Building a Better Robot: A Guest Blog By David Eacho
As I head off to New York for my final weeks of pre-Olympic work for Sports Illustrated, I’m going to share a guest blog from David Eacho, one of the three bright, talented students who will be high-school interns with us at the Notebook later this summer. David’s a great guy with a big future. Hope you enjoy it!
“This year I experienced a somewhat new sensation. Waking up at 6:00 am
and being O.K. with it. For those of you who don’t know me, (which is
a lot of people), my name is David Eacho, I live in Southborough
Massachusetts, and I worked at The Naturalist’s Notebook last summer. Despite the
whole ‘naturalist’ thing, I’m going to be talking about something
not so natural, but just as awesome. Robots.
“This year at school I had the awesome opportunity to work on a
robotics team. At first, I signed up thinking we’d be playing with
those Lego Mindstorms, or small bots that drove around and had fun.
Then I realized what I was getting myself into. My school’s team
participates in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science
and Technology) Robotics Competition, and we were the 3,566th team to
sign up, giving us that number. This year, our team’s second year, we
saw team numbers in the 4000s, to give an idea of how big this program
“Each team is given six weeks to build a robot no more than 120 pounds
and five-feet tall, designed to play a game. This year’s game was called Rebound
Rumble, and it was basically 3 vs. 3 basketball with a ton of crazy
other things. If you want to know more about it here is a youtube link
to the game
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but given all the other commitments
of school and study hall and work and everything else that I go
through at my boarding school, six weeks is not that long of a time.
The first few weeks were devoted to strategy and teaching everyone how
to use the machines in the shop. Even though we were in our second year,
all but two members of our team (myself included) were new and had not worked
with metal in such a way before.
“Although the build season was long and tiresome, and we ended up with
a really cool robot. In mid April our robot had its first test: The Boston Regional. We had to wake up by 5:30-6 a.m. to drive from Central Massachusetts to Boston for three days straight. Each day was spent working on the
robot or competing with it in the game. The regional hosted about 60
teams from places as close as Boston and as far away as Mexico and
“We did well enough to qualify for the world championships in
St. Louis, but that was it was a whole new ballgame: Four hundred teams from
the United States, Canada, Mexico, Israel, China, and Korea, and
probably some other places I’ve forgotten about, were all there to
compete for the world title. The competition took up not only
the St. Louis Rams’ football stadium (the Edward Jones Dome), but also the convention center that is attached to it. Needless to say, it was huge.
“Although we didn’t do as well in St. Louis, we had an amazing time. The only senior on the team reminded me why we did robotics. We didn’t do it because we didn’t want to do sports. We didn’t do it because we wanted to build robots. We did it, as the organizations name states: For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. This year I learned the true process of engineering and decided that I wanted to study engineering when I go to college. I know I’m not the only one
on my team that decided that.
“FIRST is not just for building one type of robot. There also is the
FIRST Tech Challenge, known as the FTC, in which high school students work on smaller (cuter) robots for a different game. The students work with different types of
materials than FRC people like me do, but still have fun. Then for
middle schoolers, there is the FLL, or the FIRST Lego League. This
group works with the LEGO Mindstorm robots. Last of all, there is Jr. FLL, in which students work with Legos and get interested in purely the creative side of
things, which is hugely important. Everyone should think about
starting or joining a FRC, FTC, FLL or Jr. FLL team because it
really changes who you are, and it’s tons of fun.
“Our school team is ready to give it another shot this year. And I look forward to seeing people at The Naturalist’s Notebook this summer when I’m in Maine in August!”
Tour the Moon
NASA has produced a video tour of the Moon’s surface that uses the latest images and reveals features never before seen in such detail. Click below and fly 240,000 miles to see (among other places) a spot that hasn’t had sunlight in more than two billion years:
At the Notebook we sell little chocolates called Bug Bites. Each comes with an insect card. The other day I was startled to open my dark-chocolate Bug Bite and find a card for a scary-looking creature called a death’s head hawk moth. I found the write-up potentially interesting for both nature lovers and movie buffs.
Here’s what the card said: “Much superstition surrounds this moth species due to the skull motif on the thorax. The movie poster for Silence of the Lambs combined this moth with a Salvador Dali image of a skull. This sphinx moth has a long and strong proboscis able to pierce honey cells of bee hives. During their plunderous actions, they also emit a squeaking sound said to mimic the pre-swarm noise on a queen bee.”
Any of you folks have a favorite species of moth?
Answer to the Last Puzzler
Here are collective terms used for the birds in our last quiz:
1) a bevy of quail
2) an unkindness of ravens
3) a siege of herons
4) a congregation of plovers
Gertrude is raising money to save the rhinos. At the end of the day she empties the change from her pocket and finds that she has 50 coins that add up to one dollar. How many coins of each denomination does Gertrude have?