Hackathon 2017!

Greetings from the Hackathon! Last Wednesday, with the help of Pearson VUE, we made tremendous strides with our robots and personal knowledge. The students participating divided into different groups; Computer Vision, Autonomy, Web/UI, Video Streaming. We used smaller robots to test if our programming worked. Check out the details, additional photos and the day’s final video below! Knight Errant Story is on it’s way too!

Computer Vision: A group of students worked closely with James to get automatic motion detection running on our video streams.

Autonomy: Successfully completed the task of Wall Following – the robot is able to self-correct (with the use of sensors) and avoid colliding with walls that surround it.

Web, UI:  Received guidance from experienced coders who helped this team construct a website using html, css, java, and python to control our robot’s features (i.e. the robot’s movements, the robot’s arms, the robot’s sensors, etc.)

Video Streaming: In order to see where our robot is driving, we needed the ability to stream live video to our control website. A number of students and developers helped in this endeavor.

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Days 7, 8, and 9

We apologize for not posting for a couple of days, it’s just been so much fun, we didn’t want to stop until we were asleep!

The Finals rounds of RoboCup were pretty amazing to watch. It was definitely nice to have a break from the high stress of making our robot work and getting the opportunity to see all of the other robots complete (or fail) at tasks, watch some of the other competitions, and spend time looking at some of the neat booths set up. For Ms. H, the highlight of the day was to see most of the students gather together and brainstorm changes we would like to make for next year’s robot – isn’t iteration what engineering is all about? We wrapped up the day with dinner outside the hotel – some went to a Greek restaurant, others to a new Mediterranean restaurant. In all, I think the day was pretty amazing.


Yesterday was a day for tourism. We decided against going to Dresden after going to the Thomaskirche where Bach had a residency. There seemed like so much to explore in the city center, it didn’t make sense to spend 3 hours on a train to Dresden. However, some students were able to ride a train for the first time on our way to the City Center. After touring the Thomaskirche, we split up and started exploring for a couple of hours. I think we all walked in different directions. Upon meeting up again, we decided it wasn’t enough, and we’d all like more time to explore. 3 hours later, we decided the same and ended up staying in the City Center until 8:30 pm.

Sites explored: Thomaskirche (Bach), Stassi Museum, House of Mendelssohnn, a couple other churches nearby, many shops, bakeries, and coffee shops. Students picked up some souvenirs and enjoyed the sunshine. It was a needed break from spending so much time in the convention center.


Today we had a rocky start getting our luggage into the bus, but in the end, we all made it into the hotel. We are soon to be off exploring Berlin! Our hotel is right next to a park housing part of the Berlin Wall that I (Ms. H) am looking forward to exploring. My friend Kilian grew up in Berlin and will be meeting us to show us some things we may not otherwise know about and share his German experiences with us. We are not 100% on what the plan is for today. We were hoping for a trip to the grocery store and a picnic in a park, but the weather may not cooperate. If we aren’t home too late tonight, I hope to make another post.


Tomorrow morning we will be leaving the hotel at 4am to make it back to Tegel International Airport and begin our journey home through Paris and back to MSP. I think overall, the trip has been a raging success in many aspects we were hoping it would be.

Day 6: Final Day of Competition

Today we got to sleep in! Even though it was just 30 minutes extra, everyone agreed it felt amazing.

Our first event of the day was Align, a task we had attempted a few days prior and failed due to the servo motor code interfering with the drive motors. This time, only one camera ended up working (the rear camera) so the judge allowed us to drive backwards through the course and then forwards, assuming we could make it. We ended up getting through the course backwards and half way through going forwards before the timer ran out (meaning we got more points!). Our second and third tasks of the day was Traverse, which we had attempted a few times prior and were given redos of (task 3 was a redo, task 2 we signed up for). Unfortunately, the treads started slipping off the gears when we started turning, so we were unable to complete the task in the allotted time. Our fourth and fifth tasks were unable to be completed as well; the LiDAR system wasn’t working properly, meaning we were unable to create a map of the arena. Our sixth and final task of the day was the sand and gravel ramps. In preparation for this, we adjusted the arm to lower our center of mass and used duct tape to help ensure that no sand or gravel would get into the electronics on the circuit board. We switched drivers for the final task and Zach, our new driver, got us further than we had expected. We almost made it to the sand before the treads started slipping. After a minute or so of the robot not moving, we decided the left tread had a rock caught in it, so we called a reset and pulled all of the gravel out of the treads within the two minute reset and attempted to complete the task. We didn’t complete it—the left motor stopped working about two feet into the arena.

During the day, a group from RoboCup Junior stopped by and we talked with them for a bit about their robots and showed them Ro-Bert and explained how he worked and answered their questions about the Major division of RoboCup  (the division we’re in).

After our final task, we cleaned up our tables and started packing up the robot before our transportation arrived and once we got back to the hotel, we decided what to do in the evening. A group of us decided to go to the city center to watch a public viewing of the Germany vs. Italy football game (soccer in America) and another group decided to stay at the hotel to watch Band of Brothers (and ended up watching parts of the game on TV). For those of you who don’t watch <football/soccer> (which is probably most of you) Germany has never beat Italy in a <football/soccer> match.

Germany won in a sudden-death shootout after overtime in a  tied 1(7)-1(6) match.

The crowd went WILD when Germany won and people in the distance set off fireworks. People put German flags on their windows and held them in their hands, displaying the flag proudly while driving through the city, cheering and screaming in joy. Overall, today started out pretty great (getting points on a task!) and ended pretty great as well (Germany won the game!) and was overall a pretty great day, even though things didn’t exactly go our way.

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Day 5: Second Day of Competition

We arrived at the venue at 7:20AM and we were all VERY tired (and slightly sleep deprived… our team is probably averaging 5-6 hours of sleep a night, 7 if you add in the naps throughout the day). We were somehow able to focus and start working on the robot to prepare for our first task, Traverse, which was at 10:00am. Our first task didn’t work very well; our robot was working, however we couldn’t get it over the lip of wood to get onto the test platform and were unable to complete the task within the allotted 15 minutes of time. Our second task of the day, align, didn’t go well either either; the new code to get the cameras’ servo motors to move interfered with the code for the drive motors, making the robot unable to move. We fixed the issue between the second and third tasks and about fifteen minutes before our third task, Negotiate, we realized our robot was too tall to complete the task. We adjusted the arm to be able to fit under the wooden bars and got to the task on time. Going into the task, we weren’t sure we could actually accomplish everything—the PVC pipe hanging down seemed like it could fall easily if we hit it the wrong way and although there were hinges attached to wood and the pipes, we weren’t sure how easily they would move.

We completed the task, AND got FIFTEEN POINTS!

Between Negotiate and our fourth task, Crossover, many people took naps. Earlier in the day, Zach reminded us of a vine of a little girl who wanted to take a nap and we all decided between the tasks that we were incredibly exhausted, just like her (so most people took a nap).

We had connection issues again for task four (crossover) and only scored three points, which was kind of a bummer because we knew we could do the task and thought we could get a ton of points again, but hey WE GOT POINTS.

Our fifth task of the day was to open a door. Biggest challenge: the arm wasn’t working. The gears were still broken and the programming wasn’t working. We didn’t think we were going to even be able to open the door.

We opened the door.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get THROUGH the door by the time the task ended, but we opened the door without a working arm.

We then went to our SIXTH task of the day: traverse. Now, some of you may be wondering why we did traverse twice in one day and here’s your answer: redo. The true challenge of the task was NOT to get over the lip of the wood and onto the angled platform but rather to accomplish the task on the platform (drive straight, turn, drive at an angle, turn, drive straight), so the judges built little steps to allow Ro-Bert to get over the lip so we could accomplish the task. Because we had attempted the task the day before as well, the judges gave us two redos of the task (which was VERY good for us, since our first redo didn’t work either; the beagle bone and power distribution weren’t working properly). Our second redo is on 03 July at 1:30PM.

We got back to the hotel by 8:15PM, the earliest we had arrived there since the trip began, and everyone split into groups to go get dinner. Most people went to a Greek restaurant near the hotel and some people went to the hotel restaurant. Although our day didn’t go exactly as we had planned, we still had some great triumphs and although some triumphs didn’t count for points, we exceeded our expectations. Ms. Hoogenakker said on the first day of competition that “We aren’t competing against these other teams, we aren’t competing for points. We’re competing against the arena and we’re competing against ourselves.” I’d say that overall, today, we beat that arena and did more than we expected to be able to do going into today, making today a pretty good day overall.

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Day 4: First Day of Competition


We started the day with an early breakfast, and then it was off the the competition. We arrived around 7:20 and walked in, rocking out to Eye of the Tiger dressed in our jumpsuits (Ryan could hardly wait). 

The first plan of action was to fix some issues from yesterday before competition began. An issue that arose yesterday, of using three of our four batteries at a time, was fixed by using a portable cellphone charger to power the beagle bone, the computer that runs much of our robot (solving problems that matter). Many issues today that were encountered were solved by rewiring the robot. We ended up rewiring the robot a several times throughout the day.  We got the gimbal working, but have yet to mount in on the robot (not as high of a priority) . 

Throughout the competition, teams were using tethers to connect to their robots (instead of using wifi) because there was so much signal interference. We encountered many issues early on with signal interface, but we did not have a long enough ethernet cord to be able to traverse a whole obstacle tethered. Specifically, our first challenge was affected by this, resulting in no points being scored. Our solution to this was two team members racing to the hardware store and purchasing a ethernet coupler and running back between challenges.

During one of our missions today, the robot needed to be reset. It was described by Mrs. Andersen as an ER surgery where students were borderline frantic fixing the robot, letting their counterparts know which tools to put in their hands, and commenting on what they were doing as they acted. A few students took the lead, got in, and like a Nascar pit crew, disassembled the parts that needed to come apart, patched up the robot, and we were able to fix the robot before time was up. Impressive.

Cool things from today: We are currently ahead of an Iranian team (because of a technicality). Another team showed up with helmets and face shields and we soon found out it was because of their robot—the robot was a flying drone with a spherical shield, which would break and shoot out parts whenever they did a challenge because it would fly it into walls full speed. There is a robot here for display that looks just like a bird when it flies!

To avoid the stress of the competition, occasionally team members redirected their focus from the robot to crepes. There is a crepe stand here with a wide variety of fillings for delicious crepes. Four team members discovered there is an outside area with beach volley ball, basket ball, and human foosball and spent some time outside during their lunch break.

Our greatest success was when Kayla (our driver) scored us 2 points by navigating through the centering test (where she drives diagonal through an area as wide as our robot) forwards and then backwards. The RKRS cheer-team went wild! (Exciting things happen about 1:30 into the video)

We ended up getting a bunch of compliments from both NIST and other competitors here. They were REALLY impressed with our problem solving abilities. That is a huge deal at this really tight competition.


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