2024 Build Season Days 73-80 (3/18-3/26)

Monday 3/18

Practice & Pizza

Usually, Mondays are one of our busiest days in the open room. Instead, with most people being away for spring break, today was quite sluggish. Work on our robot continued as usual, just with fewer people. A lot of the work didn’t require an abundance of hands to complete, and most of it was driver’s practice. We set up the Crescendo field in our school commons area and drove the robot around, allowing our drive team to practice for the upcoming competition in two weeks.

We also continued to code our autonomous, which occurs at the beginning of the game and is a fifteen-second period where the robot runs solely off of prewritten instructions, and does things such as score notes to earn points. A lot of it was mostly programming and working on our odometry – odometry is how we figure out where exactly our robot is in reference to where it started. We did this by letting our robot run for about two seconds, frantically typing on a computer to tweak the code, and then letting it run again. But in the end, one of our mentors brought us pizza. That was the best part.

Tuesday 3/19

A visit from Green Machine (1816)!

Edina Robotics (@FIRSTteam1816) / X
Team 1816 Green Machine

Today’s open room started rather violently. Previously when running autos (an “auto” referring to a set of instructions for the robot to follow during the 15-second Autonomous period), we found an interesting issue: game pieces would get stuck when coming out of the intake, hitting some of the material supporting the black wheels that form the holding system. 

The natural response was, of course, to take an angle grinder to the offending bits of plastic and metal. 

This mostly worked – running the intake and indexing wheels at full power does get the game piece through within a couple of seconds. As a result, we are very thankful that we won’t need any major design changes. 

Before handing the robot off to the programming team, the mechanical team finally finished a long-standing project: making a decent way to carry the robot. The solution is rather simple, consisting of an eyebolt on each corner of the robot and some detachable straps to hold on to. 

After this, the programming team made progress on the robot’s vision system. This uses cameras mounted on the top and back of the robot (facing forwards and backward respectively) to look for apriltags: QR-code-like images placed around the field. 

A picture of an Apriltag
An Apriltag found on the 2024 field

The apriltags system is well established within the robotics industry, with several academic papers and ready-to-go detection systems already out there. However, actually implementing any of these solutions on our robot is easier said than done, and we were unable to get the system fully working by the end of the night.

But even though we were unable to get the system up and running, we did have something exciting in store for us- Green machine came to visit. Green Machine, Team 1816, is a FIRST Robotics team in the Southwest Hub (the system of robotics teams in our area) that happens to know us personally. Due to our access to a field for this year’s CRESCENDO game, they came to our school to practice with us and discuss possible strategies, as well as work on autonomous code with our drive team. It was a lot of fun to hang out with them, and we would love to see you again.

Wednesday 3/20

A visit from Chicken Bot Pie (3082)!

FRC 3082 Chicken Bot Pie | 2024 Build Thread - Open Alliance - Open  Alliance - Chief Delphi

To start the day, mechanical had a few projects to work on. The first was replacing some broken motor controller mounts on the front of the robot; the new versions are much stronger and have transparent plastic on the top (you can see the indicator lights now!).

A picture of a newly built motor controller mounts
We may have forgotten to take a picture, so this will have to do!

The second project was installing some new “vector wedges.” These assemblies go on the sides of the intake and serve multiple different purposes (such as protecting the motors from getting squished by intake and getting game pieces closer to the center of the intake).

The new version of the wedges uses roller bearings as contacts (rather than a solid plastic surface), reducing friction and allowing the game pieces to get to the center more easily. Additionally, they are smaller, mitigating a couple of issues with the handoff. 

While the team working on mechanical parts was working, so was the team working on more internal parts of the robot- Programming! Today’s goal was to tune the control system for the drivetrain – the code that takes where we want to go during the autonomous period and figures out what power should be passed to the drive motors to make that happen. After many hours of work and lots of messing around with magic numbers, we were more or less where we started.

It has been a rough couple of days programming-wise, but some fun things came out of that evening! Team 3082 Chicken Bot Pie visited us. We are quite fortunate to have a wonderful programming team and access to a fully built Crescendo game field, and we are happy to share both with other teams in our area.

Chicken Bot Pie is one of our neighboring teams, and they came to our school to do just that- practice on our field and collaborate with our programming team. We shared a lot of good ideas, and we are so happy they came to visit us. Thank you team 3082 for all your hard work, and feel free to come back any time! 🙂

Thursday 3/21

All about autos

Today’s problem to tackle was a wobbly shooter.

While it hasn’t actually broken anything, this has been causing some distress ever since the issue cropped up at Missouri. The root cause is the rivets that hold the shooter structure to the frame coming loose, presumably due to vibrations in the trailer on the way down south. 

Our solution was to replace a few of the rivets with bolts, which are much stronger and more resistant to vibration, but significantly heavier. After roughly an hour of doing this and performing maintenance, it was time to head down to the commons to work on autos. After dialing in some magic coding numbers we were able to get our four-piece auto working consistently!

After that, we started working on a center auto. Building this auto can be specifically complex. First off, these notes are shared between both alliances – so we have to get there quickly, lest the note not be there when we try to pick it up. Additionally, the sheer distance traveled makes the small errors we have in our robot measuring how far it’s moved compound quickly, leading to problems with getting where we want to go. 

After some testing and nearly running into a field element at full speed, we decided to sleep on the problem and get some driver’s practice. For today, that meant cycling practice – running the robot across the field and picking up and scoring notes as if we were in a real match (albeit one without other robots on the field). This helps our drivers tease out imperfections and maximizes our scoring during matches, in addition to stress-testing the robot and hopefully letting us fix any problems before they crop up at competitions. 

Overall, today was productive and filled with work. But we worked hard and are looking forward to Friday!

Friday & Saturday 3/22-3/23

Tarpbot – the Team 2502 Poolbot remix

Robotics is about many things- building robots, making games, and the engineering process. One of those things happens to be being observant, and the ability to see take what you’re given, and adapt with it- which is exactly what 7662 3 Ring Circuits had to do in the Missouri Regional Tournament. When the team broke one of their arms, they had to think fast and adapt to the situation with their current resources. That’s when they went out and bought a kiddie pool, attached it to their robot, and played defense for the rest of the match. Their admirable quick-thinking ended up faring very well for them in the competition- they made it to the finals.

Though their robot was a great way to innovate in the face of problems, we quickly realized that defense robots like that might end up hurting us a lot during games, especially since our robot is very offense-driven. That is why we decided to create our version of the robot using the materials we had access to- a robot base and tarp. That brought into existence tarpbot- Talon’s very own version of poolbot.

We created this robot so we could practice competing against robots that might be strictly defensive in the game, and a lot of open room today was focused on working on this mini-second robot. After building this remix of a different robot, we went back to trying to work on our own.

Another focus of open room on both Friday and Saturday was attaining new shooter wheels. Though our current shooter wheels were good, we found cooler ones. They were are lot faster and more efficient, as well as a fiery bright orange. That allowed our robot to, overall, just function a little better. The cherry on top of the day was driver’s practice.

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