Lightning Robotics’ 2012 Unveiling

17 02 2012

FIRST Robotics: A competition of intelligence, quick reflexes, and engineering prowess, in every way contrasting with modern sports. This annual competition gathers teams from around the country, who build a robot to participate in a tournament. This tournament changes forms each year; this year, a basketball competition titled “Rebound Rumble”.

As described by the FIRST Robotics official website:

“Rebound Rumble is played by two competing alliances on a flat, 27 x 54 ft field. Each alliance consists of three robots. They compete to score as many basketballs into their hoops as they can during a 2 minute and 15 second match. The higher the hoop in which the basketball is scored, the more points the alliance receives.”

Lightning Robotics' 2012 'bot, "Eddie"

But although building and programming the robot is the main focus of the competition, it’s not the greatest challenge that Lightning Robotics, faces over the course of their build season. As Jeffrey Hess described it, the main issue for many is getting everything working together, and minimizing conflict. Because the robot must be so versatile, there are many different sub-teams working to create the individual components, and coming to compromises isn’t always the easiest task.

Gigawatt, the Lightning Robotics team mascot.

When I asked Hess about the most educational challenge he’d faced in his years with FIRST, I was expecting a n engineering challenge: some particularly hard-to-build mechanism, or tough piece of code. Instead, I received a lesson in how FIRST really helps it’s affectionados learn. Hess’ toughest challenge? “The concept of listening to others,  to build the best machine possible.”

And this year, Lightning Robotics is aiming to hit that mark, with their ‘bot, named Eddie; a tribute to a team alumnus and mentor, who recently succumbed to bone cancer.

When I spoke with Ian Pudney, he indicated that in past years, the short six-week build season has often left the team struggling to keep it simple and finish the robot on time. In a happy twist, this year, with four days left in the build season, they unveiled their robot to cheering fans; a proud moment for the team, and for the mentors who helped them achieve their success.

This year’s game isn’t so simple as it might appear. Not only must the robots successfully compete in a basketball competition, afterwards, they must balance on mid-field bridges. To accomplish these tasks, there are four main systems on the robot: the drive-train, ball collector, ball shooter, and bridge actuator. The actuator was one interesting design challenge, said Pudney. Because the robot must fit within a specified volume before the match, the actuator, designed to lower the bridge so that the robot may drive onto it, was designed as an arm, that extends from the ‘bot during competition. It was only the latest in a series of challenges that the team had overcome since day one. That’s one of the main goals of FIRST, teaching students to be self reliant, and helping them learn to overcome tricky challenges.

But it’s not all stress and work. Lightning Robotics team members have time to have fun, too. It’s a learning experience, a social event, and most of all, an intriguing introduction to the wonders that the world of engineering has to offer.

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Hotel Nanowrimo!

3 06 2010

From the critically acclaimed musician and producer DJ Mpetrites comes a new hit single – Hotel NaNoWriMo!

Hotel Nanowrim Album CoverNormal Version: Hotel Nanowrimo

Dance Version: Hotel Nanowrimo Dance Mix


Disclaimer: I make no profit from this work, and this is fair use, as it is satire of the original song.


12 11 2009

No explanation needed here!
Missing Keys: Backspace, Delete, Clear

Three Thousand and One

11 11 2009

No, that’s not the title of a new movie. It is however, the number of words I have to write yet tonight if I want to have any hope of staying on track with NaNoWriMo. To do so, I’m actually putting off school to write, something I swore I wouldn’t do. Have any of you had to sacrifice and/or make compromises just to stay on course with your novel?

Day Ten

10 11 2009

Well, it’s officially day ten of NaNoWriMo, a third of the way through, and I’m a full 10,945 words behind! That’s not good, considering it means I have to write at almost twice the daily rate from here on out just to catch up and have a decent novel by November’s end. It’s really too bad that most of my initial action sequence is done, because that was a real word-count booster.  The romantic section comes next, and that’s going to be a pain to write, considering I want to write it in a sensitive manner while still dealing intelligently with my (rather controversial) topic. Oh well, I suppose I had better return to writing.

Until next time, I’m Matthew Petrites