Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Broken Honda Odyssey License Plate Nut

I recently picked up an 06 Odyssey to use for kid hauling and IKEA runs.  I was able to get it for around $2k less than normal, but it has some issues: sliding door alignment, gate struts, needs belts, smacked front bumper cover, VSA/ABS lights, etc.  As an added bonus, I found out that someone in the past had let the license plate nuts rust into place.  One of them may have been barely usable, but one was toast and even had an EZ-Out still stuck in it.  The PO had been using the lower plastic piece to keep the plate on.

The rear wiper motor had seized up due to dirt and corrosion (gravel roads), so I needed to take the rear gate trim panel off and decided to kill two birds with this stone.  The rear panel comes off starting with the top panel above the glass.  The side panels are next and will come off pretty easily by lightly prying at the base of the round plastic clips.  The tricky bit is the main portion of the panel - it comes off after loosening the side clips and then popping the clips at the top and pulling/moving the trim panel down.

For parts, if your rear wiper motor just clicks and gets warm to the touch, you'll need a reman wiper motor assy from AutoZone or some place similar.  I looked at Rock, but there was no $$ advantage that I saw to going with one where I couldn't just hand in the core.  It's pretty simple, so I won't get into that here except to say that it rests at 3 o'clock.

For the rusty license plate nuts, you'll need a pair of vice grips and one of those multi-size drill bits (if you want to make it pretty).  I chose the ugly route since this van is no prom queen.  By rocking back and forth with the vice grips, you'll be able to break them loose and you'll be left with a hole like this one.  If you wiggle the nuts too far back and forth, you may have to hammer/dolly the panel back flat, but you'd really have to work to mess it up too much.

 For the studs that I used a 6mmx35 or 40mm and two fender washers.  If your hardware store is like mine, you'll have standard sized fender washers.  This is a good thing though, because they thread onto the bolts and will act to hold the bolt while you're putting sealer on them.  I used some black that I had left over after an engine rebuild and held the outside washer down with a 6mm flange nut.  I think that it's best to stack two nuts on there because it brings the plate out to the point where it was with the OE nut.  The head of the bolt can be reached pretty easily from the inside of the panel and you can really put some pressure on pulling those washers together.

School's Out - 2017

School let out last week and we made it to Worlds of Fun twice.  The first go 'round was a good season opener once we made it through the line for a new pass.  One of the gang has an older brother who pilfers his stuff with alarming regularity, so we all had to wait in line to get this done and get moving.  The kids had a good day even though all of the rides weren't open and there were yellow school buses lined up outside the gates.  It cooled off in the afternoon and once the buses left, the kids were able to loop back around and immediately ride again or just stay on the ride.  It was magic for an hour before the rain started.

The 2nd time was a 10hr day at the park and we added a new person to the gang for the day that upset the dynamic a bit.  The kids will get accustomed to it and we'll hit the wave pool next time since it's open now.

Friday, December 2, 2016

FLL Team Startup IV

If you're a new coach, things will start coming at you fast after the FSK and mission models are all set up.  This for me was where it began to hit the fan and scatter a bit.

The one piece of low hanging fruit on the Animal Allies 2016 board for us seemed to be the Shark Shipment, so we began with that.  I had a basic working knowledge of the EV3 programming blocks and the team had very little so we began with pseudo code based on a Mission-Task-Movement format.

Ex:  Shark Shipment

  • Move Forward to 1st black line
  • Move Forward to 2nd black line
  • Turn XX degrees to right (compass helped)
After this was lined out a bit, we filled in the spaces with what types of sensor inputs we would look for, what type of motor command blocks we would use, what types of turns we should use and other strategy issues.  Since this is a first year team of 5th graders I'm trying to help them stay on board with the KISS principle.  They've watched youtube videos of behemoth bots cleaning the table in 2-3 runs, but I've assured them that those teams have quite a bit more experience with the bots, design, and programming options.

In the time that I've been able to watch other teams this season, I've seen other teams chasing these style bots and multiple missions on one program meet with gigantic piles of frustration and penalty points.  The first experience watching other teams was at the CowTown Throwdown earlier this season.  It's a great event and the kids had a blast.  They were able to see what other teams were able to accomplish as well as see some FTC competition.  It was free this year for FLL teams, but with 16 slots, I heard it was hard to get in.  I was a bit shocked at the advanced stuff that some of the other teams were trying to do.  Sometimes the programs worked and most times they didn't, but man, they were learning a lot and crashing the field models.  As a coach who wasn't on duty, I tried to help other teams by asking them why they were trying what they were trying and even found myself having to referee a skirmish between two teammates over who got to hold the robot.

My next experience was helping out at another qualifier in my area.  This was a huge eye opener.  The Friday before the qualifier I was able to attend a referee meeting and get to see the area and a lot of the hard work that goes in to setting it up.  Nothing really prepared me for the event though.  It was like being in a busy train station with 500+ kids going every direction....and twice as loud.  I didn't really have a volunteer assignment, so I floated a bit near the practice table signup until I was asked to assist with the queueing area in the school's gym; the spot where your team checks in to wait on their time at the table for practice and competition rounds.  It's absolute chaos.

When you and your team queue up, be a few minutes early, have at least one person who knows the team name and number with the group, keep the team together, bring the bot in a box (not open carrying), and be prepared to hang out for a minute while the person gets you to the right queue spot.  The person you meet will be a volunteer who probably has no more information about the venue than you do and they'll have a schedule roster with cross-outs and substitutions on it from where a few teams backed out at the last minute (tossing a wrench into the works).  In a gym, this takes place in the middle of the basketball court in front of the spectators, so it's guaranteed to be a mess.  Bring some binoculars and get up high in the stands.

If you're a coach or a mentor, get out and volunteer at other qualifiers.  You'll have a better idea of what you're in for and your team will benefit from your knowledge of how things work....and it helps the organizers.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

FLL Team Startup III

The FSK and EV3 robot arrived over a week ago and we're moving into the challenge and the FSK build phase.  The team is still trying to move out of book-report-on-my-favorite-animal mode and on to an animal interaction/solution that can be researched. It's slow going on that front, but not unexpected for a group of 5th grade students.

The FSK build is really fun for the team and we reserve it for the 2nd segment of the two hour meetings.  Once the pieces come out of the bag, the team is full throttle and works really well to get things done.

NOTE:  I thought that we'd be able to save a few dozen trees and not print out the instructions for the field kit build.  I couldn't have been more wrong on this.  Print out the instructions front and back in segments (like a book) so that there are no pages that crossover from bag #1 to bag #2.  It'll save you a good bit of time and frustration.

Friday, September 23, 2016

FLL Team Startup II

As the coach of a new team in the 3rd week of the FLL challenge and still without their FSK or their robot, I think the first thing that I'd tell another new coach is to REGISTER AND ORDER EARLY.    Especially before school starts.  If you're setting up your team to be affiliated with a 501c3, just plan on doubling that time and then check your order status every day after it's completed.  You have to email the document for the 501c3 to Lego and then someone has to go into the ordering system and the email system and link the two.  I learned this lesson the hard way after 3 wasted weeks and an hour or so on hold on two separate phone calls to Lego.

This year Lego decided to move their Education HQ from Pittsburgh, KS to Boston and it doesn't seem like things are ironed out just yet.  Having all of the schools and FLL teams ordering at roughly the same time shouldn't be a problem for the Kristiansens and I hope that they'll smooth the process a bit.

Some members of the team are headed to a workshop put on by Ms. Kidwell of the Learning Math & Science Club this weekend.  Her work is well organized and presented and we look forward to it being helpful.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

FLL Team Startup

The LW and I are coaching a First Lego League (FLL) team this fall.  We're affiliating the team with our daughter's Girl Scout Troop and will be combining the two at meetings.  Last week, this year's challenge was released and since we are newly formed, we're behind.  A bit of luck fell in our lap though when we realized that our daughter's middle school Industrial Arts class fields two teams of 7th/8th graders.  The class instructor is great and will be a solid mentor for the new team.

There are tons of information about FLL on their website and others, but that seems to be the one of the biggest problems as a new coach.  Finding information is really simple.  Finding useful information is rather time consuming.

Here's the link to the 2016 FLL Animal Allies Challenge.  First thing for new people:  Open each one of the links on that page in a new tab in your browser and save the Challenge Guide as a PDF on the computer that you'll use for organizing stuff.  By the third or fourth time you run in circles trying to find something, you may just break down and create a master link list like I did.

The team has their Animal Allies homework to do for this week.  They are to work on the questions in the Challenge Guide that begin on page 6.  They'll identify 1-3 animal interactions and we'll discuss problems with each during the next meeting.

My homework is trying to get funds together to get the challenge board designed/built, registration paid, EV3 kit purchased, a toolbox/organizer purchased, and begin fundraising grant work that'll keep the team outfitted and humming along.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Switch to Google Fi

Not Google Fiber, which we would like to come to our little town, but Google Fi as in a WiFi capable cell phone.  We were with Republic for years and liked the service.  It ran on whatever WiFi you were on at the time and the calls, after the first one of the day, worked well.  If you went out of range of a signal, it would switch over to a Sprint tower and you'd be off and running...most of the time.  We switched to Republic from Sprint PCS after having them for over a decade and it saved us over $100/mo on our bill.  That $1200/year has been nice to have around.

Basic service from Republic was around $25 and with Google Fi it jumped to $35.  The phone we picked from Google Fi is a 32G Nexus 5X.  It functions just like the phones from Republic, but instead of just dumping onto Sprint, it checks to see whether a TMobile signal is stronger at your location and choses the stronger signal.

The thing that killed us with Republic was the limited phone offerings.  We had the 1st gen Motorola MotoX.  It was a pretty good phone a few years ago, but it came with so much bloatware that you didn't have much room for apps.  The DefyXT that we stared with was even worse.  These phones are aging and have suffered normal wear.  Mine even hit the ground a few times and the screen finally shattered.  To replace the screen/digitizer on my MotoX would cost as much as a new phone, but there are only two Motorola phones offered and neither of them are setting the world on fire.  Republic has been chirping about "new phones are coming" for a long while and only yesterday did they announce an official list of phones.  It contains some of the same units used on Google Fi, but the pricing seems about 20% higher and there's still not a hard date on when they'll arrive, just a sign-up for notifications.

We're pleased with the Google Fi service and the 5X, even though it does have that USBC cord that nobody else seems to use, but that's easily remedied with adapters.  I've already picked up a case for it so that I can hopefully guard against my own clumsiness.

It's a good service for kiddos who are earning their first phone.  CP does the dishes and cleans catboxes for her $25 phone payment every month and is looking forward to her latest hand-me-down phone.