Pithons love MICE!



For the FLL 2016 Animal Allies challenge we came up with a lot of ideas, but the one we liked best was about mice and live mouse traps. One of the dads of our team mentioned how he had caught a mouse in a live trap, but forgot to check it. The mouse didn’t make it.

So we thought maybe we should find a way to notify you when you catch something. We worked with a hardware development engineer from UC San Diego. We also worked with a programmer from one of our team sponsors, FTS. We looked at a lot of different devices we could use to make this happen. We also looked at a lot of different live mouse traps from different companies. We liked a metal trap from Havahart Brand because it was the most recommended trap to keep the mice alive and it gives them room to move and breathe.

We worked with experts to figure out how to make all this happen. We decided to use a Sparkfun Electronics ESP8266 Thing because it can connect to the Internet over Wifi, it can be programmed like an Arduino using Scratch, it’s small, and it’s fairly cheap. We even made this into a kit at Sparkfun.

We use a tilt switch to detect when a trap is triggered, then we do a few things:

  1. We blink a bright LED on the trap
  2. Every 30 seconds we log the trap status to data.sparkfun.com using Phant
  3. We send an alert to the person who set the trap using a mobile app called Blynk
  4. We also send a text message to the person


Click here to see more pictures!

And we’re excited because when we wrote to Havahart, they responded and now we’re getting feedback from them on our idea! We can’t wait to improve our idea even more. Thank you to Woodstream owners of the Havahart Brand for being willing to work with out team! Taking time to listen to ideas from kids when you are a big, busy corporation is unusual and exciting.


We’re still posting instructions, but you can see all the parts, our code and the final prototype. We’re working on step-by-step instructions.

Mouse Trap Alert Project

Now accepting applications for the 2016 Pithons season!

Apply to be a Pithon

Don’t recycle those pizza boxes!

Did you know that the grease from pizza boxes contaminates the paper recycling process? The oils and fats float on top of the slurry and ruin the entire batches of pulp that was going to be paper.

Instead, you should tear off the non-greasy lid and recycle it. Throw the bottom in the trash!

Here’s our recycling symbol to remind you of what to do:



Please take our survey on recycling habits! We’re working on a project to make recycling work better.

Pithons Recycling Survey



Preparing for the 2015 TRASH TREK Challenge!

Our teams are registered and ready to begin working towards the FIRST LEGO League 2015 TRASH TREK Challenge! We won’t know the exact missiong or project goals until the end of August, but our team is going to start thinking about what the project might entail. We may take a field trip to a recycling plant or a landfill.

We’re going to start having occasional meetings to work on programming. First task? ROBOT SUMO Then we’re going to try to solve some missions using two sets of mats and models that the Pithons have never seen before.Finally, we’re going to help the El Camino Creek Elementary robotics teams learn to program and teach them how to solve some of the most common FLL mission problems.

Having Fun Learning Number System and Computer Logic Gates Using MINECRAFT!


Our 2014 World Class: Learning Unleashed question is “How can we improve the way someone learns binary and computer logic gates?”


We created a tutorial called “Having Fun Learning Number Systems and Logic Gates through Minecraft.”

Download as Microsoft Word: Having_Fun_Learning_Number_Systems_and_Logic_Gates_Through_Minecraft_1.0.doc

Download as PDF: Having_Fun_Learning_Number_Systems_and_Logic_Gates_Through_Minecraft_1.0.pdf

Every day we use computers, smartphones, tablets and the Internet but most people don’t know how a computer works underneath everything. Computers are all about numbers and the numbers computer like are 1’s and 0’s, or binary. By sending the 1’s and 0’s through things called “logic gates”, it compares numbers and those numbers can be used to compare even more numbers. By doing this super-fast, the computer can process complex problems. Computers process numbers much faster than we humans can. Everything we see on our screens and the sounds that come from our devices start with comparing or doing math on 1’s and 0’s.

We are going to teach you how computers work underneath your apps, texts, pictures and music. You will learn about different number systems that are important in computers and how computers compare binary digits. We’ll also show you where these things show up in the real world.

We hope you will find that binary and logic gates are simple to understand when you learn about them by playing Minecraft. Our tutorial is meant for 5th grade and higher, but we think that anyone who likes to use Minecraft can learn binary.

We tried to make our tutorial simple enough to understand even if you don’t play Minecraft.

If you’re new to Minecraft, it would be good to learn how to play. See Appendix A for help learning Minecraft.

If you have a copy of Minecraft follow along and build along with our examples. You can find full building schematics in Appendix B.

This season our team learned about number systems, logic gates and where they show up in the real world.

If you finish learning about binary and logic gates, we put some more advanced information we learned and wanted to share in Appendix C (octal and hexadecimal) and Appendix D (bits, bytes, nybbles and words).

We also learned good ways to share our tutorial with everyone around the world!

Our tutorial is licensed under a Creative Commons ShareAlike license, so you are free to study, apply, copy and/or modify this tutorial for any purpose. We got the license from the Creative Commons website: https://creativecommons.org/. We used their license maker to pick a license for our tutorial. The next page tells you about Creative Commons and it comes straight from their web site: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/

We hope you enjoy using Minecraft to learn about number systems and computer logic!

The 2014 Pithons Robotics Team

Connor Betterly (7th grade)
Max Carnes (6th grade)
Jared Fine (6th grade)
Mitchell Shapiro (7th grade)
Caeden Schlosser (8th grade)
Tegan Schlosser (5th grade)
Brenna Sullivan (6th grade)

Download as Microsoft Word: Having_Fun_Learning_Number_Systems_and_Logic_Gates_Through_Minecraft_1.0.doc

Download as PDF: Having_Fun_Learning_Number_Systems_and_Logic_Gates_Through_Minecraft_1.0.pdf



Number Systems

Our tutorial is released under a Creative Commons license:

Creative Commons License
Having Fun Learning Number Systems and Logic Gates through Minecraft by 2014 FLL Team 434 “The Pithons” is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://pithons.org/media/LCLM.



2014 Learning Unleashed model building instuctions


Pithons Research Project: A Better Sandbag

We have created what we believe is a better, lighter, less leaky sandbag! Here are some of our picutres, data and results:

Pictures of our sandbag testing

Our data

Graph: 5-Gallon Leak Time

Graph: All Water Leak Time

Graph: Gallons Leaked Per Hour

Graph: Remaining Gallons Held


FIRST LEGO League released the 2013 Nature’s Fury Challenge this morning. Since their site was overwhelmed by teams trying to download the materials, I have reposted them to our site for the team to review.

The Challenge

Topic Guide

Model Overview

Model Building Instructions

— Coach Mike

Nature’s Fury mat and models have arrived!

We took a quick panorama of the new mat for the FLL 2013 Nature’s Fury challenge. Here it is:



(Click here for a bigger image.)

We’ll put the models together at our meeting this weekend. See you there!

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