FIRST Robotics Team 3767: Reveal day didn't reveal as much as expected

Continued: Forty-student comprise FIRST Robotics Team 3767; I'm one of the 8 team Mentors. Their first competition will be March 4 and 5, 2011 – just six weeks away. That will be followed by another in Troy, MI a few weeks later.


One fourth of FIRST Robotics Team 3767 outside Robotics classroom B101 with the partially completed team mascot WALL-e. Photo by Paul F. Grayson, Control Engineering bloggerContinued from last post: Forty-student comprise FIRST Robotics Team 3767; I'm one of the 8 team Mentors.  Their first competition will be March 4 and 5, 2011 – just six weeks away. That will be followed by another in Troy, MI a few weeks later.

THE INVITATION – watch for yours.  You should be getting an invitation to be a Mentor to a FIRST Robotics Competition Team in your neighborhood, if not, find them and volunteer.  FIRST is the best thing happening in education now, it is pure STEM (science, technology, engineering, math).  Communities and schools are getting into the program and supporting it with a great deal of enthusiasm – it is putting the fun back into education, and everyone wants to be part of that.

My invitation came in the form of a phone call late one evening recently from Mike Wilson, a Math teacher at Traverse City West Senior High School. He was cold calling engineers in the neighborhood from a list he had and had not made the connection as to who I was. My wife is a schoolteacher and Mike used to work with her not long ago. He did not realize that until later and called back to confirm it.

THE REGISTRATION PROCESS – OR HOW TO THIN THE HERD While trying to get through the online registration process: I found that the Internet does not work as well as one would hope that it would.  Nor are web designers aware of what it takes to make a massive website user friendly for first time users. I was embarrassed that I had to have a person on the phone walk me through the registration maze since I was supposedly being asked to help based on my technical expertise. 

Several independent sources told me in confidence that they suspected that the Byzantine registration process was actually the first step to see if you were capable of robotics. They each said they suspected that FIRST was implying that “if you cannot find your way through the registration process you have no business trying to build a robot.”  I tend to agree with them, it does look like a first sorting out or heard thinning process. With a little help from my friends, I was able to get through it, proving the value of it being on a team. Green shirts pictured here are FIRST Robotics Team 3767 at the 1-8-2011 FIRST Robotics Competition Kick Off Party. The students are listening to advice from older teams while counting down to the BIG REVEAL announcement via nationwide simultaneous satellite feed. Photo by Paul F. Grayson for Control Engineering


FIRST Robotics Competition teams are numbered in the order they joined the FIRST organization. The oldest teams have the lowest numbers.  Older teams have the advantage of having been through it all before.  Even though the people on their team change from year to year, their institutional memory puts them miles ahead of a Rookie Team.  Their gradually growing stockpile of designs and parts from other years to draw upon for construction and inspiration helps them too.

Rumors at the party were “no one can win the competition their first year,”  “No team can win using the parts provided in the basic kit.”  “The pizza man is looking for who ordered 4 pizzas,” and “the 40 subs ordered by FIRST Robotics Team 3767 are in the conference  room.”  I can tell you that some of the rumors were true, especially the one about the subs we had been waiting for all morning.

I could tell I was in trouble at the kickoff party from the start. Like many of us who have been around big engines for many years, I have an occupational hearing loss. I have trouble hearing in rooms that have a lot of reverb like high school cafeterias. The small discussion groups were something of a loss for me.  I could only hear the people on each side of me. I could see the mouths of others around the table moving but could not separate their voices from the din. I chose then to take photographs and roam from group to group; to getting a sense of what was being said and hoping the younger ones on the team were taking good notes.  We counted down the minutes to the BIG REVEAL.


It did not happen for us at the scheduled time. The satellite feed was not working; they tried to stream the signal to the big screens in the cafeteria via the internet but it looked as if the server were overloaded. There was no sound and the picture was frozen. One of the Mentors on FIRST Robotics Team 3767 went in search of the buildings IT people. It was Saturday; they were not there. Another went to one of the smaller laptops driving one of the screens and after turning up the volume in three separate places was able to let us hear the distorted and halting audio that matched the frozen images that changed every five or ten seconds.


NASA had made a big deal about the fact that they would be handling the communications for this USA wide broadcast of speeches by dignitaries and finally the all important REVEAL of the tasks that the robots would be required to perform, the scoring method, the details of the game, and the details of the field upon which the game would be played. None of that happened at our location.  The consensus was that this was yet another test to see what we teams would do in a crisis and that this was a test of how we would handle a nearly complete breakdown of communications. Trying to go to the FIRST website to download clips and documents finally released – documents such as the RULES for the contest were met with slow or halting downloads.

Eventually we got the game chapter of the contest rules, about one tenth of the overall rules, printed out, copied, and passed out the 12 teams present.

As late as it was in the day, this was enough to start. The next day, Sunday, FIRST Robotics Team 3767, exhausted by the long hours and stress leading up to the FIRST Robotics Competition Kickoff Party, rested.

Also see Inside FIRST Robotics, Team 3767, first post - getting started.

Cannot see a comments box below and want to comment or offer a question? Also see Inside FIRST Robotics, Team 3767, second post - Reveal Day.


Paul F. Grayson - 4-H Leader

TC Robotics 4-H Club

"Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fun"

390 4-Mile Rd. S.

Traverse City, MI 49696

(231) 883-4463 cell

The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
Pipe fabrication and IIoT; 2017 Product of the Year finalists
The future of electrical safety; Four keys to RPM success; Picking the right weld fume option
A new approach to the Skills Gap; Community colleges may hold the key for manufacturing; 2017 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Control room technology innovation; Practical approaches to corrosion protection; Pipeline regulator revises quality programs
The cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Power system design for high-performance buildings; mitigating arc flash hazards
VFDs improving motion control applications; Powering automation and IIoT wirelessly; Connecting the dots
Natural gas engines; New applications for fuel cells; Large engines become more efficient; Extending boiler life

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
This digital report explains how plant engineers and subject matter experts (SME) need support for time series data and its many challenges.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me