Of College, Cars, Cotton, and Construction

How does one describe something without a frame of reference? Hopefully, not badly. Last Sunday, I began my long and eventful journey as a “college student”. Now, considering that I’ve only had two full school days, and that I’ve only sat in three of my four classes, I feel I should suspend judgement of both my teachers and my ability to make friends. I will however, speak of my first few days on campus. Continue reading

T-minus 0

Time has slowed down, a good thing too–we had lots to work on. Our robotics competition is on Thursday. Today will be the final leg.

We must practice, practice, and somehow get our average up to 50 pointsOur Robot in one minute, forty seconds. That’s a point every two seconds, so we probably won’t get it that high. We need to work on our program especially after we saw that some teams (FTC 3) have eight autonomous  modes according to whom they are playing. We also need to do a general maintenence check. I’m not going to be begging for parts from other teams during the competition. (hopefully) Even if we do have to beg, all the teams there are really nice and will pity the idiot enthusiasts who got to go at last minute.

We will be giving away nifty pens and wearing green. We will also be sneezing over everyone (me at least) because we have allegies. I recommend that you wave to us from across the room. *kidding*

T-minus 2 days

What an odd, strange ride it’s been. Robotics still dominate my days. We must have spent 30 hours on the robot in the last few days. I am beginning to feel like a fool surrounded by geniuses. You can almost hear the brain circuits buzzing; perhaps that’s the humidifier.

It almost seems that for every problem we solve, there’s another problem right around the corner. All of our problems from last week were solved by a brainstorm, but now the five-year-old kits are beginning to break down. We had to sauter a wire tonight just so we could practice. We have been reduced to overnight shipping and begging other teams so we can use a lawful wire at the competition.

Other than that, I have been struck by how similar this is to the small handi-crafts I had been doing, especially sorting screws and inserting things into tight places. I even got out my sewing kit when we were trying to thread the wires back into the connection.
Pray that our team as well as our robot does not break under the strain. God wants us to do this; He’ll get us through it.

Championship

Well, by circumstances almost beyond my comprehension, it appears that team 420, and I with it, are going to  the FIRST nationals! Usually, only teams who won first place or the inspire award get to go. However, so many teams won first place at multiple competitions that they had a drawing for lowly teams like ours to come as filler.

I am somewhat peeved. The drawing took place eight days before they told us, and we now only have a week to get ready. We are coming to try to compete, you know. FIRST also slapped us with a humongous entrance fee in proportion to the notice they gave us.

We found a sponsor, however, so we won’t have to pay the fee. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to go. Now I have an incredible amount of work before me.

  • We must stabilize an annoying semi-twisting shaft.
  • We must reprogram the thing.
  • We must practice driving.
  • We must find a way to be sure of the arm’s height.
  • We need to finish all the publicity stuff, t-shirts, lists of what to bring and remember, etc.

Despite this all, I’m rather happy to go. Next year the nationals are being moved to California, which is far outside the reach of my casual haunting. I wish to make the most of this last championship. Perhaps we might even win something. 😉

Robotics by committee

To my complete and utter happiness, I am now developing ideas for a
robot. Transferring them to an actual metal structure, is sadly a much
different process.

Our first task was brainstorming. Once the rush of ideas had stampeded
past, there was not much left to do, so we wanted to build. Our mentor
(in all his wisdom and machine development) got us to slow down and
think things through, averting mad chaos. Once we had some good ideas,
we again decided that we wanted to build. Three-quarters of the team
(as well as our mentor) weren’t there. That wasn’t a problem…. So we
built a model of an arm.

The second task was actually developing ideas and finding workable
compromises. However, by this time, three-quarters of the members on
BOTH our own and our sister team had to attend meetings for the LEGO
robot team they were also on. Much to my chagrin, the VEX and the LEGO
teams met simultaneously. What was left of our two teams merged and
talked, in essence getting both entire teams prepared for the task of
building.

Afterwards, I took left of the arm we had first built home to improve
upon it. (The rest of the arm had gotten destroyed in the mad rush of
building.) I began to work on it. I suddenly had a mad desire for a
degree in machine development. (It looked so pretty on paper.)
Suddenly I understood that this would be hard work.

Due to the fact my parents had to go out of state the next meeting and
I had all the parts as well as the engineering notebook, the next
meeting must have been one of immense unproductively. However, Slowly
as it may be, we do make progress.

Revenge of the Grinder

For my birthday a few weeks ago I got some cookbooks. As might be expected, the promise of cookies made me very happy. However, to get the cookies, I had to actually make them first, and to make the cookies, I had to go shopping for ingredients. That wasn’t a problem; I like Whole Foods. Something about the smells of fish, odd spices, and the weird tacky aqua river tiles that wind haphazardly through the store intrigue me. The first thing we did was to get supplies for an unconnected marmalade project. We weighed grapefruits in our hands for fifteen minutes. Never mind that there’s a scale twenty feet away.

Than we wandered the aisles for a while trying to find all the special gluten-free flours I needed. We finally found them right under our noses; worse, we had also been bypassing one of them under a different brand because it had two names. Even worse, when we got home, I discovered that we did not even need that particular kind of flour. I found it rather funny.

The next step was grinding the grain we had into flour. Some kind soul had given me a grinder. The first step was emblazoned on the side of the grinder. “Read Instruction Manual.” When we finally found the manual on the net, it began like this.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN PLEASE READ THESE IMPORTANT SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS.

1. Read all instructions.

The rest of the numbered instructions dealt with common sense, ending with the admonition:

10. SAVE THESE INSTRUCTIONS.

Well, I could do that. I turned on my Wonder Mill (™) and discovered why it was, as the website said, only, “formerly the Whisper Mill.” It ran along the lines of “Whisper Mill” only in the sense that you had forgotten to whisper and woken the baby who happened to have an enormous lung capacity. Even that was fine because my mom has a mill which is also loud. The real problem came when the mill turned malevolent. It started with a gentle, almost undetectable steam of escaping flour from underneath the lid of holding container. The lid was on securely and the flour was very fine anyway so it didn’t worry me too much. That is, until it popped its lid and taught me why I should always wear an apron.

We finally had the flour and a baking mix made. I was ready to make bread. Than I discovered that I had to grind some millet flour too. By that time I was already deep into rearranging the pantry to make space for the flour and had no prospects of having enough time for grinding or baking until Saturday. Oh well, the pound of chocolate I also got for my birthday might last me until then.