Tuesday, December 22, 2015

December 22, 2015

       We have some exciting news, our blog will soon be transferring to a WordPress website! We are all so excited for this new change and we can't wait to show you our fresh new way of delivering the PhyXTGears news. We look forward to showing you our new site in mid-January!

       Today we had a team working on a Sponsorship video to help explain to people interested getting involved with the financial side of our Robotics team. Our Programming team reviewed old codes as well as learned about "Pinging" which is an Echo Request message in Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP).

       The Animation team watched some videos on how to set up files in Blender for the upcoming Safety Animation, they were also able to get started on making some props! In the Mechanical room, some students worked on fixing up some wooden chairs in our workshop while other students worked on learning more about the CNC mill and how the speed and rate worked for the feed and practiced milling out a valve lever.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Years From PhyXTGears 1720!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Dec. 15, 2015

       A little while ago, our team visited the company JennerJahn's, an Internationally known company.
 Curtis and Kyle lead us on an interesting tour, showing us how their machines worked and how they are made. They showed us how they animated their designs before they completed them, and they showed us the complete internal workings of their machines Curtis and Kyle did a fantastic job of explaining how everything was put together and how it worked as a whole. It was a really fun experience and we're very grateful for getting the chance to learn about this awesome company!

       Here's a robot joke to brighten your day.

          Person A: Why was the robot angry?

          Person B: I don't know, why?

          Person A: Because someone kept pushing his buttons!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December 1, 2015

Today we worked on getting ready for Build Season!! Some students cleaned up our workshop, while others worked on strengthening their skills in their sub-teams. The Animation team started working on their storyboard for the Safety Animation. The Programming team worked on learning the basics of Labview basics.
We can't wait for Build Season to start and all of the fun projects that will come along with that!

November 24th 2015

       This week our lead mentor has continued teaching a group of students how to operate our CNC mill. They worked on a piece for holding tools. We are getting a good start on the build season ahead.

       A CNC (Computer Numeric Control) mill is a mill controlled by a computer. Our CNC is precise to 1/10,000 of an inch, which allows us to make parts much more exact than anything done by hand. The CNC runs on G-code. One way to machine a part is to create the G-code "conversationally" (manually telling it what to do). The other option is to create a part in CAD (Computer Aided Design). Then we give that part to a specific program that will automatically create the G-code for running the CNC.

CNC lesson
       Some of our former students came back for a team meeting. It was a blast seeing some of our former students again!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Nov. 17th 2015

       Today in the computer room, one of our mentors, Jordan, and the animation team began filming the parody video with a student acting for test shots. Also, they continued brainstorming for the safety animation video.

        In the machine room, a student and mentor finished a five drawer cabinet and repaired two   


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

November 5, 2015

  On November 5, 2015  USFIRST PhyXTGears Team 1720 took a plant tour of Littler Diecast Corporation in Albany, IN. There were 26 students and mentors present for the tour. President, Mr. John Littler, and two other employees divided the group into three parts to see the die casting process, machining area, and shipping area.
  Die casting is a sophisticated foundry process by which 1220 degree aluminum metal is forced into a steel die at high pressure to form a near net shape part. When the casting is removed from the die, it is cooled with water and then placed in a trim die. This removes the runner and overflows from the parting line of the casting.
  The casting can go in several directions based on the customer needs: 1. It can be machined. 2. It can be vibratory finished. 3. The casting can be impregnated to make it tight. 4. It can be powder coated, etc. or any combination of these secondary operations.
  Littler Diecast is a major sponsor of Team 1720. We appreciate his support and interest in out team and the chance to see his manufacturing operation.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

October 31, 2015 and November 3, 2015

This past Saturday on October 31, 2015 we hosted an EV3 LEGO Workshop for 4th-8th grade students! The 4th-8th grade students were able to come to our workshop building to learn how to program and construct their own Lego robot. Our team was there to mentor the students on how to build, program, and how to fix their mistakes that they might have come upon. Once they were done with building their Lego robots, they were to program their Lego robots to do predefined tasks that we have given them to do, some of the tasks were to have the robot drive 12 inches, use the light sensor to find the red line then find the black line and turn, another task was to have the robot use the touch sensor then back up and turn.

Today on November 3, 2015 we were able to have Dr. Meenu Goel visit us and give a wonderful presentation about how robots are used in medical facilities. She talked about some of the history behind robotic's use in medicine, starting with laparoscopy, or MIS, which stands for Minimally Invasive Surgery, all the way up to the Da Vinci System, an advanced set of robots designed to assist doctors in specific surgeries. This system provides doctors with 3-D magnified images of the patient. Thanks Dr. Meenu Goel!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

October 24, 2015 Purdue FIRST Workshop and October 27, 2015

 This past Saturday on October 24, 2015, our team went to the Purdue FIRST Workshop. Our team split up so we were able to sit in on as many classes as possible in order to gain as much information as possible. Some classes that we got to sit in on was FIRST In College which taught us about how, even after high school, there still are opportunities for us stay involved with FIRST Robotics! Another class some students visited was LabVIEW Basics, presented by Purdue PhD student Dustin Cruise.  He showed how he uses LabView to control Mechanical Engineering Lab systems for flame height, flame color detection, and other instrument controls and monitoring.  This allows him to set up very precise laboratory tests, with excellent repeat-ability.  For us, Labview allows for robot repeat-ability in Autonomous Mode, and accurate control during Teleop Mode.  He showed how to use different "data types", such as boolean, integer, floating, double precision, string, etc.  These types of data are often required within our FIRST Robot code as well.  Dustin also showed how to use clusters and dimensioned arrays.  He pointed out that one of the great benefits of Labview of MatLab, and other such tools, is the ability to live-graph data.  This can allow Teams to monitor things happening on the robot and be able to troubleshoot.

 One of the other classes some of our students sat in on was Driving Straight with Gyro Control
Chris Elston (Team 1501) did an incredible demo of gyro control of their robot. He showed the robot starting off going quite straight, then making a 90 degree turn, and heading off very straight again. He also showed how their team implements a "probe" dashboard in Labview, with ALL Global Variables that are important, across their entire set of code! This was amazing!  It allowed them to tweak things in their code, without any re-compile time... This could be critically helpful to Phyxtgears. He also gave a lot of info on the NAVX Gyro Board which directly mates with and interfaces too, with the RoboRIO.  Making gyro functionality a breeze.
SENSORS:  A slew of sensors was presented, and the most helpful time was the Q&A, which allowed us to inquire about various Labview Code Examples of how to implement and monitor these sensors. One important take-away was that successful teams have used "shielded cables" to quadrature and other analog-voltage sensors and encoders!! He also talked about how Talon SRX Controllers have embedded limit switches for tight control.  And, he reviewed the Pull-Up Resistor Design of the internals of the RoboRIO; and, how to connect Normally Open and Normally Closed switches, correctly, to the RoboRIO. He said to check out http://kevin.org for various sensor and robot details...including for gryo controls, etc.

Some other students sat in on Appendage Design. This presentation showed different lift, arm, and such systems, with insight on weights and balance issues that different systems can present to the robot. And, other info about lift systems and how they can bind, how "four arm" system can lift keeping the fork flat horizontally, and how continuous and cascading lifts route their cables to provide better operation. Oh, and Phyxtgears specifically got KUDOS from the presenter for successfully implementing our 2015 Scissors Mechanism. He pointed this out, because typically Scissor Mechanism bind, and have maintenance issues.

Lastly, one of the other classes was Introduction to PID Control. Jeff Shelton, Purdue PhD student presented and demo'd PID feedback control.   He showed how most times you can get away with just the Proportional implementation.  But, adding Integration and Differential calculations into the control equations can reduce "ringing", which would show up in our robot as hysteresis swinging back and forth across the desired direction.  He even had Labview demos, using the fully-built-in PID vi's (virtual instrument modules)!  He was able to type in numbers and demo-live, on a servo controlled motor, how the control circuit will overshoot and then return to the desired final value, if the P, I, and D aren't correct.  And, in the end, he caused the system to "race", by changing some values to their extremes.  For us, this could cause our robot to completely overshoot the desired direction, or wind up going into a spin!  For other systems, like a jet turbine, you could cause it to explode, if it "raced"!  Kinda critical to learn how to control something appropriately!

There was so many more classes which our team was able to sit in on. The ones listed above was only a very small portion of the abundance of information we were able to learn that day! As an update on today, we mainly worked on cleaning up our building for an upcoming LEGO EV3 workshop event. So, tune in next week to read about how our LEGO EV3 event went!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

CAGE Match October 17, 2015

This past Saturday our team went to Indianapolis for CAGE Match! We had to be at our team's workshop at 5:30 in the morning and didn't get home until 10 at night. It was quite a big day! Our team participated in 7 Qualification Matches, 3 Quarter-Final Matches, 3 Semi-Final Matches, and 2 Final Matches. We ended up winning two awards; we won the "Drive it Like You Stole it" award as well as the second place award! The drive team on Saturday was John as the driver, Hannah as the operator, Mike as the drive coach, and Asher as the human player. Before the game started, several of the team members went to each team asking them to answer a survey about what their team's robot is best at and where they prefer being on the field. Anthony and Kaylynn scouted the other teams. Jessica and Ashley spent the day taking pictures. Kaylee and Ashley spent some time showing around a VIP guest at the event and explaining to her and her grand-children how FIRST robotics works. At the end of the day when we all got back home we were all exhausted, but had a really fun time at this event!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Minnetrista Family Adventure Day

We had an awesome day today at Minnetrista Family Adventure Day! A big thank you to everyone who came and visited our demo room and to Minnetrista for allowing us to participate in this fun event! :) Here's some pictures from today:

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

October 13, 2015

Today we've been doing a lot of things to get ready for the Minnetrista Family Adventure Day. If you haven't heard yet, we're participating in Minnetrista's Family Adventure Day from 9am-5:30pm. We have some fun things in store, we're bringing our robot "Not Yet," Sphero balls, a craft, and a video display for everyone to enjoy. Several of the team mates worked on putting together the craft bags for tomorrow.

Tonight Hannah and John have been working on drive practice as well as making some fixes for "Not Yet." Moriah worked on making extra clips for "Not Yet." In other news, John and Hannah also worked on packing what we need for CAGE Match which will be coming up this Saturday.

Our fun project of "Totebot" is still in progress! Tonight, Kaylynn worked on making the centerpiece that will hold the battery for Totebot. Griffin worked on the wiring while Matthew helped mentor him. Mike supervised as helped where needed on Totebot. Conner and Andrew worked on the programming for Totebot tonight.

Kaylee and James worked on making some more storage cabinets for our team as Gary helped with that project. Shawn and Anthony are still working on the new scouting system. Caleb and Jacob worked on improving their 3D animation skills.

Again, the Minnetrista Family Adveture Day is tomorrow, October 14, 2015 from 9am-5:30pm. We have a lot of fun things planned and all ages are welcome. We hope to see you there tomorrow!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

October 8, 2015

This evening we've worked on some fun projects as well as fixing up our robot "Not Yet." Mike helped the students make sure they knew what they were doing to fix some small issues with "Not Yet." Moriah had worked on replacing clips on the fork, and John worked on the intake wheels for the robot.

As for our fun project, some of the students are working on a "Totebot" which is simply just turning a tote into a remote controlled robot of sorts. This evening Hannah was working on making motor mounts and wheel mounts for the "Totebot." Kaylee, Asher, and Kaylynn worked on "Totebot" as well. An old teammate, Ryan, came back to visit today and helped mentor some of the newer students work on "Totebot."

Anthony and Shawn worked on getting the new tablets to interact with the laptop. The new tablets will be used to make scouting easier and getting all of our information in one place in a quicker and more efficient way.

Velvet was able to make a schedule for our team for our next upcoming event, CAGE Match. This evening, Rob and Max worked on cleaning up the network and Wi-Fi for the robot and driver's station.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

EV3 Workshop


for 4th-8th grade students

Saturday, Oct. 31 or Nov. 7
10:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Workshop Fee: $25
Limited number of spaces available

Workshop held at:
Morrison Mock Professional Center (drive around to the back of the building)
3620 W. White River Blvd. Muncie, IN
Questions can be emailed to: phyxtgears@gmail.com
This workshop will be led by high school students of the Muncie-Delaware FIRST robotics team.
Adult team mentors will also be present.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

CORI Our First Off-Season Competition

On June 20, our team attended our first off-season competition: the Central Ohio Robotics Invitational, or CORI. Our team uses these smaller competitions to improve our 2015 robot, but also as a learning experience for our younger team members. For example, we have changed out our drive team for the off season. Our previous drive coach is now our driver with hopes of being driver in 2016, our previous driver is now our temporary drive coach before he goes off to college in the fall, and we have a brand new operator who also wishes to make drive team next season.

Our robot performed beautifully at the competition, and got us all the way to the finals. Despite our large scale mechanical improvements not yet being finished, we were able to increase the speed of our stacking mechanism and improve our intake wheels, allowing our robot to score more points every match. But, not everything was perfect. For the first time this year we did not make the top 8 seeds going into alliance selections. We were instead chosen by the fourth seeded alliance. After a set of challenging quarter and semifinal matches we were set to go into the finals. Just like everything this year, this was a new experience for our team.

Despite our best efforts, the opposing alliance won. But it didn't matter, because the day had been great for everyone involved, and it showed us what the future may hold. Next month we will be at IRI, the Indiana Robotics Invitational, and next year, we hope to go back to St. Louis.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The 411 on the CNC Mill

A couple of weeks ago, we received a grant from the Ball Brother Foundation. With this grant we purchased a CNC Mill.

After talking with Mike Koch a head mentor here at PhyXTGears, I began to have a better understanding of what exactly a CNC Mill does and how important it is that we have one now. We have a regular mill here in our machine room, it can cut on three different dimensions/axis' (x-axis, y-axis, and z-axis). And although it has been useful so far, you can only cut on one axis at a time and even then, it may not come out as perfectly as you need it to. Mike described it as an Etch a Sketch, if you grew up using those fun toys you know that you can create some pretty cool stuff, but it's going to come out with squiggly and choppy lines sometimes.

So here is the cool news about the CNC Mill, it has four different dimensions and axis' that you can program it to cut on. ( the x, y, z, and a-axis). They can all be working at the same time to cut away the material you put in. This machine will easily "Make parts that can't be made by man." says Mike. It can make intricate designs out of metal, it can make parts and edges just the way you need them to be with ease. No choppy edges or squiggly lines. Everything is just as smooth and exact as you need it to be.

We can't thank the  Ball Brother Foundation enough for their generous grant, and we can't wait to see the full extent of everything we can accomplish here with the CNC Mill.

Setting up the new CNC Mill

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

World Championship Series: Part 7 "Reflecting on the Past, and Pressing Towards the Future"

As far as I can gather, FIRST is unlike any other team you might ever find yourself a part of. The community, the atmosphere, the teamwork. It’s all completely unique. No other program encompasses learning, fun, hard work, gracious professionalism, and the lessons taught by defeat like FIRST. I said in a previous blog post that I felt like I had graduated from the team when the final buzzer sounded on the final match we played at state. Then I was mistaken but, now, I really have graduated and I’m getting ready to finish my senior year and pack up for college. Leaving the PhyXTGears will be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but, regardless, I wouldn’t trade my time on the team for the world.
World Championship
Happy and Tired after Worlds
In conclusion, because I know this series is way too long as it is, I wanted to point out for everyone reading that our robot this year was accidentally named “Not Yet.” At first I didn’t like the name, despite being the person who named it, but soon I realized it had a deeper meaning. This year our team got further than we have in our entire history. But, we didn’t win. Not yet. If anything, this year showed us that we could. With enough hard work, and a little bit of luck, we could go all the way. And next year, I would like to go on the record and predict right now, we will go all the way again. All the way to St. Louis. And, who knows, maybe all the way to Einstein. Muncie could be home to a world champion robotics team. It wouldn’t surprise me at all. So, just to get it out there early, if this year’s robot was “Not Yet,” I vote next year’s robot should be “This Year.” Or maybe “Okay, Now.” I’m flexible.Thanks to everyone for making my time with the PhyXTGears the best five years it possibly could have been.


~Ryan Spangler

Saturday, May 30, 2015

World Champion Series: Part 6 "Homeward Bound"

  The bus ride back seemed longer than the bus ride going there had, but not in a bad way. Everyone was so tired but also happy. We had built a robot in just six weeks that was good enough to attend two district competitions, the Indiana FIRST State Championship, and the FRC World Championship. Not to mention place 37th in the entire world. We wouldn’t figure that out for another couple of days. Pretty good for one season’s work. And a pretty good way to spend my last year on the team. Truthfully I’ll miss FIRST. There was one moment, on the bus, where I just sat back and realized everything that I had gained as a member of this team. All around me were people who were laughing and smiling and enjoying each other’s company
Bus Leaving St. Louis
Leaving St. Louis after an exciting competition
At one end of the bus a group of students took turn playing Xbox while, at the other, a mass of people crowded around a little table for a marathon card game tournament. And not just students, mentors and parents too. In that moment I realized I guess I owe FIRST a lot. Not just in the academic aspects but also in memories and lifelong friends. Because everyone on that bus that night was nothing short of a best friend to me.

In case you missed part 5 "Einstein On The Edge" Check it out

Thursday, May 28, 2015

World Championship Series: Part 5 "Einstein On The Edge"

Once each division had a victor, we packed up our pit and got a good seat for the finals. For these last eight alliances, they tore down all but two fields and called them Einstein. Never have I seen a more intense set of FIRST game played. These were the best eight alliances on the planet. There wasn’t a single team there that didn’t deserve a spot on Einstein and was good enough to show why. 
In the stands
The Crowd Awaits Einstein
 One after another the finals were played and FIRST really pulled out all the stops. There even was a “Match Break” desk where two First officials would sit. Between every match, they would come on like sports casters and break down what happened in the last match. Reporters walked the two fields, getting interviews from the competing drive teams that would suddenly play for the whole stadium to see on the building sized screens. They even had cameras that would sweep across the packed house of cheering fans when a good dance song came on. That’s one of my all-time favorite things about FIRST: It doesn’t matter if you’ve lost, it doesn’t matter who it is that beat you, every team genuinely wants every other team to do the absolute best that they can no matter what. Good luck finding another sporting event where both sides want theiropponent to play their best, even in defeat.
In the End
Confetti From Above
In the end, it was the alliance from our division that would win it all. Confetti rained from the ceiling as the last official match of Recycle Rush came to a close and FIRST crowned a new world champion. As for our little team from Indiana, we loaded back onto the bus and said goodbye to St. Louis. It might be the last time for me, but I am sure with 100% confidence that the PhyXTGears will be back to St. Louis again. Or, at least wherever the World Championship is being held in the coming years.

Did you miss Part 4 "Glory Road"? Check it out!