2 done & Frontier Trails to go --- then BEST 2011 is in the Books... History
- (1) No World. No National. A Grand Experiment ... 6Sigma'd. Some teams have well deserved hardware that's BEST history. (2) Well, still another Regional for the books. --- great job South BEST. The results were compiled and posted in an expeditious manner. Wasn't able to live stream the happenings at South. Don't know the glitch. Hope it worked for others. (3) Results? Scores? Does it matter? Awards and placement are as posted. Congratulation teams! Interesting to note the optional awards gap developing in the Regionals.(See 2011 A&J Policy) (4) Waiting for TX and now South (soon FT) for their pics and vids links. Some teams no doubt have and will post their vids to youtube but it's hit-and-miss to find. Facebook? Only if you're a friend. Can they post to the BEST youtube channel? (5) Oh, just found the 2012 BEST game teaser(s). --> Warp XX <-- I get it! 1993 - 2012! Who's the lucky game developing Hub? Please consider game simplicity and history? Expecting it'll be posted on the BESTInc. soon. It was a nice egg hunt. (6) In the past this BESTInc Group had pics posted by thoughtful unofficial photographers. Someone there please step up. (7) Great effort by all this 2011 BEST season!
- First off, I've been meaning to post pictures I took of the Texas competition for a while... Finally they're posted: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/bestinc/photos/album/109160759/pic/list
As for videos, I uploaded two of the final rounds to my Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/seancsnm?feature=mhee
In the past, I've also collected BEST-related videos by other people under my playlists. I don't have many regional videos added or organized yet, but I hope to do so a bit after the Frontier Trails competition.
I'd also like to share my team's post-2010-2011 story...
Last year, after coming within 30-40 golf balls of making it to the 2011 National Competition, some of us had the crazy idea of going halfway across the country primarily to watch the competition, but also to volunteer and help wherever we could. This was not only an exciting learning experience, but also in a sense a vacation.
In addition to seeing the National Competition, we also had the crazy idea of holding "robotics camps" for younger kids/teens in the community. The idea eventually developed into a reality, and during spring break, we held our first robotics camp. It was heavily inspired by the BEST competition, and was in essence a mini version. Participants were divided into 4 teams, lead by our own team members who acted as guides/mentors, with adults acting as supervisors. Teams were given a task (which was loosely based on Total Recall), and they had a week to put together a robot. At the end of the week, they would compete in an organized manner. In addition, teams also participated in "spirit" and had to write "engineering notebooks," both of which where miniaturized versions of the BEST categories, to fit in a 1-week period with younger kids. The camp was a success, and we held another during the summer. It was a great experience for both our team, and the kids who participated, and I think it really took on the BEST vision. From the camps, we recruited a fair number of new team members, a few of which may become the leadership of the team in later years.
In preparation for the 2011 BEST season, the team held a number of meetings related to different categories we would compete in, and "resurrected" our 2009 robot.
When the season began, we started straight away with the process, simultaneously beginning the engineering design process on our robot, building a quadrant of the game field, and working on the other BEST award categories. Part of what kept us focused was the knowledge that I and four other seniors (three of which founded the team) would be graduating this year. As such, we were very efficient and had a working robot four weeks in. Although we had about 2 weeks to practice and fine-tune, we ran into a variety of electronics problems, where our robot randomly disconnected and reconnected while driving. To our surprise, the problem had little or nothing to do with the VEX system, but instead the problem was with the crimps on the batteries and battery adapters - in one case the wire on a battery adapter effortlessly was pulled completely out of its connector. After this problem was solved, we put a lot of focus on driver practice. Although our robot could pick up every game piece fairly easily, we wanted to gain an edge with a roach collector, but ended up giving up because we were out of time before hub competition. Our robot performed very well at hub competition. The second place runner up was essentially a copy of our robot, which another team managed to build in the week between mall day where they saw our robot and game day.
After hub competition, we ambitiously enlarged our claw to be: 11" long, 7" wide, and 6-7" tall when closed. Being such a monster, it added issues with the already high center of gravity, and after some attempts to reduce its weight, we decided to rely on drivers to keep the claw low, and avoid driving over large obstacles to keep from flipping the robot irrecoverably. We also perfected a roach collector, which was fairly effective and when the roaches were at full charge, collected in some cases 8 roaches.
After the modifications, we made practice a huge priority. Although some drivers were stronger than others, all drivers could fairly consistently collect 2-3 black flies in the claw at once (usually without having to drop any), score them, collect a termite, collect roaches, and collect more flies or food bonuses. I would guess our average score in the couple days before Texas was in the mid 300s, with increasingly frequent "great rounds" breaking 400 points. Just to give an idea of how much practice we got, we stripped the gears on one drive motor about a week before competition. The other motor started to give out just before we had to leave for Texas, and we were unable to practice more than a round during our scheduled practice on Friday, because the other motor completely locked up. Thankfully, someone saved us and lended us a motor.
We went to competition with high hopes. On Friday, once we fixed our motor issue, much of the day was spent assessing the abilities of other robots, and whether we should collect roaches or flies first each round... and what teams to watch out for in general. We found that not one, but two NM teams copied our hub robot, and that the three of us were the only teams with that general design at Texas. To make it more obvious, the three of us were right next to each other in the pit. We also found that on one of the game fields, the flies had significantly less shaved off of them before they were glued together than our own practice flies or the flies on the other field, meaning that they were much longer, requiring us to adjust our strategy, as we found that only in some cases could 2+ flies be picked up at once.
On Saturday, our drivers scored well, though a good bit lower than our average practice scores, mainly due to the very different nature of the competition and being under pressure. Yet still we ended the seeding rounds with a small lead. On the first semi-final round, the unpredictable but hilarious happened; our robot's claw somehow got stuck on the top of the inside of the cabinet, with a fly between the claw and the ceiling. When the robot got unstuck, the fly flew across the field and into the SCA. Thankfully this didn't count, as it would have removed our separation bonus, but it was one of those once-in-a-lifetime happenings. We scored fairly well the first two rounds, and figured we could easily make it to the finals. Unfortunately, the much dreaded worst-case scenario happened the third semi-final round; upon the start of the round, the robot drove up onto a 1x4 barrier and flipped right out of the starting box. It was a very sad way to end our part in the competition, but there was nothing we could do about it once it happened. As they say, the higher you climb, the harder you fall.
For those who did make it to the finals, my congratulations. The top team, Ereckson Middle School, had a simple offensive strategy that tied in well with its defensive strategy, which effectively blocked other teams from getting into their cabinets while Erickson's robot collected flies.
Anyways, it was a great year overall. Some lessons are hard to learn the hard way, and can't be taken too lightly. But they are lessons best learnt sooner than later.
As for the overall Texas BEST competition; it was great. The location was great. The staff were great. Interesting to see the many designs that we had thought of implemented in other robots, and just as many designs that we never would have dreamed of. Also interesting to see how much driver practice effects the performance of teams. There may be several "best" robots, but the driver/spotter combination makes all the difference. It's not so much about having the best design, but of having a reliable design, a good, versatile strategy, and well-practiced drivers.
I was privileged enough to see the South's BEST competition stream. The quality was great, but I think the high bandwidth stream caused problems because half of the time the stream ran like a slide show rather than a video. Hard to say if it was a problem on my end - I've got 5 MB/s DSL. I did catch enough to see what was going on though. Quite a lively competition, I'll say... It felt like dances were going on every other round. In general, there seemed to be quite a few robots that consistently acquired a full collection bonus in comparison to Texas. Have anything to do with an extra few weeks of driver practice? Teams with roach collectors in particular seemed to be able to score their collectors consistently, and go for full collection. The top team was rather incredible. They had an open collector where roaches could enter from all four sides. As far as I could tell, the robot had to balance the collector perfectly to keep roaches from falling out when it went to score the roaches. Unlike in Texas, there were a lot more teams that drove over obstacles (particularly the WPCA and PCA) to score points rather than solely relying on extending arms.
Last, big thanks to all who helped run the competition. It is an outstanding experience that wouldn't be possible without the tremendous amount of volunteer effort that is put into making it happen. Thanks for bearing with my very long post.
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "me_dardo2007" <dardo2005@...> wrote:
> (1) No World. No National. A Grand Experiment ... 6Sigma'd. Some teams have well deserved hardware that's BEST history. (2) Well, still another Regional for the books. --- great job South BEST. The results were compiled and posted in an expeditious manner. Wasn't able to live stream the happenings at South. Don't know the glitch. Hope it worked for others. (3) Results? Scores? Does it matter? Awards and placement are as posted. Congratulation teams! Interesting to note the optional awards gap developing in the Regionals.(See 2011 A&J Policy) (4) Waiting for TX and now South (soon FT) for their pics and vids links. Some teams no doubt have and will post their vids to youtube but it's hit-and-miss to find. Facebook? Only if you're a friend. Can they post to the BEST youtube channel? (5) Oh, just found the 2012 BEST game teaser(s). --> Warp XX <-- I get it! 1993 - 2012! Who's the lucky game developing Hub? Please consider game simplicity and history? Expecting it'll be posted on the BESTInc. soon. It was a nice egg hunt. (6) In the past this BESTInc Group had pics posted by thoughtful unofficial photographers. Someone there please step up. (7) Great effort by all this 2011 BEST season!