Lots to Review From Week 3

We started off last weekend making some parts on the CNC machine for our drive train. We learned a lot more abut zeroing than we bargained for as we found out the CNC machine was not fully calibrated in the Y. we will have that fixed on future parts.

Next up, we did some high speed driver testing to start to get our drivers used to 16-18 FPS.  Wow is that fast.  We have been getting our cycles down and have started looking at sight lines.

Our vision team was also hard at work.  We were able to get our hands on some reto reflective rope and found out we could create an auto centering teleop assist command to help us hit the rope with more accuracy.  But, we also learned that retro reflectve ropes are illegal so that is out.

Our chief strategists has been running field simulations to better understand how many balls we will be able to pick up and how quickly we can load up after all o the hoppers are empty.  It looks like the corners are the place to be fore picking up balls in a hurry.

And of course we have been building and prototyping.  We should have our drive train driving around today because of all of the great effort that has been put in this week.  On top of that we have a much better idea of how our gear intake and ball intakes will work.  As an added bonus. if we get the main robot fully functional by next Saturday, the tea already has plans for adding a high goal shooter.  If that is the case, shooter prototyping would be on the schedule in two weeks.  much earlier than we planned.

More videos can be found on our 2017 build season play list


We Have Our Design Requirements Defined

We met yesterday to go through everything we learned this week and to come to a consensus around our design requirements.  It took a while, but we think we have settled upon a design and are readt to start detailed CAD. On top of that we started to prototype a new feature that was added today.  The ability to pick gears up off the ground.

Here is where we ended up.

  • Primary – Climb rope to the top in 10 seconds from touching the rope and stay at top past buzzer
    • Capture – Drum based
    • Capture – Use fingers
    • Capture – Use rotation
    • Capture – Catch fast 1-2 seconds)
    • Capture – Need driver camera for davits 1 and 3 to work with driver station 1 an 3
    • Climb – 5-8 seconds to top
    • Lock – Use ratchet wrench
    • Rope – Narrow rope
    • Rope – Big knot on end (monkeys fist)
    • Rope – Retro-reflective for auto assist
    • Rope – Be stiff and heavy
  • Primary – Pick up gears from the ground and drop them off at the peg with a max of 20 seconds per cycle
    • Intake – Drive by control
    • Intake – Scoop from ground while driving
    • Intake – Combine with passive design so it can pick up from feeder station as well
    • Intake – No drop design
    • Intake – will use 8″ arm to pick up gear
    • Stowage – No bump drop design
    • Deploy – Passive design
    • Deploy – Make space for peg
    • Deploy – Use drive assist camera
    • Deploy – Use auto assist code
    • Deploy – Use air ship pilot to pull gear out of robot
  • Primary – Be able to drive nearly 20ft per second and be highly maneuverable
    • Drive – 18-20 fps
    • Drive – Sideways or alignment for gears
    • Drive – Sideways for alignment with low goal
    • Drive – Octocannum
    • Drive – 4″ wheels
    • Drive – Un-actuated position is solid wheels
    • Chassis – 24″ x 24″ x 24″ or 30″ x 30″ x 24″
    • Bumpers – .5″ off ground
    • Robot – Be as light as possible
    • Root – Be as small as possible
  • Secondary – Pick up balls from the floor
    • Intake – Through bumper
    • Intake – Roller intake
    • Intake – Poly chord / belt elevator
    • Intake – Use 1 motor for intake and elevator
    • Intake – Have flap so that balls can be loaded in via the hopper or feeder station without spillage
  • Secondary – Store 20 balls or more on the robot
    • Stowage – Fixed hopper
    • Stowage – Ramp to low goal
    • Stowage – No agitator
  • Secondary – Deposit 20 balls in the low goal in less that 3 seconds
    • Deploy – Low goal
    • Deploy – Movable rake
  • Tertiary – Shoot 20 balls in the high goal in 5 seconds with 50% accuracy
    • Deploy – Use intake elevator
    • Deploy – Have two high goal positions, airship gear 1 and airship elevator gear 2
    • Deploy – Have a wheeled shooter

Over the next two days our CAD team will work on creating the robot design.  And over the next week the team will refine that design with detail prototypes. So that buy the time the parts arrive in week 3 we have the final dimensions figured out.

A big decision we made today was to use Octocannum.  This is going to be a big challenge for our team since we have not used this drive before.  We know it adds a lot of risk, but we feel the possible advantages combined with the learning we will do make it worth it.

Robot systems we need to build will have 9 motors and 8 cylinders / solenoids.

  • The Octocannum drive will require 4 cims, 4 encoders, pressure switches, 4 pneumatic cylinders, 4 solenoids.
  • The ball intake and elevator will require 1 motor for ground, 2 pneumatic cylinder and 2 solenoid for the hopper
  • The low goal scorer will require 1 motor with an encoder
  • The gear intake will require 2 pneumatic cylinders and 2 solenoids for moving the arm with 1 or 2 motors with encoders and IR range finders on the arm.
  • The climber will require 1 motor and 2 IR range finders


Here are some images from today.

Getting Ready for our Design Review this Saturday

We have at least 2 working prototypes of every primary and secondary system.  We have one last day to do crazy prototypes and then its decision time.  We will be meeting Saturday to go through all of the prototypes and research people have been doing.  The outcome of Saturday’s meeting will be the lockdown of our priorities, lock down of mechanical solutions and the agreement on a preliminary configurations.  From there the team will split into three parts.  Folks that will go heavy into CAD, folks that will continue to prototype and folks that will stat building.

We have our first two order days coming up next week and should be nearly 90% ordered by Friday.

As a bonus this year, because we had some extra help from the stage crew and we plan on being a gear team, we are building an airship.  Our airship will be complete with ropes and working gear pegs.  This will give our human play a lot more practice time than we were hoping to get.  This will also give our drive team more realistic practice.

And as a bonus, we had some alumni stop buy last night during the team dinner.  Sounds like they are having a lot of fun and miss robotics.

Here are some of photos from the night.

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

Swerve or Octocannum……Are we crazy???

One of this year’s requirements we have made a primary goal is: Be able to drive nearly 20ft per second and highly maneuverable.  In order to make this possible we have zeroed in on two drives that we think we can allow us to meet this goal. The first is the infamous Swerve drive and the second is the slightly less infamous and scarier Octocannum drive.  These two drives are two of the most expensive, heavy, hard to manufacture and hard to code drives trains in FRC today. Under normal conditions these drives should never be attempted unless a team has invested time over the last few years to get to know them inside and out.  But, we are gluttons for punishment and no matter what want to learn as much as we can each year, and taking one of these drives on would definitely push us to learn more this season than we are planning.  The risks are pretty strait forward, we could be heavy, we could screw up fabrication, we could screw up the wiring, we could screw up the pneumatics, we could screw up the code and last but not least, we could not get anything else working because we dump to much time into the drive train.

The only thing that could save our bacon if we go his route is that both Andymark and Vexpro have cots solutions that would eliminate most of the fabrication risks.

This is going to sound strange, but we think the swerve module from Andymark, that comes with everything but encoders would reduce enough risk to make this a viable option for a team that has only done drop 6 drive trains before.  That is a totally loaded statement, but hear us out.  The Andymark swerve only needs electricity and has all of the motors and chains we would need to just strap this on our machine.  We would still need to buy all of the encoders and encoder mounting hardware, but for all intents and purposes this module is ready for wiring and code pretty quickly.  On the other side, the Vexpro swerve needs some engineering to make work and the Octocannum needs electrical, pneumatics and some engineering. The major downside of the Andymark Swerve is that it is slow.  11.5fps is about half the speed we are looking for.

We are going to do a full trade study on these three options today and will publish the results tomorrow.

On other topics, the team was hard at work making prototypes and started their robot in 5 days.  We will have pics and videos up tomorrow.


Prototypers R Us

You need a prototype, yo we got it. You need another one, yo we got it.  That is our entire week this week, trying at least 3 of every system.

Our design objectives for this season are;

  • Primary – Climb rope to the top in 10 seconds from touching the rope and stay at top past buzzer
  • Primary – Pick up gears from feeder station and drop them off at the peg with a max of 20 seconds per cycle
  • Primary – Be able to drive nearly 20ft per second and highly maneuverable
  • Secondary – Pick up balls from the floor
  • Secondary – Store 20 balls or more on the robot
  • Secondary – Deposit 20 balls in the low goal in less that 3 seconds
  • Tertiary – Pick up gears from the ground
  • Tertiary – Shoot 20 balls in the high goal in 5 seconds with 50% accuracy

To reduce the risk of our final design not working we are going to prototype the following this week.

  • Capturing the rope
  • Climbing the rope
  • What rope works the best
  • How to stay at the top of the rope
  • How to intake a gear from the feeder
  • How to store a gear
  • How to identify the gear drop off zone autonomously with vision
  • How to drop off a gear
  • How fast to drive
  • How fast t turn
  • How to pick up balls off the floor
  • How to automate the ball pic up mechanism / make it passive
  • How to move balls to a hopper
  • How to maximize the number of balls in a small space
  • How to hold the balls
  • How to dump balls in the low goal
  • How to shoot / force balls in the low goal at the fastest speed possible
  • How to pick up gears from the ground
  • How to position gears for being deposited
  • How to identify the high goal with vision
  • How to shoot balls with wheels
  • How to shoot balls with flippers
  • How to shoot 2, 3, 4 and 5 balls at a time into the high goal

Yesterday we also started working on various CAD concepts to get a better handle on the overall packaging of the systems.  Here are some of our draft concepts.

Along with this we have been doing a lot of research, Here is a our 2017 research play list.

Montgomery County MD Advocacy Day 2016

Last week the Walt Whitman Team attended the FIRST National Advocacy Conference.  We did a good bit of learning and are ready to take what we learned and apply it to the County level.


We want to get as many of the team in the county to participate in the county advocacy day we are scheduling for July 18th. Our plan is to talk to the following folks


Here are the actions we have

  • We need to identify what teams are going to participate
  • We need to agree on the asks
    • Make Robotics a sport in MoCo
    • Help us define how the $250,000 in robotics funds should be managed / dispersed
    • Help us define how the ESSA title 4A funds should be dispersed at the state level
    • Help us get the $125,000 of county funds approved for 2017-2018
  • We need to create a one sheeter for the day that includes
    • What is FIRST
    • The MoCo robotics foot print
    • The impact of robotics programs on students
    • The federal and state funds that are available
    • The Ask and outcomes
  • We need to get the meetings scheduled
  • We need to schedule a planning meeting to plan the day and so some practice run through


On the 27th we held a planning call with other MoCo teams


We Have a Low Cost Plan for the Fall

Last night we talked about how we would break up the team this fall to maximize learning. Here are the small projects we came up with;

  • 10 people – Coding
  • 10 people – CAD
  • 10 people – Drive train
  • 10 people – Driving
  • 10 people – Pneumatics
  • 10 people – Electrical

Here are what the various projects are


  • The coding team will focus on learning how to code in Java, how the team’s git hub works and how to program some of the 2015’s robot’s simpler functions
  • The published code from other teams and analyze the way in which it was organized, and how it performed.
  • The coding team will then break down into two sub teams. one working on linear driving and the other working on target tracking.


  • The CAD team will work on CADing a 6 wheel drop center west coast drive base, identifying all of the gear box ratio to Feet Per Second (FPS) options and create a Bill Of Materials (BOM) with suppliers.
  • The CAD team will then review CAD from models from other teams from past years and make a list of findings to share with the whole team.
  • The CAD team will then CAD a west coast 6 wheel drop center H-drive west coast drive base, identifying all of the gear box ratio to Feet Per Second (FPS) options and create a Bill Of Materials (BOM) with suppliers.

Drive train

  • The drive train team will look at the drive trains from the Einstein finalists from the last 3 years and make a list of findings to share with the whole team.
  • The drive train team will disassemble and then reassemble the 2014 Kit of Parts base. The drive team will measure its acceleration, velocity and torque.
  • The drive train team will then change the gear ratio and again measure its acceleration, velocity and torque.
  • Lastly, the drive train team will change the wheel type and sizes while recording and calculating the acceleration, velocity and torque for each configuration.


  • The driving team will reach out to the 2015 drive team to document lessons learned that can be shared with the whole team.
  • The driving team will practice driving once a week focusing on different skills; turning, going over objects, aligning and speed transitioning.
  • The driving team will host a driving test to select our 2016 drivers.


  • The pneumatics team will watch training videos and read FRC pneumatics materials
  • The Pneumatics team will assemble a pnuemtaics board with everything an FRC robot would need to control 2 double acting and 2 single acting cylinders.
  • The pneumatics team will work with the coding and electrical teams to wire and code the board to test.


  • The electrical will look at the electrical systems from the Einstein finalists from the last 3 years and make a list of findings to share with the whole team.
  • The electrical team will assemble a complete electrical test board with 6 motors, 2 gear boxes, 2 encoders, 2 limit switches, 2 ir sensors and 2 ultrasonic sensors.
  • The electrical team will CAD up a mobile electrical system and create a Bill Of Materials (BOM) with suppliers for system with 4 pneumatic cylinders and 10 motors.

Every team will be attending the BAA Education Day (Training workshops) and focus on their speciality.

Who: MD and DC FIRST FRC Teams
What: Engineering and non-engineering workshops to prepare mentors and students for the upcoming FIRST FRC season
When: Saturday, October 24, 2015 8:30 AM – 4:00 PM
Location: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab 11100 Johns Hopkins Rd, Laurel, MD 20723
Why: Learn best practices from FRC veterans for having a fun and successful FIRST FRC team!


In addition, every person on the team shall watch all of the video’s in Simbot’s Seminar Series. This will give you a big leg up with the tasks above.

Please get your paperwork in and check the schedule for the next meeting.

What Are You Going to Teach the Team?

Albert-Einstein-Life-QuotesStarting in the fall of 2015 every student involved in Walt Whitman robotics needs to do at least one STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) project per year. These projects need to be on a topic that can help broaden you and your team’s understanding of any topic you find interesting.  The key here is to have fun and share the passion you have for a topic with your team mates.  The sharing part of this project is what we like to call “Students Teaching Students“.  This is an opportunity for you to practice your presentation skills and test your knowledge of your topic.  Remember no teacher will ever know the answer to every question, so this also gives you the opportunity to go and find the answers to any questions that come up.



Research project requirements

  • This is not graded, but your teammates will have an opportunity to ask questions so slouching on the assignment is not recommended
  • Create a 15 min presentation on your topic
  • You can include notes in your presentation and back up material to help people reading the slides on the web to learn from your material
  • Site any and all sources
  • Know the material well enough to field most questions from your teammates
  • Complete a small follow up report to answer any questions that you were unable to answer when you presented and to identify the key thing you learned during the assignment.  Add this followup report to your slides and publish your presentation to the team web site.
  • Use the Walt Whitman power point template

Examples of project ideas

  1. Wheels
  2. Chassis
  3. Gear boxes
  4. Arms
  5. Grabbers
  6. Power systems
  7. Control systems: speed controllers
  8. Control systems: sensors
  9. Control systems: cameras
  10. Control systems: wires & connectors
  11. Control systems: system design
  12. Pneumatics: valves
  13. Pneumatics: actuators
  14. Structures: fasteners
  15. Structures: extrusions
  16. Structures: brackets
  17. Structures: fabrication methods – cnc
  18. Structures: fabrication methods – lathe
  19. Structures: fabrication methods – laser cutter
  20. Structures: fabrication methods – vertical mill
  21. Structures: fabrication methods – water jet
  22. Structures: fabrication methods – sheet metal
  23. Structures: fabrication methods – drill press
  24. Structures: fabrication methods – 3d printer
  25. Structures: bumpers
  26. Electronics: multi-meters
  27. Electronics: power and electricity
  28. Electronics: switches
  29. Electronics: heat transfer
  30. Electronics: oscilloscope
  31. Electronics: motors
  32. Software: java
  33. Software: robotc
  34. Software: labview
  35. Software: drive train control
  36. Software: manipulator control
  37. Software: sensors
  38. Software: speed controllers
  39. Controls: laptop
  40. Controls: play station or xbox
  41. Controls: joy stick
  42. Controls: custom panel
  43. Web pages
  44. Awards
  45. Pits
  46. Hand tools
  47. Spirit
  48. T-shirts
  49. Robot feet
  50. Printing
  51. Social media
  52. Scholarships
  53. Animation
  54. Driving
  55. Schedules
  56. Materials
  57. Power distribution
  58. Crio
  59. 4-h
  60. Practice bots
  61. Fields
  62. Frc
  63. Ftc
  64. Fll
  65. Vex
  66. Best
  67. Mate
  68. Sea perch
  69. Stem
  70. Green
  71. Fund raising
  72. Events
  73. Sponsorship
  74. Email campaign
  75. Business plan
  76. Community involvement

Students are not limited to FRC or any of the above topics.  They are just recommendations.