Status on Fall Plan

Early in October the team documented the hands on learning plan for the fall.

  • 10 people – Coding
  • 10 people – CAD
  • 10 people – Drive train
  • 10 people – Driving
  • 10 people – Pneumatics
  • 10 people – Electrical

Everything in green is complete.


  • The coding team will focus on learning how to code in Java, how the team’s git hub works and how to program some of the 2015’s robot’s simpler functions
  • The published code from other teams and analyze the way in which it was organized, and how it performed.
  • The coding team will then break down into two sub teams. one working on linear driving and the other working on target tracking.


  • The CAD team will work on CADing a 6 wheel drop center west coast drive base, identifying all of the gear box ratio to Feet Per Second (FPS) options and create a Bill Of Materials (BOM) with suppliers.
  • The CAD team will then review CAD from models from other teams from past years and make a list of findings to share with the whole team.
  • The CAD team will then CAD a west coast 6 wheel drop center H-drive west coast drive base, identifying all of the gear box ratio to Feet Per Second (FPS) options and create a Bill Of Materials (BOM) with suppliers.

Drive train

  • The drive train team will look at the drive trains from the Einstein finalists from the last 3 years and make a list of findings to share with the whole team.
  • The drive train team will disassemble and then reassemble the 2014 Kit of Parts base. The drive team will measure its acceleration, velocity and torque.
  • The drive train team will then change the gear ratio and again measure its acceleration, velocity and torque.
  • Lastly, the drive train team will change the wheel type and sizes while recording and calculating the acceleration, velocity and torque for each configuration.


  • The driving team will reach out to the 2015 drive team to document lessons learned that can be shared with the whole team.
  • The driving team will practice driving once a week focusing on different skills; turning, going over objects, aligning and speed transitioning.
  • The driving team will host a driving test to select our 2016 drivers.


  • The pneumatics team will watch training videos and read FRC pneumatics materials
  • The Pneumatics team will assemble a pnuemtaics board with everything an FRC robot would need to control 2 double acting and 2 single acting cylinders.
  • The pneumatics team will work with the coding and electrical teams to wire and code the board to test.


  • The electrical will look at the electrical systems from the Einstein finalists from the last 3 years and make a list of findings to share with the whole team.
  • The electrical team will assemble a complete electrical test board with 6 motors, 2 gear boxes, 2 encoders, 2 limit switches, 2 ir sensors and 2 ultrasonic sensors.
  • The electrical team will CAD up a mobile electrical system and create a Bill Of Materials (BOM) with suppliers for system with 4 pneumatic cylinders and 10 motors.


In addition to the hands on learning plan above we have been doing mentor lectures once a week and assigned all of the students a research project.

  • Mentor – Game Strategy
  • Mentor – Tool Training Session 1
  • Mentor – Electrical Systems
  • Mentor – Drive Train 11/4/2015
  • Mentor – Pneumatics 11/6/2015
  • Mentor – Gears, Pulleys, Belts, Chains O My 11/14/2015
  • Mentor – CAD Part 1 11/16/2015
  • Mentor – CAD Part 2 11/21/2015
  • Mentor – Tool training Session 2 11/21/2015
  • Mentor – Mechanisms 11/23/2015
  • Mentor – Suppliers and Fasteners 11/30/2015
  • Mentor – Season Schedule 12/7/2015
  • Students – Research presentations 12/12/2015
  • Mentor – Trade Studies 12/14/2015
  • Team – Mock kick Off 12/19/2015

And for a first time this year the team has been participating in a lot of off season events and learning sessions

  • Meet with Federal Level political leaders
  • Off Season Event: Battle O’Baltimore
  • Off Season Event: Girl Power
  • Meet with Montgomery County School Board
  • Baltimore Alliance Education Day
  • Meet with Montgomery County Interim Superintendent
  • Off Season Event: Rumble in the Roads
  • Bechtel FRC Programming Workshop
  • Meet with State level political leaders

lastly, The team had a goal of raising $68,000 for the season. So far we have raised nearly $20,000. So we are nearly 1/3 to our goal.

Kickoff is Coming in 2 Months

Each year in early January thousands of FRC students from around the world learn what the FRC game for that season will be.  They meet in class rooms, auditoriums and houses to get together to learn the rules and start designing a robot. It is often referred to as Robo New Years because the excitement is almost as intense as seeing the ball drop in time square.  This year’s kick off will be held at Woodrow Wilson High School on January 9th. It starts at 8 and goes to noon. After kickoff the team will be traveling back to Walt Whitman to go over the rules and break down the game.

FIRST_FRC-Program-Excitement  FIRST_FRC-Program-ItsaExp_0

 To prepare for kickoff this year the team will be going over trade studies, game analysis techniques and run a mock kick off.  All team members should plan on attending these activities so that you can hit the ground running in January.

  • 12/7/2015 – we go over the spring schedule in detail
  • 12/14/2015 – we go through trade studies
  • 12/19/2015 – mock kick off

Monday We Went Over Electrical Systems

The electrical system is the Most Important System on your robot. It is the system that moves the mechanical system around. Getting your electrical system right is critical to your team’s success.

We went through the complete 2015 electrical system diagram from FIRST and here is sample of some of the things we talked about;

  • The difference between power and control
  • How many cells are in an FRC battery: 6
  • How many volts should a good FRC battery have: near or over 13 volts
  • What the main breaker protects: wires
  • What are wires: resisters
  • What protects the electrical components: the gauge of the wire and the fuse on the power distribution board
  • We talked about digital power curves vs analog power curves: the top is analog
  • What is a spike: a electrical switch controlled by code
  • What is a solenoid: a fluid switch controlled by code
  • The voltage regulation module is a transformer: it converts DC to AC
  • The Power distribution board distributes: power
  • The RoboRio distributes and collects: control signals
  • There are five types of motor controllers available to the team: Victor, Jaguar, Talon, Talon SRX and Victor SP
  • The team will be using which of the motor controllers for the 2016 season: Vistor SP
  • What does the light do: keep you safe
  • What can a motor do: change electrical energy to mechanical energy and vice versa
  • The pneumatic control module regulates: solenoids
  • What is the maximum amperage the CIM motor can consume: 40 amps
  • Anderson connectors: critical
  • Connectors and wiring: need to be done very well
  • The radio look like ht only: new electrical component for 2016

After going through all of the components of the electrical system we went through how these components are used in an FRC robot. We studied our 2015 robot and as well as other team’s robots to look for things we have done well, things we are not doing and places where we can improve.

Below are some great electrical resources student can use to get to know more about this critical system.

Here are some great electrical systems to emulate.


Next Monday we go over drive trains

Drive Team Try Outs

On December 5th we are going to have drive team try outs. This is going to be the first time the team picks a drive team in the fall and it should give out drivers a lot more time to practice driving prior to competition season.  If you are interested in being a driver we highly recommend you watch Symbiotic Scouting and match Strategy Video.


We are going to select our drivers based on the results of the following:

If you are interested in driving or coaching please sign up here.

We need a Safety Glasses Sponsor

eyewearThe team is running low on safety glasses and need to replenish its stock.  We are in need of 48+ pairs of safety glasses for the season.  If you or your company would be willing to donate some or all of the safety glasses we need please contact  Or you can surprise us and mail them to 7100 Whittier Blvd, Bethesda, MD 20817 Attn: Walt Whitman Robotics Club.

Safety glasses are worn by every student, volunteer and mentor every time they are in the lab and power tools are being used. They are also mandatory for every person to wear while they are in the pits at competitions.  Since they are worn so often glasses often break or get scratched.  Each year the team need to replace 2 dozen safety glasses to make sure there are enough available for 38 people to be in the lab at any one time, Because we have had a much more successful recruiting effort this year the team thinks it will need enough safety glasses for 45-50 people in the lab at any one time.

Check out our great safety glasses models



Why Should Teams Strive to Get to World Championships

Last week we described what an FRC season looked like. During the explanation we talked a lot about 2016 being the last world championships and why this could change an event that is one of the most amazing things a High School student could attend.

FRC FIRST_FRC-Program-HardestFun FRC_Chicago-2574

Here are some high lights from the discussion;

After the talk one of the students found this video that follows some teams as they prepare for and compete at World Championships. This video will give you a sense of how hard teams work to get World Championships.

All we can say is, Get excited!! This is the year.  The team has 9 rooms booked and is working very hard to earn a slot to World Championships. We are going to need more from everyone; students, parents, mentors, sponsors and our community to earn a spot to the last World Championships in FIRST history.  Please consider joining our team to help us be better.



Meeting with MCPS Interim Superintendent

Walt Whitman Students are working with robotics team from across the country and the county to push for changes in school policies to make starting and running robotics teams easier.  As part of that push we have learned a lot more about how the school system operates and who has the ability to make some of the changes we are asking for.

Over the summer several teams met with the Montgomery County School Board and the Montgomery County Council.  Here is what we asked for;

  • Classify FIRST as a sport and remove cost barriers to access school resources
  • Support addition of teacher stipends for robotics coaches
  • Support and fund hosting Robotics events in MoCo

In asking for the things above we learned the following;

  • Montgomery County does have a path for club sports to transition to varsity
    • The School Board would not support classifying robotics as a sport
    • The school board recommended we also talk to the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) about making robotics a sport at the state level
      • The MPSSAA also has a path for classifying robotics a sport at the state level, but requires 40% of all MPSSAA schools to participate before taking any action
  • Costs that teams incur when using school buildings for team events come from Community Use of Public Facilities (CUPF) policies
  • Teacher stipends are still in the budget
  • The county is interested in funding an FRC event
    • A staffer from County Councilman Hans Riemer’s office has been extremely helpful is identifying funds for the 2016 event
    • We will be submitting a council grant for the 2017 event
  • School Board Members and County Council members are very supportive of the program and are willing to help in any way they can

Based on this first round of conversations the Montgomery County FIRST teams have decided to meet with state level education officials and state level elected officials to learn more about some of the state level programs. But before we do that we have been working to learn more from the Montgomery County School Board and the Interim Superintendent to learn how to best proceed. Last week we followed up with the school board and learned a good bit.  So, next week we will be meeting with Larry A. Bowers  who has been with Montgomery County Public Schools for 37 years, serving in a variety of leadership positions throughout the district. For the past 16 years, he has served as Chief Operating Officer. He will serve as interim superintendent until June 30, 2016. We are interested in some very specific things;

  • Would the School System recommend the ICB waive CUPF fees for robotics
  • Would the School System be willing to recognize Robotics a sport
  • Would the School System provide guidance for school business managers on how to give robotics programs the same purchasing power as athletic programs
  • Could teams get access to tools in the School System warehouse or get the School System to repair the tools already in the schools

Once we are ready we are going to collaborate with teams across the state and push state level leaders to make mentor based after school STEM programs a bigger part of their education solution. These efforts are being led by FRC Team 1111 and MD FIRST and are tentatively scheduled to take place in the next few weeks.



Send us Your Tools

A big thanks to our first tool donor Katie Shvartsman in honor of her dad, Rudy Shvartsman.!!


She donated a lot of pneumatic and electrical equipment that the team will be using to create a pneumatic demo board this year. If you have some old tools laying around or know someone who has some tools they aren’t using our Club is need of a few tools.

Here are some tools we need.

  • Small Lathe & tooling
  • Large Lathe
  • Band saw
  • Two Flute Tap & die set
  • Milling Machine
  • Vice (x4)
  • Arbor Press (x2)
  • Large Drill Press
  • Mitre Saw (x2)
  • Complete drill set (x2)
  • Ratchet Sets (x4)
  • Tool Boxes on wheels (x4)
  • Allen Wrench Set (x4)
  • Through Tap Set
  • File Set
  • Hammers (x6)
  • Vernier Caliper (x6)
  • Micrometer Set (x4)
  • Large Drill Bits ½ – 1” (x2)
  • Table Saw
  • Router Table
  • Drummel
  • Cordless Drill (x4)
  • Hole Saw Set
  • Lathe Bits
  • Mill Bits
  • Saw Blades
  • Mig Welder
  • Tig Welder
  • Scroll Saw
  • Portable band Saw
  • Hand Saw (x6)
  • Hack Saw (x6)
  • Bench Grinder
  • Belt Sander
  • Disk Sander
  • Hand Sander
  • Benchtop Sander
  • Square (x4)
  • Combo Square (x6)
  • Volt Meter (x4)
  • Rivet Gun (x2)
  • Bucking Bar Set (x2)
  • Pnuematic Rivet Press (x2)
  • Autoclave
  • CNC Milling Machine
  • CNC Lathe
  • Water Jet Cutter
  • Oscilloscope
  • Benchtop (AC/DC) Power Supply
  • Butane Table Top Torch
  • Fume Extractor
  • Surge Suppresor
  • Shop Vac
  • Air Compressor
  • Bench Top Multimeter
  • Bench Top Signal Generator
  • Tube Bender
  • Break Press
  • Knurling Tool


To donate tools or materials please contact us at

Don’t have any tools? Please consider Becoming a sponsor today by contacting us at

Thank you very much for your time and contribution.

team photo


Yesterday We Applied for a SWE Grant

Yesterday we applied for The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Grant.  Below are some of the details about the grant and some of the plans we outlined in our response to the grant.

Grant History

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) became a FIRST Strategic Alliance partner in 1999 to establish a framework for both organizations to jointly promote an active interest in science and technology among school-age students while emphasizing the primary goal of increasing the number girls participating in FIRST robotics programs.

About SWE

For more than six decades, the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) has been the driving force that establishes engineering as a highly desirable career aspiration for women. A not-for-profit educational and service organization, SWE empowers women to succeed and advance in those aspirations and receive the recognition and credit for their life-changing contributions and achievements as engineers and leaders.  SWE now offers girls, and boys wishing to advocate for girls in STEM, free membership called SWENext.  Sign up online at SWENext Membership or visit to learn more.

Grant Details

Generously funded through the Motorola Foundation, this grant is meant to recognize teams in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) program for their efforts in creating (rookie) and/or maintaining (veteran) team gender equality in their roster.  More grant details can be found here.


In applying for this grant, the Team/Lead Mentor agree to provide/participate in the following:

  1. Teams must briefly outline their current diversity plan for recruiting new team members, especially girls and the under-served.  If the team has a written plan already in place, please attach a copy.
  2. Teams and their mentors agree to participate in a diversity awareness program available at  Of the four learning modules provided on the site, “Challenges in Outreach” is the only requirement.  Review of the other three modules is encouraged but optional.  Documentation of completion by the team, signed by the lead mentor, will be required by January 1st, 2016.  A certificate of completion will be provided by SWE/FIRST for the team’s records.
  3. Teams agree to invite their local SWE Section(s) to both a team meeting and to the regional/district event where the team will be competing.  Introductions to the Section will be provided by SWE/FIRST. Involvement beyond that, while encouraged, is at the discretion of both the team and the SWE Section.
  4. Teams agree to submit a season recap to FIRST/SWE by June 1st, 2016 including details as to how both the grant and the diversity training provided affected the team as well as a short survey from SWE. Please include season/event photos with the report.
  5. Teams agree to recognize SWE in all their team marketing materials, team shirts and on their robot via an official logo provided by SWE.
  6. All teams receiving this grant are required to submit an official 2015-16 team photo referencing the team name, number and home city/state for inclusion on the SWE website, social media (FIRST and SWE) and all joint efforts surrounding this grant program.


What the Walt Whitman Robotics Club will be Doing to Increase Diversity

  1. Create an org chart to show the team who its leaders are.
  2. Create opportunities for more people to lead.
  3. Participate in events that push the team to step out of our comfort zones.
  4. Change how we recruit students.
  5. Create a divers team of mentors.
  6. Make diversity training a requirement for all students and volunteers.
  7. Work with regional organization to learn more about how to grow diversity SWE, NSBE, SHPE

The team has already seen some success from the additional effort put into growing our team’s diversity and will be the change we want to see. Wish us luck.


We Had a Great Meeting With the School Board on Monday

On Monday October 19th Walt Whitman joined over 30 students from 4 other Montgoemry County Robotics teams to meet with two members of the Montgomery County School board. We talked about FIRST robotics in the county and how they School Board could join our team in making robotics louder.  The team’s were focused on educating the school board and discussing some things the school board could do to hep teams in the county be more successful.

  • Help us change CUPF policies to remove $3,500+ costs per team
  • Help us ensure School Business Managers purchasing policies are streamlined for robotics
  • Help us purchase and maintain tools and secure space in our schools

The teams showed the above presentation and did FRC and FTC robot demos for 3 school board members;

  • Student Member: Eric Guerci
  • District 2: Rebecca Smondrowski
  • At-Large: Jill Ortman-Fouse

After the presentation, we discussed each of the three asks we had in great detail and the school board made some recommendations for the teams to take back with them on work on.

  • Follow up with your school about dual use time to reduce costs
  • Discuss with your school business manager the purchasing policy that is used for athletics and try to get a similar waiver for robotics
  • Get in touch with your school’s administrator in charge of maintenance and file a request to repair school tools
  • Contact the county council to discuss budget for STEM activities
  • Contact the School Superintendent about policies regarding tools

We were also fortunate to have some school officials in attendance:

  • Principal: Damon Monteleone
  • Assistant Principal: Mark Brown

The Richard Montgomery Principal made some great points that really helped move the conversation along.

  • He talked about how RM is able to provide a lot of dual use time to his teams
    • Offered up Richard Montgomery as a working location to other teams
  • He talked about the price per student playing varsity basketball vs playing robotics. It looks like robotics is cheaper
    • Really liked the tag line a sport for the mind
  • He talked about how RM provides sports and theater greater flexibility around spending and how that could be extended to robotics
  • He talked about a warehouse that could be used to replace broken tools
    • The school board talked about getting the team’s an inventory of the warehouse so that they could take advantage of what is in there

Teams in attendance:

  • FRC 449: The Blair Robot Project, Silver Spring
  • FRC 1389: The Body Electric, Bethesda
  • FRC 4099: Falcons FIRST, Poolesville
  • FTC 5421: RM’d and Dangerous, Rockville

After the 120 minute conversation and demo the teams tasked the school board with a few things they could do to help us work on the three asks above.

  • Check on getting robotics teams a debit cards
  • Get robotics teams an inventory of the MCPS storage ware house
  • Work with budget ombudsman’s to create a guidance document for school business managers to work with robotics teams
  • Connect team’s to possible sponsor discussed at the meeting
  • How and where is the teacher stipend money spent


 Thanks for your time Montgomery County School Board. We can’t wait to see what we accomplish!!