Since the close of build season three weeks ago—when the D’Penguineers had to put down their tools and seal off their robot’s bag—the students of the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy’s Team 1717 have been feverishly preparing for Friday’s Long Beach Regional.
In Long Beach, their robot, the Lindsay Rose (dedicated to a teammate who tragically passed away in 2009) will compete in a game called Rebound Rumble for the first time. With the competition robot set aside in the bag waiting for its unveiling at the first regional, the team has been working to finish and train with the practice bot—a full-scale working replica of the robot they will bring to the competition. The practice robot allows programmers to test out and perfect their code and the drivers to hone their skills and strategies during the three week pre-competition dead zone. For practicing purposes, the D’Penguineers have reproduced the field on which the competitions will be played out.
Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy
D’Penguineers Waiman Meinhold, Mariel Bildsten, Phillip Hodgson, and Justin Morris working on the robot
Rebound Rumble, this year’s game, takes place on a 27-by-54 foot field, split width-wise by a four-inch curb. Robots can either roll over this curb, or use one of the three tipping ramps that straddle the curb. On each side of the field, there is a safe zone shaped like a traditional basketball key, where robots can shoot without interference from the opposing team. Two alliances of three robots each face off against each other to score as many foam basketballs as possible into regulation-sized baskets before the two-minute timer buzzes. At the start of each match, all six robots must touch their respective key, and are allowed to hold up to two balls. If a robot can’t store balls, then its balls are placed on the middle ramp, leaving them up for grabs for both alliances.
The first fifteen seconds of the game make up the “hybrid period” during which robots can follow pre-programmed commands to acquire the balls on the middle ramp or shoot balls into baskets. No interference by drivers is allowed during this time. Any baskets scored during this period will earn three extra points, making these fifteen seconds extremely precious and game-changing. As an added twist this year, during this period, one robot from each alliance can be controlled by a Microsoft ® Kinect, allowing the robot to perform intricate and impressive maneuvers.
Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy
Jake Moghtader programming the turret
The remaining two minutes fall under the “teleoperated period” when drivers are allowed to manually control the robot. During this time, robots may traverse the four-inch-tall field barrier to defend their own hoops, attempt to balance on one of three bridges, or shoot baskets. The top hoop earns three points per ball, the middle hoops two, and the lowest hoop one. During the qualification matches, alliances earn ten points for balancing one robot, and twenty for balancing two or three robots. However, if they balance on the middle bridge with a robot of the opposing alliance, both alliances earn “coopertition points” which will help them in the seeding phase. In the elimination phases, a three-robot-balance will earn a whopping forty points.
Once they enter the arena this Thursday, the D’Penguineers will spend the entire day in the pit fine-tuning their robot and ensuring that it is competition-ready. The pit, a 10-by-10 foot workspace allotted to each team, will be the D’Penguineers’ headquarters during the 3-day event. Here, the students and their mentors will finish building up mechanisms, mounting final pieces of the frame, routing wires, and debugging code. FIRST Robotics teams are permitted to bring up to thirty pounds of fabricated parts and unlimited off-the-shelf components to make any necessary additions or adjustments to their assembled robot, and Team 1717 is sure to bring in as many spare parts as possible. The D’Penguineers will have to work at a brisk pace in a hectic environment to guarantee a fully functional robot before the eight-hour time limit is up. According to Shen Meinhold, these eight hours will “be pretty stressful, but eventually we will prevail because of all of our hard work and dedication. There’s a lot of work to do, but we’re up to the challenge.” Once the finishing touches are complete, each team’s robot will undergo a thorough inspection, making sure that all of the standards set forth by FIRST Robotics are fulfilled.
The next day, the Lindsay Rose will enter the qualifying rounds of the regional, in which it will be paired with two robots from other high schools’ teams to form an alliance. For each round of the qualifiers, Team 1717 will be paired with two new teams. The D’Penguineers and their allies must work to defeat the opposing teams in hopes of ranking in the top 8 and thus earning the privilege of selecting alliance members for Saturday’s elimination rounds. During each match of the competition, every team member not assisting with robot maintenance or driving in the competitions will be “scouting” — taking notes on each robot’s advantages and failings in order to make strategic decisions about forming alliances in the final rounds.
Finally, on Saturday afternoon, after the rankings are announced and the alliances have been selected, the elimination matches will begin. With the progression of each round, the competition will get stiffer and the games more intense as powerful alliances of the highest caliber robots are pitted against one another. Jake Moghtader believes that “the competition will be stiff, but we put so much time and effort into this robot that no matter what happens it will be a great experience.” Each team will have their hopes pinned on securing a spot to compete in the Saint Louis World Championships. The games will continue long into Saturday, at the end of which the victorious teams will emerge. Team 1717 will anxiously wait for the tallying of results and the announcement of which robots will advance to the World Championships, where teams will once again face formidable competition in the quest for the title of FIRST World Champions.
Follow the team on Twitter at D’Penguineers@frc1717 or like them on Facebook at Team 1717: The D’Penguineers for live updates during the competitions.
About the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy
Dos Pueblos High School (DPHS), in collaboration with the Santa Barbara County Education Office Regional Occupation Program (ROP), determined that our community would benefit from the presence of an engineering program designed for students at the secondary level. The DPEA offered its initial course during the 2002-2003 academic school year with the introduction of Engineering 1 and Computer Science 1. The capstone senior-level ROP Robotics course, which is supported by the Santa Barbara County Education Office, was added in 2005. The Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy has a broad base of community support, including UCSB, Santa Barbara City College, and local industry partners. The DPEA is a public school program, operating on campus at Dos Pueblos High School, which is located at 7266 Alameda Avenue in Goleta, California. For more information on the Engineering Academy, please see www.dpengineering.org
About the DPEA Foundation
Engineering Academy parents established the DPEA Foundation in the fall of 2007 in order to run the Capital Campaign to raise $3,000,000 for a new facility, which was reached in October of 2011. The DPEA Foundation mission is to enhance the quality of the DPEA learning experience and to facilitate the growth of the Academy by raising the necessary funds and by creating and managing systems and structures to support the program. For more information on the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Foundation, please see www.dpeaf.org.
About FIRST Robotics
The FIRST Robotics Competition is an exciting, multinational competition that teams professionals and young people together to solve an engineering design problem in an intense and competitive way. The program is a life-changing, career-molding experience and a lot of fun. Each year the competition reaches more than 60,000 students on over 26,000 teams in competitions held across the USA and in other parts of the world. The teams come from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands, the U.K., and every state in the U.S. The competitions are high-tech spectator sporting events: the result of lots of focused brainstorming, real-world teamwork, dedicated mentoring, project timelines, and deadlines. For more information on FIRST Robotics, please see usfirst.org.