Team 1640 2011 Summer Program

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The 2011 summer session is a little more eclectic than our past programs (in 2009 and 2010). Though our traditional spring off-seasons were canceled, we still attended IRI. We also lost our workspace in early May, leaving us homeless until August. Despite this though, we've managed to hold meetings at a few mentors' houses and the occasional restaurant.


Our objectives this year are less closely associated than in past seasons. While we wanted to make this year our roller claw study (for real this time), but working in a living room, finished basement, and swimming pool makes this more difficult. As such, we took a rather different approach.

We squeaked in this year (OPR 60 of 66), but we're in! Unfortunately the lack of practice space and basically anything except our competition kit made it impossible to improve significantly. Autonomous couldn't be tested at all, and driver practice was limited to once in a nearby cul-de-sac. Driver training occurred at IRI itself--talk about starting with a challenge!
  • Team Reorganization
One of the less-obvious benefits of IRI is the very productive (and fun) drive there and back. This year, Clem McKown, Julie Christopher, and Siri Maley took the opportunity to draft a long-overdue and pushed-for reorganized team structure. Continued discussion and honing will hopefully ensure that the January 2012 team is a lot more student-run.
  • Programming Training
Julie Christopher graciously offered to hold open programming classes covering basic LabVIEW, robot code, and much more. These started on 12 July.
  • Design Training
Some of the biggest desires students commonly express in post-season interviews were getting more project ownership, hands-on decision making and design control. This all starts with confidence- and skill-building design training. Siri Maley kicked off this initiative on 3 August.
  • Find a Home!
This is the real priority for now. We have a temporary place until November, but without workspace for build season, the team's in a tough spot.



12 July

In attendance: (Students) Ben R., DJ, Jeff, Kenneth, Michael; (Mentors) Julie Christopher, Siri Maley, Faith McKown, John Stumpo.

Ben R., with oversight help by Julie Christopher, taught the basics of LabVIEW to would-be programmers, including one new face. After learning the basics of the front panel, common block diagram data types, and simple selection structures, we walked through some of DEWBOT VII's code. This was great for both up-and-coming programmers as well as members concentrated in other disciplines.

9 August

In attendance: (Students) Alex, Ben B., Ben R., Nicole, Patrick, Sasha; (Mentors) Julie Christopher, Siri Maley, Clem & Faith McKown, Rita Wall.

We started with an introduction to programming, laying out some of the basics of programming, regardless of programming language. Resources: Presentation

After a brief break, we decided to talk about the Scrum agile development methodology. Resources: Scrum Wiki page and the version of the Wiki page used for the talk

11 August

Topic: Programming in LabVIEW

We applied some of the programming basics discussed at the last talk and most of the attendees programmed the simple vending machine state machine example from the last talk using LabVIEW. Those who did not program the vending machine spent their time learning some of the ins and outs of LabVIEW.

Resources: National Instruments' LabVIEW Tutorial on State Machines

In attendance: (Students) Andrew, Ben B., Ben R., Doug, Ian, Kenneth, Nicole, Sasha; (Mentors) Julie Christopher, Siri Maley, Rita Wall.

16 August

At the new location

Topic: Exploring the FRC robot control framework, in LabVIEW and other programming languages

In addition to refreshing our memories of how the cRIO is wired to the sensors and Jaguars by looking at DEWBOT VII, we ran through tutorials that FRC provides about robot control in LabVIEW:

FRC Robot Framework
The "out-of-box" robot control code and the general framework for writing robot control code in LabVIEW
Sensor Basics
How sensors are wired to the cRIO and how to use the sensor API provided in the WPI library
Basic Motor Control
How motors are wired (including with Jaguars) and how to use the motor control API provided in the WPI library
WPI Robotics Library Overview
Description of all of the VIs that are available in the WPI Library; good to look at when planning robot functionality
Safety Config
A brief overview of how safety config VIs are used in robot control code to ensure the robot operates safely

Additional tutorials, covering more advanced topics, are also listed on National Instruments' FRC 2011 Training Page.

Next, we delved into how other languages, specifically Java and C++, are also supported by the WPI library:

How to Build and Load Programming in LabVIEW, C, and Java
Document provided on the 2011 Kits of Parts Website that explains how to load code onto a cRIO
Review of Java and Object Oriented Programming
Presentation which includes a brief introduction to the WPI robotics library for Java and C++

In attendance: (Students) Kenneth, Doug, Ben R., Michael; (Mentors) Julie Christopher, Siri Maley, Faith & Clem McKown.

18 August

At the new location

Topics: How to build a simulation model in order to test robot code; How to use scripting for a flexible autonomous strategy

We reviewed FRC Team 51 mentor Chris Hibner's presentations from the 2011 FIRST Robotics Conference:

Testing Software via Simulation
In addition to reviewing the presentation and sample code, Clem reviewed the drive train model that he developed for robot design which could also be useful for software simulation.
Scripted Autonomous Control
We reviewed the scripting approach. We didn't get into the code in depth, but it is available to download and play with from the link above.

In attendance: (Students) Kenny, Ben R., Michael, Doug; (Mentors) Julie Christopher, Clem and Faith McKown, Gary Deaver.

23 August

Julie Christopher is no longer available on this date. If someone else is available to hold a programming talk, it will be noted here.


3 August

In attendance: (Students) Patrick, Lucy, Ben B, Kenny, Jack, Sasha, Nicole, Andrew; (Mentors) Clem McKown (teacher), Ben Kellom, Rita Wall, John Weissman, Mike Rizzo, Siri Maley (teacher)

In the first half of this meeting, Siri Maley led a fast-paced design challenge to emphasize teamwork, design creativity & presentation, time use, requirement comprehension, attention to detail, and many other build season skills. Teams of 2-3 used drinking straws and tape to suspend up to 300 pennies over a 20" gap. Students presented their designs and thought process in initial and final design reviews, and participated in a post-mortem afterwards. The original term of "bridge" didn't apply to many of the products, but (because) the students definitely got very engaged and creative. Two new students enjoyed their exciting hands-on introduction, and the veterans got to practice some valuable skills and start learning more about design.

Clem McKown took the second half of the class, introducing the whole group to basic pneumatics (PowerPoint). He walked this team of (mostly) pneumatic-newbies through the physics, advantages, disadvantages and general uses of pneumatics in robotics. Then he, Ben Kellom and Siri Maley talked about Team 1640's recent pneumatic creativity and got a little hands-on: DEWBOT VII's speedy minibot deployment and claw as well as DEWBOT VI's kicker.

12 August

This meeting was at the McKown residence. In attendance: (students) Sasha, Nicole, Jack, Andrew & Ian and (mentors) Clem McKown, Mike Rizzo, Siri Maley, Faith McKown and John Weissman.

Clem opened the session with a discussion of the proposed new team organization. Sasha discussed driveteam try-outs. Afterwards, Siri guided the team through another build challenge with more concentration on design process integration. This time, groups got to build a Popsicle stick "tower" utilizing only popsicle sticks and super glue. The resulting towers were really short (think millimeters, not inches), but strong as the dickens. The impact test (A book on the thirty years war was selected due to its appropriate gravity) was the acid test.

17 August

In attendance: (Students) Molly, Kira, Lucy, Jack, Andrew, Ian; (Mentors) Ben Kellom, Mike Rizzo, Sue Weissman, Faith & Clem McKown, Siri Maley

First, Siri jumped the group into their first robotic design project: controlling tennis balls in the fake Tennis Ball Tumble game. All the teams cut to the core of the game and "broke" it with some creative designs and improved understanding of the design process.

After the challenge, Clem taught the class all about FIRST robot drivetrains (including our own), from some math to motors to trade-offs between them.

24 August

The primary goal of this meeting is to discuss the new FRC organizational structure. Clem will run a Mentor Meeting, and Siri and Sasha will hold a Student Meeting. Everyone is highly encouraged to attend! If you can't, please contact either Clem (mentors) or Siri (students) so we can ensure everyone gets an opportunity to voice their comments and concerns.

Design Topics (extra time): formal design process overview & robot design challenge 2; introduction to SolidWorks. If you have or want SolidWorks, please bring your laptop.

31 August