Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Getting Ready for the U.S. Open Championship

With only a week to go until we leave for Dayton, the Microbots are in crunch mode. Having completely redesigned the robot, the team had to redo all of the programs. Next week, we will pile into a large van with Joe Meno and the coaches and travel to Dayton. For those that want to join us, you can get more information here.

See you there!

Friday, April 24, 2009

NXT version 2.0

In Atlanta, we saw the new version (2.0) of the NXT kit. With registration just around the corner (Registration will open on May 4, 2009!), I wonder if the new cool parts will be part of the Lego Education kit. It would be cool if they were in there too!

This is the new robot that looks like the old one but better!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

FLL Videos from the World Festival

Here are some videos from the NXT booth at the World Festival in Atlanta

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Something to Remember

On December 5th 2008, our FIRST LEGO League (FLL) team won our state’s competition. Unfortunately North Carolina didn’t qualify for the automatic bid to the World Festival in Atlanta, where FLL teams from all around the world compete. We also didn’t get chosen for the Ambassador’s Award, which is another way teams get chosen to compete in the World Festival. Initially we were disappointed. However we did receive an automatic bid to the first ever FLL United States Open Championship in Dayton, Ohio on May 7th to 9th and we’re very excited about competing there.

In the three days we are there, we will compete in the same events that we did in the state competition. In the research presentation, we will do a skit about water conservation in Cary NC, and Brisbane AU, show off our Lego H2O house, and talk about our other numerous research topics like our website, outreach and stop motion movie. In the technical interview we will explain to the judges how we cleverly came up with our robot design, run our robot, and describe our programs. In the teamwork interview, which is the last interview on Friday, a judge will ask us a few questions about how we work together as a team and then he/she will we give us a challenge to complete. Finally, in the robot missions on Saturday, we will run our robot on the table in an attempt to get a 400 point score in under two and a half minutes. We’ll have three tries. The competition culminates with the Award Ceremony.

In the competition we will do lots of other things besides compete. The pit pod is where our team and five other teams will rest and store our equipment. We will dress for the event by putting on our vivid orange and blue Microbots shirts and blue Microbots hats. Some of us will daringly sport Mohawks and dye our hair! Some teams are planning a scavenger hunt that we can do while we are resting in our pit pod. We will hand out and trade team buttons. Excitedly, we will tour the National Museum of the United States Air Force, which is open after hours for just FLL teams. We will also have a pizza party.

It will be something to remember!!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spotlight on One Great Builder (and Animator too)

We haven't spotlighted the various Microbots in this blog but it is time to give credit where it is due. While each of the Microbots brings their own special talent to the team, Clark I. has built many of the Microbot's robots and quite a few of the attachments. His work continues to get more and more complex.

Clark has emerged as a leader on the team. His title is the "Sergeant at Arms" of the Microbots. The title comes from various law making bodies, where the role is charged with maintaining security in the law making establishment, as well as protection of the law makers themselves. I am not sure how he came to have this title but it is one that all Microbots know and respect.

The robot below was built at his birthday party, a sleep-over, and the video was made showing its movement.

He has also produced the following videos:

Perhaps his best work is:
what your legos do when your not looking

Look for more of his work - coming soon!

Greetings from Atlanta

April 15th is usually known as Tax Day in the United States but it also marked the opening on the 2009 World Festival in Atlanta. We arrived early Wednesday morning. The taxi driver on the way from Hartsfield airport told us he had been told to expect 60,000. As we got out of the taxi and looked at the World Congress Center, we wondered how they would be able to fit 60,000 in the center.

When we arrived, the place was empty. The robots were tucked away in their cabanas. Since we didn't know where the conference was, the robots were no help.

We were looking for someone to tell us if the lack of people had something to do with the economy. We finally came across a man who looked a little down on his luck so we decided to ask him.
"Where is everyone?"
He was reluctant to answer. No wonder he was sitting on a park bench.

We finally found someone who could help us. It's the information guy from FIRST! We were glad to see him and he seemed glad to see us.
"Where is everyone?"
"The conference doesn't start until 3pm!"

Wow! Were we early. But it was well worth it!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Who says kids must do the work? (Lego Store Work Part 2)

Building the models for the Lego Store is hard work as several of the Microbot parents learned first hand. The custom pool scene comes complete with various characters lounging around a pool.

The Lego scenes appeared to be easy but as we know in First Lego League, simple appearances can be deceiving. The Lego store party invited both parents and children to build the custom Legos. Kate I. jumped in and helped out. The result was this awesome pool scene. But where is the pool?

The pool was the last part to be built and so Daved S. gave it a shot. The directions were not for a single piece but for multiple layers in each shot. David gave up after spending a half hour on it.

In jumped Mr. Fix-It and Joe Meno and the pool finally came together.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Preparation for the Lego Store opening

Today the Microbots united once again to help Lego with its new store which is soon to open in Raleigh, North Carolina. While the Microbots were not the only children present they were never hard to find as they were flashing their classic Microbot orange t's. Hard at work building away at whatever they can get their hands as the room was filled with excitement.

Though building new and exciting sets never seen before was certainly a highlight they are always gracious to help others. A group of five children similar in age to the team from a local montesorri school showed an interest in what the Microbots were all about. Never wasting time to share and speak out they quickly assembled into their groups and held an open question and answer session about First Lego League. The childrens eyes widened as the conversations intensified about competition and all the details on how to prepare. Though shocked at first at the amount of time and work the Micorbots put in this will surely be yet another group of kids who will assemble and become a team representing the Tar Heel State.

Summer Camp

Last year, several of the Microbots went to two weeks of Summer Camp at Cary Academy. Those who went said that it was really worth it so here are the dates in case you are interested...

Robotics with Lego Mindstorms - Beginner 320.510 July 6 - July 10 9am - 4pm 4th - 7th 15
Robotics with Lego Mindstorms -Intermediate 321.610 July 13 - July 17 9am - 4pm 4th - 7th 15
Robotics with Lego Mindstorms - Advanced 322.710 July 20 - July 24 9am - 4pm 5th - 8th 15

The Richmond FIRST Regional

Coach Medina and Coach Miller took a couple of us to the FIRST Regional in Richmond. It was the first time that we had the opportunity to go to "the pits", interact with a FIRST team during competition, and see victory and defeat. Our mentor, Tatiana, is part of the team. FRC is a different game than FLL. There are three winners, not one and teams must work together, even if they face each other in the next round.

Coach Miller worked with Team Awkward Turtle because their programming coach left during the season. He worked with the programming team to support them as they wrote the code that drives the robot. As a result, he learned all about the "FRC game". His impression was that "FRC teaches some really good values. Teams help each other, share ideas, and always compete in alliances." It is less individualistic than FLL.

FRC is much tougher than FLL. Building the guts of the robot requires so much more work that building an NXT. Can the Microbots do it? I don't know but I do know that I want to begin to learn how.

Meeting with Joe Meno

Joe Meno is the editor-in-chief of Brick Journal. He also lives in the Raleigh area. On Friday, March 13th, at Colonial Baptist Church, the Microbots, Zachary P.(a friend of Joe's), and Joe Meno got together to discuss Lego Robotics. Joe showed us the very latest in NXT technology. He also loaned us a very special NXT brick for the National competition (you can see it at Nationals - trust me, it is "the bomb"). Although we saw the black one, this one is even more special than that one. :-)

Joe talked about his projects including building a multi-NXT arm in which the NXTs communicate. He spoke about his role covering the World Championship and what it is like to run the world's coolest magazine. The kids looked through his extensive photo collection at the various models and upcoming sets. The Microbots didn't want the night to end.

He also suggested that there might be a forthcoming interview of the team. He also invited them to the Lego building party for the new Lego Store in Raleigh. Joe, You Rock!