Team #11117 Autonomice aims to provide a platform for students to learn outside the common academic setting of a class. The skills provided through robotics — teamwork, creativity, design and innovation — are important to our future success. The skills learned go far beyond robotics; we feel that by participating in robotics we are fulfilling to our school's motto: “Shaping the minds and the hearts of the people who will change the world.”
Team & Program Summary and History:
Spartan Robotics began as a class in 2016 as part of Saint Paul Academy and Summit School’s new Computer Science and Engineering department. As part of our class requirements, each student spends well over twenty hours out of class working on the robot and outreach.
Two years ago, in our rookie year, Spartan Robotics was very successful. Our team received the Think Award and the Rockwell Collins Innovative Design Award during separate 2016-17 regional FTC competitions. After being on the winning alliance our first regional tournament we qualified for the state meet, where we placed 5th in our division with a final regular play record of 4-1. This success led to a raging interest in robotics at our small school. It was so popular that last year we expanded to two teams (#11117 and #12660). Spartan Robotics Team 11117 won the Rockwell Collins Innovate Award and the Promote Award at our qualifier.
This year we were able to progress even further with the completion of a large new math and science building at our school. We also worked this year to differentiate ourselves more from the other St. Paul Academy team — whereas last year the teams were designed to be equal in level, this year team 11117 is the team with those who are dedicated to spending extra time on robotics and outreach. To do this we separated our daily work, although were always able to help each other out when needed. We also came up with all-new branding. With new resources, space, funding, and opportunities we have been able to put all of our efforts into this year’s tournament.
Financially, we are a school-funded class and club. Because of our relationship with St. Paul Academy we are not able to accept or ask for money and resources from people or businesses, although we are able to seek mentorship. Instead, we work with advancement and admissions to run open houses, give tours to the school’s donors, and promote the robotics program. We encourage donations to the school as a whole, which supports our robotics program.
Location of the Team:
Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States
Team Outreach Goals:
- Connect with the professional STEM community,
- Promote the mission of FIRST, and
- Mentor and learn from other robotics teams.
- HOMAR FTC Library
- The Autonomice attended the FTC kickoff event, where the game was revealed. This is also where we were reminded of the opportunities and community that FIRST provides for young members interested in the STEM field. At the kick-off, Spartan Robotics gave a presentation: “Autonomous Basics.” This presentation had a large audience with lots and lots of questions. For the presentation of Autonomous Basics, we showed veteran teams how to set up an autonomous op-mode and how to use sensors, and we demonstrated the use of a color sensor, the gyro in the built-in BNO055 sensor in the new REV Expansion Hub, a Mecanum chassis, and a PID controller.
- The Autonomice worked with all of the SPA FLL teams by mentoring them and helping them improve their engineering notebooks. We encouraged the younger students to overcome difficulties and helped them program and build with the aim of achieving certain objectives for the competition. In addition, we presented to the middle school and lower school assemblies to help kick-off their Hour of Code weeks.
- The Autonomice mentored lower schoolers who participated in an after-school robotics program at Saint Paul Academy’s Goodrich Campus. Spartan Robotics taught the lower schoolers to program their Dot and Dash robots for specific tasks, helped them build useful additions for their robots, and provided encouragement for lower schoolers to think constructively.
- Tutorials and Presentations on our website
- On our website, the Autonomice have tutorials on Android Studio, GitHub Integration (how to create a GitHub organization, how to make an FTC GitHub repository, and how to set-up GitHub integration with Android Studio), Autonomous and Advanced Sensors, Chain and Sprocket, and 3D printing.
- St. Paul Academy STEM Tours
- We formed a connection with our schools business and outreach team since we are not allowed to fundraise, and through that, we were asked to help provide tours to possible donors, alumni, and incoming students. The tours give us a good opportunity to explain our team and demonstrate our robot, along with providing others information about the new spaces and science and math programs at St. Paul Academy.
- St. Paul Academy Open Houses
- We have helped admissions when they host admissions open houses to show the new math and science wing to prospective students. We prepare the 3D printers and the laser cutter so that they are running during the event, and also prepared a design for engraved pencils for the laser cutter. Guests were able to press the button and watch the laser cutter as it cut the words “SPA Open House 2018-2019” into the pencils. They got to keep it as a memento. We also gave tours of the robotics lab and design labs to prospective families.
- We invited Katie Riedel to SPA to talk about the engineering notebook. She is a senior at the University of Minnesota and a member of GoFIRST, in addition to being an FTC judge. She gave us a lot of good advice and direction for the notebook this year.
- Representation at Pep Fest
- Every year at our school’s Pep Fest, all of the fall sports captains participate in the captain’s challenge. This year our robotics team asked to participate in this tradition. The Student Activities Committee approved our request, so Gabriel participated in the captain’s challenge. Unfortunately we were eliminated right at the beginning, but if nothing else it was a good way to promote our team to the school.
- Informational Interviews at KFI Engineering
- A member of our team visited KFI Engineering, a local engineering firm. There she learned about the different kinds of engineering they do there, the difference between industrial and commercial engineering, and the process for becoming an engineer.
- Chain and Sprocket Tutorial
- After spending loads of time last year working and fiddling with chain and the struggles of breaking and joining it, a team member created a short tutorial summarizing it. The video highlights the basics of how to break and join chain while giving a few tips to make things easier. The tutorial was posted on our team’s Youtube channel and linked on Twitter.
- Two members of the team went to the SWENext Invent it! Build it! Event as part of the national SWE convention. They learned about all different kinds of engineering and heard from various firms in engineering fields. They also got to see lots of cool demos and try some things out for themselves. They also met with local female engineers and participated in an engineering challenge.
- Girl Scouts Inventor Badge
- A local Girl Scout Brownie troop came to SPA and we helped them earn their Inventor badge. Team members helped girls formulate their ideas when they got stuck, asked them provoking questions to help them discover for themselves, and showed them how being involved with STEM is cool!
- Alongside general help for the other SPA FTC team #12660, our team also helped particularly on two occasions: when updating REV hubs, and dealing with stripped screws. Both times, team 12660 came to us with an issue and more experienced members of our team helped them figure out what the problem was how to solve it.
- Outreach with Conical Tool Company
- When we needed help with milling rack gear for our hanging system, we reached out to the Conical Tool Company, who was very happy to help us figure out what we needed. They even supplied us four end mills, free of charge, to let us use in the process. It was a really good experience because we were able to learn more about the CNC and end mills, and talk with industry professionals about it. However, there has been a steep learning curve with using the CNC on metal and since all of us are new to it this year we haven’t yet completed the metal rack.
- We were invited to visit JAMF, an international software company based in downtown Minneapolis. We learned about day to day life as a software engineer and talked about our team, FIRST, and FTC. We showed the engineers photos of our robot and talked about how we code it.
- Laura Martini, Senior UX Designer at Google
- Through the school’s advancement department we were connected with Laura Martini, an SPA alum and current UX designer at Google. We skyped with her and learned about what she does and what working at Google is like. At the end we also had some time to talk about the game with her and show off our robot.
- At our first qualifier, Evan Hochstein invited us to tour at Stratasys. We connected with him and Colton and went to Eden Prairie to tour Stratasys’ North America Headquarters. We were excited to see all of the big 3D printers that they have there and learn about FDM and Polyjet technologies.
- We are active members of the FTC Reddit and Discord communities. We have both posted and answered questions from other members of the community. We have also promoted our HOMAR FTC Library online.
- Lower School Hour of Code
- We went to the lower school and worked with K-5 students as part of their hour of code programming. We worked with the group using scratch to create Google Doodles.
- Upper School Hour of Code
- We went to an Hour of Code event organized by our high school’s Student Technology Committee, where we strengthened ties with the Committee and learned about the Circuit Playground Express platform.
- Nick Fragale, Rover Robotics
- Two engineers from Rover Robotics visited our class and talked about their robots and their company. They talked all about their designing and taught us about machine learning as well.
In future years, we intend to develop relationships with other FTC teams in the area, reach out more to local elementary schools, work more closely with leaders in the STEM community such as Medtronic, Stratasys, Microsoft, and Aero Systems Engineering, and present at more formal events.
Summary of Future Team Plans:
Now that our team has more experience with FIRST competition and communication, the Autonomice will work to improve other areas. For the years to come, we want to continue the culture we have created around robotics by inspiring more students to join the competition through a second class. We are looking to develop stronger relationships with other FTC teams and running a lower school robotics team.
Team #11117 Autonomice has many goals for future years relating to sustainability. We have leadership positions so that the returning members will come back and lead new members as upperclassmen. We will continue to work with the middle school and lower school to form strong relationships with their FLL teams and other robotics programs, which will then funnel students up to our team in future years. We are also looking to coach a lower school robotics team, which would get more K-5 students interested in robotics. Additionally, we will continue our work with our school’s admissions and advancement departments to ensure continued funding and new members.
Student Team Members:
The students of Saint Paul Academy represent a number of diverse backgrounds. The competition of robotics has brought together and created a family of students from a variety of ages, genders, talents, interests, and geographical locations. Through Spartan Robotics, these students are able to establish deep connections with one another despite their differences. Moreover, the team brings together students with varying degrees of experiences, creating a learning environment among students.
Spartan Robotics currently has 3 mentors. We have two coaches who are employed by the school, and are the teachers of the robotics class. Our last mentor does not have a student on the team, but is a part of the SPA community and the professional STEM community.
Our team is split up into five main branches: coding, building, business, outreach, and notebook.
Coding: The coding team is responsible for all of the programming for the robot. They are involved with creating our autonomous routine and coding the controllers for tele-op. They are also very involved in creating the strategy for the season.
Building: The building team is responsible for building the robot. This includes the main chassis and all attachments.
Business: The business team is responsible for maintaining the team’s social media presence and website. They also connect with the school community as a whole, and are in charge of communication with advancement and admissions to coordinate tours for alums, donors, and prospective students.
Outreach: The outreach team works closely with our lower and middle school robotics teams along with reaching out to alumni for possible mentorship. They also coordinate with admissions to prepare for open houses and plan our visits to STEM professionals.
Notebook: The notebook team works to make sure the other team members are up to date on their entries and they also create, format, and put together the Engineering Notebook as a whole.
Each of these “sub-teams” had a captain in charge of that specific aspect, and often point persons for more specific projects. Due to the wide variety of tasks and student talents, many members are considered to be part of of multiple teams.
For our robots drivers and driver coach, we chose team members with both building and coding expertise so that they could answer any questions that came up in the moment.
- Students from grades 9-12
- Students with a variety of backgrounds
- Happens as a class during the school day
- Multiple advanced coders and builders
- Several years of code, designs, and institutional knowledge to build off of
- Lots of members makes it difficult to make decisions and communicate
- Tend to get attached to designs and become close-minded
- Don’t always get approval from the rest of the team before doing things
- Working with the lower and middle school robotics programs
- Giving tours of our lab through advancement and admissions office
- Large budget provided by school
- Contacts in the STEM fields
- Lots of space dedicated to robotics
- Not allowed to fundraise
- Very specific school administration rules
- Uncertainty around digital presence guidelines
- Not all students can fit the class into their schedule
- The class is only during first semester
Approximate Expenses for this year:
Phones, Control, and Electronics
Opportunities for Support: Mentors:
We are looking for mentors from a variety of backgrounds. Members of the STEM community that are involved with 3D printing, machining, building, and advanced coding techniques would be most involved with the robot. For non-technical help, we are looking for mentors that could assist us with developing a stronger engineering notebook and business plan.
Follow our Youtube channel (@autonomice 11117) for how-tos, 3D design timelapse, file links, and assembly instructions.
Thanks to team #4140 Fish in the Boat (https://www.firstinspires.org/sites/default/files/uploads/resource_library/fundraising-toolkit/ftc-team-4140-business-plan-example.pdf) for inspiring the layout of this business plan.