Monday, December 04, 2006

Whew! What a weekend :-)
The team is back home again, with quite a story to tell. We arrived at LEGOLAND a total underdog. A first-year team nobody had heard of. We flew in under radar and took 2nd place right under their noses! I'm very proud of my team. I can't go into too much detail but here's the rough account of the day...

We arrived Saturday morning at the park early and took some time to practice the presentation script (Dane, what's your next line?) After entering the park we found our pit attendant and he showed us to our table. We set up base camp and waited for our very short turn at the practice table. After that the kids went before the judges with their robot and presentation. Alan, Eric and I were a bit surprised that we couldn't so much as watch them. After what was apparently a good presentation (it's so hard to get an accurate story out of a 10 year old) we had lunch and saw a bit of the park. Then it was zero hour, time for the mission challenge. After a somewhat disappointing first run we were still in 18th place and really happy about it. Top half was good for us! Then came the second run, and it was picture perfect. We scored 341 points and found ourselves in second place! Not only that but only 5 points behind the leader and well ahead of third place. The third run went alright, but the atom challenge proved difficult. After the last table challenge we loaded all the stuff back in the van and saw some more of the park while we waited for the awards presentation. Not knowing how the scoring was done we went in to the awards ceremony with no expectations at all. We knew we did good at the table, but didn't know how that factored in to the awards. When it got down to just 4 trophies left it wasn't looking too good but then came the award for second place for robot performance and we heard the words “I am told this year’s team is a first year team, first time they’ve done it,(oohs and ahs were heard) so it’s always impressive to see a first year team do so well in performance. And they seem to be doing particularly well considering they have bricks for brains”. We went berserk! They took the stage and accepted their trophy with wide grins. I was smiling the rest of the day, very proud of them. Check out the pictures from the day on the gallery page.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Yes, the small 5 member rookie team from Lompoc took second place for robot performance today at LEGOLAND! I'll post more details and pictures at a later date, but I had to share. I couldn't be more proud, you rock team!!!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Last meeting tonight! It's been a long journey, but the end is near. Tomorrow we hit the road to LEGOLAND, ready or not. Tonight we will have our last meeting before the tournament. We will practice our research project, practice the table, tweak some programs and put some finishing touches on everything. We have had a great time and on Saturday we find out how we stack up against the rest of the teams out there.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Less than one week!
We've had a couple really good meetings. On saturday we had some trial runs at the field with a timer and were able to complete most of the tasks we have programmed. Still no program for the probe, but we have something for everything else. We have also worked hard on our project. Yesterday's meeting was a bit of a wash out, with not much to show for it at the end, but there was one significant event. While discussing our project Morgan paused a moment and said "wow, nano technology is going to affect so many aspects of our lives". I knew then that we had accomplished our objective. The kids are learning, they're getting excited about science and technology. And they are having fun (well, most of the time).

We still have a LOT to do this week and we're meeting every night. Come Friday, we have what we have and we're heading to LEGOLAND. Hopefully we'll make some great progress this week. Regardless we'll have a great time and these rookies (yours truly included) are going to see and learn a lot.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

There's light at the end of the tunnel ( that a train?) We've made some significant progress in all areas. Our big to-do list is getting checked off at an alarming rate. We really only one week left for practice, everyone will be on the road next Friday heading for LEGOLAND (so exciting!) Luckily we have a 4 day weekend so we can really make some progress.

Our project is almost ready to go, just need to polish the script and rehearse it, make our presentation board and finish the props. We have most of the table challenges worked out. The fabric and motor challenges are proving tricky just from a reliability standpoint. We could program it very easily if the robot would just go to the same place twice in a row! We haven't even started programming the atom table yet, that one is definately going to seperate the rookies from the pros.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Time is running out. The team is making some real progress now. Every meeting we are scratching things off our big "to-do" board. We have adopted a single challenge strategy. Our first attempts at multiple challenges per program proved to be frustrating. After we have a solid (mostly) program for all the challenges we may go back and try to combine some.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Two weeks left, it's panic time. Yesterday's meeting was good from a learning standpoint. But bad from an accomplishment standpoint. The NXT is not nearly as precise as we had assumed. Just going in a strait line is turning out to be a challenge, to say nothing of repeatability and reliability. The bluetooth continues to plague us. The robot is turning out to be difficult to program. All this while the project makes slow progress and the deadline races toward us!

We're definately going to have to rethink our field strategy. And everyone is going to have to double their efforts if we're going to make it to LEGOLAND with any kind of confidence.

I know we can do it, and I know we can have fun doing it (it's getting hard to remember this is supposed to be fun)

C'mon team, let's get busy!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Our team had another fantastic meeting tonight. We successfully programed our robot to complete the nano cable challenge. You should have heard the cheer as that little truck popped off the table. Great job team, you should all be proud!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

It was a total FLL day here. We got up this morning and rearranged the garage to Nano Quest central. The space is much better, plenty of room to maneuver (moved my wife's car). Our meeting today had a loose start and stop time because several members had sporting events to attend. We made some great progress today though. We made a jig to align our robot, put the finishing touches on the duplicate robot, put the finishing touches on our dummy robot (same dimensions, no motors or NXT) and refit some of our attachments. "Wait a minute, did he say second robot?" Yes indeed, we have a second NXT set now thanks in part to our new sponsor ACECO. Now team members don't have to crowd around one little robot. We also got our feet wet in the area of programming. I must say, the bluetooth connection to the NXT is twitchy at best. I have spent way too much time trying to keep that working. It's a lousy choice, tether the robot with an ungainly USB cable, or struggle in vain with the infuriating bluetooth.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

One Month Left!!!

Things are starting to heat up. With only one month left and so much to do the team is starting to feel the crunch. Tonight we built a dummy chassis (well, most of one) to use for testing purposes. Austin and Morgan did some work on the project as well. We have another longer practice this Sunday, hopefully we can get a lot done.

We would also like to say "Thank you very much!" to our newest sponsor John Lizarraga and Aceco of Lompoc! Their most generous contribution will go to good use and help the team immensely.

Friday, October 27, 2006

I just officially registered our team for the LEGOLAND tournament on December 2nd. The clock is now ticking! In other news our robot went through some drastic changes the last 2 meetings and is really looking good. It's simple yet versatile, small but robust and cool but functional. We could be programming as soon as our next meeting. The team is making progress on their project as well. They have a very clever idea and it's looking like it's going to be a lot of fun putting together their presentation.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

We had a stellar meeting tonight. Not only did we figure out what our project was going to be (and made some good progress on it) our team gained a new member. Please join us in welcoming Rawley Lizarraga to the team! We're very excited he's here.

Monday, October 16, 2006

I just got email from Lynn Crocket from LEGOLAND. We've made the cut for the tournament at LEGOLAND on Dec 2nd! Congratulations team, I cannot think of a greater place on the planet to compete.
We're back! We had a great vacation and now we're back and ready to get back to work on Nano Quest. Had a good extended meeting yesterday. We met at lunch time and after having some pizza we got to work on the unstainable fabric challenge. Austin and Jamie were the only team members present for the first few hours and with a lot of trial and error came up with an excellent solution we nicknamed "The Space Invader". Add that to "The Scorpion" and "The Bucky Ball Bone Bumper" and we're well on our way to being finished with our building phase. We also worked on the robot a bit, modifying it and adding a universal mount to the front. We're also excited that we may have a new member for the team. Rawley will be hopefully be joining us on Wednesday to meet the team and see the challenge. If all goes well, we'll have another member :-)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Had a great meeting yesterday. All team members were present and we had a great time. Morgan perfected her solution for the nano cable challenge. We've nicknamed it "the scorpion". Jamie worked on a universal mounting solution. Dane perfected the casters on the robot and refined the bone solution. We also realized our bone solution would work perfect for the molecular motor! Austin worked on mounting the NXT to our chassis, between goofing around and making strange noises. We are taking a break for a week and a half for a my family's vacation to Disney World!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

I'm pleased to announce that team 2137 has a new member. Please welcome Eric Erland, assistant coach. Besides having mad table building skills, he's also Dane's father and will be a great asset to the team. Glad you're with us Eric!

In other news, the team had a good meeting today. Dane made some good progress with the robot's chassis. Morgan worked out an awesome solution for the nano cable challenge as well (good job Morgan!)

All the team members will be studying more about nano technology for the next few days and we'll be having our first discussion about the research project next meeting.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The team had it's first real meeting tonight, things went pretty well. The strategy is clear...let Dane do the work (just kidding, kinda). All the team members started brainstorming about the challenges and we watched one of the videos online. All team members have homework to visit some of the sites posted on the official site and learn more about nano technology.

In other news I have removed the challenge model videos from YouTube. Now that the challenge is revealed there's plenty of info out there.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Placed our first order for gear from our CafePress store today. In a few days we'll be stylin' :-)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Converted the garage to Nano Quest mission control today (moved the table to the gargage, much to my wife's relief, it was kinda dominating the living room). The hunt is still on for an additional 2 team members, stay tuned...

Friday, September 15, 2006

Wow, what a day. The details of Nano Quest were revealed and it looks like it's going to be as fun as it is challenging. We also have our FLL table! Special thanks to Eric Erland for building our table, it's a beauty. We had a team meeting this evening to go over the challenge and project. Dane couldn't wait to get building. Now I'm up in the middle of the night attaching Dual Lock to everything.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I'm proud to announce the grand opening of the Bricks For Brains shop at CafePress! Team members head on over and get your gear! The Bricks For Brains Shop

Only 2 days left to the official details of Nano Quest...

Monday, September 11, 2006

We have an official logo! I received permission to use the minifig and brick likeness from LEGO this morning (thanks Robin!). So pretty soon we'll be able to order our team shirts and I can finally stop worrying about the logo at the top of this page.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Alright, spent the morning getting to know the ins and outs of I uploaded all the FLL Nano Quest model videos and you can catch them here....

FLL Nano Quest model videos
Sorry FLL fans, I've had to remove the videos of the Nano Quest models. My ISP just put the smackdown on me for bandwidth. I had no idea they would be so popular. I'm glad that there's so much interest in FLL, and I'm looking for another place to host the videos. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Many thanks to Mike Fischer for his generous contribution to the team! You rock dude!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Well, it's been over a week and we haven't heard from any of the local businesses. I guess we're going to be on our own (no biggie, we shall overcome). I'd like to send a shout out to Jim Kelly and the fine bloggers of The NXT Step. Our LEGO NXT community is growing and growing, it's quite exciting to watch.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

We're done with the Tribot, now it's time for RoboArm T-56! This thing is pretty cool, but what does the T-56 mean?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Spent the morning with Austin, gathering team signatures for the sponsor letters. We then took them around town to several local businesses. Hopefully one or two of them will help us out. We also did the last two tutorial NXT challenges of the tribot. Austin successfully programmed the robot to wait for a ball to be placed in front of it , move forward and stop at the ball, wait for a hand clap to grasp the ball, turn around and move back to the start position and finally release the ball when it reached the black line on the mat. That's my boy!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I think we have a mascot!

Here's all the models from the 2006 challenge. Some were definately trickier than others. We can't wait until the challenge details are announced. The bone could be tricky if we have to do anything except knock the ball out. And we don't know what we'll have to do with the wobbly table :-)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Took all weekend (between life's distractions) to get the kit together, but all the challenge models are done. I'll post pictures soon. Special thanks to Morgan, Jamie and Austin for helping put the models togther. And a special thanks to non-team member but way cool kid Connor for putting the astronauts together, you rock little man.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Our team got together Friday night for what I called the "2006 season kickoff build party". We had pizza, watched one of the FLL DVDs and had some good old fashion LEGO fun. We also began construction of our 2006 challenge kit. We had a good time building the wobbly table and the stuck nano probe. The self-building nano tube is particularly cool. We also spent some time updating the website.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Our 2006 challenge kit is here! That's a lot of bricks, this is going to take some time. The mat is really cool and far more sturdy than I expected.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Got to spend some time tonight working through the Tribot tutorials. Here is Austin and Morgan adding a sound sensor.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

We'd like to send a very big shout out to our first sponsor of the 2006 season. Larry Perry of Double Density Software. Thanks so much!

We've received word from LEGO Education that our order has shipped! We should have it by the end of next week (very exciting). Now we just need to build the table, that's going to be a challenge unto itself. Not to mention where we're going to set it up.

In other news we're getting to know the new Mindstorms NXT system, it's a whole new animal. So far it's very cool. Working through the Tribot tutorials still.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Despite an annoying minor case of food poisoning I managed to put together the tutorial robot last night. The kit is awesome, but I am disappointed my Dell bluetooth is incompatible. Hopefully that will be fixed soon. We were also excited to see pictures of the 2006 challenge field have been posted, you can see them here

Monday, August 07, 2006

It's here! We have our Mindstorms NXT set, ready for some serious robotic action!
I just completed our team registration with FLL. We are officially team number 2137 and will compete in the 2006 challenge Nano Quest. I also ordered our field setup kit, which should ship very soon.

I'm so excited!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Hello and welcome to the Bricks For Brains page. This is the first official post. We're still getting the team together, and getting all our bricks in a row (clever huh?).

So far the team is Austin Williamson, Morgan Williams, Dane Earland, and Jamie Hedges. We're looking for a couple more if you're interested let me know.

Right now we're seeking sponsorship, putting together team literature, setting up the official site, designing our clothing and getting ready to purchase our NXT set and challenge kit.

Stay tuned for more progress on the 2006 season of FLL!

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