Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Day 26: Mid-build Cleaning

We started our meeting off with a mid-build clean. Swept and vacuumed up the entire lab and reorganized tools.

We are running our router non-stop during meetings to get our competition robot drilled and ready for powder coat next week.

We found out our sheet metal parts should be delivered from Solarcraft on Friday, which is very exciting. A weekend of non-stop riveting is ahead of us. We'll be able to get most of our production testing done quickly.

We are using our Ekocycle printer to make thank you gifts for our sheet metal sponsors.

- Spectrum

"No one who achieves success does so without the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude." - Alfred North Whitehead

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Day 25: Open CAD Release

Spectrum is using GrabCAD Workbench this year to do version control and content management for our Solidworks CAD files of our robot. One of the nice features of GrabCAD Workbench is it allows for you to share your CAD with others even if they don't have a GrabCAD account. We didn't really know how to use this feature until a couple days ago. Since we learned to use it and we are a fan of open designs, we are opening up our CAD files for public consumption.

There are some caveats.
1.  Our CAD is all still very much experimental. Do not expect anything to work. We haven't tested most of it and will be making countless changes before and after we assemble the robot. The robot isn't even complete at this point. Many of the models are just good enough for us to be able to build and test from. So please use anything at your own risk and your millage may vary.

2. We will try to update the partner space with our nightly updates but we will probably forget sometimes. That means you may not always see the latest CAD files. 

3. The GrabCAD online viewer shows suppressed and hidden parts in assemblies. We may have removed some things or have different versions that will show up in the web viewer. If something looks strange please download the entire assembly and see if it is a suppressed or hidden component.  

4. The names associated with files are just the people that moved them to the Partner Space and not necessarily the people that updated or made the original files.

5. If you happen to think of ways we can improve our robot we are more than happy to hear them. Our sharing isn't entirely selfless; we love the feedback we get from all the other eyes that look over our designs. We know we aren't right most of the time, so please feel free to give us a hand and point out areas we can improve. Leave comments below, tweet at us, Facebook us, Snapchat us, email us, call our mentor, or use any other form of communication you prefer.

6. The COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) folder is largely filled with models generated by other people and organizations. This includes many manufacturers of the parts. If anyone wants files removed from this repository please let us know and we will be happy to do it. We are adding this to our repository so that if anyone wants to download the complete model of our robot in Solidworks they are able to do so with all the referenced parts. Thank you to all the organizations that release high quality 3D models of their components. Our COTS folder isn't the most organized or up to date, so again use anything at your own risk.

Thank you to Solidworks and GrabCAD for their generous donation of software to FRC teams. We truly appreciate it.

Link to our GrabCAD Partner Space

- Spectrum

"When you give something away, you benefit more than the recipient does. The act of being generous makes you rich beyond measure, and as the goods or services spread through the community, everyone benefits." - Seth Godin

Monday, January 26, 2015

Day 21, 22, 23, 24: CAD Hibernation

Sorry for the lack of updates, the past four days have been all CAD all the time.

That's the current state of the CAD model. We still have a lot of features to add and a lot of details to get right. The majority of the last few days was spent working on getting all the sheet metal ready to be sent to our sponsor. We sent it over this morning, so we should be getting parts back later this week.

- Spectrum

“Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn't matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough.”  - Richard P. Feynman

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Day 19 & 20: CAD, Arm Linkages, & Frame Building

For the most part we have been focusing on getting our CAD models complete over the past couple days.

We're still working on our end effector but the majority of the robot is complete in CAD.

One of the promising features of our robot is the ability to tip the totes that we are carrying back towards us. The idea behind this is that we want to shift our center of gravity back towards are robot while also lifting the front end of the totes higher. This is similar to how you would carry a heavy box by leaning back and lifting the front end of the box up. This should also make placement easier as we are able to tip the totes down on to stacks instead of just dropping them vertically.

Our printer is hard at work making some of the parts that will be included in our tilt mechanism.

Here's the current state of the prototype robot. It has it's structure up and will be getting arms mounted tomorrow. Hopefully we are lifting totes again early next week.

We are sending our first round of parts off to our sponsors, Solarcraft Inc., on Monday. So we have a lot of CAD to finish between now and then.

- Spectrum

“Every number is infinitely more than zero. The lesson being, no matter how little you may accomplish in order to feel good, at least you have done something. By doing something, you avoided doing nothing. All that can happen from there is improvement.” - Jesslyn

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Day 18: Cleaning up the wiring & building structure

 We cleaned up our electrical wiring on the practice robot. This will make it easier to keep things safe and organized.

 We also started cutting and drilling our support bars and tower bars that will support the arm pivot points.

Our ekocycled 3d printer came in yesterday. It printing a test print pretty quickly. We don't plan to use this for all the much but we should be able to learn some things from it.

- Spectrum

“I know for sure that what we dwell on is who we become.” - Oprah Winfrey

Monday, January 19, 2015

Day 17: Drivetrain Video

Short post today. We got the complete prototype drive train working. Please note the pneumatic is just for the real robot will be much smaller. That's just what we had lying around that would work for our goals.

We tested this briefly on our practice bot form last year and saw that the concept works. It works a bit better on this robot. The gyro should be able to do the steering for us and keep us moving straight sideways during autonomous and when adjusting for stacks.

This week we will be getting the tower and supports made and hopefully have this robot stacking totes by the weekend.

- Spectrum

"He that does good to another does good also to himself." - Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Day 16: Drive Train is put together

Lots of progress on the practice robot (robot 1) today. The electronics were mounted and wheels were chained together. We never actually got to put it on carpet and drive it around but that will happen tomorrow.
As shown it weighs about 50lbs without the battery. That's with potentially every motor we will have on the robot. We still need to add all the upper structure, the pneumatic system, plus signage, cameras, sensors, etc.

The electronics layout worked out very nicely on the baltic birch plywood. We tested out using some speed taping drill bits and they seem to work very well into the wood. Most of the electronics are bolted down to the threads we drilled into the wood. We also have zip tie holes drilled for every part if we start to notice the threads breaking out of the wood at any point. So far we really like the 1/4" baltic birch belly pan.

Above is a picture of our arm gearbox. It's currently a CIM and MiniCIM but we might got with two CIMs on the real robot. They are both fed into 49:1 versaplanetary gearboxes and then finally a 11:84 tooth reduction.

- Spectrum

"The optimist sees opportunity in every danger; the pessimist sees danger in every opportunity." - Winston Churchill

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Day 15: Drive Train Coming Together

We had a busy day of CAD and routing parts. Today was the first real day of riveting as well. We've been making a ton of gussets on the Zenbot CNC router and they all need to get riveted to the robot.

Here is a picture of our belly pan with all the mounting holes piloted by the router. Right now we can only drill 1/8" or 1/4" holes with the router since we only have collets for those sizes. We use the 1/8" bit to pilot all our holes then match drill them to 3/16 for rivets or 13/64 for #10-24 bolts when we go to mount them.

We'll finish mounting the belly pan on Sunday and get started on mounting and wiring the electronics. We should be driving soon.

Our recycling container grabber mechanism is now finding it's way into CAD to make a more production ready unit.

- Spectrum

“I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.” - Richard P. Feynman

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Day 14: Ramping Up Production

We really started getting into the construction of our versaframe based chassis today. Many of the parts we are 3D printing or CNC routing for the prototype to make sure we like everything before we purchase some of the pieces.

The above image shows some of the cutouts we have made from a sheet of ABS, it cuts very nicely and it's fast for prototyping and test fitting.

We've built up both our drive rails and we'll have them chained up and hopefully assembled tomorrow. We have to cut a few more gussets and make a few more mounts but we should have something driving sometime on Sunday. The versachassis system has been very easy to get started with. Something simple for a drive base will make our robot really reliable. We're planning to add an H-drive colson wheel that we should be able to mount fully over the weekend as well.

One of our special projects this season has been the tape measure based recycling container hook system. We've been iterating on it and working to make sure we can quickly acquire a few of the containers. Today we added a spool and string to allow for a stronger pull back.

We are almost finished with our electronics layout in Solidworks and we'll be putting that on the router in tomorrow afternoon to mount to our test chassis.

Tomorrow we have our friends the Discobots working with us in our shop.

- Spectrum

"The best way to get the most out of engineers is to surround them with other great engineers." - Felix Salmon

Friday, January 16, 2015

Day 13: Parts arrive and more CNC routing

Our VEXpro order came in today that included our drive gearboxes, and some other parts of our chassis.

We also started using our new router more to help with the chassis gussets and also the belly pan. This year we are using a 1/4" Baltic Birch plywood belly pan. We bought the plywood from Clark's Hardwood here in Houston.

- Spectrum

"Ambition is so powerful a passion in the human breast, that however high we reach we are never satisfied." - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Day 12: Putting some new toys to work

As part of our move to our new lab, we got a CNC router and new 3D printer. Today we had them hard at work. We setup the router to put 1in on center holes in our 2x1 rectangular tubing to make ourselves some prototype versaframe pieces. The photo below shows our test setup into a piece of scrap 1x1 tubing. The long piece on the right is part of a clamping jig that ensure we clamp each piece perfectly square. One of our team members wrought some useful g-code that allows us to easily tell the router how many holes we want, where to start the pattern, etc. This will make working with the extrusion much easier.

Purple lights make everything cooler.

We are also 3d printing a spool that will be used with our powered tape measure to hopefully help us secure a few of the recycling containers off of the step.

We started laying out our electrical and pneumatics system today. We are building our robot closer to the pre-2013 size dimensions and it feels so nice and roomy in our belly pan compared to the last two years. 

We are getting our drive train parts in tomorrow and we should be able to be moving on Saturday at the latest. This drive train will be our prototype robot, it will get lots of holes drilled in it in random places and we'll tweak things before assembly starts on the real robot.

- Spectrum

"Live daringly, boldly, fearlessly. Taste the relish to be found in competition - in having put forth the best within you." - Henry J. Kaiser

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Day 11: CADing and Printing

We fixed a few things with the prototype robot, but most of the day was spent CADing.

We also have our 3D printer making very accurate parts out of polycarbonate filament (Lexan).

This part is piece for our four bar that will allow us to tilt back the totes and recycling containers while we are carrying them.

We should be getting drive train components in the next couple days so robot progress will speed up then.

- Spectrum

“Your work is to do the work, not to do your job. Your job is about following instructions; the work is about making a difference. Your work is to ship. Ship things that make change.” - Seth Godin

Monday, January 12, 2015

Day 10: Finalizing Designs

We're into Week 2 and we have started finalizing our designs. We tested out an option to lower only a single wheel to allow us to strafe and it looks like this will work for us. We aren't planning to strafe very often, only for small adjustments when stacking and for autonomous. This means we didn't want to dedicated a ton of space or weight to make it work. The plan is to use the same 2+2 drive train we've been planning but also having a drop down 2.5" Colson wheel between the two front wheels. This small wheel will drive us sideways in an arch, to counteract the arc we will have our rear omni wheels turning at the same time with feedback from a gyro. This will compensate for the rotation and allow for short bursts of horizontal travel.

If you haven't already check out the work of the VEX staff on their Build Biltz project. They just posted a couple great guides on building drive trains and claws for Recycled Rush.

Also remember to continue reading the Q&A and check the team updates every Tuesday and Friday. 

- Spectrum

"Have a plan. Follow the plan, and you'll be surprised how successful you can be. Most people don't have a plan. That's why it's easy to beat most folks." - Paul "Bear" Bryant

Day 9: 1st Boot Camp Build Day

Sorry for the delayed post, we had a long weekend.

Yesterday we opened our lab to 6 other local teams so they could collaborate with us as we all worked on our robots.

We had four rookies teams with us 5416 from Katy Taylor, 5427 from Katy Tompkins, 5566 from Sugarland, & 5769 from Santa Fe High School. It was great to see these young teams just getting into FRC. We helped them learn the ropes and put together their AndyMark AM14U2 drive trains. We also did an electronics demonstrations and guided them through the new control system. We'll be holding another collaborative build session on Sunday Feb 1st.

One thing we concentrated on was our lift and end effector.  We attached the pneumatics to our prototype for testing and should have some of the new active features ready to be tested this week. We're a little behind in CAD this year, there are a lot of design decisions to be made since there are so few constraints this year. It's much harder to choose a chassis size when you have close to unlimited options. Every little decision we make now will have ramifications later on in build season.

- Spectrum

"In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed." - Charles Darwin

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Day 8: More Prototyping

Today we worked more on our prototypes.

Tote Puller

Here is the working version of our tote puller.  This mechanism will be used to retrieve the totes from their starting configuration and move them around.  We still have to perfect the tension and position of the surgical tubing.

Drive Train

Our drive train has been modified to be an H-drive consisting of two rear wheels and a large omni wheel on the front.  This could potentially allow us to strafe sideways and at angles to align the totes more easily.


Our pneumatics are ready for testing.  This setup is designed to control the lift's actions.

- Spectrum

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Day 7: Prototyping Continues

We made progress on some of our prototypes today.

4-Bar Lift

We added a tilt to the lift to aid in the lifting and releasing of the totes.  Hopefully, this will speed up the stacking process a bit.  We also 3D-printed a hinge that will help with stacking.  This hinge presses on the bottom of the totes while they are lifted, supporting them, but moves out of the way when the lift moves vertically against a stack.  We hope to record a video soon that will clarify the design and use of this part.  We're also developing the pneumatic system needed to control the lift.  However, we still have quite a bit of work ahead of us in order to improve things like tote alignment and speed.

Measuring Tape Hook

This prototype can extend and retract a measuring tape with the intention of pulling a tote with the hook on the end of the measuring tape.

Tote Puller

We are working on building a pivoting hook that can grab the lip on the top of the tote and pull it. In this design, the hook falls onto the tote when the bottom of it presses against the tote upon robot collision with the tote.  The hook disengages when the robot backs away slowly from the tote. We still have a ways to go on building this one, but hopefully it will be useful during gameplay.

- Spectrum

"How does a project get to be a year late? … One day at a time."
- Fred Brooks

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Day 6: 4-Bar & the Q&A

4-Bar Arm Prototype

This is our current arm prototype. It can stack totes and put an RC (Recycling Container) on top of 4 scored totes.

Problems we are still trying to solve:

  • How to support the totes to keep them level, or tilted above level.
  • How to quickly release totes from our arm when we are stacking them on top of each other.
  • How to align to totes quickly and accurately.

We have a few ideas for some quick pneumatic actions that could help us to accomplish a few of these goals. We should be able to have them tested by tomorrow or Saturday.


The Q&A opened this Wednesday, and some interesting answers have already been provided.

Q&A 5 defines the Auto and Landfill Zones as volumes and not areas, so a team cannot start with any portion of its robot hanging into them. This important clarification makes getting to the RCs on the step at the beginning of auton somewhat more difficult.

Q&A 7 was asked by our team. This year, the GDC is allowing teams to have pole-mounted cameras on their operator consoles. This could lead to some cool uses for drivers and auton.

- Spectrum

“Help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better.”
- Jim Rohn

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Day 5: Ideal Alliance Partner

We did more work on the 4-bar prototype today and got it lifting totes and containers. We will release videos in tomorrow's post. We had to make slight modifications to the prototype to ensure that we are starting at an ideal distance from the floor and able to reach our desired height. We also worked on the passive manipulators and some programming. A few special projects began today, including a long-reach Recycle Container hook (tape measures are involved) and a bin-alignment device.

The following is a guide to being a good alliance partner. There are always various degrees of robot abilities in FRC games, but this year seems like it might have one of the most drastic ranges in recent years. Advanced teams are going to be very good, and struggling teams may find it difficult to score well and rank highly. We started talking about what we think the ideal third robot would do on an alliance at a regional (assuming that the first two robots are able to stack totes and at least one of them is able to stack recycling containers).

Ideal Partner Team Characteristics
  • Controlled: There is a large risk of your own alliance members losing your hard-earned points if they don't have good control over their robot. All members of an alliance should be able to drive their robots around a heavily congested field while keeping keen awareness of their surroundings. If you run into a bin too hard, you might knock down an adjacent stack. Programming and drive train design will help with this, but it will mostly be up to the driver and how much practice and focus he puts into his craft. This isn't a year for aggressive drivers.
    • Drive train design suggestion: a slow, controllable drive train and a narrow chassis will make it easier to drive through congestion.
  • Game Smart: Know the rules, and know how robots and teams work and behave. If you are at a later event, watch videos from prior events. Knowing where not to be during a match might be more important than knowing where to be. The top-scoring robots will have extremely efficient scoring mechanisms, and if any of their partners get in their way their alliance's score will only go down. In a game like this year's, your top scoring machine should have the right-of-way. Stay out of its way, and let it keep putting up points.
  • Reliable: Any failures are catastrophic since every point counts during the 1st two rounds of the playoffs. Make sure your robot drives every match, you're on time, you have spare parts or use common parts, etc.
  • Nice People: This is on the list every year; if we're going to be spending a few hours together, we should at least like talking with you. Be a nice team that is fun to be around.
Robot Abilities
  • Noodling a recycling container: Although its true value is questionable since it is useless in eliminations, TNA is getting crippled soon. Be able to carry a recycling container to the feeder station so that a human player may noodle (or, to be politically correct, "deposit the litter" into) it. (Fun fact: most pool noodles are made from a material that many areas don't recycle). Then, stash the bin somewhere for your partners. This could be an extremely quick way to add 18+ points to an alliance score. The RCs won't be stacked till later in the match, anyway, for fear of having them fall off if placed too early. This leaves plenty of time for a third robot to be noodling.
  • Tote assists from human player: Working with a human player to get stacks of 2 totes to your alliance partners is a valuable role. The shorter the distance they have to travel to stack totes, the better for your alliance. You may even be able to start the stacks for them by pushing or placing them on the scoring platform.
  • Pulling totes from the landfill: This isn't too valuable by itself since landfill totes aren't already stacked and since they are located at the back of the playing field, where it will be harder for many teams to accurately acquire them because of their distance form the driver station. However, moving these totes may allow an alliance partner to remove the RCs from the step. These game pieces are going to be highly coveted, and the faster an alliance can get to them, the better, since it's a race with the opposite alliance to obtain them. At many regionals, you won't have alliance that can score 7 RCs, but a 4th container might make a difference for your alliance. If you can clear a path for your partners that need it, all the better for your team. BuildBlitz just posted a video of a simple tote dragging mechanism that may work very well for this.
  • Acquire RCs from the step: This is a bit of a dream 3rd alliance partner, but if you can get the RCs from the step and you're available in the 3rd round, teams will be counting their lucky stars and wondering why other teams always seem to draft poorly.
  • Righting an RC: This is another dream ability, but it is one that teams doing the picking shouldn't overlook in a partner.
  • Autonomous: With top tier teams being able to independently form a container stack in auto, a third partner should at least have the ability to drive into the auto zone. It is nice for teams to have autonomous features, including:
    • Being able to take a container to the auto zone
    • Being able to drive over the platform to the auto zone
    • Being able to delay any of its autonomous commands
    • Being able to drag totes from the landfill and to the scoring platform
    • DREAM: getting RCs from the step
If your robot can do most of these things, we think your team is likely to find itself in the playoffs at most districts and regionals.

- Spectrum

"When you’re forced to be simple, you’re forced to face the real problem. When you can’t deliver ornament, you have to deliver substance."
Paul Graham

Day 4: More Prototyping & 4-Bar CAD

We worked out a few more iterations and developments today but made no major changes.

We started looking at quick ways to drag totes from the landfill. We could use our lifting mechanism, but speed may be crucial once game play prioritizes the race to get to the recycling containers. The tasks that are important to a single robot aren't always those that are important to an alliance. This may be like the human player pass back last year; it didn't directly give an alliance points, but it had the potential make or break its strategy.

Most of the day was spent reworking the dimensions of our frame and 4-bar. We realized it would be beneficial to have a long, narrow robot this year. A long wheel base would make a robot more stable when carrying the weights of totes and containers on its lifting mechanism. A narrow track (the distance between two wheels sharing an axle) would allow a robot to navigate more easily through a congested field. We are currently looking at a frame size of 24-27" x 36-38". A 28" x 38" robot was the common frame size before the 2013 frame perimeter change. It worked very well in FRC for a long time. Our frame dimensions directly affect the length and heights of our 4-bar mechanism. Our current goal is to be able to elevate 4.5 ft, enabling us to place a tote on a stack of 3 already on the step and helping us to earn Coopertition points. Reaching this height would also allow us to place a Recycling Container on a stack of 4 totes on a scoring platform. So far, this seems like the most reasonable plan. This would allow a team to contribute to a high scoring alliance or to score highly if carrying the majority of its team's scoring load. For example, if a team is allied with two robots that cannot lift game objects, its allies should be able to push stacks of two totes from the feeder station onto the platform. Afterwards, the team could combine those two stacks and place a Recycling Container on top of them for additional points.

While achieving our 4.5 ft. elevation, we also want to minimize the distance our arm travels past our frame perimeter to keep us more stable.

This is the CAD sketch we have been using to calculate the length and heights of our arm segments. 2D CAD like this can be extremely helpful during prototyping. This sketch shows that we currently will push out from the front of our frame about 9.31".

We are continuing to iterate on our hook mechanisms. We have tested several passive hooks that can grab totes and recycling containers and are working out how to do this most reliably and efficiently. We haven't ruled out an active mechanism, but we would like to solve the problem in the simplest way and believe that this may be a reasonable solution.

We have started adding photos to our Flickr page. 

Please leave any questions or suggestions you have in the comments below. If you think we are heading down a bad path, please let us know; we are always open to suggestions for improvement.

- Spectrum

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."
- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Day 3: 4-Bar Prototype

Most of today was spent working on the 4-bar prototype.

This design was inspired heavily by FRC#148 The Robowrangler's 2011 robot Raptor

We didn't get it powered on today, but that should be the first thing we do tomorrow.

The current version (as pictured) is too large for our actual needs. Even if we lower the pivot points and shorten the arm, we are still able to reach the height limit of 6.5'.

The prototype is made of plywood, 2x4s, hardboard, and some extra metal pieces from old robots.

We improved the CAD of our proposed drive train.

Our current idea gets its inspiration from forklifts and their ability to steer from their rear. All 4 wheels will be powered, but we are hoping to pivot mostly over the front traction wheels. We have thrown around the idea of having a drive train that is able to drive sideways, and, although we haven't ruled it out, the simplicity of a drive train like the one pictured is very appealing. 

We will continue working on iterating collector prototypes this week. We will also work on some programming tasks, including finding a sensor-based solution to aligning the robot to a tote. Our idea uses two range finders to get the distances of the left and right sides of the robot from the tote and has a control loop set them to be equal. We hope to test this by the end of the week.

Lots of good work is being done, but now we are working on finding any little details that might help us speed up our scoring. One of today's ideas was for the robot to be able to set a tote on top of a stack, lower its arm, and lift the stack -- all while remaining stationary. This an ambitious feature, but it would allow much faster and more accurate stacking.

- Spectrum

“The joy of the creative process, minute by minute, hour after hour, day by day, is the sublime path to true happiness.”
- George Lois

Monday, January 5, 2015

Day 2: Prototypes Have Begun

We did a lot more work on day 2. Our passive manipulator designs progressed further, and we modified our 2013 robot to use its lift as way to test basic concepts.

Here is a quick video of a couple of our prototypes mounted on that lift. None of these use any motors or pneumatics to grip the totes or recycling containers; they only use the lifting mechanism.

We also discussed our lift mechanism in more detail today. Our two primarily competing concepts are a single stage lift and a 4-bar arm mechanism. Both of these mechanisms are relatively simple to build and will accomplish all the game tasks that we want. We have to look at a lot of the details of each mechanism and its ability to integrate with the rest of our robot. 

We spent more time looking at our drive train for Recycle Rush. We are still leaning towards a 2+2 drive train with omni wheels on the rear of our robot and away from the stacking mechanism. This will allow us to pivot near the totes and containers to adjust our pick up mechanism. We did some CAD sketches to explore the possibility of using 4" or 6" wheels, but 6" wheels will make navigating the platforms far easier. We are still looking at using a single speed transmission and will most likely be using WCP SS Gearboxes since they allow us to get a large gear reduction in a nice, complete package.

Our goal is to build a simple robot that can quickly and reliably stack totes and containers. Overall, we believe that this game can be accomplished in a simpler manner than in the last few years since its tasks have to be accomplished quickly but not under duress from a defensive robot. It's like the difference between shooting a free throw and shooting a 15 ft jump shot. They both accomplish the same thing, but this time no one is allowed to try to block our shot. Mechanisms can be built a little less rigidly since there will be less direct robot to robot contact. Driver practice in Recycle Rush may be more important than ever, but it will be a very different kind of practice. Drivers must be ready to complete the same tasks repeatedly with great skill and precision to make for efficient and high-scoring rounds. Skillful and intelligent programming will greatly assist your drive team in becoming more efficient. The more autonomous a team's stacking and acquisition systems are, the more repeatable they will become.

We started building a section of the scoring platform today and will continue building the remainder of playing field this week. On the bright side, it's nice to have a game we can practice in a hallway instead of one (like those in recent years) we have to practice in a gym. 

- Spectrum

“Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games.”
- Babe Ruth

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Day 1: Change is Here

The 2015 kickoff has come and gone.

Recycle Rush

This is a drastic change in FRC's recent history. Alliances won't be interacting with each other very much in this game; there won't even be a winner and loser of each match. For Recycle Rush, FIRST has also removed the bumpers and size requirements, permitted the use of an unlimited number of motors, and added a number of other major changes to the way games have been running.

We spent 3 hours going over all the rules and trying to revise a lot of our conventional ideas for how FRC games should be played. While brainstorming possible strategies, the irrelevance of defense was mourned.

After strategizing, playing with the game pieces for a bit, and getting an idea of how some of the main methods of point collection should work, we moved on to defining robot tasks. There is a variety of potential courses of action in this game, and we wanted to start looking at possible prototypes to accomplish them.

The complete removal of the importance of a strong drive train is another one of this year's biggest changes. It will always be important to have a reliable and effective drive train, but now a strong drive train that can get out of T-bone pins isn't needed. A simple 4 CIM drive train with a large gear reduction to allow for a moderate top speed of 8-9 ft/s should be all that is necessary for this game.

We made several rough prototypes of passive end effectors to be used for manipulating the totes and recycling containers. 

Reorienting the containers also seems like an important task in this game. Flipping around the totes seems less useful since there are so many totes available for use.

We'll have pictures and some videos of our basic prototypes tomorrow.

- Spectrum

"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude."
- Maya Angelou