July 3 Robotics Update

Coach’s Blog, July 3

A big welcome to our new VISTA Americorp member, Abigail Cohen!

Many thanks to everyone who helped to move our materials back to the lab from EPIC.  We now need to organize the lab so it is usable and presentable for upcoming tours.

VEX Update: We had rising sophomores Neil, Nimish, Nikhil, and Divya working on prototypes for the VEX game Nothing But Net. Welcome new 9th grade students, Caleb and Shidong, and I hope we get a few more incoming BUA students this summer!  We now have a GoogleGroup forum setup for them to communicate, so if you want to see what is going on, I will send you a link.  The forum will be a test for a general team-wide robotics forum.  We will not meet to do VEX on Sunday as it is a holiday weekend.  We will pick up regularly on Wednesday at 5 and Sundays at 2 on July 8th.

Displaying IMG_2086.JPGShidongLowRes Caleb and NimishLowRes

Solidworks training: This will pick up Monday evening, July 6th at 7PM.

U-Design: This outreach camp run by the BU College of Engineering starts Monday July 6th at 8AM at 110 Cummington St. The camp runs for two weeks and is held in the BU Photonics Center.  Several BUA students are assistant teachers.  There are programs in robotics, aeronautics, and electronics.

MassPep:  This also starts on Monday July 6th and is held at Roxbury Community College.  We will be teaching robotics using our LEGO NXT kits.

Entrepreneurship: We are working on a season video and the annual review.  If you want to be involved in the marketing end of our program over the summer let me know.

Battlebots: I enjoyed watched the most recent episode of Battlebots Sunday night.  I noticed that there are two local teams.  Hypershock and Overdrive are both from the Boston area.  Maybe we can take a fieldtrip to go visit them! And both teams made it past the preliminary round so we will see them next Sunday in Episode 3!

Demos and Workshops:  On Monday morning, July 20th we will do a workshop for the TechSavvy camp at 10AM.  On July 15th we will be doing a Scorpion demo and lab tour for the U-Design camp. On Tuesday July 28th we will do a Scorpion demo and lab tour with our FRC bot for the Artemis  camp.

On a personal note I have been playing with EV3 robots every night with Leonardo.  He attended the Robot workshop at the Tufts CEEO this past week and now loves to write computer programs!

Leo at CEEOLowRes

In the news:

Nanobots to clear arteries:  On the Discovery Channel you can read about these “corkscrew nanobots to drill through blocked arteries.”  They steer the nanobots with magnetic fields.

New England Patriots are Flying Robotic Drones: You can read in the NY Daily News how the FAA is nervous that the Giants and the Patriots are using drones in their practice camps. You can read about this in Bloomberg news too. They are using it to film practices.

Drone interferes with firefighting: In case you are wondering why the FAA is concerned about drones, read in the LA Times how a drone grounded several firefighting helicopters.  The problem is they do not want to crash into the drones.

Agriculture drone bots: You can read in the Washington Times how Measure is using drones to try to make farming more efficient.

Audi building lunar robot: Audi has gotten into the  Google Lunar XPrize competition as reported in the Daily Mail.  Their robot/rover will use Audi’s Quattro all wheel drive system.

Tick Tock

Gary Garber

Robotics Update June 25

Coach’s Blog June 25

Communications: If five days, the BUA Intranet, FIRST Class will go offline, so make sure you have migrated to your BU G-mail account.  We now have new google groups for the students and mentors.  One for parents coming soon.  There is a GoogleCalendar with all robotics events now, and you should have received an invitation to view it.

EPIC Cleanup: On Friday, June 26th at 12 noon we need anyone available to finish cleaning out EPIC.  All the valuable stuff should be moved to the lab.   The wooden field pieces can be left in EPIC to be thrown out.  Good pieces of carpet can go to BUA.  Either the gym or the hallway outside of Stone’s office can work.

VEX Robots Nothing But Net: This Sunday we will start building VEX robots.  2-6 PM.  You can view the game on Robot Events.   We will also  have the lab open on Wednesday evenings (from 5 to 9 PM) and Sunday afternoons (from 2 to 6 PM) to work on VEX robots. This is an effort to teach our younger students a lot about the robotics design process. We will be designing robotics based on the new VEX Robotics Competition game, Nothing But Net.

Tour of the GE Aviation: We are rescheduling the GE Aviation tour! Please, fill out this doodle so that we know what date works best for everyone.   Again, only US citizen (including green card holders) are able to attend. At this plant, we design/assemble/test F404 engine, F414 engine, T700 engine (Apache and Blackhawk), new presidential helicopter, and many more!

10 am Security Badges
10:30-12 Presentations
12-1 Lunch
1-2:30 tours
Boston Scientific Demo: August 18th from 8 am – 2 pm we have a demo at bring your kids to work day at Boston Scientific. I most likely cannot attend and we need to send out a doodle to make sure we will have enough kids there.  Here is a Doodle created for the Boston Scientific demo if you want to include it in the announcements.    http://doodle.com/mxw23ygceh7barn7
FRC offseason event in Maine:    Off season event dubbed Summer Heat which is July 18th at South Portland High School??????

In The News:

The NASA Invention of the Year goes to Robotnaut as reported by NASA.  Robonaut is currently on the International Space Station.

R2 and I go back a long way.

He likes to shake hands and pose for the camera (R2, not me)

I like this article from the NY Times on developing a planetary defense system to protect us from the BIG ONE, the asteroid to wipe out life on Earth.

So get ready for Asteroid Day on June 30th.   That is the drive to accelerate the tracking of those killer asteroids.  The guy in charge is Lord Martin Rees, who spoke at BUA a few years ago.  The other big names are Bill Nye (yeah the Science Guy).  Oh and Brian May who is a big-name astrophysicist.  He also started some small band called Queen.  Here you have Lord Rees and Brian May.  Have you ever considered when he wrote “We will rock you” maybe he was thinking about a giant rock hitting the Earth?


There are new cool images of the asteroid Ceres which has some mysterious white spots.  See the Washington Post article. Cool pictures from the Dawn spacecraft.

Meanwhile, the New Horizon satellite is taking pictures of Pluto, the object formally called a planet.  See NBC news.



Robotics Update June 21

Beantown Blitz:Yesterday we performed well at the Beantown Blitz. We were ranked #8 going into alliance selection with our new rookie driver Nimish at the joysticks.  We were on the 6th seed alliance with 5122 and 5563.  And we won the Excellence in Engineering Award.

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Our first meeting for VEX will be on Sunday, June 28th in the lab.



Robotics Team Updates June 18

June 18th, 2015

Coach’s Blog:

Team BBQ: Last Saturday we had the team BBQ at the Nell White’s parents house. Many thanks for hosting us for our end of year celebrations!

Beantown Blitz:The big news this week is that we are preparing for our first post-season FIRST Robotics event, the Beantown Blitz. The event is this Saturday. We will be loading up Dr. Joe’s van with the robot on Friday afternoon around 3PM. This event is a good opportunity for younger students to get a chance to drive the robot.   We had some students stop by Tuesday evening for a driver practice.   We are also looking for one student to be a “judge” at the event and gain an inside window to the FRC judging process.

After the Beantown Blitz, the robot will be coming back to our lab, NOT EPIC. We must vacate EPIC in the coming days, so we will need some help to move all of our equipment out of there.

CAD training: On Monday evening we had our first training session using Solidworks. We are considering options for CAD for the coming season. The second session will be this coming Monday. We had 7 students there including Divya, Nimish, Nikhil, Neil, Jordan, Evelyn, & Janina in addition to some alums/mentors.

MassPep: Last Friday I met with Nell and Ron to plan a curriculum for the Robotics Class we teach over the summer with the Mass Pre-engineering program at Roxbury Community College. Many thanks to Jordan and Evelyn (who taught Saturday workshops there during the year) who helped us plan the curriculum. Many thanks to all four for helping to clean the lab and prep the lab for summer work with LEGO and VEX.

U-Design: On Friday afternoon, we had a training for the U-Design summer camp, which is a camp for middle school students run by the BU College of Engineering. Every summer, several BUA students volunteer to help as teaching assistants in this camp. I teach the Flight School class, and a former Team 246 coach teaches the Electronics and Gizmos class.   A fellow robotics coach from the Gann school teaches the robotics class. This summer I am being helped out by Divya B, Max E, Warren P, Neil M, Simon B., and Alex B.

Other Camps: On Friday I met with the young women running the Boston University Artemis Camp, which is a computer science camp for girls. They use our LEGO Mindstorms RCX kits to teach some robotics during the camp.   We will also be doing a summer morning workshop for the Tech Savvy camp on Monday, July 20th. We will need a few girls to help run this workshop.

VEX: We will have the lab open on Wednesday evenings (from 5 to 9 PM) and Sunday afternoons (from 2 to 6 PM) to work on VEX robots. This is an effort to teach our younger students a lot about the robotics design process. We will be designing robotics based on the new VEX Robotics Competition game, Nothing But Net. Related to VEX, many thanks to Evelyn, Jordan and Michael who spent long hours to help me prepare a presentation for a local company who wanted to learn more about VEX and develop some curricular materials for it.

Robotics in The News:

The Horizon spacecraft is will arrive at Pluto on July 14th. (AP)

Amazon is making a big push for federal regulations for Drone deliveries. (Reuters)

They build a robotic Cheetah that jumps over objects at MIT. (Botmag)

SnapCAD was just released by VEX Robotics. SnapCAD is a CAD program for VEXIQ which is based on the open standard LDRAW (and Mike’s LEGO CAD) which I used to write my LEGO Robotics books.

MA STEM Finalist of the Year

Today I got to visit Gillette stadium and Patriot Place.  I was being interviewed as a finalist for the MA STEM teacher of the year.  While in the lobby, I noticed the playbill for the first Boston Patriot’s game which was played at Boston University. Boston Patriots

After the interview, I had to buy some LEGO Minifigures.  Here I bought Gronkowski for Leonardo.  Alejandro got Edleman, and I gave Brady to Catalina. Grwonk LEGO Growonk

One of my favorite exhibits at Patriot Place was the LEGO Pat’s helmet. LEGO Helmet Selfie Selfie at Gilette STEM Panel1

The STEM panel interviewing me (from the left in the above photo) included Katie Cross, Education Director for the Hall at Patriot Place, me, Allison Scheff, Executive Director of STEM at the Department of Higher Education and the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, Keith Connors, Senior Program Manager of the STEM Pipeline Fund, and below in the red Patriot’s shirt, Bryan Morry – Executive Director of the Hall at Patriot Place.STEM Panel2 The HallLow VinceLombardiTrophy

Look good for the upcoming physics teacher meeting!

This coming weekend is the annual spring meeting of the New England Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers.   Whenever I want to buy a tie or some jewelry with an astronomy theme, I need to wait for the National Science Teachers Meeting to come to town.  I always visit the booth of Astronomy to Go which has an awesome selection of astronomy themed clothing and jewelry.  However, if you don’t have time to wait I recently discovered two new local online stores I wanted to share with you.  If you want a bow-tie with a science theme, check out Oootie, which has a great selection.  If you are looking for custom made jewelry, check out Creative Horizon.  All of their jewelry is hand-made, and most of it is mosaic.  I bought a great pair of mosaic cufflinks. What impressed me most, is that if you have a design that you want them to make for you, they can deliver!

I bought a couple of their wine stoppers which you can see here.

Handmade mosaic winestopper

Handmade pendant


Handmade earrings with flowers

They also import some handmade jewelry from a women’s cooperative in Mexico.


So I am trying to finish up answering the long pile of e-mails.  Leonardo should be asleep.  I just heard from his room “Daddy, come look at my physics experiment.  Look at what the electricity is doing.”  He has this giant 3 foot tall stuffed teddy bear.  He was rubbing it on his head and making all his hair stand up.  Or I should say he was rubbing his head on the bear.  Looks like he just touched a Van deGraff generator.  It would be really funny if it wasn’t after 10PM at night.



Snow and ice

Too much snow.  The lead page on BUs website is about snow, but not around here.  Snow down in Antarctica explored by BU Professor Marchant.

The other lead article worth reading is Time Magazine.  I just recently got a subscription to Time on my Kindle for Alejandro to read.  And noticed an article about BU Professor Ed Damiano

To quote the ASEE updates

Reports on Boston University biomedical engineering professor Ed Damiano’s efforts to develop a “portable, wearable bionic pancreas – a device he hopes to have on the market as early as 2017,” when his son David will attend college. Though the device will not cure Type 1 diabetes, it “could prove to be the next best thing” and would be “a life changer for” patients. It could also “translate into profits for Damiano – Type 1 diabetes accounts for $5 billion in health care costs each year –which is why a number of other research groups are working on their own versions of the bionic pancreas.” Results from “the last published study” show “that 81% of people on the bionic pancreas had better blood-sugar control than with their standard treatment.”

Go Patriots! And deflategate deflated.

The American Association of Physics teachers had an interesting analysis.  The gist of the analysis consisted of the temperature differences.  In a couple weeks we will be studying gas laws in physics and I see some physics problems coming up (or maybe even a test question).

To quote the AAPT website.

In this section, I summarize a simple analysis that suggests that the under-inflation might be largely explained by the temperature difference between when the balls’ pressure was first verified by the Referee and when the balls were re-measured at half time. I assume that the air inside the football is reasonably described by the ideal gas law under the conditions used for the football preparation and during the game. Let me denote the initial pressure and temperature at which the footballs were prepared as Pi and Ti, respectively. Similarly, I denote the “final” pressure and temperature (during the game) as Pf and Tf. As almost every chemistry and physics student knows, the ideal gas law tells us that 

                                             Pf = Pi (Tf / Ti),                                (1)

under the assumption that the volume of the football and the number of molecules inside the football bladder remain the same, conditions which are at least approximately correct for the game situation. Knowing the initial pressure, the initial temperature, and the final temperature, it is easy to calculate the final pressure. I note that if the final temperature (at half time) is lower than the initial temperature (when the balls’ pressure was first verified), the final pressure will be lower than the initial pressure. At the lower temperature, the air molecules are moving less rapidly (on average) and hence exert a lower pressure on the football bladder in which the air is trapped.

Go to the AAPT website to read the entire analysis.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson has an interesting (wrong) tweet.   Read about his wrong analysis.

Of course, the most famous “science” response if from Bill Nye.  You have to remember, that Nye is from Seattle.  So his opinion…is a bit biased.  But you can watch it here.  If you look at the video, Nye actually never does a measurement.   He just goes on a tirade about Global Warming.







I got an Aeronautics Award

So I just got the below note in my e-mail tonight!  Although many think I only play with robots and LEGOS, before I got into robots, my main focus was astronomy and flying airplanes.  I still teach an aeronautical engineering camp in the summer with the BU College of Engineering and launch rockets with the engineering students at BUA.

I am excited to attend this awards gala with all these big shots from NASA, the FAA, and the DoD.  Autograph books are out, so maybe I will have to get one of those selfie tripod cameras my cousin had on New Year’s Eve.  If you look at the photos from last year’s gala, it looks like a huge awesome deal!

Here is my excitement of the weekend.


Congratulations! On behalf of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) it is my pleasure to inform you that you have been selected as one of the winners of the AIAA Foundation Educator Achievement awards.

The AIAA Foundation presents the Educator Achievement Awards every two years to no more than five classroom teachers who have demonstrated exemplary efforts in exciting students in grades K–12 about the study of mathematics, science, and related technical studies, and in preparing them to use and contribute to tomorrow’s technologies. Through this recognition, AIAA celebrates the “best and brightest” educators for inspiring students.

You and one guest will be invited to AIAA’s Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, Washington D.C. (annual black-tie celebration honoring achievements in aerospace) on May 6, 2015 where the award will be presented.