Recapping “RI3D”

Recapping “RI3D”


Wow! 
Talk about a crazy week. I can still barely believe we have a completed robot. Thank you to everyone for all of your support, I can speak for everyone on the team when I say that this has been some of the most fun we have ever had in FIRST (and everyone on our team has been doing FRC for over 10 years). We hope you had as much fun as we did and loved the fun conversations in our live stream chat and the messages you have been sending all of us the past few days.

Why did you guys do this?”
We all grew up as students on various FRC teams around the state of Florida back in the 2000-2005 timeframe. Since then, we’ve gone on to college, helped start and support teams in various robotics competitions as well as running competitions in a variety of volunteer roles. One of the main things we saw time and time again at competitions was that teams often weren’t as fortunate as we were in high school to have as much engineering support. I know, for me at least, having someone walk alongside me in their free time after a full day of work just to teach me the basics of how to use tools or think of a prototype… that was what inspired me to stay on a technical path. Here we all are, 10 years later, and we thought “How can we try to do something like our engineers did for us, but for students we have no way of realistically connecting with because of distance/time/etc”… and so “Robot in 3 Days” was born.

“Why 3 days?”
When considering the goal of showing a design process, it seemed as though anything shorter would have been a dash just to build something. We wanted to have enough room to be able to properly prototype and have some time to document the process in video. We also didn’t do a longer period of time because of work schedules and the fact that our main goal was to help give teams something to build on. By having something completed around the time most teams shift from strategy planning to design planning and prototyping this could be used as a tool to build on top of.

“How did you do it?”
Check out our YouTube page, it’s got a lot of great videos documenting how we went through designing and building this.

Final Design

Drive Train

Indexer

Shooter

Climbing Mechanism

Electronics

“How did you decide your strategy? Isn’t picking up frisbees off the floor important? What about climbing the entire structure?”

Maybe.

One of the most important lessons we have all learned over the years in FRC is that trying to create a robot to do every single thing in the game is nearly impossible. Most teams that have a “failed” year often do so because they put their focus into trying to master everything and in the end struggle to complete any. In our case, we quickly looked at the game, our resources, and our tight time frame and said “What is realistic?”

I believe Dave Lavery or Woodie Flowers said it a few years ago that engineering is a matter of being asked to do too much with too little time, money, and resources. Possibly the main thing that makes a person an engineer is being able to determine what can be done (through a combination of past experience, researching other designs, and determining what level of R&D can be done in the challenges’ constraints). In eliminations, you work with an alliance, not every robot does each task in the 2-minute timeframe. Teams take on roles based on their complimenting characteristics. This year, an alliance may have 1 bot that is good at defense climbs to the top while the other 2 quickly do the low bar but are reliable, quick shooters. Think of what your role in an alliance would be… and be among the best at that. If that’s your focus, you will almost certainly go on to eliminations.

In our case, when we strategized we felt that picking up off the floor would take more time than developing a fast, reliable shooter would be since so many frisbees are in human player control. We also felt the amount of time it would take to develop a climbing bot to go to the top (and also would go quickly enough to make the effort worth it) was just not possible in a 3-day build.

“What advice can you give my team? We’re a rookie team/don’t have an engineer/work in a small room with few tools?”
Design around what you have and what you know. One of the mantras several world championship winners have is that the drivetrain and drivers are the most important thing in a robot. I’ve seen teams with one of the best robots not make eliminations at regionals because they focused on a tough to build mechanism that had them working up until their final qualification match to get complete. Because of that, they had no time to drive it. On the reverse side, I’ve seen teams with robots in the lower tier of the competition go on to win regionals because they realized their resources were limited and gave their drivers a finished robot in week 5 and they learned how to be the best at working with what they have.

Look at what your team’s strengths are and go for that.

We just have a chopsaw.”
Team 1902 in 2007 went to Einstein working in Dan’s garage literally working with PVC, a chopsaw, and a lot of brute force. But, we had a good team of software developers that we gave a near-complete robot to in Week 4 and they focused on an autonomous that was nearly perfect throughout competition and had several driver-assist functions. The team compensated with software support since machining resources were limited. Think about what your strengths are and leverage them, push yourself to do new things but also give yourself deadlines because it’s so easy to go “but, if I just had a few more days…” and focus on one thing that realistically can’t be completed when other tasks could be done. Dan made a great post about the importance of scheduling and using tools like a Gantt chart.

“Will you be doing this again?”
Patience, young grasshopper. But, let’s just say… we had one of the best times of our lives doing this. Stay tuned to our site, Twitter, and/or YouTube, we’ll be posting content throughout the build season and year! Thank you guys again for all your support and we can’t wait to see what you all bring to the competitions. This is “RAGE,” signing off… for now.