Team 811 History
With roots dating back to 1993, this twice-rookie team has left a legacy in the FIRST community throughout the years. This section is tribute to the years that have gone, and the different robots Team 811 has had the pleasure of creating and bringing to competitions.
The biggest news of the 2017 season: Team 811 was selected to host the Week Zero event! February 15th saw 29 teams come to BG, with the STEAMworks field in the Gym and the pits in the Field House. As far as we can tell, a good time was had by all, and we're quietly hopeful for a repeat engagement next year.
In STEAMworks, a game based loosely on the steam punk theme, robots had to collect Fuel (5" Wiffle balls) and throw them into Boilers, transport 11" plastic Gears to the Airships (huge structures at either end of the field), and then climb up a 1" diameter rope. Pilots aboard the Airships used the Gears to engage Rotors, marking the first time that Human Players were on the playing field.
We initially designed Sisyphus with an emphasis on the Fuel, confident that we could design an accurate ball thrower, but as Build Season progressed this proved more difficult than anticipated. Multiple iterations of a Gear handler were designed and redesigned, with a total replacement Gear picker getting installed between our two District Events. The rope climber was considered the easiest piece, and was added at the end of Build Season
At Week Zero, we learned that our focus on a ball shooter was not going to help us in competition: we simply couldn't accurately deposit large numbers of Fuel into the Boiler. In our remaining days of Build Season, part of the team worked on a climber, part worked on improving our Gear manipulation, and part continued tweaking the shooter.
Windham High hosted GSD again, and Sisyphus sported a new passive Gear handler and a climber. Unfortunately the climber suffered unexpected problems, in the form of a planetary gearbox failure, which cost us a number of matches. We ended the event with a 3-8-0 record, but took home the Xerox Creativity Award.
Before our second event, the Southern NH District Event held at Bedford High, we replaced the passive Gear handler with an active mechanism that allowed us to pick Gears up from the floor. This gave us a much more competitive robot, and we would have won the majority of our matches if the climber behaved better. The planetary gearbox failed multiple times; post mortem analysis showed that our design of the rope spindle was actually pulling the output shaft from the gearbox. Without the climber, we couldn't do better than a 3-8-1 record, and our competition season was over.
2016 FIRST StrongHold℠
STRONGHOLD was based on a medieval theme, requiring robots to overcome defenses, hurl 10" foam ball "Boulders" at the opponent's tower, and Capture their Tower. Each Castle was protected by five Outer Defenses, and each alliance could decide the specific defense for each of three spots from a menu of choices. (One defense, the Low Bar, was constant, and the remaining defense was selected by the audience.) Crossing a Defense twice would damage it; damaging four Defenses would breach the Outer Defenses. Scoring enough Boulders in the opponent's Tower will Weaken it, and alliances that Surround and optionally Scale the Weakened Tower will Capture the Tower. Ranking Points are awarded for match wins (based on points, and also for Breaching Defenses and Capturing Towers.
Sir Lancebot was designed to deftly pick up and hurl the Boulders, cross most of the Outer Defenses, and Scale the Tower. We used a 6-wheel design with 8" wheels, figuring it would give us the most flexibility on the defenses. Vision targeting was a goal, but didn't work as well as anticipated.
GSD was held this year at Windham High, and while we made it to the Elimination Rounds we were defeated in the Quarter Finals. Our spirits were raised, however, when we were awarded the Johnson & Johnson Gracious Professionalism Award for the fifth time!
Our second District Event was at Boston University. Finishing the Qualifier Rounds again with a 6-6-0 record, we did slightly better by making it to the Semi Finals before being eliminated. The team was quite surprised later that day when we won the Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers Entrepreneurship Award.
For the third year in a row we were invited to the New England Championship Event, held in the XL Center in Hartford CT. We struggled mightily at this event, achieving a disappointing 4-8-0 record, and we were done for the year.
2015 Recycle Rush℠
Recycle Rush involved making stacks of plastic storage crates (the kind that the Kits of Pars arrive in), topped with RubberMade recycling containers, into which a pool noodle can be inserted for extra points. Unlike all games in recent years, the Red and Blue Alliances never interacted -- the field was divided by a 6" tall step that couldn't be crossed. As a result, wins and losses didn't matter, only the Alliance's individual scores.
Again using Mechanum wheels, we designed INJART ("It's Not Just A Robot Thing!") with a giant claw to lift the recycling containers, and a pair of threaded rod-driven elevators to lift the totes from either side. As a result, we could easily build stacks of 2 or 3 totes, or even 4 with some planning.
GSD was again at Nashua High, and again we made it to the Elimination Rounds. This year, however, we made it almost all the way before being eliminated, taking home the GSD Finalist Trophy. To our further delight, the judges awarded us the Engineering Inspiration Award!
Our second District Event was at UNH-Durham. We performed slightly better in the Qualifier Rounds than we did at GSD, and were again in the Elimination Rounds. We made it only to the Quarter Finals before being eliminated, but in a strange deja vu moment, we were awarded a second Engineering Inspiration Award! A day later however we received word that the judges goofed, and were not supposed to give us a second E.I. Award. The did allow us to keep the points associated with the award, however, which helped us get to the New England Championships, held at WPI.
While our performance at the NE-CMP was lackluster at best, we did manage to just sneak into the "Qualified for St. Louis" list. Another 22 hour bus ride (this time with Team 172, "Northern Force") and while we didn't do as well we'd hoped, a good time was had by all.
2014 Aerial Assist℠
The 2014 season introduced the District Model to the 200+ teams in New England. For Team 811 it meant the end of the Granite State Regional at the Verizon, but it was replaced with TWO District Events and the possibility of the New England Regional Championship!
"Aerial Assist" required robots to move 2' diameter yoga balls across the field and into goals. Extra points were earned by robots passing the ball between alliance members, tossing the ball over a 6' high truss at mid-court, and catching the tossed ball on the fly. (Unique this year, there was no "end game".)
Borrowing some concepts from 2008 robots, we constructed Incendio, an incredibly agile robot that used Mechanum wheels for incredible maneuverability, a pair of tennis racquet-like arms to grab and catch the ball, and a powerful catapult controlled by an awesome winch clutch.
Incendio proved as amazing as we hoped, helping us reach the Granite State District Event Quarter Finals at Nashua High. Our disappointment quickly gave way to elation, as we were awarded the Chairman's Award at GSD, becoming the first team to ever earn a slot at the New England Regional Championship Event
We traveled to WPI for our second District Event, where we continued our winning streak. Pushing Incendio, our Drive Team and our Pit Crew to new limits (the students replaced a severed arm unaided by mentors within the 6 minute "fix-it" window!), we made it to the third match of the Finals Match. Although our Alliance was strong (Teams 2648 "Infinite Loop" and 5122 "The RoboTies"), and regularly scored well in autonomous mode (including a 75-point three shot, all Hot Goal performance), none of our robots scored autonomously in that last match. We lost the match by just 13 points, and had to settle for District Event Finalist.
At the New England Championship Event at Boston University, we again performed well enough to enter the Elimination Matches. After winning the Quarter Finals, however, our catapult clutch seized during the first match of the Semi Finals, and we withdrew ourselves to give our Alliance a chance to win. But like GSD, disappointment was brief, as we were awarded the Regional Chairman's Award, and a ticket to St. Louis!
The trip to the World Championships involved a 22-hour chartered bus ride (with our newest best friends Teams 319 "Big Bad Bob" and 4925 "The Resistance"). When competitions involve both some of the best teams in the world AND a number of rookie teams, the results can be erratic, and we ended with a mere 3-7 record.
2013 Ultimate Ascent℠
2013 proved to be a heartbreaking year on many fronts. Early in the school year, St. Joseph Hospital notified us that this would be the last year we would get to use their facilities for our FIRSTbase. Additionally, our FIRSTbase would be downsized considerably for the year. We had to say goodbye to the church and the "west half" of FIRSTbase immediately, meaning we had to squeeze everything from Mech, the wood shop, and the storage closet into our smaller workspace.
The 2014 game of "Ultimate Ascent℠" could really have been called "Frisbees and Monkey Bars", as robots were tasked with shooting Frisbees into goal zones to earn points. Additionally, robots were challenged with being able to climb a 3-tiered pyramid to earn points.
At first, we tried to design a Frisbee thrower, but none of our prototypes panned out. As a team, we decided to switch gears and focus on building a climbing robot using an agile climbing system involving a pair of arms with movable double hooks.
At the unofficial Week Zero competition, we climbed the tower all 7 of 7 attempts, and were actively scouted by other teams for potential alliances at the official FIRST competitions.
To our dismay, however, we discovered that our robot design violated a "maximum number of motors" rule as we were uncrating at the Granite State Regional Competition. While our team rallied together to spend many frantic hours that day (and night) trying to replace the offending motor, the result was a less-than-functional climbing robot and a last place finish.
2012 Rebound Rumble℠
Playfully known as "Basketballs and Teeter-totters", this game involved shooting hoops and balancing on see-saws (a.k.a. bridges).
Continuing the trend of recent years, our robot GROM (doesn’t stand for anything special) was fast, agile, and smart. It had a powerful ball thrower mounted to a steerable turret, and when combined with a mounted camera produced incredibly accurate autonomous shots. Bolstered by a strong finish at the Week Zero event at Nashua High, the programming team added some additional tricks to the autonomous code, such as tilting the bridge to dump the unused balls onto our side of the field.
At the Granite State Regional Event, we placed 29 out of 50 teams with a 5-7-0 record. We were chosen to be an alliance with Team 61, "The Intimidators", and Team 138, "Entropy". We were eliminated in the quarterfinals. However, our work on the autonomous actions of our robot was recognized by the judges, and Team 811 earned the Delphi Excellence in Engineering Award.
2011 Logo Motion™
2011 was one of our most successful years ever. Just prior to Kick-Off, Team 811 was invited by FIRST to create the 2011 "Map of FIRST", an informative display of the locations of all the teams and competitions for the year. The entire team got to travel to the Kick-Off Broadcast in Manchester to present the map to Dean Kamen, and as an added bonus we got to meet hip-hop star Will.i.am.
The 2011 game was Logo Motion, where robots had to hang triangle, circle and square inner tubes to form the FIRST Logo. Additionally, at the end of the match each robot could deploy a mini-bot to climb a ten foot pole for bonus points.
Realizing the similarity to Rack 'N' Roll, Team 811 started with Sparky’s design, keeping the ideas that worked, discarding those that didn't, and improving everything else. The result was the TARDIS, which (of course) carried the minibot named the Doctor. This highly robust and effective robot, coupled with outstanding driving by the students, performed better than any robot we’ve ever built.
At Week Zero (a scrimmage event held the weekend before ship day), we were 5-2 and the #2 seed, getting to the Finals before losing.
At GSR we were 8-2 and again the #2 seed. Joining forces with Teams 1058 (the PVC Pirates of Londonderry, NH) and 3074 (New School Robotics from Kennebunk, ME), we quickly won the Quarter-Finals before being beaten in the Semi-Finals.
We earned a spot at the 2011 FIRST championship in St. Louis, MO. Unfortunately, we only won four of ten matches.
In 2010 the game was Breakaway, which could be described as "soccer with speed bumps". Robots had to get regulation soccer balls into corner goals, but straddling, picking up, or in any way carrying balls was illegal. Furthermore, the playing field was divided into thirds by foot-tall bumps, so robots had to kick the balls from place to place. Finally, bonus point would go to teams that could hang from towers located in the middle of the field at the end of the match.
Team 811 designed Calctro (Latin for "I kick"), which had wheels on stilts (to climb over the bumps), a mechanical kicking mechanism, and a strong hook on an arm to hang from the tower.
At GSR we went 6-3-1, setting team records for most wins and fewest losses, and hung from the tower five times.
With the close of GSR, the team wasn’t quite ready to call it quits, so we looked for something else to occupy our time. As a very "non-robot" activity, we decided to learn some woodworking skills by building a piece of furniture to be auctioned off at the BG Gala. We chose a colonial pie safe from the New Yankee Workshop collection, and even managed to get Mr. Norm Abrams to come to FIRSTbase to discuss craftsmanship old and new.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, FIRST introduced the game Lunacy, where robots had to collect Orbit Balls and deposit them into trailers pulled by other robots. For the FIRST time since 1992, the playing field wasn’t carpet, but a slick plastic material called Regolith; combined with the mandatory hard plastic wheels, this extremely low friction environment was meant to simulate the low gravity of the moon.
Faced with these daunting technical challenges, Team 811 built the Noisy Cricket (named because the high-pitched squeal of the thrower was reminiscent of the weapon in "Men In Black"). NC featured an efficient grabber that fed the orbit balls into a cylinder (made of curved Lexan) containing a spiral ramp (made of string), and at the top of the spiral a high-speed spinning wheel kicked the balls out. We intended the cylinder to rotate, allowing a camera to track the opponent trailers, and we actually made our own lazy susan out of Lexan.
Unfortunately we found that the hits the robot took in competition would jar many of the marbles we used as bearings loose, costing us penalty points. To prevent the potential penalty points, we removed all of the marbles and locked the cylinder in place. Without the turret, the high-speed throwing wheel had us shooting too far away for accuracy. Complicating the tournament, the hard plastic wheels sliding on the plastic surface meant static discharge was a serious issue, as many robots regularly lost communications.
We attended the Granite State Regional and finished with a 3-5-0 record. Despite the losses, Noisy Cricket received won the Xerox Creativity Award for its design.
Prior to heading to the Championships in Atlanta, our students added a shop-made gearbox to slow the thrower to a reasonable speed, allowing us to dump Orbit Balls into nearby trailers. At the competition, we fared slightly better with a 3-3-1 record, placing us 48th out of 87 teams.
2008 FIRST Overdrive
In 2008 the game was Overdrive, where robots had to drive NASCAR-style ("go fast, turn left") around the field while carrying 40-inch diameter exercise balls. These "trackballs" began on a 6½ foot high overpass, and extra points were awarded if the trackballs passed over this bridge as they were driven around the track; bonus points were awarded if the balls were returned to the overpass at the end of the match.
To play Overdrive, we constructed a two-tiered robot, capable of lifting the trackballs over the overpass. This mechanism, half funicular and half elevator, ultimately lead to the naming of the robot Ella-Vader (Darth’s sister). Ella used an interesting suction-based system to grab onto the 40" diameter trackballs, which were then either driven at speed around the track or lifted (first up and back on the funicular, then higher up via the elevator) up and over the overpass. While good in theory, the mechanism proved too slow in play, so we generally tried to push the trackballs around, or allowed our alliance partners to carry them.
That year, we only attended one competition: Granite State Regional Event, where Ella-Vader ended up with a 3-5-1 record. Also, Team 811 won our third Johnson & Johnson Gracious Professionalism Award.
2007 Rack 'N' Roll
For 2007, the FIRST game, Rack \'n Roll, required robots to hang inner tubes on a three-tiered eight-sided "tree" in the middle of the field. Bonus points would be awarded if a robot could climb on another at the end of the match.
We created Sparky, which was named after an unfortunate incident during construction when sparks erupted from the VICs controlling two faulty motors. Leveraging off things learned from past robots, Sparky had an articulated arm, omni-wheel steering, and a low center of gravity. The arm/wrist/claw combination proved a tad difficult to maneuver during competition, but Sparky was still able to hang tubes consistently.
The most impressive moment in the Sparky's young life came when it performed an autonomous hang of a Keeper ring, in front of the entire Verizon audience, just after the opening ceremonies Saturday morning. We ended GSR with a 4-4-1 record, placing 22nd out of 46 teams. In addition, Team 811 also won the Johnson & Johnson Sportsmanship Award.
Traveling to Atlanta for the Championship Competition, we earned a 4-3-0 record, and finished a very respectable 26th out of 86 teams. This led to us being invited into the Newton Division Quarter Finals by Team 247, "Da Bears" of Berkley, MI.
2006 Aim High
The 2006 season saw the creation of a robot affectionately dubbed MISTT (which stood for "Mr. I's Stupid Throwing Thing"). MISTT participated in Aim High, a variation of basketball using 7"; foam poof balls and 3' diameter goals high over the drivers station. In addition, robots could not extend over 5’ tall (meaning they had to "shoot" balls into the goal), and bonus points went to teams whose robot could climb a steep ramp to a platform at the end.
MISTT represented a number of idea improvements and innovations, such as the use of a collaborative design process (to garner input from all students), the Kit-Of-Parts drive train and chassis frame, and omni-wheels (instead of skid steering) for amazing agility. The result was an almost entirely student designed and built robot that could pick up, store, dump and shoot a large number of balls, score points autonomously, climb the ramp with ease, and (due to its very low center of gravity) right itself from all but the most extreme tips.
In competition, we found that the ball shooter was very powerful, but unfortunately lacked a software targeting system to make it extremely accurate. As a result we found we could score more points by simply dumping balls into the low 1-point goal, rather than shoot them inaccurately at the high 3-point goal.
Unlike previous years, this year we only went to the Granite State Regional event in Manchester, NH. MISTT went 5-4-0 in competition, placed 19th out of 51. Also, we won the GSR Website Excellence Award.
2005 Triple Play
The game for the 2005 season was called Triple Play, and introduced the current game scheme of three-on-three play. Triple Play required robots to gather red or blue tetras (tetrahedrons made of 1½" PVC pipe) and stack them atop large tetrahedrons (anywhere from 6' – 8' tall).
Team 811 constructed ARCTAN (no, it doesn’t stand for anything), which was our FIRST attempt at both an articulated arm and a pneumatic-based robot. Unfortunately it suffered from many design problems, not the least of which was an excessively high center of gravity, which meant it could tip over extremely easily.
At the Granite State Regionals, while we did not do as well as we hoped (5-4-0), we did win the GSR Imagery Award. This award recognized our efforts to incorporate our team’s number and logo into the aesthetic design of the robot, thus "branding" the robot as ours.
At the Championship Competition in Atlanta, GA, the bad news is that we only won one of our seven matches. The good news, on the other hand, is that we attended a presentation by Team 365 ("MOE") on how to run a Collaborative Design Process over the first weekend of Build Season. This became our standard practice, and our robots have gotten better ever since.
2004 FIRST Frenzy - Raising The Bar
Team 811 reached unprecedented heights in 2004, when we built Red Streak 2 to play FIRST Frenzy: Raising the Bar.
Robots had to collect inflated kick-balls and push them to the human players, who would throw over the walls into scoring goals. In addition, a huge bonus was awarded to robots who could hang from a 10' high bar at the end of the match.
Red Streak 2 couldn’t move balls all that well, but using a complex multi-segment extendable boom, it could lift a grappling hook almost 15' up and lift itself several feet off the ground.
Despite a mediocre 3-5-0 performance in Manchester (34th out of 51 teams), our students demonstrated to the judges that we live the ideals of FIRST, and were awarded the highest honor of a FIRST competition, the coveted Chairman’s Award.
Buoyed by this success, we traveled to the Championship Competition in Atlanta, where students and mentors collaborated to fix the problems that dogged us in Manchester. As a result, we finished the qualifying rounds in 7th place with a 5-1-1 record. For the FIRST time ever, WE picked alliance partners, and chose Teams 176 (Aces High from Windsor Locks, CT) and 322 (Team FIRE from Flint, MI). This alliance easily won the Quarter Finals (2-0). After losing the first match of the Semi-Finals, we decisively won the next two matches, and we moved to the Newton Division Finals. Battling fiercely for the chance to go to the Einstein field, we were 1-1 before losing a heartbreaking last match, taking home the Newton Division Finalist trophy.
2003 Stack Attack
For 2002, we built an interesting robot named Red Streak to play Stack Attack. This game required robots to collect and stack plastic storage bins.
Red Streak was swift and nimble, and incorporated a four-bar lift to stack the bins. Unfortunately, due to its three-wheel design, Red Streak tended to be slightly unstable on the playing field’s ramps.
During the Granite State Regional Competition in Manchester NH, Red Streak toppled several times, including twice in single match. Despite the 4-6-0 record, however, our students displayed an indomitable spirit, and continued cheering in the face of these disasters. In recognition of this enthusiasm, we were awarded the Johnson & Johnson Sportsmanship Award.
We also travelled to Houston, TX for the Championship Competition, where the various playing fields were in the Reliant Stadium, and the pits were in the Astrodome! After going 4-3-0 in the preliminaries, and we were chosen as an alliance partner by the 4th seed Team 587 of Hillsborough, NC. Despite winning the match we played, we were eliminated in the Quarter Finals.
2002 Zone Zeal
In 2002, Team 811 was formed through the significant efforts BG parents Dave Martinez and Tom Moran, and BG teacher Alfred Thompson. St. Joseph’s Hospital gave us the use of the ground floor of the NH Catholic Charities Building, and MIT Lincoln Laboratories and Nypro provided us with financial sponsorship, used tools, and surplus furniture. From these lowly beginnings, these "second-time rookies" built ARC (the Amazing Robotic Cardinal) in 2002 to play Zone Zeal, and competed in both the UTC Regional Competition in New Haven, CT and the Championship Competition at EPCOT in Florida.
1994 Tower Power
In 1994 the BG team built a robot named "Paragon" to play in the game Tower Power. The task was to pick up soccer balls and put them into a goal 5 feet off the ground. Forty-three other teams (including a team from Kingston Jamaica) played in the Championship Competition at Nashua High School. Paragon could collect the balls into a bin, and then lift the bin over its head and dump them into the goal. The team made it to the semi-finals before being bested by Sunny Delight of Ohio (the ultimate winner of the competition). Unfortunately for us, financial hard times struck our sponsor, and the team folded.
1993 Rug Rage
Bishop Guertin High School initially fielded a FIRST Robotics team back in 1993, with the support of local firms Ingersol-Rand and Ferrofluidics. Playing the game Rug Rage on a carpeted 16’ x 40’ field, our robot "The Guertin Grabber" had to move small water-filled and large air-filled balls into a scoring area. In that second year of FIRST Robotics Competitions, there were a total of 25 teams nationwide, and the Championship Competition was actually held in the Bishop Guertin gymnasium. More than 2500 cheering fans packed the gym, with overflow crowds watching on big-screen TVs in the locker rooms. (The cafeteria was used as the pit area.) In addition, WBZ-TI sports director Bob Lobel emceed the event, and a crew from the ABC-TV program "20/20" filmed the competition and broadcast it nationally. In an outstanding performance for a rookie team, BG finished in 5th place overall.