Blog Archive

Ooyala Demo 2014

Today (June 6th, 2014), 4 students and 2 mentors demoed Barrage to a long-time sponsor, Ooyala. We gave a presentation about FIRST and demoed the functionality of our robot. We were able to demonstrate the pass to the human player and the employees at Ooyala jumped in and threw balls at the robot. We taught those who wanted to learn how to drive our robot. Thanks to Ooyala for being a great audience and especially thanks for the great pizza!

Posing for a picture with BarrageMentor Pat pondering the meaning of life.Teaching a kid how to drive Barrage

Design Automation Conference Demo

On June 3rd, 4 members from our team, along with our 2014 world championship robot Barrage, gave a demo at the Design Automation Conference at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Along with countless other booths, Mentor Graphics, a company that mentors and sponsors teams in the Oregon area had a booth where students presented. We were able to demo the short human pass as well as the auto\-intake functionality. We explained the basics of the robot and the game to people from the design industry. This was a new and exciting event for Team 254 and one we hope to attend again in the future.

Godwin, Nick, and Mani posing with Barrage

Robotics Engineering Day 2014

By: Chanan Walia

On March 30, 2014, Team 254 hosted their first robotics engineering day. Nearly sixty middle school teams signed up to attend.

To kick off the day, Godwin Vincent presented an introduction to robotics and how the engineering process is universal throughout every type of engineering. Chris Correa and Andrew Torrance discussed VEX and FRC and its relationship to engineering.

After the introduction, teams split up into groups, and a couple 254 members led each group. After meeting with their leaders and brainstorming their robot design, the students took a short break.

Team 254 then began to demonstrate Overkill, the 2013 robot for “Ultimate Ascent.” The middle school students caught the Frisbees, and some were lucky enough to catch 254 T-shirts thrown by “Shockwave,” the T-Shirt launching robot. Elias Wu demonstrated 254A/F’s VEX Robot, made for the 2013-2014 Toss-Up challenge.

Students then returned to groups to finish brainstorming their VEX IQ robot designs and start building their robots. They spent two hours building their robots, and after a brief programming demonstration, they were able to complete their IQ robots.

Finally, after their robots neared completion, students tested their robots on the fields and competed against each other. At the end of the day, parents were welcome to view their children’s creations. Overall, this was an awesome event and one we hope to host again in the future. Thank you to all the participants and volunteers!

Andrew talking about FRC at the beginningBeginning to build prototypesGodwin talking to parent about roboticsEli demoing 254D VEX robotNoah working with middle schoolers to build intakeTaking a break to catch some t-shirts from ShockwaveScrimmage Time!

Mentor Profile: Paul Ventimiglia

This year we have had the unique privilege of working with some new and awesome mentors. Over the next few weeks, we will be giving them the opportunity to talk about how FIRST has affected them.

Name: Paul Ventimiglia

College/Major: Worcester Polytechnic Institute / Liberal Arts and Engineering

What is your occupation? How did you get into it?

I am currently not working anywhere. I am spending my time on side projects involving robotics design which I may turn into a business. Most recently, I was a Mechanical/Robotics Engineer at Double Robotics. I have been friends with the founders of the company for over a decade when we all were working on Battlebots. Since then, I have recruited my boss for side projects, and we kept in touch.

When did you get involved in FRC?

I got involved in FRC when I found out about it at WPI. FRC Team 190 was working out of the same lab I was building Battlebots in. I have been involved since kickoff 2006.

What was your favorite FRC game?

I enjoyed watching 2012 the most. It was very exciting watching the best robots scoring baskets quickly, and then always exciting at the end with the risky bridge balancing. 2011 was my favorite year for robot design and competing. We had a very solid and unique design which was very satisfying.

How did FRC interest you?

I love engineering, but I love engineering competitions even more. I am not really into any other sports \(besides sailing\), but I love the competitive nature of FIRST. It is not all about winning, but it is competitive to see who can come up with the best design quickly and easily. Mentoring students interested in robotics is really fun. I have a lot of experience building things quickly and reliably, and I am glad to share that with others.

How has FIRST affected you?

FIRST has a huge community, so it was an interesting place for me to learn from others and meet new people. I have many lifelong lasting friendships through FIRST. I have met business contacts and people which have led to amazing opportunities. FIRST has done a good job of focusing me, and giving me some structure, even if for only 6 weeks out of the year. It is something I look forward to and prioritize to make time for in my life. It has taught me so many engineering skills, new parts I have never seen, new methods, and refined my CAD skills. It also taught me a lot about working with teams of people and how to handle communication issues.

How many FRC teams have you worked with?

I have worked with 190, and a little with 1735, both out of Worcester, MA, before 254.

What area do you mentor in ?

I mentor in all things mechanical, design, overall geometry, parts sourcing, machining, etc.

Time Commitment:

During the build season, I am full on. Every day at the lab from about 5:30 until midnight weekdays, and 1 to midnight on weekends. During the season I took 4 days off. When I am not at the lab, I try to spend as little time working on anything FIRST related, although my mind is still thinking about solutions to problems. Also I spent a lot of time during the day physically bringing parts to and from our sponsors shops for welding or finishing.

How does your profession affect your approach?

As a robotics engineer, it is precisely what I do. Having a tough new challenge, brainstorming solutions, prototyping, designing, and manufacturing. All of course while maintaining a low project cost, and getting it done quickly. I approach FRC the same way I do any other engineering problem. I always look first at what others have done, do research, and ask a ton of questions. Then I try implementing a best estimate immediately and getting feedback for revisions.

Why did you decide to help with Team 254?

I have always admired the 254 creations. I have spent many hours looking over every picture I could find, and reading available information. It is one of the most professional teams, and I have always wanted to work with those mentors and students. I also think it is a very special privilege to be working out of a NASA facility with so much history and prestige.

What do you expect to see from students in FRC?

I expect a lot of hard work over time, and a lot of learning and improvement. When someone is not working hard, or quickly, I expect them to ask someone else how they can improve, or what they can be working on. I think all things can be solved by asking tons of questions and learning, so I always wish people would admit more often when they are unsure about something. I expect students to be here having fun, because they want to be here, and not feel forced.

Do you feel that FRC helps students prepare for future careers?

Yes, it helps dramatically. Some teams are run like small businesses, very professionally. They will learn about communication, deadlines, and real world project consequences. They will learn a ton about working with teams of people, and how they will not always get along with everyone. They also learn how to behave around industry professionals at events.

What do you do for fun?

I build bar tending robots, fighting robots, go sailing, go to the beach, and eat smoked BBQ.

What is your favorite FIRST memory?

Being on Einstein after winning champs in 2007 is right up there, also getting to play CRUD with my old team at the end of ship day each year.

What is your most valuable FIRST experience?

The most valuable experience was going to the Founder’s Reception at Dean’s house in 2006. That was my introduction to FIRST and where I met so many mentors. It got me hooked so quickly because I was fully immersed. From that I got to really meet my close friends from WPI which guided the rest of my education and career choices.

Team 254 and 1868 hold annual FRC Scrimmage

Pictures of this event have been omitted to protect the privacy of all teams in attendance.

This past weekend (February 15th and 16th), Team 254 and Team 1868 hosted their annual FRC scrimmage. In our lab, generously provided by NASA, we are thankful to have a near full-size field to practice on, so we opened up our lab so neighboring teams could practice before stop-build day. In addition, 254 and 1868 setup a full-stocked tools chest for visiting teams to work on their robots, along with snacks and drinks served throughout the day. Thirty-one teams registered to attend the scrimmage, four of which were participating in FRC for the first time. The scrimmage also gave teams that showed up the opportunity to discuss ideas about this year’s game, Aerial Assist, and preview each other’s robots ahead of competition. Moreover, we were excited to see Jim Beck, the Northern California First Representative, in attendance. We’re always glad to help out fellow FRC teams and we look forward to our annual scrimmage next February!

Day 41: Scrimmage Prep

Field Construction

Work began on assembling the field today. We first opened up all of the shipping pallets containing the field elements and laid them out on the field. The assembling crew started with the low goal. They assembled the two blue low goals and then moved onto the blue high goal. They assembled the goal including the overhang to protect the drive station. They then attached the poles on the truss that represent the limits of the field above the truss. The field team also assembled one of the podiums for the ball to rest on behind the driver station. A few people attached another stabilizing to the base of the polycarb at the end of the truss.

All the Field eLements laid outLow Goals assembledPedestal for the ballMaking the stabilizing barSupport bar will be mounted to the base of the polycarbdHigh Goal was assembledPole for signal lights


The wiring team, lead by EJ and Mani, wired the banebot motors that drive the intakes as well as the encoders attached to them. They also wired the VEX button sensors that keep the ball stationary in the intakes. For driving and testing purposes, they wired a single pneumatic tank to the comp robot.

Wiring intake motorsButton sensor wiredIntake motors wired

Bumpers and Driving

The bumpers were successful attached to the practice robot to allow the robot to be driven around and tested.

Zip ties attach bumpers to robot


The programmers fixed and calibrated the encoders on the drive base


Travis made some minor changes to the bumpers in the CAD

CAD for bumper


Parts for the intake encoder mountings and the hot goal sensor mountings were manufactured today. The wooden sides for the bumpers were also manufactured.

Mounts for hot goal sensorsSpacers for intake encodersMaking wooden bumper side panels

Action Items:

  • Finish constructing field
  • Finish building robot
  • Talk to Tom or Jared about programming

Day 37: Construction and Testing

by Abhishek Aditham ‘15


Today, students continued construction of the bumpers. On the pieces of cut Cordura they marked 4 inch by 12 inch boxes onto which 254’s team number will later be embroidered.

Students working on the logo for the bumpers


Some students machined two pieces of tubing that will be used to hold up the shooting arm on the robot. These will temporarily be used for testing purposes until pistons will replace them.

Godwin and Gregorio machining the temporary piece

Robot Construction & Testing

Some students and a mentor worked on the competition robot by attaching and organizing pneumatic tubing on its drive base. Later on, the mentors and a group of students began testing the robot’s shooter and were able to score into the high goal.

Students and EJ working on the robot

Award Submissions

Today a group of students continued writing and editing 254’s submission for the Chairman’s Award. A few other students created a to do list stating what would need to be done to complete the Media and Technology Innovation Award.

Students working on award submissions

Action Items

  • Assemble robot with Mani and Abhi
  • Programming with Kevin and Brandon
  • Check trello

Shockwave @ Santa Clara Basketball Game

On January 29th, two Team 254 members brought Shockwave to the Santa Clara Basketball game. The two students worked hard to roll the t-shirts before the game so there would not be any problems before Shockwave went out. During two timeouts, Shockwave was able to shoot roughly twenty t-shirts into the student section. We even got a t-shirt into the second section by request of some fans! Overall, many students were excited to see Shockwave at the game and are hoping that it will return for another. We enjoyed shooting t-shirts and hope to return again.

Bay Area Science Festival 2013

On November 2nd, several members from our team, along with our 2013 robot Overkill, participated in the Bay Area Science Festival. Along with other FRC teams, Team 254 was able to demo our robot to excited youth and adults. We were able to demo our shooter and our unique climbing abilities. We explained the basics of the robot and the game to curious youth and the intricacies of the robot to curious adults. Overall, we had a blast and hope to participate again.Team254@BAYAREA

Take Flight For Kids

On October 19th, several members from our team had the opportunity to participate in the Take Flight for Kids event hosted by Valley Medical Center Foundation. Along with other FRC teams, Team 254 was able to present the 2013 robot, Overkill to the excited youth and adult that stopped by our booth. We explained the basics of the robot to curious youth and the intricacies of the robot to curious adults. Overall, we had a great time and had a lot of fun.