Tuesday, April 17, 2007

NYCFIRST Update #1 ('07-'08) – April 17, 2007

A newsletter for the NYCFIRST robotics community in New York City and the surrounding area. If you want to be removed from this list type “remove” in the subject are and hit return.

Compiled by Norman Scott
NYCFIRST Registration coordinator

Norm's Robotics blog: http://normsrobotics.blogspot.com/
These newsletters will be available and updates will be posted as they come in. Feel free to comment.

Welcome to the first NYC FIRST Update of the new FIRST LEGO League season. This one will not be short, but it will be sweet.

Registration opens May 1
Just 2 weeks to the opening of registration for the new season. Will anyone from NYC get a single digit registration number?

Just a reminder: registration prices and field set-up kits have gone up (total cost will come to around $275). So has the cost of the NXT (I don’t have exact prices), so plan ahead. And remember to add in the fees (usually $25- $50) for the borough tournaments.

With 140 teams competing last year, it is obvious we are close to maxing out. Pitsco/LEGO’s Bob Woods informs me a few regions (what is left of them) will be jumping aboard big time. We may get away with one more year of a lottery for multiple school teams but if registration goes much above 200 teams we need to look seriously at borough elimination events. I picked up some ideas on how to do this in Atlanta this past weekend and will be sharing them with the FLL planning committee. And with you for your input.

Coming Events

Young scientists of Mott Hall 3, Friday April 20
Derrick Wu informs me there was a good response to our last update and he has enough judges. More below.

Robotic Event at Lyndhurst, a National Trust historic site on the Hudson River, Saturday and Sunday April 21 and 22 from noon to 4pm.
Gary Israel has organized a group of Bronx teams to attend this weekend. See below for details.)

2007 Region 4 Robotics Pentathlon: June 9 at Aviation HS
Contact Stephen Shapinsky
Technology Staff Developer Region 4
To see what the event will look like (and get a sense of the events), see the gallery of images from last year at:

The 3rd annual challenge should be the usual fun event, enhanced by the venue, the Aviation HS aircraft hanger. Last year they turned on a jet engine and had tours of the building with kids demonstrating welding and more of the great stuff at Aviation. Expect more of the same. This event is open to teams outside the region. Some top teams from outside the region have already signed on.

Region 4 VEX News from Stephen Shapinsky
The Region 4 Spring Vex Challenge is up for viewing or downloading at:


I'm still trying to pin down a date and a location for this event; I'll send an update soon.

Stephen Shapinsky
Technology Staff Developer Region 4

Make sure to check out this wonderful link. Stephen has come up with a challenging gameboard and competition for this year’s contest. The competition is open to teams in the metro area, first come first serve.

World Festival in Atlanta: Beyond Great Expectations
(See sample FLL videos at: http://www.isek.iastate.edu/)

This was my first time at the WF and WOW! Working with FIRST’s FLL den mothers Nancy Paul and Elisha Duffy, who always take such good care of us, was a pleasure, as usual. The experience was beyond expectations and FIRST did a first-rate job in making things run like clockwork:

3 separate tournaments (FLL, FRC, VEX) with thousands of kids - all ages from 6 to 18 plus parents, coaches, mentors, teachers. And dignitaries galore, including Chad Hurley, the young co-founder of YouTube who was surrounded by high school kids asking him to autograph their laptops – the new rock star. And the closing night party for, what, 5000 or more? Fire eaters, games, food, and more.

90 plus FLL teams from all over the world and most of the states. How about 3 teams from China – Taiwan, Hong Kong and Shanghai? And teams from Jordon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. FIRST may have the answer for world peace. Maybe they should be running the country.

And the parents who were there with their kids from all over the nation. You heard the expression “soccer moms?” We have a new term: LEGO moms!

There were an amazing number of perfect scores (400) with the winning team doing it 2 or 3 times. Estimates were that NXT gave people a 30-point advantage but if you saw the link I put up last week, there was a perfect score from an RCX. http://www.mindstormsmayhem.org/congratulations-flying-geeks.asp

DON’T MISS THIS!!! for an absolute howl
FLL Volunteers Brandon Newendorp and Jake Ingman from the Iowa State U Engineering Dept. have put up wonderful high quality videos comparing the NXT and RCX with each of them playing the respective roles.
Poor Jake (you’ll know what I mean when you see it.) Use them with your teams.

Here is the link: http://www.isek.iastate.edu/
Click on NXT vs. RCX link

Camille Schroeder, Director ISU College of Engineering, is the leader of the pack at Iowa State and did an awesome job of herding the entire judging corps.

When I saw all these schools on this massive field trip with teachers and parents trying to arrange for accommodations and flights and food for so many kids, I shuddered to think about how nervous I used to get at all my excursions on the subway.

I don’t have a count on number of FRC teams (the big high school event – 6 robots on the field at once for the unitiated) but there were so many they had to use 4 playing fields. The pit area is something to behold with tents and all sorts of other paraphernalia. What an experience for the high school kids who got to visit with kids from all over the world. When the announcer shouts “Isaaac” and thousands of kids shout back “Newton!” you know you are in a special place.

There was also a smaller VEX event with about 100 teams. VEX is brand new and looks like it will develop into a reasonable half-way point between FLL and FRC. VEX is the erector set type materials with much smaller robots than FRC and a much smaller game field. Bruce Rajswasser from Brooklyn Automotive was there as a judge and has the only playing field in NYC and will hold an event at some point in the future (most likely next year) but NYCFIRST will not be holding a VEX event this year. So, the Region 4 VEX (unofficial) event run by Stephen Shapinsky will be the only one in NYC.

The VEX field at the World Festival

I was asked by FIRST to assist on the upcoming 10th FLL anniversary video project at the WF and we interviewed everyone, including Dean Kaman and all the top officials from LEGO in addition to students, teachers, etc. Having “Happy Birthday FLL” shouted in multiple languages will be worth seeing.

Yes, there will be a DVD released that you will find useful to drum up support in your schools but probably not ‘till fall.

I ran into the NYC’er Robotic gang, especially the NYC FLL winners IS 75 SI (The Paulo Panthers), coach Donny Swanson and IS 98 X (Ridder Kids) and coach Harold Smith. Harold has taught for 30 years and I was present at an interview we did and he articulated the benefits to the kids in his school in the Bronx as well as I’ve heard it done. The principal of the school was in Atlanta too and also did a great interview.

At one point I turned around and there was Maureen Reilly, coach of the Nanoramas at PS 261. Maureen works part time for LEGO (she gets to go to Denmark every summer to play.) Her 4th grade classroom is one big LEGOLAND and she is the queen of integrating LEGO and robotics into the curriculum. Gary Israel and I were recruiting Maureen for the FLL Planning committee and hope to see her there. See below for a message to you from Maureen.

I worked with video pros Jay and Karen who were hired by FIRST and learned a hell of a lot from them since they had the same camera I use. Jay created some monster contraptions for the camera that were awesome to behold for their intelligence and creativity. At least I know what a B roll is now.

Kim Kopaczewski from FIRST oversaw the project and was wonderful to work with. When she told me I was huge I took to mean I had had too much cheesecake but she meant it as a compliment (I think.)

There was so much food (they MADE me eat) it was touch and go if the plane would lift off in the storm with me on it but I amazingly got back to LaGuardia only an hour late.

I was at the Atlanta airport on Sunday with half the Stuyvesant team, who had their 10am cancelled and weren’t going to get out till 6pm on Sunday on a flight to the Westchester airport. Then Metro North, etc. What a trek! Stuy kids’ parents and FLL volunteers the past 2 years Wendy Keyes and Ron Kunicki were there and we held impromptu FLL committee meetings at the gate. Wendy’s son Nathan will be attending Princeton next year, though that didn’t stop me from recruiting him for a project I have in mind for next year. We also hope he can help with the Region 4 VEX tournament this year. He was a major help last year. NATHAN, YOU CAN NEVER ESCAPE US!

Some of the Stuyvesant FRC team keeping busy while waiting to get out of the Atlanta airport.

I was at the same hotel with Gary Israel and the 2-Train FRC team from Morris HS. They seemed to be having a great time. We all checked out together and Gary headed off with the van packed with luggage while the kids and I took the subway to the airport (one of the great things about Atlanta).

I also ran into Lehman HS coach Evan Weinberg, who puts so much time into robotics and was one of our MC’s at Riverbank. And the great Wayne Penn was there taking some time off from his grad program in medical engineering in Boston wearing his Hawaiian shirt and multi-colored hair. The last I saw him he was telling Ruth Kamen (Dean’s sister-in-law) how happy he was to be adopted by the Kamen clan. She seemed thrilled.

And I got to see some of my favorites from Aviation HS, including science AP Laurie Nearon and teacher/coach Mike Koumoullos. Natch I had my Quantum Samarai hat, tee-shirt and jersey with me.

I ran into Mike Siegel and Steve Raile from SI Tech but missed the crew from Brooklyn Tech, but here is a word from Jose Munoz, one of their mentors from Polytech:

Hello everyone,
I'd like to congratulate Team 375, Staten Island Tech for winning the Delphi "Driving Tomorrow's Technology Award which celebrates an elegant and advantageous machine feature, as well as all the other New York Teams, that competed at the Championships. I attended the event with Team 334, the Tech Engineers, and on their behalf I would like to thank Team 354 - Westinghouse Pirates, and Team 1155 - Bronx Science SciBorgs, and Team 375 - Staten Island Tech for their help during the Championships.

Jose Munoz
Comm Engineering

Could we pull of a similar 3-tournament event FRC, VEX, FLL event here in NY? After seeing it done, it would sure be exciting.

FIRST has created an international family - students of all ages, and adults of all types – teachers, engineers, college profs, scientists, parents, business people at all levels - truly the FIRST Family.

I’ll have more on the WF in the next update and post some pics on my blog.

Virginia Tech FLL Volunteers
At the closing reception on Saturday, I sat with a great group of volunteers, students, former students and professors from Virginia Tech Engineering (the engineering building was the main site of the shooting) and learned so much about the school and how close knit a campus it is. One of the grads is at NASA working on the next generation shuttle but is still involved in VTech. An undergrad from Long Island was telling me how he was so glad to get away from the city sprawl to a quiet, safe place. Here’s hoping everyone is ok.

Maureen Reilly, coach of PS 261 K Reports

Attention all FLL teams:
www.MINDSTORMS.com/NXTLOG wants you to publish your models online! NXTLOG is the place for you share and archive your LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT projects, comment on NXT projects, and get inspired to build with NXT from the MINDSTORMS Community.

Go to www.MINDSTORMS.com/NXTLOG and create an online archive of your team's FLL robot. You can upload pictures, .rbt program files, and descriptions of your robot and team. You can archive your robot in steps so you can share how you built your robot, or you can share the process your team took to invent your robot, or share both!

The website is FREE, you only need to create a unique LEGO.com username and password.

Make sure that when you add your FLL robot to NXTLOG that you TAG it "FLL" - that way all visitors to NXTLOG can easily search and see NXT robots created for FLL! It's also a great idea to create a username that is the same or similar to your FLL team name.

While you are on the NXTLOG website, search through over 1,800 unique LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT robots created by members of the MINDSTORMS community.

We can't wait to see your robots!

- The NXTLOG team

If you have any questions about how to set up a NXTLOG contact:

Maureen Reilly at reilly.maureen@gmail.com
Team Nanorama, PS 261 Brooklyn

Young scientists of Mott Hall 3 April 20
Hulya Karamemis, Patricia Waters, and Derrick Wu have enough judges for the school Science Fair. Contact Derrick if you are interested in attending. derrick.wu@gmail.com

Mott Hall 3 had a robotics FLL team in last year’s tournament but could not make it this year. Their coach from last year, Kelly Vaughn, received a Fulbright to Turkey and is coaching a team in Istanbul this year while her counterpart from Turkey, Hulya Karamemis, who coached a team last year in Istanbul is involved in this event.

In the small world department, I ran into Fatma Bezek Habip, the organizer of the tournament in Istanbul at the FLL Partner meeting in Atlanta. I tried to communicate how interesting this situation is but do not know if I got through. My Turkish is rusty.

Gary Israel Reports:

Robotic Event at Lyndhurst, a National Trust historic site on the Hudson River, Saturday and Sunday April 21 and 22 from noon to 4pm.

I was recently contacted by the Education Curator of the Lyndhurst Estates in Tarrytown who heard about our FLL teams in the Bronx.

Lyndhurst, a National Trust historic site on the Hudson River, will hold LEGO Fun at Lyndhurst on Saturday and Sunday April 21 and 22 from noon to 4pm. She has invited Bronx FLL teams to demonstrate their LEGO robots during the weekend event.

There will be three FLL tables set up in the 20’ by 40’ tent for the FLL teams to demonstrate their robots. Two of the tables will have FLL teams demonstrating their robots in this year's NanoQuest challenges. The third table will consist of LEGO modules from previous challenges.

Arthur Gugick, winner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation 2005 BrickFest, will be featured both days. His award winning scale model of the Lyndhurst Mansion will be displayed accompanied by his other replicas of famous buildings including the Taj Mahal which are all made out of LEGO pieces. It took eight weeks working in the evening hours to create the Lyndhurst replica.

A middle school Math teacher by day, Mr. Gugick will present demonstrations on combining math skills with creative thinking using LEGO pieces. He noted that “math skills are essential to figuring out the layout and scale… and you really learn about architecture in the process.”

Other activities include: a LEGO play area where children and adults can try their newly acquired building skills; “Guess the Number of LEGO Pieces” contest; a movie short created with LEGO figures and a ‘Find the LEGO shapes inside the Mansion “ hunt.

For more information about LYNDHURST and their educational mission:

In addition to showcasing your robot at this LEGO event your students will be able to participate in the other activities during the day.

The teams that responded and will be participating from NYC will be MS. 190, MS 135, IS 318 and MS 217

Gary Israel
Robotics Consultant
Region 2 Learning Support Center
1230 Zerega Avenue
Bronx, NY 10462
Cell: 845-893-0327

Con Edison’s Andy Wu reports:
Business Week Article on FIRST
Hi all,

Hope those you who were in Atlanta this weekend enjoyed the International FRC Rack & Roll competition down south. They posted a phenomenal news article from our regional tournament at Javits that Con Edison's Tom Horan worked hard to outreach with Team 1660, Frederick Douglass Academy/Rice HS Harlem Knights team.

Great job Tom! It's more inspiration for an even better FIRST season for NYC next year starting now. Here are the links:



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