[Blogs always put the newest posts on top, which isn't very good for multi-message histories . . . ]

Needless to say, the original founding members were none too happy with having all their hard work thrown out, and for the most part were excluded from participating. 

In their defense, the upperclassmen did have more experience in designing and building robots, but while their technical skills may have been superior, their team-building and leadership skills were perhaps not exactly ideal.

In any event, a minor revolt broke out.  The end result was that the four freshmen who had started the robot for the OKBEST competition broke away from the Westmoore High School robotics team, and went their own way with the OKBEST kit.  A couple of the freshmen elected to stay with the Westmoore club, as well as participate in the freshmen-only group.

Since the group of freshmen needed a name for their organization, and since they were having to start over from the beginning, Team Phoenix was a natural choice.

Working quickly, Team Phoenix re-designed their robot, which wasn't ready--or even functional--for that Saturday's Mall Day event.  Still, attending the Mall Day event was a watershed moment for the members of Team Phoenix. It gave them the opportunity to see their competitors' designs--which helped tremendously in design of the arm.\

Additionally, the Mall Day was when the team's notebook was due.  The team had hurriedly finished it up, and turned it in, hoping for the best.

Seeking to simplify the robot as much as possible, Team Phoenix abandoned the complicated gripper designs that had been proposed, and that other teams were using, in favor of a sort of spoon-shaped fixture on the end of the arm, with a slot cut into the spoon from the tip to nearly the end of the bowl, and with a wrist-type rotation mechanism.  An analysis of the game field led to this.  The traffic cones were slotted, and the spoon would fit into the slots.  The arm would then elevate to lift the cone, and the robot driven across the field to the rack.  The wrist rotation motor would then flip the cone over, and the arm would lower it into the rack.  The slot in the spoon would be used to scoop up the magnet- or marble-filled easter eggs, to be transported to and dropped in the cones.

That was the theory, anyway.

Bryce Queri, our star programmer, had nearly the entire control program set up, prior to the upperclassmen taking over the robot.  They deleted all his hard work, and instead had substituted their own--which proved less than ideal.  Bryce, a drummer in the Westmoore band, had committments there that he had to attend, and so was tied up in the last days prior to the competition, and so Team Phoenix ended up having to compete with a less-than-optimum control program for their robot.

October 16th, the day of the competition, came very quickly.  Team Phoenix worked until nearly 3 am the night before, but were at the competition site bright and early. 

Arriving at the competition site, they were surprised to see people moving what appeared to be large sets into the building.  The members of Team Phoenix were a little unsure; was there also some sort of drama competition going on at the same time, in the same building?

What it was (and there were some panels that looked like sets for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory!) were parts of various OKBEST teams' presentations.  What we took were to be professional business sales presentations were in fact a wide-open, no-holds-barred, make-it-as-wild-as-you-want presentation, with full sets worthy of any drama club presentation; some had demonstrator robots, others had banks of computer monitors displaying animated robots.  Clearly we were outmatched in the presentation department.

But pressing on, the team went on in and got their robot registered.  The last part of the robot to be finished was the golf ball hopper/catcher, and upon viewing what other teams were using, ours was clearly too small.  We quickly added additional duct tape to the walls which ended up looking like something from one of those cheesy duct tape prom dress and tuxedo competitions, but we had high hopes.

We were still rapidly working, as fast as we can, when the competition started.  We had some sensor problems, with our design to interface with the game field, and were not able to overcome this.  So we pressed on.

The competition consisted of 16 teams, including Team Phoenix, in several matches.  Each team competed in four matches, each one against three other teams, in sequence.  Each match was 3 minutes long.

It quickly became apparent that no one had been able to design and build a robot that could successfully reposition all three cones, the cart, the easter eggs, catch the golf balls, dump the golf balls in a sorting tray, and return both the cart and itself to the starting position, all in three minutes.  It was just not possible.  So most teams concentrated on either the cone/easter egg task, or the golf ball task.

Only a few robots were able to successfully pick up the traffic cones, flip them over, and put them in the racks.  No one was able to successfully pick up an easter egg and get it into the upside down traffic cones.  Several teams did have some success with moving the cart into position and picking up and dropping off golf balls. 

Sadly, Team Phoenix didn't have much luck.  The control program was the heart of the problem.  Not having a sufficiently knowledgeable backup programmer to Bryce Queri, the controls were far too sensitive, and the arrangement of the functions on the controller left a lot to be desired.  (Since then, the team has engaged in some in-depth programming training, both in NXT-G and in RobotC, in order to be better prepared for the future.)

Still, when it was all said and done, Team Phoenix placed higher than any other rookie team, making it into the wildcard game for the playoffs--where unfortunately, they lost.  Still, it was an outstanding debut for a team that had to overcome so many obstacles, and was itself less than 10 weeks old.