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  • 06 Jun 2013 10:53 PM | Shari (Administrator)

    Dean Kamen's 2013 Homework Assignment for Teams

    What is Dean’s homework assignment?

    Create a two-minute mini-documentary on how FIRST has impacted you, your team, your school, or your community. Remember: your video is about impact, so use the two minute limit wisely. Craft your story for maximum impact by including specific examples about how you’ve seen FIRST change lives. The mini-documentary should focus on the impact on people – whether that is an interesting story about one person or a life-changing story of a group of people.

    What does my team need to do?

    1. Watch the FIRST video describing the homework assignment.
    2. Read the video production tips provided below.
    3. Create your video submission.
    4. Submit your video as described below.

    How do I submit my video to FIRST?

    1. Access the video posted on our FIRSTWorldTube Channel.
    2. Note: you will need a YouTube user account in order to post your video.
    3. Sign in with your account and post your video by clicking the Comment Field under the video, just as if you’re leaving a normal text comment. Then click “Create a video response” and upload your video. FIRST will decide whether to post your video for public viewing.

    4. Please name your video with program (FRC, FTC, FLL or Jr.FLL), team name and team number. Example: FLL, Funky Monkeys, Team 555
    5. Provide a short description about your impact video in the description field.
    6. Note: if you have YouTube-related questions, please visit YouTube Help.
    7. By submitting your video you agree to the Submission Agreement. Once your video has loaded successfully, copy/paste the URL for your video into the Submission Agreement. Email the completed/signed Submission Agreement to teamstories@usfirst.org.

    Submission Form

    Word Version (complete electronically and email as attachment)

    PDF version (complete by hand, scan and email)

    Related form:  Video Consent Form for Participant/Parent Signature

    Tips for Creating Your Team Story Video

    Would you ever build a robot without a plan? Of course not! And the same thinking should go into making your Team Story video. Discuss different ideas with your team, come up with a plan, but don’t start building your video until you know what you want to create.

    Professional equipment isn’t needed to get great results. Just look at what you’ve accomplished this season with your creativity and resourcefulness. To help you along with this project, we’re sharing a host of tips from professionals in the field on how to get great results.

    Your success is dependent on mastering three elements in the following order:

    1. Story
    2. Sound
    3. Visuals

    #1: Story

    Your story is the number one priority. You can have great audio and video, but without a good story to tell, you’ve missed the point. As you build your video, consider the following:

    - Does it have a beginning, middle and end?
    - Is there a compelling central character (or group)?
    - Is there tension/obstacles/drama? What did the central character or group overcome to achieve their goal?
    - Answer the question: what is the impact of FIRST on your main character (or group)

    #2: Sound

    This isn’t a typo; audio is the second most important element of your project. If people are struggling to hear what is being said, or there’s excessive hissing or microphone noises, chances are, your audience will be too distracted to understand what you’re trying to tell them. 

    #3: Visuals

    We’ve listed visuals instead of video because still photos, drawings, animations, and graphics can all also be used to complete the job. Any imagery you use, whether it’s full, high definition video recordings or hand-drawn pictures, should all support and reinforce #1, the story. If you do decide to shoot original video content, we have a great rule of thumb to follow: If it’s difficult for you to see with your eyes, your camera will have the identical problem.

    And now a word about Copyright:

    We want to push your creative buttons and encourage you to make all original content. This will demonstrate how to respect the work of others, and also allow you to reach out to others to create original artwork, and even music.

    Top 10 Technical Tips to Make a Great Team Story Video

    1. Steady Up

    Unwanted camera motion often makes viewers queasy and can take away from the story you’re trying to tell. If you have a tripod, use it. If you don’t, get creative and look around for things that will allow you to safely hold your camera steady. Bean bags, chairs, or short ladders can all be used to help stabilize your shot.

    2. Solid Sound

    We understand that not everyone will have access to professional recording equipment, but don’t let this stop you. Things like shooting in quiet rooms and getting your camera microphone as close to the action as possible can give you great results.

    Connecting an external microphone can in most cases, really improve your sound recordings because they are isolated from any subtle sounds the camera person might make when shooting. There are two major categories of microphones, directional and non-directional. If you use a non-directional lavalier (body mic) in a loud arena, you might actually get worse results than if you used your built-in camera microphone. We understand that not everyone has access to the same kinds of equipment but this doesn't mean you can't come away with professional results.

    Learn as much as you can about the equipment you have and try a variety of things to get the best results.  One trick is to show footage from the noisy environment but use audio from places where you had control over the sound.  Listening to someone talking about something but showing something else is done all the time in television and news."

    3. Zero Zooming

    We find the best videos are often done without any kind of lens zooming when someone is speaking on-camera. Chances are the stories you’re telling will be more impressive than trying to make some big Hollywood shot with a long zoom in. We try to tell people to simply frame up the person and don’t touch the camera. The viewer’s mind will often focus/zoom in on the content better than your lens.

    4. Vivid Video
    FIRST teams never have a shortage of colorful outfits and robots, but this isn’t always the case when recording other people. White walls and plain white shirts don’t always reflect the energy of your subjects. Consider bringing colorful elements into your scenes, or maybe even bring a variety of team shirts other people can wear while telling their stories.

    5. Do it again

    If you just recorded something and think it went great, do it again. Professionals call it getting a “Safety,” and it’s done purely for back up. You don’t always see or hear issues that pop up during recording, and doing things a second time gives great flexibility when it comes to editing.

    6. Wait or move

    Extreme lighting conditions are often a problem for cameras. If what you’re shooting is too dark or too bright, consider waiting until conditions change or simply move to a better location. If you have no choices, it can be fun to try shooting from extreme angles (very low or super high) to avoid undesirable situations. 

    7. On the Level

    Watching video from a camera out of level is just as annoying as a crooked picture hanging on the wall. Many tripods have built in bubble levels just for this purpose. If you don’t have one or are shooting hand held, just be sure things are straight before hitting the big button.

    8. Count to TEN
    If you’re video recording miscellaneous people and objects to be used in your project (also called B-roll), hold every shot steady for a solid ten second count before moving on. This doesn’t always make sense to people until they begin the editing process, so you’ll just have to take our word on this.

    9.  Have purpose
    You wouldn’t stick parts on your robot just because you had them lying around, right? The same approach is true for your video project.  Editing software often has thousands of effects available at the click of a button, but only use them if they serve a purpose.

    10. Do it

    We want you to participate and, above all, for your stories to be the highlight of this homework. Video and audio are simply the tools to share them. You’ve built your robots using both great tools and not-so-great tools, but in the end, you were proud of the end result.

  • 06 Jun 2013 10:51 PM | Shari (Administrator)
    The FIRST Future Innovator Award (FFIA), sponsored by the Abbott Fund, recognizes creativity in effectively solving a real-world problem through the invention of a unique solution beyond the requirements of the FIRST competition season.  This award directly links to the FIRST mission to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and to the FIRST vision to transform the culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated.
    Editor's note: Parker Owen, a member of FTC Team 4260 and FRC Team 3469 (Spanish Inquisition), received this award.  Parker is a senior at the Alabama School of Math and Science, Mobile, AL.  The following is his account of how he developed an affordable prosthetic leg for third-world countries.

    The Cycle-Leg's conception began when a friend asked if I would join him this summer on a mission trip to Honduras. He explained that each year, on average, they raise $10,000 in donations, which only supplies enough capital to buy components for four prosthetic legs. He knew I was heavily involved in FIRSTrobotics and asked if I could somehow find a way to make a prosthetic leg without all of the cost, while utilizing Honduras’ available resources. 

    I returned to school remembering documentaries I had watched on various issues in current and developing third-world countries. In the background of all of these films, I noticed a common resource - bicycles. After a little research, I found that third-world countries have a lot of bicycles, which probably means that after a while, a lot of bicycle waste. I began my journey to find a way to make a functional prosthetic leg out of a single bicycle. 

    After hours of starring at a bicycle diagram on-line, I mentally pieced together a functional prosthetic leg. 

    A few weeks passed and I left school to go home for the weekend. I needed a bicycle to start my project. I went to the American Thrift Store and bought the simplest bicycle I could find for $20. I began disassembling the bicycle into its base components. At first, I thought I must have been putting it together all wrong, for the simple fact that it was going together so easily.  After a few hours, though, I had completed the first prototype. 

    Next, I altered the foot design and added tread to the sole of the boot. Taking it a step further, I added muscles to assist movement of the ankle. From the scrap pile I saw a tire and realized that the inner tubes could act as a synthetic muscle for extension of the ankle. After seeing the success of the the ankle, I decided to do the same for the knee by stretching the inner tube over a fulcrum point made from a bolt. 

    After all the mechanics were finished, I took my leg to a prosthesis company, Next Step Prosthetics & Orthotics in Alabaster, AL. I presented my bicycle leg to Adam B. Williams CP, LP, an expert in the field. He was so surprised by its functionality, as well as its weight, and explained that it has all of the functionality of a $15,000 - $20,000 modern prosthetic. He suggested a boot to receive the leg, so I began construction and mounted a boot out of the original tires of the bicycle. 

    There is a need for prosthetic legs in current and developing third-world countries. The problem is cost and availability of resources. I did not invent a new product.  What I did was find a way to make an existing product, at a low cost, accessible to people all over the world. 

    The cost of a working prosthetic leg can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Not a reality for those with little money and little to no health care. The prosthetics that are available to men, women and children in third world countries are quite primitive, if any at all. Options may not meet the functional needs for active individuals and certainly do not include the muscle fibers and tendons needed for strenuous activity and comfortable locomotion. Another issue of these prosthetics is that they are non-adjustable. They can last for as little as six months after they have been fitted to the individual, due to muscle gain or loss, as well as growth. Until now, prosthetic solutions for the poor have been extremely primitive or non-existent. The Cycle-Leg is a life-changer for many in need.

    Prosthetic legs and their mechanisms are an ever-evolving wonder of the world. They change lives. I am taking a readily available material, a bicycle, tearing it down and restructuring it into a functioning leg with muscles and tendons - the Cycle-Leg. This can be done anywhere in the world with very simple tools. The Cycle-Leg uses similar movements comparative to a knee and an ankle with the ability to adjust as an individual grows. The process of making the Cycle-Leg is simple and easy and can be taught to anyone in a 5-step process. The time it takes to make a Cycle-Leg is minimal while the parts needed are inexpensive and plentiful.

    The Cycle-Leg is made from a single recycled bicycle, aside from three bolts, three nuts, and a few zip-ties. 
    The Cycle-Leg has adjustable muscle fibers and tendons which are made from the bicycle's tire tubes. These become synthetic muscles which provide the resistance and force needed during strenuous activities. The synthetic muscles adjust with simple air pressure. 

    The Cycle-Leg is completely adjustable for any size person. It is designed and built to incorporate growth as well as muscle gain and loss of the individual over the course of a lifetime. The Cycle-Leg can be adjusted for length of the fore leg as well as the thigh. The Boot is also adjustable which can be helpful for changes in muscle tone and growth. 

    The Cycle-Leg is an extremely inexpensive, versatile, and adjustable solution to a huge problem around the world.  It provides an extremely inexpensive solution to problems facing those in need of a prosthesis in third-world countries and impoverished nations; places where the bicycle is a common-place item.

    You can read more about Parker's work and see additional photos at http://blog.al.com/live/2013/02/alabama_student_makes_prosthet.html
  • 06 Jun 2013 10:50 PM | Shari (Administrator)

    The U.S. Air Force develops leaders of great character and vision.  For the second year in a row, the U.S. Air Force is offering an Air Force Leadership opportunity for a select group of 24 FTC and FRC Teachers and Mentors who are helping inspire today’s youth to become the technical leaders of tomorrow.

    Apply now to attend this exclusive leadership seminar:

    When:  July 29 & 30; subject to change based on operational mission/priorities. *Please note that the workshop dates will most likely have one travel day before and one travel day after the seminar.*

    Where:  Vandenberg Air Force Base

    24 Teachers and Mentors will be selected to attend this seminar.  The seminar is at no cost to the selectee and travel costs within the United States (airfare, lodging, meals) are paid for by the U.S. Air Force. 

    Who is eligible:

    • FTC and FRC mentors who are K-12 teachers
    • Must be willing to commit to the full workshop and be able to travel to the location from within the U.S. (Travel cannot be arranged from Guam or Puerto Rico.)
    • If you participated in this seminar in 2012, you are not eligible to attend again in 2013

    How to apply:

    • Complete the on-line application form.
    • Applications must be submitted by June 18, 2013.
    • In your application, you will have the opportunity to describe in up to 500 words how you get students excited about science and technology, highlighting any innovative techniques you use to help kids learn and stay motivated. You can include up to 6 photos (no more than 1.0 MB total).

    Selection Process:

    • A selection committee from FIRST will review all applications and select the mentors who will be invited to attend the seminar.
    • Chosen applicants will be named on July 2, 2013.

    Disclaimer:  As each of you know, the Department of Defense is undergoing budgetary reviews that may require the Air Force to cancel this event at a moment’s notice. It is the Air Force’s intent to hold this event unless directed to cease all actions due to sequestration. The Air Force believes this event is worthwhile and provides long-term benefits that help develop future leaders. If the event is canceled, you will be notified immediately.  

  • 06 Jun 2013 10:46 PM | Shari (Administrator)

    Beginning in the 2013-2014 season, FTC teams in the United States will advance from state or regional-level Championship Tournaments to one of four Super-Regional Tournaments, before advancing to the FTC World Championship.

    Thanks to the efforts of FIRST volunteers, FTC has seen strong program growth and a new level of competition is needed to give the growing number of teams more opportunities to participate.  The introduction of a new advancement tier allows FTC to maintain a sustainable event structure, continue offering merit-based advancement and increase the level of competition.

    The four Super-Regional tournaments will be hosted in Northern California, Texas, Iowa and Pennsylvania.  These locations were selected based on timing, accessibility, safety, local support, and resources to execute a strong event.

    Super-Regionals are FIRST-endorsed events and are expected to expand outside of the U.S. in the future.  Please refer to the FAQ section below for more information.

    Super-Regional Map

    What is a Super-Regional?

    A Super-Regional is a new tier for FTC events. It is an event to which Regional Championships advance teams, and then teams advance from the Super-Regionals to the World Championship. There are four FTC regions in the United States with additional regions to be determined internationally as the program grows. Each US region will host one Super-Regional.

    Why are we planning Super-Regionals?

    FTC has been fortunate to experience great growth over the last few years. We worked with our Partners to identify the right way to maintain a system of merit-based advancement as we continue to grow. We want to maintain the World Championship as an event that represents the top achievement for our teams.  Our additional goal is to continue to provide each regional Championship with an advancement opportunity for teams. We believe that adding another tier to the competition will provide the opportunity to achieve these goals.

    How will Super-Regionals work?

    This process will start in the US for the 2013-2014 season, and eventually occur globally as we gain more teams and Partners. Partners will have the opportunity to advance teams to a Super-Regional. Each Super-Regional will advance teams to the World Championship, using the same advancement criteria list currently in place. Super-Regionals will be held in March through early April, no later than three weeks before the World Championship.

    What does this mean?

    US regional Championship events will now advance teams to a Super-Regional event rather than to the World Championship directly.

    What is the advancement structure?

    Teams will advance from Qualifying Tournaments (or meets/leagues depending on the region) to the state or regional Championship Tournament associated with those events.  That Championship Tournament will advance Teams to a specified Super-Regional Tournament.

    Can I pick which Super-Regional I want to attend once I qualify?

    No. Each Championship will advance teams to a specified Super-Regional. It does not matter where your team is located; you will advance to the Super-Regional designated for the Championship where you qualify.

    How can I sign up for a Super-Regional?

    Teams must qualify to attend Super-Regional events through their performance at a regional Championship event. Eligible teams will receive an invitation with registration instructions after their state or regional Championship. See below for details on the advancement criteria.

    What criteria will be used to advance teams?

    Teams will advance using the criteria for advancement outlined in the Game Manual. Teams will use the same advancement criteria to advance from a qualifier to a state Championship, from the state Championship to the Super-Regional, and from the Super-Regional to the World Championship. The number of teams advancing to the Super-Regional from each Championship will be equal to or greater than the number advancing now from each Championship to the World Championship.

    How were Super-Regional sites selected?

    Key factors were timing, accessibility, safety, local support, and resources to execute a strong event.

    Where are the locations?

    Super-Regional events will be hosted by Partners in California, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Texas. Additional details on the events will be available next fall, in time to allow teams advancing from state Championships to plan accordingly.

    How much will the registration fee be?

    Teams can expect these events to have an event registration fee of $500. Teams who believe they may advance should prepare now for a greater fundraising amount for this season.

  • 06 Jun 2013 1:00 PM | Shari (Administrator)

    Today the LEGO Group announced the launch of a new generation of the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® platform, called LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3. The LEGO Group hereby continues fifteen years of successful cutting-edge educational robotics technology products.EV3

    The new platform comes in two versions – LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 for cool play at home and LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 for teaching in the classroom and after schools. The latter, LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3, was created based on feedback and input from more than 800 educators worldwide making it highly suitable for teaching computer science, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

    The LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 solution will offer new and improved hardware and software:

    • A gyro sensor in addition to color/light sensor, ultrasonic and touch sensors
    • A ball wheel for ultimate precision
    • Two different motor sizes
    • Extended on-brick programming
    • Step-by-step tutorials making it possible for students to build and program a fully functional robot within 45 minutes
    • Software that allows the teacher to customize and differentiate contentEV3
    • A digital workbook making it possible to capture and assess student work.

    LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 is backwards compatible with the LEGO MINDSTORMS Education NXT platform. This enables the NXT programmable brick, sensors, and motors to be used with the EV3 software, though not all new EV3 features are available. The EV3 software is available for purchase separately.

    The EV3 as well as the NXT (and former RCX) platforms will be allowed in FLL tournaments. Veteran teams may want to know that LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT products will be available until mid 2015.

    LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 will be available to FLL teams in the fall term of 2013. A shipping date will be revealed in Spring 2013. USA/CAN teams may place pre-orders when team registration opens in May. Teams outside North America should check with their local dealers whether they will take pre-orders.




    For information on LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 and information on dealers in your country, visitwww.LEGOeducation.com/MINDSTORMS

    For information about the retail version of EV3, please visit www.MINDSTORMS.com

    You may look forward to meeting the new robot in town!

  • 29 May 2009 11:36 AM | Anonymous
    This is an example blog entry.  You can edit or delete it.
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