MoCo Advocacy 2016 Day 2

Students from Richard Montgomery High School and Walt Whitman High School met with Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett last Tuesday to learn what his position was on robotics in Montgomery county.  The meeting went very well, not only did Mr. Leggett voice support for growing robotics in the county, but he also told us about his experience visiting the Walt Whitman FRC District Event.  He was blown away by the size of the robots and the number of people attending the event. We talked about the need to expand robotics into more schools and the need to bring more diversity to STEM programs in the county.

On top of the great support, Mr. Leggett also volunteered to join our students when we meet with Larry Hogan in August to help push for making robotics a state level sport.


MoCo Advocacy 2016 Day 1

Today students and mentors from several of the robotics teams from Montgomery County were in Rockille to talk to our county leaders about recognizing robotics as a sport.  We started the day talking to George Leventhal and his staffer Waltin Harris. Mr. Leventhal has been very supportive in the past, and has even driven Liftzilla, our 2015 robot.  He heard our idea of declaring robotics sport in Montgomery county and was immediately behind the idea.  He even offered to ask a question of the new superintendent DR. Jack Smith to see what his opinion might be on the topic.

From there we attended a meeting with the MoCo Board of education, the County Council and the new superintendent to learn more about his plans for the school district.  It was a very enlightening meeting and allowed us to get a better idea of some of the passions that drive county council members and the new superintendent. Of particular note was when Mr Leventhal asked about growing robotics in the county and getting is classified as a sport, the new superintendent agreed with both aspects of his question and asked back, “how do we get robotics in to all 204 Mo Co schools.”  Needles to say we are delighted with his answer, and have contacted Andrew Zuckerman (MCPS Chief Operating Officer) and Dr. William Beattie (MCPS athletic director) to figure out the details. You can read more about the meeting in the Bethesda Beat.

In the afternoon we shifted from asking how MCPS could make robotics a sport to some of the logistics that need to happen. We met with Crystal Ruiz from Council Member Hans Riemer’s office who gave us a lot of things to think about.  We decided to do a referendum declaring robotics a sport in Montgomery county would be a good first step.  We are going to work with all of the offices to get the final wording as quickly as possible because the county council session ends on the 2nd. We also decided to follow up with a few very specific people inside the county to ensure this moves forward as quickly as possible.

Next we met with County Council staffer for Tom Hucker, Matt Verghese, who played Bot Ball for several years in High School and was extremely supportive of the idea of making Robotics a sport in the county.  His boss, Mr. Hucker is also a big fan and wants to work with us to help grow robotics in his district.  Matt was also very disappointing to hear that robotics teams are charged CUPF fees for using the buildings.  He wants to help teams get the CUPF polices changed so that Blair High School stops charging their robotics teams and can use those funds on growing STEM instead.  Matt also asked us to look into if chess is considered a sport by MoCo.  He was part of an effort to get chess classified as a sport in college that ended in success.  So he knew a good bit about the ask we were making.

Last we met with Councilman Robert Berliner and his staffer Zac Trupp.  Mr. Berliner has been a big supporter, and even came to the Walt Whitman District event we hosted.  Mr. Berliner played devils advocate to our idea or having MoCo declare robotics a sport by asking us why not consider debate a sport.  We responded with what does the county want to celebrate and develop.  Does the county want more debaters, or does the county want more STEM students?  The answer to this question is important since we are asking the county to change the way it does things and bring a fresh perspective to the way we define sports.  Not unlike the new perspective the County Council is looking for in Dr. Smith.  We also went on to inform him that being classified a sports comes along with some very specific program changes that would remove some serious impediments schools run into when looking to start new teams.

  1. Larger stipends for robotics coaches
  2. Schools participate in filling robotics coach vacancies so that teams do not go with out a coach
  3. Access to practice space and build space without being charged CUPF fees
  4. Access to MoCo transportation resources for attending events
  5. Access to team administration support in the school and at the county level
  6. Access to gyms and schools for tournaments at zero cost to the team
  7. Students could varsity letter in robotics

We also discussed the major positives for the MCPS athletics Directors office, MCPS and the County Council

  1. More people would be interested in and responsible for growing STEM students inside the county
  2. More people would be interested in and responsible for growing diversity of STEM student participation inside the county
  3. More people would be interested in and responsible for growing the number of project based learning activities inside the county
  4. More students inside the county would be prepared to walk out of high school prepared for both college and vocational training
  5. Athletics would get access to county, state and federal funds dedicated towards STEM programs
  6. Athletics would get access to county, state and federal funds dedicated towards Vocational training programs

Tomorrow the teams meet with County Executive Ike Leggett to discuss making robotics a sport and funding a community grant to help this new new sport get started inside the county.


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Thanks to Mr. Leventhal for the photos.

Robotics Day at the Kid Museum

Walt Whitman will join 3 other FRC teams from the area and help the local Kid’s Museum host their first Robotics Day. Stop by with your kids, your neighbors kids and your inner kid to check us out. We will have several team members on hand as well as our World Championship  Level robot Maelstrom available for you to drive.

Saturday, July 16

From the nuts & bolts of how robots move, to testing out competition robots…it’s everything robots at KID’s first ever Robotics Day!

Open Explore
Stop in throughout the day to experiment with gears, parts and pulleys; take part in “Imagining the Robots of the Future;” and learn about different machines and systems, like VEX, LittleBits, and Arduino.

Featured Workshops
LEGO WeDo: Move and manipulate objects with this robotics tool. Design your own interactive machine using gears, motors, motion sensors, and more. Ages 8+. $6 members; $7 nonmembers. 11:00 REGISTER

MakerWear: Customize clothing with lights and sounds that react to your movements, and be a part of the University of Maryland’s Human-Computer Interaction Lab MakerWear prototyping project. Ages 6+. $3 members; $4 nonmembers. 1:30 REGISTER

See amazing demos by local high school FRC robotics teams:

Team 1389 
Walt Whitman High School
Bethesda, MD

Team 449
Blair High School
Silver Spring, MD

Building a master list of all of the robotics teams / programs in MD

Walt Whitman is working on building a list of all of the robotics teams / programs in Maryland.  We are trying build this list so as to enable student impact conversations with county and state officials for upcoming advocacy efforts.   This list is not limited to FIRST teams, so if you have VEX, VEX IQ, MATE, seaperch.  We are also including programs that do not have teams at schools, not at schools, at summer camps, at private schools and in after school programs.  So….If you are doing anything with robotics in MD we want to know about it.  Please email us with your details and we will get it added to our list.  Or add your details on your own

If you are interested in getting involved in our upcoming advocacy effort please reach out to us via email The more folks we get involved, the more of an impact we will have.


2016-2017 Team Plan

The team had a meeting a few weeks back where discussed how we would make our 2016 2017 goals a reality. One of the first things we did was modify our goals a bit after thinking about them for two weeks.

  • Raise $50,000, create a budget and be within 10% of the budget
  • Create a larger and more diver core group with a minimum of 4 people on each sub team
  • Ensure that leadership team and that each sub team has at least one female
  • Win district and district championship
  • Have 3 major impacts on the community
  • Transfer knowledge to more incoming students
  • Prepare more underclassman for leadership positions


We made the change to make the goal more measurable. We also focused our efforts for next season on the following;

  • Win the EI award
  • Spend more time prototyping for every aspect of the robot
  • Build two robots
  • Raise $20,000
    • $5,000 for District Championships
    • $10,000 for World Championships
    • $5,000 for second robot
  • Host a district event
    • Raise $10,000 on behalf of the event


To make the above happened the team talked about what we were going to do with the last month of school.

  • Repair Drivetrains
  • Tune up robots
  • Do outreach to local fabrication companies
  • Cleanup Lab


The team then talked about what we would be doing over the summer with the limited amount student who are available to make the goals real

  • Schedule a Drive Day at the STEMAction center in Columbia – Joey
  • Schedule a Pyle Drive Day – Jonah, Joey
  • Define CAD Projects – Joey, JJ
    • CAD project 1 – CAD the 2016 robot in solid works by the end of July
    • CAD 3 drive trains in full detail and include all electrical systems, wire routing and mechanical systems by the end of August
      • West coast inline drop 6 with 4” solid wheels
      • Swerve
      • H-drive
    • Complete a Vision Project
      • Identify and track 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 targets
    • Fund raise $6,000
    • Secure a Sheet metal fabrication sponsor
    • Lay the ground work to start 1 FTC team and 2 FLL teams
      • FTC at Pyle
      • FLL at Davis Library and Wyngate Elementary School
    • Repair current robots
      • Liftzilla – encoder controlled lifter, ecoder controlled drive, build bumpers
      • Maelstrom – functioning turret, vision code, autonomous modes, rewire, add climber
    • Do advocacy work at the Federal, State and county level
    • MD Federal representatives June 19-22
      • Part of FRC Team 27 National Advocacy Conference
    • Mo Co county – July 18th
      • County Board
      • County Executive
      • County School Board
      • County Dept. of Health & Human Services
      • County Dept. of Economic Development
    • Mo Co State representative – August 8th
    • MD Dept. of education – August 15th
    • MD Governor – August 15th


The team also laid out the plan for the Fall

  • Attend 3 off seasons
  • Create a 2016-2017 budget
    • Measure spending according to the budget
    • Create a part purchasing process that is tied to the budget
  • Increase the number of talks
  • Incorporate VEX robots into fall projects
    • Purchase 2-3 vex kits, $2,000 per kit
    • Host robot build off for underclassmen
  • Host Java training for MoCo teams
  • Host CAD training for MoCo teams
    • Create CAD projects due in Dec 2016
  • Host Safety training in Sept so students can use tools early
  • Start Awards in the fall
    • Finish drafts by December
  • Sign up 100 students at Clubs night
  • Track and measure freshman retention
  • Setup an Agile work board for defining and distributing tasks
    • 2 people’s names need to be on each ticket that is in work
  • Assign each new member an experienced buddy member
  • Raise $20,000 for build season
  • Recruit 2 more mentors
    • Electrical
    • Programming
  • Mentor FLL and FTC teams
  • Plan a district event


Here are the raw notes from the meeting

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Regional Manufacturing Institute 2016 Gala

A few weeks ago the Walt Whitman Robotics team joined nearly a dozen STEM programs at the Regional Manufacturing Institute 2016 Gala.  The May 26 Gala looked to the Future of Maryland Manufacturing and brought over 75 students together to demonstrate robotics, drones, 3D printing, coding and STEM projects, and to meet manufacturers.  The Gala also connected manufacturers from across Maryland to celebrate what they do, and remind the media and our policy markers why manufacturing is critical to Maryland’s future economic competitiveness.  Other speakers at the Gala included:

Calvin G. Butler Jr., CEO, BGE
Anirban Basu, President, Sage Policy Group
Demian Costa, Managing Partner, Sagamore Ventures
Honoree: Drew Greenblatt, President Marlin Steel Wire Products

Thanks to RMI for inviting us to attend.

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2 days till power on

The team started working on the entrepreneurship award in earnest today after we turned in the Chairman’s award.  The awards team was doing a lot of soul searching about where we are as a club and where we want to be in  a few years.

Our mechanical team was also hard at work getting our drive train finished.  We ran into a few hiccups and had to do some rework on the drive train, but are back on track. However, as soon as we put th bumpers on for the first time we realized we did not account for versa block thickness, so we have some rework to do. Our turret team is also making significant headway and only have tensionors left to add.  Our shooter team has also gotten started and should have all of the structures assembled by tonight.

Our electrical team is getting closer to getting the electrical system completely wired and ready to install. We did a power on test of the wired system and had no issues.  Next up we need to create the wire harness for the shooter so that we can get that installed this weekend.

  • Drive train – done
  • Bumpers – started
  • Electrical board – started
  • Turret arm prototype – done
  • Turret arm – started
  • Turntable – started
  • Shooter – started
  • Vision – started
  • Main code – started
  • Strategy – started
  • Scouting system – started
  • Awards – started
    • Chairman’s – done
    • Wood Flowers – done
  • Competition documents – not started
  • Pre-competition scouting – not started
  • Inviting local leaders to events – not started


Sprockets, Chains, Pulleys, Belts & Gears

Motors, springs and pneumatics are just of few examples of the many ways to generate mechanical energy on an FRC robot. However, in most instances where you generate the mechanical energy is not where you want to use it, so lets discus some of the ways to transfer and change mechanical energy from what is produced at the source to what / where it is needed on the robot.

In most instances the mechanical energy produced is rotational in nature, this means it will have an RPM and a torque associated with it. Here are some videos that will teach what these two terms are.

Now that you understand RPM and torque we can get down to transforming and transferring rotational mechanical energy. Sprockets, Gears and Hubs can all be attached directly to the source of the energy in a variety of ways. Once attached they are each used in conjunction with a specific transfer medium.

  • Sprockets transfer energy to chain
  • Pulleys transfer energy to belts
  • Gears transfer energy to other gears


Since these are all mechanical transfer mediums there are losses due to friction that vary between 5% and 40% based on the system you have selected, the tolerances of the detail parts and the assembly tolerances. Here is great video that walks you through these transfer mechanisms in a little more detail;

Here are some more details on these systems


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