About Us - The Story of Team 2590
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Our Greatest Season Yet
As I enter the St. Louis Convention Center for the first time on Thursday morning, the magnitude of the event is overwhelming. Teams yelling “Robot! Make way” are heading to the competition field, a few teams are carrying toolboxes to the pits, and a group of students sporting Mohawks are heading to the stands. I head to the pits to meet up with my team and enter a sea of 400 FRC teams and at least as many FTC and FLL teams. The morning is spent in the pits checking all robot systems, deploying new code, and running practice matches. We have our first qualification matches that day.
The next morning every team heads into the stands of the Edward Jones Dome for opening ceremonies. The scale of the competition is enormous with four division fields and a champions’ field occupying the floor of the dome. Bright lights glare down onto the fields and walkways between fields are empty of their usual robot traffic. Dean Kamen, an inventor and the founder of FIRST, steps up onto a stage at one end of the stadium. He speaks about the future of the country, the need for a new generation of engineers and scientists who will create new wealth, and the role of FIRST in doing so. He is not an extraordinary speaker, but the gravity of his speech and the conviction in his eyes are compelling. He ends his speech and the stadium erupts into cheers, then exits to prepare for the upcoming matches.
Competition is intense; between matches the pit crew changes the battery, scouts compile match data of teams, the drive team—which I am part of—talks about strategy with other teams for the upcoming match, and the robot gets tested on the practice field. Then it is time to queue and we roll the robot cart out to the Archimedes division field. Our robot has to endure nine qualification matches and then either be in the top eight teams or be selected by one of the top eight teams to advance to division eliminations. Because the matches consist of alliances of three robots, a total of 24 will make it to eliminations.
The matches are fast-paced, only 2 minutes and 15 seconds long, and our team does well. However, during some matches the robot misses shots and afterwards we take time on the practice field to recalibrate. Meanwhile the scouting team is recording match data and will later compile a list of teams to pick or to try to be picked by. Later in the day, the judges walk by. I tell the technical judges about every aspect of the robot: the drive train, the conveyor, the turret, the camera target tracking, and the dashboard. They are very interested in our tracking system and targeting display. At the same time, the marketing and finance teams explain to the business judges that our team is run like a high-tech startup and hand out copies of the business plan.
All day long the pits are a sea of multicolored shirts; team members walk around the pits to get a look at the perfectly machined robots of some of the elite teams, underclassmen stop at pits to collect pins that teams hand out, mascots are escorted around by a couple team members, and robot carts roll through aisles on their way to the dome.
By the end of Friday, we are all exhausted, but there is still more work to do at the hotel. The scouts, senior team members, and a couple of mentors file into my room to log the day’s scouting data into a Google Doc. It is clear who the elite teams are, and though we are not one of them we are a consistent scorer and have a chance to go far in the competition. Later, after a fun pillow fight I go to sleep; tomorrow is going to be a long day.
On Saturday morning we have our last two qualification matches. Strong performances—especially in the last match—propel our team to sixth place, not bad for a field of 100 teams. After our team realizes this we scramble to finalize the pick list. Then the announcer calls the top eight teams onto the field and I walk on to represent Nemesis. The top teams pick each other and when it comes my turn to pick our top pick is still available. I select team 1218, our friends from Pennsylvania. They had a couple tough breaks that kept them out of the top eight and they are a steal for the sixth pick. As the draft serpentines around, I talk with 1218’s representative and we decide on 2851, a team with decent autonomous, good defense, and the ability to triple balance.
The draft ends and I look at our quarterfinal opponents; one of them is last year’s world champion. Despite this we think we can win because the rest of the alliance isn’t as strong. I walk off the field and head back to the pits to help the pit crew bring the robot, batteries, and tools to the field. Once the double elimination matches start there will be no time to go back to the pits.
Eventually our match is on and I am finally behind the glass waiting to drive. The announcer introduces our team and our section of the stands erupts into cheers. “Three, two, one, GO!” The match starts and our team pulls ahead by a huge lead. The best robot on the other team is not working and we win handily. For the second match however, the robot is fixed and the other alliance wins by one point; it’s onto a third deciding match. Our team wins by a solid margin, breathes a sigh of relief, and prepares for the semifinals.
Our whole alliance knows how tough these next matches will be. We are against the second-seed alliance, which consists of two of the best robots in the world. Our whole alliance puts in our best effort, and despite triple balancing—a feat not many robots have completed—we cannot overcome the offensive power of these teams. They defeat us and go on to win the division.
Our team is satisfied with a solid performance, making it farther than we ever have before, and heads to the stands to watch the Einstein field of division champions. The matches are exciting, and when they are over confetti fills the air to celebrate the winners. Though we didn’t win, our team feels like winners. And I realize that is what FIRST is about: not winning or losing, but learning and celebrating technology and engineering.
Written by 2012 CEO, Eric Principato.
It was a snowy Saturday morning as Team Nemesis congregated at Montgomery High School for the FIRST Robotics Competition Kickoff. The group consisted of memorable seniors, adept juniors, hardworking sophomores, and inexperienced yet dedicated freshmen. Leading the group were our faithful mentors and teachers. Team 2590 soon learned about the new game, LOGO MOTION.
For the next six weeks the team spent hours upon hours together; Build Season had begun. Pizza became our worst enemy, sleep our distant relative, and the Robotics team our family. Members lived in the depths of the Tech Lab and on weekends were consumed entirely. The moment we walked in, we broke up into our separate sub teams: Build, Finance, Marketing, Software, and Web.
Every club needs money to exist; Robotics is no different. A handful of devoted students, the Finance Team of Nemesis, handled all donations and expenses. From requesting grants to organizing fundraisers, the team ensured that we had money to build our robot and travel comfortably to competitions. The Finance team managed travel, food, and supply costs. They balanced the books, wrote the Business Plan, and kept our team breathing. The Shoprite Bagging, Robotics Discovery Day, and new T-shirt sales were run by them. The members of the Finance Team owned a business and were the fuel to Nemesis’s 2011 Build Season.
Marketing worked tirelessly to perfect the Chairman’s Award and to redesign the website all throughout the year. Countless hours were spent working to create the Chairman’s Award essay, video, and presentation. Documenting the team’s progress through a series of journals and photos became a daily task. The Web team beautified the website with a significant redesign. Now easy to navigate, informative articles and artistic photographs cover the website. The team’s efforts were successful; Nemesis won the Best Website Award at the New Jersey Regional. In addition to recreating the website, Team 2590 also decided to update the team logo. Marketing and Web had a successful year in 2011.
Our robot began as a combination of ideas and sketches. The Build Team branched out to experiment with every concept brainstormed. The mentors guided and taught each individual member the secrets of t-slot, pneumatics, PVC pipes, and zip-ties. From bolts, screws, and wood, models of the different parts materialized. Nemesis mended the pieces together as the robot took shape and manifested itself in the form of metal. The compressor roared to life as the robot took its first breath and soared across the high school floor. At 11:00 PM on Tuesday, February 22, 2011, our robot was “bagged and tagged”. The team sat in anticipation until the day they would bring the robot to life again in a heated competition.
Nemesis went on to compete in the New Jersey and Washington DC regionals, winning the Best Web Site Award in New Jersey. The team thoroughly enjoyed the competitions and freshmen were quoted saying it was one of the greatest events of their young lives. Making it to the elimination rounds in both competitions, the robot and drive team performed admirably. It was a late Saturday evening when Team Nemesis shut down the lab and went home, eager for next year’s build season.
It felt like a second “rookie” year when our 2008 seniors graduated and we started the year with a young team of juniors fresh from their Principles of Engineering class and excited freshmen ready step up to the big league of FRC.•• After a phenomenal first year, with great expectations and the pride of the community focused on us, we fortunately experienced an influx of new members and mentors as we continued to build on the startup high tech business model.• The finance and marketing team flourished, the software team emerged, and the Build team was buoyed with mechanical and software talents.
After the 2009 Lunacy kick-off, we rushed back to the Tech Lab to unpack the Kit of Parts and brainstorm and quickly converged on the same design.• Financed by a second year NASA grant and funding by our school district with minimal extra money to spend, we prototyped in cardboard and designed a slow but steady robot with a distinctive look that gathers balls from the floor and shoots them into the trailer of an opponent.• With our international team of mentors, we oscillated between the American High School student “brute force, seat of the pants, let’s give it a try and see if it works” design philosophy versus the professional, orderly, “design it with a CAD system before you cut anything”.• It was an education for both students and mentors.•• Our UK engineering mentor took a crash course in American and we learned the professional engineering method.•• Despite the learning curve, the conveyor belt slowly emerged and Sheldon was created.• Second to that “old school versus high school” culture clash, the most difficult part was designing a conveyor belt with a roller to scoop the balls from the ground.
Sheldon was a ball spitting, tank-drive machine that skates over the slick surface to gobble moon rocks and shoot them into the other team’s trailers.• Wafting the ball with a swish and a score, our human players scored from behind the barriers or from a sitting position on the side. We competed in the New Jersey Regional and went to Atlanta, Georgia for the Championship.• For some, this was their first long distance trip with a High School team and it was late nights, floor hockey and the awe of seeing the best teams in the nation.• We were grateful to have a 22 year old college mentor, who burned the midnight oil playing video games and floor hockey into the wee hours of the morning with the Scout team. Meanwhile, the “early to bed, early to rise” Pit crew and Drive team had breakfast at 6am with Mr. Wolfe and opened the Pits. The competition was exciting; we worked hard and played hard.
The Finance and Marketing teams continued to grow and flex their wings: balancing the books, writing the Business Plan, polishing the Chairman’s Award with out community service projects and fundraising efforts. Professionally polished with hours of practice, the team won the 2009 Entrepreneurship Award for their efforts. Recognized as a model start-up company, our team had a great year.
During the late spring of 2007, a group of determined rising seniors asked Mrs. Wolfe, the new Technology teacher at Robbinsville High School (RHS), to please start a FIRST Robotics Team. They either had relatives or friends on local teams and wanted to start an academic tradition at their three year young high school. Nemesis, FRC 2590 was created when the “stars” came into alignment during November 2008, Chris Gregory, the Hightstown FRC 1089 mentor, Paul Kloberg, Michael Reffler, Sara Reffler, NJ FIRST Senior Mentors, and Gene O’Brien of the NJ Society of Professional Engineers, came to RHS offering their support.
It all fell in place when NASA awarded the team a $6,000 Rookie grant. In December, we embarked into the unknown that filled us with terror and joy as we scrambled to earn money for robot parts and learn as much as possible, reading all available documentation and websites, picking the brain of the mentors, and attending workshops. Team Mercury 1089 loaned us their old robot to study and use for fund raising efforts, in addition to giving workshops. We went to the kick-off in January with high hopes and a bit of healthy fear about the build season ahead.
For the next six weeks, we spent every night and weekend in the Tech Lab at RHS bonding as a team and creating a team culture similar to a high tech start-up company. Everyone eventually found their place. It was serendipity that Michael Arak took one look at our box of receipts and proceeded to create detailed financial books and spreadsheets as our Chief Financial Officer and Operations Manager, keeping the team afloat. Mark Panes, our Chief Executive Officer, with his infectious smile and positive attitude kept us on track and motivated. Steven Rutsky and Rida Alvi came into their own as the Chief Technology Officer and Director of Research and Development. Our mentors were amazing, everyone worked together to create the robot and the team.
Initially, the Build team didn’t know how to build a chassis; all of the pieces in the Kit of Parts were just that….pieces. We were clueless but happy to have mentors that were just as enthusiastic but inexperienced with the FIRST program. After the first week, the Cavalry arrived as Mr. Ed Petrillo, Mr. Chris Gregory, Mr. Michael Reffler, Ms. Sara Reffler, Mr. Matt Palmere and Mr. Ed Healey walked into the Tech Lab and started working with us, offering practical advice on the mechanics and software. Marco’s signature saying during the build season was “Do work, son” and we worked.
There is a bond that grows from adversity. We brainstormed, prototyped, bounced back from mistakes, and ran debriefing session, while implement the design cycle. Working alongside professionals, the students learned about their various professions, absorbed their work methods, and honed the practical application of their skill sets. It was a time of minimal sleep and total dedication.
The Marketing team documented the Nemesis story as they wrote the Chairman’s Award, created the team PowerPoint, and marketing materials. We practiced giving presentations, answering questions on the fly, and learning how to interact with all types of personalities. Dressed in business attire, we gave presentations to the Board of Education, the local Businesses, and the Robbinsville Education Foundation asking for their support. The community responded with great enthusiasm and monetary contributions. On a wing and a prayer, we built our simple, reliable robot and went to the 2008 New Jersey Regional Competition.
To our amazement, Blaine Zaffos and Mark Panes drove our robot through 8 undefeated seeding rounds, placing us as the third highest team. Rob Hyams and his team of scouts identified our alliance partners: MORT, Mount Olive High School and Aberdeen High School of Aberdeen, Maryland . We made it to the Finals! During the awards ceremony, Nemesis FRC 2590 won the prestigious “Rookie All Star,” “Highest scoring Rookie,” and the “Finalist” awards and invited to the National Championship at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA. We were thrilled; it was more than we ever expected.
The Robbinsville community rallied to our cause and the donations came pouring in as the story of our success was published in the newspaper. We went to the Nationals and met teams from all over the world. It was a once-in-a- lifetime experience.
Our seniors graduated and are now attending top universities and colleges with majors in Engineering, Computer Science, and Business. They received scholarships and made lasting friendships and left a legacy of excellence.