Friday, January 18, 2019

2019 Day 13: Cargo Mechanism Protopipe

We have been successfully using Protopipe this season to test our cargo designs. It has let us make rapid iterations.

Today we quickly added a bottom roller to help eject cargo further than we were before. On the real design this bottom roller may be accuated to help us intake cargo from the floor as well.

- Spectrum

Thursday, January 17, 2019

2019 Day 12: CAD Updates

CAD Updates

We still have a lot of work to do before this design is ready for production but we are solving a lot of the problems and getting closer to production. None of our subsystems have made any large changes it's just more and more development at this point.

- Spectrum

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

2019 Day 11: Climber Development


The idea for our climber came from sforbes' youtube video below.

Since then he has posted another video that is actually closer to what we are really working on.

Here are some of the current sketches of our climbing mechanism.

We are planning for the main central arm to be sheetmetal and for the two rear arms to be round tube with tie rod ends since those members are mostly only experiencing forces in tension.

Protopipe Cargo Mechanism

We have an updated cargo mechanism prototype that is helping us solve for some of the variables for that mechanism.

We are able to change the height of the roller, the length of the bottom plate, the locations of the rear stop bar and more.

- Spectrum

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

2019 Day 10

Cargo Mechanism

This will hold the cargo on the elevator. The mechanism will intake it from the over the bumper ball mechanism. The tilt of this mechanism lets us start the cargo on the elevator higher reducing the amount of height we need to in our elevator to reach the 3rd level of the Rocket.

Hatch Mechanism

This is the intake for hatches from the loading station. It's mounted above the cargo mechanism and flips into the correct orientation when the cargo mechanism is pointed down. This allows us to start the match while holding a hatch and still flip it down closer to the edge of our frame perimeter.

- Spectrum

Sunday, January 13, 2019

2019 Day 9: Inspiration

As we start bring our ideas to life in CAD there have been a few robots that we keep coming back to for inspiration.

GUS FRC#228 - 2011

CAD Download

GUS' 2011 robot featured a great chain driven cascading lift and a simple wrist intake. We have been heavily looking at their lift and power transmission for the elevator to get ideas for our elevator for this year.

Simbotics FRC#1114 - 2011

Simbotics' 2011 robot also had a cascading lift but there design was based around sheet metal manufacturing which more closely mirrors how Spectrum builds it's robots.

Robowranglers FRC#148 - 2011

The Robowranglers' 2011 robot features an awesome extending link for the top bar on it's 4 bar arm. We have been looking at this CAD as an example for how to do a simple extension that we will be using on our Cargo intake.

Here is the current state of one of the intake extensions.

- Spectrum

“A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system.” - John Gall

2019 Day 8: Allenless Part 2

Progress Report

The team spent the majority of their time in the lab today tuning their subsystem designs.

Sheet Metal Deadline

The subsystems that require sheet metal are really trying to meet next week's deadline and are hammering out the last big chunks of the design before lightening.
  • Drivetrain
    • Access and mounting holes have been added, and the encoder mount is underway
  • Elevator
    • The carriage is starting to come together. Bearings have been added to the side rails of the elevator as well as being sandwiched in between the plates on the carriage.


  • Cargo Intake Box
    • Part of today was also focused on intake geometry. The cargo box carries the ball to different positions on the elevator without obstructing the hatch mechanism.
  • Hatch Subsystem Version 2
    • The hatch intake has undergone an upgrade, including a new feature. While still in the prototyping stage, we had implemented a 'finger,' a 1/4" thick piece of Lexan placed above the (duck!) beak. A pneumatic cylinder actuates the finger and allows it to grab and secure that hatch so that any jostles by other robots do not impede the hatch from reaching the intended deployment zone.

Allenless Again...

The team has divided into two warring tribes who are battling for control over the name of the 2019 robot. Not really, but in all seriousness, we are diligently working while we await Allen's return from the blizzards of the north tomorrow morning.

- Spectrum

"There is no substitute for hard work" - Thomas A. Edison

Friday, January 11, 2019

2019 Day 7: Allenless


Today was no ordinary day of build season for Spectrum. It was our first of two days without our Lead Mentor, Allen Gregory. Sadly, FIRST Headquarters has claimed him for the weekend for LRI training. Despite Allen’s absence, we were still able to make progress on our subsystems.


This year we positioned our gearbox at the front of our robot to create space for our climber. Each Side Panel will feature two traction wheels in the middle and an Omni wheel on each outer edge. Our Drivetrain has progressed rapidly and we are hoping to send it to our sheet metal sponsor, SolarCraft, sometime late next week.

Hatch Panel Intake
We continued to add to our hatch panel ‘DUCK!’ intake by designing in a pneumatic actuated ‘finger’. The ‘finger’ will keep the hatch panel in place during pickup and transportation until it gets scored.
Cargo Carrier

We made a prototype out of protopipe for our cargo carrier mechanism with a simple roller and dustpan design. This cargo mechanism will be attached to the inner carriage elevator and will spit out the cargo to score.

2019 Day 6: Spectrum MCC

One of the projects we have added this year is building an MCC robot with some our new students. This gives us the ability to have them build, wire, and program a robot before the design for our actual 2019 robot is complete. It's also lets us have a robot to practice with/against and an example robot for the teams that we help throughout the season.

The goals for this robot are to be similar to those we explained in the FRC Guide to the MCC. We want this robot to be the 3rd robot on a competitive alliance.

We are still developing this but we wanted to get the basic idea published as teams are starting to finalize their designs and we hope some teams will be able to use ideas from this design to help them this season.

Strategic Analysis and Features


The current version of this robot ignores the HAB end game. It can drop off of HAB lvl 2 to start the match but is unable to climb up to lvl 2 or lvl 3 at the end of the match. It is a rather light robot and most of its weight is in the rear so it may be a good choice for a robot that lifts others on to the lvl 3 platform. Only 1 or 2 robots will be able to climb to lvl 3 in each match and it's likely that the highest seeded teams will be able to climb on their own so building ramps (also ramps are just hard in general) or other mechanism will most likely not help get you picked by high ranking teams. If you take anything from this please let it be that ramps are harder than you think, and teams are very bad at driving up ramps so please be very cautious when deciding to build a ramp bot (or better yet just don't build a ramp bot).

Hatch Panels

The hatch mechanism on this robot isn't fully flushed out but it will be able to score on all lvl 1 hatches using pneumatics and velcro. There is also enough room on the back for an alternative hatch mechanism if your team develops something else better than velcro and pneumatics to push the hatch off.


Cargo is where this robot shines and is where we believe the most productive 3rd robots will have their strengths. Each cargo cycle is worth 50% more than a hatch cycle and you can start the game with 6 null hatches pre-installed giving you 6 free 3pt cargo cycles before you need to do a hatch cycle for 2 points.
  • Floor loading lets this robot utilize the depot for its cargo cycles and free up the loading stations for the faster robots on its alliance who may have well practice or pre-programmed paths to/from the feeder station. Floor loading reduces your cycle time because it's possible that the balls will roll across the ground and come near your robot without you having to go back into the HAB.
  • The in-frame intake mechanism means that while playing defense this MCC could take a cargo ball and bring it back to their side of the field to score. This will slow down the cycle time of their opponents. 
  • The single jointed arm can lift the cargo ball to score it in
    • Rocket Level 1
    • Rocket Level 2
    • the Cargo Ship
  • Those 3 scoring locations add up to a potential of 14 cargo scoring locations (not counting the 2 front cargo ship spot that start with cargo). 
  • Having the ability to score in Rocket Lvl 2 means that if this robot is paired with a robot that can hatch lvls 2 & 3 and score cargo in lvl 3, each of them only needs to score 6 game pieces to be able to complete the rocket and get the ranking point. 

Mechanical Details

  • Kitbot drive base
    • The pictures shows a square 28"x28" AM14U3 because that is the drive base we happen to own but any kit chaiss dimension can perform this role, you would just have to change some of the dimensions of the arms and tower. A wider kit bot could have a wider intake, a longer kit bot may have more room for a hatch mechanism on the back.  
      • Reminder to make sure you cut your kit chassis to be within the 120" frame perimeter rule. 
  • Structure
    • The design uses mostly 2x1 and 1x1 aluminum extrusion but it most of the cases this could be exchange for other materials that you already own or that you like to use. A robot with similar abilities can be built from wood, REV extrusion, Andymark Peanut extrusion and many more options. 
    • The CAD doesn't include all the gussets that would be needed to connect all the parts together. 
  • Single Jointed Arm
  • Intake
    • The intake is a simple roller, this could be wheels or a drum as shown in the images. The drum is based on the VEXpro Versaroller System.
    • Many different gearboxes could power the intake including a Versaplanetary, or AM 57 Sport. Another option is to use the Two Sport Gearbox that teams received in the kit of parts but only install a single motor, that is what is shown. 
  • Hatch Mechanism
    • Single pneumatic solenoid valve drive the two cylinder to release it from our velcro.
      • Similar to prototype we posted here.
With only 2 motors and one solenoid valve used for scoring this Destination Deep Space robot would be very simple but able to contribute a lot during match it plays. 

This CAD was done very quickly just to be a visual tool to help teams understand our plan. We will be developing it more before building our version of the Spectrum MCC this season. Much of the systems are incomplete so only use this as a model to get ideas from and not detailed plans to build a complete robot. 

Spectrum MCC

Scoring on Lvl 1 of the Rocket

Scoring on Lvl 2 of the Rocket

Purchase List

We put together a purchase list that explains some of the items we recommend using in the Spectrum MCC.
- Spectrum

“That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” - Steve Jobs 1998

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

2019 Day 5: 1st Design Review

Ball Sizing Rings

We laser cut 3 ball sizing rings, 12.5", 13", and 13.5" in diameter. This lets us inflate balls to the various levels inside the tolerance range so that we can practice with the different inflation pressures. Balls at 12.5" and 13.5" behave differently in several aspects that we have noticed so during our interactions.
  • Green = Go = Inflate More
  • Yellow = Slow Down = You can stop inflating
  • Red = STOP = You've inflated too much.

Design Reviews

We have decided to start doing design reviews every Tuesday (this week was Wednesday since we didn't have school yesterday).

Each subsystem team is responsible for making a few slides about their design and progress and presenting to the team. Here is an example slide from the elevator subsystem team.

The current subsystem list includes
  • Drivetrain
    • 8 - 4 in wheels
    • 4 traction, 4 omnis
    • 6 MiniCIM drive (may be NEO after evaluation)
    • Approximately 12fps(JVN adjusted speed)
  • Elevator 
    • cascading #25 chain elevator
  • Intake
    • floor cargo intake
    • floating top roller
    • Linear slide deployment to not interfere with the lvl 1 rocket scoring.
    • Constant force springs used to tension it down
  • Cargo Mechanism 
    • elevator cargo mechanism
    • simple roller and dustpan design)
  • Hatch Mechanism 
    • velcro and alignment device + pneumatics to deploy
    • alignment device may be actuated if we think velcro is going to degrade too much
  • Climber
    • 4 Bar motorcycle lift style climbing mechanism.
  • Programming
  • Electronics
  • MCC (we are designing and building an MCC for practice)
    • Simple velcro+pneumatic hatch mechanism for lvl 1 hatches
    • Single jointed arm with cargo intake that can floor collect and score in rocket levels 1 and 2 and the cargo ship bays. 
All of this is still subject to change, but we have flushed out more of our design in the first 5 days then we have ever done before. 

- Spectrum

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” - Dwight D. Eisenhower

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

2019 Build Day 4: Drivetrain sketch and alignment mechanisms


  • Eight Wheeled Drivetrain
    • 4” wheels - no need to go any larger because no possibility of driving on to the HAB sideways; climbing is always forward
    • Can go over cable cover and the depot rails
  • The Year of No Belly Pan
    • Drivetrain will have supporting interior framework but will have no belly pan due to our climbing mechanism

Hatch Mechanism

We made the hatch mechanism more closely reasonable the dimensions we are planning for our actual robot. We started testing alignment aids. Our hope is that as we drive into the disk and it raises up and aligns to the center of our mechanism. Initial tests are promising but it may not work perfectly. 


Aligning to the goals and the loading station is going to be crucial this year. We are putting most of our early programming thought in to how best to use cameras to help us align.

Our current plan is to use a wide angle camera mounted on top of our scoring mechanism that will move up and down with our lift so that our drivers can visually confirm that our hatch or cargo are ready to score. We plan to have a limelight vision system looking through our elevator at a fixed height to help us align to the vision targets from further away as we move towards the goals or station. Finally we are hoping to use a Jevois camera mounted on our frame at a height below our front bumpers to visually track the white tape as if it was a road.

- Spectrum

"I know you've heard it a thousand times before. But it's true -- hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don't love something, then don't do it." - Ray Bradbury

2019 Build Day 3: Starting to get a design together.

Most of today was spent finishing up playing field tasks but we also had a few prototypes and CAD sessions to help flush out the initial design of the robot. 

Simple Pneumatic Hatch Mechanism

Here is our quick prototype of a simple pneumatic hatch mechanism. This is mounted just inside your frame perimeter on the front or back of your robot. You acquire a hatch by driving into the loading station hatch panel and the velcro takes it off the panel, the velcro is only on the top quarter of the hatch panel.. There are then 2 4"-6" pneumatic cylinders behind the panel and below all the velcro that let you push the panel on to any of the level one targets. This also works with a lot of misalignment and over your bumper. This design also doesn't let you throw the panel because if you activate the cylinder not at a wall the panel just flip ups and doesn't leave your robot. 

Ball Intake Prototype

Floating rollers are very useful with ball so you don't have to reach as far out of your frame perimeter. Very happy to see our protopipe getting some use this year.

More pictures and videos of our prototypes can be found on our photo gallery.

- Spectrum

"Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results." - Andrew Carnegie

Monday, January 7, 2019

2019 Build Day 2: Building the field

Practice Field Building

Most of our manpower was spent on field building today. We started day making a lumber run for our modified version of the wooden field elements. We had a few alumni design field elements that would let us build the field easier than the team build version from FRC with the tools that we have. 

Infrared playing DDS

Our 2018 robot makes a pretty good Cargo specialist. It might reprise this role during some practice session in the future.

Animated GIF

Figure 4-20 incorrect measurements

Figure 4-20 in the DDS manual has two dimensions marked incorrectly. The two dimensions for the level 1 platform are wrong. They don't include the lengths of the ramps (each ramp is 11 1⁄2 in. (~29 cm) long), yet the dimension lines include those lengths. Be sure to look at the official field drawings or the CAD of the field to get the correct dimensions and don't use this image.

FIRST Twitch.TV Kitbot Build with Deejay Knight

HQ put together an awesome live stream today where friends of Spectrum Katie Widen and Nick Lawrence helped Deejay Knight assemble the AM14U4 kit chassis. If you are new to building the kit chassis, we highly recommend you watch the recorded video and follow along with the build. Katie and Nick will teach you a lot and make sure your drivetrain is built the correct way.

2D Sketches

As we go through our design discussions, we work out some basic geometry for our design ideas. None of these are fully fleshed out, but they help us figure out if some of our ideas are feasible. 

- Spectrum

”Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” - Truman Capote

Sunday, January 6, 2019

2019 DDS: Day 1

Kickoff for our 9th season was today with the release of FRC Destination Deep Space.

See the reveal video below and read the manual here.

We started today answering a whole host of kickoff questions. These were generated by looking at similar questions from teams FRC#1538 & FRC#2791 from previous years. These answers may not be perfect, so please leave a comment if you see something we got wrong.

Kickoff Questions

We started constructing our field elements today. Tomorrow we will have even more progress.

- Spectrum

"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too." - President John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962, at Rice University, Houston, Texas

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Spectrum 2019 Resource Collection

Every year we try to document a little bit more of our knowledge and procedures for other teams to use and benefit from. This year we have released a varieties of guides that teams can learn from. We have collected them all here so you can see them in one place.

Protopipe - Blog Post - Documentation - CAD Files

Protopipe is a system of 3D printed parts that allow you to easily connect 1/2" PVC pipe into robot mechanisms and test fixtures. It's designed to be cheap and easy to use so that teams can iterate their designs faster. Several teams have been printing out the connectors and testing the system this off-season and we have gotten some positive feedback. There is still room for improvement but we think it will help us and other teams develop better systems this season.

Guide to the FRC MCC

We have been asked a lot about which parts teams should buy before the season. That's a really hard questions because you need to know the goals of the team. So in this document we outline the concept of a Minimum Competitive Concept Robot, give examples of teams that successfully build MCCs, and also a list of items that we would use to build an MCC. If you are just starting out or have limited resources these are the robots you should view as your inspiration. 

FIRST Choice and Voucher Recommendations

We made a list of our recommended items to use your Vouchers and FIRST Choice credits to subliment your KOP.

Spectrum-Photon LED Animation Driver - Documentation - GitHub

Simple addressable LED control for FRC robots. This uses mostly COTS electronics and software to allow teams to add addressable LEDs to their robot and control them easily from a RoboRIO. This allows teams give feedback to their drivers using the LED strands or rings placed on their robot. Animations are handled on the microprocessor with the RoboRIO just sending simple serial messages to choose animations, colors, and other details.

Advanced Pneumatics Guide

We have gotten a lot of questions about our pneumatic system from our 2018 robot. We made some quick notes about the techniques we used to get a small and light system and also how we were able to use pneumatics to launch the cube. There are also some suggestions from other teams, special thanks to FRC#5406 for helping out with suggestions and edits.

Powder Coating Guide - PDF

This guide gives you a quick overview of the equipment and process we use to powder coat our parts for our robots. We have been doing this for 2 years now and spoke to several teams before starting to do it ourselves. The process isn't that complicated and you don't need to buy or build a large oven to be able to do most of the parts you need on an FRC robot.

Spectrum Recommended Software

A quick list of the most common software we use on Spectrum. There are alternatives to all of these but these are what we found works for us. 

Printable 500 Hex Collar 

Useful little printable hex collar. Great for load load applications and prototypes. Same thickness as a VEXpro Hex collar.

2018 3847 Robot CAD

CAD of our 2018 robot Infrared. Solidworks and Step file.

Updated FIRST $1000

We did a quick update to our FIRST $1000 list to make sure all the products were available to teams.

Spectrum 2018 Resource Collection

Here is the list of resources we released before last season, lots of that information is still useful today. 

- Spectrum

"You get a new year, you get a new start, you get a new opportunity." - Billy Butler