2.20.13- Paying Raytheon a visit


  • Hunter
  • Evan



  • Travel to Raytheon
  • Expose ourselves to their public relations dept. to one day ask for a sponsorship
  • Talk to engineers about robotics
  • Take a tour of their facility


Today Evan, and Hunter traveled from Monrovia to the distant coastal city of El Segundo to pay Raytheon a visit. We arrived under the impression that there would be an entire quad filled with robotics, as suggested by the provided map. This however was not the case. There was us, and one FRC team 707 still using its basketball throwing mechanism. Never the less we still presented ourselves to the various people that passed us on their way to wherever they were going. A while later, we were invited to come into the cafeteria to have lunch and complete a task that was unknown at the time. As Evan and Hunter enjoyed their non vegetarian burgers. Before they could even finish their food, the Raytheon employees put on a little skit to introduce the days challenge. As we would still find out, we had to build a sterling engine out of little other than a coke can and steel wool. After the allotted time was up we had done pretty well, and were off to the tour of their facilities. The first lab that we went to was the ITF (Integrated Testing Facilities) lab where we found a giant capsule that we can take out all of the air(or close to it) and super heat or super cool the chamber to test how optics will react in space. After this we went to a Calibration lab, this was highly dependent on lasers and other sorts of optics. They had a machine that you could create a 3D CAD model of whatever you want using nothing but lasers.

Talking with Say Watt? Robotics 3539, 4311, and 5169

The Say Watt? Robotics FTC teams, who are from New Jersey, recently attended the Russian National Championship in Moscow.  After hearing about this, we sent them email asking how they got their teachers to allow this and how they fund raised for this, and this is what they said:

Hi Fletcher,

I am the coach of Say Watt Robotics.   We are independent of any school, so we definitely had to work.   There were some kids who were not able to make the trip because of mid-terms and missing too much school.   However, we scheduled the trip so they only missed two days of school (we left at noon on Wednesday, so it counts as attending the full day).   All of the parents had to write notes to the school saying that the kids were going to miss those two days.    We also worked with one of the schools so that the kids finished their mid-terms on Wednesday at 11:30, just before we pulled them out to go to the airport.   For this and for World’s, we tell the teachers well in advance.   We minimize the missed school days and the kids have to do the work they miss. Most of the teachers are excited about the team and want to see the kids succeed.

I also write letters to the schools about individual students telling the school that a particular person is critical to the team and that we are going to be competing.

It is not perfect, and sometimes it affects grades negatively, but it is the best we can do.

With respect to funding, we have corporate sponsors and we use some of that money to pay for generic travel expenses, but the kids have to pay many of the travel costs themselves.  Because we are not school-based, many of the parents accompany the team on its trips.   The parents also spend a lot of time trying to arrange the best deals possible for travel.


Jim Carr

Coach 3539, 4311, and 5169.


This is useful information, and perhaps we can use it in the future to plan a large scale tour of our own.

Talking to the Landroids 4220

After our recent qualification for the San Diego regional championship, we felt that we ought to get some outside help so that we could qualify for world championships.

We asked ourselves, “Who would know about qualifying for worlds?”  Of course, the obvious answer would be the winners of the Inspire award from the previous season, but would they talk to a small team like ours?  They did!

We sent the Landroids a message asking for tips on making our engineering notebook better, and here is what they said:

Hi Fletcher/Suit Bots,

Your website blog is probably one of the best we have seen in years.  Our team doesn’t have time to blog anymore, so our website is in a standstill, but yours have constant new content and reflections, documenting your team’s activities diligently. Very nice!

Printing out the blog pages is very similar to doing an electronic engineering notebook. However, engineering notebook is different from a team journal.  While the notebook can include team’s journal, activities and achievements, a big part of it should be in the engineering designs.  You do have those sketches and video blogs that shows your design process nicely, but the hyperlinks would not be active in the paper copy, which is a major disadvantage to overcome.

While our team might enjoy reading your blogs, the judges really don’t have time to read a long journal entries during the judging session. They flip through the pages quickly, look for the photos that will catch their eyes on your designs.  Tagging the most important entries and add a table of content will help leading them to locate those pages you want them to look at first. Keep the paragraphs short, always have captions below the photos to explain what they are about will help them understand the content quickly.

Another way to see the effectiveness of your engineering notebook is ask yourself these questions:

1.       If there is a potential to patent your design, is the information in the notebook clearly documented the proprietary data?

2.       If someone needs to reconstruct a part of the robot, can that person look at your notebook and be able to recreate what you have made?

3.       If you see another team has a same/similar design, can you pinpoint it in your engineering notebook that your team had perhaps developed this idea first?  (Always happened to our team).

Landroids kept our engineering notebook from the last 5 years (since our FLL days), those were the 3 main reasons why we need to go back to our engineering notebooks constantly.  It is not for the judging award, it is more for our internal design record and patent applications.

Overall, we are very impressed with what your team have done. Keep up the good work, we will see you at the Worlds!



Clearly, there is some flattery in this email, but it will be extremely helpful for making our notebook better.

2.12.13-For San Diego!


  • Mark
  • Fletcher
  • Evan
  • Hunter



  • Discuss plans for how to get Inspire and do well at San Diego
  • Improve notebook
  • Tune IR autonomous


This meeting was majorly based on making concrete plans for what we want to get done before we go back to San Diego.  There are a generally large amount of things to do, Especially concerning the notebook.  The list that we made for what to do and who will do it is as follows:

  • Slides on the Robot-Evan
  • Tune Autonomous-Hunter
  • Notebook Business Plan/Receipts-Mark
  • Design and Send out Invite Fliers to Grade Schools-Hunter
  • Samantha Fix-Evan
  • TeleOP Edit-Hunter and Fletcher
  • Notebook Source Code-Fletcher
  • Notebook Callouts (referring to the awards)-Mark, Everyone
  • Poster-Fletcher

We wrote all of these plans down and we will do our best to get these things done before San Diego.

Hunter and Fletcher were working on the autonomous of our robot because it definitely needed fixing.  Before they started, they had only really tuned the autonomous that went to the center goal which did work once at the competition but it did not help the autonomous going to the side posts.  But, since the center one still wasn’t perfect, they spend most the time we had left re-adjusting the center autonomous path.  Although not finished, we still made some progress on this, there is a lot more to do before San Diego Regionals.

The notebook probably leaves one of the biggest challenges of all.  We may not end up putting the drawer slides on the robot for lack of time.  We think that the best way to give us the best chance of getting the inspire award so we can qualify for nationals is to try to get the think award while enhancing our notebook to support all of the other awards as well.  This will be a big task done mostly by Mark and Fletcher, but with a little help from the rest of the team as well.

We have our work cut out for us.

The Rock Academy 2.9.13


  • Dante
  • Fletcher
  • Evan
  • Hunter
  • Mark



  • Be a chooser in final alliance selection
  • Be the winning alliance captain
  • Get nominated for all the awards
  • Win the Inspire Award, 1st place
  • Qualify for Sand Diego regional championships


Getting into this competition, we felt more ready.  In weeks prior, we had been doing nothing but preparing every detail of the team for competition.  There had been driver practice, autonomous work, outreach, and so much other stuff.

We had come the previous night so as to have a good night’s rest before the competition.  We put some finishing touches on our engineering notebook and our poster, and Hunter and Fletcher fixed one quick thing in the code where the jack for the fork lift didn’t go up very fast.

In the morning, we all got up early and had breakfast at the restaurant near the hotel.  After that, we went to the Rock academy, where the competition was held.

When we got to the school, we checked in and began setting up our display.  We had the same display as we had a week before at our own competition, except the photos were of higher print quality and we had logos for all three of our sponsors.

While the rest of the team was assembling the display, Fletcher began scouting.  He collected data from each team using this scouting sheet.  He also asked each team to weight their robot using a scale that Mr. Johnson had brought.  The teams were asked to record on a piece of paper next to the scale their team number and the weight of their robot so any team that wanted to know how much the other robots weighed could find out.

The robot went through hardware and software inspection without a hitch.  Once inspections were over, it was time for judging.  We told the judges about all the outreach we’ve done, from showing off our robot to children at Bradoaks elementary to helping out other teams at the Monrovia Qualifier.  We told them about the conception of our robot and about the applications of each part.  We described to them the notebook, and how it can better be accessed at our website (here).  As the interview came to a close, the judges said that they had been drinking information about us, “through a firehose,” thus far, though they wanted to know if we had any last things to say.  We told them some more stuff about our notebook, but we then left.

Competitions then began.  In our first match, we won 75 – 0, most points being scored by the Suit Bots.  In our second match, we won again, 80 – 1; again, most points by the Suit Bots.  We were not placing well at this point, because although we had many QPs (qualifying points, earned for winning or tying matches), we only had 1 RP (ranking points, earned based on the score of the losing alliance in a match); thus we were currently in 8th place.

At this point, we were very excited that we had done so well in our matches, but Fletcher recalled that we had also done very well in our first two matches at the Webb School tournament, but we did poorly after that.  He suggested we not celebrate yet.

Throughout the day, judges came and spoke to various members of our team.  Fairly early in the day, three judges came and spoke to Mark and Hunter.  They spoke mostly of outreach.  It was a single judge who asked in general what we do for the community and we told him that we always have an exhibit out at most major events such as the Star Party to show people our robot, let them drive it, and get them interested in FIRST and we also discussed how we have fundraised and we told him we got a grant from MASA, we are sponsored by Cosmi Software and Oblong, and our selling of lightbulbs.  Later, some judges spoke to Mark and Fletcher about outreach (again!).  Fletcher and Mark said that we had gotten Mrs. Johnson and Dr. Stroupe to come in, and how we let children drive the robot at Bradoaks and at our Monrovia Qualifier.  We had said that we had done a lot of the outreach in the name of spreading FIRST, but the judges wanted to know how we help the community at large.  We said that we teach them a good way to learn things, that is to do something, check what you did, and then to adjust, and then to repeat.

As lunch went on, a man said on the pit speakers that if you would like to be on the local news, the first four robots to go to the practice field would get such an opportunity.  We were the first to arrive, and three other teams soon followed suit.  One group, though, that did not follow suit was the news crew.  They never came, so we did not get to be on the local news.

After lunch, competition resumed, and our third match commenced.  The IR seeking autonomous worked, and during the match, we scored many rings.  We got a line bonus on the top row, on the middle row, and diagonally, like so:Match 3, Rock Academy

Giving us a score of 235, equivalent to the LA record previously set by us.  We won, 235 – 160, giving us a bunch of RPs, so we jumped into the top four teams.

Before our next match, Fletcher recognized the head judge from the Antelope Valley tournament, so he decided to talk to him as to how we can make better our team.  Fletcher asked why we were selected for the Inspire Award.  The judge said that of all the teams there, we seemed the most with it.  We had a very good interview, a very good robot, and very impressive team members.  He said that we were, in fact, a model FTC team.  Fletcher asked why we were not nominated for the Think Award.  The judge said that, although we were not a finalist, we were one of the top contenders for the award, perhaps in the top eight.  As to why we were not in the top three, he suggested this: imagine being a judge and having to go through 27 notebooks, roughly 100 pages each in an hour and a half.  The judges wouldn’t know where the cool parts of the notebook are without a team member by his side, unless the teams told him where to look.  The judge suggested to go through our notebook and put markers wherever there are cool parts.  He said most Think award winners do this.  Fletcher thanked him and they both went on their ways.

In match four, we did fairly well.  We ended up with a score of around 80 points to 50, we got eighty points from a few rings and a line bonus and that’s it, so we won our fourth match and we remain in the top four, behind only the teams that have more RP points than us.

In match five, we did very well.  We got a line bonus down the right side of the grid which would have probably won us the match by itself, but we were paired up with CCHS who had a robot with a lift that slides of the robot, expands, and lifts up the robot on it with gigantic threaded rod, and they ended up lifting our 45 pound robot about 11 inches, which was extremely awesome!

After match five, the last preliminary match of the day, we were seated first, the best seating after preliminary matches a Monrovia team had ever gotten.  We were the only team at the whole competition that won all of our qualifying matches, which is why we were in first.  Mark and Fletcher went outside to discuss who we wanted for our final alliance partners.  The first list of teams that we wanted were like this:

  1. 135 Fusion
  2. 5279 Positron
  3. 6231 The Dons
  4. 452 Phi Alpha

We sent some people to speak to these teams, and got some non-good news.  135 did not much like us, and would rather have a different alliance partner.  5279 we decided was not a good match because we could not lift them, and Phi Alpha had not done very well throughout the day.  We then revised the list to this:

  1. 6231 The Dons
  2. 135 Fusion
  3. 5279 Positrons
  4. 452 Phi Alpha
  5.  6137 Roboties

Though we were not in love with this list, it is the one that we settled with.

All the teams crowded into the event center.  Fletcher broke to the Monrovia teams that we would not be picking them, much to their shagreen.  Fletcher was talking to some people from the Kings and Queens when Mark came over to show me a further revision to the list:

  1. 6231 The Dons
  2. 4625 the Kings and Queens

The reason we had changed this list is that Mark had been talking with a lot of other teams and figured out that if we didn’t pick CCHS first, then another team in the top four would pick them, and we couldn’t have them as our alliance partner.  Then, Mark discovered that if we picked them first and not any other team we were considering in the top four, then we couldn’t pair with the top four because they would have to pick before we get our second choice and they would become unavailable.  Mark was frantically looking for a second partner barely minutes before the alliance selection.  Fletcher had been suggesting the Kings and Queens throughout the day, and Mark decided that we would want a partner that we could lift.  Fletcher agreed to this and the Kings and Queens got very excited about this.  Mark was called up to the stage to announce his decision, and we got the alliance partners we wanted.  Fletcher was then told to go help the Kings and Queens with their blocking autonomous so that enemies could not execute their scoring autonomous.

During the first match of the finals, our partner was CCHS 6231 The Dons, so Fletcher and the Kings and Queens went to the pits to work.  The Kings and Queens removed their ramp to make their robot lighter for lifting.  They then went to the practice field and showed Fletcher their autonomous.  Fletcher pointed out that, while it worked, it was not to maximum efficiency.  It went too far forward, it turned, and it went too far forward again, and stopped.  He suggested making the forward distances be less.  He showed them how to do this, as their programmer was not present, and also told them that when they tune autonomous like this, that you should only change one thing at any given time.  In the end, their autonomous worked beautifully.

It then came time for the second final match, this time, we were with the Kings and Queens.  Our autonomous did not work, but theirs did prevent the other team from scoring in the autonomous. Throughout this match both ours and the Kings and Queens’ connection timed out periodically.  We decided it was not our fault, because the signal light on our Samantha was on solid, rather than on blinking, meaning the connection was good on our side.  This made us rather cross, so after the match, both teams sent representatives to contest that match (as because of that match, we were out of the final).  A referee spoke to the man who would notice this sort of thing, and he said he saw nothing, meaning the match was good.  We were still unhappy.

6231 The Dons CCHS said that they noticed that, in the match we had with them, one of our opponents began to climb their ramp, which is highly illegal.  He also had video evidence of this, so both we and they sent representatives to contest that match.  The referees refused to consider the video, citing the part of the opening ceremonies that said, “There will be no instant replays.”  We finally conceded defeat, hoping to qualify with awards.

Eventually, awards came and we were nominated for only one:

  •  PTC Design Award

But we also won one:

  • Connect Award

Although we did not meet our goals of getting the Inspire Award, being the finalist alliance captain, or being nominated for all the awards, we were a chooser for the final alliances, and we did qualify for San Diego Championships with our Connect Award.

While we were packing up, Mark and Fletcher went to speak to the Think Award winners and asked to see their notebook.  We saw that they had sections for everything in their notebook, among others they had receipts, a business plan, source code, Bios, General Information, Bowled Over! notebook, Ring it Up! notebook, and several others.  They also had markers at the tops of pages to indicate interesting sections, much like the head judge from the Antelope Valley Qualifier suggested.  We will be applying several parts of this notebook to ours for next time.  We decided we want to use some of these elements in our notebook so we plan to do that in the next two weeks before San Diego Regionals.

We finally got in our cars and drove to Pizza Port for our post-competition meal.