Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Batavia Regional Results

Congratulations to Supernova for their accomplishments at the regional competition in Batavia this past Saturday. Their coaches are extremely proud of the hard work and outstanding professionalism during the tournament. The video was chosen to show how they took it in stride when the house came loose from the table and forced them to rescue the robot. They didn't give up and they didn't complain - the refs gave them the benefit of the doubt for raising the house.

- Cheered on our sister team, the "Lego Crushers" - helped them with 40 points by doing the shared "find agreement" mission.
- Met Nathan and his dad Dave and helped spread the FLL word. Hope to see them on a team next year!
- Top score at the robot table
- Robot Design Award - they liked the use of sensors, calibrations, program forks, myBlocks, the magnetically attached ramp and the "elegant execution of find alignment".
- Invitation to the Illinois State Tournament

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Michael and Paul - Missions 1-4

Get well soon, Joey. Michael and Paul trained today with Joey out sick but they were thinking about what tasks he would be doing so they can get him up to speed at Thursday's meeting.

In this video, they do all of the tasks they had planned except the robot gets caught on the pointer during the last click of "find alignment". Great job and after only 1 practice session!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Andrew - Mission 1

Alex: scoop, arm, carbon

Andrew: Bike, insulation, carbon, tie it all together, reliability

Patrick & Tevor: gold ball, turn out lights, raise house

Monday, December 1, 2008

Team update, 11/30

It was a productive and chaotic meeting Sunday. The team is obviously excited about the tournament.

Mrs. Naughton led them in project practice. They're looking good and now each have a job for setup at the tournament. Please check the "Our Project Web Site" link on the right to see all the hard work that she's guided them through. She also brought the team t-shirts with "SUPERNOVA" on the front so that we could get a team picture.

While the robot jockeys worked on mission strategy and practiced, Mrs. McCurdy had them doing technical and teamwork thinking in parallel, plus helped the other boys work on the boards and presentations.

The result of last week's robot work, including timing of the missions, made it clear that there's no way to run all 4 mission groups completely within 2.5 minutes. We'd also like all missions to be run, even if not in their entirety. Each group of jockeys separated to decide how they'd best like to run the missions. They made independent choices with similar point estimates of 235 points max.

Joey, Michael, Paul: Missions 1,2,3,4, but rescue the robot on missions 1 and 3 to save time.
Andrew, Danny, Patrick: Missions 1,2,3

Go Supernova!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Team update, 11/29

On Friday, Patrick, Danny, Joey and Paul worked on missions and some tournament practice. Patrick and Danny tried very hard to make the transition from Andrew's to Patrick & Trevor's programs reliable, but there was too much uncertainty. It's been a hard day for me thinking about it since I could not see how to keep "pattrev" (Patrick and Trevor's mission) in the competition, and I would like to see all of the missions tried in Batavia.

"Danjoe" (Danny and Joey's) and "mn" (Mike and Nate's) missions rely on Andrew's to clear the table. Mike and Andrew returned from their vacation today and had a marathon with the robots. Andrew figured out a way of re-aligning, allowing pattrev to run reliably, choosing to not grab the computer to do so. He also captured the carbon and brought it to base, then pushing all the balls out to storage at once (they were not making it there reliably before. Michael sort of got the ice core captured but ran out of time. It may have been a low battery but it looks like we may have to ditch the ice core. He did make a mechanical improvements, including supporting the cargo arm without making the robot "active", which would have been breaking the rules.

Danny re-ran Danjoe, with the carbon balls in the way. This was to simulate the absence of running the Andrew program. He did this before knowing Andrew would fix the transition to pattrev. This work was important to help make the decision to get those balls out of the way (always run "Mission 1"). He also tweaked the program slightly to avoid a hangup on the levee tester.

Paul debugged a lot of issues with the robot and fixed some reliability issues in the program. The light sensor was not mounted properly and it need mechnical rebuild for his ramp mechanism as was done on the robot used for previous testing. He also reworked the end of his program and reliably makes it to the research area. Still a minor bug to test but it looks good.

Ballpark timing, with no transition time (for changing implements):
Mission Group max pts time
Group 1 (Andrew + Pattrev + Carbon) 110 1:10
Group 2 (Danjoe) 50 0:09
Group 3 (MN) 65 0:51 (less if no ice core for 30 pts.)
Group 4 (fludpt) 70 0:31 (0 or 1 pointer - tbd for 2 or 3)
Total: 295 2:41

From last year we know that transitions can take a significant amount of the time, especially since they are less practiced this year. Realistically, we can run no more than 3 missions. With that in mind, it looks like our best core will be around 200 of the possible 400 points. We will discuss all of this at the next meeting.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Team Update, 11/27/2008

The team did a run-through on the project on Wed. and it was pretty good. A few more practices and they've got it. We need to also practice them carrying and setting up all the stuff, as if they were at the tournament.

Both robot teams worked on missions and Joey put together an outline for the technical presentation. They've gotten the 4 mission groups mostly working, but are over the time limit and they haven't practiced transitions between groups (swapping implements, loading/unloading payloads, finding the right buttons. With the time left in the season they will not be as practiced as last year. They will do fine, but the more practice, the better.

We've also had trouble moving programs to a common computer. The NXT software has lots of bugs in the myBlocks (robot subroutines). When moving them among computers, they don't always make the trip in tact. Hours were spent on Paul's myBlock when he moved from the desktop to the laptop - and the fix was not intuitive.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Team Update, 11/25/2008

Project: The team has finished their project research and is meeting for a full run-through Wed., 11/26 at 11-12:00, including scenery and special effects. Andrew, Joey Nate and Paul have speaking parts and are arriving at 10:30 for a pre-run.

Robot: Monday and Tuesday we had the robot jockeys finishing missions, practicing and timing. Like last year, we'll have to cut some missions and practice a lot to get it within the 2.5 minutes.

Teamwork: Nate almost has the bio board finished. Joey started a technical presentation. This evening, Danny, Michael, Nate and Paul went to meet with the other Naperville team, "Lego Crushers". It's a group of 5 3rd and 4th grade girls. They have a front pusher implement on a tri-bot. The boys pointed out some ways to make it more reliable (exchange a slider for the caster, use 1-wheel turns) and how to easily get more points (push in the carbon ball near base, trigger the levee tester, leave the robot in the yellow area, make sure both insulation pieces touch the mat). Paul showed their technical coach how to find a line, described how to find it twice to get more accuracy and why to use wheel brakes.

As always, lots to do at the end.

Go Supernova!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Team Update

We've had a few meetings since the last post, so this a catch-up.

The project is going really well. The research is finished and the boys are well into their presentation, which is a puppet show. They've built a web site, written a script for the show and have started to rehearse.

During the Teamwork part of the meeting, they are working on anything that helps the team. Bios, presentation boards, building props for the project, or doing general robot work. It's working great.

The boys have been doing extra robot work on the side after school and on weekends to get their missions finished. They are testing 2 robots and most of the missions are working. They're finding them to be more difficult than last year.

Videos will be posted as missions are completed.

Go Supernova!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Agenda, 10/30/2008

Teamwork - start of the meeting:
  • Mrs. McCurdy would like to take a few minutes at the beginning of the meeting to go over the revised schedules with the team using Danny's chart.
  • Talk about what time management strategies they have employed so far as a team and as individuals, since this is something the judges will be looking for under the Roles and Responsibities section of the Teamwork/FLL Values rubric.
  • Have a group brainstorm about the puppet stage.
  • 1st 1/2: Michael and Danny (team mates are in project)
  • 2nd 1/2: Trevor, Andrew and Alex*
Project - (1st 1/2 only, Mrs. Naughton leaves at 5:00):
  • Joey, Paul, Nate and Andrew do a read through on the puppet show as their project work - to get our timing down.
  • Web site work if time.


  • 1st 1/2: Alex, Patrick, Trevor
  • 2nd 1/2: Michael, Nate, Paul, Joey and Danny*

*Joey/Danny & Alex can trade if they want.

Meeting Minutes, Sunday, 10/26/2008

I hope you have time to read this long post. The team has had a great week!

A big thanks to Mrs. McCurdy for being our Teamwork coach. Their primary focus is to concentrate on how they can work together better as a team, also working on other team goals needed for the tournament. Having 3 separate activities during the meeting: Project, Teamwork and Robots, allows the whole team to stay engaged without so much distraction - and it really worked great!

  • Xander revised the miscellaneous schedule (nothing scheduled for 10/30)
  • Michael revised the project schedule (writing/editing is listed for 10/30)
  • Danny revised the mission schedule. In the new schedule, all missions will be completed and jockeys selected by the end of the 11/2 meeting. Working backwards from the tournament date, he scheduled one practice tournament (12/4), two robot jockey practices meetings (11/23 and 11/30). and five meetings (11/6, 11/13, 11/16, and 11/20) to combine missions, and have the jockeys train with coach assistance. It's rational, but not reasonable, and I think Danny understands that. He said that what he personally had learned about time management through FLL was that schedules can be revised. Beats panic!
  • The boys have been working on a web site to share their findings from the project. Once published, we'll add a link to this blog.
  • Paul and Nate agreed to have Puppet prototypes by next Sunday's meeting.
  • Scenery and Props need to wait until we have the Puppets settled, but we will need:
    3 scene changes and 1 window change (Pierre's and Alfred's apartments will be the same except for the scene out the window)Radio (to be built out of Legos by Joey)Ghost Laptop (to be built out of Legos by Trevor)Special effect noises: music for the radio station, sound effects for ghostly movement and the heat wave Fog Machine (for our cloud formation at the end)
  • We will also need a puppet stage

Robot - Activity Saturday and Sunday:

Saturday was open table:

  • Joey and Danny completed their mission! Great work. They tried a second robot and it had some trouble, but read on.
  • Alex and his dad came over. Alex is the 3rd mission group in the "Mega" program, thus the robot location is not very predictable. He worked on locating his robot on the mat using sensors. He has a strategy and started programming it.
  • Paul worked on prototyping a tank track to replace the ramp, but decided to abandon after some testing. It was a nice design.
  • Michael, Andrew and Nate finished the day and made a lot of progress.
  • ==> Andrew has made a huge discovery for the team. He had finished his mission but when he tried a 2nd robot, it did not behave the same. The first robot always drove left on a straight run, but the second one was even worse. He tried swapping wheels on one of the robots and found that it drove right! He deduced that the tires were different sizes and since then has found 2 matched sets for our robots that now enable them to drive straight. This is a very big deal, allowing us to have 2 robots that behave similarly enough to make them interchangeable among teams. They are much more predictable.
  • ==> Michael and Nate made improvements to their mission and reliably deliver their cargo to the ice and have a good direction towards the ice drill. The bear is sometimes sleeping, but they've deferred that until after they accomplish the rest of their mission. They've got some good teamwork going.


  • Alex, Michael, Andrew & Nate arrived 1/2 hour early, so Paul and Danny joined them. It was a very productive little pre-meeting with a lot of progress for a short time.
  • ==> Andrew finished going through the wheels for matched sets. He was very systematic.
  • ==> Paul modified his line follower, adding parameters for sensor, line side and power. He tested it and it works nicely. It's called ELF_1 for Extended Line Follower, Version 1.
  • Patrick and Trevor made progress on the house mission, adding ELF_1, and got to the point of sensing the wall with the arm by sensing rotations, as suggested by Paul. They started, and Trevor finished Wednesday, a motor assist that now allows them to sense the wall without adding a touch sensor! Fantastic teamwork.
  • Alex added ELF_1 to his program before time ran out.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Agenda, Thursday, 10/23/2008

Project is going very well. Time to pick parts for the puppet show and also decide how they're going to make the puppets.

Michael work with Mrs. Naughton on his cloud ide and how to work it in to the rest of the content.

Continue robot mission work.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Agenda, Sunday 10/4/2008

We are again going with a 2 hour Sunday meeting, some kids come late, some kids leave early.
This is to minimize the distractions of kids working on robot table.

3:00 - 3:45

  • Alex, Paul (project)
  • Michael, Nate, Patrick, Andrew, Trevor (robot)

3:45 Danny Start
4:15 Trevor Finish
4:15 - 5:00

  • Patrick, Michael & Nate (project)
  • Danny, Andrew, Paul & Alex (robot)

not present at meeting: - Joey

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Minutes, 9/18/2008

Work for next meeting:
- Everyone write their bio text.
- Project research on the new topic of temperature extremes.
- Mr. Emge order tires for robots.

Patrick presented results of his research. The problems he found and why:
1) heat and cold waves, because they're the most deadly
2) floods - because they're the most costly
The team had a good discussion and then voted 6 to 3 to pick the problem of heat and cold extremes.
Joey, Alex and Danny worked with Mrs. Naughton to come up with questions for an expert.

- Andrew tested the new tires and found they behaved identically to the old ones in a straight line test.
- Paul tested the line follower and it didn't work with the new sensor location.
- Trevor entered sensor data and built a new jig.
- Various other work done on missions.

- Paul volunteered to take photos for the Bios.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Meeting Minutes, 9/14/2008

Michael and Nate led a vote on the project topic. Droughts and floods were chosen and then extreme weather. The challenge project was re-read and the team realized that it's not the climate, or future climate, but rather problems due to current climate. So, extreme weather is the cause, but are drought and floods the main problems? Mrs. Naughton suggested that they do research to answer the following questions before the next meeting so that they can make informed decisions. The link below may help, but they should also explore other resources.
1. What is the climate of IL/our area?
2. What are some of the problems we face due to our climate?

Robot Missions:
Please see the 2008 Mission Tracker in the links to the right. Each team member was able to pick their first or second choice of which of the 4 mission groups to work on based on their decision last meeting to assign 4, 2, 2 & 1 persons each. The coaches each took a team to mentor. The 1st group nominated Andrew to be the team lead.

Robot Design:
Paul, Patrick, Michael, Andrew, Danny and Nate worked on the robot design. The rest of the team was content to work on their missions and let this sub-team make the design decisions. Below are the details, but they decided to use the new design.
  • New arm is better but they will stiffen by triangulation.
  • Light sensor needs to be tested and Paul volunteered. The issue is line following, straight and 90-degree turns. They think straight lines are OK and but sharp turns may be a problem. If no sharp turns are needed, then this is OK but Paul will work out the performance.
  • They think the small wheels will be OK if they use a ramp to get into the research area. Paul had a prototype ramp with magnetic Lego's. Looked cool but needs some work. Paul will also continue work on a ramp.
  • Final issue was repeatability of straight lines with the small wheels. Andrew volunteered to test this.


  • Still need display mission printouts
  • Need to display project challenge for reference.
  • Need soft copy of Alex's schedule for the web site.
  • Mission tracker is updated with assignments and coach mentors

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Agenda, 9/14/2008

Finish selecting topic and start research on it (1 week behind)

Discuss robot design and how we finalize
Pick mission assignments and start working on them (1 week behind)

Finish posting missions
Continue sensor characterization, get into Nate's spreadsheet
How to organize software: MyBlocks analysis (Alex), other ideas: Michael, Andrew, Paul

Meeting Minutes, 9/11/2008

1. Alex presented his schedule. He will email it to Mr. Emge, it is in word format.

2. Vote for a topic for research project.
From last weeks brainstorming session, the 4 topics of choice were
-agriculture (how it changes with expected climate changes)
-water level and transportation (lake MI, canals, rivers, dredging, etc)
-impact on any particular eco system

None of the ideas triggered much enthusiasm. Votes came in for water level and transportation.

3. Small group brainstorming
3 groups of 3.
Brainstorm ideas to for internet search topics/words.
Brainstorm ideas for who we can get to come speak/we can visit.
Goal was each group come up with 10-15 search topics, and a few ideas for people/field trips.

4. Small group breakout
4a. Paul, Danny, Trevor - Characterize light sensors. Progress made. Chart online?
4b. Michael, Nate - research topics, do the googling. They were not finding enough interesting info, but maybe have some different, cooler, ideas for project.
4c. Alex posted rules, missions next time
Alex and Mrs. Emge discussed software testing to understand
MyBlocks usage and implementation. Will try to do at home.
4d. Patrick, Andrew, Joey prepared and presented a mission tracker. (Pauls flash drive)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Agenda, 9/11/2008

  • Alex - present the schedule he prepared for this past Sunday, when we ran out of time.
  • Post the missions and rules, which Alex pointed out was to be performed this meeting per the schedule.


  • Start meeting by completing last weeks schedule item "narrow down topic" and voting on the items identified in Sunday's brain storming.
  • Per schedule, compile info.


  • Per schedule, assign missions.
  • To that end:
  • ---Joey, Patrick, Andrew to complete first pass mission tracker
  • ---Group decides on who does what
  • NOTE: design review of Andrew's robot delayed until Mr. Emge's return on Sunday, 9/14

Minutes, 9/7/2008

A very exciting meeting today. We had a 10 minute kickoff of the challenge, followed by 30 minutes of project brainstorming and finishing with 30 minutes of robot.

Project: Andrew came with a lot of graphs on our climate. Most of the boys had done some research and described the climate changes expected, and how it depended on the model. They came up with many problems these changes cause. Next week they vote on which of these problems to do their research project.

Robot: There were 3 proposals already thought through! They all had similar themes. Michael and Andrew also brought a robot prototype, but we didn't have time to review it. The experience of last season is really showing in the depth of thought, and breadth of consideration, including tactical, timing and difficulty of implementation.
  • Patrick presented a concept for combining 7 of the 18 missions in a single run.
  • Andrew and Michael brought a color-coded mission sequence proposal, which they presented
  • Joey presented an alternate mission sequence

We discussed the approach for distributing the mission work. Last year each mission was solved independently. This year they decided that they'd rather first determine the mission order and then assign teams to each robot run. The team agreed to have Joey, Patrick and Andrew do the first pass mission order for review with the group. This team agreed that they would be objective in their decisions.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Agenda, 9/7/2008

See the link to the right.

Everyone on the team to digest as much of the project and robot rules as they can before our short meeting.

Project, from schedule: brainstorm to narrow down topic and pick who does what.

Mrs. Naughton gives the following guidance:
read up on Midwest Climate Change at the following link:
other helpful links:

Robot, from schedule: list of missions.
Joey and Andrew have already done a first pass. If time after project, review their work and any other brought to the meeting.

General: post the rules and missions in the lab, review Alex's schedule

Meeting Minutes, 9/4/2008

We followed the agenda pretty closely, so I'll only capture the highlights. The team did a great job going through the handouts from Mrs. Naughton and had a very good discussion.

Q: Is there enough room in the project schedule for field trips or visits from experts?
A: Yes - there is enough slack.

Q:(for both schedule teams) Does the schedule assume that 1/2 time is spent on project and robot?
A: Yes

Noted that if they change the robot schedule, then the design must be locked down by 9/14. Need to add this note to the schedule. They also clarified that the schedule assumes the same approach as last year: solve all the missions, then combine/cut.

Andrew suggested each person do a mini-project that they can have fun with and present to the group. The team agreed to table that idea and consider it when they find out the actual challenge to see if they think it will work.

A schedule gap was identified and Alex volunteered to schedule the miscellaneous jobs that don't fit under project and robot headings: technical presentation, putting together other presentation material, etc.

Michael and Andrew brought in a prototype robot design that they propose for this season. We had a short design review but agreed to hold off deciding whether or not to change the design until they understand the challenge. They would also need to test the perceived advantages of the new robot to verify that it delivers. Below are the results, but I'd like to congratulate Michael and Andrew on their initiative and the group in general for their thoughtful consideration of the impact of both changing and keeping the old design.


  • shorter - more maneuverable and can have larger implements in base
  • easier to charge
  • flatter wheels for more traction and less bounce
  • rear sliders are the same width as marks in base to make it easier to align.

  • light sensor is now behind the front wheels (affects line follower algorithm)
  • implements and/or attachments need to be re-designed
  • arm motor was too tight to attach the arm (already fixed)
  • it might be too slow with the smaller wheels
  • re-designing and testing will take schedule time

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Meeting Agenda, 9/4/2008

  • Come prepared with what they are interesed in doing for the team. For example, research, software, robot design, etc.


  • Nate and Michael present their schedule.
  • All - be prepared with handout answers from last meeting

  • Danny and Trevor present their schedule.
  • Characterize sensors.
  • Continue work on software organization effort

8/28/2008 Meeting Minutes

Last week, Mrs. McCurdy pointed out that the team's experience allows them to get a jump on the season by working on organization in advance of the the challenge announcement. We were able to set our agenda for this week based on that focus. In addition, Mrs. Naughton led a discussion on what was learned from the weather station tour and distributed a paper on climate. The team chose to read at home and answer the questions as opposed to doing it during the meeting.

Danny and Trevor came up with a robot schedule and reviewed with Mrs. Emge. Danny entered the data this week and it's posted on the blog to the right as "2008 Robot Schedule". Nice work!

Nate and Michael generated a project schedule and reviewed with Mrs. Naughton. The data will be posted once entered this week.

Patrick and Joey started attaching the mission items to the board while the coaches were busy working with the other boys.

Andrew, Paul and Alex had volunteered to work on organizing software. Andrew experimented with my-blocks to understand how they are stored and how we can be sure which version we're using. More work is ncessary to figure this out, but Andrew was diligent in his effort. The NXT software is quite confusing in this regard.

Paul and Alex helped Patrick and Joey on light sensor characterization. Last season we found that one sensor had a different response. The goal of this exercise is to determine the repeatability of the sensors with each robot for black, white and the colors available on the mat. As a reminder, the post-mortem identified repeatability of the robots as an important trait. Nate built a spreadsheet for documenting their results, which can be found in the links to the right under "Light Sensor Data". Nice job, Nate! Paul build a jig for mounting sensors that has a quick-change mount and keeps them at a fixed height from the mat.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Welcome Back, Supernova, 8/21/2008 Meeting

Today's meeting was primarily a postmortem of the 2007 season. We discussed what worked and what we can improve on from last year. Below are the results and action items for which they volunteered.

Vote results:
  • They voted to keep the Supernova name, 5 to 3
  • Regional preferences:
  1. Batavia
  2. Palatine
  3. Lake Zurich
Action items and assignments. The organizational stuff we can do at the next meeting since we don't yet know the project or missions, but we have enough experience to know the fundamentals of what generally needs to be done.

We need a "lawyer" at each tournament run to respectfully discuss with the judge any scoring issues. Also responsible for the mission tracker and working with the rest of the team to make tradeoffs. Needed 2 team members so there is a backup.
  • Joey and Patrick
Robot Run Organization: We should have a binder for the missions: robot alignment, implements, etc. Need a solution for quickly accessing programs.
  • Michael and Andrew
Software organization - process for keeping computers synchronized, understanding my-blocks and how they are stored. Robot download before meetings and tournaments. Integration of Andrew's program access. Includes SW part of the technical presentation and board.
  • Paul, Alex and Andrew (related to program access)
Project Schedule - work out the steps for completion and when they need to be complete, with enough time left at the end for practice before regional tournament. Assume 2 meetings per week starting 9/4.
  • Nate and Michael

Robot Schedule - work out the steps for completion and when they need to be complete, with enough time lef at the end for optimization and practice before regional tournament. Assume 2 meetings per week starting 9/4.

  • Danny and Trevor
Tournament tri-fold information boards. Everyone contributes but we need an owner for each.
  • Joey: Bios
  • ?: Technical
  • ?: Project
Robot Re-design and testing. Think about improvements, build and test solutions and present to the group. Finish this in the next couple weeks so that we know the robot platform, making it easier to design implements and approach a final design sooner.
  • Nate, Michael, Andrew, Paul and Danny
Other topics discussed:
  • The team liked solving all missions last year and then optimizing for points. They think they can move quicker to multi-missions from the beginning now by doing more up-front thinking about the implements and what missions can be combined.
  • Helper charts might be useful, like wheel rotations vs. degrees robot rotation (single wheel turns).
  • Test all missions on at least 2 robots. If they do not behave the same, find out why so that we may learn and also to make the missions more robust.