All posts by Mika S

Post Bag Day #12 – 3/10/15 – Packing and Hacking

Lab Opening Time: 1:25 PM

Aleksandr, the head programmer, and his line up of computers.
Aleksandr, the head programmer, and his line up of computers.

With two days until the Team’s first competition, the time is high-tailing it. There is a lot that still needs to get done, including welding and manufacturing all spare/replaced parts, making the control board, putting vinyl on the trailer,and packing up the trailer.

The modular version of the button and Arduino Leonardo wiring.
The modular version of the button and Arduino Leonardo wiring.

At the beginning of the meeting, Jack, the lead of electrical and the president, was working with the electrical sub-team to wire all of the components of the control board. This included a few drilled holes, a whole bunch of wires, but mostly a lot of frustration. Jack had been working on the board all day, and was faced with a lot of difficulty when working with the Arduino Leonardo wiring. By the end of the meeting, Jack had managed to get everything up and running. One new feature the control board has this year is that everything is modular. The button panel is removable, replaceable, to continue the use of the board or to upgrade it easily.

Jack, Joshua, Alfredo. and Roupen delegating tasks for the day.
Jack, Joshua, Alfredo. and Roupen delegating tasks for the day.

While the electrical sub-team was working with the control board, Joshua, the lead of prototyping, was delegating tasks to finish the construction of the new forks.

All the while, Roupen, the head weldor, was welding together the spare intakes.

Parts being packed up for competition.
Parts being packed up for competition.

During the whole duration of the meeting, Devon and Lauren were packing up for the competition on Thursday. Anna and Karin, two business rookies, were laying claim to the vinyling of the trailer; they cleaned the trailer and placed the Disney Imagineering logos on both sides of the trailer.

At the end of the meeting, the intakes were welded (excluding the un-machined parts that we are still waiting on), the forks were made, everything was packed up, and the control board was completed.

One interesting twist to this all was the head programmer, Aleksandr, showing off SLAM which he can detail in the video below.

[this will be uploaded soon, however, videos don’t like me]

Today was crunch-time, and the Team managed to slip through with a little bit of shoving. Tomorrow, the only going-ons is Mr. Black dropping off the pit at Long Beach and high-tailing it for a good nights sleep.

Lab Closing Time: To Be Determined. We are still here.

Post Bag Day #10 – 3/8/15 – [R]ejected

Lab Opening Time: 1:00 PM

Today’s Sunday Meeting had less than half of the team in attendance. Even so, the team accomplished a lot today.

Chris and Ryan, the media sub-team, were interviewing people for the Chairman’s video in the Green Screen room.

Lauren, the photographer of the team who I owe all of the amazing blog pictures to, is sorting through the last few years of pictures and arranging them into the top 50 best pictures for each year.

Joshua put together his ejector today, but still needs to manufacture a few more parts before it’s ready to be put on the robot.

The biggest thing being worked on is Pit setup (Mr. Black is the main force behind that) and making the control board.

Just days away from competition, the team is chugging along.


Lab Closing Time: 6:30 PM

Post Bag Day #8 – 3/4/15 – Lesson Learned

Lab Opening Time: 1:25 PM

Thanks to Mr. Widholm, today the team met to continue working on need-to-do projects.

Joshua, the head of the prototyping sub-team, was starting work on manufacturing  the ejector mechanism. One valuable lesson learned today in manufacturing parts was using the proper stand-offs with the right amount of supports. When the ejector stock was placed in the machine, it wasn’t properly supported, so when we started cutting the whole piece shifted and was cut wrong.  Lesson learned.

Alexander, a member of the electrical sub-team, was continuing to hook up the new AndyMark batteries the Team got yesterday.

Olivia, my partner in crime, and Mr. Widholm were machining the intake joints and the forks for the elevator carriage on the HAAS Mini Mill.

Roupen, the student welder, was welding the robot cart. In fact, as Mr. Widholm was locking doors and turning off lights at 6, Roupen walked into the lab with the finished robot cart frame.

The next week is going to be packed with a lot to do and little time to do it.

Lab Closing Time: 6:10 PM


Post Bag Day #6 – 2/28/15 – Hello World!

Lab Opening Time: 9:00 AM

Hello World! The blog is public now, and we bloggers are happy to have you here.

Today involved a lot of blog corrections and work to get the robot reveal video released and sent out onto all platforms.

With the CAM sub-team, Olivia, my partner in crime, Alfredo, and James were programming, cutting, and machining everything needed for the spare intakes. This included the pivots (male and female), bearing holes, and VEX Versaplanetary bolt holes.

Joshua, the prototyping lead,  is starting to work on the fabrication of his new  ejector mechanism.

Although there was hardly anybody at robotics today, a lot was done, or significantly improved on; an overall decent day.

Lab Closing Time: 6:45 PM

Post Bag Meeting #4 – 2/26/2015: #snackroomretirement

Lab Opening Time: 1:25 PM

In the last few days, running sometimes to 10 PM, and into Mr. Black’s free class periods, Mr. Black was cleaning the lab. The season has affected the lab from the horrible clutter that was the sawing room to the stained carpets in the computer lab. During the last few days, Mr. Black cleaned up the lab himself (which he shouldn’t have had to do as a mentor).

At the beginning of today there was a brief meeting discussing student hours (an overall total of 8000+ hours) and the new policies being implemented to keep the lab clean. So, the main turn out of the past week was the beloved snack room being retired permanently. Now, the team will have to bring their own snacks, but are welcome to the drinks in the refrigerator (just not the ones labeled “Mentor”).

One set back for today was the fact that the mentors had temporarily banned the usage of the Dewalt saw and vertical bandsaw in the sawing room due to the lack of cleanup which occurred during the season when using the sawing room (thrown around scrap metal and metal/wood dust everywhere). Due to this, production of some of the spare parts was stalled until tomorrow.

Luckily, the CAM team was working hard today. Olivia has become quite the pro when it comes to programming the parts for milling, and Alfredo and Claire have become pretty advanced in setting up and operating the HAAS Mini Mill.

Media is continuing to work on the reveal video for the yet-to-be-offically-named (can we name this thing already, you know it’s bad when I have to give it a “he-who-must-not-be-named” name for a robot) robot. They are working on a pretty impressive video even with the little footage they managed to snag before bagging.

Business team is now working with wrapping up kickstarter now that it’s been closed. We barely made our goal of $2,000, finishing at a total of $2,076.  Thank you to everyone who supported our fund raising campaign!  Despite a lower final total than we hoped for, Anna and Karin, the two rookie ladies in charge of fund raising, are learning from their mistakes and are planning to come back even stronger next year.

Tomorrow and the rest of this weekend is shaping up to be pretty busy with a lot to do.

Lab Closing Time: 6:15 PM

Post Bag Meeting #2 Knock On Wood

Lab Opening Time: 1:00 PM

On this rainy Sunday, work continues with the team. Media is working on the robot reveal video while Business is working with the funds for the Ventura Regional and preparing vinyl for the robot sponsor panels.

Joshua, the lead for the Prototyping team, is continuing to work on the prototype. He is mainly focusing on a compressing mechanism to keep pressure on a stack of totes so that the stack doesn’t tip over while moving on the field.

Joshua working to make a stable base for the prototype.
Joshua working to make a stable base for the prototype.

While all of that is going, material is being cut to have extra parts made in-case anything breaks during an event. Knock on wood.

Lab Closing Time: 7:00 PM

Day #45 – 2-16-14 – Epic Pool Noodle War

Lab Opening Time: 10:00 AM

Just a day away from the build season coming to a close, the team is trying to quickly wrap up. In the morning, the L-Com RJ-45 jack was installed while the elevator forks were being slotted for stability. After yesterday where the elevator forks had been lengthened, the next step in making the forks as efficient as possible involved making these slots that would line up with the tabs along the side of the totes.

Before lunch, a few students started to assemble the field for practice in the school gym while the robot’s limit switches (which rest along the top and bottom of the elevator on the right side of the robot) where been tweaked to work properly. After this, and lunch, the team continued to work on trouble-shooting problems involving code + limit switches. While that was being worked on, the CAD team was designing the plates that would rest atop the Victors (which is pretty important when vital electronics are simply hanging out in the open like they are).

Upper Limit Switch
Upper Limit Switch


Lower Limit Switch
Lower Limit Switch


1/16 thick grey tint polycarbonate protective panel


New longer forks.  These are out of the transport configuration, and a new set will need to be manufactured in the coming weeks for installation at the Long Beach regional.
New longer forks. These are out of the transport configuration, and a new set will need to be manufactured in the coming weeks for installation at the Long Beach regional.


Business is continuing to work on the sponsors plate now that their submission for the chairman’s essay is done.

At about 5, the robot was tucked into Mr. Black’s truck and carted down to the gym where the field was waiting. There, the programmers continued working on code, like the synchronization between the forks being lowered and the intakes being opened so that no constraint  failures  errors occurred.

Carting the robot down to the gym in the back of Mr. Black's truck.
Carting the robot down to the gym in the back of Mr. Black’s truck.


The team testing out the robot on the field setup in the gym.
The team testing out the robot on the field setup in the gym.

After working with the robot for a while, the programmers concluded with testing out the elevator successfully. During this time, both Jack (the driver from last year) and Aleksandr (the operator from last year) tested out the new driving system through the new obstacle course of a playing field.  We are very impressed with how well it drives in any direction, and the fancy teacup-ride-like maneuvers it can do.  Translating while spinning is completely awesome.  After 15 years, and saying we’d never do it, Team 696 has finally built a swerve drive, (and an awesome one too).


We also tested the elevator, which works much better now with the RS775-18 motors and the 14 lb constant force spring.  It is able to lift 6 totes and a can without a problem.

The main problem concerning the elevator chain is the fact that the chain is filing down the battery box because the two are so close.  When the elevator encounters a shock load, the tensioning spring extends, causing the other side of the chain to become slack, resulting in it jumping off the sprocket teeth and becoming jammed between the sprocket and the battery box.

We think the resolution to the issue may be a rigid turnbuckle type device for tensioning rather than a spring.

Tomorrow (or should I say today?) is going to be another long day of testing things out and seeing what fails first.  Only 23 hours until bag time.

Lab Closing Time: 1:00 AM on 2/17/15

Day #43 – 2/14/15 – One Robot Later

Lab Opening Time: 9:00 AM

The front team number plate which is placed on the face of the elevator.
The team number plate placed on the face of the elevator.

In the early hours of the morning (as in 12 AM – 2 AM), the team accomplished attaching and wiring the intakes while also driving for the first time. The first demonstration (as seen below) was taken slowly, but by the end of it all, Jack (the driver) was running around like we had some powder coat to scrape off.

This morning, the team continued to work. The brake for the elevator was installed, the team numbers were placed all around the robot (excluding the back), the forks along with the ejector piston were cut, programmed for milling, milled, installed, wired up, and chained.

The elevator team number plate.
The elevator team number plate.


The programming team continued to debug code along with work with new components of the robot throughout the day.
The programming team continued to debug code along with work with new components of the robot throughout the day.
Cable-actuated disc brake mechanism.
Cable-actuated disc brake mechanism.
Other sub-teams continue work outside the affairs of the robot.
Other sub-teams continue work outside the affairs of the robot.

In tomorrow’s horoscope, the flaps for the elevator forks need to be made while work on the autocanners continues.

We tested the elevator with various numbers of totes and to our dismay we found that the Banebots RS-550 motors are producing less power than expected, and we’re losing more efficiency in the VersaPlanetary gearboxes than we expected.  The elevator runs slower than anticipated, and stalls when lifting any more than 4 totes.  Another contributing factor is the weight of the moving parts of elevator mechanism itself, which amounts to approximately 8 pounds.  Furthermore, we noticed the VersaPlanetary gearboxes themselves become very hot during operation, and we’re wondering if the viscosity of the Mobile moly grease we used is a contributing factor.

The 15 lb constant force spring is an absolute necessity to remove some of the load off the motors.  We also plan to swap the RS550 motors for RS775-18V motors which have significantly more torque.  If that is still not enough, we can gear the VersaPlanetaries to 16:1 for another 33% increase in torque.

One interesting note is that we’ve found when running brand new BaneBots motors in brand new VersaPlanetaries, during the first minute of full speed operation under no load, the speed seems to significantly increase (approximately 50%) as indicated by the sound it emits.  We speculate the motor brushes may be seating against the commutator and the planetaries are wearing in and reducing friction.  It would be interesting to monitor the current on it.

Plenty of work left to do tomorrow, errr, today!

Lab Closing Time: (2:30 AM on 2/15/15)

Day #41 – 2/12/15 – Fired

Lab Opening Time:  3:00 PM

Mr. Black and Mr. Hoard had a meeting with the team at the beginning of the day to showcase just how little time the team has left. Less than a week left leaves no room for error at this point: we need to finish.

Disassembling the prototype.
Disassembling the prototype.

One of the first things that happened was cleaning up the lab for the incoming powder coat pieces. With these incoming pieces, the team could start to put the puzzle pieces together to (hopefully) get a robot that functioned as it was designed to. One huge problem right now is the fact that manufacturing for the elevator forks is still not happening because they aren’t even designed yet.

Parts coming back from powder coating .
Parts coming back from powder coating .
The elevator coming back from powder coating.
The elevator supports coming back from powder coating.

With the set backs already going on, the programming team continued working with the robot. Programming this year is vastly different from years prior due to the swerve gearboxes which pose a completely new problem to the mix.

Daniel working to fix coding issues with the robot.
Daniel working to fix coding issues with the robot.

Mr. Black and Roupen were working on assembling the solenoid manifold while preparations for assembly happened.

Solenoid manifold being assembled.
Solenoid manifold being assembled.

Once the manifold was assembled, it was mounted along with the PCM to the back electronics plate. The comically short wires were routed


Meanwhile, the intakes were also mounted.

2-13-2015 Intakes Closed
Transport configuration
2-13-2015 Intakes Open
Open Intakes



Tomorrow, along with the rest of the weekend, is starting to look like the long hours and late night pizzas the team had been waiting for.

Lab Closing Time: 11:30 PM

Day #37 – 2/8/15 – Ctrl-Z

Lab Opening Time: 1:00 PM

Today was one of those days in robotics we would rather not refer to ever again. Mostly, a lot of mistakes were made that should have been caught a lot earlier.

Last night, for example, the electronics team found out that the PDP (Power Distribution Panel) had been wired incorrectly. After what was probably hours wasted on fixing this problem, the programmers had left for the night and no programming took place.

Today was another story altogether. On the robot alone, the gearboxes had to be taken off the frame and the versaplanetarys had to get disassembled. After which, we had to re-drill holes into the frame because the gearboxes refused to fit as they had before.

Displaying IMG_6435.JPG
The elevator frame placed on the drive base.


On the manufacturing side of things, the diagonal supports for the elevator had to get cut, drilled, re-drilled, welded, re-cut, re-re-drilled, and welded again. Then, we found out the electronics plate had to get re-cut (after already being drilled) after which point we had to lathe rivets to fit the plate.

The Electronics Plate
The Electronics Plate

Then, we found out that the elevator mechanism (which we spent several days working to machine) had been wrongly designed after already being made.

Wasted time, energy, and stock: today wasn’t a good day.

However, among all of this, the team had also accomplished putting the elevator on the frame. While the team accepts it’s mistakes, we always come back with a solution.

Among all of this, the team still accomplished a lot today:

The media team working on the set up for the chairman's video.
The media team working on the set up for the chairman’s video.

The media team was working on the chairman’s video, and business was designing the new business cards (which are looking much more modern and stylistic in-code with the new website)

Lab Closing Time: Approximately 12:30 AM on 2/9/15