Coach’s Blog Nov 19

Veteran’s Day Recap: Last week we held a great tournament for FIRST LEGO League, VEX, and VEXIQ.  You can check out all the photos on our Facebook page.  Many thanks to all of our volunteers!  We had 21 teams from 16 different schools in attendance.

FLL Outreach Workshop:This Sunday we will be holding a workshop for younger students on FIRST LEGO League teams.  We have 8 teams coming to visit us in the Physics Classroom where we will have two FLL fields set up.   We need 7 students to volunteer at this weekend’s FLL Workshop form 2-5 pm on Sunday the 22nd.  Pizza will be provided for you  Please, sign up on this doodle so we know if you’re free.

FRC Fabrication Training: On Friday the lab will be open for fabrication training.  So if you want to learn to use the drill press and the band saw stop by on Friday at 4PM as you are waiting for the Lock-In to start.

FLL Qualifier on Dec 5: Our next major tournament is the FIRST LEGO League tournament on Saturday Dec 5th.  Most BUA students should be here to help out with the Tournament.  We will have 24 FLL teams attending.

Open Lab Times:

  • Friday Nov 20: 3:30 to Lock-IN (Fabrication training and VEX work)
  • Saturday Nov 21: Lab closed because of Lock-In
  • Sunday Nov22 : Lab open 10AM until 1:30 when we will be doing setup for the FLL workshop.
  • Monday Nov 23: Lab Open 3-5PM
  • Tuesday: Lab Open 3-5PM

FRC Events: We are now also Registered for Dartmouth FRC District event which is March 18-20.

See all of our events on our calendar.



Robot Coach’s Blog

New Lab times: Going into the end of the semester the lab will now be open on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.  We have a lot of work to do, and showing up is key!

  • Tuesdays 3 pm – 5 pm
  • Fridays 3pm – at least 5 pm
  • Saturdays probably 10 am – 4 pm

Cleaning up the Lab.  This is really important.  On Friday and Sunday we will have visitors in the lab, so things have to be CLEAN.   This Friday T.I.S.P. will be doing some machine training in our lab between 2-5 PM.  This Sunday there will be an accreditation team coming through.

CAD Sessions: CAD session tonight (Tuesday) from 8 pm- 9 pm at the ECL lab.  Many thanks to Abdullah.

MASS PEP: I am still looking for a student to teach LEGO robotics on Saturday mornings.  This would be a paid position.  Please let me know if you are interested.

Boston Scientific: will again be sponsoring our team and has donated $3000 to Team Overclocked!  Many thanks!

Mathworks: Our new video camera and tripod arrived in the mail today.  Many thanks to Mathworks for sponsoring us!

Veteran’s Day Robotics Tournament Prep: We have 9 FLL teams, 6 VEX teams, and 6 VEXIQ teams currently registered for the event.  Please let me know if you would like to volunteer for this event.  We could use about 10 more adults to make this event work well.

We will be setting up for the Veteran’s Day tournament between 2PM and 8PM on Tuesday November 10th.  We will need a lot of help with this.  Please plan to stick around.

We open the doors at 7AM on Veteran’s Day and I hope to have the floor swept by 6PM.



Oct 22 Coach’s Blog

Dear Friends:

MassPep: We will be continuing to support the Massachusetts Pre-engineering program as part of our outreach efforts.  Last year we have several students who taught a weekend class on 2-3 Saturday mornings a month to middle school students at Roxbury Community College.  There is funding to pay for a stipend for 1 students (or 2 students to split the stipend).  Let me know if you are interested.

Fall Festival:  This Friday, as part of the BUA Fall Festival we will do demos of Scorpion in the gym.  So if you want a chance to drive an FRC robot, between 4PM to 6PM in the gym.

Mentor Training:  This Friday from 3PM to 5PM we will have a CAD training and introduction to FRC with Emily and Dr. Joe. (ECL 125)

Safety Training:  October 30th  2PM – location TBD (either the Physics room or the bot lab).  The Safety training is one of those few very mandatory events.  This training will be run by the office of Environmental Health and Safety.

Open Lab times for week of Oct 26-30:  Tuesday and Friday from 3pM onwards.

Nov 11: Veteran’s Day event: You may be getting an email from Gary or Leah asking you to help out with our Fall Tournaments.  We really do need all hands on deck to run these events.  They are a major outreach initiative for us, great publicity, and a source of revenue.

Crowdfunding:  Last year we dipped our toe into the waters of crowdfunding.  We are working with the BU Development office to launch a new Crowdfunding campaign this fall.  I am looking for several students to design our Crowdfunding site and video!  You can look at the BU Crowdfunding site to get an idea of what we want to create.

PTC Gold Sponsor: We received our first big corporate grant of the season from PTC for $2,500!  So many thanks to our first Gold Level Sponsor for the season.

BU ENG Sponsor: We are officially entered in the FIRST competition.  Many thanks again to the BU College of Engineering for paying our $5000 registration fee.  This has allowed us to compete in two district events.  We have now registered for the Boston University FRC District event on  April 1-3 and the North Shore FRC District event at Reading High School  on March 11-13.   The North Shore event is in the middle of the two week long BUA spring break.  Or at the tail end of the Boston University spring break.

Mathworks: Our second big corporate grant of the season comes from Mathworks and RECF (Robotics Education and Competition Foundation) for a new AV system to use at our tournaments.  Many thanks to Mathworks and RECF.

This past Monday  we had a great JAVA training workshop.  Many thanks to Paul for leading this.
On Tuedsay we talked about an FRC offseason project.

Students learn Java in FRC programming workshop


Oct 18th Physics Teachers Blog

This morning I had breakfast with several physics teachers from around New England.  We were getting together to plan for the 30th annual New England Physics Olympics.  I was joined by teachers from Wellesley High School, North Kingston High School, Thayer Academy and Apponequet High School.  I just finished updating the Olympics website with the list of events for this year.

We usually field 8 BUA students at this event, so if you are interested, let me know.  Maybe even field two teams this year.

While at breakfast, we were discussing lab reports.  I just finished grading the first batch of students lab reports.  Several of my fellow teachers also mentioned that for those of us teaching 9th grade physics, it is a huge learning curve for the students.  Most of them have never written a lab report before.  If they have done any science writing, they often are not used to the idea that the quality of their science writing should be on par with what they are doing for their history or English class.  In my case, I have just waded through 40 freshmen reports about Galieo’s Law of Falling Bodies.   For most of my students, this is the beginning of a process of learning to write.

Oct 12 Robot Coach’s Blog

This week: The lab will be open on Friday.  I hope many of you will be there to work on the VEX robots.  If you are interested in working in our FRC Fall project, we will have a planning session. This will be the lead chance to see what the big BUILD season will be like and let your voice be heard with our fall project.

For the younger students on the team, if you have not filled out your robotics interests poll, please do so at the following link.

Java Class: On Monday the 19th (no BUA classes) from 10-2:30 in the physics classroom, the coding team will be holding a class on the basics of Java and object-oriented programming. It is open for all to attend, but is geared towards students who want to help code the FIRST robot. If possible, please bring a laptop with eclipse installed. No prior coding experience is required. Please fill out this doodle if you are interested.  We will offer a pizza lunch.

Open Lab Time: The lab will be open on Tuesday October 20th for VEX work.

Fall Festival: On Friday Oct 23rd the lab will not be open.  We will be doing demonstrations of Scorpion in the Sargent gym from 4PM to 6PM.   You will also an opportunity to drive Scorpion around, so you can try your hands at the chassis joysticks (not the arm).

Veteran’s Day is coming along with our November Robotics Tournament.  We need volunteers for this event.  Either Leah Magid or I will be reaching out to many of you in the coming days to solicit your help!  We are hosting three events that day.  A VEX VRC (VEX Robotics Competition) event will be running all day.  A few of our Academy students will be competing in this event.   We will also be hosting a VEXIQ (elementary/middle school kids) event in the morning.  We will be hosting a FIRST LEGO League scrimmage in the afternoon.  Some of our students will be competing in this event.  The rest will be supporting the event as judges, refs, field techs and pit management.

Material Donations needed: The lab needs several items.  If you would like to donate one of these items to the team, it would be appreciated.

  • Laptop: For programming
  • Desktop: For CAD
  • Rolling Toolchest: The one we have is falling apart.
  • Small filing cabinet with a working lock.

Official FRC Tournaments:  We have now registered for the Boston University FRC District event on  April 1-3 and the North Shore FRC District event at Reading High School  on March 11-13.   The North Shore event is in the middle of the two week long BUA spring break.  Or at the tail end of the Boston University spring break.

Oct 4 Robot Coach’s Blog

This week: We will plan on meeting on Tuesday from 3:00 to 4:15 or so.

Friday: There are no BUA classes on Friday Oct 9th because of a faculty in-service day.  We will try to have the lab opened earlier for those wanting to work on the VEX robots.

We have continued to do some active VEX Work in the lab.  The juniors and seniors got together on Friday afternoon to discuss options for an FRC Fall Project with Dr. Joe.

If all students could fill out this poll on your interest and when you are available!

We will be using it to help gauge what kinds of robotics activities you are interested in!

Helping Robot Researchers: On Thursday, Michael and Owen shared their expertise with the Beaglebone with some of the robotics researchers across the hall from our lab.  They are developing hydrophone data for swarm robotics.

GE Demo: On Thurdsay we performed a demo of Scorpion in EPIC for several visitors from GE.  From left to right:  Emily Stern, Jordan F.,  Jose Calderon  GE Aviation Project Manager, Cindy Hendrickson, University Relations GE, Colleen Athans VP Of Supply Chain GE Aviation Corporate, Owen G.

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Open House on Sunday: On Sunday during the BUA open house we had two hours of demonstrations of Scorpion in the gym!

Veteran’s Day is coming along with our November Robotics Tournament.  We need volunteers for this event.  Either Leah Magid or I may be reaching out to many of you in the coming weeks to solicit your help!

Material Donations needed: The lab needs several items.  If you would like to donate one of these items to the team, it would be appreciated.

  • Laptop: For programming
  • Desktop: For CAD
  • Rolling Toolchest: The one we have is falling apart.
  • Small filing cabinet with a working lock.


Sept 27 Robot Coach’s Blog

I am looking for about a dozen adult volunteers for our Veteran’s Day robotics tournament. At the event, we will be hosting both a VEX Scrimmage and a FIRST LEGO League Scrimmage.  We need adults to serve as refs, judges, queuing, concessions, and crowd control.  Keep in mind, if you also plan to help out at the Dec 5 LEGO League Tournament or Jan 10 VEX Tournament, this is a good way to get some practice.

Here is a nice photo of our BUA students preparing for the FLL Scrimmage.  They are building the LEGO playing fields right before Back To School Night on Sept 15th.

IMG_0354 IMG_0356

For our FIRST FRC Season:  Mark your calendar: We are registered for the Boston University District Event on April 1-3.  The event starts at 5PM on Friday April 1st and runs through Sunday evening.

Lab time this coming week:  We will be open on Tuesday and Friday this coming week.

The Lab:  I spent some time this week cleaning up the office end of our lab. I want to reiterate our food policy.  I found two bags of fresh food – from six months ago.  It was unworthy of a chemistry experiment.  The nice table that faces the rocket lab windows will now be reserved for VISTA and official FIRST use only.  Please keep your items off of it.  I am doing an annual house cleaning of the lab.  In the process donating our excess inventory to local rookie teams.

VEX: The students are doing great work in the lab.  Notice how clean the lab is. If they are ready, we will compete in Manchester, NH on Halloween, Oct 31.


Material Donations needed: The lab needs several items.  If you would like to donate one of these items to the team, it would be appreciated.

  • Laptop: For programming
  • Desktop: For CAD
  • Rolling Toolchest: The one we have is falling apart.
  • Small filing cabinet with a working lock.

Sept 16 Physics Teacher’s Blog

We have finished the first couple weeks of physics class at BUA. During the first two weeks we studied statics, inertia, and weight.  Towards the end the students struggled through an introduction to vectors and trigonometry.  We will revisit vectors when we get to dynamics in two weeks.  You can view a lot of cool demos from our opening weeks on my Facebook page.

Cinderblock demo

Tablecloth demo

We had a lot of fun with inertia in the opening days.  Over the next two weeks we will be exploring kinematics, velocity and acceleration.  That will develop into an exploration of the physics of the fable of Galileo dropping objects of different mass from the top of the Tower of Pisa.

During these opening weeks the students are learning a lot of skills related work for the year.  How to take notes, how to learn at home and optimize their work in the classroom.  In class we are using a cloud based software called Visual Classroom.  Visual Classroom is a collaboration tool which allows students to work together, share knowledge, and engage in joint-sense making.  We begin with a virtual conversation and then develop a verbal conversation.

Competition is good, but I am trying to get students to compete not against each other but with each other.   Each class, or House, is competing against the others to outdo each other.  Last year, Slytherin won the Physics House Cup.

The students are learning to use a variety of equipment in their experimentation.  I try to avoid canned labs where every group uses the exact same equipment and has the same procedure.  Using Visual Classroom, students can compare their procedure to that of other groups.  By collaborating with their classmates as a whole they are developing a boarder experimental understanding.  Although it slows things down, I like this better than just telling them the best way to do an experiment with known results.  Today we started with simple experiments to measure the velocity of a LEGO robot, and will soon move into more complicated kinematic examples.

One way of understanding my laboratory philosophy is to watch this video which just came out from DEILAB.  I had the honor of helping to teach this workshop over the summer over at Cathedral High School.

To quote Aron Lee “Success is a collaborative art.  Remember this day, remember what you did, remember how you felt, know what your power is, don’t let anyone else dictate your possibilities.  Failure is good if you learn from it and fail forward.”

Robot Coach’s Blog Sept 12

FRC back to BU! I am very excited for the upcoming season.   This year, FIRST Robotics is returning to the BU campus.  There will be an FRC district event at BU April 2-3.

Tuesday afternoon cleanup (Sept 15): the upperclassmen will be finishing to prepare the lab for the upcoming season.  We have a lot of excess inventory in our lab.  We will be packing several totes of materials to donate to a local rookie team.

Wednesday Robotics Begins (Sept 16): we will have an introduction to BUA robotics for students new to the team right after school in the physics classroom.  After the introduction, we will have a LEGO building party for all team members in the physics classroom.  We have six FIRST LEGO League kits we need to build. We will build LEGO models until the BUA Back To School Night starts.

Friday VEX Work (Sept 18): at 3PM we will leave the physics room to walk down the street to the robotics lab.  We will have a hands-on introduction to the VEX robotics program. While we have the underclassmen start to work on the VEX robots, we will be preparing to recruit new mentors.

Friday ENG Activity Fair (Sept 18): At 4PM on Friday we will have a table at the EK100 Engineering Activity fair.  This will be in the atrium of the Photonics Center.  At this event we will be recruiting new engineering undergraduate mentors.

Save the date:

Monday, October 19th: there are no BUA classes because of a faculty grading day.  We will have the lab open that day for robot work.  We will also have some extended training sessions on that day such as CAD training and safety training.

Wednesday Nov 11 Veteran’s Day: We will be hosting a VEX and FLL scrimmage in the gym.  We will need significant student and parent help in running this event.

Saturday Dec 5 FLL Tournament: We will be hosting a full FLL tournament in the gym.  We will need significant student and parent help in running this event.

Robot Coach’s Blog Sept 3

It has been an exciting week as we welcome the new freshmen to campus.  Of course, several of them have already been working in the lab on VEX robots over the summer.

Most likely, the regular lab meeting times this semester for robotics will be Tuesday and Friday afternoons (from 3PM to 5PM) and on Saturday afternoons (from 12 to 3).  This will depend on mentor coverage.  We will not start up regularly until the BUA Activities Fair on Thursday, Sept 10th.  At that event we will do a full demo of Scorpion!

I wanted to announce an opportunity out at WPI Tuesday evening (which is a school night).  This invitation comes from Ken Stafford, the lead Coach for the WPI Robotics program.  If there is interest (and you are ahead on your homework) I will try to coordinate some carpooling to this event.

Don’t know if you watched it or not, but ABC ran a 5 episode series of BattleBots this summer.  If you had you’d know that “Bite Force” won the world championship.  “Bite Force” was built/driven by Paul Ventimiglia (WPI, ’12) and WPI was it’s major sponsor.  Paul was also part of FRC190 (having a substantial influence in our 2007 world championship season) and is now a mentor on FRC254. We currently have Bite Force on display on the WPI campus and Paul will be coming next Tues to do a presentation on this robot.  We expect about 300-400 folks for this presentation/reception and would welcome local FRC  teams to attend this event.

You are invited to attend a dessert reception for Paul Ventimiglia (WPI, ’12; former mentor FRC190, current mentor FRC254), designer/builder/driver of ”BITE FORCE”, the 2015 World Champion BattleBot. This event will be held in the Campus Center of WPI on Tues, 8 Sep from 2000-2130.  The 250-pound BITE FORCE, replete with its battle scars from defeating the number 1 seeded TOMBSTONE in the finals round, will be demonstrated (safely!) and be ready for selfie poses. Paul will discuss his design and strategy for winning this competition and include a bunch of great videos.  Following his presentation, there will be a Q and A session where he will be joined by new WPI student Will Bales, builder/driver of the famous HYPERSHOCK battlebot as well as one of stars of the movie “BOTS HIGH.”

In the News:

New Crew to ISS with LEGOS: (Reauters) A new group of astronauts is off to the International Space Station and they are bringing LEGOs with them!