MEF Grant

This year our school sent out an email in March regarding the availability of Microgrants for items teachers may need. The microgrants are worth up to $200. We were promised a 1-2 week turnaround for requests, so I immediately applied. Unfortunately, I did not hear back for some time. And even when I did, it was unclear when the funds would be provided to us. To make a long, boring story short, I finally received the funds and was able to order new soldering stations for our students. A 1-2 week turnaround became about 3 months, annoying, but I am happy it all worked out. A few photos of a student using the new soldering stations.


Today the Sumobots finally did some battle against each other. There were several entries from our student teams, which included names such as Bozo Bot, Mama Tipson, Connoli, Open-Faced Sandwich, Reverse Sandwich, and Kendo(Revived). Many of the bots were not as fully developed as the students wanted, but they are learning the difficulties of creating a fully autonomous robot from scratch. My favorite bot had to be Kendo(Revived) which is far and away the most advanced bot of the group. It features a plasma and waterjet steel scraper and jaw to remove combatants from its path, and is build on a solid foundation with triple traction wheels and custom circuit board. Additionally, the students were adding small magnets to get the bot to the heaviest allowable weight for combat. We had a lot of fun watching the robots today, and will probably have another day of bouts in the next few weeks, which will allow students to update their robots and make them better.

Robotics Club

I completely forgot to post about the Robotics Club, which Mr. Christy and myself are the moderators. To be fair, Mr. Christy spends much more time with the students, often staying until 8 or 9pm with them during the buildup to a recent contest. This year, the team participated in the MATE ROV competition, which is an underwater rover robot event. The event was at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy on the Cape, and we were there early in the morning. The contest was a little disorganized, and the start time was quite delayed. But that gave our team plenty of time to prepare and organize, since this was our first time at the event. We had two stints in the water with the robot, and the team learned a great deal from the day. Fortunately, we won! Out of the 4 scoring categories, we took 3 of them. We were completely surprised, but very happy for our students.

This means the team will now compete in the international event held in Long Beach, California. Mr. Christy has spent a lot of energy working on corporate sponsorship, and at this time we have raised nearly $20,000 to get the team to California, as well as created ongoing sponsorships for years to come. It’s been a great success, and no matter what happens in Long Beach, the team is going to get better and better each year. Unfortunately, neither myself or Mr. Christy will be able to attend the event in California, so a couple of parent chaperones will go with our team. I’ve posted a few photos below of the team and the rover. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to get any good video of the rover underwater!

Radio V2

Not sure why I have been so enamored with making bluetooth radios lately. My original Pi Radio still is not complete, but it’s a bit out of my hands at the moment. I purchased an old Rogers radio from England and converted it into a bluetooth radio, and it works very well. In addition to that I wanted to make my own radio using our lasercutter here in the shop and create everything in a CAD model. Today I was finalizing an updated version for my father, which includes a newly designed circuit board that is modeled in the CAD file. The new board adds a couple of diodes to help with interference from the battery pack, which was affecting the sound. I will post a more detailed writeup on the construction of the radio, but for now here are a few photos from today.

Shop Work

It was a rather warm day here in New England on Friday, so we opened up the garage door in the machine shop and enjoyed the outside air. A few students were working on projects in the shop, which always makes us seem busy. Clark was putting on some finishing touches for the traffic light project. Just needed to drill some holes in an acrylic sheet to mount some new electronics which make up the internals of the traffic light. With that done, we gave the light a test in the classroom and it performed perfectly. Will post a video of the clock working next week.

In addition to Clark B working on the traffic light, Lucas C and Daniel R were cutting using our Atlas CNC router. The cuts were for speaker boxes they have been working on for several months. It’s exciting to see these finally come to life, and are representative of many hours of test cuts in cardboard on our laser cutter. Hopefully these speakers will be finished in the next few weeks. A short video of work happening in the machine shop today is below.