Official Challenge Release

Today the 2011 Food Factor Challenge was released!!! This year’s game is going to be quite interesting and a bit of a math nightmare with all the small scoring point missions. And I’m sure a few of the little pieces will go missing by season’s end. ūüėČ

Coach Damian went over the field board, missions, and scoring with the team. They have some great ideas already for attachments and game strategy.






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RoboRangers learn about food safety hands-on

On Tuesday, the team had the chance to go downtown and speak with several health inspectors with the City of Houston’s Department of Health and Human Services – Bureau of Consumer Health Safety. Carolyn Gray, the Chief Sanitarian, organized an excellent field trip for them. It started with a powerpoint presentation about food safety and the possible points of food contamination.

Larry Goodman, one of the food inspectors, gave a demonstration on how to properly sterilize dishes and utensils and the importance of doing so, especially in the retail restaurant setting. He also talked about the most common food safety violations inspectors come across.


CP Yang, talked to the team about the equipment inspectors use during their inspections. They were also extremely generous and gave the team their own refrigerator thermometers to take home, a food testing thermometer, dish sanitation temperature devices, as well as chlorine test strips.

After the presentation at the Department of Health and Human Services, the team ate lunch in the Memorial Hermann Hospital Cafe before their 1:00pm meeting. CP Yang arranged to have the team go on a simulated inspection of the hospital’s kitchens. After lunch, the team was met by Bob Peake, the Director of Retail Operations for Memorial Hermann Hospital. He took the time to teach them even more about food safety. And on top of a great educational experience, Bob treated the kids to pizza, cookies, and fruit. The kids were also given a Memorial Hermann hat to wear during the inspection and to keep afterwards. Bob also arranged for Sharon Cox, the Director of Nutritional Services, and the head chef of the hospital to come and meet the team.

Next, Angie Garrett, the Director of Health Care Improvement, did a hand washing demonstration with the kids. Simulated bacteria were sprinkled on their papers and they were taught the proper way to wash their hands. The boys were loudly singing “Happy Birthday” while washing their hands.

After the team all washed their hands, their hands were inspected under a blacklight to see just how clean they got their hands. Not so good!

Some team members had germs all over their faces, shirts, and still on their hands. Alex won a prize for getting his hands the cleanest. Angie Garrett also gave the team a bag of goodies to take home with them.

Next it was time for the hospital inspection. The kids got to see the cooks in action while observing the ways that the staff keep foods safe while they preparing to feed over 4500 people per day. The team got to go into the -10 degree freezer and they loved going in the Coke cooler. On their tour of the kitchen areas, they were treated to Blue Bell Chocolate Ice Cream. Yum!

The Roborangers would like to extend a huge thank you to Carolyn Gray, CP Yang, Larry Goodmand, Bob Peake, and the staff at Memorial Hermann Hospital for providing the team with a wealth of knowledge that they can apply towards their FLL Food Factor research project.

The team with our mentors and new friends from the City of Houston (Larry Goodman, Carolyn Gray, and CP Yang) and Bob Peake, the Director of Retail Operations at Memorial Hermann Hospital

Here is a slideshow of highlights from our day. Enjoy!

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Mission Models Complete!

Today was the team’s first official meeting of the 2011 Food Factor season. The team spent their time building all the field table missions models for the table. The game is officially released until September 2nd, but that didn’t stop the team from trying to guess what the challenges will be. It looks like it is going to be a very interesting (and a bit difficult to navigate) table this year.

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Congratulations RoboRangers!

All the hard work the team has gone through the past 8 weeks paid off.  Not only did their robot finish in the top 8, they received the First Place Project Award!  Outstanding!  During callbacks the judges were laughing so hard at their skit that one almost fell out of her chair.  The kids came out of the judging room with huge grins.  Theywere having fun.  Their overall performance earned them a spot at the 2010 Lone Star Championship Tournamet at the University of Houston this weekend.  They will be competing among the top 60 teams in all of South Texas.  According to the FIRST LEGO League, the Lone Star Championship is the largest single day FLL event in the world.  It will be a wild time for all of us! 

Here are some highlights of the day…


It’s all coming together…

The team is just one practice away from the tournament and major strides were made today.  The team worked on their skit some more and a bunch of hands worked together at making the team poster.  Great team work!  The team also had major repeatable successes with their robot missions and they were scoring the highest they have all season.  Go RoboRangers!  The team also got some administrative work in and made checklists of all the items that need to be brought to the competition. 

Crunch Time!

The RoboRangers are coming down to the wire.¬† The qualifiers are this Saturday!¬† The team has just 2¬†more meetings to prepare.¬† Yesterday, the team worked on performing their skit.¬† It’s quite entertaining.¬† Tomorrow the research/project team will be working hard on the team’s poster and making checklists of everything they need to bring with them to the competition.¬† The robot mechanics and programmers still have quite a bit of work ahead of them.¬† They were having repeatability issues so, as a team, they have completely changed their objectives.¬† It’s a difficult task to change strategies this late in the game, but they are working as hard as they can.¬† And that is all they can do.¬† They are having a good time doing it, and in the end, that is all that matters!¬†

Thank you to the Concepcions for the gigantic pizza that barely fit through the front door!

Getting there!

I’ve been remiss at updating our team’s blog. ¬†The team is just 2 weeks away from their qualifying competition. ¬†The programmers and robot designers have been hard at work. ¬†After a complete rebuild of their robot, the team has a good handle on some of the missions. ¬†It’s exciting to see how excited the kids get when they execute their program flawlessly. ¬†Cheers abound! ¬†The researchers have been busy gathering all the information for their project and will be finalizing their skit tomorrow.

At one of our team meetings, the kids were fortunate to have Brandon Hamilton as a guest speaker¬†and give the kids a peek into his world of orthopedics. ¬†He brought along plastic models of the hand and foot, along with a titanium external fixator, ¬†He showed a ton of xrays and some pictures of actual surgeries which garnered a few “ewwwws” and “that’s gross!” from the kids. ¬†The kids came away with a lot of great information that they¬†have applied to their research project.

Here is the RoboRanger tshirt design, artwork by Alex.  The shirts will arrive just in time for the tournament!

The past 2 weeks meetings have been focused on getting 1-2 mission challenges complete.  The team decided together that achieving the Patent/Claw mission was high priority as only one team can score the points from it in the head-to-head match.  The programmers and robot designers worked to get the robot to it, following the objectives of the strategic designers.  

¬†And this is what happens after 3 hours of intense programming…

Big thank yous for the Simmons, Shurtz, and Zapalac families for the dinners you have provided the team!

Lots of progress!

Last weeks meeting was a productive one.  First the team headed over to the field table. Coach Damian spent quite a bit of time going over each mission and the points associated with each one. The team was already strategizing about which ones they wanted to tackle first and which ones, given the low point amount, were not worth trying. They may adjust their strategy as they go along but it was great to see all the ideas already.

Next item on the agenda was choosing the research topic. The team members had the chance to present their research ideas to the group. There were some really great ideas and a lot of effort put into them. The team ultimately voted on an idea presented by McKay. His idea is to create a pill that would make bones so strong that they will never break and skin so strong, it will never bleed. INVINCIBLE! A lot of research lies ahead but I think they are starting with a pretty neat subject.

Next it was time to vote for the teams t-shirt design. Again, there were some great designs and the team had a tough choice. But in the end, Alex had the winning design. Once I get it scanned in, I will post it here. Great job Alex!

The team building challenge for this week was a fun one.  Each team was given 25 straws, 3 feet of tape, scissors, and an egg.  The objective was to build a protective housing for the egg, which was to be dropped from a height of 8 feet, after the 8 minute construction time period.  Each team had a similar design and after all the testing and dropping, every egg broke.  They might not have protected the egg, but they sure had fun watching the eggs smash on the concrete!!