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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

State Fair Competition

Come see the Fighting Calculators at the Minnesota State Fair! We will be competing on Thursday, August 24 and Wednesday, August 31 in the Education Building at 10am, noon, and 2pm.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ship Day Video

Here's a video showing off our robot right before we packed it up on ship day! This is basically how the robot will perform at the North Star regional!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

2011 Unveiling Video

Here's some (dramatized) footage of our robot, The Scorpion, in action at the Simley practice event on the Saturday before ship. More to come!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Our 2011 Robot

Say hello to our 2011 Robot! The last week has been really busy (hence the lack of blog posts), and we've getting a lot done. The drive and tube scoring systems are pretty near finished, we're just waiting on the cylinders to power the gripper. There's a video of us testing the elevator and doing some driving posted at Vimeo and Youtube. Enjoy!

The minibot is not so far along, and that is now the priority for the next few days. We'd like to at least have a deployment mechanism to practice with at the pre-ship event on Saturday. And of course there are plenty of other finishing touches! And we need a name for this thing real bad!

See you Minnesotans on Saturday!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Food & Fundraising!

Come support the team on March 22 & 28! Team 3130 - the ERRORS are holding two fundraisers to support both their team and the Fighting Calculators.

Fundraiser 1:
 - Location: Deleo Bros Pizza in Woodbury, MN
 - Time: 5:00 to 7:00 PM on March 22
 - RSVP: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=102661003146198.

Fundraiser 2:
 - Location: American Burger Emporium in Woodbury, MN
 - Time: 5:30 to 7:30 PM on March 28
 - RSVP: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=199760483369146.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Build Season Update 2-3-11

We drove!!! After all the work we've put into our 'bot so far, it was very satisfying today to see it perform as expected. The strafe module works very well. It proved wise of us to design it to be adjustable, because we had to adjust it immediately after mounting it to get contact with the floor. Right now it is powered with 2 CIMs, which we will swap out with RS775s in CIMulators when they arrive in a about a week. Here's a video:

This is not even close to half the work. We still have an elevator to finish, a gripper to complete, and a minibot with deployment method to fully design. We'd also like to get some drive practice in if at all possible, since this drivetrain is particularly unwieldy in unfamiliar hands. If all goes well, we will be all set for the preship event on the 19th! But that's a big if....

18 days!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Build Season Update 2-2-11

Got lots done in the shop today.

We finished the chain tensioners and they seem to work nicely. They are a little different from previous years' implementations, but are definitely an improvement (if they work).

The electronics had a little more wiring done, although we're still waiting on motor, elevator, and other component placement to finish that up. Tomorrow, 3130 will have an RJ11 crimp kit, so we can get the CAN wired.

And the exciting part! Our second Andymark order arrived!!! This comprised all of the strafe drive system components except the Banebots motors and CIMulators. Since these will take at least another week to arrive, we'll be using some of our abundant CIMs for now. We hope to have everything driving tomorrow!!!

And there's nothing more fun than accidentally letting a 4" dualie omni wheel completely fall apart and then putting it back together...

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Death of the Octagon

This post is long overdue, and concerns a fundamental aspect of our 2011 design. You probably saw the post with the octagonal frame, and may have fallen a bit in love with it as we did. However, we are sad to say that it has been abandoned in favor of a larger, rectangular frame. The rationale was that while the octagon provided some higher maneuverability and style points, it limited space for components and threatened instability due to a high CG and a small wheel base. The rectangular base allows us to put the wheels in the corners (adding a fifth one sideways in the center in a layout known as "Slide Drive") and keep control components much lower. Despite our (somewhat irrational) attachment to the octagon, we are happy with this decision. Here is the new design:
The decision was made a week or so ago, and this is the frame we have welded up with drive train nearly ready. We hope to have a video soon!

We've kept our basic strategy of maneuverability and quick tube scoring in front. This design is still just as maneuverable, but the CG is lower, the robot is more stable, and we have a lot more real estate (especially for the minibot :O ). Kind of a no-brainer.

Build Season Update 1-31-11

Things are moving right along! We got the chain to length and the wheels and everything mounted, so we hope to have a video of us driving tomorrow! Unfortunately, the motors and transmissions for our strafe wheel haven't arrived, so it'll only be tank, but we always like the occasional sanity check on our reductions.

We have hopefully hit a gold mine for belting for our elevator. A local source may be able to donate up to 100 feet (!!!) plus pulleys for our and 3130's elevator systems. Now its just a matter of getting the transmissions and throwing it all together - and of course, it working...

A manually powered pneumatic gripper was thrown together that works quite well. It can grab from a variety of angles and onto a variety of tube thickness, always applying the same force because of the pneumatics. See a video (Youtube, Vimeo). The other contender for the title of "end manipulator" is a roller claw of sorts, which we threw together in this video (Youtube, Vimeo).

And we think our bumpers this year are going to be particularly special... more to come...

Looking forward to a driving day!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Build Season Update 1/27/11

Drive train:
We cut aluminum box tube and made it into a rectangular frame and Paul welded it. We still need to weld elevator elements onto the frame. Once plans for the middle wheel and the elevator are finalized, we will attach the wheels, CIMple boxes, chains and electronics board to the frame.

Plan A: We started creating our version of Team 25's 2007 elevator design. The plan for the competition version is to rivet it together with gusset plates and then weld the joints.
Plan B: We printed a sprocket using the 3D printer and tested it using a CIM, the energy chain, and the ladder. The energy chain fits incredibly well on the sprocket. We were able to extend the ladder and there is a video (Youtube, Vimeo).

Some prototyping is in progress for various pneumatic clamp and roller bar designs.

Our trusty programming team of Carl and Benjamin looked at the default code for following lines, attached all three light sensors to a board and wired them, and verified that the code was working. Now we just need to get the sensors on the robot to test for real.

More to come!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Build Season Day 14 - Friday 1-21

Today we got some aluminum stock for our first round of frame pieces. Here they are cut to size:

As soon as we get more of the frame finalized, we will weld it all together and start attaching stuff, maybe as soon as Sunday. Some of you might think it silly, but we take a certain amount of pride in our new-found ability to mass produce to spec, and according to a plan (oh my!). Not the typical Fighting Calculator fashion....

A little more work was done on the minibot, particularly in the deployment method, since this has more immediate effects on the robot design. A few more grippers will be prototyped in the next few days to figure out what we want to put on the elevator. Conveniently, the elevator is pretty flexible as to what it will accept as an end manipulator, so we have some freedom there.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Build Season Day 11 - Tuesday 1-18

As of tonight, Jan 18th, all our brainstorming and prototyping has led us to this current state of robot affairs:

1. Drive train - Holonomic is good. We like it. We're going with it. The protobot we built is fun to drive! Here's a drive train summary:
a. Four 4" "dualie" Omniwheels (ordered last week).
b. One pair of wheels (Forward-Reverse) driven by dual-CIM motors through the new CIMple Box transmissions, using stock KOP sprockets
c. The other pair of wheels (Strafing) driven by single BaneBots 775 motors through yet-to-be-determined transmissions and sprockets (note: the BaneBots site still does not have ordering info available for their CIMulator gearboxes, which was one idea...)

2. Lift mechanism - general consensus resulting from our CADing & prototyping is that we now believe we can build a vertical elevator quickly & easily that will work very well. We have two competing designs being prototyped as we speak. At this point it would take an epic failure of both designs to bring back a fixed-shoulder, long-arm design into consideration.

Our current robot design:

3. Frame Design - Octagon shape, ~26.5" across. Dual-layered to provide real estate for mounting things. We have tentatively set up a Design Review meeting with sponsor Loftech on Friday afternoon. Still waiting for confirmation on the time. Loftech has offered to weld our frame again this year (yay!) and we're hoping they will even supply the raw materials (aluminum) as well (they will give us an answer on this after they see our design at the meeting).

4. Gripper Plans - we will begin prototyping (possibly starting tomorrow) at least two designs - one mechanical claw with thin flat-plate bottom, and one with an active roller mechanism that will suck in the tubes, and spit 'em out on the pegs.

5. Minibot - prototype 1A nearing completion - based on Kara's dad's initial concept of two-wheels contacting the pole, with off-axis minibot mass providing traction force. Also, Doug purchased a regulation-sized 10-foot, 1.75" steel pipe, and installed it in the shop for testing minibots.

So, the current immediate action items are:

1. Continue the prototyping of both elevators.
2. Finalize gearing on strafing wheels, and order needed parts.
3. Complete the remaining frame details in CAD.
4. Hold Design Review of frame model with Loftech, and release design to them for construction.
5. Start building prototype gripper assemblies.
6. Continue work on minibot prototype design, construction, and

Back to work!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Build Season Day 8

We started out by talking about different arm/elevator/lifter methods and have come up with 2 or 3 favorites that we are CADing. We made a spreadsheet of our ideas along with a rough ranking system.

Then we had a fundraising meeting. We still need money if we want to go to the Championship and lots of people now have volunteered to ask various companies for money. We are lucky to have the first $2000 we raise matched.

We decided to drive the prototype around again to show it off and get some more practice with it. In the process, the camera power cord (which had been disconnected from the '10 robot's camera, but not from the electronics board (i.e. it was floating around loosely)) ended up on the power source from the power distribution board. The cable got very warm and melted some of its plastic and is no longer usable. Everything else is fine. Then we decided that we should finalize our chassis frame so we could send it to Loftech to weld. This led to a discussion of how to support the arm which led to another discussion of arm designs. So we will try to have the different versions of the arms CADed ASAP. A small group of "design representatives" so to speak are planning a trip to Loftech to discuss our design with them.

Things to do:
Drive/chassis system:
Work out any remaining bugs in the code.

Arm system:
More CADing!
Current primary design ideas include:
2 stage elevator (probably pneumatics) and a (shorter-ish) rotating
a multi stage elevator similar to Team 25's from 2007 and a
fixed gripper

Gripper system:
More CADing! Or maybe some prototyping....
Current design ideas include:
powered wheels on the top and rollers on the bottom
powered wheels on the top and the bottom
a pneumatic grabber of some sort
the "Pez dispenser" design

Build Season Day 7

We took the prototype out for a spin and one of the CIMple boxes was being sketchy (as we had noticed on Thursday). Then we noticed that the key was no longer in the gear box..... After finding and inserting it, the prototype ran very nicely. You can find a video at http://qik.com/video/29163485. After seeing how maneuverable the prototype was, the general consensus was to go with the holonomic drive train.

We then built a to-scale scoring peg to model gripper methods so we could see how well they placed the rings and to get a general of the dynamics of scoring the rings. It can be clamped at different heights along the stair way to model any of the heights if we want. We concluded that its best to score vertically, but still possible in just about any other orientation.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Build Season Day 6

Today we continued work on the prototype robot including the mounting of the tough boxes and the electronics board. We (aka Aren) downloaded coded and at the end of the meeting we were able to drive the bot around (strafing, driving, and pinning). However, one set of motors seemed to be having some issues, but we ran out of time to positively determine what said issues were. We will all try driving it tomorrow/this weekend.

Action Items:

Drive/chassis system:
Figure out what's wrong with that one set of motors.
Figure out why the signal light wasn't doing anything.
Watch where the center of gravity is. (i.e. check that the battery is centered)
Work out any remaining bugs in the code.
Complete our analysis of drive train options and continue moving towards a completed frame design that we can send off to be welded together.

Arm system:
More CADing!
Current design ideas include:
elevator and a (shorter-ish) arm
double jointed arm (more like an arm and an articulated wrist)

Gripper system:
More CADing! And probably some prototyping....
Current design ideas include:
powered wheels on the top and rollers on the bottom
powered wheels on the top and the bottom
a pneumatic grabber of some sort

You may be wondering... The Minibot is kind of on the back burner for now. While it is a lot of points, we don't have a whole lot of people to split off and focus on that right now. Because of this, we are considering pulling in MSA students from FLL to work on this, as a way to get them involved, get this task done, and keep the team alive. We also plan to commit our own efforts to this a little later when some of these more important details (we think) are figured out. And it is part of the Withholding Allowance, so if worst comes to worst we'll do it after Ship.


Silly us. We jumped right into gruesome shop details without any introduction. On Saturday January 8th, FIRST revealed the 2011 FRC game to us at the Kickoff. It is called LogoMotion and involved placing inflated tubes on racks to form the FIRST logo and deploying tower-climbing minibots at the end of the match. Here's the 2011 Game Animation:

The FIRST website has lots more information.

Now we scramble for 6 weeks to design, build, program, and otherwise conjure a robot to compete in the game!

Build Season Day 5

Today we continued working on the prototype robot. We took one CIM out of the tough boxes and reassembled them with one CIM. We also assembled the CIMple boxes. The CIMple boxes were mounted to the chassis and the chain is in place. (Side note: The motors are facing outwards instead of inwards like normal people mount them. When we build it for real we will have 2 layers (i.e. top and bottom) but we don't want to make 2 layers for this prototype.) (We still need to mount the tough boxes.) We removed the electronics board from last year's robot and it conveniently fits right between the wheels. We need to add a jaguar to the board. It will go in the place that the 2 victors (which we removed) were sitting.

Next items of action:
Finish the prototype:
attach the tough boxes
attach the electronics board
find someplace to mount the battery

CAD/create arm designs

CAD/create minibot designs

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Build Season Day 4

The team shared our design ideas with the East Ridge team at the beginning of the meeting yesterday. We are in the process of building a working drive prototype, and are working out the details for reductions, motors, etc. We also learned that the robot needs to fit inside a 84 inch cylinder instead of a 60 inch cylinder. This means that we have a few more options for the lifting mechanism and this will probably be discussed today.

Our plan for the first few weeks is to continue the brainstorming and fill out the details to the best few designs for each system (drive, arm, gripper, minibot) using CAD, calculations, and drawings. Then we hope to do what prototyping is necessary to fully assess which designs are best. By week 2 or 3, we will have a completed CAD model of our competition robot, send it off to our manufacturer for the initial frame welding and construction, and then get it back and put everything else together. The remaining 1-3 weeks would ideally be for testing everything exhaustively, getting the code working how we want, and getting lots of drive practice. This process is radically against the traditional Fighting Calculator method of just throwing together a robot for 6 weeks, and we hope it will yield a more polished product and give us more time to work out the bugs and get it competition ready.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Build Season Day 3

Today the team discussed the two remaining ideas for a drive-train and the tube manipulation device. We decided on a octagonal bot with 4 sets of omni-wheels. Two of the wheels will have slightly more power for driving forward. The gripper has yet to be finalized, but we have determined that using a vacuum on the gripper is not a good option. The arm will be a thin 4 foot long piece of metal that is powered from a single shoulder joint. This shoulder will be attached to some type of elevating mechanism on the robot to allow it to tuck into the robot at the beginning of the match and extend to pick up tubes off of the floor and reach the highest hanger which is over 9 feet from the ground. The robot will be able to hang the tubes on the 4 highest hangers by flipping the tube over the back, but the lowers one must be hung with the robot facing forward. Unless a better option is found, the camera will be mounted in a fixed spot looking down the arm.