Servo 112004

Cool Factor!

An interesting note about our frame is that this is the first time our team had an actual frame. All of the other robots that I've built — including combat robots — have had exoskeletons. Why? For one, exoskeletons are cool and I think that they are easier to work with. Even though what we had this year was the closest thing to a frame that we've worked with, we still used it essentially as an exoskeleton.

The main things that attached to our "frame" were our body panels. Our frame didn't serve as a major attachment point for anything because everything was attached to the floor. There's another advantage to our floor efforts — it keeps everything very clean inside. Team 1079 takes pride in the look of its robots, inside and out. Our robot this year was constructed entirely of 6061-T6 aluminum and looked great while being quite robust.

Week five and the floor was finally done! The team knew that Flashpoint

Machine would come through. With one week until the sectional — an annual practice competition held by Team 22 at Chatsworth High School a couple of days before the ship date — we had a lot of work and a few long nights ahead. Back at Robot Central (the Woolley's garage), we really got to work. The drive train was the first to go in and then we put in as many other things as we could before attaching the frame. Things were shaping up a little too slowly and an all-nighter was looming, but the team was ready.

All-nighters are double-edged swords. Sure, there are a lot more hours to work, but the question is, how long until you become useless? Things start to get sloppy the later (or earlier in the morning) it gets and the team members rely on humor to conquer the desire for sleep. All-nighters (with our team, at least) are where ideas for squirrel-powered robots start to surface, especially when wiring for the drive train is taking so long. (Don't call PETA; we never had to resort to testing this idea.)

On one of our late nights, we were visited by a potential sponsor, Mr. Peter Fiori of Marine Dynamics Corporation. For our team, fundraising doesn't stop when the build begins and Mr. Fiori had seen one of the several newspaper articles on our team in the local paper. He came down to see us in action and he was impressed.

He said he, "was so delighted to see young people spending their weekends and evenings working, building, and learning instead of out, getting into trouble." It was also quite apparent that all of us were having a great time. Marine Dynamics became our second biggest sponsor and the team was very grateful for his contribution. On another late night, our team was visited by the new principal of our high school. We hoped it might lead to some more school support.

One important dynamic of our team that you have probably picked up on throughout these articles is that we are perfectionists.

Actually, a better way to describe it would be that we take pride in our work. In the opinion of many of our team members, our work is a reflection of who we are and we want to put forth a good image. Not only that, but we are learning skills that will help us in a professional engineering setting, which many of us are planning to go into.

This is quite evident in how we wire our robot. We make a point of taking the time to do the wiring right, with everything neatly run and well labeled. This allows quick repair or replacement of components and aids in troubleshooting, since time is at a premium in that situation.

As was mentioned earlier, FIRST has very strict rules regarding electrical system safety and supplies all of the teams the parts they need to do the job right. The power source for the robot is an 18 Ah, 12 volt SLA and a small 7.2 volt NiCad pack utilized by part of the control system. A 120 amp main breaker that also acts as the on/off switch for the robot controls all power. Additionally, 40, 30, and 20 amp automatic re-setting breakers are used for the motors and other loads. This is a definite change from my brother's and my combat robots, as we do not use breakers in them. In FIRST, if you trip a breaker, you may lose some points; in combat robotics, you would lose some pieces!

By the end of the build, all of the

systems were coming together. For one, the Great Music Controversy seemed to reach a compromise. The Kingston Trio reigned supreme on Saturday mornings, mostly due to the fact that most of the team wasn't there that early. Later in the build, on weekday afternoons (and evenings), Metallica had its way, mostly due to the absence of the pro-Kingston Trio element. The bulk of Saturday and Sunday were up for grabs, though, and — since the Trio and Metallica were diametrically opposed — a compromise had to be reached. The final decision was for Boston. Everyone liked it and — let's face it — it's just good music.

The robot was looking good, too. The arm mechanism looked great and our drive train seemed to be in order. The pneumatic kicker and goal grabber were also near completion. Some out there may ask, why the pneumatic kicker and goal grabber? It doesn't seem like they'll give you much of an advantage, so why bother?

The FIRST kit offers a variety of systems, including pneumatics; this option took hold in our minds during the SCRRF robotics workshops held the previous November. A number of years ago, the Southern California Regional Robotics Forum (SCRRF) was formed to help all teams in the area and to expand the FIRST program. One of the many great activities that SCRRF organizes is the annual robotics workshop day at California State University at Northridge.

This day is a great opportunity for all teams — especially rookies — to get familiar with the systems that the robots may utilize, as well as other aspects of building a successful team. The word "may" was used on purpose, as the game changes every year, so no one knows what will really be necessary until the kick-off morning.

One of the SCRRF classes was on pneumatics and many of the club members who attended that class wanted to apply their new knowledge. The pneumatics kit is quite complete, including a small, 12 VDC air compressor, two cylinders, various single and double solenoids, two storage tanks, pressure regulators, and a bunch of fittings and tubing.

The pneumatic kicker was a good thing to experiment on because it wasn't critical to the success of the robot, but — if it worked — it would ratchet up the Cool Factor. The same idea applied to the grabber, even though it was electric, not pneumatic This also gave the team a chance to use a variety of different systems and learn a lot.

At the end of the build, everyone was satisfied with the final product — Modos. In its finished form, our robot utilized seven motors and a fully functioning pneumatics system. One of the final touches was the sail. We've gotten a lot of questions about it. The original purpose was — you guessed it — to look cool. It was much more aesthetically pleasing than a bare mast and it was a good place to put our logo.

Another final touch was all of the stickers from our sponsors. We truly appreciate the support given to us by our sponsors and we think a little bit of recognition through a sticker on the

robot is the least we could do. All of the stickers also reveal some of the influence that professional racing has had on our team.

Also, as a strange side effect of the great number of stickers on the sides of our robot, the sail actually ended up having a purpose. All robots are required to have their team numbers on all sides. Since the stickers took up all the room on the sides of the robot, the sail served as the perfect spot to put the team numbers. Cool Factor Engineering can be practical!

In the end, everyone was thoroughly pleased with their efforts. Be sure to catch the final article next month to see how we did in competition!

Webots 4

Fast prototyping & simulation of robots

Webots 4

Fast prototyping & simulation of robots

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