Great end to 2015

This fall we attended 3 off season events; the Battle O’Baltimore, Girl Power and Rumble in the Roads. Our alliances placed 6th, 1st and 2nd at the three events which resulted in two additional trophies for the team.  As per tradition (a tradition we started this season) we are presenting the school with our trophies.

award 1 award 2

Thanks for all of your support Dr. Goodwin and all the Walt Whitman Staff for helping our team have its most successful season ever.

We Have Updated Our Team’s History

In 2004 a group of students came together with some very motivated parents to start FRC team 1389. The original name for our team was Popender and the team competed at the 2004 Chesapeake Regional. We had a lot of help from teams 888 the Glenelg Robotiators and team 1111 the Power Hawks who were able to provide parts and guidance on our rookie year robot. The team had a very independent spirit in its rookie year, here is a quote from one the team’s founding members:

My team, 1389, had only 2 adults helping us out, neither of whom were engineers. They did help us very much when needed, but we pretty much took care of things on our own. There is not part of the robot that at least 1 or 2 people don’t COMPLETELY understand, and we figured everything out based on resources on the FIRST website, previous knowledge, trial and error, etc. We were able to learn so much because it is what we had to do in order to build the robot. If adults want to help the team, then teach members off season, so you can test their knowledge during the season. Otherwise, how are they really making any progress?

After our rookie year the team changed its name to team Robit and started to get a bit more serious about making a good robot. We attended a build season scrimmage with 18 other teams and ran into some issue that the team was able to fix prior to competition. This gave us the leg up we needed to perform well at the 2005 Chesapeake Regional. So well in fact that we went on to our first and only World Championships. We also attended our first off season event, Capital Clash which helped our team learn more in the off season and gave us our first taste of eliminations.

The hard work from the previous two seasons paid off in 2006 when the team was selected for the 3rd alliance and made it all the way to the semifinals. This success continued to motivate the team through the off season where they competed in not one but two off season events.

2007 was a tough year for the team. It had lost some of the founding members and some key parents who were doing a lot of the heavy administrative lifting for the team. The team competed at the 2007 Chesapeake Regional, but struggled to put single digits up on the board for their alliance.

In 2008 the team started to get back some of it mojo and attended a build season play day with other teams from the national capital region. However, the team struggled with low team attendance, minimal mentor participation and did not get much traction on or off the field for the next few seasons. One bright spot was that team decided to change its name to the Body Electric in honor of the Walt Whitman Poem by the same name.

In 2010 the team attended the USA Science and Engineering Festival at the National Mall in Washington DC. Also in 2010, as luck would have it the team was a recipient of one of the $5,000 NASA sustaining grants. This funding created some momentum that carried the team into the 2011 season, when the team earned its first winning record and attended its first off season event in over 5 years.

The momentum continued into 2012 when the team earned its way to the semifinals as a first pick at the Greater DC Regional. Walt Whitman also attended two regional events for the first time in the team’s history. With the success came more students and some growing pains. Historically, the team made decisions by committee. But with over 25 kids on the team getting consensus became harder. This resulted in team leadership fractures and an increase in stress for students, mentors and parents. The team’s new teacher Mr. Chen, who was new to FIRST and FRC recognized the need for more structure and started to implement some organization for the 2013 season.

The team performed well in 2013, making into eliminations at its second regional as a first pick, and earned a finalist award. This year over year success led to even more growth and more change for the team. The team pushed through the season, but vowed to examine itself and make the changes necessary to create a great learning environment for the students that would allow the team to continue to succeed.

In 2014 the team was now up to 3 technical mentors, 4 non-technical mentors, 1 teacher and 35 students. This was the largest the team had ever been. The team had also instituted some processes to help with decision making, communication and organization. The team was confident it would have a great season with all of the resources it now had at its disposal. The team did trade studies, used CAD and worked with a supplier to fabricate the drive train all, for the first time in the team’s history. The team’s expectations were high, however delays with fabrication and taking on more than the team could accomplish resulted in a robot that had to be rebuilt between our two regional events. What some saw as a bad season, other saw as one of the best learning experiences a team could have. The Walt Whitman students tore through all of the failures and learned more about design, fabrication, scouting and working within our means than they had in all of their previous season combined.

In 2015 the team was ready to break out from the past that had helped it get to this season and start to be the team that they always knew they could be. They started the season off with a game analysis that was spot on and allowed the team to design the best robot the team had ever designed. Not only did the team make it into eliminations at every one of the 5 tournaments it attended. It was an alliance captain at 2 of the 5, it was in the finals at 2 of the 5 and it won 1 of the 5. This was the best season the team had ever had and it has created more momentum than the team has ever had going into a season.

In preparation for 2016 FRC season the team has taken the success from 2015 and doubled down. The team is working harder in the off season to improve ourselves, our school and our community than we have ever done before. The team is growing faster and more capable and will continue to learn from our failures so that each year we break our own records and maybe in a few years we start breaking world records.

We can’t wait to see what this season has in store for us…


Take a look at details and images from previous season

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The page is a little light since we just started tracking our history in 2015.  Please help us fill it out by sending us info on our robots, teams members and pictures from previous years to

FRC Suppliers

Teams need to know their supply chain in detail before the season starts. Students and mentors should increase their tool and part vocabulary every season so that they can reference those parts and tools to solve the problems identified in build season. The larger your tool and part vocabulary the less the team may have to invent for the first time and the less risk the team will take on. Teams should plan on purchasing all of their parts and raw materials by day 16 of build season. If you purchase parts any later than that the team run serious risk of delays due to lack of parts.

Here are the suppliers that our team has gone through for this season as we get ready for build season.

Raw Materials

  • McMaster-Carr – Offer a collection of mechanical, electrical, and utility hardware not usually located from a single source and specialize in next day delivery


  • Harbor Freight – Low cost tools and equipment
  • McMaster-Carr – Offer a collection of mechanical, electrical, and utility hardware not usually located from a single source and specialize in next day delivery
  • Granger – Offer a collection of mechanical, electrical, and utility hardware not usually located from a single source and specialize in next day delivery
  • Motion Industries – Distributor of industrial MRO parts
  • MSC Industrial Supply – One of the largest industrial equipment distributors in the world

Linear Motion

Power Transmission

  • AndyMark Inc. – An official supplier to the FIRST Kit of Parts
  • VexPro – Just about everything a FIRST team needs
  • SDP-SI – SDP-SI provides quality gears, bearings, pulleys, and other mechanical parts
  • WM Berg – Precision gears, sprockets, pulleys, gearboxes, and bearings
  • Small Parts – Provide gears, pulleys, and various other items
  • BaneBots – A competition robotics parts supplier that provides several FRC Kit parts
  • Colson Caster – Colson makes caster wheels that are excellent high-performance robot wheels
  • Team 221 – Performance robotics drive systems
  • Robot MarketPlace – A competition robotics parts supplier
  • Browning Gears – Gear supplier
  • Martin Sprocket & Gears – Power transmission supplier
  • Boston Gear – Precision gear manufacturer
  • Gates – Belts and pulleys
  • West Coast Products – drives and hardware

Raw Materials

  • McMaster-Carr – Offer a collection of mechanical, electrical, and utility hardware not usually located from a single source and specialize in next day delivery


  • Fastenal – Sell screws, threaded rods, nuts, and various other fasteners and hardware
  • McMaster-Carr – Offer a collection of mechanical, electrical, and utility hardware not usually located from a single source and specialize in next day delivery


  • Mouser Electronics – Mouser is an electronic component wholesaler.
  • Digi-Key – Digi-Key is an electronic component wholesaler
  • Innovation FIRST – The old official supplier of the FIRST Robot Controller, Operator Interface, Victor Speed Controller, Spike Relay, and other FRC Kit parts. Currently still provide the best speed controllers and sell wheels as well
  • eStop Robotics – Provider of various small electronics components
  • Anderson Power – Quick connect electronics terminals
  • AndyMark Inc – An official supplier to the FIRST Kit of Parts
  • VexPro – Just about everything a FIRST team needs
  • West Coast Products – drives and hardware
  • BaneBots – A competition robotics parts supplier that provides several FRC Kit parts


  • Bimba – Pneumatics tanks and actuators
  • Clippard – Pneumatics supplies, tanks and actuators
  • Festo – Pneumatic tanks, actuators, valves, solenoids
  • SMC Corp. – Pneumatics manufacturer
  • Pneuaire – Plastic pneumatics tanks
  • Automation Direct – cylinders, solenoids, and most pneumatic products



The School Tools That Need Repair

We have been working with MCPS to get the tools in the Walt Whitman Robotics Room fixed.  Last week we heard from the Interim Superintendent’s staff and it looks like there may be some movement on the tool issue.  They are going to be building a list of all of the tools at all of the MCPS schools that need repair and then make decisions on how and when to repair the tools.  We figured we would create a list of all of the tools in the robotics room that need a little TLC;

Delta Model 20 Band Saw

  • It has been without a blade for over a year
  • Its base table is broken and does not lock

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Dremel 16″ Scroll Saw

  • It has been without a blade for over a year

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Global Machinery 16″ Scroll Saw

  • It has been without a blade for over a year

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Grizzly G8688  Variable Speed Lathe

  • Needs to be repaired
  • Missing metal working lathe tools

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Here are some of the other tools in our shop;

Delta Drill Press

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Delta Table Top Drill Press

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Material Tester

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Delta Sander

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Delta Table Saw


Air COmpressor




Delta Grinder


Design Process

The design process is an iterative approach to organizing people, ideas and work with the goal of creating something. Variations of this process have been used all over the world to create every single thing that nature has not provided. If you plan on creating ideas, things, code or solutions. We recommend you commit this process to memory so that as you encounter challenges you have the tools at your disposal to work with others on ways to overcome those challenges.

Their are millions of ways to solve every problem and millions of ways to find every solution. The process we are about to go through is optimized for high school robotics, and is just one of those millions of way to find a solution.

FRC Design Process

Since FRC build seasons last 6 weeks here is how we recommend you spend the first 2 weeks.

FRC Design schedule

Now lets go through the detailed steps of the deign process

  1. Understand
    • Prepare
      • Learn as much as you can in the off season about robots, robot design, fabrication, previous games
      • Make things
      • Make mistakes, learn from those mistakes and make more mistakes
      • Create goals for the season
        • Example – make it to elimination as a 2nd pick
        • Example – make it to elimination as a 1st pick
        • Example – make it to elimination as an alliance captian
        • Example – win a district event
        • Example – win two district events
        • Example – win a super regional
        • Example – win a CMP division
        • Example – win CMP
      • Identify the teams limitations
        • Financial
        • Fabrication capabilities
        • Assembly capabilities
        • Student knowledge
        • Mentor knowledge
    • READ THE RULES!!!!!
      • Understand how teams will be measured at competition
      • Understand how teams will advance
      • Understand limitations defined in the rules
    • Break the game down
      • Identify every way to get points
      • Identify every way to win
      • Identify the every type of robot capability needed to get every point and execute every way to win
      • Identify what percentage of teams at a district, regional, CMP division, CMP championships will be able to perform each capability
      • Identify the capabilities your team will need to accomplish its season goals that do not exceed your team’s limitations
    • Baseline your team’s strategy
  2. Brain storm & trade study
    • Document requirements
      • Pull from your team’s goals
      • Pull from the rules
      • Pull from your team’s base line strategy
    • Brainstorm
      • Identify all of the ways a team could meat all or some of the team’s requirements
    • Check ideas for feasibility
      • Reduce the list based on the team’s limitation’s
      • Reduce the list based on rules violations
    • Trade study
      • Add a weight to each requirements
        • 1 for nice to have
        • 3 for want
        • 9 for need
      • Score each feasible idea on how well it enables each requirements
        • 0 for negative or no impact
        • 1 for some impact
        • 3 for average impact
        • 9 for significant impact
      • Verify scores with prototyping and learning
      • Identify the preferred solutions for each capability
        • multiply the weight by the enabling score and sum the products for the feasible idea
  3. Prototype & learn
    • Prototype as many of your ideas as possible
      • Make prototypes fast
      • Make prototypes cheap
      • Do not make prototype perfect
      • Prototype mechanical ideas
      • Prototype code ideas
      • Prototype electrical ideas
    • Use as many other prototype data points from outside of the team as possible
      • Other FRC teams
      • Other FTC teams
      • Other FLL teams
      • Other Vex teams
      • Other robots
      • Other industries
      • 3 day build teams
    • Research how the rest of the world has solved similar problems
      • Document commercial solutions
      • Document research solutions
      • Document future solutions
    • Document lessons learned from prototype fabrication
    • Document lessons learned from making the prototype function
    • Identify what knowledge you will need to detailed design each systems
      • Identify what mathematics you will need to know
      • Identify which sensors you will need to know how to use
      • Identify chat electronics you will need to know how to use
      • Identify what mechanical systems you will need to know how to use
      • Identify what code you will need to know how to apply
  4. Concept design
    • Make “Back of the napkin” Sketches
      • Sketches on paper
      • Sketches on white boards
      • Sketches in power point
    • Create Concept CAD
      • Make 3-6 concept CAD models
    • Focus on feasibility
    • Focus on form factor
    • Start to think about parts
      • What supplier
      • How to fabricate
      • What can be ordered now
    • Identify risks
      • Technical risk
      • Lack of knowledge
    • Create baseline system diagrams
      • Identify all of the critical systems
      • Identify the control logic rules
      • Identify sensors
    • Document assumptions
    • Lock down tea strategy
  5. Detailed prototype
    • Prototype as many of your conceptual designs as possible
      • Make prototypes fast
      • Make prototypes cheap
      • Do not make prototype perfect
      • Prototype mechanical ideas
      • Prototype code ideas
      • Prototype electrical ideas
    • Focus on design convergence
      • Work through details
      • Identify key variables that make the component function
      • Look for ways to simply design
    • Interact with game pieces and field elements
      • Verify preliminary calculations
    • Reduce risks
      • Validate assumptions
      • Reduce points for mechanical failure
      • Minimize loading
    • Create pseudo code
  6. Detail Design
    • Create prototype CAD
      • Check final details against calculations
    • Host design review
    • Maximize multi use
      • Details
      • Sub assemblies
    • Maximize symmetry
    • Maximize passive systems
    • Create final systems design
    • Create detail CAD
    • Create BOM
    • Design driver station
  7. Sourcing & fabricate
    • Order all of the parts
    • Fabricate detail parts
  8. Assembling
    • Assemble sub assemblies
      • Test sub assemblies
    • Assemble minor assembles
      • Test minor assemblies
    • Assemble major assemblies
      • Test major assemblies
    • Assemble robot
    • Wire robot
    • Install electrical systems
    • Install pneumatic systems
    • Run systems test
  9. Finalizing
    • Test robot functions
    • Optimize final design
      • Modify game element interaction to be as speedy as possible
      • Modify computer vision to be as accurate as possible
      • Modify PID loops to increase efficiency
    • Test teleop code
    • Test autonomous
    • Test driver station
    • Practice driving
    • Fabricate spare parts


Here are some links to resources from other teams that we highly recommend you check out;

C is for Cookies

Hey guys,

Today we introduced the cookie fundraiser; this is something that all members will participate in. Basically, we are selling cookies for $15 per pound (12 cookies). Members will collect orders + payment (cash or check) and then around December 11-13, members will deliver these orders to all their customers. If you missed the meeting/came late or are confused about something, take a look at this link for information:…/1Te-DWOaNz_Kv5op6vjJWJ8d6SO…/edit…

Selling Cookies

You can pick up your forms in Mr. Chen’s room, C-335

We will be selling these until Wednesday December 2nd; all members must sell at least 5 orders.

Regarding nut allergies: David’s Cookies says that some of their products may contain nuts. Their facility is NOT a nut-free facility, and as a result it is possible that any product may have come in contact w/ nut or nut oils.

If you need more order sheets click here

If you need more receipts click here

If you have any questions, feel free to ask!


CAD or Computer Aided Design is one of the most critical things your team can do to become more successful. CAD enables your team to be more efficient and effective with the limited time and financial resources of FRC. CAD at its roots does two things; captures design intent and communicates design intent, thus the more you CAD the more you communicate. Conceptual CAD should be completed within 5 days of kickoff. Prototype CAD should be completed within 7 days of kickoff. Final CAD should be completed within 10 days of kickoff. This rigorous schedule pushes teams to do most of their thinking up front so that they leave as little of their robot design up to chance. When doing CAD teams should think about the following at the following stages;

Conceptual CAD

  • What are the goals / requirements
    • Repairability
    • Ease of assembly
    • Game functions that need to be completed by the robot
    • Game functions that we want to be completed by the robot
    • Game functions that would be nice if the robot could complete
    • Rules
  • Game pieces are modeled and interacted with
  • Field is modeled and interacted with
  • Major structural components are modeled
  • Keep modeling time to under 2 hours per concept

2015 concept1concept 2 image 3

Prototype CAD

  • What are the teams limitations
    • Time
    • Cost
    • Detail part fabrication capability of the team’s students
    • Tools available to the team for fabrication
  • What are the ranges of motion of your mechanisms
  • What are the major and minor assemblies
  • Where will the electronics go
    • Use cubes to represent
  • Where will the pneumatics go
    • Use cubes to represent
  • What is the Master axis system for the robot
  • What are the materials you know you are going to need and can order before detail design is finished

Concept 3 image 4Concept 3 image 4Concept 3 image 1

Final CAD

  • What are the Free Body Diagrams (FBD) for your robot
  • What are the parts you are going to use for every aspect of the robot
    • Who is the supplier
    • Are the parts legal and available
    • How is every part going to be fabricated or sourced
    • What are the materials
  • What is the assembly order for the robot
    • Where are the payoffs
  • What fasteners are used at every joint
  • What gears or sprockets will be used for every mechanism
  • What mechanical transfer mediums are being used
    • What are the belt sizes
    • What are the number of chain links
    • How will they be tensioned
  • Does the math of your mechanisms work with the parts selected
  • What is the weight of the robot
  • Where is the Center of Gravity (CG)
  • Where will every electronic component go
    • Is the batter easily removable
    • Where will the wires go
    • Are the status light easily view able
  • Is the drive system easily repairable
  • Are major mechanisms easily repairable
  • Where will every pneumatic components go
    • Is the full range of motion possible
    • Do you need mechanical stops
  • Do we violate any rules
  • Does it meet all of the teams need level requirements
  • All of the assemblies and detail parts are labeled

Team1389-2015_field-12 Team1389-2015_electrical-1 Team1389-2015_field-13


Teams have a large variety of CAD software available to them, for free through FIRST; Autodesk and Solid works are the two most popular. Please see FIRST’s CAD webpage for the details on how to download the software for free. Once you have the software you will need to learn how to use it. Check out these tutorials to learn the basics.


Once you know the basics you are ready to learn about how to model detail parts and simple assemblies. But FRC robots can be made out of more than 200 parts and 300 fasteners. When modeling at this scale we recommend that you learn some more of the advanced ways of thinking about CAD;

  • Model based definition
    • This is thinking in terms of models as opposed to drawings.
  • Relational Design
    • This is thinking in terms of how the final assembly, relates to major assemblies, which relate to minor assemblies and how they all relate to detail parts, multi use assemblies and multi use parts
  • Parametric design
    • This is thinking in terms of CAD efficiency
  • Be strategic and minimize what you have to model
    • This is thinking in terms of reuse and reduction of total CAD effort
      • adTown CAD Library – FRC Team 1323, MadTown Robotics
      • 3D Content Central – Host an enormous variety of free CAD models including all components of the FIRST Kit of Parts
      • Autodesk FIRSTbase – Where all Autodesk submissions are made, voted on, and archived. FIRST teams can also download Professional licenses of Autodesk software for free here once registered
  • Product Data Management (PDM)
    • This is how you store CAD data, versions and metadata
    • We use GrabCAD
  • Design for Manufacturability (DFMA)
    • This is thinking in terms of tolerances, tooling, assembly order and payoffs
    • GD&T or FT&A are big parts of DFMA


After you finish you robot you will need to purchase or fabricate all of the items on your Bill of Materials (BOM). You may have planned to fabricate several of the parts by hand, making parts by hand is defiantly one way to go, but you need to understand the limitations of this fabrication method often include large tolerance issues for many FRC teams. Tolerances issues translate into assembly slop that could result in misalignment of major structural components or significant amounts of inconsistency when performing tasks. So instead we recommend using parts that are made using Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) techniques. There are many CAM options available to teams;

  • CNC routing
  • CNC lathe
  • CNC laser
  • CNC welding
  • CNC water jet
  • 3D prining


CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control and 3D printing is a euphemism for additive manufacturing techniques. Both of these types of machines allow teams to focus on making the data that the CNC machine will need to turn raw materials into the parts that you designed. For many machines the team will need to post process the CAD data to make the commands for specific machine they are going to use to fabricate the part. Each CNC or 3D vendor will identify what the post processor software the team will need to use. For CNC routers for example teams will need to identify the x,y,z, zero point, bit size, rpm, cutting paths etc.. so that the part is fabricated correctly once it is placed in the machine. The same type of forethought is needed for 3D printers, where will the machine start to print, will it print just the exterior or fill in in the interior, does it need supports to avoid deformation during printing, etc…


The Team is just starting its grab cad and is making all of our CAD available here

There are numerous other teams who also make their CAD available

Vex Pro Has Some Great Example Bots

We were recently starting to do our team’s season pre order of parts and noticed the following images on the Vex Pro Site.  Last year the team was extremely grateful for the build blitz blog they posted that had a lot of good examples of how to lift and maneuver totes.  So needless to say, we were really impressed by the example they showed and explored the site farther to see what else they have made available.

Mash up of team 781, the Kinetic Knights’s and team 2016, the Mighty Monkey Wrenches’ 2011 robots


Remake of team 254, the Cheesy Poof‘s 2014 robot



Here is what else we found that could be useful to teams as they get ready for the 2016 FRC season



Thanks for making Parents Night 2015 a success

We had over 60 people in attendance and raised over $200 dollars.  Thanks to everybody who cam together over the weekend to make this happen.  A big shout out to Jean Waye for organizing and hosting the event.  Also thanks to some of the local business who donated to help make the silent auction our best in history.  And our last thank you goes to all of the families who donated.


Pfish FINAL_color a


We went over the following with parents

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