Hello, World. We’re Irvington Robotics.
We’re a high school STEM club in the San Francisco Bay Area.
We’re Irvington Robotics Club, a club at Irvington High School in Fremont, California that’s dedicated to providing practical experience in STEM through building a robot for the VEX Robotics Competition. We’re home to four teams, Bluescreens A (44730A) and Bluescreens B (44730B), Bluescreens C, and Bluescreens D. Bluescreens C and D are new teams for the 2017–2018 season and were created with the intent to bring more students into the world of competitive robotics.
Our official website is irvingtonrobotics.org and will launch with a brand new design shortly.
The club was founded by Cody Fong in 2010 with the promise of building “a student-run organization which teaches local Fremont, CA students technology and engineering principles through the design, construction, and testing of robots.” With generous support and contribution of the community and its members, our club has grown and developed throughout the years.
(Editors Note: We’re currently working on a piece on the history of the club. Stay tuned!)
One of our main goals is to reach out to the community and even the greater Bay Area. We’ve done this in a variety of ways, from hosting robotics tournaments to running enrichment camps for young students.
First Tech Challenge Tournament, 2011
In 2011, we hosted our first ever First Lego League and First Tech Challenge tournament, which brought teams from all over the Bay Area and beyond.
Robotics Summer Courses (2014–2016)
Since then, we have begun outreach programs that focus on teaching robotics to younger children. From 2014 to 2016 we have taught summer courses to children in Lego Robotics using NXT kits using a third party curriculum.
Robotics Winter Camps (2016-present)
Starting the winter of 2016, we decided to write our own robotics curriculum and use it annually to teach elementary school students the basics of engineering a robot over the holiday break.
These camps are taught by a rotation of members and are in partnership with a local community center.
Maker Faire (2012-present)
But our biggest (and most anticipated) outreach event is the annual trip to Maker Faire Bay Area, where we bring a robot and a field to let young children drive our robot and get them interested in robotics and STEM in general.
It’s an fun experience for both us and the young children, and it also increases parents’ awareness of the after-school activity as well. We also get to network with other passionate people like us at this event.
We’ve participated in a number of robotics tournaments through the years. In 2010, our first year, we competed in two distinct robotics tournaments: the First Tech Challenge (FTC) and the Botball Educational Robotics Program. Then, starting in 2012, we shifted our efforts solely to FTC until the 2015–2016 school year. In that year, due to various reasons, we dropped out of FTC and switched to the VEX Robotics Competition, which has a smaller set of teams but arguably a wider reach.
Throughout the years, our teams have won numerous awards for our performance:
Botball 2010– Team Bluescreens won 1st place in Documentation
Botball 2010– Team Bluescreens won 1st place in Alliance
FTC 2010– Red HoloRAMs won 2nd place @ Brentwood Qualifier
FTC 2010– Red HoloRAMs won 1st place @ Fremont Qualifier
Botball 2011– Team Bluescreens won Judge’s Choice Award for Most Creative Design
Botball 2011– EndOfLines won 2nd place in Alliance
Maker Faire 2011– Participation in the FTC Showcase booth; Team Bluescreens: 4th place overall
2015 Northgate VEX Robotics Tournament– Bluescreens A wins Team Spirit Award, plays in quarterfinals
Maker Faire 2016– Won Best in Class and two Editor’s Choice awards along with Berbawy Makers
2017 Florin Robotics Starstruck Tournament– Bluescreens B ranked 8th overall, makes it to finals
Maker Faire 2017– Won two Best in Class and two Editor’s Choice Awards along with Berbawy Makers
2018 Irvington HS VRC – All 4 Irvington Robotics teams make it to finals
Maker Faire 2018– Won multiple Editor’s Choice Awards along with Berbawy Makers, booth featured on official Maker Faire livestream, and booth filmed for NHK coverage
Our Engineering Process
When we’re not hosting events for the community, we’re almost always working on our robot, even if it is the off-season. We design and redesign, sometimes iterating on a particular design for weeks. We destroy and build from scratch repeatedly, even taking apart a robot during a competition.
Step 1: The Design
Having a plan for what we’re going to build saves us a significant amount of time and helps us delegate work to team members accordingly. In addition, it gets programmers on each team working on a competition ready autonomous routine. Our teams typically take a paper sketch (called a “concept sketch” in engineering terminology) and then create a full-fledged 3D model in Computer Aided Design (CAD) software.
Step 2: The Build
The build is the most exciting but sometimes the most frustrating stage of the engineering process. We may find that our ideas in the design stage may not be practical or that a certain assembly didn’t look the way we envisioned.
For example, in the a few VEX seasons ago Bluescreens A had built a frame with omnidirectional wheels at a 45-degree angle (called a corner drive robot).
This, in theory, would allow the robot to move in any direction easily. However, we faced issues with wheel axles twisting and warping, forcing us to scrap the entire robot and redesign from scratch.
Step 3: The Programming
The programming for these robots is usually done by a few specialized members, who are responsible for writing code for the 15-second autonomous routine as well as the 45-second remote control period in a VEX Robotics Competition.
All code is written from scratch in a specialized superset of C called ROBOTC, developed at Carnegie Mellon University. (Update: This is no longer the case. All code is now written in VEX C++ or Modkit.) An example program for a previous season can be found at our Github repository (see below).
These programs are typically iterated on multiple times and repeatedly committed to source control.
Step 4: Return to Step 1
We’re never happy with an iteration of our robot. We constantly build, refine, and test until the competition date. For example, in the last tournament the club attended, Bluescreens B got eighth place in the rankings, prompting them to adjust and optimize their robot as well as their on-field strategy.
“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” –Phil Jackson
Our team members come from a variety of different backgrounds and contribute uniquely to the environment as well as the robot. We have members who have built robots since childhood, members who have coded for as long as they can remember, members proficient in 3D design, and even members who have never done robotics at all.
We also couldn’t have done this without our mentor and advisor, Ms. Berbawy, who provides us with the tools, guidance, and resources for success. Her effort and dedication have made a massive impact on the state of the club today.
In addition, we would like to recognize our sponsor, K&H Fine Jewelry, for their contribution to practical STEM education. And, of course, to our parent volunteers for providing transportation and chaperonage.