FIRST Robotics‎ > ‎

Weekly Updates by students during build season

The following are weekly update sent to support and local newspapers during build season:

Kick Off

On Saturday, January 7 the local S.M.A.R.T (Spruce Mountain Area Robotics Team) Robotics team 3930 went to Fairchild Semiconductor in South Portland to watch the kickoff event. The team waited until 10:30 a.m. for the live video stream to start. After a lengthy introduction we found out about this year's game, Rebound Rumble. Rebound Rumble requires robots to shoot foam basketballs into hoops for points and balancing on a ramp at the center of the court.  Once the video had ended, we started to brainstorms for ideas on our robot. One of our members had an idea already sketched out for the new robot while some of us thought out more ideas for the building of our robot.

We met the next day, Sunday, January 8 at 9 a.m. to count the components from the kit our mentor Mr. Lemieux retrieved from the FIRST Robotics headquarters in New Hampshire. We checked and double checked to make sure we had all our components. We broke off into two groups with our spirit team working on poster and bulletin boards while the build team worked on ideas for the robot. Many of our ideas were tossed around none of them considered to be too crazy or too simple.

The build team broke up into 3 teams to sketch out our ideas. Two of the three ideas had the same basic design for our drive train. It was closing in on our time to end our meeting so our mentor Mr. Taylor had us go through and do what he called 'fist or five' where we voted on ideas for the robot.  Five fingers up meant you liked it, a fist meant it was not a good idea, and a 3 meant you could live with it. We went through our outline for plans over the next six-week build period and arranged our next meetings and closed up the meeting for the day. In just under six hours we had accomplished a lot. We will meet Monday and Tuesday in Mr. Lemieux room after school and again next Saturday.

Written by Michael Chavez

Week 1

On Saturday, January 14, the Spruce Mountain FIRST Robotics team spent its team meeting on the second weekend following the reveal of the robot game separated into four different groups. This year’s challenge requires the robot to launch foam basketballs into regulation basketball hoops at different heights.

            One group was assigned the task of conceptualizing a strategy for scoring points, as well as a launch mechanism, loading mechanism, and repository for balls. A number of ideas were considered, including an elevator system with a ramp that drops balls into the hoops, an air-pressure cannon that would shoot basketballs, a pneumatic system that would punch balls down a barrel, and finally a machine with rotating wheels that would fire the balls down a barrel. Many of the ideas did not satisfy the limits within which the robot was supposed to be built, or were not reliable enough to be worthwhile.

            After a time, elements of each strategy and system considered was incorporated into a common idea to optimize performance while keeping a simplistic design. This design will allow the robot to pick up the eight-inch basketballs from the ground, and pull them up on a system of wheels into a PVC pipe. Balls will be stored there until the robot is in range to project them into the hoop, positioned at 61 inches above the ground.

            Another group spent time disassembling one practice chassis in order to create a drive train in accordance with what had been decided on last weekend. The third group cut pieces and then assembled the new chassis. The new chassis should be able to drive over the four-inch barrier between the two sections of the arena, enabling easy mobility over the full court. The final group finished its poster for JC Penney, one of the sponsors, and one poster for each Spruce Mountain campus, in order to increase awareness of the FIRST Robotics team.

            During the past week after school, a mock-up of the playing court with all of the basketball hoops and barriers was constructed to aid with testing and figuring out new ideas for launch systems. By Megan Labbe


Week 2

            The Spruce Mountain Area Robotics Team (SMART) consists of Spruce Mountain High School Students and a number of community mentors.  The team is preparing for the FIRST Robotics Challenge to be held at Worcester Polytechnic Institute March 8-10, 2012.  This years challenge is called “Rebound Rumble” and the team must build and program a robot to pick up 8 inch foam basketballs and shoot them into regulation basketball hoops at 3 different heights.  The robot also earns points at the end of the match by balancing with another robot on a pivoting bridge in the center of the playing field.

            Robotics this Saturday began with a full group meeting in the Spruce Mountain High School North Campus Technology Lab with Mr. Lemieux reviewing shop safety, followed by a safety quiz for team members.  The team split into four different groups.  The first group finished the display for J.C. Penny and delivered it to the store in Auburn, where it is now hanging.  The drive train team finished the base and installed the wheels, drive chains, and drive motors.  The electrical team mounted and wired the electrical components to a board, which was then mounted to the robot.  The drive train of the robot is now ready to be programmed and then driven!  Finally, the basketball launcher team spent a lot of time debating designs for the ball launcher.  They constructed a wooden mock up of a prototype for collecting the eight inch foam basketballs and dropping them into one of the hoops. 

            We made a lot of progress this week!  The build season ends on February 21st, so we have exactly one month from today’s meeting to complete the robot, bag it, and tag it for delivery to Worcester Polytechnic Institute.  This coming week the Build Team will meet on Tuesday January 24 in the evening and the whole team will meet next Saturday  January 28th.  For more information about SMART and to track our team’s progress, you can like us on Facebook at . By Lexi Deering

Week 3

         With just three weeks left of the build season, the SMART FIRST Robotics Team was hard at work on Saturday, January 28th. The team met from 9-3 and split up into three major groups, building, programming, and spirit.

         The build team finished worked on completing the drive systems for two robots, one for drive practice and the other to use for competition.  They also started the framework for the robot’s ball catching mechanism, which will load balls into a chute and elevates them to a point where they will be released. They worked through a system of pulleys, tubes and rollers that will grab the balls and pull them up for shooting.  Bumpers were also created for the chassis made from foam tubes and fabric mounted to plywood.

         The programming team watched a video presentation on programming that will aid them in future programming of the robot.  They also worked to complete the steps necessary to drive the practice robot and practiced driving in the open-space of the gymnasium.

         The spirit team worked to create posters, banners and t-shirts that will be used at competition at Worcester Polytechnic Institute from March 7th to 10th.  The posters will be put up at both North and South Campuses and the banners will be used for promotional events and competitions.  It is important for the team to be easily recognizable at events, so the spirit team works to promote our team colors (purple, teal, and lime green), logo (a spruce tree in a light bulb) and team number (3930). 

         It was another productive day, but with time running out it looks like we’ll be doing more and more Tuesday meetings and possibly extending our weekend meetings.  You can track our progress, view photos and information about our team at By Shelby Bryant



Week 4

         We accomplished a lot of challenges today and as a rookie team, we handled them very well. Although we don’t have much time left, we are sure our robot will be ready to go and shooting hoops well before the competition, but that’s only if we keep working at this rate.  

         Our spirit team did tons of work today. Their daily challenge was to create a video presentation for the school committee meeting on this Thursday. They taped and edited  a video about how our builders are creating and improving our robot. If you want to see our robot in action, come to the RSU 73 school committee meeting this Thursday, February 9th.

         The build team was really busy today and split into different groups. One group had to work on the frame of our robot and create the bumpers. This group also worked on the elevating system that holds our basketballs. The other group worked on our shooting mechanism made up of an old children’s bicycle that was modified to launch basketballs. It was connected to a motor to turn the pedals and drive the system.

         The programming team finally got the robot to run through the wireless network. They discovered that the original modem that came with our kit of parts was defective. They also were able to hook up the webcam so they could see from the robots perspective while at the driving station. This will allow them to pick up basketballs on the far end of the court during competition.

         Overall this was a productive week. The team has figured out to complete the tasks required in the competition and are now working on all of the systems to make the robot do what it needs to do. Our robot must be completed by February 21st, leaving us with only 16 more days to complete our robot and two busy weeks ahead of us. By: Tyler Ritter

Students and Mentors with the final robot, ready for "bagging and tagging" and delivery to the FIRST Robotics Challenge at WPI.  Front Left to Right Jill Gingras, Ian Gingras, Shelby Bryant, Chloe Flagg, Tony Flagg.  Back:  Kym Bryant, Dan Lemieux, Rob Taylor, Dustin Jones, Michael Taylor Hampton.

Week 5

         This weekend, February 11th and 12th, the S.M.A.R.T. Robotics Team met for 7 hours on Saturday and Sunday, a total of 14 hours.  The team changed the design of our basketball launcher.  Instead of using a 14 inch bicycle tire and gear system, we are now using two 6 inch wheels, each driven by an independent motor.  We are planning to use a chain drive system on each motor and our preliminary tests looked good, as we could shoot baskets with the initial prototype.  We needed to change because the bicycle tire launch system required too much force to get started and it was causing the motors to overheat.  The two wheeled launch system is much more efficient and runs easier.  The team has also completed the ball pick-up system and it is running smoothly.  Sunday we designed and built a mechanism for pushing down the balance-bridge.  The mechanism is mounted to the front of the robot and consists of a gear box that greatly increases the torque and strength of the motor, along with a PVC arm and wheeled end.  The nest step is to test it and see if it will push down the balance bridge as it is designed to.  On Tuesday February 21st, we have to “bag and tag” the robot and build season is over!  We are working hard and hope to finish soon! By Erik Taylor

6 Week SMART Concludes Build Season with a Completed Robot

         Week six, the final week of build season for Spruce Mountain Area Robotics Team (S.M.A.R.T), ended Tuesday, February 21st. The robot is able to perform tasks such as picking up three eight inch foam basketballs, raising them up an elevator and shooting them. The goal is to get the basketballs into one of four hoops at three different heights. The robot also now can balance on a “bridge” with one or two other robots. The build season seemed too short for the amount of work required to produce a robot with the ability to perform these tasks while being both agile and precise, but somehow we’ve managed to get it done.

         In the past week S.M.A.R.T met 5 times, two of which consisted of trips to Oakland to Wrabacon Inc. for assistance from our mentor team from Messalonskee High School. During the last two weeks there were more changes made to the robot design than the other five weeks of building combined. We tried different ways to lower the balancing “bridge”.  One of our mentors, Mr. Taylor, a high school physics teacher, tried testing one of the methods and broke a gear causing us to have to rethink our method of lowering the bridge.  We ended up with a very strong PVC arm on the front which lowers the balancing bridge so we can drive on.  With all functions working on the robot, it came down to the finishing touch, the lime green coloration. 

         The robot has been “bagged and tagged” for shipping to the competition at Worcester Polytechnic Institute March 8-10.  Check out our progress online at our website: or like us on Facebook at:!/SMHSrobotics.

         The build season has been a great success because of our hard work and the massive amount of time that everyone has put in to building a great robot. We would like to thank all of the mentors and team members who dedicated their time to our cause.  Mentors include teachers Dan Lemieux, Kym Bryant, Karina Escajeda, and Rob Taylor, as well as community members Fred Ouellette, Tony Flagg, Steve Gettle, Phil Maurais, and Jill Gingras, to name a few.  We would also to thank our sponsors: RSU #73, NASA, JC Penney, Fairchild Semiconductor, F.A.T. Electric, Bilodeau Carpentry, Goodwin Wells, Main Land Development, Dana and Amy Therrien, MidMaine Lawn Care, and Bailey Brothers Inc. By Michael Taylor Hampton


Pic 1058 - Dustin Jones makes final adjustments on the basketball shooting drive wheels while Shelby Bryant checks the arm for lowering the balance bridge.

Dustin Jones tests the tension in the ball conveyor system while Michael Taylor Hampton and Chloe Flagg wire the electronic control system.