Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Build Day 25: Three weeks to go

We're through the half way point now, so we can begin counting down to end of build. 21 Days to go.

We finished wiring the Jaguars to the power distribution board and we are working on getting all of our sensors mounted as well.

Our electrical team is doing a great job of keeping all the wires nice and tidy. We also have everything setup to allow for quick changes if we do lose a Jaguar along the way. The power switch is inverted so you can get to it easily from the outside.

The rest of the electrical should go together with in the next couple days and we should be able to do manual tests of all the systems by the end of the week. Than we have to do all the integration of the control systems and start tuning the control loops for each system.

We're still missing a bridge device, but we worked out a solution at the end of today that should have us building it tomorrow.

We're still finishing up all the little things that make the robot actually function but were in the home stretch.

- Allen Gregory

"In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is." - Yogi Berra

Monday, January 30, 2012

Build Day 24

It was a short day, Monday's seem shorter than most for some reason.

Even though we don't have the jaguars yet, we crimped all the ring terminals for the Jaguars today. The screw terminals on the jaguars should be replaced by WAGO connectors so we can get rid of our normal crimp tool. Those crimps never seem as strong as the Anderson connector crimps.

More work was done on the different brackets that will be on the robot. The mounting plates for the camera, signal light and radio all began construction and will need to be painted tomorrow.

The base plate was mounted on to the robot and we made holes for zip ties so are wires can be nice and organized. Organized wires make the robot look so much nicer and makes maintenance a breeze.

The programming team is getting ready to start ramping up there development cycles since they will be able to test with the real thing.

By the weekend we should be fully functional and testing. The mechanical team will begin making the spare/practice parts for the robot.

A quick run down of our motor setup.

Drive = 4x CIM motors through CIMple boxes with 12:36 gearing we will be around 11fps
Collector = 1x Banebots 550 though P60 16:1 possibly geared up to drive the roller faster
Elevator = 1x Banebots 550 through P60 16:1 possibly geared down for more torque
Shooter = 2 x Fisher Price 0673 in a CIM-sim, geared a little above 1:1 depending on the max distance we want to shoot
Shooter Tilt = 1 x Kit Window Motor
Bridge Device = 1 x Either a AndyMark PG71 or Van Door Motor either way geared down for more torque

That puts us at 10 motors total, 9 will be running off Jaguars and the Bridge device will be on a spike. We also have sensor feedback for each motor, there is not an open loop system on our robot.

This game is going to come down to practice and programming.

- Allen Gregory

Designing a product is keeping five thousand things in your brain and fitting them all together in new and different ways to get what you want. And every day you discover something new that is a new problem or a new opportunity to fit these things together a little differently.
And it’s that process that is the magic.
—Steve Jobs

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Build Day 23: And the wiring begins

Electrical is now the main priority for the robot. We have most of the mechanical systems mounted but we need to get the electrical on so see we can begin testing. The Jaguar board is coming together but we need the Jaguars themselves to finish it off. The main base plate will hold the cRIO, side cars, and the battery.

Here are the CAD renderings of the plates

We are going to mount most of the electrical components on neoprene to absorb some of the vibrations. Just spinning up the shooter causes most of the robot to vibrate.

It's coming down to the finishing touches for the building phase, we still have a few more things to mount such as the camera and the signal light. Oh yeah and a bridge device.

The bumpers are slowly progressing we will have the fabric this week to finish the first set. We want to make sure the fabric is strong this year because the balls are going to be running into and under the bumpers regularly. 

We did a lot of work on the website today. It's not finished yet but it's getting a lot closer. Let us know what you think.

I was looking through a few other teams past build logs (Killer Bees 2011 and Robowranglers 2010) and I think we are about on track with were we should be.

We need to get a move on if we want to build a practice bot, it shouldn't take that much time and will greatly benefit us when it come to competition. We already have a nearly identical chassis, we just need to build the collector and shooter mechanisms to have a functional practice machine for after we ship. It won't be an exact duplicate but it should be close to functionally equivalent.

- Allen Gregory

"To give yourself the best possible chance of playing to your potential, you must prepare for every eventuality. That means practice." - Seve Ballesteros

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Build Day 22: Start of Week 4

It seems like forever a go we were watching the kickoff presentation but it's already nearing the half way point of the build season.

We did most of the electrical layout today, tomorrow we will make all the wires for the robot. We will have to wait on a shipment of Jaguars that should arrive Monday before we can have the robot driving. We will also work on sensor mounts tomorrow.

We connected up the shooter to it's motor and made more progress on the shooter tilt/launch bar subsystem (we don't have a good name for this yet).

We started building the support for the side walls of our collector, we have to make the ball is funneled into the shooter at the same point each time we shoot.

The base piece, and some parts for the bumpers were painted. We will have to do touch up work towards the end of the build season but having the parts mostly painted before assembly is going to make it much easier to make our robot look professional.

Here are some of test shoot from last weekend, keep an eye on this channel for more video updates.

- Allen Gregory

“Diligence is the mother of good luck” - Benjamin Franklin

Friday, January 27, 2012

Build 21

We were able to power the collector today with motors, the tests were promising but also pointed out a couple places that we need to fix things, such as how the polycord is guided.

The picture shows that we aren't easily tipped (it's balancing on the rear frame and the rear wheels), the robot has to get well past 45 degrees before it starts to tip back by itself. The center of gravity will change a bit after we add the electronics and the battery and the bumpers will change things as well.

We began work on the window motor mount and the cam that will adjust our shooter compression bar for varying angles. That should be finished tomorrow.

We'll also should mount the shooter wheels, sprockets and get it to a firing state by tomorrow night.

The plan is to have the robot wired up on Monday night.

- Allen Gregory

“Aren’t you oversimplifying this?
Yes. That’s the whole point.” - Steve Krug

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Build Day 20: Collector/elevator is coming together

The collector is now mounted on the robot, we had to mount it twice to fix some issues but that's why we are moving so quickly so we can catch our mistakes early. We were able to test the upper section with a drill and moves the balls up and down with out issue. We will try to get chain and motors driving the collector and elevator sections tomorrow.

The majority of focus will turn to the shooter tomorrow. Once we have the elevator working we want to know how it's going to interact with the shooter. We've built the robot to allow for several different variations of the shooter.

We weighted ourselves tonight.
We're going to be really light, we don't have any where near 60lbs to add to the robot. We only need the electronics, a couple motors and the bridge device. We might hit 100lb if were lucky. Because of the balancing portion of this game it makes sense to be closer to the max weight. That way you can balance with other heavy robots. It will also give you more traction (increased normal force). We may be adding steal plates to the bottom of the robot to increase weight and move our center of gravity even lower than it already is.

Speaking of balancing
That's without the battery and electronics in the back of the robot. We should be able to easily hang the front wheels off the bridge to get 3 robots on.

- Allen Gregory

"Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them."  - Henry Ford

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Build Day 19: 4 weeks left till tools down

We made a huge amount of progress today because the final shipment of mechanical parts arrived. 

We were able to mount the upper bars that support the shooter assembly and we made the first version of the shooter hood. The shooter motor was also attached today. 

We finished the construction of the rollers and the initial polycord bands as well. Tomorrow we should be able to attach everything and test the collector/elevator. The Lexan panel for the back of the collector still needs a bit of work to make it hold the curves that we want, but that shouldn't take to much time tomorrow.

We also examined our 775 motor for a case short today and it checked out okay. The motor is insulated from the frame, a nice feature of all the spray paint. Though we may still move it to a Lexan mount just in case. After reading enough about the motors on ChiefDelphi, it seems that a lot of teams have had problems but a lot of others have used them with out fail. They make our design far easier to implement because of their lower RPM compared to 550s. (read more about the problem here)

Middle of next week we should be driving and shooting. (Fingers crossed)

- Allen Gregory

"I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday." - Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Build Day 18

More assembly today. We made the Lexan back panel for our collector and elevator. We're using 1/16" Lexan because it's able to easily curve to the angles that we need for the shooter and the elevator.

We also started working on our shooter compression bar, we will be able to rotate the bar around the shooter wheels to change the angle of our shoots. This is the part of the robot that will probably have the most changes to it. We want to get to fully shooting so we can make adjustments as we go. Many aspects of the robot are deigned to be easily adjustable.

The base plate was cut today that will both stiffen up the frame and also give us a plate to mount a portion of our electronics. Speaking of electronics, the electronics layout was designed today. We did it the old fashion way with paper and cardboard cut out of all the parts. It's easier to move parts around with paper templates than in CAD, it's also easier to discuss the various problems and work through them as a group. We're also looking into various vibration dampening techniques to avoid damage anything as we traverse the barrier.

We're also getting better at painting the robot, by the end of the season most of the team will be spray painting professionals.

We're still on pace for a week 4 robot; than lots of testing, breaking, tweaking and improving.

- Allen Gregory

“Limits, like fears, are often just an illusion” – M. Jordan

Monday, January 23, 2012

Build Day 17: Starting to look like a robot

We are still waiting on some parts, but the main functions of the robot are coming together. The elevator should be complete by the end of the week. The upper bars were painted today and should be attached tomorrow. Lots of riveting over the next few days. 

The electronics layout will happen tomorrow, and we should be able to test the elevator as well.

We made the stencil for the bumpers and it looks really good, we just need to get fabric and we should be able to make our first set of bumpers this week.

There are still a lot of little things to get done, including entire subsystems like the bridge device. 

- Allen Gregory

“Doing something and getting it wrong is at least ten times more productive than doing nothing.” - Marc OBrien

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Build Day 16: Waiting on Paint to Dry

We finished the constructing most of the upper poles today and got them painted. A lot of the day was waiting for the paint to dry. Tomorrow we can rivet together the brackets that will hold up the bars for the collector and elevator.

The camera is coming along, we fixed some issues with the mount. The java library upgrade from yesterday helped a lot.

We finished dremeling the bearing seats for the rollers. They look pretty good. The conveyor tread that we have should suck up the balls with no problems.

This week we should get the final parts in for the initial construction phase and we should be mostly assembled by next weekend. If we can wire everything over the weekend we should have a shooting robot next week. Than 3 weeks of making lots of improvements and getting the code working. I honestly believe that this is the first game since 06 where programming can make or break a team.

Today was the first time that we looked at the website as a team. It's off to a really good start. Still needs lots of improvement but the base is setup so we can add on to it as we go.

- Allen Gregory

"Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better." - Pat Riley

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Build Day 15: Robot is coming together

The robot progressed really far today. We have most of the drive train finished, minus a few chain runs.  The brackets and gussets were all finished and painted and we began riveting them together. The upper collector posts are nearly finished as well.

We finally went to the gym to do some real test shots, from about 2ft off the ground we are shooting 48ft. The shooter was pretty consistent seeing as it wasn't a rigid frame and we had people holding the angle. 

The collector rollers are progressing once we get the upper frame bars we should be able to test the first one with a real setup.

The plan was to use 775s for the collector and elevator but a lot of people are still having problems with them. We may be using 550s in the CIM-U-LATORs instead. It would have been nice to decide that before we ordered the 775s luckily we ordered just one.

We have some work to do to stiffen up the frame, we forgot how not rigid the kit chassis is, especially when you cut out a section of the front.

They released the sample Java vision tracking code today, which makes life a lot easier for the controls team. We are still having some trouble with undocumented sections of the API but we will work through them. 

- Allen Gregory

“Believe it or not, it is not only possible to accomplish more by doing less, it is mandatory. Enter the world of elimination.” ~ Timothy Ferriss

Friday, January 20, 2012

Build Day 14

Started off the day discussing the Chairman's Award Submission. We want to get this going as early as possible so we have time to refine it before the submission deadline (02/16/12 at Noon EST). We're making good progress, the biggest part of the early work on the Chairman's Team is deciding how we want to present ourselves to the judges.

We upped the speed of the shooter prototype after switching to the CIM-sim. It's now spinning the 8in wheels at roughly 5500RPM and it shoots to 37 ft with little to no launch angle. The plan is to do more detailed tests tomorrow afternoon.

The collector rollers are coming along we should be able to have all three near completion this weekend.

The drive train brackets and all of those pieces were mostly finished today, so we have everything laid out to assemble the drive train tomorrow.

The controls groups are still working to debug some issues with the low level digital module support in Java. We think if we use a second digital side car it may work, we're not entirely sure why that is but if it works, it works. Getting SPI to work is becoming much more of a challenge than first thought.

We made good progress today, we need to make more this weekend if we want to stay on schedule.

- Allen Gregory

“We are in the people business. It doesn't matter if you’re in the banking business, you have customers, you’re in the people business, and it’s how you treat people." - Nolan Ryan

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Build Day 13: Busy Day not just with the obot

Our build session started off with a presentation by the founders of BlueStampEngineering.com. They are bringing a summer engineering program to Houston and we thought it would be good for our members to hear about it and also speak with a couple of professional engineers. This also gave us a chance to show off our projects as they walked around observing after the presentation.

One of our main goals for today was to finish editing our rookie guide: Spectrum Illuminations 2012. It should hopefully answer a lot of the questions that we received during the Rookie Build Day last weekend. Thank you to everyone that helped develop it; it looks great.

The robot continued to progress as well. We outfitted the shooter prototype with two of the 0673 FisherPrice motors, this gives us about twice the power of one CIM, we should be able to change the gear ratio to get us a higher RPM and a longer range.

The collector is progressing along, we were able to seat the bearing and w're working on mounting the conveyor tread to the initial roller. Once we finish, we'll make 2 more and be ready to go for assembly. 
Here are pictures of the initial roller.

Our programming team is still going through some bugs in WPILIB. Getting sensor drivers working is becoming a challenge, but that's part of trying something new. If we get everything working it will all be worth the effort.

This weekend we should be able to have the drive train and collector assembly nearly finished. We still need to play around with the shooter design until we settle on something that works the best.

Overall a pretty good day of build, but this weekend's progress may determine our season.

- Allen Gregory

"Sometimes the problem has to mature before the solution can mature." - Kent Beck

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day 12: Parts arrive

All of our parts orders came in today. Some of the items we ordered in small quantities to see if they would fit our needs. Nothing was drastically different than what we thought, so we're full steam ahead with our design.

The shooter prototype switched from the kit HiGrip wheels which were eating up the ball (Build Tip don't shot with those wheels) to 8in Kit wheels (2011 kit). The new wheels made for a much smoother release and in turn upped our distance by 10+ feet. This was still shooting with a CIM 1:1 with the wheel. We are transitioning to using the CIM-Sim and two FisherPrice 0673s that we got in our orders today but we are having some problems with the gearbox. Namely if you face mount it you have to be extremely careful with the length of the bolts that you use. If you are not than the bolts will press into the center gear and bind the transmission. We'll change the mounting tomorrow and see how far we shoot.

The collector construction started today, we received the ABS pipe that we are using for the rollers it much easier to machine and isn't as brittle as PVC. We also received the conveyor material that we are going to wrap around the rollers. We still have to work out some of the mounting and getting the bearing to seat into the roller without the use of a lathe (I think it's going to be a Dremel job, you make do with what you have).

Brackets and other random pieces are getting cut we need to get the drive train on the ground soon. Hopefully by this weekend. We have all the parts just need to do a bit more machining.

We hope to have some more videos to post soon.

- Allen Gregory

“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

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Build Day 11: Only 35 days left

I knew today was going to be light because all our parts are coming in tomorrow. Our main focus was working on the shooter prototype. The last time we tested we were only getting about 8ft or so. Today was a drastic improvement we were able to shoot about 25ft from a very long starting height and an imperfect angle. I'll try to get video linked from today but it hasn't been uploaded yet. We still have a ways to go to before we can design the real thing.

We continued to manufacture a few of the parts we know will be on the robot, and we also painted more stuff before we start assembly. We began bumper construction today, this year's design is going to have two C shaped bumpers so they should be quick and easy to swap. 

We're working on the camera code in Java and it looks like this is giving everyone head aches. Normally if they release a library for one environment they release it for all of them; but this year only LabVIEW has the nice prepacked rectangle tracking code. Hopefully they'll be a library update in the near future. In the mean time we are still getting used to the new command and subsystem structure that was implemented this year. It's a great improvement but it still seems to have its bugs or maybe just nuances.

Tomorrow we start roller construction and we get our 0673 FisherPrice motors and CIM-sim for the shooter.

We're pushing for a week 4 robot if we can get it. The design of the shooter assembly still needs to be finished but I think we have all the parts we will need for that no matter what we design. 

Question for anyone reading, what would be the easiest way to ream a 1" hole to 1.125" for a bearing seat in the end of a plastic tube without a mill or lathe? It doesn't need to be a perfect press fit.

Also in case anyone is wondering I haven't posted new CAD shots because the design hasn't changed much since the last one, we've added a few bracket here and there but we're sticking with that design for the most part.

- Allen Gregory

"Everything is practice." — PelĂ©

Monday, January 16, 2012

Build Day 10

We put together the frame for this year's robot after we painted it on Saturday. We are starting to produce the real parts for the robot, like gussets, angle brackets and little things like that. It's hard to get precision measurements with the tools that we have in the shop (drill press, band saws, and a miter saw) but the team has figured out ways to get close.

We are continuing to change our shooting prototype, until we get it to 50 ft we're not stopping. Hopefully we'll have another test video tomorrow night.

The programming team is starting to work with the camera and our not so secret inertial measurement unit. Hopefully, we'll be able to release drivers and walk throughs for the IMU before the end of build season. Until than if you're interested all our code is posted at http://code.google.com/p/spectrum3847/.

We're moving forward, with as much as we can until parts arrive; which should be late Tuesday night. We'll have them for Wednesday's build session. We're waiting on the roller materials, wheels, motors, key stock, and a whole list of other parts.

Tomorrow we are going to do a really quick design review to make sure the whole team is up to date with any changes in the design and to see if we can come up with any design improvements.

We still have a few questions to answer.

  • Will the small (sub 11 inch) collector opening be enough for the driver to gather balls? 
  • How do we actually get the shooter to be able to shoot across the length of the court? 
  • Will the Banebots 775 have case shorts like they did last year (we will make polycarbonate mounts for them either way)?
  • How are we going to practice balancing with out a bridge?/How do we fit a bridge in our work space?
  • How much of a problem will running over the balls be?
  • How accurate can we get our shooter?
- Allen Gregory

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction." - Einstein

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Build Day 9: Rookie Build Day

Rookie Build Day
The first Sunday of the build season, we take a break from working on our robot to help other teams. We're also normally about to the point where we are waiting on parts so it works out really well. FRC Team#57 The Leopards  and #3103 Iron Plaid host a rookie build day that gives rookie teams a chance to get help from local veterans. The goal of the rookie build days is to get rookie teams as close to a driving chassis as possible. FRC has a pretty steep learning curve and this is a great way to try to make it a little more gradual. We work on setting up the kit bot chassis and electrical systems and teaching some of the basic concepts that allow the teams to continue construction themselves.

One of the best parts of the rookie build day, is getting to know the new members of our community. These teams will hopefully be around for a while and this is our 1st opportunity to work with them. The rookie teams also get contact information from the veterans so that they know that they have avenues for help.

Today's build was pretty successful, I  believe we got all of the teams setup with a chassis, drive train and a fully connected electrical panel. We weren't able to do as much with the control system as I would have liked, such as configuring radios but that's something to remember for next year.

Spectrum's Next Step
This week we are going to get through as much of the robot construction as we can. The goal will be to have the chassis and drive train constructed and to have a working collector. We need to keep working on the shooter prototype until we can do this.

- Allen Gregory

"Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment" - Fred Brooks

Build Day 8: Prototypes

We tested several of our prototypes today. We're moving forward with the design and the tests all look to be going well. See our progress below.

Ball Elevator Prototype

The first system we tested this morning was the elevator. We made a prototype out of a hand drill, PVC, wood and 3/8" thread all. It made a for a really good example of how the elevator on the real robot will lift ball up to the shooting device. With this setup we should be able to test the proper amount of compression on the ball in the elevator.

Shooter Prototype

This is latest revision of our shooter prototype. It still needs a lot of work but we are getting closer to a real shooter. We need to increase the distance we can shoot and build the real version to be completely consistent.

Barrier Crossing

This is our most complete system. We designed wheel drops for our chassis from last year that allow it to climb over the barrier. It goes over relatively smoothly. This year's frame will be built using the same setup.

Rest of the Day
We made a lot of progress on the first day of Week 2.

  • We cut and painted this year's frame. 
  • We started manufacturing motor mounts. 
  • We began developing the camera system. 
  • Construction on the bridge device prototype also commenced this afternoon.
- Allen Gregory

“Usage is like oxygen for ideas. You can never fully anticipate how an audience is going to react to something you’ve created until it’s out there. That means every moment you’re working on something without it being in the public it’s actually dying, deprived of the oxygen of the real world.” - Matt Mullenweg

Friday, January 13, 2012

Build Day 7: End of Week 1

This is the mock up of our current design. A little explanation of the robot, the balls get spun up into the robot by the lowest black roller (the collector), than progress up into the elevator portion that will have belting wrapped around the two top rollers to lift the balls toward the shooter. The shooter and shooter hood haven't' been CADed because we are waiting on prototypes to finish so we know how our design ideas will work.

A huge amount of work still has to go in to this before it is ready to be built. But it's getting a lot closer. We're attempting to standardize as much of the robot as possible to allow for easy maintenance. 

We were able to the test 3 improvements to our prototype systems today all with promising results. We adjusted the shooter prototype to be spinning at just shy of 3,000rpm. That gave us a good amount of velocity but we need to work on the shooter hood prototype so we can get the correct launch angles. 

The ball collector had polycord bands and a second roller added to it, we we can test the elevator concept. We're hoping to be able to determine the ideal compression ratio for the ball before we start building the read robot.

The drive train had the wheel drops mounted and we tested going over the barrier but due to a failure in our chain puller we weren't able to finish. If anyone knows of a place to get a chain puller in Houston on a Saturday morning please let me know.

The controls team was able to get back data from our IR range finder that we will use in several places to automate our collector. We're looking to get all our sensor drivers finished by the middle of next week so we can start writing the actual control code.

The two systems we haven't begun to prototype yet are the bridge device and ball deflector. We have smart people thinking about both problems but if you have suggestions or ideas please let me know..

- Allen Gregory

"One of the greatest discoveries a person makes, one of their great surprises, is to find they can do what they were afraid they couldn't do." - Henry Ford

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Build Day 6

We're getting closer to a final design. We have prototypes of most of the subsystems underway. The collector prototype was able to run today powered by a drill. We were able to easily suck up balls and roll them up a plank. The shooter prototype is waiting on parts to make for a much faster shooter wheel. The bridge device is still in the designing phase but there has been a good amount of progress on that front.

Here is the current setup for our chassis and drive train, we should have the parts in this weekend to begin building the real version.

We're learning new things about the problems each day. For example we believe that if we shift most of our weight over the back two wheels of the robot we should be able to stay on the bridge even if are front wheels are hanging off the bridge. This will make it easier to balance and also possibly allow us to balance with 3 robots on the bridge if it comes to that.

The controls team is making a lot of progress for the FIRST week, it helps that we have a test chassis for us to test code. We've started getting feedback control working on the drive system so that we can electronically brake our wheels for shooting. We also have started thinking about automating the collector and the shooter intake mechanism.

We constructed a rim and backboard so we can start aiming with the camera as soon as it arrives this weekend.

We're approaching to the point where we will be waiting for deliveries before we can make more progress. I'm trying to avoid this by ordering quickly but it doesn't always work our that way.

The first week has been smooth, no major problems yet. I'm hopeful we can maintain that once we start building the real robot.

- Allen Gregory

“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Build Day 5

Design Review #1

Today was our first design review of the season. The goal of these meetings is to ensure that every member of the team knows the progress of the team and is a able to give design suggestions and improvements. The meeting went long but I think most people got a better understanding of the whole robot concept.

The drive train will be similar to the chassis from last year, but with the wheels dropped slightly to allow us to climb the barrier. It was decided that the drive train needs to slowed down to give us more torque for pushing and also increase the fine control of the chassis.

The shooter will be a pitching machine style shooter. It was determined that priority should be given to making shots form the key because that is where the autonomous shots will be and also it the protected area. One wish feature for the shooter is to be able to shoot from the opposite side of the barrier. We discussed various concepts such as rate of fire of the shooter and how you have to give most pitching style shooters time to regain the speed that's lost from shooting the ball. We are planning on designing a mechanism to change the angle of the shooter.

The collector and ball lift mechanism will allow us to raise the balls from the ground and load them into the shooting wheel. This is going to be one of the key features of the machine because if this jams we are unable to score at all. We are hoping to have a ground to shooter speed of under 2 seconds.

The bridge device will allow us to pull down the bridge so that we can climb on to it. We discussed the possibility of being able to lower the bridge from the raised position with another robot already on the bridge. We determined that this was a situation that wouldn't happen often enough for us to design for it. This device should also assist in preventing us from tipping over as we climb the barrier and bridges.

The controls team will be crucial in making our machine an efficient scorer. We are planning at least eight sensors on this robot, and there will probably be more.

The logistics teams are all working towards their goals of improving and spreading our team brand. Chairman's is working on the first draft of the essay. Our ambassadors team is stating to prepare us for our two regionals and will be reaching our to rookie teams to see how we can improve their season. Media is preparing ideas for various video releases and developing our website.

The design review took up most of the day, but we were still able to test the shooter prototype and complete the prototype pieces for dropping the drive train. The shooter definitely still needs more work, we knew we would be going slow but it was far to slow. We should be able to build a closer to real speed prototype of the shooter by the weekend.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Build Update Day 4

The 1st week is moving along. We're four days in and I think we are finally starting to really understand some of the problems that we will face with our sub-systems.

The collector group began working on prototyping a spinning tube collector for the ball. This simple prototype will let us learn about how the ball is going to compress in our collector and conveyor systems.

The shooter group was attempting to get our prototype running today but it didn't get finished in time. Tomorrow night we should have a working prototype.

The bridge problem is still a large problem. It's a lot harder than it looks to reach up and pull down a 26" bridge with a heavy robot on the other side while not extending past 14" from the frame. This may not even be possible, but it's worth looking into. If anyone has any ideas please share.

The chassis construction has began with the construction of the wheel drops. They will allow us to climb over the barrier. We know the bridges make it easy but if there are already robots using them we don't want to be locked on to one side of the field and going over the barrier will be far faster. We should probably look into vibration dampening for our electrical system, after the initial test of a curb climbing robot last night. We built the sample barrier today and it's a really large climb and fall for the robot.

The programming team is getting up to speed with the new command and subsystem structure. This should be make certain things really easy but there is still a learning curve we have to overcome. I think the beta test teams have a nice advantage because of this. We also have finished wiring most of the kit of parts electrical components with Anderson quick disconnects. This will make putting together the electrical system much easier in the coming weeks.

The logistics teams are hard at work.  We are starting our chairman's essay and ensuring that we represented on many of the FIRST related sites like FIRSTwiki.net. We are also gathering initial scouting information from the teams that will be attending our regionals. 

We're making a lot of progress but we quickly need to get the design ideas finalized so we can work on the detailed design of the robot. Tomorrow at 3:30 we will hold our 1st design review of the year. We'll go over each subsystem and discuss what has been accomplished, and where the design is headed. We'll also discuss different potential features and designs of the systems and their trade-offs.

- Allen

"The critical thing about the design process is to identify your scarcest resource. Despite what you may think, that very often is not money. For example, in a NASA moon shot, money is abundant but lightness is scarce; every ounce of weight requires tons of material below. On the design of a beach vacation home, the limitation may be your ocean-front footage. You have to make sure your whole team understands what scarce resource you’re optimizing." - Fred Brooks,

Monday, January 9, 2012

Build Update Day 3: First School Day

Turnout was a bit small today as well. But that's probably due to all the flooding in Houston. We still managed to salvage a pretty productive day.

The mechanical teams continued work on a basic shooter prototype. We should be shooting balls tomorrow.

Much of the discussion was focused on collecting balls. With the three ball possession limit this year a hopper isn't needed. However you still have to have a collector and feeder system that is effective and efficient. This means getting the balls off the carpet quickly and never jamming. Several ideas were created for how to optimally collect the balls and move them to our shooter assembly, we should be able to begin building a prototype tomorrow.

We were able to test last year's robot climbing a simulated barrier. The heights and widths weren't correct but it was to get an idea for the dynamics of a robot climbing a curb. It was a very violent operation. I think it sounded and looked worse than it actually was, but it is definitely going to be something to put a lot of thought into.

We also discussed the bridge. One of our biggest problems is going to be not having an actual bridge to test on, we may have to build one and store it somewhere else but it still won't be as convenient as having it in our lab.

The controls team was able to get last year's robot up and running, and has started looking into all the new features that were added to the code libraries this year.

We are off to a good start but we need to push to get as many working prototypes this week as possible. That will let us see what aspects we need to consider in our design before we build the real thing.

- Allen Gregory

“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

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Build Update Day 2

The high of kickoff has already worn down and we are starting to get into the gritty details of our design. Starting from the chassis and moving up. Seeing as this is the rookie season for nearly 3/4 of the team; we were hopping to just be able to build the 1114 Kitbot on Steroids(http://goo.gl/pWEkH) and be done with a drive train in week 1. The FIRST Game Design Committee wasn't so nice, they gave us a barrier that we have to get over. We spent a portion of the today doing some CAD work to figure out the geometry of a 6 wheel drive robot climbing the barrier. We were hoping to run some simple tests with last year's chassis but the new classmate (Driver Station laptop) image that is supposed to just work, did everything but. We have been working on it for the past 7+ hours and we still aren't quite finished. We should be able to reimage the cRIO first thing tomorrow and have the old robot running again.

We had a much smaller turnout then I excepted for the day after kickoff, but we were still able to accomplish several of the important tasks.

The beginnings of a prototype shooter assembly are coming together, so that we can test how the ball flies and what we will need to do to actually get it in the goal.  

We also did a bit of math to determine ideal wheel speeds for different distance shots. This is something that we will have to develop further while designing the shooter assembly.

Logistics continued to work on reaching out to other teams and also developing the initial ideas for our chairman's award essay.

We did the initial wiring of several of the electrical components that we have standard wire guides for. For instances all of our Jaguars have 4 inch Anderson Powerpole leads on each side of them. This allows us to easily swap them in and out if we ever have a failure.

We also were able to watch the field walk through that was provided by FIRST this year. This is a great addition to the manual because it allows you to actually see people interacting with the field elements. I think this provides a much better understanding of the field than the old way of having people pretending to be robots playing the game.

Tomorrow is the first after school meeting, we'll see how much we can get done on a normal day. Hopefully we can push forward a bit to make up for lost time. (We're only one day in but I still fill a little behind)

- Allen Gregory

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

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Kickoff 2012

The 21st FIRST game, "Rebound Rumble", was released today. It's another bit of amalgamation from FIRST combining 2001's bridge balancing (Cooperative balancing) with the 2006 game, Aim High.

I was excited to see bridge balancing; our controls team has been working on projects that fit directly in line with that concept.

We spent most of the day reading and discussing the rules. Every student seemed to have a good grasp of the rules and a good idea of how robots could play it.

Towards the end of the afternoon we had a few students break  off and do the kit of parts inventory, while other started brainstorming their ideal robot. During the first day or two is the time to generate any idea that you  possibly can nothing is too outlandish. We had jumping robots suggested as well as an air-air defensive robot, I doubt either of them will be built but the ideas are good and they generate more ideas.. 

We did do some detailed discussion about robot features but nothing was set in stone. We talked about how teams will score and how many points we they will score. We also covered defensive strategics, along with a few other non-scoring non-defensive strategies. Just like in actual basketball there may be other stat categories to keep track of besides points scored, to make a full alliance.

Tomorrow we start deciding on the specific game strategies we will pursue, to get us the best results. We will also decided what parts we need to prototype right away and begin designing the prototypes. We will break down into our different sub groups and discuses schedules for when items need to be accomplished.

Overall, I am very pleased with this game which is rare. I normally have to think about for a bit to really start to like a game but this one just seems to make sense. I am not so happy about the fouls but other than that I think it's going to be fun to build, play and watch.

- Allen Gregory

"Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm" -- R.W. Emerson