Sparky members reflect on the season

From Michael, our Programming Lead

As this drive team’s time together comes to a close, after seven competitions and two years together, it’s clear that we are a team, in the truest sense of the word.  We celebrate each other’s success, and work through our failures.  If one of us has an issue, then we all have an issue, and we work through it.  Over our time together, we have developed more than just as students and team members, but as teenagers turning into adults.  It’s obvious to me, and to us, that what happened in St. Louis was not a fluke, a lucky chance, or a mistake, but was a culmination of four years working together, two years driving together, countless hours and late nights working with each other, and successful competitions.  But equally as important, if not more so, are the matches lost, the heated discussions when tensions are high, and the quiet drives home after failure.  These successes and these failures make us who we are.

In the truest sense of the word, we have become a team.

Sparky members reflect on the season

From Brooke, our Engineering Lead

Sparky, as I have come to learn, has a unique way of approaching FIRST robotics and the many challenges we face as a team. Whether its planning our yearly outreach efforts, or building another robot, there are a few ways of thinking that we believe have become a part of who we are. We as a team strongly believe in the concept of “keep things simple but elegant, and if you can’t outsmart the world, out-work it”. Simply put, we always strive for the simplest, most efficient solution to a problem, and if we don’t reach that near-perfect solution, then we work ten times harder than before until we get an answer (or a product) that meets the standards that we set for ourselves.

For example, when we wanted to spread Jr.FLL into Haiti among other third world countries, and were told that FIRST did not have the resources at the time, we simply had to work harder to achieve our goals. Sure creating our own Jr.FLL themed program took a lot of hard work, but in the end of the day, if extra hard work is the cost we have to pay to give back to the world, then so be it.

This same mentality applied to our robot as well. To be honest, Recycle Rush threw us for a loop. We had done all of this pre-season work designing robot parts that would benefit an open field game, which we thought was the trend, but to our dismay, the opposite happened. In addition, we didn’t know what to think of the uniquely-different game pieces of Recycle Rush. At first glance, these game pieces were not easy to manipulate. What this meant for Sparky was prototype after prototype, revision after revision, test after test, never ending late nights, and even more refinement after that, until finally we got a product that we felt met our standards. By the end of the build season, Sparky 16 (Sparkenstein), had received multiple rebuilds and redesigns, both in the physical world and in the conceptual one.

I think that this high pressure and demanding environment is what Sparky needs to be successful. I think as a team, we need a challenge, and we need to be pushed, in order to reach our heights. Sure we don’t always do things the easy way on Sparky, but when we are faced with a challenge, we only have one thing to say: bring it.

FTC Gear Files

The attached files are 3D models of the following gears from the FTC Tetrix kit: 40, 80 & 120 tooth gear. They have been saved as a step or stp files that can be read from a wide variety of CAD packages or 3D printers. Use these files at your own risk: created by Solidworks converted by SPARKY team 384. The Solidworks 2014-2015 version of all the files can be found here:

Here they are. The .zip archive contains three files:
Gear 40 Tooth.stp
Gear 80 Tooth.stp
Gear 120 Tooth.stp

FRC Workshops 2014

Greetings Sparky!

FRC Workshops at VCU School of Engineering West Hall
Saturday, Nov 22, 7:45am – 3:30pm

Look over the FRC Workshop Descriptions 2014, you may find several that interest you, and you may see some familiar names!

Parents — We REALLY need help with transportation. You’re welcome to attend the workshops too if you like. Please volunteer to drive students by replying to this message. Thank you!
We will carpool from Tucker. Details to follow.

Complete the registration form to confirm your attendance. And please ask your parents to help with carpooling. Go Sparky!

RoboRIO Beta Testing

Hello all!

If you haven’t heard, Sparky has been Beta Testing the RoboRIO for the past two weeks, and will now be updating this blog once a week, possibly more often if an exciting discovery is made in between.

SO FAR, we have:

–Hooked it up and wired it (picture coming soon)

–Given it power (no magic smoke)

–Installed Eclipse and the plug-in, and deployed code

–Experimented with the web interface and through it, the CAN

The main thing for people to watch out for: 32-bit Eclipse and Java required.  Stay tuned!

Sparky on NBC 12 news!

Sparky on NBC12 News School Spotlight segment Feb 16 2014

Sparky on NBC12 News School Spotlight segment Feb 16 2014

Sparky began their Sunday morning by making an appearance on the NBC12 News School Spotlight segment. Robbie and Eric did a fantastic job!! Way to go Sparky!! This is Sparky’s second appearance on the news in the past month! If you missed Sparky this morning, the piece should be on the NBC 12 news website by tomorrow afternoon.

Thanks Robbie and Eric for getting up early on a Sunday morning to represent Sparky and all the good work the team is doing – you are making the world a better place!

NOTE: PLEASE – we need all team members to help us gather more used LEGOS to complete this project! If you all work together and ask friend, family and neighbors, we should have plenty! Remember – outreach is an entire team effort!! What sets the top teams apart is that 100% of the team participates in outreach events!! Kids around the world are being given opportunities they never would have had – all thanks to Sparky 384! Let’s make this happen for even more kids!

Sparky Update!

Over the last month of working on Aerial Assist, Team Sparky has made 4 prototype models as we move closer to the deadline and towards our final model.

Our Outreach group has progressed in the project to create FIRST licence plates, working in concert with Delegate John O’Bannon. These will promote FIRST awareness and support in Virginia. We have also created a new program, called LEGO Change Kids program in which used LEGOs were collected to create 8 Lil’ Sparks LEGO groups in Haiti.

Lil’ Sparks is a new program, created by our Sparky 384, as First is unable to expand in Haiti and Uganda. Because of this, Sparky created 8 Lil’ Sparks kits, filled with all the LEGOs, posters, and activities to create a team from just one kit. We even created a new challenge, titled Construction Craze, about teaching children about architectural knowledge. We do this in order to spark a lifelong interest in STEM in young children everywhere. A full report on this will be broadcast on Febuary 16, on NBC12. Legos from the collection that did not got to Haiti were used to create 14 new Jr. FLL teams in the Richmond area. We are mentoring 8 Jr. FLL teams and have created activities for their Disaster Blaster theme. Two events are being hosted for these Jr. FLL teams, one on March first and one on May fourth.

Help Virginia become one of the first states to have a FIRST vehicle license plate

sparky_license_plateWe are developing a FIRST license plate for the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Our goal is to increase public awareness of STEM and FIRST. Pictured is a sample of the proposed license plate (subject to DMV approval).

We invite you to order your special license plate today! The cost is $10.00 ($20.00 if you have a personalized plate) and it will feature the FIRST logo.

We need 450 paid applications to make this a reality.  If you are interested, please complete your application right away as the bill goes to the General Assembly in January. 

To order your FIRST license plate

  1. Complete the application (pdf 1.6 MB)
  2. Include $10 cash or check (payable to “Friends of Sparky”)    
  3. The cost for credit card payments is $10.27 (write credit card info on application) 
  4. Mail application and payment to:
    Friends of Sparky
    P.O. Box 6495
    Glen Allen, VA  23058

We hope you’ll join us in this exciting opportunity!