Team Guide to FTC World Championship in St. Louis

It has been awhile since our last post. A lot has happened, where the most the up-to-date information and photos are often posted on our Facebook. These days, email and Facebook messages seem to be the most popular ways for teams to contact us.  People are looking for real time updates instead of periodic blog on the website, thus the excuse for lack on website updates.

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This April will mark our 3rd trip to St. Louis FTC World Championship. It is always an exciting time to meet up with other US teams and teams from around the world, many whom we have only corresponded via emails or Skype. Some of them will be attending the World Championship in St. Louis for the first time!

Many first-time St.-Louis bound teams probably have many of the same questions that we had in 2011, so team Landroids has put together an unofficial Team Guide to the FTC World Championship to share our experience and tips.  Hopefully, it is helpful as a start, and that everyone will have a smooth and fun experience at the FTC World Championship.

Drop us a line on our Facebook if you have any comments or questions. See you all soon!

Ring It Up! Bring It On!

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Another FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) season is here!  Today, the 2012-13 FTC game “Ring It Up” was unveiled. Teams have been highly anticipating the kickoff, and now is time to brainstorm and learn new skills, especially with this new unlimited raw materials rule.

During summer of 2012, Landroids was very busy, as usual.  Our team met over the summer almost every single day until just a few weeks before the FTC kickoff.

Upon our return from the FTC World Championship in April, the Landroids invited 3 FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams to do a robot showcase at Liberty Science Center on May 12, 2012.  FRC Teams 11 MORT, 75 RoboRaiders and 714 Panthera brought their “Logo Motion” and “Rebound Rumble” FRC robots for a play date with our much smaller sized “Bowled Over” FTC robot.  We invented our own games to do different missions while entertaining the guests. If anyone wonders how to mix and match different FRC and FTC robots from different seasons to play together, just take a look at this video.

On Memorial Day weekend, May 26, 2012, Landroids and Livingston Robotics Club hosted our 3rd annual outdoor carnival style Jr. FIRST LEGO League Expo. 13 Jr. FLL teams were invited to show their “Snack Attack” projects. As usual, it was fun-filled day with an added enrichment session presented by Mad Science.  In addition, there was a sluice of family-friendly carnival rides and things to do.  We also teamed up with our local food bank to do a town-wide “Stuff the Bus” food drive next to our Expo tent.

In June, right after school was over, half of our team taught an Android App class at the Real World Connections summer program at NJIT. The other half of the team worked in an US Army internship to develop a personal glaucoma testing device in the BioPhysics Department at NJIT. Yes, the Landroids has completed our “Senior Solutions” project in the summer with a patentable innovative idea.

In July, our team was invited by Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders to present our Inspire Award winning “Bowled Over” robot. When we drove our robot, everyone in the court room stood up from their seats to take a good look.  We received a proclamation certificate from the Freeholders and much appreciation from the County officials for promoting interest in STEM education in our community.

Toward the end of July, the Landroids was busy viewing a bunch of MoonBots 2012 Phase 1 entry videos, picking our favorites, and enjoying all the creativity that MoonBots teams were demonstrating.  The overall quality in presentation and video editing techniques exhibited a big improvement since Landroids’ MoonBots days.

Meanwhile, on July 28, 2012, the Landroids hosted a special workshop specially for FLL teams that are graduating to FTC, and new FTC teams.  This all-day summer workshop presented an introduction to FTC;covered aspects such as team startup and team management; gave tips on robot construction, programming, PTC and electronics designs, and discussed scouting and fundraising.  We met a lot of new teams and coaches, and we hope to build a long term mentoring relationship with them all.  (For the 7-part series PowerPoint files, click here).

On August 7, 2012, we wrapped up our 2nd summer of NJIT summer internships with a public showcase at Liberty Science Center.  We then followed our team tradition to conclude an event with a team dinner, then we watched The Dark Knight Rises in Liberty Science Center’s IMAX dome. It was a treat for months of hard work.

In mid August, we finally managed to squeeze in an alliance play date with one of our FTC World Championship alliance teams, Cougar Robotics 4251 from Ohio.  Both teams met in Pittsburgh, PA for a weekend.  While there, we joined forces to put on a FTC outreach on August 19, 2012 at Energy Consol as part of the pilot Explorer Series, sponsored by the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, to introduce young children to the world of robotics. Both teams also did a lot of eating, sightseeing and Frisbee playing, truly appreciated the time spent together outside of the competitions.

The rest of August was devoted to finishing up summer homework, independent research projects, and taking some family vacations.  After not physically seeing each other for 3 weeks, we were all excited and happy to be with our team again today at the kickoff.

So here it is, our 6th season together as the Landroids.  Ring It Up, bring it on!

Landroids won Inspire at FTC World Championship 2012!

It’s been like a dream, so loud, colorful and exciting that we have had a delayed reaction to post the news here.

At the 2012 FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) World Championship in St. Louis, MO last month, Landroids won the #1 Inspire Award!

According to FTC, the Inspire Award is the highest honor, given to a team that truly embodied the challenge of the FTC program; best represented a role model, a top contender for all judging categories and was a strong competitor on the field. The Inspire Award Winner is an inspiration to other teams, acting with Gracious Professionalism™ both on and off the playing field.

What an honor to be given this award!

In addition, another surprise this year was that the Landroids also won the Finalist Alliance Captain and the Franklin Division Winning Alliance Captain at the Worlds.  We had miraculously held onto the #1 seed position for the 2 days of the qualifying rounds amongst 128 teams from 13 countries, and had remained as the only undefeated team in both the Edison and Franklin divisions during that time. (See the full award list).

Our robot performance improved greatly after ranking #51 in Edison Division last year.

The FIRST World Championship was held from April 25 to April 28, 2012 in the America’s Center and Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, MO.  More than 30,000 people from 640 Jr. FLL, FLL, FTC and FRC teams attended this event, some traveling across the globe. With more than 2,000 FTC teams from around the world in the 2011-12 season, only about 6% of the teams would earn an invitation to this World Championship event. Each team had to first go through a series of qualifying and championship tournaments from different State or countries to get qualified.

This FTC “Bowled Over” season, lifting crates as high as possible was the game changer. Our robot did not have a high lift.  In fact, its scissor arm only occupied ¼ of the robot size, and was not even 8 feet tall, which made other tall bots extremely intimidating to us. However, our robot was solid, versatile, highly sophisticated in sensor feedback. The scissor arm could lift a maximum of 3 crates at the same time; the robot could sense and score the magnet balls, and had hybrid holonomic/tank drive train for high maneuverability and traction, and had a complex autonomous mode strategy using various sensors.

The extremely complex robot seemed to be a Landroids trademark, similar to last year’s robot. If our learning philosophy did not change this year, where science and engineering still supersede the importance of high scoring, then why was there such a large difference in robot performance?

The secret was that we built on what we learned last year in drive train and sensors design, and allotted a lot of time to work out the bugs, perfecting what we already had, instead of doing an overhaul on the robot to build a higher lift before Worlds. This approach required a tremendous amount of will power, not to give in to the peer pressure of raising the “bar/crates” higher while everyone else was frantically doing so.  In the end, our robot was very well rounded (literally), could adapt to game and strategy changes easily, and the design addressed different mission challenges equally. The consistency, reliability and diversity paid off at Worlds!

We also devote a lot of time to learn other skills, finding new projects to keep the members interested year round, and actively creating new ways to share our experiences and creations with others.

Back home from the World Championship, it’s time to unpack and catch up on lots of school work and exams, and move on to other outreach activities in planning for the season.  We have met so many great FIRST teams and volunteers, made some strong bonds with our alliance teams, and formed friendships with teams from around the world. This trip to St. Louis was indeed an exceptional experience.

For photos of the FTC World Championship, see here. For the FTC award ceremony video, click here.

March Reflection

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After 6 months of non-stop FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) training and competitions, Landroids finally got a short break in March, before heading out to the FTC World Championship in St. Louis at the end of April.

Since September, our team has attended one workshop, one field trip, 3 scrimmages, hosted 4 outreach exhibitions, volunteered at 2 FLL tournaments, hosted 1 FLL qualifier and 1 FTC mid-season workshop, volunteered at 2 FTC qualifiers, competed in 2 FTC qualifiers and 3 State Championships, mentored 2 FLL teams, 4 FTC teams, 1 FRC team  (….and a partridge in a pear tree).

In addition, our team members also have answered many technical “how do you do this?” emails from other FLL and FTC teams, from all over the country throughout the year.  It has been a busy time with an event almost every weekend.

Reflecting on our second FTC season, thankfully, there weren’t as many changes in our robot design from tournament to tournament as there were in our rookie year. Our signature omni-wheel holonomic drive was decided upon since Day 1 and our team developed a wish list of our robot capabilities. Each person took on a personal project of their choice to develop an aspect of the robot. Some crazy ideas took as long as 4 months for the first implementation.

With all the hard work, we won the Inspire Award at NJ State FTC Championship, which earned us an invitation to St. Louis!

Now March is a month for recharging and researching.  We are learning electronics, training each other to broaden our horizons, and working on our own Arduino projects.  After all, the robot needs both hardware and software development, we thrive on learning new things!

Liberty Science Center Eweek Robotics Exhibition, 2012

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Landroids FTC team#4220 hosted our 5th annual Liberty Science Center (LSC) robotics exhibition during Engineers Week on President’s Day, where the top 2011-12 award winning NJ FRC, FTC, FLL and Jr. FLL teams are invited. Over 100 FIRST volunteers participated in this exhibition.

The attending teams were:

FTC 4420 LandroidsLivingston Robotics Club (Host, NJ FTC State Inspire Award Winner 2012)
FTC 4486 Mad Science, Madison High School (NJ State FTC Winning Alliance 2nd pick)

FRC 11 MORT, Mt. Olive High School (2011 Chairman’s Award at Palmetto Regional)
FRC 3314 Mechanical Mustangs, Clifton High School (2010 Rookie Inspiration)

FLL 3064 Robo Worriors, Edison (#1 NJ State FLL Robot Performance Award)
FLL 4220 CyberHawks, Haldrum Middle School  (#1 NJ State FLL Champion, #3 Robot Performance Award)
FLL 4669 Exit 5 RoboticsLivingston Robotics Club (#2 NJ State FLL Champion, #4 Robot Performance Awards)
FLL 5152 Cannibal Tunas, Flanders (#1 NJ State FLL Programming, #2 Robot Performance Award)
FLL 5210 ex nihilo, Stanhope  (#1 NJ State FLL Strategy & Innovation Award)

Jr. FLL 1242: Brain BuildersLivingston Robotics Club (NJ State Jr FLL  Expo – Great Effort in Learning Award)

Special Guest: MakerBot (3-D printing robot)

Click HERE for event photos.

Robots at Liberty Science Center

For more than 4 years, Landroids has been bringing FIRST teams to Liberty Science Center during the annual Engineers Week Exhibition on President’s Day.  With close to a year of planning and discussions, the science center was finally an official qualifier venue for NJ FIRST LEGO League and FIRST Tech Challenge.  Landroids initiated this partnership by hosting the pilot NJ FIRST LEGO League Qualifier at this science museum this past December.

Come join our team again on February 20, 2012 (no school on President’s Day) for the 5th annual Engineers Week FIRST exhibition, where we will invite a dozen award winning FRC, FTC, FLL and Jr. FLL teams for a day of joint exhibition.  4,000 visitors from the tri-State areas are expected.  Come early!

Here is a video from the 2011 NJ FLL “Food Factor” qualifier at Liberty Science Center.

Transforming “Bowled Over”

Transformer image

Deep down inside, we knew that one day, robots will morph, grow and expand at will like the Transformers.  This year’s FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) “Bowled Over” is just such game, inviting a dramatic transformation from an 18” cube to a 10 feet+ tall crate lifting giant.  Perhaps sky (or ceiling) is the limit?

Throughout science fiction history, people are fascinated with something that can unfold itself from a dormant stage, and rise above ground.  Similarly, at each tournament, mind’s voices are echoing in our heads:  How high will it go?  Will it be stable?  Will it break the last record?  Does it work?  All eyes on top, envying and admiring the engineering achievements, while silently estimating the high scores that would soon be prominently publicized across the web in a viral frenzy.

This season, each FTC team is set out to defy gravity with just one racquet ball needed in each plastic crate, regardless if the lifting design is flimsy or solid.  As the season progresses, most robots have become a one trick wonder, taking the game off the 2-D plane.  Each new height ignites a wave of redesigns, often generates many déjà vu look alike as well.  High scoring mission, such as lifting crates, became the top and only design goal for many to be competitive. It is impressive to see the ingenuity in implementing different mechanical concepts along with the time and effort required to achieve a reliable design.

Meanwhile, the theme of the challenge, the bowling balls, is taking a backseat in the corner, hopefully, out of robots’ way. Dozens more racquet balls, ignored for their single digit point value, scattered around as inconvenient obstacles to jam wheels.  Magnet balls or not, paled in comparison to the rising crates.  Most teams, even the rookies, are pressured to abandon these lower scoring missions. To win, a single high scoring lifting robot can easily overshadow a pair of well rounded alliance.  Finding a complimentary partner is no longer a necessity; finding an alliance who can double the lifting would be a lot more effective.

So if this year’s FTC challenge is to explore different lifting mechanism and encourage maximum scores, it has definitely achieved that goal regardless what the name of the game says. But if FTC’s mission is to encourage exploration of more innovative science and technology as well, then our team could be on a lonely path…..

Nourishing Our Roots

Four years ago this month in 2007, team Landroids received our first of the two NJ State FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Champion’s Award as a FLL rookie.  In midst of surprise and shock, the words that described a Champion’s Award recipient as the “total embodiment of FIRST” was forever etched in our minds. Ever since that day, the Landroids have continued to strive for excellence, explore learning opportunities, and spread the value of FIRST in different ways.  We never forget where we came from when we devote our time to give back to the FLL and FTC communities, and always remember our crazy rookie seasons.

Four years later, in our 5th FIRST season as a FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) team, we stood in the high-five line of the NJ FLL State Championship tournament, congratulating a new generation of FLL award winning teams and champions. It seemed that we have gone back to our roots and home.

During the past 7 weeks, the Landroids competed in only one FTC qualifier, but volunteered in FLL and FTC every weekend non-stop.  In addition, our members mentored two new FLL teams this season; one was a startup from an inner-city team, and the other was a team of children with learning differences.  Both teams received Judges Award at the regionals.  Meanwhile, we also volunteered as referees at a 30-team statewide FLL practice event, hosted the pilot FIRST LEGO League qualifier at Liberty Science Center (LSC), and worked as referees and floor judges at the NJ FLL State Championship.

In the FTC front, the Landroids set up a Thanksgiving Tinker Day with four rookie FTC teams to help them get ready for the upcoming qualifiers; two of them are now qualified for the NJ State Championship.

Most recently, we volunteered at our high school FTC qualifier even though we are not a school team.  While volunteering as field controls, referees and queuers, in between rounds our members also traversed between different teams to help them troubleshoot in order to get them back onto the field to compete.  When all else failed, we stood in for them, as we did for 3 teams on some rounds to keep the matches going. It was truly a very busy day.

When it was all said and done, the highlight of this string of events was probably seeing our beloved science museum embrace a FIRST partnership, and also meeting the FLL Game Designer Scott Evans again in person at the NJ FLL State Championship.

For 4 years, Landroids have been hosting an annual robotics exhibition during Engineering Week on President’s Day at Liberty Science Center.  The idea was to showcase the award winning New Jersey Jr. FLL, FLL and FTC teams for a one-day joint exhibition, while creating a community of bonding and idea exchange between teams. Not to mention these events drew in 3,500 to 4,000 visitors to the science museum.  Many young faces that were captured in the event photos over the years later proudly met up with us again with their own teams.  The magic of robots was so exhilarating that Liberty Science Center (LSC) decided to formally host a FLL and a FTC qualifier this year. Meanwhile, planning of the 5th annual LSC Eweek Robotics Exhibition is underway. Landroids will be sending out the invites after the New Year!

Also, meeting Scott Evans as part of the NJ FLL 10th anniversary celebration was equally heart-warming. Scott fondly recalled seeing the Landroids’ Smart Move robot as the only bridge climbing robot at the 2010 FLL World Festival, bringing a smile to his face. It wasn’t the top scoring or fastest robot (only 375 points at the WF), but it consistently climbed the bridge every round with time to spare as a stand-in robot, operated by one robot handler who also doubled as the volunteer queuer.  Why climb the bridge?  Because the challenge was there!  We didn’t care that the bridge wasn’t worth as many points as the alternative option. Somehow, Scott noticed. This philosophy of learning is more important than scoring, which continued into our rookie “Get Over It” FTC season where we pursued the magnet batons.

As we wrap up 2011, thankful of all the friends and teams we met through the world of FIRST, the Landroids look forward to another exciting year in 2012, hoping to learn, inspire, connect and have fun!

Landroids Thanksgiving Tinker, 11/26/11

Landroids Thanksgiving Tinker 40

While most people were carving turkey and shopping for deals during the Thanksgiving weekend, team Landroids spent the Thanksgiving Saturday with a couple rookie teams tinkering with the robots. We put away our robot and focus on making rookie teams’ robots functional and operational for the upcoming FTC qualifiers.  Four rookie FTC teams joined us during this long weekend: Sparks 4936 (Princeton), Carbonauts #5005 (Wyckoff), SyBorgs #5205 (Kendall Park), and RoboTux #5398 (Holmdel). Most had to drive an hour to our Livingston Clubhouse.

This season, NJ had an influx of two dozens new FTC teams, many expanded from the veteran FTC teams, but some are a pilot school program or a new neighborhood venture with no access to experienced mentors.  During the competition event, there was minimal time for us to provide any lasting assistance while being torn between a quick fix or getting queued up for the next match. We felt that during mid-season is the best time for some hand-on guidance, since most teams by now had a chance to get familiarize with the challenge and robot building.  Also, being a rookie last season, we understand how stressful and frustrating it could be during the tournament when the robot is not readied for the competition or eased to work during the tournament.

Therefore, the Landroids Thanksgiving Tinker day idea was conceived to create a relaxing and non-competitive atmosphere for teams to work side-by-side and learn from each other.  New teams who have a similar grass root start as the Landroids were invited.  Due to limited time and space we had, only four teams could be accommodated, and the spots filled up within days! Read more »

“Bowled Over”: Full Speed Ahead

Bowling-Ball

In the past 4 weekends, NJ FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) has already held 5 scrimmages. With the numerous opportunities to test their designs at scrimmages, NJ FTC teams have developed and demonstrated some pretty impressive capabilities to tackle the “Bowled Over” challenge.  From different designs for mass-harvesting balls into crates, pushing the 6-pound bowling ball up the home goal ramp, high lifting, and stacking the crates, to our team scoring the magnet ball in the off-field goal last week, many NJ teams consistently display an array of ingenuity and innovation to meet this year’s challenges.  The sophistication in designs and the number of teams able to achieve these tasks so early in the season, has always been a driving force for everyone to work even harder.

Our second year participating in the FTC challenge has once again introduced a new set of learning opportunities to the Landroids.  Fortunately, what we learned last year has laid a good foundation to build upon, allowing us to experiment with new ideas.  Interestingly, we are once again pursuing the magnet this year. Compared to last year, where batons were lined up in a dispenser, this year’s magnet balls are all over the place: sounds like a new challenge to tackle!

In mid-November, NJ will start the first of  four regional qualifiers. Many teams now have robots for achieving the different missions, but the big question is: whose robot can make the best combination of different capabilities to conquer the missions?

Landroids invited to X PRIZE Exploration Prize Group press event, 10/6/11

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On 10/6/11, team Landroids was invited to attend the X PRIZE Foundation press conference held at the historic NYC Explorer’s Club, as the 2010 MoonBots champions and young ambassadors of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education. (For more event photos and details, see Landroids’ Facebook).

In this press event, X PRIZE announced their new three-year, $9 million partnership with Shell for the new X PRIZE Exploration Prize Group, designed to foster innovation through exploration to improve life on Earth through an incentive prize model to stimulate innovation, competition and collaboration. The X Prize Foundation also announced a new viral video competition, challenging citizen global filmmakers to make documentaries of “Why do YOU explore?” to win an once in a lifetime trip with National Geographic to a location of the winner’s choice.  In doing so, X PRIZE hopes to reignite public interests in exploration in the frontiers of Space, Seas, and Earth.

Landroids was the only student group invited to exhibit at this exclusive event.  We showcased our 2011 grand prize award winning Google Lunar X PRIZE LEGO Mindstorms Moonbot robot and video documentaries as a prime example of X PRIZE’s education outreach in the field of exploration.  Setting up a display on an antique table at the historical Explorers Club, arranging our robots between a posing 8-foot-tall polar bear and an old sled used to explore the North and South Poles, our team talked about our Moonbots journey and FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) robot design.  Employing what we had learned in sensor usages and LabView programming during the Moonbots competition in 2010, had help us won the Innovate Award in FIRST Tech Challenge the subsequent season, and enable our team to successfully completed our internship projects using LabView while working with NJIT Biomedical Engineering department this summer.

During the live web cast, the X PRIZE CEO, Dr. Peter Diamandis, acknowledged the Landroids as a team of young innovative leaders in the community and conducting incredible outreach in STEM education. We were extremely honored to have captured the attentions of many renown explorers, executives of X PRIZE and Shell, as well as reporters by showing them the innovation and passion of the younger generation. Read more »

Bowled Over Season Started

FTC Field Bowled Over 4

It has been 3 weeks since the FTC kickoff, we are off to a slow start.

After an extremely busy summer, Landroids took a team field trip to visit the NYC World Maker Faire on 9/17/11.  It was an inspirational day to see all the different robots, electronics, and 3-D printings. Our team was the first ones to lined up at the gate in the morning and was among the last visitors to leave after dark.  As a Landroids tradition, we always wrap up a long day with a nice team dinner before heading home in exhaustion but with a big smile.

The following weekend, we set up our new FTC field. This year’s “Bowled Over” field was a lot easier to build, most of the field elements were store bought, and there was very little painting to do.  However, those racket balls became a juggler’s dream and those bowling balls are just a field railings’ nightmare.  Perhaps after this season is over, we should have a juggling contest and a FTC bowling night with the surrounding FTC teams.

Being that our entire team of six members are in 10th grade this year, all of the sudden, there seem to be SAT, PSAT, ACT tests lining up every Saturday of the month. Team meetings have turned into SAT studying groups with round table study game. Participate in weekend events require some long term strategically planning. Hopefully, after most of us are done with these tests, we can  have more time to focus on robot.

Introducing FLL to Orange Schools

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Team Landroids recently kickoff the FIRST LEGO League program in Orange School district.

In collaboration with Real World Connections of NJIT, and with the support and approval from the Orange School Superintendent and the town Mayor, our team went to Orange Preparatory Academy (OPA) to present FIRST and robotics to students during their back to school orientation. Read more »

FTC “Bowled Over”

FTC Bowled Over logo

With much anticipation followed a full day of FTC workshop, the 2011 FIRST Tech ChallengeBowled Over” was finally revealed on September, 10, 2011.

One of our team member has corrected guessed “bowling”, but certainly not bowling uphill, tripping over 100 racket balls while stacking crates and picking out the magnetic balls.  With the new season, a brand new robot design is warranted.  However, at this point, we can’t predict what our robot will eventually look like at the end of the season.  Based on what we learned last year, our robot is going to morph and change many times in the first 3 months, from conceptual to actual….so your guess is as good as ours.

NJ FIRST LEGO League Team Directory 2011-12 (updated 10/3/11)

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The 4th annual unofficial NJ FLL Team Directory 2011-12 is now available. A total of 163 New Jersey FIRST LEGO League teams had signed up to compete in the “Food Factor” season as of 9/30/11.

Anyone who wishes to find a team, networking, recruiting or mentoring, can now utilize the official FIRST TeamUp weblink.

If you need further assistance, please contact coach@landroids.org.

“MoonBots Reloaded” Video

Capturing Landroids’  5-week “MoonBots Reloaded” summer robotics outreach, in collaboration with Real World Connections at New Jersey Institute of Technology, here is the documentary video.

“Moonbots Reloaded” 2011

Landroids Moonbots Reloaded RWC Presentation

Summer 2011 has so far been an extremely busy time for the Landroids. Earlier this year, our team has decided to “take the summer off” to recharge, and not compete in the Moonbots 2.0 challenge.  Well, the “time off” idea turned out to be a wishful thinking for a short while. Instead, this summer, the entire team is participating in two Biomedical Engineering and Computer Science internships at NJIT, attended 2 courses of synthetic biology in NYC. On top of that, we are also partnering with Real World Connections (RWC) and the Capstone Program at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) to introduce robotics to the inner city middle school and high school students.

Our ambitious summer plan started in June when approached by RWC to recruit our team as their summer robotics track instructors.  The six Landroids 9th grade students became the youngest instructors ever in the RWC history, whereas typically, these positions are filled by the NJIT Capstone Program graduate students.

With Google Lunar X PRIZE’s blessings, we designed a 5-weeks fun but intense robotics curriculum known as the “Moonbots Reloaded”, modeled after the on-going, real world Moonbots 2.0 competition, and conducted this robotics course concurrently with the Moonbots Phase 2 challenge during the summer. Our goal is to reach out to a new sector of students, most of whom are not currently interested in STEM or experienced in robotics.  How to make them from zero to hero in 5 weeks would be a new challenge for our team. Read more »

Student Robotics Meets Medical Robotics

More than a hundred thirty members and parents from 17 FIRST robotics teams, with students ranging from kindergarten to high school, coming from Livingston, Short Hills, Cedar Grove, Springfield, Old Bridge, Glen Rock, Morris Plain and Kendall Park, all gathered at the St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, NJ on June 24 for a day of surgical robotics adventure.

The 2010-11 “Body Forward” challenge season might be over for most FLL and Jr. FLL teams, but the interest in biomedical engineering is still going strong and moving forward in Livingston.

Thanks to the St. Barnabas Medical Center who had sponsored the 2011 Livingston Robotics Club Jr. FIRST LEGO League Expo on Memorial Day weekend, the hospital had also opened its doors and the students’ eyes to the world of surgical robotics and real world application of biomedical engineering. Read more »

Life after FLL = FTC

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It is that time of the year to think about what to do this upcoming September as the next step for your graduating FLL team.

FIRST LEGO League (FLL) is challenging, exciting, rewarding and just plain fun. But all good things must come to an end, right? What do you do when the team aged out at 14? Well, don’t worry! The FIRST organization also sponsors a high school level program that has a lot of the same elements that make FLL so great. FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) builds on everything you’ve accomplished in FLL. You still using the same LEGO Mindstorms brick and can use all the LEGO parts and sensors.  The robot are just a little bigger….and now, more heavy metal!  Plus, there is no research project required, just more robot time! Read more »

2011 FTC FIRST World Championship INNOVATE Award Robot Design

Hailed by the judges at the 2011 FTC FIRST World Championship as the “Alphabet Soup of Innovations”, the Landroids’ robot won the 2011 Rockwell Collins Innovate Award for its innovative and creative design in the ”Get Over It” season.

Since day one of our rookie FTC season, Landroids has decided to set our goal on actively detect, sort and manipulate the magnet batons.  This was not an easy task to get “The One”, consider that there were only 2 magnetic batons out of dozens batons that were randomly stored in three different dispensers of various heights.

How to precisely detect the magnet baton and be able to pick it up to put it into a 2″ diameter rolling goal, presented the ultimate challenge.  Once we set our sights on the magnet baton, the entire robot design evolved around this “mission impossible”.  The build season then took a backward approach to defied KISS.  We needed to solve the most difficult engineering challenge first, instead of focus on scoring the most batons. 

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Junior FIRST LEGO League Expo 2011, 5/28/11

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After months of planning, a late night packing followed with an early morning setup, team Landroids has successfully hosted the 2nd annual Livingston Robotics Club (LRC) Jr. FIRST LEGO League Expo on 5/28/11.  This is the largest outdoor Jr.FLL Expo in the nation, held under a 60’ x 40’ tent, took place alongside with the Family Festival Day during Livingston Youth Appreciation Week on the Memorial Day weekend.  There were 16 Jr. FLL teams from NJ participated in this Expo, with three of the LRC teams: Landroids, Landrias and Exit 5 Robotics, plus the Lancers, demonstrated the FTC and FLL robots.

This year, in line with the “Body Forward” theme, the Expo was sponsored by the Saint Barnabas Medical Center.  Three Robotic Surgery surgeons from St. Barnabas graciously took time from their long weekend to serve as the judging reviewers for the Expo. The Jr. FLL teams were really excited and in awe with the real doctors, while the doctors were impressed with these inquisitive and innovative young minds.

Also, as part of the Expo, the BioBus came in from New York City to provide the participants and the public an opportunity to onboard the bus, and to use lab-quality microscopes to look at the micro-organisms.  Saint Barnabas Medical Center has graciously invited the Expo participants to try on their “da Vinci” robotics surgical system and to observe a live procedure using the da Vinci in the near future.

To wrap up Landroids’ busy season, as a team tradition, the Landroids spent the Memorial Day Sunday playing by the water.  We had two dozen friends and families showed up at the beach throughout the day, enjoying a day of sunshine doing lots of sailing, windsurfing and kayaking.  Now let the summer begins!

For photos from Jr. FLL Expo, see the Landroids Facebook.

Landroids featured in Moonbots 2.0 promotion

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The 2nd annual Moonbots challenge sponsored by Google, X PRIZE Foundation, Mindstorms and Wire Magazine is now underway!

This new 2011 season is dubbed a the “Moonbots 2.0“.  While team Landroids was at the FTC World Championship in St. Louis, the X PRIZE Foundation had interviewed us as the 2010 Moonbots grand prize winner, and also team Shadow Craters who was the 2nd place winner.   In 2010, there were 212 teams from 16 countries participated in this off-season robotics and science competition, we hope that there will be even more kids age 9 to 17 joinning this year to learn about lunar exploration and take on the robotics challenge. (See Landroids’ Moonbots website: Lunar Landroids, and the 2010 Moonbots team)

Registration and submittal deadline for Moonbots 2.0 Phase 1 is 6/13/11, which will require a team Biography, a team Photo, a video related to space exploration, and a 1 page robot funding proposal. Twenty (20) teams will be selected for Phase 2 and given a Moonbots field and a Moonbots banner for the robot missions and outreach activities.  The required robot missions for scoring will then be shown to the judges via Skype (and an on-board video camera) at a pre-designated date and time.  See Landroids’ 2010 winning robot mission video (scoring 330 out of 350 points).  We were invited to Denmark as the grand prize!

Landroids is taking this summer off, and would like to wish everyone Good Luck with Moonbots 2.0!  The experience and what you learn are well worth it!  Have fun shooting for the moon!

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NJ FTC State “Get Over It” Championship Video

To document the NJ “Garden State Rumble” FTC State Championship for the “Get Over It” challenge, team Landroids and Livingston Robotics Club have produced a video for the off-season FTC outreach and promotions.  Thank you to all of the NJ World Championship teams for contributing team photos for this video.

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Landroids won Innovate Award at 2011 FTC World Championship

In our rookie FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) season, Landroids has received the prestigious Rockwell Collins Innovate Award, and was nominated for the Think Award at the 2011 FTC World Championship. This event was held at the America’s Center and Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, MO from April 27-30, attended by the top 128 teams from countries such as US, Canada, Mexico and Netherlands.

Landroids actively seek out the magnet batons and was the first team scored a magnet baton at the  2011 FIRST World Championship using the unique pneumatic arm. We then proceeded to score another one on day 2 of the robot matches.  Only one other team was able to score one magnet baton at the World.

Besides scoring on the competition field for the Winning Alliance and Final Alliance awards, teams were also competing for technical awards given for the robot design (Innovate), engineering notebook (Think), community outreach (Connect), CAD rendering (PTC Design), team spirits (Motive), and the ultimate prestigious (Inspire) Award.  New this year was the coach and mentor nomination for the Compass Award. (See 2011 FTC World Championship Awards Listing)

Among the 66 FTC teams in New Jersey, six were selected to go to St. Louis, which included two Livingston teams: Landroids #4220 with mostly 9th graders; and Lancers #3415 Livingston High School with members grades 9 to 12. Also attended the World Championship from NJ were Say Watt? #3539, CHS Cougars #4102, Timothy Tigers #4301 and Pope John #4391.  Four of the six teams were rookies.

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Landroids won 1st place State eCYBERMISSION Award

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Landroids has won the 2011 1st place NJ State 9th grade eCYBERMISSION award on April 18, 2011. (See eCYBERMISSION Press Release).

This is the 2nd year that the Landroids has participated in the US Army sponsored web-base eCYBERMISSION science competition.  In 2010, the Landroids won the 8th grade 1st place National Award.  This year, our team focused on the beach erosion project which proposed to use submersible wave pumps and wave energy enhanced with Coanda effect to self-replenish the beaches.  This was a research project which we started 2 years ago during the FLL Climate Connections season, but had kept an extensive engineering notebook documented with continued experiments and ideas.

Juggling between multiple science competitions and the intense FTC robotics tournaments this season had proven to be a challenge in itself.  As a State 1st place eCYBERMISSION winner, each one of the four CYBER-Landroids members will receive a $1,000 EE bond award from the US Army.  The 9th grade team also qualifies for the eCYBERMISSION Internship Program (eCIP) this summer at a university lab.

Google Science Fair Interviewed team Landroids

It seemed like an odd choice for Google to be interested in interviewing the Landroids,…. in addition to talking with several renowned scientists from around the world to promote the Google Science Fair.  After all, isn’t Landroids just a neighbor robotics team who plays with LEGO?

Somehow, Google knew that team Landroids is not just about robots.  Building the fastest and highest scoring robot to battle it out on the competition field was never our end goal; there are plenty of teams who could do that. However, devoting our passion in engineering the most intrigue robot for fun, spending a lot of time researching topics unrelated to robotics, and constantly finding innovative ways to inspire other students to be interested in science and technologies, are the essence that make our team different.

When Google wanted to find these unique young scientists and engineers, Landroids was the FIRST team that they sought out.

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Landroids Robot visits Liberty Science Center, 3/26/11

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Hi-Robot! The Landroids robot was a hit at Liberty Science Center!

The claw-waving, light blinking, sound chattering, wheel spinning Landroids-bot was invited back to Liberty Science Center for a visit on Saturday, 3/26/11. For those who missed it during the Eweek robotics exhibition, this award winning FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) robot spent a day playing with the young children, navigated through the dark winding Touch Tunnel, and entertained guests with mesmerizing lights and sounds at nation’s largest IMAX Dome theater.  Many children interacted with the robot as if it was a “human” with a hand.  They waved and shook hand with the robot, suggested more than 60 different names for it, and fed it with batons throughout the day.

It was a fun day for the Landroids to take the robot out of the competition field, and make it a personable and interactive way to spread the words about the FIRST programs.

Championship, Exhibition, Outreach, Competition

Talk about multi-tasking to the max! Somehow, Landroids managed to compete in a FTC Championship, host a robotics exhibition, setup a new clubhouse, on camera for a Google interview, submit for a science competition, participate in a FTC outreach, and be featured in an online magazine, all in two week’s time! Read more »

NJ Garden State Rumble – 2011 FTC Championship 2/19/11

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(Excerpt from NJ FTC Press & Media Notice and Release, February 10, 2011)

On Saturday, February 19th, sporting events at the NJIT Fleisher Athletic Center in Newark, NJ will give way to 48 high school robotics teams as they compete at the 2011 New Jersey FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) State Championship.

The event will run from 10 AM to 5 PM and is FREE to the public.  FTC is the fastest growing FIRST program in New Jersey. This is a winners-only tournament, so spectators and fans will see the best 48 teams in the region that have qualified to advance to the Championship by scoring well at regional state events held since October 2010.

Two winning teams at the NJ FTC will be eligible to compete at the FTC World Championship to be held in late April in St. Louis, MO.

See NJ FTC Championship Team List 2011

Updated: March 7, 2011: For final results and list of winners, click HERE

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Liberty Science Center Eweek Exhibition 2011

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The 4th Annual Liberty Science Center Engineers Week Exhibition, hosted by FTC team Landroids #4220 will be held at Liberty Science Center, Jersey City, NJ on Monday, February 21, 2011, from 9 AM to 4 PM.

Celebrating the 60th anniversary of Engineers Week, and following the tradition of inviting the top New Jersey FIRST LEGO League,  FIRST Tech Challenge, and Jr. FLL  winning teams, this joint robotics exhibition typically draws 4,000+ visitors from the tri-State area.  This year, Landroids will also feature our 2010 award winning Moonbots as part of this annual exhibition. Read more »