1086bluecheese

By Blue Cheese 1086

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1086bluecheese
April 1, 2018
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Officially we are now on spring break, but wanted to throw in a quick update about our accomplishments at the 2018 FIRST Chesapeake District Championship. We were proud to win the Innovation in Control Award, sponsored by Rockwell Automation, which celebrates an innovative control system or application of control components – electrical, mechanical or software – to provide unique machine functions.This is the first time in our team's history that we have won this award-- to get it at the District Champs level is very exciting. In order to win the award a team spokesperson must be able to identify and describe the controls innovation and can trace its conception, design, manufacturing/assembly, or deployment. The control system must be innovative and unique and integrated with the machine, human players, strategy, etc. in concept and execution. The innovation should be practical and address the game’s challenge. It is not just a cute idea. It must be reliable under the stress of competition.We were also winners of the Safety Hard Hat award and Talon, our Safety Captain won Safety Star on Saturday. After we've had a chance to get some sleep and unpack the trailer, we will be back with more details. Thanks to all the sponsors, mentors, and parent volunteers who helped make this competition season so successful!
March 27, 2018
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There's nothing like back-to-back tournaments to keep you on your toes. The FIRST Chesapeake Southwest Virginia event got rescheduled on short notice to Richmond at the Arthur Ashe Center. Our team showed up early on Friday to help set up the pits and the field, competed hard all weekend, and many team members and mentors stayed until after 7pm on Sunday night to help deconstruct the field and clean up the arena. If such an unlikely event ever happens again, we hope other local teams will stay until the end to help too. We'd love the chance to get to know them better outside of the competitive environment, working together to clear and clean the venue.We were proud to be the captains of the 8th-seeded alliance, joined by the top-seeded rookie team FRC 6802 Mean Caimans and FRC 619 Cavalier Robotics. We lost in the quarterfinals to a powerhouse 1st-seeded alliance, but we made them work for it. We were especially pleased with how consistently our Autonomos routines have been delivering power cubes to both the Switch and the Scale. "Safety FIRST" is not just a slogan for Blue Cheese. It's a team effort and a challenge for us to keep in mind and deed every day. Congratulations to Logan S. for winning Safety Star recognition on Saturday and for the team winning the UL Industrial Safety Award for the second tournament in a row. Wednesday we head to the University of Maryland for the FIRST Chesapeake District Championship to try and win a spot at the FRC World Championship in Detroit, MI. Wish us luck. Go, Blue Cheese!(Above, a little clowning around after they finished rolling up the last field carpet at this week's district FRC event.)
March 17, 2018
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The Boy Scouts introduced a Merit Badge in Robotics back in 2011. The Girl Scouts are a little behind them, but they are in the game and catching up fast. GSUSA launched 23 new badges in July, which include several aimed at inspiring girls to learn STEM-specific skills. Brownies are already have a Robotics badge program in place. Blue Cheese is proud to be partnering with one of the 21 troops nationwide that are piloting new Robotics badge programs for older girls in the Cadette program. Mentors from our team and the troop collaborated to design activities that would help the Scouts gain knowledge and skills so that they could complete tasks for the badge. Keeping in mind an emphasis on Women in STEM, we designed and conducted three separate programs to help them meet their goals. Feedback from their experiences will be used at the national level to help finalize the requirements of the badge program when it is completed.At our first meeting, the Scouts joined one of our female mentors at a local hospital to get a tour of a surgical robot. At the second, one of our team members who is a Senior Girl Scout working on her Gold Award, escorted the troop around a FIRST Robotics Competition, talking with the girls about everything from Gracious Professionalism to teamwork to coding to safety. During our final meeting, another one of our female mentors engaged the girls with the story of her journey designing and building her own robot. The discussion also covered life skills like believing in yourself and asking for help to acquire new skills. The meeting ended with girls driving one robot using code and another using a controller. At their next meeting the girls will be building their own simple robots.Of course, we aren't the only ones engaged in this initiative to help inspire Girl Scouts in STEM. Out in Orange County, CA, there are new FIRST teams made possible, in part, through funding by FIRST. FRC 1868 Space Cookies created five STEM Girl Scout badges designed to augment existing programming. Locally, FRC 346 RoboHawks is working with a different troop in the same pilot program as we are. We look forward to a "cheddar" world where women are not an underrepresented group in STEM careers.
March 14, 2018
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Our 2018 robot, Ädelost, has an elevator with similarities to the French guillotine. You aren't likely to be beheaded by it, but digits are definitely in danger if you don't exercise proper precautions around it.Our safety team requested that stickers be purchased to alert/remind folks to take extra precautions around the stages of the elevator. First we went online to see what options were available. There were many, including these.Since we are makers, we thought we would see what our media team could come up with in-house before we purchased something off the shelf. The assignment forced the rookie who took the job to go into the build space, talk with his Build Team teammates, and put hands on the robot to take measurements. Then, taking inspiration from what he found online, he launched his graphic design program of choice and got to work. The result is what you see here. We are just delighted with it. It effectively communicates what we need it to and it seamlessly integrates with our team's visual theme, font, and sense of humor.Sure, it would have been easier, and possibly cheaper, to order the sticker off the web, but by giving our students a challenge and a little guidance, they were able to create something on their own that is even better. The artist has something new and fun for his portfolio. It created a collaborative opportunity for our Media, Safety, and Build teams. And the rest of the team just loves it.
March 12, 2018
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This was our second consecutive year hosting a district-level FRC tournament. We won't lie, it's a lot of work. It has its rewards though too. There is a sense of pride that comes with having 37 other teams from around the district come to your school to compete.We have one of the larger teams in FIRST Chesapeake, currently totaling about 75 students. That gives us a significant worker pool to draw from. Everyone got the heads-up in advance that they were expected to be available for whatever task was required from after school Friday until late Sunday night. Students helped assemble and dismantle the field, gave ambassador tours, handed out safety goggles, picked up trash, staffed the concession stand, and did whatever else was asked of them. It was the first tournament for our rookies and we were very impressed with how quickly they jumped into the metaphorical pool and started to swim.We also had about 15 alumni who came in to mentor or volunteer over the course of the weekend. Many of them are pictured above. We are so proud to have such a large, dedicated group that appreciates the importance of giving back to the FIRST community!Blue Cheese played key roles in two new events on Saturday morning. First, we hosted an Advocacy Breakfast for teams that were interested in learning about the National Advocacy Conference or tips about local or state advocacy. Chris Dovi, from CodeVA was the guest speaker. There were also presentations from FRC students with advocacy experience. Blue Cheese, MechTech Dragons, and Vae Victus shared their stories and lessons learned. One of our alumni spoke about how his advocacy work during his time on Blue Cheese has impacted his life since graduation.Second, we provided most of the staff the FIRST Chesapeake open house, sponsored by Dominion Energy. The team took care of the food purchases, venue setup, and provided students, parents, mentors, and alumni to staff the event. They spoke with parents, students, and visitors who were interested in learning more about FIRST.We'd like to take this opportunity to thank the parents and mentors to volunteered all weekend as well. They kept the concession stand up and running all weekend and put together an incredible spread of food for our team dinner Saturday night. So much food. So much cheese. You really haven't lived until you have tried Mrs. Kutz' cookies or Mrs. Jessani's biryani. We don't know if we will host again next year, but if we do, we know that our team is up for the challenge. See the NBC-12 News story about the event here.
March 12, 2018
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Congratulations to all the members of our team who work so hard to make our outreach programs a success. Our advocacy, demos, camps, and other STEM engagement activities are making a difference in the lives of other students, especially those in underserved communities. This year we welcomed four rookies onto our team who we first met as part of our work with FLL teams or at one of our LEGO robotics camps. Of course, a special congratulations goes to the folks who were most invested in this win: our chairman's presenters and video producer (pictured right). It's safe to say that there was no prouder, more excited person in the room yesterday than our media captain when "his" video was playing on the "big screen" for the crowd. We wonder if he envisioned that moment when he was helping to erect that same screen on Friday night...We have some new ideas and partners for advocacy and outreach after this season (this summer is going to be so busy!). We hope you will follow our progress and lend support if you can. Help us make the world a "cheddar place."
March 12, 2018
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We had a very successful first tournament of the season this weekend. Here is the first of three blog entries to highlight some of our successes.Let's put the robot out front. Pictured here is our autonomous delivery of a cube to the switch. It was very consistent and valuable for us this weekend. Early possession of the switch gets points on the board early. A shout out to our coders for such outstanding work.Our build team made some impressive mid-tournament changes to the robot, including a switch from belts to chains on the elevator. Their ability to recognize something wasn't working, to brainstorm a potential solution, and to get it installed on the robot quickly was very impressive.By the end of day two we were nailing autonomous, delivering cubes to the scale and could get nine cubes into the vault. This performance made us a valuable part of Alliance 2 and helped get us to the semifinals. Thanks to our alliance partners FRC 5804 Torchand FRC 836 RoboBees.
March 3, 2018
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Blue Cheese has had exponential growth over the last two years so our leaders have had to think differently about how we integrate and train rookies on our team. In fall 2017, we designed and piloted a new program that has been incredibly successful in addressing this overwhelming bounty. Rookies are assigned to one of two teams. Team A meets on Tuesdays and Saturday mornings. Team B meets Thursdays and Saturday afternoons. Fridays are "veterans only." We assigned up-and-coming student leaders to guide each of the teams. We received grant funding from DuPont to help us purchase two kit bots from AndyMark. Each of the new students has had plenty of time and opportunity to get their hands inside a "real" robot, be trained on safe operation of tools, and to learn parts fabrication. Because Deep Run is the home of Henrico's Center for Information Technology, we even had enough students for each of the two teams to have its own code-writing group. The rookie team leaders have gotten a taste of what managing a team feels like and cut their teeth on scheduling, training, and personnel issues for the first time.The high point of the rookie robot season came last week when we had a rookie throw down. We mocked up a field similar to the one used in the 2008 FRC game, Overdrive. The teams each completed a team profile sheet and one of our mentors acted as announcer for game and team introductions, just like at a real tournament. We moved straight to the finals and a "best of three" format. Excitement was high, cheers were loud, and driver hands were shaking as the robots moved around the field, picking up cubes and moving them around the track.The feedback from rookies, team leadership, and mentors has been overwhelmingly positive. This is the best first-year experience we have ever provided to our team. Over the summer we will dismantle the rookie robots and renew this training program for another season.(Pictured above: Our Tuesday rookie team connects their robot in preparation for its first competition)
Feb. 19, 2018
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Our team spends so much time together that you would think that we know everything about each other's lives. After all, when you are drilling out rivets or tapping shafts, there is plenty of time for conversation: "Guess what my dog did last night?" or "What did you think about the physics test?" that sort of thing. Somehow though, we didn't realize until recently that all of the primary team members of our school's Battle of the Brains (aka Academic Quiz Bowl)team are also members of Blue Cheese.The four young men, all juniors, competed against a team from Isle of Wight Co. recently and scored a win. We were able to pull the episode on YouTube and all had a good laugh when we saw them introducing themselves. They have so much personality and that really came through. It was just another reminder that our students know about much more than robots.
Feb. 6, 2018
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Blue Cheese has had significant successes advocating for STEM/STEAM education programs. Our collaboration with Virginia's lawmakers helped result in STEM competition grants for schools in high-poverty areas over the past two years. Recently we visited the Virginia General Assembly to speak in favor of House Bill 1111, proposed legislation that would establish a STEAM education fund in the Commonwealth. Seven of our students and one from FRC 1418 Vae Victus went to a meeting of the House Committee on Science and Technology. We met Delegates Kathy Tran and Hala Ayala, the bills chief co-patrons. Our advocacy work is structured in the same manner as our robotics. We have a mentor who works with interested students on researching opportunities for impact on programs that the students think are important. She guides them on the tools of civic engagement like contacting government leaders and attending public meetings: hands-on work facilitated by adult mentors. It's like government class, but better because it's not restricted to the page: students learn by doing.After Del. Tran presented the bill and it was discussed by committee members, Erik B. from Vae Victus and Talon K. from Blue Cheese approached the podium and spoke in favor of the bill. The students were elated when the bill passed unanimously out of committee and was referred to the House Appropriations committee. After the vote our students were able to meet several legislators, including Del. John McGuire who represents the district that includes Deep Run HS. He told us about one of his STEM learning experiences and how it changed his life.During the committee hearing we heard presentations and public comments on two other topics, in addition to HB 1111. One had to do with STEM program partnerships that involved NASA and Virginia. The other involved digital devices and embedded software. It was a wonderful civics lesson and a "grate" way to spend part of a school holiday.Our team continues to follow the progress of HB 1111 with interest. We have been writing to other teams to encourage them to join us in advocating for the bill. Our hope is that it will have enough support to make it to the Senate on "crossover day." You can keep appraised of the bill's status and find out how you can participate by visiting our "New Legislation" page.

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