Taking Albany robotics to the world stage

Because we did so well at Wilsonville, there is a real possibility we may be invited to go on the Championships in Houston Texas in April. Team 957 has not played at that level since 2010.

As you might imagine, fielding a team across the country is no small matter for our all volunteer organization. There’s not much time between when we may be invited and have to pay for plane tickets and rooms. We can really use some help now.

Please check out our GoFundMe site  on what we need and what you might do.

In the pits

Dream Big at Wilsonville

yay team.

Drive Team Delivers Power Cubes to the Scale

With our goal to do better than last year, we headed into our first completion at Wilsonville on March 8. To make a long story short, we far surpassed our goal.

Despite an issue that occasionally stopped our robot in its tracks*, we accumulated enough points to be the 2nd highest ranked team out of the 37 teams at the event. (14 wins & 5 losses.) We picked Hotwire, 2990, and My Favorite Team, 3024, for our alliance partners and made it all the way to the final elimination round. Check out the match videos.

Special kudos to software and our autonomous work. It carried the day (and was gave us a Judges’ Award)

more team!

A careful eye on the action from the stands

It was an amazing couple of days, and we are getting ready for more.

* After a good bit of troubleshooting, we found an incompatibility between a recent software update and our USB camera. Problem solved!


Remote Meeting Gets Things Done

Team SWARM does not rest  between events.  For a quick mid-week meeting, we turned to our online solution – Discord.

With both voice and text chat, we held a discussion including brainstorming and offering tasks on a variety of topics surrounding our future plans for 2018.

This is not only a great way to get things done, but it is a valuable experience for students who will be increasingly asked to collaborate remotely. It is important to see how these platforms offer a valuable way to organize,

Tonight’s 1.5 hours was well spent, with the outline of what we need to do sketched out, including the possibility of competing on the international stage.

Meet Otis, our 2018 competition bot

Hello. My name is Otis.

Named after the inventor of the modern elevator with safety brakes, Elisha Otis, our robot also includes a bit of code to keep things from going south.

This year’s bot is based on the proven West Coast drive train. Ours feature pneumatic wheels to smoothly get over the mid-field wire cover, as well as solidly traversing the ramps around the scale.

Rules for robots number 3, Thou shall not make a tippy robot.
-Steve Merrill (mentor emeritus.)

To keep to this rule, we place things low – battery, motors, and a double sided e-board, are nestled in tight by the belly pan. A light weight superstructure and elevator helps in this weight distribution. With software, we can reduce drive power while boosting power cubes.

We place cubes both high and low to control the scale, the switch is easily within our range, and we can pass cubes to the human player. Our drive team has past experience in competition and has been practicing with Otis long before bay & tag.

Watch for our autonomous play during competition. We have more than a few moves that will turn heads.

And to top it off, our light display is synced to a variety of conditions.

Stay tuned for more…

2018 Bag Team adds a “Huzzah!”

Bumper Reveal

Our robots are wrapped in bumpers – not because we crash into field elements, we do, but because there are crashes with other bots. Sometimes that’s part of the game.

We take our bumpers seriously, starting with a solid design that is turned into CAD.

A well crafted bumper is not only a product of computers, but hand work as well.

It can be quite a different experience than turning a bolt or connecting wires.

One of thickest parts of the FIRST rule manual is about the robot’s perimeters and bumpers. If you don’t make these right, you will not be playing.

This year we are going the extra mile with our bumpers, inside and out.

We have multiple members on a bumper sub-team.

With a careful eye for detail.

These things take a beating and have to be strong all the way around.


It doesn’t hurt if they look good doing it.

Team Software – Working Hard & Not Worn Out Yet

Despite the name, the software team is working hard programming the robot, and they aren’t worn out yet.

Software is broken down into two major areas, the drive with manipulator code and the autonomous code.  The manipulator moves the game elements. The autonomous code both drives the robot and runs the manipulator during the 15 second autonomous portion of the game. All of this is rolled up into the driver station that allows the team to run all aspects of the robot. Team software is a busy group.

Our team uses the Java programming language. It is our second year using this, and it is working well for us.

When main parts of the programming code are done, the software team gathers to have a design review. This helps keep the quality up, is a good way to learn new things, and lets everyone know what each other is doing.

The software team always has something to do. Often we have senors such as accelerometers, gyroscopes, limit switches, and encoders that need be incorporated. This robot can get complicated. If you are on the software team, it is good to be a bit self-motivated as some times you have to figure things out yourself, but we do have a mentor as backup.

Software is sometimes the team that it last in and last out. They need to wait for a whole robot to work with, and then the pressure is on to make it perform!

Team CAD – Drawing Conclusions

Computer Aided Design lets us figure out how to build our robot, including what parts we might buy off-the-shelf, instructions on how to make the parts we can’t, and what it will take to put it all together.

While many of us want to immediately grab a wrench and start building a robot, those who take the time to come up with a proper plan will usually have a better bot in the end.

CAD members need to be comfortable working on computers with sophisticated programs, ‘seeing’ things in three dimensions as they create and assemble things on their screen, interact with other members of the team, be willing to have others critique their work, and solid math skills don’t hurt.

CAD members are also the first to start in on the robot and need to work quickly so the rest of the team will know what to do and get parts in on time.

Working closely with the mechanical design / build part of the team, CAD helps figure out just what the parts need to be to do what we want them to do.

Our team uses Autodesk Inventor which helps sponsor ours, and many other, FIRST teams.

The tricky parts we can’t make are machined by our premier sponsor Viper Northwest. They’ve been a solid supporter over the years, and we are always excited to see their parts come in!

Here’s a closeup of the team’s hard work:



Making Connections

After wide critical acclaim by the judges of our electrical board last year, the electrical team is hard at work replicating the success.

Blazing new trails in electronics to POWERUP the robot as soon as possible, maybe this weekend.

Our crew is definitely amping it up for the current season.

Gear boxes tonight

GearsGear boxes can sometimes be like a three dimensional puzzle, and on occasion, greasy. This “box” will hold three of our standard motors and be used with another set to drive our 6 wheel drive.  The “box” has more to put on, but we need to do assemble it one piece at a time.


It helps to carefully follow instructions, especially when familiarizing yourself with a new setup. There are step by step instructions online that put us through the process. Putting the instructions on the screen helps everyone follow along and gets the job done.


These sorts of things shouldn’t be rushed. We can’t afford the time it takes to fix or buy a new one. Plus, these boxes should last the whole season and beyond.


It also helps to take your time and be meticulous. Unfortunately, if things go bad during the competition, the crew in the pits will need to fix them under pressure. It’s good to have some practice now and folks that know what they are doing. When the time comes they may be in the hot seat and will not be able to consult the documentation.