Monday, January 24, 2022

2022 Day 15 and 16: Full Climb Video

 Climber Testing

We added a crossbar between the hooks and moved our string to pull from around the lower arm pivot shaft and pull on the crossbar. This allows us to pull down closer to a straight line from the hooks to the spool. We also added some pool noodles so that if (when) this chassis falls off the bar it won't be damaged as badly.

After some more testing, we were able to get a successful climb sequence. 
This version of the prototype doesn't currently work when we added weight (35lb plate) because it's powered with a timing belt, the competition one will likely be chain or gear driven. This climb also takes the robot to a full latch on the traversal bar which in our current design this likely brings part of our bumper above the high bar (a G108 violation) so we will only pull off the high bar and hang from the top hooks in a real match.

Launcher Prototype

Our launcher prototype is coming along and we should have some test video coming soon. The current plan is a flywheel with a top roller, adjustable hood, and turret. If we need to reduce features they will probably keep that priority order, the turret is nice to have but not necessary, the hood could be simplified to 2 positions instead of continuous, and the top roller should allow us to launch balls into the goals with less energy in the ball when they enter to reduce bounce-outs.

- Spectrum

Sunday, January 23, 2022

2022 Day 14 & 15: More Climber Testing

 Climber Testing

We constructed more of a "climber chassis" over the past few days to be able to simulate the climber with both arms.

The first test of the climber chassis did work well. We didn't do a full continuous climb but if you want to watch multiple videos they are all in this gallery. The video below is the prototype moving from the high bar to the traversal mostly by itself.

This prototype is still only powered by a single motor and we will be adding bars across the arms to help synchronize their motion. We will also be adding weight to the chassis to see how it changes the climber's behavior.

Friday, January 21, 2022

2022 Day 12 & 13: Swerve Assembly and Controls Priorities

Swerve Assembly

We began the assembly of our Swerve Drive Specialities MK4i modules that we are planning to use this season. We used the MK3 modules this summer at the Texas Cup and believe the MK4i will fit our design better this year along with having the 1.5" wide wheels.

Controls Priorities

Our controls team met to go over our priorities for the season and to split up into areas of focus.

Climber Testing

The test climber had another accident, it also had some successes but the accident are more interesting as we learn what needs to be improved.
- Spectrum

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

2022 Day 10 & 11: Weekly Recap

Tuesday's our weekly Design Recap.

Photon 8515 will be building a modified Everybot this year and we will try to publish the changes and additions we make to the design.

- Spectrum

Monday, January 17, 2022

2022 Day 9: Bootcamp Build Day & a successful climber prototype

 Bootcamp Build Day

We started the day with our 1st Bootcamp Build Day of the year we had students and teachers representing 5 young Houston area teams on site for a few hours to answer their questions, give design advice, and help with the FRC control system. Members of Pearadox FRC5414 were here to help as part of our partnership in the Houston FRC Development Program this year. Our next session is in two weeks and we will be helping teams finish up their drive bases, electronics, and making progress on their robots. 

Climber Test

We were able to rebuild the climber prototype after last night's crash and improve it in the process. Below is a video of it successfully pulling from one bar to the other. With a little help to limit the swinging this time. In the next version, we will add springs to extend the upper arm and a pneumatic cylinder to extend the lower arm.

The theory behind the climb

Here is the basic idea of how we currently plan to implement the climb.

- Spectrum

Sunday, January 16, 2022

2022 Day 7 & 8: Intake Testing and a New Climber Concept

Intake Testing

We started on a more complete intake test rig with bumpers and more adjustability.

We are using silicone bands in this video, soft silicone has worked well in our past intakes (2019) and it appears to grip the balls well this year.

Simple Tests

A lot of our "prototypes" don't need to be complicated to prove concepts. In this quick clip we used part of a prototype from 2020 to see how the balls would behave if we used a timing belt as part of  a ball tower.

Climber Concepts

 We began working on a new climber concept that uses a double-jointed arm that extends with springs and climbs with a winch. The geometry of this climb appears to work better than some of the others we were working on.

We spent time today mocking it up with laser-cut parts and 3D printed connectors. The 2 extra CIMs are just for ballast to simulate the center of mass of the actual robot.

We were able to complete the construction of our practice hangar and run the prototype on it. One of the first attempts with the prototype went one of the more predictable ways.

We will rebuild it this weekend with lessons learned (more perimeters in the prints, more gussets, and bolts/rivets into the tubing) and hopefully future attempts will be more successful. Failures like these are to be expected while prototyping, this is why we often use scrap material or cheap and quick-to-make parts like the 3D printed tube connectors and shaft collars. Failing quickly is one of the best ways to get a robust system in your final robot.'

- Spectrum

Friday, January 14, 2022

2022 Day 6: Climber Model

 We made a 1/5th scale model of one of our climber ideas. This one has several issues, and some of them are caused by it being scaled-down, and some of them are likely inherent in the design.

We made several interactions, printed, and laser cut some parts, so the joints acted more like we wanted; we also added nuts to simulate the robot's center of gravity. These helped but didn't fully solve the problems.

More videos and photos can be found in our photo gallery:

From playing with this model and doing more CAD sketches, we will likely add another degree of freedom to the system, most likely a motor (possibly pneumatic) to extend and retract the hook on the arm. This should allow the climb to behave correctly across various center of gravity positions and enable us to quickly climb to the mid-bar without fully completing the first curl of the whole climb sequence. We also still discussing if we will use chain/sprockets or a Dyneema cord winch to power the arm joint. 

Here is a sketch of the new configuration; this has a 6 in extension and appears to work with a center of mass 6.5" to 15" and roughly centered in the robot. Not shown, but if we needed this climb should be able to curl onto the low bar for 4 pts. 

- Spectrum

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

2022 Day 5

Wednesdays are normally pretty slow. We got some more parts cut for our practice field elements, did some manual intake material testing (i.e. rubbed lots of types of rubber and wheels on the balls), and we had an awards meeting this evening to get our Chairman's Essay nearly finished.

We were able to inflate the balls to the proper 3.5 psi, before today all the gauges we had in the lab didn't read that low. We purchased a digital inflator from Amazon that very easily inflates the balls to 3.5 psi automatically and it works great. We were testing balls at various states of inflation since we didn't know what was right, in general, most of our balls were underinflated in any previous test to what degree we don't know (we didn't have a gauge that could read it remember). The balls are very firm when fully inflated to the spec 3.5 psi.

Link to the inflator -

The push will be to do more intake and climber prototyping over the next few days.

- Spectrum

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

2022 Day 4: Design Slides, Recap, and FIRST Choice

 Design Slides

We have decided to make a public version of our design slides this year during the season. We use the google slides document to keep track of large parts of our season. We create slides for our weekly design recaps and collect notes and ideas about the robot. We will update the public version a few times a week with slides from our internal notes (if we share the private one, you all can watch us type, and that's a tad weird).

Design Recap

Today was our first design recap. It was an overview of our intent for each mechanism, along with updates on testing and design progress. Here are a few of the sample slides from tonight.

FIRST Choice Recommendations Updated for Round 2

Our 2022 FIRST Choice and Voucher Guide has been updated with a sample priority list for Round 2.

Every team gets 710 more credits, and some really great items have been added that will probably help your team be sure to submit your priority list before Jan 20th. 

- Spectrum

2022 Day 3

 The first day of the season with a normal after-school meeting is mostly just a recap of the weekend and discussing various strategy ideas and the road map to each of our mechanisms.

We planned how we would group the various mechanisms on the robot.

As well as how each of those mechanisms mounts to, supports, interacts with, and avoids the other mechanisms on the robot.

We can start allocating some space in the robot as the mechanism designs become clearer.

Much of that will depend on the requirements of our climber; the other mechanism can largely be designed around things and still function well. Since the climber has strict dimensions to get from bar to bar, it will get some amount of priority to space.

We have also begun building our team version of the high hub and will begin the hangar this week.

- Spectrum

Sunday, January 9, 2022

2022 Day 2: Dabbling in Prototypes

Photo Gallery

Our 2022 photo gallery is up and will have updated photos and videos of our prototypes and progress this season.

Intake Prototype

We were able to use a prototype mechanism we built in the fall to begin testing how the balls interact with various materials.

We used 2" compliant wheels, polycarbonate tubing, and velcro wrapped around the tubing. All of them were able to intake the balls pretty well but the compliant wheels seem to do the best job of grabbing the ball in our limited testing.

Launcher Prototype

In 2020 used one of our 2017 launchers to build a prototype for that game pieces. We kept that around and adjusted it today to make it fit the larger 2022 balls. We adjusted it to 7.5" between the wheel and the hood to allow about 2" of compression on the balls. We have it mounted to our "ProtoCube." We've used this 2x4 box for multiple prototypes and it works well since you can clamp or screw into it and weigh it down easily with sandbags.


We've also continued our discussion on strategy and robot goals. At the end of the 1st weekend this is roughly where we are heading, our course could quickly change as we learn more about the game and the game pieces.

- Spectrum

2022 Day 1: Rapid React: Rules, Impressions, Strategy Questions, Climber Ideas

 2022 FIRST Robotics Competition Game - Rapid React

First Impressions

This looks to be a very well-made game that will play well at all levels of play. Robots will be chasing down game pieces, launching cargo from all across the field, and playing strategic defense while trying to win every match. The end game climb has 4 levels the most of any game (2013 is similar if you count scoring the pyramid goal discs). This challenge will allow young teams ways to succeed early and still provide a very hard challenge for the top teams especially if they want to get to the 15pt rung fast.

The field looks to be designed very well and it seems like more time was put into creating the Team Versions of the field to provide multiple options for teams which is a big improvement.

The new organization of the game manual was a big improvement and executed very well, the new green rules will help the community remember the rule numbers much easier and the layout flowed very nicely. 


We were able to have some of our team watch the stream in-person kickoff and then spend several hours reading over the entire manual and discussing the game strategy and concepts.

Questions (some answers)

  1. Tall vs short (What is tall? What is short?

    1. Drive under the low bar (sub 48 in), max-height 52 in, 

      1. not critical but probably helpful to able to drive under the low bar if can still climb and score at that shorter height.

  2. The placement of each subsystem (intake and shooter on opposite sides? Something more like Gamma 2021?)


  1. How consistent are the balls going to be?

    1. Can we accurately launch them with a flywheel from distance? 

    2. How much compression will we need?

    3. What material wheels?

    4. How much will balls be damaged/deformed, and will this matter?

      1. This we very much need to test.

  2. High goal vs low goal? Both?

  3. Launcher Configurations?

    1. All the same options as 2020/21, flywheel, flywheel+top rollers, side wheels, etc.

    2. Catapult (probably not unless other things don’t work, slow to reload and we can hold two balls)

  4. Ball funneling to the shooter? Tower, indexer, etc.

    1. How consistently feed the ball to the launcher

  5. From what positions on the field should we shoot from?

    1. Fender - Yes

    2. How far back do we go after that??? Field Perimeter shot

  6. Floor intake, feeder intake, or both?

    1. MULTIPLE INTAKES??? Probably not

    2. Velcro intake roller?

    3. How to get the balls to center? Meccanum intake? CD7?

  7. Do we ever intake opposing cargo?

    1. Maybe right before we climb? Or if we are playing D.

  8. Will balls bounce out if we yeet them in too hard? How to experiment with yeet optimization?

  9. Turret Time? What is the value of being able to shoot while driving? 

    1. pick up one on route and shoot

    2. Fast shooting once we stop moving is better 

  10. Adjustable Hood?

    1. Adjustable angle is more important with the horizontal goal?

  11. Spin ball?

    1. Probably won’t matter but we can test it, backspin is probably best

  12. Are we gonna shoot from the launchpad?

  13. Hold one ball or two?

    1. May score one at a time if needed but the ability to hold two will save time.


  1. Able to sense shadow line?

  2. How high?

    1. Traversal rung matters?  (Only 5 more points than high bar)

    2. High Bar Matter? (only 4 more points than mid bar)

    3. Mid Bar Matter? (Only 2 more points than low bar)

    4. Low bar matter? (Only 4 points)

    5. Should be climb at all? YES

  3. Climb how?

  4. Ideas: 

    1. Weight moved with pneumatics to influence swing

    2. Other stuff on whiteboard and slides


  1. Where is the best shot?

  2. Where should we get balls? 

  3. What are the likely auto paths for top teams?

Max balls we think the best team in the world can score in auto? 5-6

Climber Ideas

We are still going through a lot of ideas but here are some of our whiteboard and cad sketches for our climber ideas.

- Spectrum