25 January 2010

Week 3 begins...

...with the FDR tonight @ 7PM.

Not a lot of interest from the people that were asked, but the one who is coming is probably the most valuable. He's been down this road many times, and knows just what questions to ask. An
d of the questions that he asked last week, the design team has answers for each... They're somewhat concerned about being ready, and I see that as being a very good sign. Last week, they were ready for the review and accepted the critique well. We're at a good place, schedule-wise, lots of thought going into the design, reaffirming the choices made based on the strategy that was decided upon.

weekend went pretty well; Saturday had a lot of activity around getting the kicker to function as needed. Bungees seem to work very well in tension mode, but as a ballista, not so well. Concentrating on how to release and re-tension the kicker took up yesterday's time and we have a prototype to help the design team complete its task. one thing to note is that there were more members present on Saturday than on Sunday.

Could it be that the free lunch is the catalyst that draws them here?

20 January 2010

The day after...

This is finals week, and so the team has been rather sparse with attendance. However, the only ones *really* necessary are those on the design team and a few dedicated prototypers. They seemed to be on-task, dealing with each of the comments captured at the PDR on Monday.

It was pretty amazing to walk into the ProE room and see so many of them working on the models and an equal number of them dealing with the calculations.

The Animation team was present, putting their models together.

I've got photos, but none online yet... That'll be later this afternoon.

19 January 2010

PDR outcome and what's next

Not bad, not bad at all.

We had an additional 4 reviewers last night and the troops did amazingly well. They were prepared, fully understood the significance of the purpose of the review and took everything seriously.

As a result, there wasn't a question that was asked that didn't have a resonably well thought out reply, and all comments were recorded so they could address each later.

They understood that there is still much work to be done on the final review and are anxious to get going tonight. The problem is this is finals week, and so we're pushing them to study, do well on the exams and put FIRST in the background.

Our Mech. Team lead is doing an awesome job. He's finally become the leader that was struggling to get out. It was just a matter of time. Not only is he taking the leadership role for the robot construction, but he's also thinking like a driver. He is gunning for that position, and has a really good shot at being the team's prime drive team member.

Given the feedback from the reviewers, the crew has decided to push the FDR out to next Monday; finals will be done, and the will have the weekend to work on the finer details of the design.

17 January 2010

End of Week 1

Today is the beginning of Week 2, and we're moving along pretty well.

The ConOps has been created, and preliminary designs begun, plans today are for getting the documents prepared for the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) set for tomorrow at 7PM.

Several engineers from my company are participating, the students are apprehensive, so it's time for the "they're not here to shoot you down" talk. We seem to be in a better position this year than last, there are SO many members showin
g up and engaged.

As usual, that are some malcontents, and one in particular who will not agree with anyone about anything. You say up, he will say down. He's really getting on my nerves and I want to deny him his 15 minutes at every turn of the way. But, that's not what a mentor is made of, not a decent one anyway.

13 January 2010

Go ahead, ask me how busy I've been... go ahead...

The summer flew by, little seems to have been accomplished. It was a relaxing time, and although there was a feeble attempt at doing some FIRST training, it didn't happen. All we managed to get done was find and fix the water leak in the trailer.

While that seems trivial, it was a big deal. One of the more shy team members started to grow out of his shell and if that's all that resulted from the summer, then the time was V E R Y well spent.

September seemed to come quickly and the plans we made for training were in place for October. Not much was changed, we had no idea as to how many of the 40+ potential new team members moving up from the middle school would really become involved. As it turned out only 10 or so of them actually started attending meetings. On final count, there were 30+ noobs that started showing up. More than 60 team members now, and overwhelming to say the least. Of that number, several have dropped out, but that's OK.

during the training cycle, I learned a few things myself, the most important was that there were too many Mech/Electrical team members for me to instruct successfully, at least that's my assessment. When the two teams split, the numbers were way more manageable. We need to revisit the training schedule for next year. Mentors need to decide on how to deliver the essential training required by the Mech. and electrical teams that is common to both, but do so more effectively. We need more hand tools, projects, etc.

Electrical training this year included a soldering project. That was well received, however, not well done. Some trainees had absolutely no prior skill, and so the project, an 3-D LED Christmas tree, didn't turn out well for them. Discouraging for them and me, but the concept is still viable. Maybe next season we have a pre-project session on soldering to prepare them...

We were asked by FIRST to create a map of all the teams, rookies and veterans separated by color and the locations of regional events. That consumed time just before the Christmas break and the first week of January. We presented the map to Dean @ Kickoff, and were pleased to find that ours was a very different, original idea...

Kickoff went well, and like last year, we used the Little Theatre in the school for the game revelation. What was impressive was the number of rookie parents who came by and even more impressive was their willingness to help. As a result, I was able to confidently hand off the construction of the field elements to a group of them, knowing that they'd get the job done quickly and without constantly asking for direction. So, by Day 2 Week 1, we have a goal, bump, tunnel and hanging structure to use during design.

About the design... unlike last year, the mentors did not let the team summarily dismiss viable options because of "gut reaction" to the game and what they percieve as "too hard to do" without all the facts. Having the bump on Monday when we went thru the first iteration of developing requirements made it clear to them that negotiating that obstacle wasn't either impossible or unnecessary.

Another thing that is different this year are the addition of some new mentors. Specifically Bryan/Brian. They spent the training session with the ProE team working on real projects; a cell phone case and for fabrication (possibly this coming spring/summer) a dolly to help move the trailer. One of them is a former FIRST team member from Long Island who's team was fairly well respected and competent. He KNOWS how to get things designed, and he's an ME.

Last night's ConOps development went very well and we're on schedule for presentation to the rest of the team tonight. By Thursday, we will begin the design. I will be there to help with deciding on implementation.

About the game; It is certainly more interesting than last year's, but I'm not sure if it's as interesting to play as the game was several years ago (Gemini's season). There are challenges with this year's game that will be hard to solve, but not impossible.

enough for now, I will try very hard to make more timely entries.