Meet Team Canada!
Each year, Canada chooses one province to send a delegate team to represent the country at the FIRST Global Challenge. This year, the lot fell on British Columbia. Naturally, our team combined forces (no pun intended) with a few other teams in the mainland to apply for this amazing opportunity. And we were chosen. To represent Canada. At the 2022 FIRST Global Challenge. !!!
We are super excited about this! Two of our grade 12 students, Lulu and Kieran, will be spending the entire summer working along side Allen from FTC team Parabellum, Emmy from Celtic Silverfish and Avneet from Khalsa I fundraising, building, programming, and doing international outreach as part of the mandate of FIRST Global Challenge. We will keep you posted on how it all goes, including a link to the Team Canada website.
It's going to be a lot of work, but also a lot of fun!
Our Dean's List Finalist goes to the FIRST World Championship!
by Coach Ana
Mom of the team, co-coach / team cook on weekends, prohibitor of waffling and slacking, and most enthusiastic fan of Team Forces Unknown.
3rd Place @ FIRST Tech Challenge BC Championship - 2022
by Lulu G.
This has been our most exciting year yet! Last weekend on February 26, 2022 we participated at the FIRST Tech Challenge BC Championship at Khalsa Secondary School in Surrey, BC. It turned out to be a memorable event for team Forces Unknown.
We are so proud of our robot - in the Robot Game, our team came in second place - which guaranteed us a spot in the elimination matches. This is the furthest we've gotten in the last two years.
On the left here, check out our amazing drivers, David and Maddi, and our programming master mind and duck deliverer, Kieran. They did an amazing job!
Even though we ended up with the second highest individual scores in the competition, we unfortunately did not make it past the semi-final round in the alliance matches. We were still super excited to have gotten as far as we did, and we know we'll do even better in the upcoming season.
It was a lot of fun to collaborate with other teams. To our surprise, we received the Connect Award and arrived in 3rd place for the Championship Inspire Award. And I, Lulu, was selected Dean's List Finalist and was invited to the World Championship in Houston Texas next month! It was such an honor to be chosen among all the amazing competing teams!
More than just robots
by Kyoungjoo C.
Of course, FTC isn't just about robots, but is also about the relationship between team members and the coaches. With this in mind, our team has participated in many fun activities outside of our regular work meeting times. From hosting the end of the season or graduation parties to just hanging out together at the beach, there have been some key moments that we will never forget. Even though our team blossomed from a childhood friendship, the team managed to learn more about each other this season. Important conversations like future universities or wackier discussions like relationship advice would be the focus during these meet-ups, helping us better understand each other when we are out on the robot field.
One of the first things our team did early in the season was our little pre-season beach hang out. A few weeks before the start of school, all our team members met at Spanish banks in the brisk near autumn weather. Although the weather was a disappointment, we made it work by having a picnic and playing volleyball on the cold icy sand. It was quite a sight to see for our coaches watching the robotics nerds attempt to set and volley the ball to each other, but this was the definition of fun for all of us. Eventually, our two co-captains attempted to drag us into the water, going as far as splashing water onto our perfectly dry clothes... Despite that, it was a great hangout and we were even able to introduce two new members to our team, all while getting drenched by our co-captains.
Another memorable team bonding exercise that will forever be in our hearts was our Christmas party after the first league event. After our more than satisfactory results, the whole team decided that they all deserved a party before winter break. The first league of the season had been one of our best FTC leagues EVER, and our excitement, combined with good measure of holiday cheer, led us to our decision to do something fun!. We chose to go bouldering and afterwards chip in for a little game of White Elephant.
The basics of this game are simple. You can read the rules here: How to play White Elephant Gift Exchange Game. This little game really tested our creativity on what kind of gifts could fit any of our 9 members.
Before this event, however, we indulged in some classic bouldering at a nearby facility. Just like our beach trip, it was quite an amusing sight watching each of us struggle.
Forces Our success as a team so far would never have been possible if we didn’t plan these small outings every now and then. These team bonding activities have taught us that we actually don't know each other as well as we think we do, and we continue to invest in one another friendship. I believe this characteristic is one of the many that sets us apart from the other FTC teams. Our friendship is perhaps the main force behind Forces Unknown.
by Masiha B.
We've had many outreach events this season so far, especially on professional development days. A few of our team members went to the Kelowna School District to share our experience with that community. We also got to introduce FIRST to teachers in our own Vancouver School District. And we had the opportunity to host the FLL kickoff and co-host the FTC kickoff with another local FTC team. This kickoff was the first regional event where all the teams in the area gathered for information and trial runs of the new season.
Expanding our connections in the province
At the end of August, we sent a couple of our team members to Kelowna in the Okanagan so that they could run a workshop for teachers in the Kelowna School District about FLL. The FIRST Senior Mentor for British Columbia along with FRC Regional Director, we took turns helping teachers to quickly build and program robots using Spike Prime and EV3’s. We then tried out a few of the new missions for the season, Cargo Connect. This gave the teachers a good sense for the joys and the challenges of playing the game. By the end of the workshop, our Kelowna teachers were well equipped to pass FLL on to students at their respective schools.
Meanwhile, back in Vancouver...
This past October we joined our forces (no pun intended) with the the FIRST LEGO League partner, Uschi Leslie, to run another FLL workshop at St. Patrick's Secondary. It was a ProD Day, and teachers from around the Vancouver School District had been invited to participate. Similarly to what we had done in Kelowna, we divided the group of teachers in pairs, and half of them worked with Spike Prime and the other half worked with EV3 Mindstorms. Once they finished building their robots, we helped them program them and stayed with them answering questions while they tried out the game missions. Our aim was to make sure they left with a clear sense for how to run FLL.
Season Kickoff Events
We co-hosted the FTC kickoff with Parabellum. This was the first in person event we were able to attend with other teams present since the championship event last March 2020 due to the pandemic. There were about 6-8 teams and each team had around 6-10 people. We had a few robots on display from last season. All teams were super excited, as we patiently waited for FIRST Robotics BC's Head Referee to set up the new season's game field for the season reveal. Once the game had been revealed, We teamed up with another FTC Team, Parabellum, to help prepare teams for the new season. Parabellum's presentation was about their previous season's robot and their programming. In our presentation we covered outreach, finance, and engineering notebook based on our experience from previous seasons. At the end of the event, new FTC teams left not only with all the info they needed to start off the season, but also a few walked out with some loot. Just for fun, we taped a piece of paper under 4 chairs at random before the event started, and at the end, whoever sat on those chairs got to take home a REV robotics t-shirt.
In the afternoon, we also hosted the FLL kickoff, which to our surprise wasn’t as packed with only 3 teams in attendance. After the game reveal, the bulk of our presentation covered the 3 key components of FLL: Robot Game, Project, and Core Values. The game trailer was presented to all the attendees with the game table in person. There were a few tables with EV3 and Spike Prime so that students and coaches at the event could try them out.
We plan to do other outreach activities as the season progresses.... stay tuned to find out how we do!
Summer Camp 2021 - FLL with Cargo Connect
by Kieran P.
This past summer we ran a one week long LEGO Robotics summer camp for kids aged 8-12 to fundraise for our upcoming season. We based our camp on the new season’s 2021-22 FIRST LEGO League game, Cargo Connect.
What happened at this fundraiser camp, you might ask? Essentially, we condensed an entire season’s worth of robotics competition into a week-long camp to give students a taste of what it’s like to compete in FLL. We divided the group into two teams. Each team got to experience all aspects of a FIRST season, including building and designing a robot, programming the robot, conducting a research project based on an inquiry question, preparing a presentation for a panel of judges, and of course practicing good sportsmanship through Gracious Professionalism.
And the kids did an amazing job!!!
BUILDING - Both teams designed unique but effective robots that could do a plethora of challenges. Each team took a very different approach to completing challenges on the FLL mat, which was fun for us to see. We held teaching sessions along the way to aid in their robot design process and programming.
PROGRAMING - One of the most useful skills the kids learned was how to use sensors effectively to make their robots more consistent. One group went so far as to use two sensors in one program (wow!). They used a colour sensor to follow a line, and a gyro sensor to keep track of their orientation. Overall, we are very proud of both teams for persevering through the challenges robotics throws at you and producing a phenomenal final product.
PROJECT - In addition to the robot game, teams are also required to do a research project based on an inquiry question. One team chose the question “How do we reduce emissions in motor sports?” and the other team chose to research “How do sports affect the brain?”. Over the course of the camp, they put together Power Point presentations filled with all the research that they did. Among the topics covered were renewable energy and healthy living practices.
CORE VALUES - The teams also learned how to work together and exercise Gracious Professionalism. The core values of FIRST are always the backbone of anything we do, and our camps are no different. We place a heavy emphasis on teamwork, being the best you can be and “Coopertition”, a term coined by FIRST to mean a combination of competing intensely while having a spirit of cooperation with your opponents. It’s always important to remember that the team you compete against can also be your best ally. We teach kids to help uplift each other.
Some of these concepts were new to the kids, especially our core values. But by the end of the week they were accustomed to it and could see the benefit. All in all, we had a very successful week of fundraising!
Info on Cargo Connect season here and intro video here.
We had a couple of Outreach projects such as mentoring a rookie FTC team, hosting workshops for kids to learn about programming and FTC with zoom, and we also volunteered at a school to teach kids about programming and FTC.
When we were mentoring the rookie FTC team we tried to tell them tips that we would've wished to know when we were a rookie team or if they had any questions that was relating to our competitions or theirs we would try to answer them. One of the questions they asked us what kit to get for their robot and so we suggested GoBilda because from our experience we thought that Tetrix wasn't very reliable.
We also recommended that they would CAD every build they were gonna make because then they could spot a mistake in an online version of their robot instead of their actual one so that it would save more time. For the workshops we used FTC Sim by Pixel Pad which allowed us to teach kids how FTC works without using an actual robot.
Our goal in the beginning of the season was to deliver the wobble goal to the target zone, navigation, score 3 of the high goals for autonomous. For driver control we wanted to score at least 10 rings into the medium or high goals.
For Endgame we wanted to place the wobble goal onto the drop zone, and to shoot 3 power shots. But after some leagues we changed up our strategy, we realized that we couldn't score 10 rings so we switched it to at least 6 rings. We were able to achieve our goal, we were able to run a nearly perfect autonomous and we scored 6 rings into the high and medium goals.
Our robot used REV mecanum wheels for better movement, we left area for an intake device and our drivers base was square shaped. We also have a wobbler goal grabber which had a servo to make sure that the wobble goal would fall out of our grasp. Our intake had a 3D printed ramp that lead the rings with 2 AndyMark compliant wheels into our storage system which could store 3 rings. Our shooter has uses an ark to build up speed for the ring while its in contact with a flywheel. The platform where the ring is going to be shot at was also 3D printed.
We decided use Android Studio because OnBotJava had lots of glitches. It took some time to setup Android Studio. The main laptop we were programming on refused to connect to the Rev Control Hub and so we spent lots of time trying debug this issue but we couldn't solve this so instead we used another laptop which worked fine.
For driver control the left stick controls the movement of the robot(360 degrees). The right stick controls our the turning. The other buttons and bumpers make the robot to other things like the shooting rings and intaking rings. We made a super class for each of our autonomous programs containing basic functions like driving and turning. For driving we used encoders to increase accuracy, we also use a gyroscope and a webcam to increase consistency.
Our robot needs to be able to observe the amount of rings in the starter stack and so we thought that a webcam would be the most efficient method. Our webcam would look at the image and count the rings by counting the amount of orange pixels. Because last year we had issues with inconsistent turns we decided to use the gyroscope that's in the built in IMU in our Rec Control Hub this year. The gyro measures rotation on 3 axes and so we went through the process of trial and error to find the right axes.
We med up online on discord because of the COVID guidelines and in those meetings we would go over what was done and what needs to be done. The robot would at our coaches house and there were times where some of house would go and build some of the robot whilst following the COVID guidelines. We had one gather up at the end of the year to work on the robot one last time. The whole team was there and it was really great to hangout and work on the robot together.
We created a workshop to teach kids how to use Pixel Pad which is an FTC simulator that helps you and your team program and test the robot together. We sent an email to school PAC’s about our workshop; we left a link to a google sign up sheet that asked them if they have any past programming experience.
One week after the release of the email, we realized our offer was not that popular as we thought it would be. “It’s free coding classes! Why would the parents hesitate to sign their kids up?” one of our teammates would say. By the time we were a week away from the workshop, we only had 11 kids registered. This obviously was a great disappointment to the team. Can Codes were not something that came very often and we felt like we were losing in on a great opportunity. One way or the other we knew the show had to go on and we decided to move on, but little did we know that our coach had sent this email to her workplace. And the night we had everything setup, we would be surprised to see not 11 but 63 people registered.
The team immediately went to work, sorting the kids from beginner, intermediate and advanced. We hosted 3 workshops in the day and each of them lasted for an hour. The workshops were for grades 3-7 but we had the 6th and 7th graders separated in a different workshop because of their age difference from the others. We handled the workshop by making breakout rooms based on experience of programming. We had them program the basic movements of the robot and there were at least 2 of us in each breakout room to help them and share our screens to show them the answer after they all finished one of the exercises. Then before the workshop ended we informed them that they can sign up for FLL or FTC by FIRST. This obviously being our first time doing virtual Can Code, we decided to do a make up class for the first class, in order to deal with technical difficulties the whole time. All in all, our team agreed it was a success and have decided this can be something we can continue to do.
There was couple of reasons why we didn't post on the blog and the are mostly about how COVID-19 changed how the team was going to meet while being safe, the whole FTC season, and the building process.
COVID really put us into a hard situation by limiting our resources and our ability to meet and fix problems with the robot. So we figured that we would have a meeting on our regular time, but hosting it on discord. Then we realized that we need a day in the week to make sure all the tasks were being worked on and if there was any new information about anything then we would talk about it on that da, so we scheduled a weekday for just checking in or to give new updates about anything which would last between 30-60 minutes.
Building was going to be different because we cant go to our normal meeting and just build so that meant that we had to CAD a lot and that is exactly what we did. The building process was basically each team member would have a part of the robot to CAD so that the two other members with the robot could build it knowing how it should look like and knowing that we know it would work well. If we wanted to make any changes we would always first CAD, then examine the CAD to make sure that it would actually works and then we edit it on the robot.
The FTC season was really different from the past seasons because there wasn't any conformations about the time and date for the first league because it all depended on COVID so we had to just make sure our robot was ready before the end of November.
That is why we were gone for a while, we were just trying to settle in with how the season was going to work and so we couldn't find time, but now we are back.