Category Archive: Build Season

Feb 03 2015

12 More Meeting Days to Bag N’Tag!!

Wow, how the time has flown! The team has reached that magical time in build season when everyone knows exactly what to do and how [ and no one runs into each other in the workshop any more!]. I could look back, and reminisce on how the team has become a family to each other, and how FIRST means so much more than just an acronym to the rookies now.

Even though we only have two weeks or so [eek!!!!!] left to build season, our design has been forced to be altered again. Only instead of a major structural change like last year, we have simply had to mildly redesign our robot to be underweight instead of overweight like it was by the end of last week. Thankfully, this year it was easier, so the changes were quicker to make.

I can confidently say that  excitement about the competition season and seeing the finished robot has energized the team and  we all have caught our second wind [with regards to robotics]. I hope that everyone else out there, teams 1 through [whatever number FIRST is up to by now] is having as much fun as the Gearheads are!





Jan 23 2015

A Belated Post

This post is a chronicle of the tasks which occurred on Thursday, January 22 2015. A small team of our freshmen worked on finding an efficient method of securing our robot’s batteries inside a moving tool cart; which we will then be able to bring to competition with a minimum of fuss. Two separate sub-teams use our milling machine to mill different pieces of metal for our robot, and our most knowledgeable electrical team member  wired up a series of magnetic sensors that would allow the programmers to practice the code they have been continuously writing.

Did You Know?

“The term “robot” was first coined by Czech writer Karel Čapek in his play R.U.R. while term “robotics” was first coined by Isaac Asimov in his 1941 science fiction short-story “Liar!”. ”

See the article below for more interesting robotics and robot related facts!



Jan 21 2015

3….2….1….Blast Off

Our team has accomplished a lot of work since I last updated! We were just recently graced with another mentor who has shown the team a method for tracking our priorities so that we can efficiently build our robot.

Speaking of our robot….. it looks radically different from our robots in past years, and we are learning new skills while working on it! Our new method of organizing the team started the team down the right path, but our new mentor introduced a style of keeping track of priorities and needs-to-be-done which has fully transformed the team’s management style into that of a corporate organization, which prepares our Gearheads for real life and real jobs.

I say ‘thanks’ again to our newest mentor, may he decide to stay for as long as the team exists!



Jan 09 2015

This season’s competition: Recycle Rush!

Finally, competition season has begun! We are 7 days into Build Season, and everyone is so very excited to have their challenge. This year it is Recycle Rush!

The game is based off of recycling; so the objective of this year’s enterprise is to score points by stacking totes on specifically designated spots of the field and collecting ‘litter’ (solid green pool noodles, which are 4’10″ in length and have an outside diameter of 2.6″) which can be placed in green containers (trash cans that have a whole in the middle of the lid to allow for a piece of litter to enter it).

If you are interested in learning more about the game, please look at the link below. It goes to the FIRST official game video, which all the teams viewed on Kick Off day, last Saturday the 3rd.

The competition video starts at 26:30, but the entire video is chock full of information for the teams regarding this year’s game.

This is the official game reveal, as it is called.

As for our team, we have been very efficient and productive, mostly in thanks to our mentors for providing guidance and the team, which is entering it’s 4th year, for understanding how to work together and be highly productive.

I will be updating when I can, so make sure to keep an eye on our website for more updates on the team as we figure out how to play the game!

~ Gearheadette



Feb 15 2014

4 days to go

Tonight, the team worked diligently, and their work was rewarded! The body of the ‘bot is now officially complete!! Cause for celebration, for sure, yet on top of that,the electrical is done! The team worked from nine in the morning to approximately six at night to get it completed. It was totally worth it!

Feb 13 2014

5 days to go

There are now 5 days to go until Bag N’ Tag. Bag N’ Tag symbolizes the end of the build season for all the teams, meaning hands off the robot after February 18th. This means that all the teams have the exact same amount of time to spend on building their robot.  Bag N’ Tag is a big event, where many teams get together  show off their ‘bots, practice on a mock practice field, and celebrate the end of a successful build season. After all, all’s well that ends well.

Feb 11 2014

In the Works

The final robot is in the works! The team has worked diligently over the last few meetings to great effect. It is now built of solid c-channel which provide the structural support which is needed for our catapult design.

Our public relations officer is uber-delighted with the letter that she has been drafting. She has been using her talents to the best advantage of the team, while at the same time practicing real world skills which will serve her well later in life.

The programing team is also mondo-delighted with what it is doing. They are trying to find rainbow colored LED light strings that they can make them flash on command.

Two members of the build team finished hooking  up the motor that draws back the shooter straps, and now they are working on a motor that will release the straps to launch the ball.


Feb 04 2014

The Past 2 Days

The team has been working diligently and even extended the meeting tonight by an hour so that they can have an adequate amount of time. The weather is persnickety and weather or not we have a meeting is dependent on it.  The team is finalizing the catcher design on the prototype, and it looks like it is progressing well. The team morale is high, and work is being completed.

Feb 01 2014

changing gears over the past two meetings

The decision about whether or not we would continue working on the current design, or move to a new one was made. It went to an anonymous vote which was staggeringly in favor of an alternate design. At the next meeting, the team began to work on a new prototype. This time around, the prototype is all wood, and includes the arm mechanism which will lift the ball onto the shooter mechanism. The team is  working  well together on this and is completely devoted to getting a working robot for before February 18th, called Bag N’ Tag day by the teams. The robot must be completely done by midnight that night.

We are optimistic that the robot will be done with enough time to practice with our friends the Enforcers, team 178, who have graciously agreed to  shared their practice field with NRG.

Jan 27 2014

A Decision was Made? Possibly

Tonight we, as a team, voted on whether or not to continue working with the current design, or to move on to an alternate design. We had an even number of students present who voted, and the result was a tie. Many did not realize this was a possibility because in previous discussions the team seemed to be leaning heavily in one direction. Because of the result of the voting, the mentors suggested, and the team agreed to continue improving the current design, and after two and a half full work sessions, the team agreed to vote again. If this vote was a tie, than the whole team would whole-heartedly get behind working on the current design. If the vote goes toward the current design, we continue working on that. If more vote for an alternate design, than work on an alternate design will begin work immediately.

Tomorrow night, we vote whether or not to continue with the current design.

Jan 25 2014

The Final Shooter Prototyping Day

Today is the deadline for the prototype, which the team specified earlier this week. We hope to use this sling-shot method, but in case it does not work, there are always other methods.  The rules have come into play a lot. They play a very large part in designing the robot and prototyping. There is no use in building a wonderful prototype that breaks every single rule that is applicable. The rules also often come under debate because each team member and mentor has different ideas what the wording FIRST in the manual used means. However, this healthy conflict is what allows the Northwestern Regional Gearheads to be so successful as a team.

Our President worked tirelessly to start the bumpers, only to be stalled by the fact that we do not have access to some more of the wood and materials which are needed.

Our Vice President finished up the drive train with the help of the Officer of Public Relations. This was the most successful part of the evening. We now have a good base for what ever method for launching the ball is used in the end.


Jan 17 2014

It Worked!

Tonight, the Build team continued to build the drive train while half of the design team worked on getting more precise data for the a different option of propultion which we will use if our sling shot method does not pan out.

The other half of design team has  been working diligently to finalize the complicated equations which will allow the team to know the number of latex-free bands needed to launch the ball.

Programing continued to work with the variable pressure systems. This is one of the resources we hope to utilize on the robot we are working towards. The electrical team helped programming by running all the wires which connect the control board to the variable pressure systems.

Jan 16 2014

New Knowledge

Tonight the team decided that to properly be able to utilize the pneumatic systems, they had to LEARN. After all, learning equals knowledge, and knowledge is power. The more powerful our team is, the further through the competition levels we go, and hopefully all the way to SAINT LOUIS!!!

The programming team successfully worked the code to operate the solenoid. They worked side by side with the electrical team, who wired all the electrical components together, and the pneumatics team who made sure that the solenoid was being used in a manner that did not place anyone at risk.

The main function of the pneumatics team is to learn as much as humanly possible about pneumatics and all its associated dangers. This is a good thing!

While the team acknowledges that there is a certain amount of risk involved with working around the various tools of the trade, so to speak, we DO NOT take lightly these risks. To quote FIRST, “the hardest fun you’ve ever had”. They DID NOT say “the most dangerous fun you’ve ever had” The objective is to be safe and have fun at the same time. And, of course, Build A Robot!!!

Jan 15 2014

A New Idea, Perhaps?

The Design team is up in the air about which plan to go with… Tick-tock, tick-tock…

Electrical and Programming worked together again tonight, and figured out how the pneumatics, solenoids, and other accessories work. They  team’s understanding of the pneumatics we might use.

Jan 14 2014

Can We Defy Gravity with Latex-Free Tubing?

It was a challenge at first to figure out a way to defy gravity for this monstrously huge ball, but we have a design that will hopefully achieve the anticipated result. The design team engineered a method to launch it with latex-free tubing, using a slingshot method. Since we have a team member who is allergic to latex, the design team is being  forced to test their collective ingenuity to utilize a similar material that would not take a valued team member out of commission.After some trial and error, the material is proving to be difficult. Stayed tuned for an update for the out come for this challenge.

The programming team “ironed out some code” according to our Vice-President, Matt, which allows the compressors and solenoids to work.

Jan 06 2014

Meeting Cancelled – Icy Conditions

Only two days into the 6-week build period and Mother Nature has forced the cancellation of an important meeting. Team NRG will use this time to review the over 90-page game manual and technical detail of the field and robot components. The team will communicate online using it new discussion forum. This young team is flexible and makes the best of every situation. Go Gearheads!