IMG_20160122_161814903Sorry – that is probably dating me and confirming I’m an engineering geek. The team is a little over two weeks into the build season following the game drop and I thought it would be good to update everyone on what’s been happening. First off, First Stronghold is a big improvement on last year’s game. It offers many design challenges for the robot – multiple defensive obstacles, ball shooting through low and high targets, and an autonomous mode where the robot is on its own.

The team has embraced the challenge and is working some very creative designs . Interestingly, in talking to a mentor from a very experienced team, our team has taken a similar design approach – with what I view as some improvements – especially the tank tread drive system the team has designed. Their biggest challenge will be to keep things simple in the next couple of days. Yes, the team is a few days behind where we wanted them to be, but we’ll be pushing them to have a robot ready to drive by the end of next week. Think about that accomplishment when it happens – four weeks from a game drop to a driveable robot – that is a lot to expect of a group of high school students!

Copy of IMG_20160122_161618266_HDRI imagine that some of the students have been going home frustrated at times. This is not a surprise – the FIRST competition is very intense and pushes the students to deliver a complex system in just six weeks. We all need to remember that we have a relatively inexperienced team – mentors included (glad we have two that have experience!). I’m confident though that the students are learning what it means to be part of a design and build team, how to design and build a complex system, and how to work better with each other. They will make mistakes along the way, but this is part of learning. We (new) mentors are learning as well – we have a tough job keeping the students on track, on schedule, without dictating a design approach. I’m confident that we are establishing a strong foundation for future years. The talent is there this year and experience will help the talent succeed.

About Chris Molnar

Chris Molnar is the Chief Engineer of Helicopters for Rolls Royce Corporation. He has a B.S. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Purdue University and a M.S. in Program Management from Penn State.

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