Winning Moments at Regionals

Batteries not Included with Not the Droids You are Looking For


I suppose the thing you expect me to say about Regionals yesterday is that we are very proud to have won the first place champions trophy.  But if FLL has taught me one thing only, it is that the experience is not about the winning.  We had so much more fun on competition day this year, and I think it was because we reached and connected to a few other teams. Cheering them on and watching them do well, and having them there to cheer for us (or cheer us up when our robot went astray) made all the difference in the world. It made winning less relevant.

Here were some different WINNING moments BNI experienced:

The feeling when a very young (and very short) rookie team “Not The Droids You Were Looking For” approached us, thanked us for the Blog, and said that they considered us their mentors!  We felt amazed and honored, not only that our Blog worked, but that they were actually looking up to us! BNI became their “fan club” and cheered the loudest when they went on to dominate the table with high scores in the 240s.

Watching the table match against the ‘Yo Bots, when right out of the gate, they went for our rat.  Strategically, we also went for their rat at the same time. We got each others!  All the judges cheered and everyone laughed!  I know we didn’t get that extra 15 points, but it was SO WORTH IT.

Connecting with another team, the Robo Eagles.  We met last week for a practice match, and checked out each other’s robots.  They showed us their very cool hardware to do both the thermometer and the timer mission combined, and we were floored by its complexity. We made an alignment suggestion that they incorporated, and we got to cheer them on while they competed and watch it in action!  They were also there with hugs and understanding when our first robot run did not go as planned. One girl said, “It has happened to me. I know just how you feel.”

By the luck of the draw, we were at a table next to a coach whose day job involved extensive use of social media and QR codes. He really “got” our project, and was tweeting about us, and the event all day. At one point, someone saw a tweet about us IN SPANISH.  Wow. We generated some real attention! Plus they were also huge Monty Python fans, so we had a great discussion about the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow, African AND European.  We had a great exchange about ideas on how to carry our project further.


So thanks everyone at the Pittsburgh Regionals!  We hope to see you all next year!  Go FLL!


Leave a comment

Posted by on December 7, 2011 in Competition Day


Good Luck to everyone at regionals…… Have fun!

Batteries Not Included 2011

We are having a great day at Regionals!  If you are competing in Pittsburgh, come find our booth. We are Team #6451.We’d love to meet you and see your robot. If you mention you saw our blog, we’ll try to find an extra QR Code Temporary Tattoo to share with you!

Good luck one and all!  Go FLL!


Leave a comment

Posted by on December 3, 2011 in Competition Day


Attention Boxheads: Check your batteries!

Conlon, well, I don't know what to say here.

Just a friendly reminder to check your batteries!  After A LOT of iterative testing, we find missions start to slowly fail. Then we smack ourselves on the collective forehead and say “LOW BATTERY!” and all is well again.

Here is what our well dressed team will be wearing to compete: BOXES on STRING.  They make a fashion statement, and are useful to hold attachments. We are thinking of selling these next year as a fundraiser, ha ha ha.

Have fun tomorrow in your competition, everyone!

Megan is thinking about adorning hers with a floral print, and selling cheap knockoffs on eBay

Nate has the "basic black" model

Ashley has a sturdy dual string model

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 2, 2011 in Uncategorized


Software Documentation

Have you thought about documenting your software? Are you even doing it?!? You use the  NXT comments capability, which looks like a little thought bubble.  Write yourself notes to remind yourself what your code does, which way is forward (up or down), and helps you to make changes later. Also, it helps the judges read your code.

Well, here are some of our “Documentation Standards” that we use for EVERY piece of software we use.

Here are the things we think are important to note: Run number, Filename, Myblocks used, Robot Start Position, Assumptions, Sensor requirements, robot end position, and attachments needed. Below is an example:

  • Filename:  “2 Corn”
  • Run: 2
  • Mission: Corn harvestor,  yellow ball,  pink bacteria, yellow truck
  • Start Position:Base. Facing east. Aligned in corner near bacteria
  • Assumptions: Raise and unlock bar attached to B motor
  • Uses Myblocks:  “CMtoDEG” for converting centimeter distances into rotational degrees
  • Sensor requirements: Touch, light
  • End Position: Base
  • Attachments needed: Folding truck pusher, corn catching tray, bacteria dropping arm

If you follow all these documentation tips, you will be sure to succeed in the software department.

Happy Documenting!


Kevin F.

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 1, 2011 in Software


What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

What Industry Experts are saying about the Omni Label…..

These are real quotes from real industry experts that we have collected!



I am very genuine in suggesting the team explore the potential of a patent.”   


There could be tremendous applicability in connection with the current push to provide customers with quick access to key nutritional information.”


The depth of [the team’s] research was truly on par with what I expect from college students we hire as interns.”

Senior Director of Environmental, Safety, and Food Safety
Big Grocery Store



I like how the label changes dynamically, as information is added to the database.”

Manager, Emerging Technology Center, Big Grocery Store




We all were struck especially by the intelligence, maturity, and poise of [the team].”

Vice President of Risk Management,

Big Grocery Store




It would be a great idea to have a scanner in every aisle, and at the check-out.”

Patricia I.

Manager, Big Grocery Store

Having this functionality on a cell phone would be a huge leap in technology in this industry.”

Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Atlanta, Georgia

What could possibly go wrong?”

Batteries Not Included!

Hopeful FLL Team, Murrysville Pennsylvania

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 1, 2011 in Project


Drop-on, Drop-off Attachments

It is really important to be have really modular attachments, and to be able to change them very fast on competition day. To help with the problem of slow transitions between different runs, we have created
what we call “drop-on attachments”. They are simply attachments that hook on to the bottom of the
robot. When the robot moves forward, it either pushes or pulls the attachment in that direction.
This way, all we have to do to change the attachments between runs is to lift the entire robot
up, sweep the old attachments out of the way, and set the robot back on the new attachments.
Since there is very little attaching to do during the transitions, it gives us more time to go around
the board and complete missions, earning us more points!

You can see this in action at our Facebook page, where we have a few videos of the reliably working robot runs.

Thanks to Julia for drawing this picture for our "inconspicuous green binder"!

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Hardware design


Our T Shirts Arrived

Our T-shirts arrived today.  Look at how cool they are!  the QR code on the front actually scans!   It also has our favorite quote on the back, “What could possibly go wrong?”   It took hours to get the whole design decided on, and it was definitely an exercise in teamwork!

-Julia N.

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Core values


Visit the Experts: Giant Eagle Corporate Vice President of Risk Management

Found this in the draft folder. A crucial part of our team’s story, I’m sorry you missed it. Now step into the time warp, and the post as it should have looked weeks ago…

Today we took a field trip to the Giant Eagle Corporate Headquarters to meet with Mike Sealy, the Vice President of Risk Management, and his senior staff. They listened and talked to use about the various facets of our presentation. They offered valuable advice, such as putting dedicated Omni-Label scanners in the grocery aisles, as well as the cash registers. They loved our idea and said they thought it would be a valuable tool in tracing recalls. Then he gave each of us a goodie bag with chocolate covered pretzels.

We later received the following email from one of Mr. Sealy’s staff members.

“Mary Beth,

I was very impressed with the Robot Project team’s presentation last week.  The depth of their research was truly on par with what I expect from college students we hire as interns.  Their ability to then work as a team to transition that research into a meaningful solution, really stood out to us.  Lastly, I can’t say enough about each individual’s presentation skills and composure.  Presenting to a group is difficult enough, without the added pressure of the audience being comprised of individuals with decades of technical experience.

I also wanted to comment on the label idea.  I am very genuine in suggesting the team explore the potential of a patent.   I must admit, I have some concern in terms of the overall application for recalls, due to the need for regulatory support to require this type of change from the current labeling process.  However, I believe there could be tremendous applicability in connection with the current push to provide customers with quick access to key nutritional information.  There are a number of systems currently showing up on tags on grocery shelves that apply numerical values relative to nutrition, or state nutritional claims.  However, there isn’t anything that I am aware of that provides the ability to personally customize the information to your individual needs.  And, I think that the growing population of health conscious consumers are more likely to want to take a few seconds to scan an item that they have questions about to ensure that it meets their needs; instead of investing the time required to fully review a nutritional panel and label to try to pull out the specific details of interest.

I wish the team luck in the contest and their future pursuits.  Although, with the skills they possess, I am certain they will make their own luck.


I think this is an awesome endorsement and will be sure to show it to the judges. Until next time! -Conlon N

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 29, 2011 in Food Safety, Project


All In a Day’s Work

Today we took two giant steps towards the competition day. We met with a local competitor team to compare robots and share ideas and innovations, and had a conference call with Anne Reid, Deputy Regional Food and Drug Director for the South East Region of the United States. We learned a lot, and we hope to share some of that insight here, with all of you, our loyal readers.

We met today with the Mother of Sorrows School FLL Team ‘The Robo Eagles’. They had a highly developed gear rig designed to get both the thermometer and cooking timer at the same time. I have to say, I’m jealous. It was a nice setup. I talked with Jonah, who was one of the lead engineers of the team, about some common problems facing both teams. We then, in the spirit of coopetition™, took to working on a sort of alignment tool for the cooking timer to help ensure accuracy on that mission for the Robo Eagles. It came out quite well, and just goes to show that two (dozen) heads are better than one.

Batteries Not Included and the MOSS Robo Eagles pose for a picture after a friendly competition and pizza lunch.

As another reference for our presentation, we called up Anne Reid, Deputy Director of the FDA for our region. Our group talked to her for about half an hour and presented her with an idea. She said that she loved our idea and would love to see it in operation. Mrs. Reid also talked us through the timeline of a recall, filling in some of the blanks we had even after our visit with Mrs. Isherwood a couple of weeks ago. (Anyone who missed that can read that post here).

BNI around the conference call phone.

All in all, it was a very productive day. We accomplished a lot and learned even more. We hope to see the Robo Eagles and all of you on the board this Saturday! Good luck to you, one and all. -Conlon N

For the official project reveal paragraph and exclusive photographs from our visit with Mr. Sealy (Vice President of Risk Management at the Giant Eagle Corporation), click here.

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Core values, Outreach


Project Teaser Posters

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Expect more on our project as the week goes on!

See you on the board!

-Conlon N

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 27, 2011 in Project

%d bloggers like this: