Monday, April 29, 2013

Robotics Ends

 On Sunday we returned from competing in the FIRST robotics World Championship with my son's two teams.  What a great event and outing for both teams.  We didn't win either event but Sean's FTC team was nominated for some awards and he personally won a special "Inspire Me" award from the judges - only 20 were given out to the over 10,000 students participating.

 Here's a shot of Sean and his FTC team preparing for inspections.  The FTC level competition was both very fierce and brutal as there was a lot of damage to the robot - all of it was entirely within the rules and, honestly, in good spirit, but we spent a lot of time fixing the 'bot!

 Like in this shot - the boys are looking for a cut wire while they're replacing the middle motor of the left side drive train - it got "smoked" during a competition.  Getting "smoked" is a literal term - the motor superheats and then emits a ball of dense white smoke about 2 feet wide that drifts up to the ceiling.  It's not much use after that (all the internal gears are fused)!

 Here's a shot of Sean's other team - FRC 4067.  This is the frisbee shooter.  The team decided to get artistic and added an arch shaped structure to the top of the 'bot in honor of our host city, St Louis.  It also served to help block opponent frisbees.  The team did great and went 2-3-1 in their qualifying matches, which is fantastic for just a second year team

 Two team members had birthdays during the event - my son, Sean, turned 18 and Sarah turned 17 so cake was in order in the pit areas at the close of the competition.  Cake and public embarrassment for a teenager (due to the very loud singing of "Happy Birthday") - what could be more fun?

Some of you have asked how does one travel with rambunctious, super smart teenagers AND retain one's sanity?  My answer is simple - well planned logistics.  I travel on the plane and they get packed in the shipping crates!

Sorry for the quality of the photo's, I was too busy coaching to take a lot.  Some of the parents who travel with us took a lot more and I'll post some in match photo's when I get them.

To be honest, this event was a bit bittersweet for me.  We had a great time and did extremely well (especially Sean's "Inspire Me" award) but at the same time, this event marks the end of Sean's participation in FIRST robotics as a competitor.  Robotics have been a huge part of our lives and something we've developed a shared passion for.  I'm still planning on coaching the teams next year but it will be very different not having Sean as a team member.  I've been very blessed to have found something to share with my son that we both love doing and that he excels at.  As a father, I couldn't ask for more and can only hope that those of you who are parents can find a shared passion to experience with your children.

On the plus side, Sean has decided to mentor a team through his college next year so there is the real likelihood that we'll be coaching against each other next season - I'm in big trouble if the happens!

We're also thinking of pulling together a pumpkin-chuckin team over the summer (Trebuchet category).  What's pumpkin chuckin?  It's best described as redneck physics but it's a whole lot of fun!  Come on WWPD-land what say you on joining a pumpkin chucking team.  Team registration opens on June 1st!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Aftermath

I now know what an Medieval city must feel like after the Mongols have moved on.  Mary Beth had over 40 students attend her function this year and from what they consumed one would have thought it was more like 400.

Look at the prowling around the kitchen, waiting to grab the food.  Yes, this was a very dangerous pack of lady dental barbarians.

 Sure they look benign - sugar and spice and all that stuff.  Don't let that fool you - these young ladies are scarily efficient professionals.  OK they're actually very nice and seem to put up with the very odd husband of their favorite professor.  Some even professed an interest in seeing the robot and the "cute little soldier dolls".

 Here are my wife's interns, two off who have just started their rotations.  The one of the left is Greek and brought homemade spanikopita and baklava. She is now my favorite and I will be lobbying Mary Beth to give her A's.  The spanikopita was really, really good.  Is there nothing that feta cheese doesn't make better?

Here's an action shot of the assault on the dining room table where the buffet was laid out.  No doubt some of the keened eyed of you will notice similarities to the attack of Hougemount or the Alamo.  The Buffet put up a valiant defense but in the end was overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and the savagery of the attack.  Only a few bread sticks escaped to tell the tale.

Yes it was rough duty being surrounded by my wife and her wonderful students.  I need to make sure we schedule this event at a different time than Salute is next year!

And so it begins, Part Tres....

I may have missed out on Salute this year, but at least I'm not missing out on my wife's annual spring party for her Women Dental students.  We're expecting a bumper crop  of the young ladies this year and I'm hoping the food holds out.

 Here are some of the early arrivals getting trained by the caterers.  The theme this year is provincial French.  I'm hoping there are some scraps left for me and the boy.

And lastly, here's the Doc, herself, in a rare jovial pre-festivitity mode.  Perhaps she has stumbled upon yet another menial errand for me to perform.

These are trying times in the Geek's Lair - surrounded by a horde of twenty something young ladies and mounds of french cuisine.

What could go wrong?

Pray for me....

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Even More Perry 28mm Confederates on the Day of Salute!

 What a surprise - a 10th Confederate regiment made up of 28mm Perry Plastic miniatures.  That means 240 of the fine gentlemen have marched across my paint desk.  I think it's time for a change of pace for a few weeks....

 OK, these guys aren't really finished - the bases aren't done, there's no flag and the shading is still drying but there good enough to post.  I needed a break after milling out some spare parts for Sean's Robot to bring along with us later this week.

The confederates will be used as part of a linked set of games at Historicon.  The first game will be Friday evening and will be a skirmish game using the new ACW skirmish ruleset from Architects of War "Uncivil War".  Friday's game will feature a 28mm scale ironclad (complete with interior!).  I can't show any pictures of the ironclad but lets just say its a sweet objective.

The outcome of Friday's game will have a direct impact on Saturday's game which will be a large ACW battle for 4 players per side.  Check them out when the PEL comes out.

For all of you who are across the pond and going to Salute have a great time and post lots of pictures of what you see there!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Yet More Robotics: A Second Team Invited to Worlds!

Yes I realize this is supposed to be a miniatures blog, but this is the high point of the FIRST robotics season and a lot is going on.  The big news is that my son's FRC robotics team (4067 - the frisbee shooter from the last post) has also now received an at-large invitation to compete in the Robotics World Championships.  That means he'll be leading teams in two different categories (FRC and FTC) to compete at Worlds.  This is a rather rare occurrence and we're al a bit overwhelmed with prep for for next weeks competitions.  Worlds are held in St Louis this year and run from April 23-27th.

An at-large bid is similar to being one of the last teams added the NCAA college basketball tournament.  We didn't win a regional event to qualify but performed well enough to impress the judges and earn a spot which is really exciting as this is just the second year we've competed at the FRC level.

So between now and April 28th there will be no miniature painting or gaming as I'll be coaching two teams at Worlds and,more importantly, focusing on the logistics of transporting two robots and a few thousand pounds of tools/equipment to and back from St Louis.  It's all very exciting but a bit daunting at the same time.

The event will be broadcast over the Web on NASA TV - just go to the NASA Robotics Alliance web site and look up the Robotic Alliance.  Our teams are:

FTC Team # 3113 "Some Disassembly Required"

FRC Team # 4067 "River Hill Hawks"

Monday, April 15, 2013

FRC Robot Video - Match play

Above is a video taken from a camera mounted on my son's FRC robot during last weekends FRC event - the Cheasapeake Regional/  The robot scored an event high score and the team added the point count and dings when a frisbee scores to help the viewer keep track.

This year's game involved an ultimate frisbee concept and we built a "sniper-bot" that would shoot the full length of the field.  There are three robots per side on the field and each weighs in at 120 lbs so these are fairly large pieces of equipment.  You'll notice both a buzzing sound and a bit of a camera shake when the shooter powers up - it's built from two spinning wheels (one at 6,000 rpm and the other at 12,500 rpm which are used to shoot the frisbee's through a rail system.  We can vary the speed of the second wheel to impact spin and arc.

Robotics is a lot of fun!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Loki's Great Hall 2nd Anniversary Give Away

As all marketers know, avarice is a powerful motivating tool.  It's perhaps the second most effective way one attempt to manipulate - oops, I mean to say "motivate" human behavior.  It seems that Mr Saunders over at Loki's Great Hall has mastered this technique with his newest give away promotion.

Please use the link below and go check out Loki's Great Hall.  It's a fantastic blog that features great painting and gaming articles.  Also you'll be warmed by thought that visiting the blog will enhance my ability to win stuff and, really, isn't that what we are all here for?

Here's the link:

Loki's Great Hall

Yes I know the link and the blog name are a bit different, but I'm sure that's part of Mr Saunders very sophisticated internet security protocols.  Who know what he does in real life that requires such clever obfuscation.

Seriously, it's a great blog and worth your time to take a look.

Ok back to painting Perry Confederates....

Monday, April 1, 2013

Confederate Regiment #9

 Here's the 9th completed regiment of Perry Plastic Confederates.  This regiment was painted wearing captured Union trousers - hence the blue pants.  This was done for both some variety in painting but also to help distinguish these guys on the table with all the other confederate units.

 I've found slight variations in unit uniforms really helps players keep the various units separate in their minds as they play.  I really do need to go about getting some flags for these units.

Next up, well you guessed it - even more Confederate infantry!