the finest custom parts that I’ve seen. They will release it, and across the world there will be many face palms going “ooo it’s so simple”, since I stood in a group of 6 and we all (me included) did it.

College Bots look amazing, lots of different ways to get the extra height on the goals. Also in the HS division watched a simple cube bot fling an arm to the top run and do a high hang in less time than it too you to read the words.

Watched Karthik do his famous rules check session where people bring up the most amazing things to ask. The best was “If we are carrying a field element and someone touches us, is that pinning, since I’m up against the field part that I’m carrying” Answer was no since you can still move, but I knew he wanted to scream out “We cannot offer blanket judgment on a partial snapshot of a hypothetical situation!!!”

Hardest part of the day was shooing people out of the pits at closing. Everyone had “one more thing to do”.

Other high points of the day was talking to Jenny and Judy, judges for the MS division, Paul C, Jason and JVN (who say I will see a turn table this weekend! I got my Visa Card READY!) Ricky Q, master of all things electronic, and of course my hero Brad Lauer. Lots of fellow event partners from the Mid-Atlantic area to chat with about next years season. Not to mention all of the teams that I know and met and did the long bus ride home with (Hey NJ!!!)

Lots to do, lots to see. I’m busy busy busy, doing the MS stuff, so I won’t be able to see you. But, stop by and look for the pink baseball hat and the beard. (Button says “On Vexforum, I’m Foster”) We are just above the Technology HS fields and can see the college fields. Give a wave when you start to so I know when to watch.

Favorites so far are KTOR to take College, The Green Eggs to take Science. I need to do some scouting to figure out Tech, Eng and Math. Hard call with 7 of my teams in middle school, but I’m going to tip 23A, 80 and 81. for now.

Have fun, be safe, and learn something. Oh yea, JVN loves new product ideas, make sure you pitch them to him (or send them to me, I’m happy to pitch them).

Lots of excited Roboteers, let’s keep the energy up for the next three days!

i would really like to see LEGAL battery extensions as battery placement is key to balance or sometimes even counterweight

I’ll pass that along, I agree it may make a difference!

Thursday started off at 7AM at the bus stop waiting to board the first shuttle of the day. (Actually the day started up with a very sore and creaky Foster getting up and trying to get joints to work again after being pounded the prior day.

In the pits, cleaned up and looking nice for the first wave of people about 7:45. When we closed on Wed we had 53 teams registered an 35 of them inspected. Goal was to get them all in and done by noon. We had four streams of inspections going. Andy from EasyC and Richard from RobotC did a great job backing Cory from IFI up on fixing any and all computer problems.

Our last teams arrived at 11:30 AM, and with a little push and shove we were 100% green at 11:58 AM. Mission Accomplished, thanks Inspectors.

Tonya and I ran and ran, checking on missing teams, missed judging interview dates, missing match form, score sheets, etc. But when 1PM rolled around we were all ready to run practice matches for each team.

And that’s where the problems started. Teams were confused by the new control system, and it took a long time to get controllers plugged in, robots in place teams in place, etc. When you are trying to get 4 minute turn times, any delay makes that hard. But the field team did an amazing job, at the end of 52 matches we were only 5 minutes late.

By in large the control system works, issue is WiFi noise. Need to get everyone to turn off mobile hotspots in phones, ad-hoc networks on laptops, etc. Lots and lots of VEXNET is manageable, it’s all the other WiFi that makes a difference.

Lots of teams complaining about the new RobotC / EasyC upgrades, which were both driven by the IFI upgrade. I’ve asked what the new upgrade does, not a lot of information other than: The joystick does a calibrate when it’s powered up every time, providing the sticks are not too far off from center. If they are it uses the factory centering. A nice feature, if you know it’s going o do it.

Only two major field faults that caused matches to be replayed. (16 & 37) that were done at the end of the day. IFI FTA’s were good about watching the matches, making sure that things went pretty well. We replaced some VEX keys that seemed to help and a cable from one of the fields.

Interesting number of teams with the PIC / backpacks. A number of teams missed the note that the transmitter needed to have power, the orange cable just supplies the backpack. But by the end of match 50 things were very smooth.

Lots of cool robots, some interesting hangers, some machines that came ready to rumble and a few that needed some more work. Match play is good, lots of close battles, very few blowouts.

Love working with Tonya, she is on the ball, and anticipates problems before they happen. That coupled with my “I can fix that” means things are running about the best they can. Our MC team is good filling in the dead time, but were responsible for getting some time back after field waits. So a pretty happy but tired group.

Got invited to coach KTOR in their big match against MESS2. Hope we do well, they are undefeated at this point, I don’t want to be the tipping point.

Looking forward to the big open at 8AM on Friday, try to catch it on the web cast!!

Positive news from the partners meeting. EMC and Autodesk still love VRC so event competition kits will be supplied by them (yay) and they will add a Autodesk Design Award to the trophy pack. They are also opening the full suite of Autodesk products to Vex students, so 2011-2012 will be the year of the CAD robot.

Game announcement still for Friday, I’m starting rumors like not a 12x12 but a 15x8 field size. VRC understands that this size field will now fit in a standard family room with the drivers being able to sit on the sofa to practice.

Wrap up for the night was the “key volunteer meeting” There is a huge army of people helping out like I am, when you see one in their red tshirts tell them thanks. It’s amazing when you hear all the back stage logistics on what’s really involved to make this happen.

Remember, dump you stuff in the pits and head over to the baseball stadium for an opening you’ll remember for years. Turn off your WiFi in your phones and laptops and be in those queue lines at 9:20, first match starts at 9:30. Turn times on Friday are 3:45, faster than Thur, but turns on Saturday will be 3:30. Got to be on OUR TOES!

Have fun, learn something, be safe and stop by the middle school event to say hi, I’m have my pink hat.

OK Foster Claus, can you bring us…

[LIST]Helical gears (wide gear configuration would be nice)[/LIST]

[LIST]A clutch to engage and not engage something spinning[/LIST]

[LIST]Telemetry download both in debugger and download later. Could require an optional additional memory module hooked into the Cortex.[/LIST]

Thanks for the shout out. Come see the Vexmen pits overlooking the HS fields in the HP field house. Get some Vexmen trading cards and Vexmen wrist bands.

Why helical gears? I can’t think of a single application where Vex spur gears spin anywhere near fast enough to be a noise problem, and the extra friction would definitely hurt.

Thanks for the suggestions, look for the (*) below.

Day opened up with a quick tour of the pits to see that all was in order. I weaseled my way into judge land and had breakfast with them. Another hard working group that only gets a shirt and a thank you for what they do. Ten it was out to the baseball stadium for the opening. High points was the BEST roboteers out yelling almost everyone in the stadium. Parade of countries rocked, you really don’t get a scope of how many teams are here until you see the mass of them (3-4-5 across go from third base to the outfield wall). Lots of countries, lots of roboteers.

Awards were good, Jenny Beatty was one of the Volunteers of the year. She is a long time FIRST person and about 4 years of VEX. People think she just does judging, but she does so much more, it was nice to see people give her credit. (And when I say just judging I mean it in that awe inspiring way that makes you realize how much work it is to get people, get them trained, get them to the pits, meet the teams, do the work, make the decisions, make the awards, etc, etc. Lots and lots of hard work at lots and lots of events all over the Mid-Atlantic area. Jenny rocks.

(As an aside, Jenny also does the Americorp grant writing (a ton of writing) to get the Americorp people to help out. It’s an amazing program, with some amazing young adults in it. They are motivated and are willing to do anything, and do it well. Key secret of the Worlds was the amount of work these kids did. Thanks Jenny for making it happen. )

And the other award went to Andrew and Chuck for Mentor of the Year for all the teams they help out with, all the events they judge and referee at an all of the thing they do to help the VEX program move forward. STEMRobotics is excited to sponsor KTOR and them. (Later on in the day it was fun watching them switch from Haverford to VEXMEN to KTOR shirts has they went from event to event.) Nice job guys, thanks! and thanks for all the teams that took the time to write about them.

The last part of the closing was pure Disney, and well worth staying to the end.

Ran (and me running is not a pretty sight) to the Math field to head up queuing. I was given two Americorp people to work with. We did a test run, then the matches started and they rocked. I got called over to do some re-inspections, and they did not miss me, so they got left in charge and did a great job.

On the way out I checked out the Kiwi teams and tracked down Nick from Lynnfield robotics. I had sent a stack of T-handle wrenches down for Christmas. Nick said that they had been put to good use. I saw the robot, lots of complexity, but lots of elegance and some big dashes of engineering.

I went back to Middle School to help out and found that Tonya was in her groove and she and her sidekick Brooke were rocking the middle school division. So in best sports fashion I was traded to the Tech division to run scoring down there.

But first it was off to the product rollout. I was late, but JVN was happy to show me the robot with the turntables to turn the “body” an as joints for the upper arms. Paul C took me into the back to show me the details of the inner workings and to give me one to try out. Hugely impressed with the design and the thought that went into it. There are lots and lots of ways to use it, basic functions like motor mount(s) are built into it. It’s going to make support of turning items lots and lots easier. I’ll post a product report on it later. But I did sit an play with it for about 20 mins thinking about projects to build with it.

(*) I did catch JVN to say thanks and to tell him that the turntable was one idea down, but I had lots and lots more. He mumbled something about a meeting but he would catch me later. So keep all those ideas coming in and I’ll get them submitted.

Scoring in Technology was a blast, all the teams from are area are there, 677, Haverford, Acme, etc. so it was great to watch them go by. Kim and Karthik were the MC’s and they have a solid groove of patter they put down for the matches. Keeping up with them is a challenge, they are working the teams and the crowd to keep the energy levels up. Karthik’s “Sesame Street does VEX” with all the characters was a crowd pleaser.

Broke out in the middle to “coach KTOR” against MESS (Massey University in NZ). We talked smack before the match, they smacked us during the match, another of those “wow what happened here experiences” Nice guys, hoping to watch them in a rematch on Saturday. I’m always impressed on how much activity 4 robots can cause in a 12*12 area in 2 minutes.

As the last match wound down so did the lights (I think they played 30 seconds in the dark) as they got set up for the big reveal. Vexmen Bob saved me a seat in the center VIP section to watch Kari come out and reveal the big game. Looks cool, but from a Foster view it rocks, it comes apart quickly and will fit in the Foster Cube and PT cruiser. It’s all held together with bolts and wing nuts, so it will go together fast.

Got to talk after the reveal to Tim from RobotC, another set of faces to names. Some new things in RobotC coming up that may make the beginning programmers lives a little easier.

Then it was up to the VIP tent for a drink and a chance to meet Kari face to face. She’s super nice, and is very excited about the VEX program and what we are doing for the roboteers. There were also some big players in the STEM arena that I got information from and need to follow up when I get home. There were also Crab Cakes, so it was a pretty good evening.

Wrapped up with the support meeting. Saturday: Be there at 7:30, dump stuff in the pits and then head over to HP for opening awards. Final two rounds of matches are in the morning, alliance selection by lunch. If you don’t get selected, you might want to stick around for the final “show” Disney style.

Finals in the same place as the reveal, so get your seats early. Matches will be big, based on the ones I’ve see today.

The people that are the key staff (about 50) of the event are hard core. They know their jobs, they are good at what they do, they make things happen. Its been exciting to have a chance to work with them. If you get a chance to watch the event staff do so, they really do make the impossible look easy.

Titan I know you stopped by to see me twice, third time is the charm, try again!

And news tomorrow of a new College team!

I’m writing this at 35,000 feet on Sunday. The last 5 days have been pretty amazing. But lets roll back to Saturday morning.

In early to make sure the middle school pits and admin area were ready to go. A quick stop downstairs to grab a radio, drop into see the best robotics judging team in the world and then over to tour the college pits to drop off “Mentor of the Year” shirt to Andrew and Chuck. A chance to see some of the teams that I had missed on the first pass on Thursday.

Back up to Middle School division to see if there were any issues as teams came back for the last day. Teams were showing up early and we queued the first two matches on the floor and the next pair on the queuing table. Soon we were all set for the opening ceremony for the day. Kari kicked things off in full Mythbuster style and handed it off to a flurry of speakers who gave thankfully short remarks. Then it was time for some of the judged middle school awards.

I was super pleased to see that the VEXMEN from Downingtown Area Robotics (Downingtown PA) were awarded the Teamwork award. With a total of 15 robots and over 100 roboteers they have been very good about working well with each other and offereing other teams support at events. The parents have been super supportive of the efforts and have been the backbone for a number of events. Yay VEXMEN!

Cheryl came up after awards to say that I had been requested to score in the Technology division. I respectfully declined, since I wanted to stay and see the last few middle school rounds. Cheryl said it wasn’t like alliance selection, I could go Score graciously, or I could just go Score. So I went and scored graciously. :rolleyes:

Technology division had a number of great teams like The Jones, Symbiotics, Cheesy Poofs, Haverford and others. So I did get a chance to see a lot of great matches. Kim was the announcer on one field with Karthik taking the lead on the other. Both are easy to work with and they keep the crowd in the match.

Best part of working with Karthik is that after I start the driver portion I can come out and watch the match. He mostly leans on the field with his forearms, leaving an unobstructed view of the field over his head. From this vantage point I got to see the Jones go undefeated for the qualifying rounds. As always they were amazing, scoring and defending at will.

I was able to schedule two breaks with Rick TYler covering me so I could sneak through the curtain and watch KTOR take on and beat AURA from New Zealand in the college eliminations. It went to three matches, all of them were very close. Lots of great scoring and the Kiwi strategy of scoring and then dumping the goals under the bridge made them very hard to beat.

Meanwhile up in Middle School, three of the Downingtown teams placed in the top 50. Team 80 Nightcrawler ended up #6, but were chosen to be in the #3 alliance. Team 92 Juggernaut finished 29th and Team 23A Phoenix finished in 50th. A very good showing for 92 and 23A’s first trip to the Worlds. Team 81 Gambit finished 59th and were chosen by the number 7 alliance. While Team 82 Wolverine, Team 84 Cyclops and 96 Professor X didn’t fare as well, they had a great time.

Back to my score duties in Technology it was some amazing quarter and semi final action. A lot of close matches and I could tell that teams were putting 100% driver effort into winning these important matches. A heartbreaker for me was watching The Jones split a set of matches and then suffer motor breakdown in the rubber match. Rhys and Liam have been a mainstay the last 4 years in Philly area competitions. I can’t wait to see what happens next year when they bring their sister onto the team.

From my vantage point in Technology I could watch the screen in the Middle School area and during the breaks between rounds they gave out awards. Team 81 won the Think award for their multilevel autonomous and their extensive use of sensors. I was able to dash up the stairs to be on hand while Team 80 received the Excellence Award. I’m super proud of this group of girls, their driving skills, robot, engineering notebook and web pages. I’m looking forward to seeing if they will compete as a VEX high school team.

After Technology finished up their last matches it was off to do one more battle with RobotEvents to register teams for next year. I registered two team numbers for the VEXMEN (one set for middle school and one for high school). Of course KTOR got registered for another season of college matches.

I’m pleased to announce the newest member of the STEMRobotics teams, team CAKE made up from members of Aperture Robotics out of Orlando FL. Go CAKE!

Partially winning the battle with RobotEvents, getting a custom “FOSTER” plate from IFI (along with a second turntable and a pair of the new omni’s). I settled in to watch the last matches of the day (and the light show) from the second row in the middle of the pavilion (Thanks Jason for the VIP pass!)

Amazing matches, just amazing. The robots were fantastic and the drivers were even better. Watching the autonomous challenge was cool, the motions were smooth and fast. College teams rocked, but the middle school roboteers were very scary on how good the robots are along with talented drivers. And of course the amazing Grampa Fred from Green Eggs.

I’m really excited about the new Robotics merit badge for the scouts. I think that will open up a entirely new set of roboteers to the fun and excitement.

I did get some Disney time in, dinner at Bongos in Downtown Disney and the famous Disney 9PM fireworks (a big day for fireworks)

As I sit here at 35,000 feet on Sunday morning, I think back to Wednesday morning and I’m impressed how the RECF, Disney, Freeeman Staging company, AV teams, Volunteer staff, Judging teams, Americorp staff, etc. were able to pull this off. It was an honor to work “back stage” and see the magic happen. Carol said on the first day, “If we had one volunteer from each team here this would be easy”. I come from an area where we do get one or more volunteers from each robot, and our events go well. If you are thinking about going to Disneyland next April, think about signing up and making the magic happen April 18-21, 2012.

It was nice matching all the faces to names (even though I missed Titan a record 7 times). I had a wonderful time, it’s one of those experiences that will stay with me for a lifetime.