Build Week 4 2017 is in the History Books

What a week. awards, robots, planning for districts, designing t-shirts, testing final designs, finishing cad, assembling the drive train and more all happened this week.  On top of that we picked up nearly 8 new team members which brings us up to 54 students, making this the largest team we have ever had.

Let go by sub team

Awards – the awards team is putting the finishing touches on all of our awards.  we have awards due on Feb 9th and Feb 16th.  We also have a chairman’s video and a tech journal du by our first competition.

Planning for districts – we have a the pit map nearly worked out and are almost finished planning food. we are going to need a lot of help at our event being held at Walt Whitman High School on March 10-12.

Designing t-shirts – we are nearly done with our t-shirt design for the year.  Last chance for sponsors to get on the t-shirt is Feb 12.

Testing final designs – the team spent the first part of the week nailing down the geometry for the major robot components.  We are going into his season with a much better understanding of how different designs interact with the game pieces.

Finished CAD – now that our final testing is done we were able to complete our CAD. We should have something to release in the next few days.

Driver practice – drive practice continues for the 3rd strait week.  But tis was by far the coldest driver practice yet.  Since we set up outside things can get a little chillie.  Driver practice this week could have gone better though, we were plagues by breakages of all 3 working drive trains.

Drive train – the drive train is fully assembled and functioning.  We even used it for driver practice this week.  We were able to identify a few problems with the design and spent some time on Saturday getting the issues fixed.

Pneumatics – As part of this year’s drive train we have had to re learn pneumatic since we have not used them in the last few years.  We found a few leaks and learned how the pneumatics system as a whole worked.  Our system is now leak free and functioning correctly with 4 actuators.  This week we add 4 more.

Electrical – we now have our electrical board designed and mocked up.  We are putting the finishing touches on the CAD and will be getting that cut this week.  This will be the first time we have had a CNC electrical board and accounted for all of the wire runs and tubing runs.

Fabrication – We are up an running on one CNC machine this week and will soon have a second CNC running to do larger pieces. By this time next year the team will be able to make nearly all of our own parts as custom as we can design them.  This is a big step forward for us and should result in lighter more efficient robots going forward.  Also, our bumpers are nearly done.

The Robot – We are only a few days behind our schedule, but tis year’s schedule is aggressive.  We want to be completely done with the primary and secondary goals by the end of week 5 so we can work on our tertiary goals during week 6 while the code and drive team work out all of the kinks.

Scouting – our lead scout has joined the drive team this year, but that has not stopped him from putting together the stats on who we will be seeing at our week 2 event.

Coding – the team has been working on the driver station UI, octocanum code, manipulator code, vision code and Ohm (our initial build).  We have instituted code reviews and organized code merges.  This is has been helping ensure our code team that is 8 members strong aren’t wasting each others time.

Safety – we had some serious safety issue this week so we had a complete stand down and made everyone go back through tool safety training.  This was the closest we have ever been to a serious injury and definitely help put safety into perspective.  We may have lost a few hours of build season, but the time spent making sure we have a safety culture is worth it.



Still Working on the Details

Last night the team was hard at work on some of the details of the final robot.  Roller intake for gear, roller intake for balls, octocannum sensor and software testing and climbing refinement.  We also did a quick review of the CAD that needs to be finished today so that we can order the remaining parts today.  Tomorrow the team will do a final design review and then start assembling the drive train. So that next week we can start driver practice and mechanical assembly.

It also looks like we picked our human players, now they can start practicing next week as well.

Have you called your sate officials about robotics yet?


The great drive train debate continues

After reading the rules and breaking down the game last weekend the team determined we both extreme speed and high maneuverability.  We looked at what the FRC 836 th robobees in 2016 were able to accomplish with a simple bot and tons of both. With that we have identified a few options for this year;

Over the last few days the team has been researching and testing to gain enough information to fill in a trade study and we are getting close to picking a winner.  Check out our current thoughts here.  We still have a few more days to gather as much knowledge as we can, making this one of the most talked about thinks on the team this week.

Here are some of our prototypes

We Love Rules!!!

Today we spent hours pouring over the rules of the 2017 FRC game SteamWorks released today.  It was a bit dry at time but we made it through.  However, we still have many more hours of reading and re-reading the rules ahead of us…WOOO HOOO!!!!

We also brain stormed all of the ways teams may play the game.  We broke it down by District, District Championship and Division Championship events. Now we have to test our assumptions and get ready for strategy / design lockin next weekend.

We are 15th in the district after our first event

The team earns district points at each of the first two districts we attend.  The top 60 teams in the district after week 5 will be invited to attend the district championship.  As long as we perform at the same level or better at our next event things look good for us to be invited to the district championships….No Pressure, No pressure at all.

You can find the official district rankings here.

At the first district we learned we can defeat the following defenses

  • Low bar
  • A defenses
    • Cheval De Frise
    • Portcullis
  • B defenses
    • Ramparts
  • D defenses
    • Rough Terrain
    • Rock Wall

We also learned that we can score 4 low goal cycles pretty consistently if we can see. We did as many as 6 in practice, but it is way easier to see.  In addition, we learned we can shoot high goals consistently from the batter in practice, but were unable to demonstrate that on the field. Lastly, we learned getting 10 points in autonomous was fairly easy for us.

Next we looked at the data from the first 3 district events to see what we should focus on that could have the biggest impact.

CHS District – Northern Virginia Event 2016


Defense Statistics

Defense # Damaged # Opportunities % Success
Low Bar 131 156 83.97%
A Cheval De Frise 42 86 48.84%
Portcullis 39 70 55.71%
B Ramparts 65 90 72.22%
Moat 47 66 71.21%
C Sally Port 22 97 22.68%
Drawbridge 11 59 18.64%
D Rough Terrain 54 60 90.00%
Rock Wall 65 96 67.71%
Total Breaches 72 156 46.15%

Tower Statistics

Item Count # Opportunities % Success
Challenges 210 468 44.87%
Scales 15 468 3.21%
Captures 0 156 0.00%

Match Statistics

Average Low Goals 1.31
Average High Goals 0.19
High Score 94 in Q57
Average Match Score 53.12
Average Winning Score 63.45
Average Win Margin 20.67
Average Auto Score 12.11
Average Teleop Crossing Score 27.79
Average Teleop Boulder Score 3.51
Average Teleop Tower Score 8.17
Average Foul Score 1.54


Defense Statistics

Defense # Damaged # Opportunities % Success
Low Bar 31 32 96.88%
A Cheval De Frise 23 24 95.83%
Portcullis 8 8 100.00%
B Ramparts 13 13 100.00%
Moat 18 19 94.74%
C Sally Port 11 27 40.74%
Drawbridge 1 5 20.00%
D Rough Terrain 6 6 100.00%
Rock Wall 26 26 100.00%
Total Breaches 30 32 93.75%

Tower Statistics

Item Count # Opportunities % Success
Challenges 64 96 66.67%
Scales 9 96 9.38%
Captures 3 32 9.38%

Match Statistics

Average Low Goals 3.69
Average High Goals 0.88
High Score 164 in SF1-2
Average Match Score 107.41
Average Winning Score 117.12
Average Win Margin 19.44
Average Auto Score 21.47
Average Teleop Crossing Score 34.22
Average Teleop Boulder Score 11.69
Average Teleop Tower Score 14.22
Average Foul Score 4.69


CHS District – Greater DC Event 2016


Defense Statistics

Defense # Damaged # Opportunities % Success
Low Bar 114 130 87.69%
A Cheval De Frise 33 87 37.93%
Portcullis 25 43 58.14%
B Ramparts 56 68 82.35%
Moat 39 62 62.90%
C Sally Port 27 76 35.53%
Drawbridge 8 54 14.81%
D Rough Terrain 21 22 95.45%
Rock Wall 78 108 72.22%
Total Breaches 65 130 50.00%

Tower Statistics

Item Count # Opportunities % Success
Challenges 181 390 46.41%
Scales 10 390 2.56%
Captures 1 130 0.77%

Match Statistics

Average Low Goals 1.11
Average High Goals 0.18
High Score 121 in Q20
Average Match Score 55.18
Average Winning Score 67.14
Average Win Margin 23.92
Average Auto Score 14.45
Average Teleop Crossing Score 27.04
Average Teleop Boulder Score 2.99
Average Teleop Tower Score 8.12
Average Foul Score 2.58


Defense Statistics

Defense # Damaged # Opportunities % Success
Low Bar 33 34 97.06%
A Cheval De Frise 20 27 74.07%
Portcullis 6 7 85.71%
B Ramparts 15 16 93.75%
Moat 17 18 94.44%
C Sally Port 12 21 57.14%
Drawbridge 4 13 30.77%
D Rough Terrain 8 8 100.00%
Rock Wall 25 26 96.15%
Total Breaches 30 34 88.24%

Tower Statistics

Item Count # Opportunities % Success
Challenges 75 102 73.53%
Scales 5 102 4.90%
Captures 2 34 5.88%

Match Statistics

Average Low Goals 4.26
Average High Goals 0.26
High Score 155 in F2
Average Match Score 100.59
Average Winning Score 113.59
Average Win Margin 26.00
Average Auto Score 26.32
Average Teleop Crossing Score 30.00
Average Teleop Boulder Score 9.56
Average Teleop Tower Score 13.24
Average Foul Score 2.35


CHS District – Southwest Virginia Event 2016


Defense Statistics

Defense # Damaged # Opportunities % Success
Low Bar 123 136 90.44%
A Cheval De Frise 50 93 53.76%
Portcullis 29 43 67.44%
B Ramparts 55 72 76.39%
Moat 52 64 81.25%
C Sally Port 27 92 29.35%
Drawbridge 10 44 22.73%
D Rough Terrain 33 36 91.67%
Rock Wall 87 100 87.00%
Total Breaches 87 136 63.97%

Tower Statistics

Item Count # Opportunities % Success
Challenges 224 408 54.90%
Scales 4 408 0.98%
Captures 1 136 0.74%

Match Statistics

Average Low Goals 1.28
Average High Goals 1.05
High Score 127 in Q38
Average Match Score 64.78
Average Winning Score 76.25
Average Win Margin 22.94
Average Auto Score 17.96
Average Teleop Crossing Score 28.31
Average Teleop Boulder Score 7.56
Average Teleop Tower Score 8.68
Average Foul Score 2.28


Defense Statistics

Defense # Damaged # Opportunities % Success
Low Bar 31 32 96.88%
A Cheval De Frise 21 21 100.00%
Portcullis 11 11 100.00%
B Ramparts 14 14 100.00%
Moat 18 18 100.00%
C Sally Port 9 29 31.03%
Drawbridge 1 3 33.33%
D Rough Terrain 1 1 100.00%
Rock Wall 30 31 96.77%
Total Breaches 31 32 96.88%

Tower Statistics

Item Count # Opportunities % Success
Challenges 71 96 73.96%
Scales 6 96 6.25%
Captures 3 32 9.38%

Match Statistics

Average Low Goals 2.84
Average High Goals 2.06
High Score 148 in QF1-1
Average Match Score 109.34
Average Winning Score 117.06
Average Win Margin 15.44
Average Auto Score 25.38
Average Teleop Crossing Score 30.78
Average Teleop Boulder Score 15.69
Average Teleop Tower Score 13.91
Average Foul Score 1.88


Our big take aways from all off of this data;

  • If you can increase your average qualification match score by 15 pts you will be guaranteed to win every match
    • We plan to add low goal scoring to our auton
    • We plan to try and hit2 high goal shots per match
  • If we can find a fast way to beat the Cheval De Frise and Sally Port defenses we will make breaching easier in most matches and leave us more time as an alliance to score boulders
    • We plan to add a light to the front of the robot to align with the Sally Port
    • We plan on using more cameras to help us align combined with more practice to get faster at completing the Cheval De Frise faster
  • Don’t ever pick the drawbridge as one of your defenses it hurts both alliances significantly
    • We plan to never pick the drawbridge
  • Capturing the tower in playoff is critical
    • We plan add a camera to help us align with the tower for both high goal and low goal shots
    • We plan to practice low and high goal cycles significantly in our open back time.
  • Scaling is worth the points
    • We plan to renew our efforts to add a climber to the robot by district championship
      • This may mean we remove the turret from the robot

A new arm is in the works

The first arm the team built this season took 3 weeks. For arm number two we have a week.  But we are smarter about a lot of things including compression rates, weight distribution, strength requirements and best way to intake.  We are also taking a page out of 118’s 2016 bot and switching to mecanum wheels on our intake. Here are all of the design we considered.



On Saturday we then went through all of the requirements for the new are am evaluated each option and selected the go forward arm.  Here are the detailed designs of the new arm.

Our awards team has also been hard at work and turned in the final award of the season.   This is a first for us and has definitely taught us a lot about how our team works and made us think about how we want our team to work ion the future.

We are planning a team 1389 field trip to see the FRC Stronghold event happening this Saturday 3/5, in Haymarket, VA. This will give us a chance to really understand the challenges of this year’s game and scout some of the teams that we’ll be playing in our upcoming tournaments.

And of course our event is coming up in less than two weeks.  Are you planning on stopping by Walt Whitman Highschool on March 12-13 to see robots play capture the flag?

Here is what the team has left to do;

  • Drive train – done
  • Bumpers – done
    • Red – done
    • Blue – done
  • Electrical board – done
  • Turret arm prototype – done
  • Turret arm – done
  • Turntable – done
  • Shooter – done
  • Vision – started
  • Main code – started
  • Strategy – done
  • Scouting system – done
  • Awards – started
    • Chairman’s – done
    • Wood Flowers – done
    • Entrepreneurship – done
    • Dean’s – done
    • Chairman’s video – started
    • Media award –  done
  • Competition documents started
    • Tech Journal started
    • Judges Packet started
    • 1 sheeter started
    • Safety Binder started
    • Pit Video started
    • Chairman’s presentation started
    • Bill of Materials – started
  • Pre-competition scouting – started
  • Inviting local leaders to events – done
  • Bellypan – done
  • Pre season scouting and risk survey – started
  • Reveal video started
  • Climber – not started
  • Defensive Cheescake – started
  • Wiring installation – done
  • Driver Selection done
  • Team Standard – started
  • T-shirt – started
  • Battery cart refurbish – not started
  • Refurbish battery leads started
  • Refurbish robot cart – not started
  • Paint Pit – not started
  • Alpha turret and arm – started



4 Defenses done

Another busy day in the lab last night.  We are done with 4 defenses and should be done with 6 of them by tomorrow.  The Sally Door, Drawbridge, Portcullis, tower and hanging device will be done Friday.  Our prototype team was hard at work last night starting to build a free wheel shooter that should be ready for test by Thursday.

The electrical and code teams have started prototyping code that will allow us to drive strait over bumps.  Should have more to report on once we have a big wheeled drive train available.



Here is the first of our build season videos where we asked everyone what they were working on.

Strategy Selection

Every game has rules, and in early January thousands of FRC teams around the world get see the rules for the new game and kick off their season. But before you dig in to the rules and get going your needs to do two very important things. Set goals and identify the team’s realistic capabilities.


Create Team Goals for the Season

Your team needs to know what is trying to accomplish as a team. Are you trying to inspire the most kids, teach kids how to try or win an event. All of these goals should be documented so that the team can use them to drive priorities during the strategy discussion. Here are some examples of competition goals that will have a big impact on your strategy.

  • Make it to elimination as a 2nd pick at districts
  • Make it to elimination as a 1st pick at districts
  • Make it to elimination as an alliance captain at districts
  • Make it to elimination as a 2nd pick at super regional
  • Make it to elimination as a 1st pick at super regional
  • Make it to elimination as an alliance captain at super regional
  • Make it to elimination as a 2nd pick in a CMP division
  • Make it to elimination as a 1st pick in a CMP division
  • Make it to elimination as an alliance captain in a CMP division
  • Win a district event
  • Win two district events
  • Win a super regional
  • Win a CMP division
  • Win CMP

Here are some examples of team goals that will have a big impact on your strategy:

  • Build 1 robot
  • Build 1.5 robots
  • Build 2 robots
  • Build 3+ robots
  • Robot needs to fit easily into a mini van


Identify your Strengths & Weaknesses

Every team has limitation has strengths and weaknesses that need to be well understood to make good decisions about strategy. We really recommend teams use the SWOT tool break down the team and its resources prior to kickoff every year so that the team can select a strategy that has a high chance of being realized. SWOT stands for Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats. You can learn how to use the SWOT tool here. Let’s walk through an example SWOT analysis so we can demonstrate how it impacts strategy selection.

  • Strengths
    • Have and know how to use drill press
    • Have and know how to use band saw
    • Have and know how to use a variety of hand tools
    • Know how to CAD and have 1 robot’s worth of experience
    • Have $6,000 to spend on a robot
    • Have 2 very good technical mentors
  • Weaknesses
    • Do not have access to CNC mill
    • Do not have access to lathe
    • Do not have access to supplier who can do sheet metal
    • Do not have access to supplier who can weld
    • Can locate drill and cut features within .2 by hand
    • Have not done CAD during a build season
    • Will only be able to get into workshop 2 times a week for 3 hours a piece
    • Have a student to mentor ratio of 20:1
    • Team has not used pneumatics on several years
  • Opportunities
    • Maximize use of versa frame
    • Pre-select and pre-order parts for drive train
    • Standerdize fasteners
    • Standerdize motor controllers
    • Use pneumatics to keep weight low
    • Be very organized and maximize limited lab time
    • We may get additional mentors
  • Threats
    • Versa frame is heavy
    • Versa frame is expensive
    • Snow days – last year the team had 6
    • School usage costs could go up
    • Several sub team’s have members with low attendance


Read the Rules

  • Understand how teams will be measured at competition
  • Understand how teams will advance
  • Understand limitations defined in the rules


Break the game down

  • Identify every way to get points
    • In 2015 we had the periodic of the stack
      • 64NrPJU
      • This was a great example of all of the possible ways to score. The same needs to be created for each year’s game
  • Identify every way to win
    • Start running game simulations in your head or on the board to create scoring scoring solutions
    • Watch the 3 day builds
    • Read chief delphi to see if you missed any and then add them to the list
  • Identify the every type of robot task needed to get every point and execute every way to win
    • List all of the the ways a robot could play the game during auton.
    • List all of the the ways a robot could play the game during teleop.
    • List all of the the ways a robot could play the game during coopertition.
  • Identify what percentage of teams at a district, regional, CMP division, CMP championships will be able to perform each capability
    • We use the common, uncommon, rare or impossible method. Refer to your team’s goals for which level you do this for. The numbers below are for a regional. The should change based on the event type and level.
      • Common 25-50 teams could do it
      • Uncommon 10-25 could do it.
      • Rare 2-10 team could do it
      • Impossible 1-2 teams could do it.
  • List everything your team could do based on its SWOT
  • Go through and pick which strategies your team should design for
    • For most teams limit yourselves to 1 rare or 2 uncommon or 3 commons
  • Start brain storming ways to make your strategy a reality
  • List all of the mechanisms you need
    • Looked at past robots
  • Put together a baseline solution based on your team’s risk level


Sub Pages


Additional Resources


Equations of Motion

We are starting a collection of equations, white papers and calculators that team’s can use to build better systems and robots. Please feel free to recommend something we should add.


  • force force
  • mass mass
  • accelerationacceleration


Equations & Calculators


Additional Resources

Vex Pro Has Some Great Example Bots

We were recently starting to do our team’s season pre order of parts and noticed the following images on the Vex Pro Site.  Last year the team was extremely grateful for the build blitz blog they posted that had a lot of good examples of how to lift and maneuver totes.  So needless to say, we were really impressed by the example they showed and explored the site farther to see what else they have made available.

Mash up of team 781, the Kinetic Knights’s and team 2016, the Mighty Monkey Wrenches’ 2011 robots


Remake of team 254, the Cheesy Poof‘s 2014 robot



Here is what else we found that could be useful to teams as they get ready for the 2016 FRC season