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FIRST Robotics Blog

2014 Silicon Valley Regional

Drive Team in Eliminations

Team 254 rounded out its regional play this past weekend with its annual attendance at the Silicon Valley Regional FIRST Robotics Competition.

The team won 10 of its 11 matches in the qualification round, losing match 47 against the top-seeded team, 971, who had gone and continues to go undefeated in all of regional matches this year. At the end of qualifications 254 was seeded 3rd behind 971 Spartan Robotics and 1678 Citrus Circuits, with the highest accumulated score in Teleoperated Mode. 971 chose 254 as its first alliance partner and the two teams chose 1662, Raptor Force Engineering, as the third.

This alliance went undefeated in eliminations, setting the tournament high score of 325 in its second quarterfinal match and winning its quarterfinal matches by margins of 100 to 200 points. It semifinal and final rounds were closer and more exciting, narrowly edging out the finalists 1678, 368 Kika Mana, and 4171 Bay Bots by 40 points.

In the awards ceremony, 254 won the Gracious Professionalism Award for its extensive support of other teams in the tournament and model behavior, exemplifying the ideals of FIRST competition. Specifically, 254 sent Robot FIRST Aid teams around the pit area to discuss strategy with its alliance partners and provide assistance to teams who needed it.

This Silicon Valley Regional victory marks 254’s 15th in the 16 years of its and the regional’s existence. Congratulations to alliance partners 971 and 1662, finalists 1678, 368, and 4171, and Regional Chairman’s Winner 604, Leland Robotics.

254 is now ranked #1 in the world on FRC Top 25 for its three regional victories.

Looking ahead to STL

2014 Waterloo Regional

by Andrew Torrance '15

This past weekend, Team 254 had a great time competing at the Waterloo Regional in Ontario, Canada. We traveled all the way from San Jose, California to compete against some of the best teams in the world and made some new friends along the way. In the end, the team seeded second, picked Teams 2056 and 865 and went on to win the tournament, the Quality Award, and the Gracious Professionalism Award.

Summary of Accomplishments

  • Tournament Champions with Teams 2056 and 865
  • 17-2 Win-Loss record through Quals and Elims
  • Number two seed
  • Quality Award
  • Gracious Professionalism Award
  • Set the current world record score of 350 without penalties
  • 34 blue banners, more than any other team
  • Highest scores Autonomous and Assist categories over first-seeded team

Travel and Extra Fun

The team flew from San Francisco airport to Chicago and then to Buffalo. We drove the rest of the way to Waterloo. On Thursday night we had dinner with our friends from Team 1114, the SimBots, and had the chance to meet and make new ones. After elimination matches, all the students ran outside and had a huge snowball fight with Teams 1114 and 865. Most would agree that the Canadians won. On Saturday night, all 16 students hung out in the hotel and had fun talking and bonding. On the way home, we also stopped briefly at Niagara Falls for some more great memories!

The snowball fight resulted in frozen hands but was a lot of fun!

It was very cold when we visited Niagara Falls

Qualification Matches

The team set up the pits on Thursday and participated in practice matches, including one with powerhouse teams 1114 and 2056. On Friday we presented Chairman's, spoke to judges, and played 10 qualification matches. Throughout the entire day, a group of mentors and students constantly ran around the pits to discuss strategy with our partners. Oftentimes we would help temporarily modify our alliance partners' robots for a specific role in a strategic cycle we had planned. We frequently helped them fix autonomous code and intakes so they could inbound and pass the ball more easily. On Saturday the team won its remaining 3 qualification matches, allied with 2056 in one match and against them in another. Finally, we were seeded second behind Team 4039 and in front of 2056.

Alliance Selection

During alliance selection, the first-seeded team, 4039, chose 1114. To counter this, we chose team 2056 and later 865 to help inbound and play defense. Other powerful alliances formed included Team Dave (3683) and 1241. Even with our small group of students and limited scouting team, the mentors and students worked hard and believed they had picked a winning alliance.

254, 2056, and 865 formed the second seeded alliance

Elimination Matches

The elimination matches saw some of the fiercest competition. All throughout the quarter and semi finals the robot faced heavy defense and was getting some nicks and scratches, but still managed to hold up well. In the second semifinal match we managed to run the "Go for Gold" cycle nearly flawlessly, scoring 60 points each cycle when 2056 caught our truss throw. This match put up a new current world record of 350 points without penalties. On the other side of the bracket, Team 4039 and 1114 were defeated by the number 4 seeded alliance with Team Dave and 1241. The Simbots lost two of three matches specifically through technical fouls (50 points each) that shifted the favor to the blue alliance. In the finals against Team Dave's alliance, we managed to edge out a victory in just 2 matches running the "Omaha" cycle and playing defense on Team Dave. The exciting finish was celebrated with a huge snowball fight outside with members from 1114 and 865.

The current world high score without penalties of 350 points.

A Great Finish!

During the awards ceremony, Team 254 ecstatically received the Quality Award for their beautiful robot with a 3 ball autonomous and clean pit. We also received the Gracious Professionalism Award for helping so many teams at the tournament with everything from repairing electronics and drivetrains to fixing their code. We are so grateful to have participated in this regional and extremely thankful to all the Canadian teams, volunteers, and others, who were extremely welcoming and friendly. We had a great time making new friends and a lot of the team discussed the possibility of returning to the regional next year.

The judges recognized us with the Quality Award for inspiring others with our pits, displays, and robot

2014 Central Valley Regional

by Jeremy Tanlimco '15

At the Central Valley Regional First Robotics Competition (FRC), Team 254 earned an outstanding victory. Seeded first place out of 45 total teams and winning 10 out of 11 matches in qualifications, the Cheesy Poofs excelled on the field.

At the final tally, we had 490 total assist points (the second-highest score was 370) and 536 autonomous points (second-highest score being 468). To top it off, 254 was given the Motorola Quality Award for a well-designed and efficient machine.

As first seed after qualifications, we were given first choice in alliance partners for the elimination matches. We chose 973 from Atascadero High School, the team with whom we won the 2011 World Championships. Their robot had been inoperative and inconsistent for the majority of the qualification matches until the end, when their robot began working and performing well. As a result, they were seeded 43rd out of 45 teams in attendance, and 254's scouting team stunned the crowd by skipping over the 41 teams seeded above them. Our second alliance partner was Team 2135 from Presentation High School, our sister school in San Jose. With them we went on to win our quarterfinal and semifinal rounds in two matches (each elimination match is scored best out of three) and prepared for our finals matches against 1671, 3970 (from Duncan Polytechnical), and 1323 (from Madera High School).

Our alliance formulated its finals strategy: the Poofs would implement our thus far highly successful 3-ball autonomous routine, and 973 would implement its defense routine in autonomous against the accurate 1323. During the driver-controlled period we would attempt as many assists as possible to edge out the other alliance by sheer number of cycles per game; such a cycle involved the Bellarmine human player throwing the ball into the Presentation robot to pass to 973’s robot, which would then launch the ball over the truss for our robot to chase down, retrieve, and score. Unfortunately, due to an unlikely combination of what our competition director called “everything that could possibly go wrong,” we lost our first finals match by a close 130 to 136. The Poofs staged a comeback by winning our next two finals matches 244-158 and 148-109 to take the Regional, setting the tournament high score of 280 on the way.

We are proud of our performance and would like to congratulate our alliance partners 973 and 2135, for their contributions to this alliance victory, and finalists 1671, 1323, and 3970 for a round well played. Furthermore, 254 would like to commend 1671 for its Regional Chairman’s Award win, the highest award in a FIRST Regional.

The Poofs look forward to the upcoming Waterloo and Silicon Valley Regional competitions.

Looking forward, aligning our sights on the next goal - Waterloo!

Team 254 Presents: Barrage

Team 254, NASA Ames Robotics "The Cheesy Poofs", proudly presents our 2014 robot: Barrage.

Barrage will compete at the Central Valley Regional, Waterloo Regional, Silicon Valley Regional, and FIRST Championship.

Team 254 is sponsored by NASA Ames Research Center, Lockheed Martin, The Mercadante Family, Ooyala, TR Manufacturing, Qualcomm, HP, West Coast Products, The Magarelli Family, The Yun Family, Google, Modern Machine, The Gebhart Family, Aditazz, Cisco Meraki, Vivid-Hosting, Nvidia, BAE Systems, Gilbert Spray Coat, Pacific Coast Metal, S&S Welding, Good Plastics, Team Whyachi, Applied Welding, World Metal Finishing, The Jimenez Family, Hy-Tech Plating, and Bellarmine College Preparatory.

Shockwave Wins the Abbott Invention Hall of Fame Award

Shockwave, a promotional t-shirt shooting robot, was awarded the Abbott Invention Hall of Fame Award at the 2011 FIRST Silicon Valley Regional.

The T-Shirt Cannon at Your Event

Team 254 is willing and able to bring our T-Shirt cannon to many events, including but not limited to:

  • Sporting Events
  • Spirit Rallies
  • Community Events

The T-Shirt Cannon can be branded to meet the promotional requirements of any sponsor.

To Request to have the T-Shirt Cannon appear at your event, please contact our PR Director, Godwin Vincent.

Diversity Day, 2013

On August 7, several members from our team had the opportunity to participate in NASA’s Diversity Day. As a NASA house team, Team 254 was able to present three robots; Overkill, Skyfire, and Slipstream to NASA engineers and staff who stopped by our booth.

Andrew Torrance explains Overkill's hanging mechanism to NASA employees.

Andrew Torrance explains Overkill’s hanging mechanism to NASA employees.

Mani Gnanasivam, James Holden, Andrew Torrance, Namit Mishra, Nick Gunady, Jack Lee, and Chris Sides attended.

After setting up the booth, the team members fielded questions from curious onlookers. Many NASA engineers were asked what program Team 254 used to design the robot, which programming languages were used, and other technical questions. All the team members answered questions asked by the dozens of people who stopped by the exhibit. After lunch, the members demonstrated Overkill’s frisbee and hanging abilities. Andrew Torrance explained multiple times to the crowd the the rules of last year’s game and Overkill’s scoring abilities. After presenting, we packed up and relaxed at the lab.

After work



Sponsor Visits

Over the past three days, Team 254 has had the opportunity to visit two of its Gold level sponsors, BAE Systems and Ooyala, and demonstrate the fruits of its labor.

Richard Lin speaking to an Ooyala Employee

Richard Lin speaking to an Ooyala Employee


Overkill fully extended showing off its hanging capabilities


Students demoing Overkill

BAE Visit

On June 5, a multicultural group of five students and one mentor celebrated diversity with BAE at the BAE Systems Diversity Fair. The students participating were Nagy Hakim, Scott Cardona, Richard Lin, Abhi Kumar, and Louis Lin. Mentor Dennis Jenks provided Team 254 with the amazing opportunity to come to the fair. People in the event included many BAE engineers and programmers, who added excitement because students had a chance to talk to others who work in the same fields of interest.

Students transported two robots, Overkill and Shockwave, to the event to exhibit the team’s work and extend appreciation for BAE’s consistent support throughout the years. Many of their employees came out to visit the team’s pit and talk about the robots’ designs and controls. After opening ceremonies, Shockwave fired a barrage of T-shirts into a crowd. Later, drivers and operators demonstrated Overkill’s driving and frisbee shooting capabilities.

At the conclusion of the fair, Dennis led the students on a private tour around BAE’s impressive facility. Four tour guides exhibited the workings of BAE, including military vehicles, machines, simulations, and controls.


Ooyala Visit

Today, the team visited one of our Gold level sponsors, Ooyala. Our programming mentor Patrick Fairbank, who works at Ooyala, set the day up so the team could demo Overkill. The team visited their office, located in Mountain view and set up. There were about 40 or so members of the company that gathered around asking questions about the various subsystems and function of the robot.

Many members of the company also played Ultimate Frisbee after work on  a team. These members lined up on one end of the space set up while Abhi Kumar and Richard Lin drove the robot around, picking up and shooting frisbees towards the employees(At a much lower, catchable speed). Meanwhile, Nagy Hakim answered questions about the robot. At the end of the demo the team members stuck around for pizza and presented the award to Patrick for Ooyala’s sponsorship.

Team 254 thanks BAE Systems and Ooyala for their continued support in the robotics program.

Demo for 2013 Zero Robotics Winners

2013-04-16 18.20.24

Yesterday, Mark Leon and Drew Price arranged for the current Zero Robotics Winners to tour the NASA Ames Facilities. Team 254 represented the NASA Robotics Alliance as part of the tour. The 20 or so members of their winning team filed in to the lab and were given a presentation by Abhi Kumar and Richard Lin as to the history, function, and current robot of the team. Afterwards, Abhi and Scotty Cardona demonstrated the robot’s shooting capabilities and hanging prowess. To finish off the tour, Mark took the group upstairs and talked more about the NASA Robotics Alliance and the summer Robotics Academy. As the members left, we brought Shockwave out onto the field and answered final questions for the group.

Charlie Bolden Visits

This afternoon, NASA Administrator Mr. Charles Bolden visited the Ames Robotics Exploration Lab with Congressman Mike Honda and several other NASA executives.  Mr. Bolden is a former General in the U.S. Marine Corps and a former astronaut, having taken part in Space Shuttle missions. The team last spoke to Mr. Bolden in the pits at the 2010 FIRST Championship.

Mark Leon led the group through of the robotics education programs supported by NASA which included demonstrations of BotBall Robots, FIRST Lego League, VEX Robotics and the FIRST Robotics Competition. Team 254 leader Jonathan Chang described the VEX game to Mr. Bolden and then introduced Goutham Gnanasekaran, Luis Guevara,  Andrew Torrance, Eli Wu, Eric VanLare and Van Tran, who drove four of our World Championship-caliber robots.

Later, Team President Nagy Hakim spoke about our FRC team and introduced Scotty Cardona, Abhi Kumar and Jonathan Lee. Finally, Abhi and Scotty demonstrated our famous 6.4 second climb. After Mr. Bolden left,  one of the NASA Ames Directors, Donald James, thanked the team members for the presentation and talked to them about the impact such demos could have on future legislation for education and STEM.

The team is very grateful for the support we have received from NASA over the years. We are pleased and honored to be asked to showcase our program to those who make what we do possible.

Pre-STL Day 9: Step into High Gear


Students started organizing new parts into their respective bins. Most of these parts will be spares for competition. In addition, a few mentors and students worked on deburring, polishing, and touching up parts which will be sent in for powder coating and anodizing.


Students contine to fix the drivetrain. A dog gear broke yet again. Students worked on taking apart the drivetrain gearbox to replace it.


Students made new parts for the intake, including new mount side plates. Additionally, students began assembling the intake support gearbox.


Students designed a one way valve in the shooter. This stop, made from a simple piece of bent polycarbonate, will allow the frisbee to leave the shooter in only one direction and prevent it from falling backwards. This stop is a simple mechanism to further eliminate possible jams that have plagued the robot for the better part of the season.


Teams 973 and 846 stopped by to the lab for practing and tuning in preparation for the World Championship next week.

Pre-STL Day 8: Rolling with It


Students and mentors worked diligently to replace one of the intake rollers with a BBD. Students also worked to troubleshoot an issue with the new intake hardstop that was causing hang-ups on the intake system.


Working diligently to manufacture new intake gearbox plates to save weight, students cut stock metal to be milled in the CNC.



Pre-STL Day 7: Maintenance & Anticipation


Wooden blocks were added tonight to the practice robot to keep the polycarbonate base of the intake from touching the ground. This is one of a series of adjustments to the intake to make it more efficient, fluid, and functional. The polycarbonate base often gets caught in the carbonate causing jams and reduced mobility.



Overkill with all of the tanks.

Even though the Frisbee hard stop was working last night, it was not today with the pin having trouble sliding the stopping plate up and down. This was solved by changing the hard stop to delrin and maintaining the mounting plates to aluminum. Also, students and mentors created two cross bars for the indexer. They also worked on shooter wheel mounting plates. Lastly, the team added temporary air tanks to the practice robot to allow for more shooting cycles and less refilling.


Abhi and Jonathan Lee continued driver practice in preparation for the upcoming competition.

Sensors & Programming

Students and mentors tested hall effect sensors using Slipstream as a power source, because of drivers using Overkill to practice. The hall effect sensors would detect the presence of a magnetic field. When magnets are placed on the indexer mechanism, a feedback mechanism is created to determine whether or not the indexer mechanism is completely engaged in the correct position. On the programming side, programmers fine tuned various code for indexing and shooting.

Pre-STL Day 6: Packing

2013-04-16 18.20.24Today, students built a pallet to ship large items to St. Louis. They packed some very crucial items needed for Championship, including the robot cart, pit shelving, batteries, and lights for the trussing.

Lastly, programmers debugged some issues with the pit lights. The color effects no longer spawn new processes and overlap each other. Although pit lights are not a priority at the moment, students are making strong effort to make these functional to give the best appearance at the Championship event.