Monday, January 15, 2018

FIRST Robotics 2018 - Report Two

As in our previous two seasons, we lost a bit of time due to weather.  The policy is that if school is cancelled or early released due to weather, then no robotics session that evening.  Of course other area teams have the same challenge.  I'd get up on my soap box and claim that this gives a slight edge to teams from southern climes but of course down there they would cancel not just school but all functions of society if they get a dusting of snow that we just wipe off the windshield with our mittens and carry on.

The team changes every year.  We are up about 20% in numbers and also seem to have a higher percentage of hard workers.  In a stage of the campaign where software has a smaller list of things to do it has been interesting to see the kids from that group wander up stairs to work with the builders.  It's good to get grease on their hands, hope they clean up before getting back to their keyboards.

A summary of current work.

1. Drive bases.  

Anticipating a somewhat top heavy design with a big heavy mast in the center we decided to build this on the sturdy side.  Our initial design has a cut out in the front for "cube" intake.  Our electronics team has gone through and made sure that each and every motor and speed controller in inventory has the proper connectors.

2. Intake device.

Most teams are going with claw grabbers.  That seemed a bit boring.  We are going to use spinning wheels made out of dense foam to grab and hold the box.  Our initial trials were difficult....wheels big enough to grab securely did not fit inside the robot frame at the beginning of the match, and the rules do require this.  Solution? Turn the grab mechanism 90 degrees upward.  At the beginning of the match fire a solenoid to drop it forward.  Or heck, just go forward a ways and tap the brakes!

Here's version 3.0 in the "down" position.  Little foam grabby wheels to pull the box in and hug it tight. It works reasonably well but there is a lot of tinkering needed before we finalize the design.  For instance....lets try some bigger grabby wheels.

As an aside the first foam we used was actually some stuff left over from my middle school class.  It was odd stuff, very tough and spongy.  I don't really know what it is, when you buy stuff at the surplus store it is usually unmarked.  But one of our other coaches knows a "foam guy".  Everyone should know a foam guy I suppose.

3. Lift
Way beyond my skill level.  But we have a sponsor with lots of useful parts, and some guide rails that are surplus from a CNC machine have been carefully polished up and will be a three stage lift device.  I am assured that this will work.....

Here at least we are going beyond our manic "junkbot" tendencies and CAD designing before the sparks fly.   

4. And everything else.  
We don't really have quite enough funding to pull off a two tournament, two robot program this year.  So our PR team continues to reach out to sponsors old, new and potential.  Also to just invite interested parties to stop in and watch high school students actually work hard in an entirely optional setting.  

Stay tuned, next week's update should have many more moving parts.

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