Saturday, January 30, 2016

Day 22: Strategy and Scouting

We had a long discussion about our scouting and strategy plan for the 2016 season. We are adopting many of the techniques used by 118 The Robonauts as presented by their Mentor Logan Farrell in this awesome presentation.

Our competition strategy team should be much more effective this year.

- Spectrum

“I don't love studying. I hate studying. I like learning. Learning is beautiful.”  - Natalie Portman

Day 21: Intake

We finished the wooden intake today. It has a few geometry errors that we need to fix before going into production on the real one. We also learned how to stretch 1" ID surgical tubing over 1.25" OD aluminum tubing. The trick is to use both soapy water and a lot of high pressure air plus some brute force.
The drive train CAD is nearing completion, we are working on smaller details like the battery box and adding a few more cross members for strength.

Our first run of production sheet metal should go to the Solarcraft late next week for production. There is going to be a time crunch the last week of the season to get everything assembled before we wrap up the competition robot.

We still have 92 more days before the FRC World Finals are played that's a whole lot of time to iterate.

- Spectrum

We are all failures- at least the best of us are.”
J.M. Barrie

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Day 19: Wooden Chassis and CAD

We wired up our wooden chassis today and have it driving around. It's not the best prototype since it is far less rigid then the real robot will be, but it does give us some idea of how our drive train will behave.

We also have been CADing on our intake geometry and our breaching/scaling arm as well.

The prototypes for these should be up and running this weekend.

- Spectrum

“It's much easier to add some features, increase your network, get some itemized tasks done. Who wants to feel failure? We opt for more instead of better. Better is better than more.” - Seth Godin

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Day 18: The Q&A

We are over a third of the way through the season and the Q&A has already led to some big rule updates (a critical field dimension even changed).

We want to take the time to highlight some other Q&As that teams may find helpful.


This means that the brackets inside your robot's frame perimeter but permanently attached to your bumpers have to be between 4" and 12" from the ground like the rest of your bumpers. 

This means that if you have a gap in your bumpers you can have a full sheet metal frame behind the bumper gap to support the two loose ends. This could make for much stronger bumpers.

This could be cool for shifting or any small actuations that normally need a pneumatic cylinder.

Pneumatic Tires
If you get a flat tire this year, you have to replace it. Tire sealant won't be allowed.

Spy Box
We think they are getting a bit tired of answering questions. What will your team bring into the spy box?

- Spectrum

“Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.”  - Isaac Asimov

Monday, January 25, 2016

Day 17: Brief Update

We spent the weekend getting things ready for building our wooden prototype. We have two drive rails mostly assembled and should be completed tomorrow with the addition of a VEXpro order that is coming in.

We worked on our Chairman's submission as well over the weekend getting it ready for the new earlier due date next week.

Our intake and breaching arm should be mocked up out of wood this week and we'll be able to iterate quickly on the designs and find out what doesn't work before going to sheet metal.

- Spectrum

"The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time." - Henry Ford

Friday, January 22, 2016

Day 14: Week 2 Design Review

We had our design review meeting.

Here is a very rough CAD sketch of the current robot plan.
It has two folding arms one for breaching and scaling and another that intakes and stores the boulders. The shooter is integrated into the back of the robot. The shooter uses the tri-wheel design of our latest prototype. It's also able to fit under the low bar.

We started producing a full wooden version of our robot to test systems on today. We should have the drive train finished this weekend.

- Spectrum

"Most of the time you will fail, but you will also occasionally succeed. Those occasional successes make all the hard work and sacrifice worthwhile." - Dean Kamen

Day 13: Preparing for the Weekend

We are almost finished with our drive train draft CAD. We have started turning parts on the lathe to get ready for assembly. We will be cutting out the drive train on our router to make sure everything works.

We installed VEX versaplanetary shaft encoders on our shooter and we will be able to get some good testing done over the weekend.

Tomorrow we have our 2nd design review to update the entire team about the status of the design .

- Spectrum

"If you don't see yourself as a winner, then you cannot perform as a winner." - Zig Ziglar

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Day 12: From Deep

We upgraded the shooter prototype even more today by making our Tri-wheeled shooter use multiple wheels so they act like rollers instead of wheels. We still don't have multiple balls yet (shipping issues) so we can't comment on consistency across balls yet. We know we have a variety of things to change before it ever gets consistent.

This shot is 21ft 10in, from a 19in launch height and 30 degree launch angle and this ball is used but still in a condition that would not get replaced on the field (no major holes or anything like that). Both the back and front wheels compress the ball to roughly 7in with the top wheel.

Details on this configuration:

  • Tri Wheel configuration - top and back wheel speed up the ball before moving on to the top and front wheel for the final release. 
  • Top wheel is smaller and spinning much slower than the bottom wheels to provide back spin on the ball. 4x 2.5in colsons powered by a BAG motor into a 3:1 versaplanetary.
  • Back Wheel - 4x 3.5" Colson wheels powered by a 775 pro into a 3:1 versaplanetary
  • Front Wheel - 4x 4" AndyMark 70A stealth wheels powered by a 775pro into a 3:1 versaplanetary with a 12:15 speed increase in the chain.
  • Mounted to a 2x4 that we clamp in an adjustable vise to set the angle of the shooter.
For this current test we are running all three motors at full battery voltage. We will not be doing this on the real robot we just haven't moved over to testing using a robot and speed control yet.

Improvements we plan to make to this include changing all the wheels/drums to something that provides more grip on the ball. Making the back wheel a smaller diameter and moving it further from the front wheel to allow it more time to speed up the ball before entering the front wheel. We will also be reducing compression after we change to a wheel with more grip in hopes that provides a more consistent shot.

- Spectrum

"All progress is experimental." - John Jay Chapman

Day 11: More Testing

Relatively short build meeting, today.

We were able to make the next iteration on the shooter by adding a third motor to the top of the shooter. Tomorrow we will widen the wheels to make it more like a drum shooter.

We worked a little more on the low bar crossing geometry and how that effects the 15 in allowed extensions. It's feasible to cross under the bar with 15 in extensions out both sides of your robot.

We also improved the scaling test platform as well. We now added a powered motor to the wheels. They make pulling up the robot far easier. This should allow us to winch our selves up the wall even faster.

We have several CAD models of the drive train geometry coming together. 

- Spectrum

“Education is the power to think clearly, the power to act well in the world's work, and the power to appreciate life.” - Brigham Young

Monday, January 18, 2016

Day 10: Last Day of a Long Weekend

We completed the third of three very long build sessions today.

The main progress of today was a couple new iterations on our shooter prototypes.
The morning started by trying to add a bottom roller to our horizontal wheeled shooter to try to add spin while maintaining our power. This wasn't that successful. We weren't seeing the spin we wanted and the whole unit would be difficult to package.

The next concept was a double wheeled vertical shooter with a set of bottom wheel that give more time for the ball to accelerate and a top wheel that has it's velocity controlled to adjust the spin on the ball. The prototype was made out of 1/4" hardboard that we cut on our CNC router.

This setup seems slightly easier package inside the frame of our robot while still staying under the low bar. Using two 775pros geared 3:1 we were able to make around a 15 shot from 1 ft off the ground. This setup currently doesn't give us the spin we are looking for. Tomorrow we will likely be slowing down the top roller and making the button two rollers run off separate motors to make sure we aren't slowing down the final wheel to much before the ball ever reaches it. We'll also start running the prototype off of a roboRIO and Talon SRX motor controllers so we can monitor the speed of the wheels and eventually add PID closed loop control to start working on consistency. We will still need to play around with wheel configurations, compression, wheel width, wheel speeds, and more.

Scaling Device
We spent a few minutes looking at some concepts for scaling the tower. We added wheels to a previous prototype to reduce the friction between the arms and the wall. The next step will be to power these wheels and see how much assistance they will be able to give our winch during the climb. The current concept is that this arm would be able to fold down to allow us to go under the low bar.

We began work on a programmable LED signal system that will be able to give our drivers status updates about the robot without taking their eyes away from the robot.

A large part of any season is buying the needed parts to make the robot. So far we have purchased enough AndyMark pneumatic tire hubs for our practice and competition robot. We are purchasing pneumatic tires from MBS a company that specializes in mountain board tires. The inner tubes can be sourced from a variety of sources and even some amazon distributors have them. We put in our first large VEXpro order for the gears we need for our sheet metal ball shifter inspired by 1114's 2014 robot and sprockets for our drive train.

Next Steps

  • We are going to continue refining the shooter and working towards a consistent shot. 
  • Once we have the details of the shooter closer to their final design we will be able to integrate a collector and loader system that reliably feeds the ball to the shooter. 
  • Our breaching arm will be prototyped this week to make sure it can raise the portcullis and lower the CDF.
  • We will be building a prototype sheet metal drive train to make sure that our configuration can successfully get over the defenses under its own power.
- Spectrum

"I make progress by having people around me who are smarter than I am and listening to them. And I assume that everyone is smarter about something than I am."  - Henry J. Kaiser

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Day 9: Full Speed Ahead

Now that we have finished building all the defenses, we can turn our full focus to working on our prototypes and finalizing our design.

We built a wooden mockup of our chassis design to use as a base for our other prototypes.  Right now, we're using an 8-wheel drive train with the ends tilted up for easier entry onto the various ramps in the field.  We're also in the process of determining the best angle for a wedge that will be added to the front of our robot and lift the portcullis.

Current chassis design with the beginnings of a wedge system for lifting the portcullis
We also built the shooter prototype seen below, adapting a design created by our friends Team 2848.

Shooter prototype in the process of its construction

Using some of our various shooter prototypes, we were able to shoot the ball, but it lacked consistency in its trajectory.  In the coming days, we will work to improve our shot and develop a way to get consistent results.

- Spectrum

"If you have no critics, you’ll likely have no success." - Malcolm X

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Day 8: Defensive Breakdown

Today we decided to step back and re-evaluate our kickoff design and strategy, resulting in a scrap of our previous design.  For the rest of the day we completed various projects and began a couple new ones. 

We decided on an 8 wheel drive train using 200mm pneumatic wheels.  
Deciding that the rock wall and moat were the most important defenses regarding the drive train, we used CAD to find the best wheel placements to cross them.

CAD drawing of the current drive train rails, which we will test later.
Anticipating a lot of strain on our drive wheel axles, we plan to test a 1114 Simbotics style wheel axle support system soon.
After the strategy discussion, we started testing possible shooters. 
Because we want to avoid the ball's spin inhibiting its trajectory during shooting, we decided to begin with a side-to-side shooter instead of a fly-wheel shooter.

 Finally finished off the last defense, the rough terrain.

After many mistakes and distractions, we managed to complete our last defense in the closing moments of the day.


"Talent is a flame.  Genius is a fire." - Bernard Williams

Friday, January 15, 2016

Day 7: Robot Pullup Bar

We built a rung for hanging and attached it to our shelves. It works really well, and some people even tried doing pullups on it.

Instead of building a tower for hanging, we opted to just bolt this to our shelves so we can save space.
Our rough terrain is coming along. However, it's a little slow because it takes a long time to drill through steel.

We ended the day with 15 out of the 31 pieces attached. The process is slow but we've decided that using metal instead of cut pieces of 4x4 will be worth it.
- Spectrum

“It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it.” ― Lou Holtz

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Day 6: Portable Defenses

We upgraded some defenses and got our sheet metal shipment in today. We decided to order some casters to put underneath our defenses, mainly the drawbridge and the portcullis, because their weight made them cumbersome. We got these 4" casters from Amazon that seem to work so far. We just got them so we can't fully vouch for them, but we've already ordered several more.

We have a running joke now where casters are now called wizards. Allen calls them fishermen though.
We've also started calling them wizards instead of casters.

The 1x1 piece of L attached to the bottom of the portcullis so it could better simulate the actual field's gate. We also tried to add some foam to dampen its fall.

We used nonstick rubber, the same damping material on the drawbridge. Unfortunately it didn't work too well. We decided to keep it, though, to make up for the L's thickness.
Our sheet metal shipment came with a bulk order of gussets, a rockwall, and our ramparts. We finished our ramparts after some slight adjustment to the bend angle, and we're also working on finishing off our rocky terrain.

We had to use clamps to hold the steel pieces of tubing in place so we could drill them in upside down.
We also finally decided to catalog our kit of parts because the deadline to get missing parts is coming up.

Our flywheel shooter prototype is in Rev now so it's adjustable. We hope to find a set of variables that gives us a consistent shot.

- Spectrum

"If people want to know who I am, it is all in the work." - Alan Rickman

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Day 5: Defense Fixing

We started off our meeting with a quick cleanup so we can be more productive. We also fixed our cheval de frise so that each plank can seesaw without locking up from friction. Additionally, we fixed our drawbridge by moving where the spring attaches so that it could pull the bridge up more easily.  However, in this configuration the drawbridge tended to close with a lot of force and caused a general ruckus. We fixed it by using soft, foamlike mesh to dampen the hit. We also added a quick piece of 1.5" L extrusion to simulate the real field's portcullis.

The drawbridge still slams with a decent amount of force.

The aluminum bump faces the courtyard side

We've added shields to the sides of our defense platform and covered one ramp with polycarbonate. Unfortunately, our horizontal bandsaw blade didn't come in today, so progress on our ramparts and terrain has stopped for now. On the bright side, our West Coast Products 775pro came in.  We're loving the motor's dark chrome/black color.

It also has the coolest color ever. We're really digging the dark chrome look.
We can't wait to test it out and use its absurd 347 watts of power

- Spectrum

“Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original
manner possible.” ― Richard P. Feynman

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Day 4: More field construction

We made some more progress our outerworks today. Our current drawbridge and cheval de frise need a little adjustment to work perfectly, but for now they're okay. We were able to quickly CAD our new prototype drivetrain, but a broken bandsaw blade delayed fabrication. Our flywheel shooter is currently making the change from wood to Rev extrusion so we can adjust variables individually and precisely. In addition, we've also started prototyping a puncher and a portcullis breacher.

The drawbridge is getting stuck instead of rising.

The cheval de frise platforms have too much friction, causing them not fall correctly.

- Spectrum

In teamwork, silence isn't golden, it's deadly. - Mark Sanborn

Monday, January 11, 2016

Day 3: 4 Defenses Down, 4 To Go

Today we continued to test our prototypes and build defenses. We're focusing on defense building right now so that we can test our future prototypes more completely and also have a complete field for our scrimmage in week 6.

Today we made a sally port and a portcullis and gathered all the pieces for a cheval de frise and drawbridge. We also hope to get the rocky terrain and ramparts done by Thursday at the latest. In addition, we plan on making sheetmetal duplicates of a few defenses with help from our sponsor, Solarcraft.

Sally Port Back
Sally Port Front
On our prototyping side, we are focusing largely on the test drivetrain. We were able to chain up both sides of the drivetrain and test how pneumatic wheels fare against the moat and rockwall. Unfortunately we faced some issues with chain slipping, chain tensioning, and bottoming out.

As we were chaining up the second side, we over tensioned the chain which caused the gearbox to act up. It made the pinion gear skip and made the left side suffer more resistance.
After trying a few different solutions, we realized none of them were effective or permanent, so our next plan of action is to make a westcoast style, 6 wheel drivetrain out of 2x1 tubing. We plan to get a quick CAD model up of how we want wheel spacing before jumping into fabrication.

Our last ditch effort was to toss a flangeless bearing where it was bottoming out in an attempt to make it easy to cross. Unfortunately, it was very ineffective.
We also plan to upgrade our flywheel shooter prototype so that we can adjust different variables. We've also begun a prototype for an over-the-bumper style collector similar to that of Miss Daisy XI. Our overall strategy for now is to imitate Team 254: The Cheesy Poofs and their style of prototyping by making a modular drivebase that we can attach prototypes to and and test on.

- Spectrum

“Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery - it's the sincerest form of learning.” - George Bernard Shaw

Build Season is Underway

Stronghold is here
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FRC Stronghold

The game was officially reveled on Saturday to over 3,000 teams world wide.
Stronghold is a medieval themed tower defender style game. Alliances of 3 robots each compete against each other to breach their opponents defensive structures, shoot boulders into their tower, and eventually scale and capture their opponents tower.

A one page game description can be found here.

Below is the video description of the game.
FIRST Stronghold Game Revel

Build Blog

We will be regularly updating our progress on our blog.
We encourage everyone to follow along with our progress, leave comments with questions and encouragement, and just stay up to date with what we are working on.

Build Season

Students if you haven't done the spring sign up list, please do so ASAP.

Build Season Food

Parent's an email went out on Sunday asking for volunteers to bring in meals for the team (If you didn't get this email, get in touch with Allen). Please sign up as soon as possible. The team appreciates your support. We also would love for you to send in snacks and drinks for the team as well.


We want to thank all of our fantastic sponsors especially our two schools, St. Agnes Academy & Strake Jesuit College Prep.


One of our most critical sponsors for the past several years has been Solarcraft Inc. They have been providing laser cut and bent sheet metal for all of our past 3 robots. Last week our team was welcomed to their facility to tour their shop and learn about their operations. We even got to watch a part be cut by the laser and then operate the press brake.

Volunteer Hours and Contributions

Do you work for a company that grants money to organizations in which you volunteer your time?
In the past, Spectrum has been fortunate to receive some grants due to company employees, spouses, and children working at Spectrum-hosted events like our Texas Robotics Invitational and First Lego League Tournaments. 

We know that ExxonMobil awards two types of volunteer grants.  One is for a five-person team of employees, spouses, and dependents who volunteer a collective 20 hours at a specific Spectrum event.  The other is when an employee, spouse, or dependent (only one person) volunteers 20 hours over a period of time.  If you, a Spectrum team member’s parent are an employee of ExxonMobil, please let us know.    

We would appreciate if you could see if your employer also awards these types of volunteer grants.  If so, please also email us so we can create a master list of potential volunteer grant possibilities. 

Spring Dates

  • Jan 17th 1-6pm - Boot Camp Build 1 (Helping other teams)
  • Jan 31st 1-6pm Boot Camp Build 2 (Helping other teams)
  • Feb 7th 1-5pm Superbowl Bumper Build (Helping other teams)
  • Feb 20 & 21, 10am-6pm Houston Scrimmage in Strake Dinning Hall
  • March 16-20 Bayou Regional
  •  Apirl 7th-9th - Lone Star Regional in Houston
  •  April 26th(PM)- 31st(AM) - FIRST Championship event in St. Louis
There will be more dates added, but these are the ones we know about now.
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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Day 2: Field Building and Prototype Testing

We're focusing a bit more on field building rather than prototyping at the moment. We made a castle tower so we can properly test our shooter prototype, and we built a moat and a rock wall as well.

Castle Tower

Rock Wall

While constructing the moat we got to see how its geometry interacts with our current drive base prototype. After testing different wheel configurations on the drive base, we began to chain up the wheels and add power. We also added a belly pan. Despite the work that our prototype drivetrain is taking to get up and running, it is making great progress.

We use Threadall to keep wheels lined up. We found that our traction wheel (far left) actually has a larger diameter than our pneumatic wheels. During this test we realized that we're going to need a lot of torque or speed to cross some of the defenses.

We ended the day with only one sided being chained. We plan to have this properly powered by the end of tomorrow.

Unfortunately, we have school tomorrow, so our Ri3D build buds, team oRyon, moved out of the lab so they can get in a full day of building while we're in class. We can't wait to see what their final design is.

- Spectrum

P.S. Thanks for the food
"Be excellent to each other. And party on, dudes." - Abraham Lincoln (Robert V. Barron)