Summer 2009 Mentor Workshop

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This is a review of what we did on a week by week basis.


Week One - 9 June

We met and started with the reading materials Media:VEX for the Technically Challenged.pdf. We did the first chapter, the introduction. At the start of the second hour we used the Vex Quickstart Guide to build the tumbler bot. Most teams had two people on them, so the initial assembly went pretty fast.

Our mentors tonight were Charlie, Kelly, Sue, Scott, Jon, Matt, Shaik, Siri, Steve and Foster.

Week Two - 23 June

Due to vacations we were down to one builder for each robot. So we took most of the session to get them all up and running. The controller guide VEX 2008 Inventor's Guide Reference - Appendix D, Control Configurations (2.6M pdf, 06-27-08) has the correct documentation.

There were some minor problems, the robots were wired (and the control set up to do arcade). It took some time to break out the documentation and figure out the connection details to get them to do tank drive. But at this point we have 6 working Tumbler Bots.

Motors go into 1,2,7,8 Jumper in pin 14
Motors go into 2,3,7,8 Jumper in pin 15

Next week we will race them to see who the better driver is, and to also change the wheels to show the difference in wheel sizes.

We added two new mentors, Gail and Ken.

Week Three - 30 June

We started off week Three with tumbler bot racing. Some pretty hard fought races, trying to remember right from left and front from back when the robot tumbles and goes the other way.

We then talked about how different wheel sizes and textures would change the configuration of the robot. Each team swapped out the 4" wheels for smaller, bigger, omni's and a set of tank treads. We then raced again to see what the changes were. Lastly we had a mini sumo pushing contest.

After sorting wheel configurations out, we talked about two, four, six, eight and tank configurations. Discussions about narrow and wide chassis on steering was next. To overcome that we talked about turnable car steering, to crab/swerve set up. Everyone got to drive an omni drive and talk about the controls to drive it.

Next week we will be talking about grippers and transforming the tumbler bots into pronto bots

(*)With a slight delay in our progress we are about a night behind in our general schedule.

Week Four - 7 July

We started working on the construction of our Protobots. Since the protobot is on the same square frame we made lots of good progress. Most groups completed their bases and are moving on to the Arm construction.

Next week we will start out on the lever and lifter section of the book.

Week Five - 14 July

Tonight we added a new mentor, Bob, to our group.

We spent the first hour doing a quick review on bases and then the chapter on grippers, arms and lifters. We also had an extensive side discussion on how to "mentor" the roboteers on design.

Sue and Scott weighed in that from an FLL perspective that gentle guidance works well.

Foster and Steve talked about their experiences with teams that are:

  • Completely hands off - mentors answer questions but don't question designs or push in a direction
  • Let the roboteers design and build, but try to head off full failure - This is Foster's preferred method. Do the team training, let the roboteers design, but question the design ideas to see if they are fully thought out. May or may not make suggestions. Good question times are when the roboteers go to cut metal or when inter-team arguments break out.
  • Co-design (Roboteer and Mentor), roboteers build. Steve's preferred method, more of a facilitation of the design process to get to a goal.
  • Mentor design, roboteers build - Mostly seen in FRC teams.
  • Mentor design, mentor build, roboteers watch. - Heard about in FRC teams, not a great roboteer experience.

We also talked some about girls vs. boys, the group will try to gather some info about all girl teams and how they work together to share in the last week.

We will talk more about team dynamics and management during our last session.

Mentors then "almost" completed work on the Protobots, they should be ready to roll early in the next session.

The next two sessions are programming. Remember to download the trial version of RobotC from here [] and install on your laptop.

Week Six - 21 July

Introduction to RobotC (for IFI). (The interface looks almost the same for RobotC for Mindstorms.)

Class started making sure that everyone had RobotC installed and the USB-to-Serial adapter working.

Then we opened a sample program for dual-joystick control of the robot. We mapped the physical configuration of the robot to commands in RobotC for simple remote control. We then downloaded the program to our Protobots and test drove them.

Week Seven - 28 July

We will map the physical configuration of the robot to commands for timed autonomous control. We will look at the competition template and see how it differs from simple coding where we are not using the field control.

On July 28th (the next meeting), we will repeat most of the same commands --- but with sensors and operator assistance. The particular sensors that we will review are the button (a contact switch), the limit switch (contact switch) and the ultrasonic sensor (complex sensor).

If we have time to review more sensors, we will look at the light sensor, the encoders (simple and quadrature), the LED sensors (really just a light that we can turn on), and if we get one, a gyro/rate turn sensor. If we run out of time again, we will probably push these sensors to the next Tuesday.

Week Eight - 4 August

Last meeting night. We will go over team management, how to do team events and news from the Vex partner meeting that took place on 1 August

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