In the admittedly unusual world of FIRST robotics there are different sorts of teams. Some have been around a long time, have a hundred student members, a couple of dozen engineers as coaches and enough money to go to multiple tournaments in places where it involves air travel. We've run across teams from Hawaii, China, Norway....
There are also teams that are new, or have fallen on hard times, or just come from a poor community. A handful of students, a couple of adult coaches, a bare bones robot because they can't afford more.
This situation mirrors the real world in which there are Haves and Have Nots. In FIRST the vocabulary is a bit more genteel, the term being Low Resource Team. So, is that what we are?
Depends on how you view things. We have at the moment "sufficient" funds. We could almost stretch it to a two tournament campaign if we were ready in other ways. With 25 current students and a decidedly young demographic we expect to grow to around 30, which is an average team size. One thing holding us back is availability of coaches. Often parents of team members, they understandably step back in most cases when their kid graduates. We are at present running with roughly 8 who are there often enough for a degree of continuity. Most of them know their stuff better than I do.
At the half way mark of build season we started the long Saturday session with a drive base, an elevator that worked better after its third rebuild, a promising "trolley" with a pneumatic kicker...and a number of systems that upon attempted construction turned out to not quite fit. So....lets get things done. Please!
Well, we have some bumper numbers on! Fussy work done properly.
Here is the work board at the start of the Saturday session.
Taking things in order.
Electronics board came off pronto. It is always easier to dismantle than to build. We transferred the elevator to the competition frame. And it is a good thing we made this move early as there was an unexpected space conflict. This throws everything out the window. Our intake system was totally scrapped, again, and we are going with something even simpler.
Once we have the ball it goes here.
It rides up the elevator and is "spanked" out by a powerful little pneumatic cylinder.
So it goes at the half way mark of build season. Our weight is at 80 pounds, well short of the 125 maximum. Our complicated climber is "getting there". The unexpected need to shift the entire elevator system forward a half inch has radically changed the intake mechanism and front of the robot, but the ideas and materials are sufficient to do something that should work. We hope to have a full week in late February to actually practice driving the beast.
Musing on the things I opened with I'd say we actually are not a Low Resource team. We have Reserves we can draw on. Last week we had a soon to retire Engineering Director stop by to advise on elevator matters. He'll bring us some tools and parts next week and seems susceptible to possible recruitment in the future. We have a very supportive parent network. We've gotten better coordination with the school of late. My son who got me starting in robotics decades ago and therefore is responsible for all of this has pitched in.
We will at deadline have a robot that runs. Given the limitations we are working with - this is after all a rebuild season and we are settling in to our new home - it won't be a marvel of technology but I can honestly say it is what we can build with what we have.
This is a great bunch of students. Several have stepped up and provided the best team leadership we've ever had. Our various glitches and sideways moves are teaching the students a lot. I'm usually able to "see" a final robot, and with a bunch more work and, with much more suffering on my part, we will have one running a month from now. Seeing how the students turn out is not as easy. People are more complicated than robots. But I see some of them destined for great things and all of them benefitting in ways large and small.
As FIRST says, we are building more than robots. By that standard we are doing well.