DEWBOT VI IRI Trip Reports

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The Road to IRI - album art (Thanks, Jen)


Foster Schucker at Dave & Busters
These are the quick notes from Foster's trip to IRI in 2010.

Thursday - My car (Clem, Siri, Rizzo, Carley, Jen) left at exactly 8:30AM according to plan. After a short stop in Bedford we arrived at the Mecca of West Virgina Quaker Steak and Lube about 1PM. After fueling up on world class wings we headed west on I70. A mere 3 hours later we were at our next milestone Fricker's Chicken in Vandalia. After eating their world class wings and Chicken Chunks (are you seeing a theme here?) we got back on I70 to head towards the hotel. Wow, is I70 long and straight!

The trip was filled full of music, bad puns, silly stories etc. The best part was the mini-button factory that did the final assembly of I'm xxx on CD and the Non-engineering Mentor buttons Doing all the work that isn't rocket science for Friday.

It was cool to have technology in the car, we were able to keep up with CD and news of closing the oil well off. I wrote the first part of this post on I70 just outside of Indiana. (Did I say I70 was long?)

We checked into the hotel and then it was off to Dave & Busters to deliver some buttons, Frickin Chicken Chunks to my sister and to meet the mentors. We spent about 2 hours there meeting new people, playing some games for cool prizes and having an end of the day beverage. Siri's buttons were a bigh hit, people were happy to get them.

I met the wonderful Jane Young, Alan, Andy and Mark of AndyMark fame and spent some time talking to Ed from Rochester. Rizzo met most of the judging staff and swapped some "Well when I was reffing there was this team ..." stories. A pretty good session to close off the first day of IRI.

Friday Dawn in Indianpolis came early, the final set of people didn't arrive until 2AM, so they had to sleep fast. But, when I got to the breakfast area most of our team was eating breakfast. We got out of the hotel about 7:20 and headed over to the school.

The school is huge with two huge gyms. One that has an indoor 1/4 mile track, the other that holds 2 full sized basketball courts.

I was busy working with Jack getting him set up with the VEX and getting the two demo robots ready to go so others could play on the. Jack did a great job of keeping the robot running and an even better job of driving the wheels off of it. It was a tough schedule with three matches in each round and three rounds. The finals were best out of three and Jack ended up with a flawless record of 11-0. He also had the high score of the day at 49 points.

The big robot also had a pretty good day. We had some amazing partners that we played with and against. We closed out the day in 21st place. Somewhat due to our good seeding, somewhat due to the improvements we made to the robot.

Dinner was cafeteria style with salad, lasagna, bread, and 5 kinds of dessert. I had a chance to eat with my sister. I don't see her very often and to be honest mostly at robot events. She had been a scorer / queue manager for most of the day (71 matches) so I got to hear about her day.

The talent show was amazing, the acts were good, but the best part were the comments (written on whiteboard) by the panel of judges. Needs more cowbell takes on a new meaning! The best act was a spinny lighted ball act set to music that was very impressive. The encore with the Tesla music machines was very cool.

So far IRI has exceeded my idea of what it would be like. I've see great robots in action and I've been able to go up and talk to the builders on how the robot works. People have been super nice helping out where they can. This has got to be one of the best organizied events that I've been to.

Saturday - We started off the day getting the robot set up for the days matches. We gathered together for the opening ceremony. Afterwards was the long wait to play our next two matches.

During the wait we watched some amazing matches. We got to see matches that ended with 5 robots hanging, the amazing Team 469 looper in a 6v0 match and the top teams in FRC going nose to nose. We lost our last match but got to see the first ever Breakaway suspension.

Thanks to my sister and Team Exploding Bacon I had Skyline Chili the 5-Way: A 3-Way (spaghetti, covered with chili and topped shredded cheddar cheese) with diced onions and red beans. I ate with the team and learned that when someone comes into the room and goes "oink oink" they all go BOOM. Very entertaining. The chili was pretty good too.

At the end of the qualifications we ended up in 31st place. A pretty good showing for the weekend. At noon we went through alliance selection, we were not chosen.

Next up was the mentor match. We had enough donations in our bucket to have us be the 5th Seed Captain. We did quite well in the first two matches. I was the human player, grabbing balls from the goal for the second match. It was fun, but it's very bright and noisy on the field so it's hard to communicate with the other players.

In between the second and third games one of our alliance partners found that their robot was broken. Since they were in the real finals they withdrew from the match. We promptly lost the next two matches against the Second Place seed and were out of the tournament.

Next up was the loooonng finals cycle. There were an amazing number of ties and an even larger collection of rubber matches. Not to mention rubber matches that ended up in ties. All in all we got to see some great competition, but the last match did not finish until 6:15PM

Sunday - We left the hotel for breakfast at 6:15AM and were headed East at 7AM. With some minor problems due to Dayton road construction we arrived at the [|National Museum of the US Air Force].

Which turned out to be a super place (well if you are into airplanes or rockets) to visit. It consists of three giant hangers that are filled with aircraft. The first exhibits are early gliders and a replica of the first Wright Flyer. From there on it's a chronological tour of US aircraft with some from England, Japan and Russia. At the far end is a tall round building that has exhibits showing off manned near-space and space flights. There is also a collection of rockets.

After a three hour tour we headed off to lunch at the Olive Garden. By 1PM we were once again heading east listening to bagpipe music and popular songs from Spain in 1496. We hit a backup in Columbus so we did a quick detour through downtown Columbus. Since it was Sunday there was very little traffic so it wasn't a big deal.

Dinner was a gas and go at Sheetz, but I got one of my favorites, a slaw dog with bacon and cheese! We pulled into Downingtown at 9:45, and I was tucked into bed by 10:30.

Overall - It was a great weekend.

  • I got to see and talk to my sister, which has been one of the biggest bonus features of FIRST
  • Great robots, I got to see the insides and talk to the teams of some very good robots.
  • Great people, I met a ton of people that I've wanted to meet face to face
  • The Saturday NEMO meeting gave me some good contacts for things we need to do in 2011.
  • Food!
  • Air Force Museum
  • Fun - it was 4 days of non-stop fun

More Cowbell!!! and "I have to ref a match!"


Jack takes home the VEX Trophy!
IRI has two unique events, the VEX challenge and the mentor drive challenge. Jack was the key member of the VEX team. Two weeks before the event Jack and Foster assembled the competition robot. Jack brought designs from prior robots, Foster brought a scoop design that he had seen at the TSA nationals. An upgrade to use servo to flip the scoop sealed the deal. Programming consisted of a quick dump using the lower button, and a slower roll button using the top buton. The slower roll gave Jack better control for placing balls in the goal towers.

At the end of the day at IRI it was Jack's driving skills that carried the day. He has a solid robot to work with, but the driving is what takes it from a field robot to a championship one. At the end of the qualification rounds Jack was 9-0. In two hard fought finals matches against "Chris is Me" Jack was the clear winner of both matches.

It was a good day, Jack put on an impressive driving show!


Siri Maley with Jane Young

I was in Foster's van ("it's a rental") on the rides to and from IRI--and what awesome rides they were. He's about covered all the stops along the way, though I must that Quaker Steak is quite an interesting place...albeit less interesting when getting the check takes longer than eliminations at IRI. Dave & Busters was a lot of fun, though also a little stressful being my first mentor (all of whom were more than twice my age) meet-and-greet. I felt very (no, very) young, but it was still a great time. The "Hi, I'm...on CD" and non-rocket science NEMO buttons were a good conversation starter too--I think I'll keep that up. I got to meeting Stu (the Head Ref), Carolyn (the NEMO meeting coordinator), Jim (later the IRI 2010 Mentor of the Year, congratulations), and Jane Young, among others, plus toast Unification Day and have some great conversations with Clem, Foster, and Rizzo. We did some lexicon building as well, continuing on our tradition of Firefly (and SciFi in general), obscure scholastic references, and various happenstance. Our inside joke collection won't fit in the van much longer.

Wow! So that's what "Inspiration Lives Here" means. This place is amazing. We had some problems with the kicker, possessor, and IR sensors, but still ended up doing quite well--ranking 7th at one point and hanging around 15th or so. I was not expecting that, given a field of almost 80 of the best teams in FIRST. And what robots they were! Seeing 469, 1114, 148, 33, and dozens of others up close was amazing. Meeting the teams and working with the drive teams was truly enlightening as well.
The drive team is really meshing well, and I think I'm getting pretty well used to this coaching thin. (Or so Carly claims, and she's not really one to placate.) It was a bit of a rough start this year: driver controls are way more complicated than ever before, but Carly and Sasha are both adapting well. We're starting to read each other like the old days, and it's not so stressful--though the pressure is still completely on.
We had some absolutely spectacular matches today! Match 32 was a 1-on-2 virtual shut out. Match 40 was another fantastic defensive game, especially considering 1058's consistency at scoring from the middle zone. (Wish we could do that so well!) In Match 57, we got to show off our striking skills, scoring probably 10 goals in one match in addition to pinning opposing defense so our allies could score.
Clem and I also actually got to sit down, inside, for lunch, for a full 10 minutes. I'm not sure that's ever happened before at a major competition. Quite pleasant. Foster and I also ran into a couple of guys from Lockheed Martin. With a little luck, we might even get something out of it. I even got a little bit of a chance to check in on scouting, though I still have some work to really get that department up and running. (Though it's easier at competitions where the match schedule can stay the same...and the DS communication works...and...yeah, ok, never mind.)
This is a ridiculously well organized event. They start queuing us very early, but who am I to complain when they manage to keep 78 teams virtually on schedule for 104 matches without radios between the pits and queuing? But other than that and my request for the DJs to have a "previously played" list (it's going to take me a while to re-enjoy "Don't Stop Believing"), there didn't seem to be a single issue. These guys a top notch, my hat's of to them. The extra events--silent auction, backpacks for 2nd graders, mentor match, talent show, are also superbly executed. This may well be the best competition I've ever attended, on- or off-season.
I had dinner and great conversation with Foster and his sister and later Rizzo and Koko Ed. (Well, it was a lot of food.) We did have some mechanical difficulties to fix afterward and ended up missing most of the talent show (minus the Tesla music & string raving and Jim's "singing"). Overall, we're preforming quite admirably. I know I'm admiring it.

What a day--what an event. Our first match of the day was a solid 13 to 8 victory, but our last one didn't go so well, being on the losing side of 13 to 7. We dropped down to 31st place by the end of qualifications. It's still very respectable, but we didn't make eliminations, especially given that we're strangers in a rather strange land (full of old friends and allies) out here. We did learn a an unquantifiable amount though, and have started making some friends of our own. Next year is another season!
I also met Mark (of AndyMark) and Karthik, among several others in addition to those from D&B and dinner. Andy from AndyMark came to find me. I think I'll forever remember this event as "Andy Baker knows my name". I didn't talk to quite everyone I was aiming for, but pretty close. (My networking still leaves something to be desired. Like, say, extraversion. Also, age.) There's always next year, though!
The mentor match was quite an experience--and less stressful, since we didn't have to worry so much about breaking things after alliance selection. Foster, Rizzo, Faith, Rita, and Clem did some great human player-ing. Clem, Rizzo, and I got a chance to drive. (Wow, this thing is pretty confusing, though it helps that DEWBOT III was along the same lines and much less cooperative.) Clem and I did some possessorizing, which was also rather insightful. My old drive experience has been great for my coaching, but it's always good to have a refresher when I can. And refreshed I am! Though we bought (via auction) our way into the 5th alliance, we only managed to make the semifinals--but Clem got a great hat out of it. I did manage to hurt my chest pretty badly lifting the robot though, so it hurts to laugh--a real danger when spending the weekend and a long car ride with Clem, Foster, Rizzo, Jen, and Carly. Overall, a fun (and at least marginally educational time) was had by all.

The award ceremonies were quite well done. A little disappointing in the morning (sorry to Jen), but Sasha, Andrew, and I have something up our sleeves for Duel on the Delaware. The highlight of the afternoon ceremony (for us) was Jack accepting his VEX award. Congrats on the win and your undefeated record, Jack! And aren't we glad at least some of us (including him) stayed at the school for lunch. Also thanks to Foster's sister for alerting us in time to get a photo!
Siri Maley in an F-15 cockpit at the Air Force Museum.

The eliminations were amazing! Also, amazingly long (really? five matches in SF2?) Entirely worth it though, especially once Clem, Foster, Jen (plus Rizzo during the numerous cool-down breaks and timeouts) found the prefect spot on the upper balcony. I've never seen so many teams so closely matched, so many amazingly engineering robots (or famous numbers) on one field, or such fantastic driving at any time in my FIRST career. In fact, I don't think I've seen such inspiring performances in all of my FIRST experience combined. Watching the coaches was especially interesting, and I picked up a some good pointers. Thanks to the rest of the pit crew that packed the trailer after they got back from lunch, giving both Clem and I an unprecedented chance to actually watch so many matches. 23 total: I don't think I've watched that many from the stands at any of the other major competitions combined.
After many more finals rounds that originally expected (I thought I was going to miss class Tuesday too), the entire team headed to an all-you-care-to-eat Chinese buffet for dinner. Good food and lots of laughter (and well worth the chest pain). After dinner, Foster, Clem, Rizzo and I dropped Jen and Carly off and went out to Ruby Tuesday's. (I'm told the beer is better. Yeesh, it's hard to be a mentor under 21.) Another Unification Day toast and some good serious and not-so-serious conversation later, we called it a night.

An early start at 6AM and were were off to the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB. Awesome museum! (ok, so maybe I'm biased.) It's also the headquarters for the Air Force Institute of Technology--quite possibly where I'll be doing my graduate degree in a few years. After the museum we headed for lunch at Olive Garden and then hit the road to drop me off in Harrisburg. The ride was filled with silly jokes (my how we've added to our lexicon), fun stories, and some discussion of our upcoming to do list. Also, and some very interesting music. (Not much of it in English, but I think I've got a thing for '90s Spanish tunes now. The 1490s, that is.) After some GPS and traffic versus arrival time confusion, I (as I expected) missed the nightly bus, but got a ride up to Penn State anyway to still arrive Sunday night. Thus I only missed 2 classes (Thursday and Friday)--well worth it, in my opinion.


Jen drinking through a loopy straw at Quaker Steak & Lube
Thursday – Gosh, what a fun trip this was! This replaces Finger Lakes as my longest car ride I've ever been on. The car ride was filled with music, button-making, and, for Carly and me, playing Sims 2 Pets. We got some interesting phrases out of that. “This dog's name is Daisy,” *awkward silence* “it has worms.” I was told that I was a good source of entertainment for everyone else in the car.

We stopped at a restaurant in West Virginia and met this awesome waiter named Brandon. If it wasn't for Foster mentioning this to me ahead of time, I probably would have been incredibly confused about the fact that West Virginia is adjacent to Pennsylvania. I should visit “Geographyland” more often. Visits to “Vocabularyland” would probably be helpful too, considering that I had to ask what “lexicon” meant.
Anyway, we also drove through Ohio and saw some cool stuff like farms, buildings, and some kind of an indoor water park or something. Yes it sounds weird, but it was a building with some water slides leading out of it then back in to another part of the building. Look at the photo gallery to figure out what I'm talking about. Finally, we got to the hotel at a reasonable time – 8 or 9pm if my memory serves right. Carly and I went to the fitness center and watched Comedy Central before bedtime.

Friday – My day started off well when I made a friend in a rather strange way. Though that's not a surprise. As Carly says, I always randomly make friends at robotics competitions. As the elevator door opened on the second floor, Nicole and a boy I did not recognize stepped out of the elevator, thinking it was the floor with the lobby. (They didn't catch that it was stopping on my floor for me to get on before reaching their destination). I pointed this out to them, and as they walked back into the elevator I noticed that the boy was wearing a shirt that said “MORE Robotics” on it. “Hey, you're on a robotics team!” I said, pointing out the obvious. From there, I ran into this boy, whose name is Stefan, about a million times during the trip, both in the hotel and at the competition. On saturday night, he even knocked on our door by accident, and as it turns out he was looking for his friend in the room next to us.
We headed over to the competition, which I'm glad to say was only seven minutes away from the hotel. After unloading the trailer and carrying stuff to the pit, Carly and I followed Nicole to other gym to find a place in the stands. Carly said, “Wow, this is 'lose your stuff city',” when we noticed that it was easy to drop stuff through big gaps in the bleachers. Luckily, we didn't drop things too often and nothing fragile (safety glasses, pompoms, and a water bottle, which fell about ten times in five minutes. The worst was Alex's phone, but it survived. It could have been worse, considering we had laptops and cameras up there).
Unfortunately, being in the stands for most of the time as the “head cheerleader” (hehe, thank you to whoever gave me that title on DEWBOT VI Indiana Robotics Invitational) I was one of the first to notice how repetitive the music was. It wasn't terrible music... just... the same stuff over and over, both days. Anyway, Friday was the VEX tournament, which I watched and videotaped some of. It was fun to show my support and watch Jack bring home the gold.
I moved straight from watching VEX to match scouting. When a team from Georgia decided last minute that they couldn't make it, the entire match schedule had to be re-done, and we couldn't get a head start on scouting. In fact, we actually fell behind on it. During the first five matches, I dashed back and forth from the pit to the stands asking Siri what teams to track during each match because she was still in the middle of making that list based on the updated match schedule. Come the sixth match, scouting became easier when we had the full list of future allies and opponents at hand.
I'm really proud of our performance during the matches. There were some wicked teams out there... teams who have won regionals, some even championships, and we still managed to keep up a pretty good seeding score. At one point we were 7th, but we ended the day with 21st.
It was nice seeing Foster's sister again. I talked to her for a bit, and I may even be involved with her team while I'm away at college because they're not far from RIT. At the very least, I'll go to their off-season event, Rah-Cha-Cha Ruckus, in October.
I was under the impression that all the teams would go to dinner at the same time, after the matches, and all eat together and socialize. (I'm really into the team socials, dontcha know?) Well, instead it was more like... go eat whenever you don't have a match to prepare for or play or watch... or ref. (I'm sorry, I couldn't resist.) But then the talent show right after dinner was phenomenal, which completely makes up for it. The acts ranged from musical performances to glowy spinny things with balls on strings. I enjoyed the skits. There was a rendition of “Who's on first?” and a skit involving a time machine. My favorite one was the volunteers' skit starring two girls who played Lady Gaga and Kesha. (I actually saw them getting into costume before the talent show but didn't recognize them as the field reset volunteers who I'd seen plenty of times during the day). They had some technical difficulties (“Track 20!” “You're making Gaga angry!”), but they eventually got it working. Gaga sang about how she wrote a bad program (parody of “Bad Romance”), then a referee (cosplaying as Rizzo?) called her out on not wearing safety glasses, having inappropriate footwear, and standing on a chair.
That night at the hotel, I talked to a group of students from team 111 and even met MC Dan Greene's daughter.

Saturday – After seeing our hotel buddies, teams 1714 and 111, at breakfast, we headed over to the competition again. Sadly, neither Clem nor Siri won mentor of the year, and I didn't win a scholarship. We still looked forward to seeing Jack get his VEX award later that day. And something else that made my day was getting to talk to the girls who played Lady Gaga and Kesha in the talent show! I took a peek at the silent auction. As a joke, they had the Woodie Flowers award sitting there. Some of the fake bids that people placed were hilarious. “Over $9000,” “Priceless,” and “My dad” were some of the offers.
We played two more matches and ended up in the 31st seed. Amongst all the previous IRI winners, regional winners, championship division winners, it was some pretty tough competition, so we didn't get picked for an alliance. However, we went on to the mentor matches directly after alliance selection. We did really well until one of the alliance members broke down.
After the mentor matches, Jack got his award for the VEX tournament. Then, we watched the elimination rounds. They were fun to watch, even if they did drag on and on with so many ties. When they finally played a good dance song, a few of us ran down to the side of the field for the Cha-Cha Slide. There was a boy from the PVC Pirates who cracked me up because when there wasn't enough room to take “five hops this time,” he purposefully crashed face-first into the padded gym wall. Siri, Clem, and I went up to a good spot on the balcony for better camera shots of the “game breaker” bot.
Once the never-ending finals finally ended, the team went out for our team dinner. I've gotta say, that whole lack of daylight savings time thing made lighting interesting. The sun set at about 9:30pm.

Sunday – Our car visited the Airforce Museum in Dayton, Ohio on the way home. Even though Carly and I looked all around the gift shop, we were unable to find t-shirts that say, “I survived a day at the Airforce Museum.” Yeah, ok, I kid, I kid. It's nothing personal, we just don't like museums that much. Everyone else had fun, though, and there is this one awesome picture of me, Carly, and Siri about to be hit by a missile. Some of the mannequins were making funny faces, too.
We passed through one of them “C” cities in Ohio on the way home, and I slept through West Virginia. We said goodbye to Siri in Harrisburg, then we arrived in Downingtown an hour or two later. And so ended our trip. It was quite a lot of fun, and I'd very much like to come back next year. Now I'm off to make a 1640 youtube account as per Foster's request and post some videos. The first video will probably be the VEX tournament since Foster asked for that and it requires very little editing. Ta-ta, ya'll.


Thursday -
Robot repairs
Another traveler from the cool car (Foster, Siri, Rizzo, Jen, Carly & yours truely) with a story to tell. Foster and I took turns driving during the trip. Driver fatigue, and stops, were thereby managed. I met Foster and Siri at Enterprise at 8 AM. We picked up Rizzo & Jen in Lionville and headed due west. Dead simple directions. Our van rolled into the Indianapolis Hotel lot at about 8 PM.

Great conversation. Comic relief. Good music. A relaxing road trip. What's not to like? During the trip, we began to develop a special 1640 Lexicon. This started with a toast to Unification Day during our lunch stop at Quaker Steak & Lube in Wheeling, WV (home of really hot wings). Okay, I confess that our Lexicon tends to be more a little bit Firefly-derived (Rizzo & I are admirers of this ancient and honored series). The Lexicon grew through the trip.

The evening ended with a mentor meet & greet at Dave & Busters. Good fun.

Friday - A real work day! We arrived at Lawrence North at about 7:30 AM and stayed through the Talent Show (although I spent this time in the pit, not at the show).

Wow! I have never seen so many outstanding robots in one place before. This is great! I spent as much time as I could visiting other teams and talking with them about their robots. FIRST pits are always a great place to view innovative approaches to problem-solving, but the concentration of innovation is much higher at IRI than at any other competition I've attended.

I also talked with teams about their processes, especially build season. I examined and photographed quite a few very well-organized pits. Next 1640 project needs to be a battery charging caddy.

We competed in 6 matches during the day, winning 4 and losing 2. I coached the first two of these. Siri coached the rest (and Saturday's as well). Siri did a great job coaching, which freed me up for other activities. We were in 21st place at the day's end.

We played extremely well. During matches 32 and 40, we played effective 1-on-2 defense, basically shutting the opposition down during 32. Afterwards, we got to show folks that we can score too! Middle zone performance is not so good.

We had a busy pit day. With 78 teams competing, batteries were never a problem. Other issues came up:

  • At the day's start, we noted that we could not communicate with the robot while tethered. Big problem. We thought we brought a brick to IRI! Fortunately, communications worked throughout the competition via the field system (and intermittently via tether). I missed the opening ceremonies over this problem.
  • Our possessor ate field balls. Won't eat our practice balls. Geometry between the two must be a bit off.
  • The IR sensors were unreliable for autonomous
  • Driver controls are too complex and non-intuitive
  • We killed the left possessor cylinder. Bent. Replaced it.
  • Replaced kicker elastics, wheel treads, bottom bar friction tape and possessor belts at day's end.
  • Broke the battery box. Made a fix.
  • Possessor no longer has a Vulcan Death Grip. More like a Hoboken Death Grip, which is not nearly as effective.
  • The mirror got droopy. We took it off.

Saturday - Arrived at Lawrence North by 7:30. Participated in the opening ceremonies.

Played our last two qualifying matches. Won the first. Lost the second (one of our allies went dead on the field). We finished 31st in a field of 78 robots. Quite respectable. We were, alas, not selected for a playoff alliance.

  • The replacement left possessor cylinder was also bent. No spares left, so the possessor bar was fixed in the lowered position. We cannot cross bumps like this.

We did play in the Mentor's Match. I was 5th alliance captian (a purchased commission) and received a very cool hat out of the deal. Teams 294 and 1018 joined our alliance. We won our first two matches, but then 294 dropped out due to mechanical problems and we were eliminated.

I drove for the first two matches, which we won (but this was not really my doing). Don't tell Carly, but driving is really hard! Carly was my coach (payback!). Lots of fun and since we were not in the playoffs, the don't break the robot rule was relaxed.

Jack received the VEX award.

I actually got to watch the playoffs. These were hard-played matches. A lot of ties. Lot's of hanging robots. This was great, as I normally don't get to watch matches.

We had dinner together (after a fashion) at Journeys. It was great. A good choice.

Sunday-We departed from our hotel 6:15 AM for a delicious (and strategically coffee-less) breakfast at Bob Evans. Foster & I both had the biscuits & gravy breakfast (which is largely responsible for the life-expectancy differential between the US Northeast and Southeast). After breakfast we fueled-up at Starbucks for the drive. Foster took the first leg.

Author's grandfather L E Bartlett in front of SPAD VII in which he made a forced landing in a backyard 5-Dec-1918
We made an extended stop at the the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH. Okay. I am a sucker for airplanes; especially military aircraft. I spent my mis-guided youth building model military aircraft (with an emphasis on WWI aircraft by by no means exclusivity in this era). My maternal grandfather (Lawrence E Bartlett) flew SE-5A (and other) fighters for the RAF (despite the fact that he was American) during WWI. My Father's brother (Edward O'Niel McKown) piloted B-17s and B-24s over Germany during WWII and later participated in the Berlin airlift. My Father wanted to be a pilot too, but due to color-blindness ended working (very indirectly) for George Patton instead. Anyway, the museum was great! We spent about 2 hours. I could have easily spent twice this. I have visited the Museum of Aviation at Robins AFB (the 2nd largest aviation museum in the US), which is very nice, but there is no comparison (sorry, Robins).

After lunch at Olive Garden, I took the helm for the 2nd leg of the journey, to Zanesville, OH. We hit serious traffic on I70 in Columbus, but were able to detour on local roads through the city. God, I love technology! Other than this, not much to talk about.

We blew past the exit for Quaker Steak about 5 minutes before Rita stopped there and called us. Very tempting, but retrograde motion was out of the question, so we pressed on. Damn the torpedoes.

We stopped at Sheetz in Hunker PA (which any respectable map will not show) for a bio-break and snacks. I drove again from Hunker to Harrisburg, where we left Siri in capable hands. Foster drove from Harrrisburg.

After dropping off Rizzo & Jen in Lionville, we ended up at Enterprise at about 10 PM. I collected Heather (from Rita's van) at DEHS at 10:30 and was home soon thereafter. Good timing.

In Conclusion

  • This is the best robotics competition I've ever participated in
  • Learned a lot. Made new connections.
  • We should try to get invited again next year
  • The team should make plans accordingly
  • We played well. We've got a good robot.
  • Competing at IRI will force us to become a better team


Matt & Anthony
The trip out to IRI was very interesting. I got to see parts of the country I had never seen before, and it was the first time I had ever crossed all of Pennsylvania. The event was great to see. My favorite part of the event is when one of the robots hung off of another robot. It was also awesome seeing Jack go undefeated in the VEX event at IRI. The thing that I learned at the competition is that you can design robots that block the tunnels. Some of the robots I saw that had the capability to hang had very fast mechanisms to do so. One of the Canadian team’s robots hung up in about 3 seconds.

A thing that I would like to do next year is go to a regional that we have never been to before. I would like to go back to IRI next year because it was a good competition, and I got to see teams and robot designs I had never seen before. I also learned how VEX events are scored, and that our robot can hang around with the larger teams and place well. I would definitely like to go back to IRI to improve on what we did this year. I really enjoyed this trip, and would go on it again.



What's all that Buzzing?

Early day on the road, the car trip got under way with discussion of things to come. Siri and I talked about the match list (the first one) and who we were paired with / against. We stopped of at Quaker Steak and Lube and got to experience the waiter Brandon, and really I think we all were the waiters there. The ride continued with the making of buttons for NEMO and talking about people to meet, then another stop for “dinner” at Fricker’s Chicken. At this point Mario McKown was in the driver seat and got us there about 8PM even with the dueling GPSs. Siri, Clem Foster and I headed to Dave & Busters for a meet and greet. Saw a lot people, knew none of them, found an open seat and just started talking. Meet Bob from 107, Jeff Smith, Jim from 33, Chet from 33, Carolyn from 33, Stu the head Ref.

Up early again for breakfast, Mmmm biscuits and Gravy, then off to IRI. Stated off Checking in with Stu the head Ref, had some time before the matches started, walked around a bit, saw the pits, the vex field and the demos setup. Ref’d match after match and continued to meet more people though out the day, Andy Baker, Mark Koors, Mark Leon, Dave Lavery, Chris Shultz, Dan green, and Paul C. The matches ran a little late but were very well managed for 78 teams. The team dinner was really nice just wish I was there earlier. I finished the day by catching a little bit of the talent show which was pretty good then crashed for the night.

As usually up early, wasn’t able to get more then coffee for breakfast for the fact that there were 3 teams all trying to get breakfast at the same time. After opening ceremonies matches started right up, today we actually had a break for lunch. After lunch we had the Mentor match. It felt so go to be on the other side of the “line” for a change. Got to play as both human player an as a driver, and it was something I have not done for 8 years. It felt so good.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, oh yeah except for the 4 hour finals! One round of finals went 5 matches with a 20/20 tie, one of the highest if not the highest, as well as a suspension and 5 robots hanging at once. The day ended much later then everyone would have liked, we all went out for a team dinner, and a few of the mentors headed out to grab a beer and discuss the Event while it was still fresh in our minds.

Up before anyone else today, the Foster Van set out for breakfast (“Thank you Mr. Rizzo”) and then for coffee and on the road. We stopped at the USAF museum where we saw planes from WW1 all the way up to modern space travel. We were able to get Siri to the extraction point. We continued to joke and discuses future idea for the team.

This was a great trip.

There were a few references and events that were left out or not extensively touched on for the fact that the other people in my car have already talked about them.



We started out early (seven o’clock am). After four stops, we arrived at the hotel at six o'clock pm.

The wake-up call was a little early but after twelve o’clock, everyone was awake. Mostly, I was the one holding down the stands, watching matches, and doing scouting for the matches when the new match schedule was finished. Also, I took a little time to walk around, look at some of the pits, and watch a few VEX matches. The talent show after was amazing. My favorite was the "glowy balls".

It was pretty much the same as Friday except for the fact that more of my team members spent more time in the stands. Also the elimination matches were spectacular even though it was an itsy bit disappointing that we were not selected to participate in them.

We woke up a little late and after that we stopped numerous times, got turned around once, and made it home at about eleven o'clock pm.


Sasha repairing robot in pit

Thursday: Another traveler’s journey, however this traveler was in the sleepy, yet motivated van. Our driver was motivated to getting there early and the rest of the van slept. Our mentor drove from Downingtown East High School, where we picked up John, Andrew, Heather, and Ben R., all the way to our hotel in Indianapolis. We stopped only for bio-breaks, nutrition, and gasoline (being very careful to avoid all BP gas stations). Our directions, downloaded from Mapquest, were beautifully simple. I, the Navigator of our van, applaud the inventors of Mapquest. We arrived at our destination, our hotel, at 6:45pm, just as scheduled. It was an all-together relaxing trip. Bad jokes and good music go well together, or so I found. We relaxed after unpacking, either finding the pool and hopping in or going to the lobby to watch the golf tournament.

Friday: Our first day of competition! We arrived at Lawrence North to unpack the trailer at about 7:30 AM, after a quick complimentary breakfast at the hotel. When we arrived, I had no idea what to expect. There were so many robots at this competition, that when I walked through the doors for the first time, I thought I was hallucinating. So I pinched myself. The healing bruise on my arm serves as my reminder that, in the future I will simply believe what my eyes tell me about a robotics competition. I spent what little time I had in between matches visiting other teams and talking with them about their robots. While I was talking to these teams, I realized what it meant to be at ‘FIRST’s All-star game’. All of the teams played competitively on the field, while maintaining all of their FIRST values. Also the teams were friendly and willing to share their knowledge, robot design, and strategies with a neophyte, such as myself. We competed in 6 matches during the day, winning 4 and losing 2. I operated the kicker/possessor in all of these as well as Saturday’s matches. We were in 21st place at the day's end, which made me very happy. We played a satisfyingly effective defense, in matches 32 and 40.When we were not competing, our pit was busy as a beehive, making changes and corrections. The talent show was fun and full of surprises! There was even a student who made Tesla coils play the Ironman theme song! On top of that, there was a student who wielded glowing spinning balls in time to the music, even though they were two separate acts. It was an amazing display of talent; I was astounded that the judges could even choose a winner!

Saturday: Again, we arrived at Lawrence North by 7:30 AM. We worked on the robot a little bit before participating in the opening ceremonies. We played our last two qualifying matches, winning the first and losing the second. We finished 31st in a field of 78 robots, which was quite respectable given the range of competitors. Alas, as Clem stated, we were not selected to be in a playoff alliance. Our team did participate in the Mentor's Match. Clem represented us as the 5th alliance captain during the alliance selection. We were maintaining a winning streak, until one of our alliance members dropped out due to mechanical problems and we were eliminated. Jack, the Eliminator, received the VEX award for rising, undefeated, to the top of the competition. The playoffs were an intense series of games with more ties than wins. Many robots hung from the tower, displaying their mechanical strength and intriguing design. We had dinner together at Journeys. The food was good, especially the chocolate fondue.

Sunday: We left the hotel at 8 AM after breakfast. It was another sleepy drive. Once again, we stopped only for food, bio-breaks, and gasoline. We stopped at Quaker Steak & Lube in Wheeling, WV for wings. They were different. I tried the ‘Hot’ wings and did not find them spicy, despite the raving reviews I have heard about them. After we ate, we drove home, stopping once or twice to stretch our legs. We arrived at East at 10:30 PM, passing our passengers into the hands of the proper authorities (parents), before driving home to sleep in our own beds. I never believed those mattress commercials where a person returns from their vacation and flings himself/herself onto the bed, and vows never to leave it again. I fully understand now. The only thing that might pry me away from it now is if we go to IRI again, which we should definitely apply for again. It was a wonderful experience.



Douglas changes wheel treads
Thursday was the ride up to Indiana. I had to be at DEC by 8:30 so we could

leave then, but unfortunately the driver arrived last around 9. From there we started driving, and driving, and driving. I made four different mix CD's for the ride, but they were done in a few hours. After that everyone just slept until we hit Cabela's. Everyone ate some food in the nearby 'Quaker Steak and Lube', and we walked into Cabela's. A few hours later we hit the road again. This time we drove until we found a White Castle, and I ate a few too many soggy burgers. No worry I just had to hold it in for a few more hours until we got to the hotel... the next morning. Needless to say my room didn't get too much sleep that night.

Friday First day of the competition we did pretty well. After checking out the 'bot, and making sure everything was OK, we hit the ground running. We didn't win all of the matches that day, but nevertheless for a 78 team competition we did awesome. There were just a couple snags, when the classmate decided to glitch up a little bit, and when our possessor bar stuck, but we still recovered.

Saturday Second and last day of competition went basically the same as the first. One kid in our room had set the alarm on his phone, which to his credit did wake us up, but someone shut it off before becoming fully awake. Then we got a phone call to wake us up when it was almost time to leave. Catching a ride wasn't a problem though, and we were soon set up at the competition. I still worked pit crew, and just chilled around the competition until we got to the mentor match and picking teams. I stayed for them long enough to know that we didn't win the mentor match, and we didn't get picked either. But you win some, and you lose some, so some of us went out to Friday's. After coming back and packing up we headed back to the hotel for a little swimming and then dinner. Dinner was at a place called 'The Journey', an international buffet of sorts. There was all kinds of different foods there, of which I had three plates. After the food came the chocolate fountain and that was delicious. Then we drove back for the final night at the hotel.

Sunday We stayed up pretty late Saturday saying that we would pack up, but ended up packing today anyway. This was the day that we drove home, and didn't get there until pretty late Monday. Not much to say about this day, it was essentially Thursday all over.


Andrew wielding trident
The Indianapolis Robotics Invitational was an exciting and oddly educational event with seventy-eight teams competing for the championship while enjoying themselves and learning a multitude of engineering principles. Many of the teams had robots that appeared similar to ours, but with several different design features. Others had arms and hooks that they used to latch onto the towers and pull themselves up. One team had a robot that was nearly in the shape of a triangle, which seemed peculiar. Another team had a robot that had a ramp attached to it so their team could continuously retrieve the soccer balls that they score, thus increasing their teams’ points. These robots all appeared to score well, though many robots that could hang from the towers seemed to do exceptionally well in gaining points.

In the semifinals, many of the robots that could hang competed against each other, and they appeared evenly matched, and the points that each team won each match were tied multiple times. Those teams kept gaining more points through hanging, which seemed very peculiar that many of the semifinalists were hanging robots. Though many of these robots varied in style and abilities, all of them performed well on the field.



Rita & Jen
Our group, Sasha, Nicole, Andrew,John, Heather and Ben R. The drive to Indiana was uneventful. It was a long drive filled with good company, bad jokes, puns and wonderful scenery. Our group was the first to arrive at the hotel. We relaxed, swam, did some paperwork and called it a day around 11:00pm.

After a hot breakfast, Team Sab-BOT-age was excited and ready to handle whatever the day had to offer. The Lawrence North High School is a great facility to host a robotics competition, large with a well laid out floor plan.The organizers and volunteers were welcoming, helpful and patient with the numerous questions and requests brought to them. They handled unforeseen glitches/issues in an admirably expedient manner. The pit administration folks were amazing. The teams that I met were friendly, helpful, having a wonderful time and did not mind waxing eloquent about their fantastic creations. How very FIRST! ;)! Despite a few setbacks, as noted in previous logs, FRC1640 had a wonderful day. Congratulations to Jack on winning the VEX competition! You “scooped” the competition. Hats off to the ladies at the upper level concession. The coffee was fresh & hot! Dinner was good. The talent show was varied and showcased the many multi-talented roboteers in attendance. Very entertaining. Unfortunately, the pit crew missed most of it as they were working on ensuring that DEWBot VI was ready for Saturday’s matches. We headed back to the hotel and called it a day at 11:00pm.

Team1640 was ready for another interesting day at 7:30am. After our final two matches we placed 31st of the seventy eight teams. Unfortunately, we were not chosen as an alliance partner. The mentor matches were enlightening. This added another dimension to the driver/programmer problem solving algorithm. The final matches were awesome! I think that the atmosphere in the gym during the final matches gave everyone a glimpse of Dean Kamen’s vision of what FIRST’s FRC division is all about.
Definitely an event that we should participate in again.

The drive home was almost uneventful…Columbus & road construction…..enough said. Our group stopped at Quaker Steak and Lube to try out the hot wings for dinner. Discussion topics covered the IRI tournament, robots, battery boxes, robots, team building skills, robots, fund raising, played games, shared bad jokes, read, listened to music and slept.


Well they say that all types an people do robotics, and witnessing th 78 teams at the Indiana Robotics Invitational, these words seemed more than evident

But all types it is more than simple demography. As interesting as it is to see the spread of teams between inner-city Detroit to rural Wisconsin. The types of people were also quite different. Between the shark-hatted and blue haired Cyber Sharks to the Machinist looking More Robotics. Plenty were nerds or geeks such as myself, but some were also quite laid back relaxing to some hackysack.

Regardless, all of the robots were phenomenon, making for a wonderful learning experience of both me and hopefully the other robotters of the team. In short anybody "can" do robotics, but the effort needed draws from a team working in unison.

It takes all kinds of people to make a team, and we seem to have our own strange spectrum in our own right.

Ben R

Ben R in pit
I walk into the high school in Indiana to find myself face to face with 79 of the finest teams in all of FIRST Robotics, including us. All of us were invited for our enthralling skills and/or engineering marvels. A quick glance around me showed our team, Team 1640, would soon be battling a handful of the indigenous 32 teams of FIRST robotics. After solving a few kinks in the robot, we were ready to face our prodigious opponents. During some of the matches our bot played a shrewd yet fair defense. The four wheels on our robot rotated 360 degrees and each had such excellent grip, that we could push almost any robot out of the way. These pivoting wheels allow for perfect maneuverability which goes almost unmatched at IRI.

Our team was victorious more often than it was vanquished. Despite this, at the end of the qualifying matches our bot unfortunately was not chosen to go into the final rounds. At the end of the day, however; the leader board displayed our ranking. Our ranking was higher than half of the participants at IRI. For our team this is a first time accomplishment and next year our proficiency will show no bounds.


Siri Maley & Matt carry robot off field
Upon arrival to IRI it really did not seem much different to other off season events there was a field circumscribed by bleachers and robots being worked on in the pits. That all changed when the robots where put on to the field for play.

After watching the first few matches the scores where in the low 20s almost unheard of at in-season events. At that point I realized we were dealing with a new breed of terror out on the field which would push our robot to the breaking point. At all the in-season events that we attended our robot stood out for its fine looks and engineering but at IRI we were just like everyone else. After the first day of event we were placed 21 out 0f 79 which was phenomenal given the other robots we where competing against.

One of the robots even took position in the tower where it than deployed its massive arm in order to redirect the balls re-entering the field back onto the goal rapidly multiplying their score. Not only where the robots impressive shooters but many of them also had impressive hanging devices to assist them in boosting their score by several points at the end of the match. In two of the matches it was exciting to watch a robot hang off another robot since it was not accomplished previous to IRI.

Overall the trip was a good experience to meet new teams and form relationships with teams that often appear at the World Championship level and who knows maybe we will make it there in the near future.


Heather busy in the pit
Looking back on our success at IRI, I could not be more proud of the team. 1640 really showed its true colors on our last trip, and kicked a tremendous amount of nerd butt in the process. Now I’m not saying we’re the best grease monkeys and geeks out there, but we did just rank in the top 40% while facing championship teams. Sab-BOT-age made a name for itself at its first time at IRI.

To better understand our triumph, I think it is necessary to understand everything that we were up against. The other teams were top notch, we had no connections to start with, our main programmers were out of town, and the laptop that happened to control the robot had decided to die there for a while. In addition to this, the robot was in for repairs on either the kicker or a glitch in the programming after every match. Despite all this, we still played some of the best defense I’ve ever seen in a robotics competition and we were an excellent team player, being able to operate with far more flexibility than many of the other robots there. We may have been going up against the big kids but we place with the big kids. Just got to say, Kudos to Sab-BOT-age, they really deserve it.

Other pages about the DEWBOT VI Indiana Robotics Invitational

DEWBOT VI IRI Photo Gallery
DEWBOT VI IRI Problems Encountered
DEWBOT VI IRI Trip Reports