Welcome to the MAGS Roarbotix Team Blog

(This is an unofficial site of MAGS Roarbotix Team. This site is not affiliated with Mt. Albert Grammar School.)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

MAGS team rally for 2010/11 season!

As we speak a complex design is being evaluated for the assault on the VEX 2011 championships. The basics of the plan look fantastic!

We have tremendous experience now and are putting it to good use.

Our beautiful 2010 championship winning robot has become a test bed for parts of the new robot and we hope to have that in competition soon.

The team have already begun fund raising and we are hoping to keep our existing generous sponsors.

We have a new programmer, our achiles heal last year, we expect great things, as the new robot will be highly automated to aid the driver. Something we haven't fully achieved in the past.

So the new team are looking good, the ideas are looking good. MAGS world champions 2011. Just maybe.....

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Finals Day...

It was a tense start to the day, quickly running through pre-checks with the robot to ensure that we won our final game. We'd left the battery chargers at the cabin...

Never mind, we had fresh batteries and a quick trip in the car remedied the problem. Meanwhile the scouting for alliance partners was taking place in earnest.

Our final match in the qualifiers matched us with an OK robot, against competition that was of a reasonable standard. Not a problem, apart from we won too well leaving us lower on the special points then we'd have liked. An excellent drive by Mitch though which got us noticed, again.

This lead to a 15th placing out of 99 robots, an amazing effort considering our tough route in these matches, but meant we'd have to be picked for the finals, rather then choose our partners.

It didn't take long, the third ranked robot snapped us up. A lovely team from Indiana.

This left us in a reasonable alliance, with our robot working perfectly.

The quarter finals were called and we were on, I have to say that we were brilliant, but it was never going to happen, we lost the first match. The second game was much of the same.

So we were out, much heartache and great sadness.

We had worked so hard, our sponsors had been so generous and the school so supportive.

Could we have gone much further, maybe, but the standard in the grand finals was simply awesome, and we must congratulate the other kiwi robots of 'Home School' and 'Kristin' who are now ,deservedly, World Champions.

Can we do better next year, definitely. The journey has been a massive learning curve that has left us better equipped to raise our game to that next level, where we can be very strong challengers for the world title.

Tomorrow we begin the long journey home. We have some time between flights and will take some time to rest.

The boys have been fabulous and a pleasure to be with. They have had some great experiences that will help shape their futures and also impact on the futures of others around them.

What they haven't pointed out in the blog is exactly how hard they have worked, every day has seen work on the robot and preparing interesting blogs, resulting in late nights and early starts. They are a real credit to the school and themselves.

A big thank you must also be given to Eldon Roberts. A massive boost to the success of the trip and great fun to be with, although we were worried and disappointed when he wimped out of finishing a super sized chocolate milkshake (2 litres!).

We'll update the blog with more pictures when we return to New Zealand. Which is definitely the best place in the world to live!

Mr P.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Day 7: Second Day of Competition

As we predicted yesterday, it was a nerve-wracking day. We arrived at 8:00 at the Convention Centre, a nice long sleep in☺. We continued our good form at the start of the day by winning our first two games easily (we had to score in our own goal to try and increase our Scoring Points; as winning by a large margin means you get less scoring points, which are important for rankings). This meant that we were still on the top of the table in our division after 4 games, although it was only by 1 point.
Our next game was against a strong alliance consisting of Free Range Robotics (who we had won the Nationals in an alliance with), and another strong US robot. We had worked out a strategy to defeat our opponents, however, we had a Vex Net problem and as a result our autonomous failed and our robot stopped working halfway through the game, before restarting later on. Due to these problems we were unable to keep up with the amount of balls scored by the other team and we lost the match. That loss dropped us to 21st in the rankings. While fixing the problem (a known mechanical problem which no one told us about!), Matthew came across a broken intake motor, by fixing this our robot is now performing better than ever.
Our next game was against two good robots, and our allied partner had just finished rebuilding their robot and were unable to score any points. Despite this, we persevered and managed to keep the score relatively close. The introduction of the white balls evened up the scores to the point where the winner was unclear. After an unbearable 2 minutes, the score appeared on the screen, MAGS-71, Opponents-70. The close margin pushed us to 8th in the rankings.
Our last game was against Glenfield (GCEC) who was paired with another good robot. Whilst we performed well, our alliance was not as strong as theirs. Many people complimented our robot and its continued excellent performance even though we lost. We are now ranked 9th on the leader board out of 98 in our division.
After the seeding matches had finished for the day the new game 'Round Up' was released. Check it out at vexrobotics.com; it looks a very interesting and different to any other previous game.
We then left for the rodeo where we watched bull riding, barrel racing and calf tying. It was an awesome experience, with seats as close to the arena as possible. Going to a rodeo is recommended for anyone visiting Texas and Fort Worth was every bit 'country and western', just fabulous.
Tomorrow we have one more game before alliance selection for the finals in our division. The top six of these 24 teams go on to compete with 18 other teams for the title of 'World Champions'.
It’s been an extremely tiring day and we have an even busier day ahead of us. Goodnight.
The Roarbotix Team in the USA

Friday, April 23, 2010

Video footage of Qualifying Round 2 (we are on the LHS in dark Kiwibot shirts) (apologies about unsteady bit in the middle as cameraman gets excited)

Video footage of Qualifying Round 1 (we are on the RHS in dark Kiwibot shirts)

MAGS in #1 spot in Division after Day 1

Day 6: First Day of Competition

Hello all,

We had another early rise, around 6am, in order to leave at 7 to drive to the Convention Center, which takes half an hour, ready for the doors opening at 7:30. When we arrived, we registered and went to our allocated pit area to set up our equipment and sponsors banners. We proudly turned on ‘Kraken’ ready for the first practice, only to discover that our robot was shorting out constantly and refused to work! After a frantic search, we tracked the fault, one of the connecting wires had a break in it, but luckily we were able to fix the problem fairly quickly. We then headed to the inspection area so the officials could check that our robot is within the size range of 18 inches by 18 inches; we were millimeters in. We went off to practice with our ‘certified legal’ robot, only to find that it was shorting out again, after another frantic search, we found that one of the motor pins was bent out of shape, we quickly rectified the problem with a new motor.

During our scouting of allies and opponents, we saw many amazing robots and met many people from all over the world: Jorge, a Puerto Rican who thought we were his alliance partner but we were in fact his opponent in one of the matches, after greeting us he enthusiastically started to discuss tactics, strategies and other in-depth details about his robot. We broke the news to him that we were in fact his opponent soon after, we felt that a friendship beginning with deception was not a good idea. Jorge was cool with it. We have noticed that there are many Mexican, Puerto Rican and Columbian teams, but the teams from the USA are the most numerous. Within our division, there are 7 New Zealand teams with a large number of US teams, and a mixture of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Columbian, Chinese and a few teams from Singapore.

Our practice round
...was against the Rangitoto C robot; Rangitoto's partner forfeited, while our alliance partner's robot got stuck on a green ball... so it was in fact a one on one. We had problems with balls being jammed in the basket and we ended up losing the practice match. After making modifications to the basket, again, the qualifying rounds began.

Qualifying Round 1
...Our first game was against two dumper class robots from the US. Our alliance partner forgot to plug in a cord, rendering it unable to move in that match, this time it was a 1 v 2... the MAGS team forged on, keeping a constant flow of balls onto the other side of the field. 30 seconds left on the clock, we blocked an attempt by the opponent to dump a load of balls onto our side. However, our intake got tangled in their basket, and they reversed away from the wall, stranding us with our basket across the wall, rendering us immobile. We watched with despair as their robots continued to dump balls over our wall. As the match finished, it looked like the game could have gone either way. We waited tensely for the results of the match, "Red Team:86, Blue Team:83" MAGS won by 3 points!!! This extremely close win shot us straight to the top of our division due to the special points we earned.

Qualifying Round 2
...Our second qualifying match was against another New Zealand team, Kristen College. Our alliance partner had rebuilt their robot in between their first and second matches, but failed to complete it, thus rendering it immobile. Once again, it was a 1 v 2. Kristen College had problems with their drive, resulting in another win for MAGS.

If you watch the video, we stop scoring towards the end. This is due the winning team being allocated points which is the oppositions score. So for a high score, you need to win and allow the opposition to get a high score. So tactically, it's very difficult as you need to ensure the win, but make also help the opposition get a high score....

By the end of the day, we were first in our division. It was an awesome but nerve-wracking day of competition, but an excellent start to the competition.

The Kiwibots (New Zealand robotics teams) did extremely well, winning the vast majority of their games, only one team suffered a loss and that was to another Kiwi team! Already the commentators and the rest of the world are beginning to talk about the strength and quality of the New Zealand teams.

We are expecting another hard day of competition tomorrow, once again we are getting up in the early hours. But with some hard work and a little luck, we should continue to do well.

Enjoy your weekend,
The MAGS Roarbotix Team in da USA

Some of the stands at the Championship - more photos to come as the days progress

Welcome to the Dallas Convention Centre - home of the Vex 2010 World Championship

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day 5 (Check out the photos below!!)

The Trip...
Today we had a 5:30am start, and we were on the road by 6.15 on our way to the Johnson Space Centre. After an unexpected truck stop break and a few hours driving, we had takeaway breakfast at McDonalds. During our trip we spent 204 miles on the same freeway (that’s around 320km.) The Americans roads are amazing! We made it to Houston after 4 hours and were making good time. We were blown away by the number of car dealerships that we passed next to the freeway, literally miles of them. We then made one last compulsory stop….. at the Hummer dealership where Eldon posed beside the original H1.

Next Stop NASA...
After being stuck in our first American traffic jam we finally made it to the space centre. We received our VIP all access badges and made our way to the start of the tour. We met our brilliant guides, Brenda and Irwin and the other 3 members of our group. We got in the van and made our way to the cafeteria to eat lunch with the astronauts and other NASA staff.

Houston we have a problem...
After lunch the tour started and we made our way to building 10 in the van. We were led into a room with tiered seating overlooking a room full of computers and people. We were now looking down at mission control for Apollo 7 which is now the International Space Station (ISS). As we stood there we could see a video of an astronaut building something on the screen and we were told it was live feed!!! There were other live images of Earth and timetables for the astronaut’s activities on the wall, even sleeping because the astronauts experience 16 sunsets and sunrises a day. The room was full of different people with their specific jobs and computer screens flashed everywhere. Brenda explained that the ISS was controlled by the specialists in the control room not by the astronaut’s. We then moved on to another room with computer screens except they were much older. It was the mission control room where the other Apollo missions were launched from. It has been restored so that it contained the same equipment they originally had, by NASA and the Smithsonian Institute, as a room of national importance. We all sat in the same chair that the flight director sat when he heard the ‘the Eagle has landed’, ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’ (Apollo 11) and “Houston we have a problem” (Apollo 13.) The red phone hotline to the Pentagon was also tested by all the team, unfortunately it didn’t connect. We then moved onto the modern part of the building and more mission control rooms where the Discovery was controlled from just the other day and where all the other missions are now controlled from.

Robots in Space...
We then went onto the Astronaut Training Centre. We saw a full sized mock up of the ISS and Space Shuttle as well as a non-friction floor. We were shown their new intervehicle/planetary transporter, the Orion, which is basically an upgraded version of the Apollo landing module. We were then introduced to the NASA robots which were incredibly awesome. We saw the SCOUT prototype which we examined and touched, designed to drive on the surface of planets. It is designed to be manually driven, remote controlled or just programmed. Bizarrely it had speakers even though in space no one can hear you scream, so we are curious about the music, maybe they are planning to land on a planet with atmosphere. The next robot was the ‘Spidernaut’ which had 8 hydraulic legs. This was our favourite!!! See picture below and you will understand…… The new Rover was next and it has been designed to allow two astronauts to explore and live on the surface of a planet. It had 6 special multi-articulated wheels that allowed it to virtually climb up walls. It can be used as a flatbed transporter or carry a cabin that consisted of 2 beds with a toilet inbetween them (in the open) and 2 driving seats. Not exactly comfortable for 14 days, but at least it would be cosy…..

Astronauts underwater...
Next we drove across town to a new NASA facility where we went up to a viewing platform and looked down at an absolutely massive pool. 120m x 60m x 12m!!!! It holds 25 million litres of water and took 4 weeks to fill up. Under the water there were full sized mock ups of a space shuttle and the ISS. This was another training facility for the astronauts to experience and get used to the weightlessness of space, practicing mission tasks.

Discovery Returns...meeting the Astronauts
We didn’t stay long before we had to leave as we were going to greet the astronauts from Discovery as they returned to NASA in Houston for the first time since their successful mission, landing yesterday. This was an unexpected opportunity; even our guides that had worked at NASA for years had never been to greet the astronauts like this, but they managed to get us in. This was a NASA staff event and we were privileged to have been invited to this private company moment. The astronauts filed onto the stage one by one and sat down. They then talked about their experiences and thanked everyone who had made their successful journey possible, there was banter from the audience and everyone knew each other. We were introduced to the director of ascent and descent for the shuttle, whilst standing next to the man who chose the astronauts for the missions. Astronauts were everywhere and the feeling of family, purpose and excellence was very powerful. The crew discussed a lot about the importance of robots on their trip and their reliance on them for many important tasks. The MAGS team are now awaiting the imminent call from NASA for our help.

It was an absolutely amazing, once in a lifetime experience. Thank you to Irwin and Brenda for an awesome day.

The MAGS Roarbotix Texan Team

Kraken at NASA

The Team at the Astronaut briefing

Shuttle Discovery Astronauts briefing - NASA

Our trip to the NASA Hanger to meet the Astronauts with our wonderful guides Irwin & Brenda

Spidernaut (2)

Spidernaut (1)

The Small Pressurised Rover Concept

Prototype of the new Lunar Scout Vehicle

International Space Station Control Room with live feed from space

Zero gravity Pool Training Facility

View of Space Shuttle cockpit

Calling the Pentagon on the Hot Line

Sitting in the seat of the Flight Director

Our visit to Johnson Space Centre, Houston, Texas

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day 4

08:15 Day in the office today. Eldon is off to Home Depot to buy some spare tools for robot maintenance & Locktite. Every nut & bolt is going to be double checked then Mitchell is going to practice with the new basket configuration.

PS: [We forgot to mention on Day 3 that the Apple Store was robbed while we were there. We were talking to the staff and suddenly alarms go off and a young guy sprints through the front door & disappears down the street. No one seemed concerned - guess it was cheaper to lose two iPhones rather then risk personal safety.]

13:45: Every screw, bolt & nut has been removed, checked and thread locked. Very worthwhile exercise although incredibly time consuming. [As an aside Mitch has just come in after finishing the clothes washing]. Still to refit the final basket assembly.

16:06: Basket back on - looking fantastic. Tipping angle much improved. Chassis rigidity now awesome.

20:17: The first test drive! Fantastic speed both on the ground and basket loading & unloading. Slight basket modification underway as we write.

We had wings for dinner tonight (another local meal we can tick off the list). Just got takeaway (takeout in local lingo) so we can continue on the robot. Ben & Anthony had "Atomic Hot" - even Ben the self confessed chilli junkie struggled on these - Anthony was the star of the feed.

We are booked in for a full tour of the Houston Space Centre tomorrow including lunch in the astronaut cafe. The trip is 4.5 hours each way so a lot of time in our SUV tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day 3

Hey Guys,

Today has been another awesome day in Texas and the sun finally came out!! We went to a huuuuuuge clearance mall with lots of shops at amazingly cheap prices on branded items such as nike, adidas, converse and sketchers. After many hours and empty pockets we hit taco bell for lunch where we discovered lava sauce. Communication errors occured here as they didnt know what hot or chilli sauce was and looked at us like we were stupid!! We then continued onto another shopping complex where we discovered Dicks Sporting Goods, an absoutely huge store filled with everything sports (including guns and crossbows :) !!!) We also visited a games store (for Anthony and Mitch) and Radioshack. For dinner we went to Pappadeaux Seafood Restaurant where we had 48 oysters, deep fried alligator and frog legs followed by a main course of 2 pounds worth of crawfish EACH (Mitch chickened out and only had half so he has to do the washing tomorrow.) By the way im still full. After our next visit to Walmart (a bit shorter this time) we came home and watched a movie and got ready for tomorrow.


The Crawfish Feast (2)

The Crawfish Feast (1)

Oysters, Deep fried Alligator & sauteed Frogs Legs

A local specialty vehicle

Inside the sports store

A visit to the local sports store

Monday, April 19, 2010

Midnight Twinkie Feast

Hey guys,

We have just finished work and in true Zombieland fashion we are having a Twinkie feast. We are a bit worried, they seem to glow in the dark... (there doesn't seem to be an expiry date on the box...)

Day 2

Hello family and friends

We had a simple breakfast this morning, just some cereal and toast (and Sultana Bran with chocolate milk), but made up for it at Ihop. The portions of food were huge (refer to images beneath)! An omelette made up of what looks like 10 eggs wih steak strips and hashbrown for filling. Who puts hashbrown in omelettes?! The locals apparently. To work off the heavy lunch, we spent 2 and a half hours playing racquet-ball at the local gym. Think of squash without as many rules and you have racquet ball.We had a great time shopping at Best Buys, and an even better time at an Apple Store testing out the Ipad. We spent a few hours at Walmart again shopping. We have tweaked Kraken's basket due to a problem with orange balls being stuck, it should now work perfectly. The lift has also been improved and we are planning to tighten up the parts tomorrow. Mitch has spent some time driving the robot. More updates coming tomorrow. (Fraser, we've bought you a new watch)

The Guys

The Racquetball World Championship..and the Teacher Parent team remains undefeated!

Tasting some good 'ol Texas fare...

Matt with his free refills at iHop

New equipment on order for school (84"!!!)

The team outside our second home (Walmart)

Having breakfast with "Kraken"

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Our log cabin kitchen

Our Texas log cabin (modern version)..

Our small American SUV...

Finally arriving in Dallas at 4pm 17th April 2010 after being awake almost 24 hours...

Arriving in the USA 6am 17th April 2010

Leaving Auckland Airport 1:30pm Saturday 17th April 2010

Day 1

Evening guys (it's night time here),

We have had a long day today, 11 hours to LAX from Auckland, then a 5 hour wait for our transfer to Dallas, just enough time for our first American BK breakfast. The Dallas flight then took 3 hours incuding diverting around thunderstorms around Dallas. We then picked up the robot and the SUBURBAN. (Or the Beast as we refer to it!) Driving through Texas we were amazed at the amount of fast food restaurants and steak houses. We then went to our log cabin, which is really awesome. By the way DALLAS IS AWESOME!!! We just got back from looking around Walmart and dinner at Popeyes cajun chicken. Walmart was amazing (and we just went to the food part.) It had everything from peanut butter cups to a gallon of chocolate milk (especially for Eldon) to sausages surrounded in pancakes on a stick. Cant wait for tomorrow although we are not completely sure what we will be doing yet. A look around the rest of Walmart might be in order though.

The Guys

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Auckland Airport

Hey guys,
we are sitting in departures at Auckland Airport getting ready to board our plane. We are extremely excited, looking forward to our airplane food and movies. We will update you again when we land. HAVE FUN AT SCHOOL!!
The Guys

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What's been happening since we won the New Zealand National Championship?

It's been a busy three weeks since winning that key tie breaker third game in the finals. We have essentially rebuilt the robot looking for ongoing improvements and it is looking great!

First & most important - a huge thanks to all our sponsors who have provided a bulk of the funding towards our travel costs at very short notice to enable us to compete in the Vex Robotics World Championship in Dallas, Texas April 22 to 24, 2010 (http://www.vexrobotics.com/). This means that the students personal contribution to the trip has been able to be capped at $1,500 each. All three students have been working very hard at full time jobs during the holidays to help earn funds towards this personal contribution.

We spent all of last weekend at Massey University to rebuild the robot - didn't quite finish but have been working on it in Mitchell's parents garage each night this week.

We are booked to spend the day at Massey again tomorrow (Friday 16th April) for final modifications and testing.

We fly out Saturday 17th April 1:30pm (QF25) and are meeting at the airport at 11 am.