28 January 2006

Week3 - things are starting to come together

At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Some good news from the school. This past Friday I met with the auto shop instructor. Interesting guy, been building his own formula Vee racecars and knows quite a bit about cars, mechanics, metalworking and the like.

At first glance, when we showed up at the school's doorstep, there was some resistance to assist, but after our talk, I got a different view of him. I suppose the things I said about T166 made something of an impression, he got interested enough to want to help, so much so that he is stopping by tomorrow.

We're finally settling in on getting parts made and the machine built. Lots of activity, though, and not a lot of accomplishment, I am afraid.

Parts are being made at our sponsor's model shop and we're actually cutting metal in the auto shop. I was formally trained on the MIG, TIG and spot welders and the 50-ton press. In the meantime, our other mentor shop magician was fabbing a tailstock so we could turn long rollers.

Tomorrow is another day, we'll see how far we get.

18 January 2006

Middle of Week2

Several things happening here, first of which I have a bug, down and out, just got up about an hour ago (Noon, EST).

This week is finals for the team, so they have been attending sparsely, as they were advised to. However, that still dosen't make me feel as though we aren't stuck in the mud for a good reason.

The captains are not leading the crew in a manner that I would like to see. For example, we should have a better idea of what drive mechanism we will be using, what ball collecting scheme we want, and be at a decision point with the ball launcher. On Sunday, one of the mech team members' father came by with a baseball pitching machine which we used to verify calculations that were done to help determine the launcher's design. All well and good, we rebuilt a launcher based on that design and made it work. Yep, it launches balls, but not with much precision. A guide mechanism needs to be added... Something that I saw demonstrated at kickoff 5 seasons ago and really impressed me with its simplicity and performance. I tried to share this but it seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

Last night, there were a sizable number of members there, but few from the mech. side of the house, and certainly not the mech. lead. My wife was there when the mech team went off in a corner and started laying plans this past Sunday, but that was done in what appears to be a vacuum. I had no idea what they had accomplished.

I had some thoughts since the game was revealed and shared them with several people whom I thought would be the keys to getting those ideas and thoughts to the rest of the team. That didn't seem to happen, so last night, I let them in on my ideas, something that I didn't want to do so directly, I want this machine to be theirs, not mine.

I hope that I will be feeling well enough to go the the meeting tonight.

One bright light this day is that the weather didn't turn out as nasty as predicted. The temperature is almost 60, rain is falling (not snow or freezing rain) and most of the ice on the roads has been melted away. This is really good news for the New England teams, certainly T166.

15 January 2006

In the school... headaches and hassles

It's interesting being at the school. There are 2 faculty members assisting, one is the new advisor who only works 4 days a week, and the other one was shamed into helping. Otherwise the team couldn't be onsite without supervision, which happened when the other mentors came onboard at roughly 5:30PM.

When we were introduced by the Tech Ed. Department head in May, there seemed to be a large interest in helping, advising, mentoring, but, as time approached, things changed dramatically.

It was pretty amusing, at first, to listen to the 'reasons' that these people chose to walk away, but in the end, it turns out to be disconcerting. They scatter like cockroaches do when you turn on the lights, at the mere utterance of the word "FIRST".

When we met at our sponsor's facility, it was well known that security guards had to admit the team in a documented manner, and everyone was OK with that. Everyone knew that if you missed the time, you waited until the next hour to get in. At least there you could stand under cover from the elements.

Here, it seems that noone remembers how to tell time, gauge how long it takes to get from home to the school and be on time. Snickering about being 10 minutes late infuriates me.

Only one person has keys to the facility, so when that person isn't around, we all wait outside. Even if an additional person was given the passcode for the outside door, it would only serve to get us out of the weather, because, it seems, the custodial staff lock every passage way in the building. Maybe that's all that can be hoped for.

13 January 2006

2005-2006 Season: Week1

It begins again... the season kickoff revealed an interesting game, incorporating all the clues that were "leaked" but one had to stretch the imagination for sure. But then, that's part of the program.

After some reflection, the game is a mixture of (IMHO) soccer, basketball and hockey. The game designers freely admitted that they put more choices into the game than could be implemented over the six week cycle, and that was done on purpose.

T166 spent the first two days or so understanding the game and how it could be played, it was agreed that knowing the intricacies of the game were important to develop several play strategies. The dynamics of the game make it imperative that there are more than one strategy.

We struggled with what the machine could be built to accomplish, and I fear that we are still thinking that we can "do it all". Images of two seasons ago (Raise The Bar) where we made a concious decision to not climb stairs, have little ground clearance and build a hummer-like vehicle that was overweight all worked against us.

07 January 2006

At the Kickoff event

This was the first one that I have attended. When we arrived, we went into the reception area and sat at a table with a team from Walpole MA. I asked about how things work for them at the school and that this season was the first one where we would be at our school.

They don't really work out of the high school directly, they have an almost-abandoned building that belongs to their district that is totally theirs. They had to overcome some physical obstacles
but that space is theirs.

Merrimack does not have 'spare' school buildings, but there is an unused building that the town owns that once housed the ambulance / rescue squad. Since they have moved into the renovated main firehouse, that building has been relegated into storage space for the firemen.

It's got meeting rooms, a small kitchen, and THREE GARAGE BAYS that would provide more space than we have now or even had at our sponsor's facility.

I wonder what it would take to get the team into that building...

04 January 2006

Meeting with Power Knights mentors

Tonight, a group of mentor went to Manchester West HS. Seems that last year they had a mentor that didn't want to work as a team player, kept things from the other mentors, etc. Suffice to say that the parent group lead sent a letter, requesting that he not return.

Apparently, T166's mentoring team (and the team itself) has been generating a good reputation and so we were asked to meet with 501's group and share our experiences. Overall, it was a successful evening. One thing that piqued my curiosity was a statement made by one of the mentors (engineer, I think) when he said something about losing a sponsor and their facility. I asked about what it was like to work in the school, and was told that they don't. Hence his question about how our sponsor handled security for the team.

That got me wondering about how things were really going to work out at the school.