On the Trailer Situation

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I had planned to sleep in Sunday morning. It was not a pleasant surprise when my mother, usually not one to disturb her slumbering kids, rushed up to my room at 8 AM and shook me until I stirred. It was an even less pleasant surprise when I learned why I was being awoken so early. Team 2823’s trailer had been stolen.

For those not in the know, the trailer is a fixture of any robotics team. It is a universal symbol of FRC; go to any robotics competition and you’ll see a line of trailers, with varying levels of fanciness and customization, in the parking lot. When I see that line of trailers, I know I’m among kindred spirits. We have all built robots that are too large to store in someone’s trunk, and we all have toolboxes and batteries and joysticks with which to operate that robot, and we all need a large, convenient space to store that stuff in. Most importantly, we all keep a lot of that stuff in the trailer even when we’re not at a competition.

We were lucky that our robot, which we’ve been toiling over for six weeks, wasn’t in the trailer that night. It had been taken into our head coach’s house because of a loose screw. The trailer remained parked outside of his house, where it is usually found, until around 5 AM. When word got out, in a panic, we scrambled to find the vehicle registration, file a police report, and spread the word through every channel we could. I created a GiveMN page (which is still up, btw) that spread at an unexpectedly fast rate through the tubes and accumulated a donation total in the quadruple digits. Perhaps the most remarkable thing: our main builders and drive team managed to squeeze the robot into our head coach’s car and we drove to the practice competition we had scheduled for the day as though nothing had happened. Goes to show nothing can set a couple of dedicated teenagers back.

At some point, the local media got word that the trailer had been stolen. It started with a call from the Pioneer Press, and before long, local TV stations began to take interest in us. Suddenly, our missing trailer was a capital-S Story, and it seemed like everyone in the Metro area knew about our trailer. We had newscasters following us around at this practice competition, interviewing students and mentors, while fellow teams offered us spare parts and batteries and friends donated money while promising to look for our trailer. It was scary, at first, to lose something so important to us (and to any robotics team), but the outpouring of support and the importance with which our situation was being treated eased our worries.

We received word that a trailer that resembled ours had been spotted on a rapid response vehicle around noon. Around that time, the team was breaking for lunch, having a markedly successful day with our robot whose framework is partially made out of a box of Cheetos. Afterwards, we fielded interviews and responded to press inquiries, feeling like reality stars as we enjoyed our lunch of Culver’s. We’d never been approached by news outlets in such great volumes, nor had we ever seen such an influx of donations. It was amazing to watch it all unfold.

When my mom and I finally made it to the impound lot, where we believed our trailer to be, a news van pulled in beside us. A very kind guy from KSTP trailed us as we made our way to the administrative office with a big bag of forms. The lady at the desk was a bit exasperated by our questions about the trailer – apparently, a news team had shown up earlier and furtively tried to get photos of the trailer through the window of the office, which is apparently frowned upon in the impound lot industry. We showed her our forms and proof of ownership and her tone softened. We were shown out a door that said “Do Not Enter”, and we penguin-stepped our way across the ice-slick lot to the trailer on the other side, which, sure enough, had the tell-tale HP sticker.

The trailer didn’t look to have taken much damage when we first opened it up. Was it messy? Sure, but it didn’t look like much was gone. After all, that shelf that we stock full of supplies was still there. We then poked around a bit and realized that the shelf was not, in fact, full of supplies, and about all we had was the bare shelf, some power cells, and a good amount of nails and screws. Most of our VEX products (and anything that could be sold for scrap) were gone. We were shocked at first, but as engineers, we can’t dwell on problems; all we can do is solve them. We brought back the trailer, hiked up our fundraising goal and moved on. Today, the trailer, though missing some batteries, electronics, and machinery, is parked in front of the school. Our fellow teams (as well as some of our sponsors) have offered to provide us with some of the resources we’ve lost, and as of writing, our fundraiser has exceeded its second goal by several hundreds. We couldn’t be more grateful that we have the money and support necessary to rebuild after experiencing such an abrupt and unexpected loss.

After we got the trailer back and did a couple of TV interviews for good measure, the story got picked up by the AP, and started showing up in an implausible number of non-Minnesotan publications. We had talked with Yoji Shimizu, a local legend in the Minnesotan robotics community, earlier that day, and he told us that plenty of teams have had trailers stolen before. Perhaps that explains why so many teams rushed to support us in our time of need, but it also begs the question of why people care about our story so much. Some answers that have been proposed: ours is a story with a pretty clear protagonist and antagonist, and the protagonist requires monetary support that people are willing to give; people hate to see kids have opportunities taken from them and love to see happy endings; stolen goods rarely make their way back and people often don’t have the means to rebuild what they’ve lost. That last one holds some weight – we were told, when we were hurriedly filing a police report at the crack of dawn, that lost trailers are rarely ever recovered. Well, ours is an unbelievable success story – not only was the robot kept safe, not only were we able to go to our practice competition, and not only did we actually get the trailer back, but we’ve received such a great volume of support that we probably would have been fine if none of those were true.

Thank you to everyone who donated to our fundraiser, to all the teams that reached out to us and offered their help, and to the news outlets that helped our story get unexpectedly huge. We’re so grateful that, even in such devastating situations, we can depend on the kindness and Gracious Professionalism of the FIRST Robotics Competition community.

Minne Mini and Much More!

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Hello again, everyone! We’ve had a very eventful pre-season, with a healthy mix of new adventures and tried-and-true traditions. It’s been hard work, but we’ve been having plenty of fun along the way!

First, we held our annual car wash in the HPSH parking lot. This was a great success – we made over $400 from your donations alone, so thank you! We also made a couple cents – shout-out to the alumna who donated exactly $28.23 :).

We also participated in an entirely new (well, to us) outreach event. Every year, the Mall of America holds a “trick-or-treating” shindig where kids can come to the mall in costume and “trick-or-treat” at the various stores and restaurants within the mall. Problem is, kids with severe allergies can’t be sure that the treats they receive are hypoallergenic, so the Anaphylaxis and Food Allergy Association of Minnesota creates an “allergy-free zone” where these kids can spend halloween driving robots – like the ones made by yours truly! Along with the Central Minutebots and Great River/Avalon NoMythic, we taught some pretty cool characters how to drive Atlas. Sure, our drive team is great, but have you seen a fairy princess or a dinosaur drive a robot?

Just this past weekend, we attended the Minne Mini regional, hosted by Prior Lake’s King TeC. Our regular drive team was either out of town or, well, graduated from the team, so we were working with an entirely new drive team that included 3 rookie members. Wouldn’t you know it – they did amazing! Not only were we able to drive well and work well with other teams, but we “sent it” (vaulted the robot onto a 6-inch platform) THREE TIMES! We closed out the qualification rounds ranked 14th, but ultimately did not get picked. Oh well, there’s always the regular-sized regionals!

We’ve also been working on two major fundraisers. One of these was our second annual Give to the MAX day giveaway, where we offered bumper stickers, winter hats, and mini-scotbots. There’s a bit of a delay on the winter hats, so gifts may not come out for a week or two, but rest assured that they will come!

We’re also currently holding our Winter Gear Sale! This time around, we’re offering classics such as the black sweatshirt, grey sweatpants, and “10 Years of Innovation” shirt, along with a brand-new 10-year anniversary sweatshirt and an HP Robotics scarf. All of these products are a great way to protect against the cold, though I’m sorry to say that they won’t be here in time for the snowstorm tomorrow. Order here until December 5th to show your support for the team!

We’re also very excited to announce that the Midway Men’s Club is now a sponsor of ours! It’s a terrific organization that rents a stand at the State Fair every year and uses the proceeds to provide funding for youth activities (including a handful of other robotics teams) and we are very grateful for their generosity. Check them out the next time the Fair comes around – we hear they’ve got some good burgers!

That’s all for now! Stay tuned for more updates and make sure to follow our twitter account @hprobotics!

Back from Summer!

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Hello again from Team 2823! It’s been a fun few months of relaxing (and a couple less fun weeks of school) since our last update, but, rest assured, we’ve kept ourselves plenty busy!

Over the summer, we did a number of outreach events, including demos at the Minnesota State Fair, 3M’s Robots Invade the Plaza event and HighlandFest. During these events, we educated people about the FIRST program, explained how our ‘bot works, distributed plenty of buttons, and even gave youngsters the opportunity to drive the robot! HighlandFest was a particularly special event for us this year because we were not only doing all of those things, but we were doing them on Fox 9 News. Cool, right? We definitely thought so.

In other news, we had our first meeting of the year last Thursday. We served pizza, and then, in a surprising turn of events, had team veterans and new recruits alike collaborate to build a tower out of the empty pizza boxes! Of course, we never said that the tower had to be touching the ground, so people figured out pretty quickly that they could maximize height by simply taping the top of their tower to the ceiling. That’s the kind of innovation that we admire but find slightly annoying – i.e., just what our team needs.

As for upcoming events, we’re currently gearing up for our annual Car Wash in the HP Parking lot! This one will be on Saturday, the 28th, from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Come and get your car washed for the meager price of $5.00 (although if you do want to pay more we wouldn’t mind) by robotics students, and proceeds will go towards next year’s robot! You can also share the graphic below with your friends, family, and followers!

That’s all for now! Be sure to follow us on twitter @hprobotics for more updates.

Post-2019 Season

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Hey, everyone! Welcome back! As we prepare for the MSHSL State Championships, for which we have officially qualified, we’ve started to work on our post-season outreach and fundraising endeavors. Our annual demonstrations at the Minnesota State Fair and 3M’s Robots Invade the Plaza event are still a ways off, but in the meantime, we’ve been working on some (comparatively) new fundraisers. Whether you’re a member of our local community or a fan from far away, we’ve made it simple and fun to show your support for our team!

Right now, we’re reviving the Gear Sale! For those not in the know, the Gear Sale was an event that took place in December of 2018 where students (or their parents) could purchase team merchandise, with the proceeds benefitting the team going into the robot build season. Said build season is long gone, but the demand for Team 2823 merchandise prevails, so we’re re-opening the form and making it accessible to anyone and everyone! We’ve retained some of the most well-liked products, and we also added two more: the Mystery Science Theater 3000-themed team uniform from this year as well as a 10-Year Anniversary Commemorative shirt. In addition, every item in this iteration of the gear sale can be customized with the message of your choice for a surcharge of $5.00! You can check out the merchandise and place your orders here. The form will close at the end of the month, so make haste!

That’s all for now, but stay tuned! More news is to come!

2019 Regionals

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Welcome back! I know it’s been a while since the last update, but we tend to underestimate how hectic competition season can be, especially when it’s intertwined with finals and such, which makes it hard to sit down and write a blog post in full. That means I have quite a bit to go over, though, so buckle up!

Our first competition of the year was the Northern Lights Regional up in Duluth. It’s part of the “Double-DECCer”, wherein two regional competitions take place in one massive convention center. Excluding the international championship events, it’s the largest and most well-attended FIRST event in the world. We tend to perform poorly at our first regional, so we went into Northern Lights with relatively low expectations, but we did better than anyone could have possibly anticipated. Thanks to some fortunate matches, some killer strategy, and the extensive drive practice we undertook before the competition, we finished the qualification rounds in fourth place overall! That meant that we got to serve as an alliance captain and select two other teams to accompany us into the playoff rounds. We selected the Henry Sibley Lightning Turtles and the Data Bits, with whose help we advanced into the semi-final rounds! Unfortunately, due in part to an incredibly formidable opposing alliance and in part to our perennial “semi-final curse”, we didn’t advance beyond the semi-finals. Regardless of that fact, we were all more than satisfied with how well we did. Here’s a full summary of our match results:

  Match Red Alliance Blue Alliance Scores
Qualifications
   Quals 7 3100 2052 2450 2987 2823 5019 65 48
   Quals 19 2823 2511 3212 2491 7530 4226 58 53
   Quals 30 3691 2509 2823 2501 3297 4607 48 41
   Quals 35 5903 3630 2823 4623 7103 1792 51 49
   Quals 47 6819 3081 6707 876 2823 4703 26 42
   Quals 53 4198 4703 2847 2823 2861 2499 46 29
   Quals 70 6758 3054 6044 1732 2823 6624 30 56
   Quals 80 2987 5434 1732 2823 3754 3267 58 65
   Quals 88 2846 4182 6574 4859 5143 2823 42 54
Quarterfinals
   Quarters 4 Match 1 3100 2823 3883 2501 2511 4182 52 68
   Quarters 4 Match 2 3100 2823 3883 2501 2511 4182 71 49
   Quarters 4 Match 3 3100 2823 3883 2501 2511 4182 69 49
Semifinals
   Semis 2 Match 1 4607 2826 3130 3100 2823 3883 75 56
   Semis 2 Match 2 4607 2826 3130 3100 2823 3883 85 71

And here are some videos of us in action:

After that came the 10,000 Lakes Regional Sponsored by the Medtronic Foundation (bit of a mouthful, huh? It makes me miss the days when it was called the “Medtronic Foundation Regional” or even just “10,000 Lakes”). Still reeling from our last competition, and founding our high expectations with some more drive practice and an improved bot, we presumed that this regional would go even better. Unfortunately, some iffy matches and unfortunate malfunctions resulted in us coming out of the qualifications in rank 40. Though we didn’t get to be alliance captains, we still managed to advance into the playoffs thanks to a very gracious pick from the team ranked 7th, Armada Robotics. They had a dependable climbing mechanism and were sturdy enough to perform some good defense, making them the perfect complement to our fast but light robot. We also picked The Breck Stampede, on whom, per their signature cheer, you can’t impede. We were pretty confident in this alliance, but we would face a similar situation to that of Duluth – success in quarterfinals, facing an incredibly good alliance in semifinals, eventual loss. It wasn’t all bad, though – our team’s long-running inside joke about “sending it”, the tactic of sending the robot careening to the second climb level named after a viral snowmobiling sensation, finally came to fruition. To our collective excitement, we successfully “sent it” in multiple playoff matches!

Here are our match results:

  Match Red Alliance Blue Alliance Scores
Qualifications
   Quals 10 3184 3038 3023 2823 2987 5434 39 71
   Quals 21 7038 2823 2529 2502 3454 2879 47 40
   Quals 30 2509 5913 2500 2513 3298 2823 69 40
   Quals 41 2823 2879 2846 5172 2530 3134 26 61
   Quals 49 3102 7850 3299 3745 2470 2823 69 63
   Quals 61 3202 2823 5541 4549 7028 3007 52 61
   Quals 73 3871 3751 2855 2501 2823 3055 31 51
   Quals 78 5637 2508 4207 2480 3299 2823 47 46
   Quals 92 2823 2052 2515 5464 4664 6709 58 41
Quarterfinals
   Quarters 2 Match 1 4198 5913 3751 2823 2508 3630 61 46
   Quarters 2 Match 2 4198 5913 3751 2823 2508 3630 70 74
   Quarters 2 Match 3 4198 5913 3751 2823 2508 3630 57 71
Semifinals
   Semis 1 Match 1 2052 5172 3026 2823 2508 3630 95 73
   Semis 1 Match 2 2052 5172 3026 2823 2508 3630 90 74

And here’s some videos of us in action:

(We sent it in the match that the second video corresponds to, but, oddly, it cuts out before you can actually see it happen. You’re going to have to trust me on this one.)

So, anyway, all of that leads me to good news and bad news. The bad news is, unless we receive a wild card that grants us entry to the Detroit international competition (which is looking unlikely at the moment), we won’t be eligible for any more official FIRST events this year. The good news is, due to our unprecedentedly good performance at our first regional, we’ll be competing at the MSHSL Robotics State Competition in May! A bit of context: for robotics to be considered a sport in the state of Minnesota, there must be a State Championship, which is why this particular event exists. (Some states have similar events, but most don’t, as it’s not required by FIRST). Entry into this event is based on the amount of “district points” a team receives at their first competition, which are determined by rank, performance, and the awards a team wins. Normally, we don’t get all that many, but ranking fourth has its perks! In other words, the 2019 season isn’t quite over for us just yet!

As always, you can keep up with the Automatons via Twitter. There are more updates to come, so stay tuned!

Post-Build Season

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Hello again, Automatons fans! Thank you for continuing to support the team and keep up with what we’re up to.

Two days ago was “stop build day”, more commonly known among FIRST participants as “bag day”. It’s the day when we have to cease all work on the robot and store it in a plastic bag until our first regional competition – or it was, anyway. This past bag day was actually the last one FIRST is ever going to enforce; come next year, teams can continue working on their robots indefinitely. It’s sad to see bag day go, but we made the best of what we hope to be our last late-night robot building session. To quote our coach, this year’s ‘bot is “one of the most functional robots we’ve ever bagged”. The jury’s still out on its name, but rest assured we’ll come up with something sooner or later.

In other news, the business team has been hard at work, too – our media guy made a pretty hilarious parody of the Destination: Deep Space game announcement. It’s an homage to the “Pitch Meeting” YouTube series, and it was written, directed, and performed entirely by him. Check it out below:

That’s all for now! See you at the Northern Lights regional on March 7th!

…And we’re back!

By FRC 2019, Uncategorized No Comments

Hello, everyone! Thanks for your continued support, because build season is finally here!

Last Saturday was Kickoff – for those not in the know, Kickoff is the day that we FIRST Robotics teams get our yearly challenge. It’s a pretty big event in the FIRST community, since it gives way to build season, which is six weeks of labor-intensive planning, building, and testing!

This year’s challenge is called Destination: Deep Space, sponsored by the Boeing company. The game animation, which details how gameplay works, is as follows:

Basically, robots must be capable of carrying at least one of two objects, the “hatch panel” (donut-shaped object with velcro) and the “cargo” (kickball), and placing them in succession onto those rocket-shaped structures to ensure that cargo is securely “stored” on these ships. This year’s game also presents a new challenge; instead of Autonomous mode, where robots must run on preemptively programmed code, Deep Space has Sandstorm mode, where robots can be driven as usual but the drivers’ vision of the field is obscured. Robots also must find a way to climb onto elevated platforms at the end of the match without the help of any velcro or support bars. After Kickoff, we had a very productive strategy session, and we’ve already started on building the robot. We can’t wait to show it to you!

In the meantime, be sure to check our Twitter for updates (and memes).

– Scotbot

Pre-Season and Give to the Max

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Hello again! Now that we’re back from summer and have settled into our school routine once more, we’ve been working hard and making sure that we’re prepared for the next competition season, as well as performing outreach in our community and engaging with the school’s population. Here’s a quick rundown of some significant projects we’ve been busy with:

  • On September 22, we ran a carwash out of Highland Park Senior High’s parking lot, spending the better part of the day cleaning cars in a slight Autumnal chill that seemed a lot colder at the time. It was a successful endeavor – we raised hundreds of dollars and didn’t have a single unsatisfied customer!
  • Our beloved Executive Board has arranged a fun challenge for our team during the preseason that we’ve embraced to the fullest extent. Our team has been split into two pseudo-teams competing to build a KanJam robot, one named the Meerkat Fish and one TBD. We’re trying not to get too competitive, since we want to make sure we set a good example of Gracious Professionalism for the rookies.
  • Last Saturday, a whopping 26 members of our team contributed their time and effort to the Monster Dash, a race through Team Ortho where runners are not only allowed, but encouraged, to run in costume, making it an enjoyable experience for both them and us.

While we’ve had our share of major team events already, we’ve still got something big coming up: Give to the Max! It’s a state-wide fundraising event benefiting nonprofit organizations like us that takes place on November 15th. This year, we’re doing something a bit new: incentives! For a 25$ or larger donation, you’ll receive an HP Robotics logo sticker; for $100 and up, a button and notepad, and for $300 and up, a tour of our workspace. You can donate through our GiveMN link at any time, but these gifts are exclusive to GTTM, so mark your calendars!

That’s all for now, be sure to follow us on social media!

Twitter – https://twitter.com/hprobotics

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/HPRobotics/

Post-Medtronic Regional and End of Season

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Hey all! We here at HPSH Robotics are happy to announce how well we were able to perform at our latest regional, the Medtronic Foundation Regional. We placed 5th overall and went to quarterfinals with our alliance partners, the Governors and Blaze Robotics. We’re also ecstatic to mention that our lead programmer, Alexis Lipstein, was one of the finalists for the Dean’s List Award. Unfortunately, we were unable to achieve our goal of winning a blue banner, and therefore this means the end of the season for us. We’d like to thank all the people who worked hard on our team in build, programming, strategy, business. We’d also like to thank our alliance partners team 3745 ,the Governors, and team 3184, Blaze Robotics.

Here’s how we did in all our matches:

Team 3184, Blaze Robotics: https://blazerobotics.org/

Dean’s List Award Clip:

Video of Our Matches:

Website: http://www.hprobotics.org/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HPRobotics
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HPRobotics/

If you have any questions feel free to contact us.

If you would like to contribute to the team, please use this link to contribute through GiveMN. Thank you!