FLL Senior Solutions Field Kit Pics

I received the Senior Solutions FLL field setup kit in the mail last week and built it for my boot camp this week! Most of the models sport very cool mechanisms. I’m thinking I’ll have the students build a second set so they can get a gear lesson or two out of the experience. Positioning for most of the models on the mat is pretty self-evident thanks to the marking on the mat. I haven’t a clue how to position the medicine units and there are a few variations on how to position the quilts but mostly it’s quite straitforward.

I find a few of the missions to be quite curious. Every year, the robot challenge has featured either a competitive or a cooperative mission in the middle of the field. This year, that mission is a ball launching mechanism that send the large plastic balls onto the OTHER team’s mat. I’ll be very interested to see how that will be scored. It definitely adds an element of randomness for teams who may have to navigate around or through obstacles that they can’t predict. It could be a real wild card for teams who don’t have the benefit of a double table to practice with.

Field setup for FLL Senior Solutions Robot Game
You can see the overall layout of the field here. It’s not nearly as busy as the last couple of years but the spaces to navigate are still pretty tight. You may notice that base is smaller than usual. It is rectangular in shape rather than square.

Northwest corner for FLL Senior Solutions Robot Game
The pet help mission has a really nice mechanism for translating a pushing motion 90 degrees. When you push the bumper on the east side, it propels the service dog towards the base area. You can see the woodworking shop (table and chair). The instructions don’t show the chair fully assembled but the back portion is placed as indicated on the mat. The quilts may or may not be arranged properly but the mat does show a total of five areas that require dual lock and are exactly the correct size. This would leave three quilts unencumbered. Just to the right of the quilts, you can see one of the hearing/seeing test. Initial position – flag up or down? You decide!

Center of Field setup for FLL Senior Solutions Robot Game
Yay! Another bridge! The west side has steps, the east side has a ramp. The middle wobbles and isn’t fastened directly to the mat. I’m not sure what kind of Mayhem is planned for this one. Perhaps an ending condition for the robot’s location? Just next to the ramp is a stove. The level flips the stovetop and turns the burners off. To the far north (left side) is the ball game. When you push the wheel attached to a lever, it launches balls one at a time into the opposite field. Closer to the bottom left is the “Similarity” model. Based strictly on the name, I’m predicting that this is a cooperative mission. Finally, on the left and right sides, you can see orange and green structures with rings. We all know what the rings mean! However, these are not dual locked and there is no indication where these will start. There are a total of three orange and one green “medicines.” They could start in base. I simply placed them randomly around the field.

East end Field setup for FLL Senior Solutions Robot Game
Lastly, you can see the placement for the fifth quilt. That is the only one with a color hint but placement of the quilt on the square doesn’t quite make the color fit the space. The really tall structure is called “shopping” and it has two grocery? items. One is visible at the top while the other is hidden and rests on a bottom platform. Just to the left is the other half of the hearing/seeing test mission. Behind the structure is a bowling lane with six pins. Anyone else thinking penalty objects? To the right are two pieces of exercise equipment. The one in the foreground is a cardio machine. Spinning the wheel causes an indicator on the south side to move. It looks like it takes 12 full rotations of the wheel to move the indicator all the way from green to red (or reverse). The machine in the back is a press. Once you raise the weight, it remains elevated. Both of these machines use complext gear trains to manipulate the object. In six years of coaching FLL, I have seen very few teams use gears in the robots and attachments. Hopefully, this will spur some creativity in that area.

Not specifically mentioned are two gardens and the yellow bowling ball that are currently sitting in base.

It looks like we’re going to have a fun season! I can’t wait to see the actual rules on August 28th!

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Registration Deadline for June Robotics Camps

This Friday, June 8th, I will be closing registration for two weeks of robotics camp in June. As with all of our camps, you can register online or print and mail the registration forms.

Current status for our June camps:
June 11th -15th (South Tampa – PM Only). Camp is confirmed. We have a few open spots and I will accept registrations through June 10th.
June 18th – 22nd (Riverview @ Kid’s Community College). Both the morning and afternoon sessions are still below the minimum number of registrations. I will notify all registered campers on Saturday, June 9th if the camp is cancelled.
June 25th – 29th (North Tampa @ Messiah Lutheran Church). Both the morning and afternoon sessions are still below the minimum number of registrations. I will notify all registered campers on Saturday, June 9th if the camp is cancelled.

All July camps (Lutz Prep and Trinity) have plenty of campers and are confirmed.

Registrations for the August boot camps are light. I will post a status update for these camps once they are confirmed.

If you’ve registered for one of our camps and are considering a second camp, don’t forget we offer a $20 discount for siblings and for each additional camp session.

If you are on the fence and considering the camps on June 18th and June 25th, now is the time to commit. If we are able to confirm the camps, I will extend the registration deadline to allow additional campers to enroll. If the camp is canceled, it will be permanently removed from the schedule. In the event we cancel any camps, paid campers will have the opportunity to switch to another session or receive a full refund for their fees.

Don’t forget, robotic summer camp registration for all weeks and locations is still open! We have camps available in North Tampa, Riverview, Lutz, South Tampa, and Trinity. Dates, locations, and all the details are on our camp page.

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MINDSTORMS Sumo Competition – Stuart, FL June 9, 2012

This looks like a really fun event. I haven’t participated in any sumo competitions but I’ve heard they are a blast!

This one is open to two person teams (one adult, one child). Robots must be 100% LEGO with one brain, no limits on sensors or motors. Robots must weigh in at 1 KG or less and must be no larger than 8×8 inches at the start of the match.

If you don’t have a MINDSTORMS kit, I would be willing to sponsor kids currently enrolled in any of my robotics programs who want to participate with their parent by loaning them a robot (subject to availability).

Get ready to SUMO!

Stuart Lego Sumo Tournament
Saturday, June 9th – 2012
Grace Presbyterian Church
1875 NW Britt Rd, Stuart, FL
From 8:30 – 4:00

Schedule of Events
• 8:15-8:45 – Registration and Weigh-In
• 9:00-11:30 – Individual Rounds
• 11:30-12:30 – Lunch
• 12:30-3:30 – Tag-Team Rounds
• 3:30- 4:00 – Awards Presentation

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NXTified Wipeout Style Obstacle Course

For our Monday club at Kid’s Community College, we decided to take a break from the FLL mats and work on something a little more open ended.

I’m sure most everyone is familiar with the crazy TV Show Wipeout. We are going to build a few sections of their brutally fun obstacle course using the NXT motors and sensors. The build will be approximately at Minifig scale.

Since the KCC Robotics Club is going to take a break for the summer, I thought it best to pick something fun that we could accomplish in just a few weeks. For this build, I’m busting out lots of interesting bits for the kids to build with. I think the tricky parts will challenge them nicely. For instance, the Sweeper will require building two concentric sections which will need to rotate in opposite directions. The punching wall will need to at least appear to be randomly pushing LEGO bricks out to knock “contestants” from the ledge.

I’m not sure if we’ll have time to build the Wipe Out Zone, but it will have some interesting challenges as well. Perhaps I’ll save it for summer camp!

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NXT Astro Blasters

It seems the NXTified Astro Blaster’s game turned out to be a popular idea! For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been building up two drivable robots that will be remote controlled using Mindsensor’s Sony PlayStation 2 Controller interfaces for NXT.

So far, we have a platform, a hopper to store the balls, and a ball lifting mechanism to pull the balls into the robot.

NXT Astro Blaster partial prototype.

Still to accomplish are motorized wheels, steering, a cannon, and targets.

For the base, we settled on Black Boat Hovercraft Bodies. They have a limited number of Technic style holes, so we are adding some of our own. You can see them in this picture of the platform with the ball catcher on board. They are along the skirt just below the ball catcher. The ball catcher is a Duplo Loading Chute.

NXT Astro Blaster bare prototype.

This is the rear view with the ball retriever installed. We’ve been testing it with the LEGO 41mm Foam Ball but at about a buck a piece, I decided instead to get a bulk order of ping pong balls online. Ping pong balls are around 40mm and I think they’ll be a little more likely to trigger the targets than those foam balls which weigh even less.

NXT Astro Blaster bare prototype.

Another view of the work in progress.

NXT Astro Blaster bare prototype.

The key unusual LEGO items we have used so far for this build.

Hovercraft Hull.Duplo Ball Chute

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North Tampa Club Needs a New Project

We’re wrapping up ButlerBot and our North Tampa Robotics Club is now in search of a new project idea!

Contender #1 is a LEGO MINDSTORMS version of the Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters ride at DisneyQuest. Here is a fan video.

Each robot will be outfitted with a target. I have a nice collection of LEGO foam balls that we can use. Using PS2 game controllers, we will drive the robots around to pick up the balls and try to shoot the targets on the opponent’s robot. A successful hit will cause the other robot to spin wildly and flash lights for five seconds. We’ll have to add a fancy scoring system too.

Aerial View of DisneyQuest's Astroblasters Ride

Post a comment if you have other ideas!

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Come See Us at the Tampa Bay Mini Maker Faire!

Our North Tampa Robotics Club is bringing ButlerBot to the Tampa Bay Mini Maker Faire on March 31st! Our little group has been hard at working building an NXT robot controlled by an XBox 360 Kinect controller. We’re excited to be there to show off what the kids and their dad’s accomplished.

What is a Maker Faire? It is a place where we celebrate the processes of learning and doing, and where we share our discoveries, curiosities, inventions, innovations and ideas as inquisitive, explorative amateurs. Tampa Bay Mini Maker is a celebration of regional do-it-yourself (DIY) character and spirit.

There will be dozens of other displays and a food truck rally. This family friendly event is being held at the University Area Community Development Center at 14013 North 22nd Street, Tampa, Florida 33613. Tickets are $5 if you order online, or $8 at the door. You can order them in advance here.

The kids with ButlerBot

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New South Tampa Robotics Camp Posted

I know many of you are already planning your summers so we have been working extra hard to find a venue for our South Tampa Robotics Camp. I’m pleased to announce our first session is now open for registration the week of June 11-15, 2012.

There will be many all new activities along with some of the kid’s favorites from last year.

In addition to South Tampa, we currently have weeks available in North Tampa, Lutz, and in Riverview.

Please visit us at http://inanimatereason.com/camp for all of the details and to see the complete schedule. Camps will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis and space is limited!

We also still have spots open in our community robotics clubs meeting now on Mondays and Thursdays in Riverview and Carrollwood. Details are online at our camp page. The North Tampa group is up to pretty exciting things! Check out our latest blog post about the robotic gripper we built for ButlerBot!

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An Unusual Ball Shooter Design

For the last few weeks, a number of kids at MacFarlane Park IB Elementary have been working on ideas for a couple of GBC modules. One of the kids decided he wanted to build a ball shooter to feed a ramp he built using some large, quarter round slopes. I helped him put his ideas to work and we came up with this:

Ball shooter mechanism

There will be a liftarm across the top to help the gears stay engaged and it’s being displayed upside down to show off the mechanism. The H-pins are offset to keep the vertical gear centered over the two idler gears. The only trick will be accurately feeding it the balls. A motor will power the shooter from the red axle. It works pretty smoothly.

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Register now for our final Jr. FLL Snack Attack Team

Jr. FLL LogoNow that we have our first semester Jr. FLL program all buttoned up, we’re ready to host another team! I have three open spots for a team forming in Carrollwood on Thursday evenings. First semester, over 50 students representing 11 teams participated in Snack Attack. For this semester, the program lasts from six to eight weeks depending on how quickly the team gets through the project and model building. The expo will be on April 7th at the Glazier Museum. I’ll have more details about the expo as it becomes available.

The cost of the program is $125. It includes the meetings and the team registration with FIRST and registration for the team at the expo in April. There will likely be some additional cost to attend the expo (parking and/or admission for siblings). Admission to the museum for each team member and one parent is included. We provide all the materials for the program.

Parents are welcome (and even encouraged) to stay and help out. Each child will be responsible for a team snack at least once during the program.

Who can enroll? Students ages 6 to 9 (as of Jan 1, 2011)
Cost: $125 for the season
When? Thursday evenings 6:00 to 7:30 PM February 9th thru April 5th.
Where? Messiah Lutheran Church, 14920 Hutchison Road, Tampa, FL 33625
How? Download the registration packet, Email Bill Shaw at bill@inanimatereason.com or use the contact link to the right and ask for a registration packet.

About the program
Can Junior FIRST LEGO League teams master the science of safely preparing food? In the 2011 Snack Attack Challenge, kids will take a “hands on” approach to the topic of food safety by exploring how proper preparation and storage can help keep us healthy. Teams will learn about simple machines as they build a model made of LEGO® elements with a motorized moving part, and will create a team Show-Me Poster to represent their Snack Attack findings.

Jr. FLL has captured the imagination and minds of thousands of kids. Each year, the Challenge Advisory Team designs a new and exciting Challenge to ignite the inherent creativity in young kids. The end result of the design process is a Challenge with two defined parts – the Show-Me Poster and the Model.

The Show-Me Poster requires kids to illustrate their research and team journey. It provides an opportunity for them to share what they studied, what they learned, and how they thought to improve the problem they chose. Their creative minds get started working on how to present their information and solution.

The Model portion of the Challenge gets kids’ hands busy. This is where they build a representation of what they are researching (according to the Challenge requirements), incorporating simple machines and movement into their creation. Teams are able to utilize a motor to power movement in their model, or they can move an element of it by hand.

The Jr. FLL Challenge is based on the same general topic as the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Challenge. It is open-ended, designed for younger kids, and customizable for every ability level.

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