Final Weekly Update
We started off the season on January 3rd with a kick-off broadcast at Woodside High. It revealed that the challenge of the competition was themed on recycling; robots were instructed to make stacks of tote boxes with recycling cans on top and, sometimes, pool noodles (“litter”) stuck in the cans’ lids.
We spent the next couple of weeks prototyping multiple lifting and stacking designs, making weight and rate charts, and beginning to design our chassis and drivetrain. We settled on a mecanum wheel drivetrain, which allows us to move in any direction without turning. After lots of prototyping and brainstorming, we eventually decided to use a winch mechanism, which lifted our grabbing device up and down. The grabber used a pulley system to grab totes and cans with high force. Meanwhile, the programming team decided which sensors to use and how to use them, including an innovative laser rangefinder which will allow us to automatically align with totes.
In the weeks that followed, we began to implement our ideas. We received a state-of-the-art CNC mill. While we experienced some setbacks getting it up and running, in the end it was invaluable while constructing the robot. Its first cuts were cutting parts for our chassis, which, due to diligent work, came together quite rapidly. We then built and mounted the vertical winch and rails, and began to assemble our grabber and compact electronics board. Constrained by size limits, we made the grabber fold back into the chassis for storage.
Our first tests of the robot were quite successful. When we first drove the chassis, we were astonished by its speed and versatility, but then one of the gearboxes malfunctioned. We had to rebuild part of our drivetrain many times to make it work reliably. The first time we tested the grabber, it worked effectively, able to grip the totes we tested it with. However, they tilted at an unfortunate angle, due to inadequate bracing. And the first time we turned on the motor for the winch, nothing happened. We discovered that it was an issue with the torque our motor could provide, so we added a gearbox, which seemed to fix our problems.
This season is only our second year, and, despite some engineering challenges, we continue to learn a lot each week we are involved with FRC! This year, we got a chance to apply and build on the knowledge we acquired in our first season, allowing us to improve our engineering skills. We built our robot entirely from scratch for the first time, which we are very excited about. We are ecstatic to be participating at two regional competitions this year, where you’ll be able to see our robot in action!
Sacramento Regional: UC Davis ARC Pavilion, March 20-21, 8:30am-4:30pm
SIlicon Valley Regional: San Jose State University Event Center, April 3-4, 8:30am-4:30pm