Houston District Event Recap

Going into the Houston District event our team had one major goal, secure enough district points to make it to District Championship. The estimated number of district points to safely reach District Champion ship in Texas is about 56 points. At our first event we ended with 21 points, so we needed to get 36 points to secure our spot.

One possible path to earn 36 points district points is ranking 1-8 (~15 points), being alliance captains or getting picked by rank 1 – 6( ~13 points), reaching match 13 in double elimination (7 points). This was just one possible way we could secure our spot to the District Championship.


The first problem didn’t actually happen at Houston but happened during play at Waco. The problem happens when we feed game pieces in through the single sub station. During the Waco event we dropped the cone and drove up towards it, our intake facing the opponents driver station. This makes it almost impossible to see what is going on and we didn’t always know when we had securely grabbed the game piece.

There was this CD thread and suddenly our life got easier. At home we practiced this and we implemented this strategy during the Houston event. Amazing how effective such a simple change can be.

During our second practice match we ran into our first problem at the event. One of the Neo 550 on the intake died. We were still able to intake cones but we couldn’t intake cubes. The solution was simple, we replaced the burnt out 550 and did a systems check.

During the systems check we noticed a rather large problem, the gears in the choochoo gearbox were slipping past each other and the first stage of the arm couldn’t move all of the way. The source of the problem? The hex shaft on the final stage of the choochoo gear box. This stage contains the wheel which attaches the linkage to the arm.The shaft looked like this.

We couldn’t get the shaft out in one piece and we had a qualification match coming up in the next few minutes. To temporarily solve the problem we rotated the shaft 180 degrees and re-attached the choochoo wheel and linkage. The shaft was bent in such a way that this temporarily fixed the slipping gears and we were able to play our first match with the arm working.

The shaft was replaced after our first match. The shaft that bent was hollow and made out of 6063 Aluminum. This shaft has been on the robot for the entire season going through many hours of practice and just failed now. We replaced the shaft with a solid one made 7075 Aluminum, hopefully this will last us the next half of the season.

The next problem appeared after replacing the choochoo shaft. The robot started having problems during the high cone score sequence. It was unable to score cones on the high nodes.

It took us 6 matches to solve the problem. During those six matches we scored on the middle nodes and low nodes. The solution ended up being pretty simple. Another point was added to the high score sequence, this point results in a movement that only lowers the second joint of the arm. This sets the cone onto the high node before the base arm moves back to score.

The high scoring sequence problem only appeared after we replaced the choochoo shaft. We think the shaft was bent for a while and this slowed the choochoo gearbox’s movement down. The high score sequence was tuned to work with the slowed movement. Replacing the shaft removed the resistance, speed the choochoo up and our scoring sequence no longer worked.

I’m happy to report that during the Houston Event we didn’t have any match ending problems. This was a giant step up from our first event. There were problems, but we managed to play through all of them and continue scoring.


Friday was a cycle of fixing small problems, playing matches and watching our match footage to find small improvements.

The results showed at the end of day, we were ranked 7th. Our scouting data had us doing an average of 6.1 game pieces per match which was the 4th highest at the event, we were a bit lower on teleop score with an average of 17 points or 6th highest. Here is our scouting data from Houston.

Scouting Meeting

Saturday we had two qualification matches and we managed to win both, we ended qualification matches at rank 5. We were excited to invite 5414 Pearadox, 4332 EHS RoboCats and (eventually) 7312 T3 to play with us on the number 4 alliance.

Our alliance managed to win every match in the upper bracket and we found ourselves in the finals playing against Alliance 1 composed of 118 Robonauts, 3847 Spectrum, 2585 Impact and 9121 Wild WEST. This was an incredibly tough match up. Our alliance managed to bring it within 9 points in Finals 2 but we ended up losing to Alliance 1.

It was amazing getting to play with our all of our great alliance partners! Congrats to all of Alliance 1 for a well deserved win! Our team took home two awards at the event, Event Finalist and Industrial Design Award.

Fun Moments

Our prototyping fail* video got played during one of the breaks. Apparently it also was played at more events as one of our students saw it while watching the Sacramento Regional.

* There are no failures during prototyping, only lessons about what does and doesn’t work.

Teams Reaction To Seeing Our Video, Drive Team Clueless
This tradition is going to continue for a while.
Baby Can Man

Final Notes

Our goal for the Houston event was to earn enough District Points to make it to states, a combined total from each event of 56. Well at Houston alone we earned 56 District Points, our total for the season is 77, enough to secure a spot at District Championship. Looks like we’ll be going back to Houston!






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