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 Day #5 – 2/27/15- Blue and Black Dress

Lab opening time: 1:35pm

Of course the robotics lab was a buzz with the black and blue dress that seems white and gold to others.

Speaking of groundbreaking news, the Team 696 robot reveal video was finished today!!!!!! The name of the robot is……. Centurion. Here is the reveal video.

Chris worked on finalizing the t-shirt design and worked with the animation team to get the rendered version of the robot for the back of the shirt.

Claire was able to run the elevator crossmember plate on the HAAS. The new part was pocketed to help reduce the weight. Bhavin cut out the brake housing that will keep people from sticking their fingers inside the disk brake.

Joshua and Roupen worked on a new ejector system that would be a scissor design that would be actuated with two pistons. Hopefully, this design will not be heavier than the original ejector.

Photo Feb 27, 6 07 04 PM
New tote holding system.


The business team worked on getting out a survey to all the donors of our Kickstarter which ended today. They also worked on the team contact information and the design of the sponsor panels.

The programing team got the Arduino Leonardo working with the joystick. Meet worked on the mount for the joystick.

Mika cut bar stock for various parts that will be added to the robot and Alexander Luke worked on wiring extra motors in case one of the motors stops working.

Alexander soldering away!
Alexander soldering away!

Mr. Black spent some of the afternoon walking some gentlemen from JPL around our lab. One of the visitors was actually a mentor for Team 696 during its early days. They were blown away with the machinery and technology. They even extended an offer from the team to come tour their lab after competition, of course.

JPL visitors talking to team 696 students.
JPL visitors talking to Team 696 students.

Lab closing time: 10:30pm 

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 Day #3- 2/23/15 – Small and Mighty

Lab opening time: 2:00 pm

Today was a small work day.  Most of the team took the day off because there was no real assigned work to be done. The people that did show up, however, got lots of good work done.

The media team worked hard on getting the reveal video done and finalized. Lauren worked on cleaning up the Photoshop on the finalized robot photo. The business team cut the vinyl for the name plates and worked on organizing the teams contact information.

Vinyl nameplates.
Vinyl nameplates.

The prototyping team worked on a light-weight mechanism that would help to keep the totes from falling over when moving a six stack around. Devon also worked on the wiring of the new 2015 battery.

Devon working on the battery.
Devon working on the battery.
Testing out ideas for keeping the totes in place.
Testing out ideas for keeping the totes in place.

Daniel, a second year programmer, worked on getting the Arduino Leonardo working so that it could be used as a joystick on this year’s control board which Sipan is working to design. Aleksandr worked on the Odroid U3 image with ross PCL libraries and open wide libraries complied and working for the Xbox Kinect.

Lab closing time : 6:45 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

Post Bag Meeting #1 – 2/19/15

Lab opening time: 1:30pm

Early this morning, the team received a text message telling everyone that there was a robotics meeting today from 3 pm to 6pm.

The media team is working with sorting, filing, and editing all of the footage they captured over the last few days to put together the robot reveal video. Lauren and Nicole also started working on touching up the professional shots of the robot that will be framed and hung in the lab.

Nicole works with Lauren on editing the robot photos.
Nicole working with Lauren on editing the robot photos.

The mechanical team worked on putting together a wooden mock up of the robot to test out potential mechanisms to make the robot lighter. The lathe team worked on making a lighter elevator tensioning rod so that we don’t end up overweight (again).

Claire and Joshua work on the wooden robot.
Claire and Joshua work on the wooden robot.

The business team worked on updating the Kickstarter now that the build season is officially over. The CAD team worked on getting the robot design assembly completed for the new robot image on this years t-shirt. Cynthia also worked on the new CAD of the elevator forks and on getting the animation team all of the updated components so that we can show an exploded view of our robot in the pits.

The new aluminum tension rod.
The new aluminum tension rod.

Jack and Mr. Black spent all of the meeting discussing dates of pre-competion items that need to be done and which people need to be present and on which days should meetings take place. After all, we only have until March 11 before our first competition.

While build season is over, Team 696 is still going strong. This is just the beginning folks.

Lab closing time: 9:30 pm 

Day #46 – 2/17/15 – Bag and Tag Day!

Lab opening time: 1:30pm

Today was bag and tag day. Naturally, everyone’s attention was on the robot and getting it ready for the bag. One of the first items of business was to weight the robot to see what weight we were at because we knew that we had more parts to put on the robot. When we weighted the robot, the scale read 119.7 pounds. After adding some of the weight we knew we were going to add, the grand total was 122.0 pounds. We then discussed ways in which we could lighten the robot. One of the first items to go were the Team 696 name plates because each one weighted about a pound. The solution to the name plates was to use 1/16″ Delrin and then use black vinyl for the letters. We also took out the two spare Victor SPs we had on the robot and we are also going to do some pocketing on the elevator crossmember beam and on the elevator tensioning plate. We also replaced the larger green Banebot wheels with the smaller blue ones which may shave off a little bit of weight.

Photo Feb 17, 8 26 19 PM

After this, some students went down to the gym to grab all of the field pieces and bring them up to the auditeria were we would be practicing today. Then they set up the field and got ready for driver practice.

Field set up.
Field set up.

The main goal for practice today was to get the autonomous code working and also to practice intaking from the human feeder station. We also worked on building the coopertiton stack and driving with six totes. When we timed one of the human feeder loading of six totes and then scoring them, it took us 1:30min. This was too long and we are trying to figure out a way to make stacks faster.

With just under two hours to go, we ran into one slight problem. One of the intake pivots came off because the weld was not holding the pivot in place. Since the intake rollers are a necessity, we took off that intake and re-welded the pivot back on and hopefully it will stay.

Broken Intake Weld

Learning how to drive.
Learning how to drive.

Mr. Widholm worked on the newly designed swerve tubes and a chain tensioning piece that will hopefully keep the chain from stretching the spring and scratching the battery box.

Practicing our coopertition stack.
Practicing our coopertition stack.

Business team worked on getting the sponsorship panels mounted along with helping the media team set up for the full robot pictures.

We set up and shot as professional of a photo as we could with the time and resources we had.  Although we had purchased a large 10’x15′ sheet of Muslin cloth for the backdrop, it came folded and had terrible creases we were not able to get out.  Also, our lighting was not ideal, but we did the best we could with what we had.  Much Photoshopping will be required.  It was a bit of a mad dash toward the end, with the photo shoot happening between 11:25 and 11:50 PM.

2015 Robot Portrait Photo Shoot
2015 Robot Portrait Photo Shoot

At 11:50 PM, we pulled the robot out of the photo shoot and quickly executed plans to dismount the fork assembly and other components we planned to withhold as part of the 30 pound allowance.  At 12 midnight on the dot, the seal went on the bag.

The 2015 robot just seconds before the seal was placed on the bag.

And as a side note, we absolutely hate bagging.  It’s pointless.  It’s completely an honor system anyway, and makes the robot unnecessarily difficult to transport.  We’d be perfectly content locking it in a room and not touching it.  It’s no different than bagging in principle.  All I can say is there will be long lines through doorways this year; that’s for sure.

Lab closing time: 1:30 am on 2/18/15

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 #44 – 2/15/15

Lab opening time: 1:05pm

List of Problems and Solutions.
List of Problems and Solutions.

The day started out with the weighting of the robot as the team wanted to see how much the robot weighted without the addition of the autocanners, elevator flaps, constant spring and its mount. By using Mr. Najarian’s scale the team came up with a weight of about 114 pounds. We then weighted the robot on the new scale that we had bought on Amazon which  stated that it was accurate to within 1/10th of a pound. When we weighted the robot on this scale, it read 109 pounds. We then spent some time trying to figure out which scale was accurate. We tried to see by having people who knew approximately how much they weighed stand on the new scale but their were still slight degrees of variance. We then placed 2014’s robot on the scales and found Mr. Najarian’s  scale to be more accurate. With the weight of the robot known, the team could get on with the rest of the day.

One of the first mechanical tasks was to replace the BaneBots RS550 motors on the elevator with RS775 motors.  After a bit of calculation, we determined that we’d like to stick with the 12:1 gear ratio.  After a bit of re-wiring and reconfiguration of the VersaPlanetary input side, the new motors were installed.  We’re happy to report they work great, and are able to lift 4 totes at a rather decent speed, and can also lift 6 totes and a can without issue.

Daniel working on programing.
Daniel working on programming.

The programming team worked on calibrating the swerve modules so that they would only need to be calibrated once and then not have to be re-calibrated every time. They also got last year’s driver station working on this years robot so that the drivers of the robot can get every second they can get with the robot, with a control board that will resemble the actual board.

While the programming team worked on the code, the rest of the mech team worked on fixing all of the problems with the robot. One of the problems that was found early on was that the ejector air cylinders were touching the ground and which could potentially damage the push-to-connect tube fittings. Another problem was the flaps we originally thought of using were not long enough so we had to redesign them. The new idea is to have flaps that fold out so that we have a larger area to pick up the totes.

Shay worked on getting the constant force spring mounted to the robot. Originally, we were going to have an aluminum casing but after weighting the robot, it did not seem practical so we decided to use laser cut delrin instead. After trying to mount the spring, it was realized that the small plate that we had manufactured to mount the spring to the chain was not long enough and would not hold the spring in place. After a redesign, the mount was put back on but was too short and we were worried that the spring would be pulled too far that it would slip off the mount. The mount was then redesigned again to be longer and, in keeping with the triangle theme, triangle pockets were added.

Mounting the constant force spring.
Mounting the constant force spring.

Sipan, Jack, and Joshua worked on the new design for the forks and how we could mount them without having to redo the whole fork system. It was decided that we could just add hinges and that would allow us to extend the length of our forks.

While the tote fits on the flaps we have now, the tote tends to want to fall off.
While the tote fits on the flaps we have now, the tote tends to want to fall off.

To solve the problem of the ejector piston going to low and not being able to push on the tote, pieces of polycarbonate were used to extend the width of the ejector and help to push the totes out. Additionally, we wanted to improve our intake design to be able to intake totes from a much wider angle.  To accomplish this, we are thinking about adding some sort of funnel that the tote would hit and then be sucked into the robot.

The business team worked on the sponsorship panels for the side of the robot and also spent some time repairing the printer, 3D scanner, and monitor that fell down when one of the business room tables came crashing down.   The expensive items took quite an impact after the fall, but it seems they fared well in the incident and still appear to be fully functional without any notable cosmetic damage.  Luckily no one was hurt and all items were repaired and are now back up and running.

Our first major gouge in the robot happened when the carriage plates hit the side of the tote and then jumped out of the elevator frame. Oops.

Other details that were completed today included cutting and installation of the rear number plate and polycarbonate panels on the intake triangular frames.   Additionally, limit switches were installed to the top and bottom of the elevator to signal the roboRIO when the mechanism has reached the end of travel in either direction.  We intend to use the encoder as a primary means of software limiting, but we’ll add code for the limit switches to act as a failsafe if the encoder routine loses track of its counts.

By tomorrow, we will hopefully have almost all of the robot complete so that our drive team will have time to practice with the robot before bag day.  Tomorrow’s MAJOR mechanical objective includes extending the length of the forks, so the robot can actually pick up totes.  At this time, we anticipate we will not bag a working set of forks, and will need to completely redesign and remanufacture a new fork assembly and bring it as part of the 30lb withholding allowance.  But, we may be able to get something working for a few hours prior to bag time, just to try.

Lab closing time: 2:08am on 2/16/15