FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team 3389 is locates 75 miles away. They work on their competition robot three nights each week plus saturdays. I remote mentor the programmers during the week and drive up for the Saturday sessions.

‘basic robot drive’
‘basic robot drive’

We’ve had some hiccups along the way. Nearly all are related to the security limitations on the school network – blocked ports, blocked websites (including GitHub), restrictions on servers and services. Our best collaboration tool has been Skype but even that requires the use of a cellphone hotspot.

Fortunately the student programmers are resilient.

There’s been two challenges for me.

First, the language chosen by the team for the robot is Java. Until a month ago, I disposed Java and never learned it. That wasn’t a big hurdle. I picked in up in a few days. I still dislike immensely.

The second challenge is the competing goals of helping the students learn and helping them get a fully functioning competition robot in just six weeks. “Teachable moments” create the conflict. Fortunately the student programmers have learned very quickly. I’ve been able to create concept samples and they’ve been able to adapt the concepts to applications in the robot.

Today, the programmers made a major milestone – first robot movement!