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Angela Roth asked:
> tables that would take less room? Any thoughts on that one?

During my time as coach, we ran into this regularly, too.  We used
two compromise(d?) solutions :-):

1.  We didn't have a practice table at our school--only a "table top"
     constructed as you'd expect, but without legs or a light.  We would
     move it in and out of school rooms depending on where we were
     meeting and just set it on top of two regular school tables.
     Imperfect, sure, but manageable.  Still too heavy (and too big)
     to be easily transported between sites, however--works OK if
     you can't leave it up permanently, but can store it some place
     vertical in the same building.  Also, they are easier to build
     (just leave out lots of steps for a regulation table :-)).

2.  In a pinch, we used 3 2x4's of wood (one cut in half) and some
     duct tape (!).  The pieces were never permanently attached to
     each other, but they are sized to form the four sides of a regulation
     table top.  We would take our mat + wood + duct tape to locations
     where we needed a really portable setup, and just use hard floor
     space (or even a conference room table, in some cases).  Lay
     out the mat, place the edges, add a little duct tape to hold the
     corners together, and you're done.  Easy to set up and take down,
     manageable for one person to carry, and can be transported in
     lots of different vehicles (even a car, if you're willing to have
     a 2x4 end sticking out your window :-)).  If you want, you can
     screw another small section of 2x4 to one of the long pieces
     to provide better support for the model that "straddles" the
     top center rail.

     Typically, the wood is heavy enough so the robot won't move the
     wall--the kids will, though.  And alignment of the mat within
     the wall is probably different every time.  Its not for precision
     work, but it will do if that is all you have (and some seasons, it
     was!).  You'd be surprised how effective it can be.

We've even had some teams do at least some of their practicing with
just the mat and nothing else (no walls) ... spread over *carpet* and
not hard floor.  Yes, it is far from perfect as far as repeatable robot
performance goes, but there are many, many problems the kids can still
solve under those conditions, and many of these come up long before they
ever get to the point where "horrid table conditions" are the dominant
factor in their progress.  Or at least that is my opinion (and
experience) ;-).

-- Steve

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