Kansas City – Day One

Today, we had our first taste of regional competition, in preparation of the next to days of the FIRST Greater Kansas City regional.  It is the 10th year and has nearly 60 teams competing at the Metropolitan Community College.

Arriving early, we were impressed by the spirit of Team Driven (#1730) and their welcome tunnel.  We helped cheer on volunteers, judges, and organizers.  Our Robot Panther mascot danced and posed for pictures until doors opened.

We went to work on get the robot readied for inspections, setting up scouting in the stands, setting up NRLB (No robot left behind) stickers and flyers to let teams know how to let us assist them in whatever way to get all robots running, and the other work.  Despite the attention to the robot, all the jobs of vital to the success of our team and the students impressed with their dedication to their individual jobs throughout the day.

We are also proud to have seven team members, and alumni, volunteer during the event.

Many people visited the pit during the day.  Some special guests visited our pit, learning about the robot.  Our driver, Chris P., did an outstanding job of describing the robot to on of these guest, taking her hand from mechanism to mechanism to let her feel the parts of the robot.  These students were visiting from a school for the blind, and were very enthused about robotics.  The questions being asked from one of the girls were very insightful and expressed her great interest.  I expect and hope that she’ll soon be competing in FIRST.

Finally to the robot, which had three practice matches and a few practices on the pit field.  In the first two, there were some mishaps with the arm, but still we won the match.  Not all teams were taking practice, possibly because they were making fixes and being inspected.  Our last match, we defeated three defenses by crossing each twice.  We also scored a couple boulders in the high goal and challenged the tower.  All for a total of about 45 points, and a reasonably competitive score.  We rounded out the day making minor fixes, including a new boulder stopper to keep boulder for getting trapped in the robots center.

Competition continues tomorrow, with more information in the previous post for visiting or viewing online.  A couple photos of the day’s activity are below, and also on Facebook and Twitter below.



Competition Week – Kansas City

This week, the Greater Kansas City Regional, takes place at the MCC Business & Technology Campus (see map and info below).  Panther Robotics will be competing among 60 mostly regional teams with our robot, Sir Launch-A-Lot.  Our robot is capable of driving over the most challenging obstacles, then picking up and launching boulders at our competitor’s castle.  We are looking forward to competing, and hope to scale the castle wall and to score many points in order to compete in the elimination tournament.


Sir Launch-A-Lot 

Our Chairman’s team has been preparing to share our story of how our team has fostered the FIRST mission of inspiring students to technical career and inspiring people to support STEM education in our community and students.  At competition we will meet other students, teams, volunteers, and visiting public, and we get to share not only our robot, but our passion for our team in fun ways with “I LOVE ROBOTS” pins, our scrapbook of pictures of our year, our medieval standard (flag) showing our panthers, pit decorations, costumes, and cheering supplies.  We really  go all out for this three day celebration of ingenuity.  We welcome anybody to come and visit us, especially future FIRSTers, and see our robot in our pit and cheer on all the teams.

Competition Info:

Friday and Saturday (March 11th and 12nd) are best for visitors to watch competitions. The opening ceremony is Friday at 8 am, followed by matches until noon and from 1-6 pm. On Saturday matches continue between 8-12 am. After lunch (1:30 pm), the best teams compete in a elimination tournament. We hope to compete, but only the top 24 teams (out of 60) compete, so if specifically wanting to see one of our matches come earlier, but the finals are the most exciting part. The closing and award ceremony follow, ending at 6 pm.

Address: MCC Business & Technology Campus, 1755 Universal Ave, KC, MO 64210

For those not able to come, you can follow online through a video stream of the regional. These are located at The Blue Alliance, and the Kansas City Regional is at this link: http://www.thebluealliance.com/event/2016mokc or one the main site: http://www.thebluealliance.com/. For more information you can visit KCFIRST.org

Hot off the press

Read our new article (02/10/2016) in the Miami County Republic sharing FIRST and the 2016 STRONGHOLD game with our community.  The newspaper recently expanded its coverage area, now being the only paper in the county, giving the story further reach.  Miami county has a population of 32,835 (in 2013; source: US census) and is located at the south of the Kansas City metro area.  Thanks to the media committee for writing and getting the story in the paper.

Weekly bounce from the bottom

Like Patton said, “Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom”. Bouncing over the defenses, our six-wheeled siege machine, yet to be named, bottomed out, so to speak.  Entering the final two weeks of robot build time, we are working very hard to finalize the mechanisms for the STRONGHOLD game, and to test the robustness of our drive by driving until the wheels fall off, often literally.

Our Chairman’s Team worked diligently and submitted the award essay, and have begun to prepare their talk for the judges.  A new page has been added to this website for helping other teams with Chairman’s preparations.  We are proud of our teams accomplishments in this competing for this award and its pursuit has sustained our team by sharpening our focus on the ideals of FIRST.  Please check it out and contact us for any questions.

We have continued to enjoy the support of parents, whether it is to provide one of the dinners, help with constructing the field elements, coming up with ideas for the robot, and the other ways they all have contributed.  Also, the 2016 sponsors make this team possible, and are listed on our About page.

To conclude, even through adversity of broken robot parts, this team is learning and, by that, building a better robot and becoming a better team.  We don’t yet know what the final weeks might hold, but their work thus far says they’ll rebound higher.  So back to work, and to leave another quote by Patton, “A good plan violently executed right now is far better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

Zeno’s Paradox

As we end our 3rd week of robot building, we are now in the Zeno’s paradox phase of our project.

However, the team is not discouraged, toiling away and suffering only mere flesh wounds (a testament to following safety warnings). All the wheels have touched the ground, and were driven (add video evidence – Chris P.). In the next weeks, we hope our vision and work leads to the holy grail of STRONGHOLD robots and not a quixotic vision of it.

Our diplomats (Chairman’s committee) are wrapping up the final touches on the essay and documents and will soon turn attention to the video. Our team’s history (link) is consistent with spreading the message of FIRST to our community and region, helping other teams succeed, and inspiring students. This year is no different and the team is excited to share the summary of our 2015-16 efforts.


Into the robot build, the work is focused on the frame and drivetrain.  Getting driving is important with the defenses in the way.  Now the team has wooden versions of these defenses (even a drawbridge) to practice with, and understand the difficulties.

Teams of students work vigorously welding, grinding, filing, drilling, lathing, milling, cutting, sanding, painting, inflating, greasing, and all the various parts to the robots base.

Our software and electronics team are busy studying the NI RoboRIO code in Labview, and considering the autonomous mode, where robots are completely in control.  They are constructing the electronics board, and testing components, that will be transferred to the robot later.


Brainstorming and prototyping of robot systems based on the game strategy.  Going to the white/chalk board, the team votes (1-5) to quantitatively assess the pros/cons of various strategies, robot mechanisms, and prototypes.


The 2016 FRC game is STRONGHOLD.  This Monty Python themed, medieval game consist of two alliances with castle walls and castle defenses.  Crossing your opponent’s five defenses, selected from nine possible defenses, requires agile and robust robots.  Once inside the opponent’s courtyard, robots will take aim at the opponent’s castle, in low and high goals, with “boulders”.  Teams will attempt to capture their opponent’s castle and points by scaling the castle wall.

Students and mentors were excited to see this multi-faceted and richly-imagined game.  We thank Bill H. for hosting us and providing breakfast during our kickoff event.