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Unread 05-12-2012, 12:21 PM
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The build schedule: how do you guys do it?

This year ours was a nightmare. We met at most every other day for 3 hours (longer on weekends), with our sole programmer being grounded for a week, spent 3.5 weeks in the design phase, etc. With that in mind, I'm planning a timeline for next year with a few goals and checkpoints.


Phase 1: Abstract design - 1 week
  • What will it do, how will it do it
  • Which drivetrain
  • How will it perform game tasks

Phase 2: Narrow design - 2 weeks
  • Design specific subsystems
  • CAD everything
  • Kinematic analysis and revision
  • Decide what parts are needed, and order them
  • Export for CNC machining
  • Begin programming

Phase 3: Build - 2 weeks
  • Build as able, cut and assemble whatever is at hand
  • Test, fix, iterate
  • Have drivable before end of week 4

Phase 4: Train - 1 week
  • Driver training
  • Control system experimentation
  • Finish programming
  • Hone any algorithms


Goals:
  • Meet no less than every other day in some capacity, even if it's just a few people
  • Parallelism. While the design team is designing, the set build team and pit design team can still operate. Have scouts dedicated to browsing for information from previous similar games to see what worked and what didn't.
  • Redundancy. Have at least two people capable of each task.
  • Decide on a design and run with it. Do not spend 3.5 weeks on abstracts. Get things into CAD and onto paper as quickly as possible, to avoid finding major issues late into design.

Are there any improvements I can make to this timeline? I'm a Junior in HS and this is my first year, on a 2nd year team, so I'm not well versed on how long it takes to CAD and test things, or what is practical.

I also have a few questions:
  • How many people do you have on your teams?
  • What is your subteam breakdown like? How many programmers, how many designers.
  • When do you start building in some capacity? When do you have something drivable?
  • How many people participate in the nitty-gritty of turning concepts into blueprints?
  • How much time do you spend training?
  • At what point in the 6 weeks is your robot "complete?" (in the context of fully-functional)

Thank you from Team 3737 "Rotoraptors"
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Unread 05-12-2012, 12:32 PM
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Re: The build schedule: how do you guys do it?

Every other day? If you want to keep a schedule like that, you'll need to meet every day, if not 5/7 days a week.

As for your questions:
1) We like to keep a good 25 to 30 people on the team. There may be moments when you only need 4 people, but it's better to find yourself with too many people than to find yourself understaffed when you need it.

2) Subteam breakdown:
Mechanical
-Drive train, manipulator(s)
Control
-Electrical
-Programming

It's good to have electrical and programming work together, since many of them have parts that interact with each other

3)We start building around the second week, though in the event we can get something obvious for the drivetrain, we start working on it day 1. If we get a drivebase done, we strap on Hal 2000 (our test electronics board) and start asap.

4) That depends who you have on your team. Everyone can contribute, but sometimes it's harder for some people to take an idea and create a functioning design from it. The best way (that I've seen) is to get the people who can make designs out of ideas, and teach them CAD.

5) Training. Spend as much time training as you do breathing, if not more. We have our drivers practice as much as possible, and our potential human players practice from the start. Day 1.

6) Our robot is fully functional (bugs fixed, etc.) in the beginning/middle of week 5. A robot is never "complete" .


Hope this helps! I'm glad to see you're taking charge of changing your team, and learning the best ways to do it.
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Unread 05-12-2012, 01:12 PM
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Re: The build schedule: how do you guys do it?

This is a great start. Having a schedule is an awesome way of making build season run more smoothly, and in the end getting more out of it.

We are a team of about 30 students (with a core group of about 10-15) and meet about 5-7 days a week for 3 hours (more on weekends). We have a CNC mill, a manual lathe, a band saw, and a drill press. We do not use sponsor to machine parts for us, for reasons involved with the culture and mission of the team. We CAD the robot extensively before building in Autodesk Inventor.

This year, the leaders put out a schedule which the mechanics team managed to keep very on top of. We finished conceptual design by mid week one, had a fully CADed robot Monday of week two, finished the practice bot Sunday of week three, and had a fully functioning competition and practice robot about Saturday of week six. Certain elements of the robot (especially the shooter) were delayed and suffered in performance because of it, but the vast majority of the robot was finished on this schedule.

In your schedule , you budgeted about a week for "conceptual design." Would this include prototyping? Talking to many "elite" teams, I learned that many spend several weeks making good, useful prototypes, that allow them to learn about the ins and outs of various designs before building a full up mechanism. Just deciding on a drivetrain and strategy probably should not take a week. Getting good effective prototypes might take much longer.

In your schedule, you mentioned that you want to CAD the robot. Awesome! CAD is one of the tools that separates the professional looking teams from those that look hacked together. Used correctly, it will streamline your design process, and make you more efficient during the whole build season. However, CAD is very hard (and boring) to learn, and even harder to use correctly during build season. If no one on your team knows how to CAD, I recommend that you and several other highly committed members start learning immediately. Design something over the summer. The experience will allow CAD to be a help, not a hindrance, during build season.

It looks like your detailed design phase could be accelerated a bit, depending on how detailed you plan to make the CAD and how much experience your team has. Also, you should order parts as soon as you might think you might need them. Suppliers like AndyMark and BaneBots tend to get inundated during build season, and ship relativity slowly. Even suppliers like SDP-SI and McMaster might take more than a week to ship. Even if you don't have the drive train fully CADed, but you know you will need 6 inch performance wheels and Toughboxes, you can order them day three in order to receive them by week three. Don't wait to order if you don't have to.

Your build phase seems surprisingly short. Although it depends on your resources and how heavily you rely on sponsors, I think build deserves at least a week more. Especially because you are a second-year team, there will be some nasty surprises when you try to build the robot. You will probably be required to re-machine or even re-design systems. I would strongly advise against machining too late.

Finally, you have a week of programming and driver practice at the end. This is not only a good thing to have in and of itself, but a good amount of time to budget for running over on some other part of the process. We learned the hard way this year that programmers need to keep it simple. Yes, everyone always hears that, but there's a tendency, especially in programmers, to be overly ambitious. I would recommend enforcing a fair amount of time dedicated solely to driver practice. Time practicing with the robot always improves performance, time programming the robot can be wasted on overly ambitious projects.

Good luck next build season. Having a well thought out schedule that everyone commits to will give you a huge advantage.
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Unread 05-12-2012, 01:53 PM
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Re: The build schedule: how do you guys do it?

I see one thing to add to that schedule. Prototyping. Mostly through weeks 1-2.

1) >10
2) Everyone designs it. mechanical/electrical/programming. we let people pick what they want to do.
3) day one/two we decided on the general layout of the robot and start building a base( usually make some small changes later)
4) unfortunately we can only us cads on students personal laptops. so only 1 person the last two years. Hopefully the entire mechanical team( and whoever else wants to learn to CAD) will be doing it next year.
3) when i was a driver i would get excused from class to go drive the robot if i wasn't taking a test..
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Unread 05-12-2012, 02:11 PM
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Re: The build schedule: how do you guys do it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by F22Rapture View Post

How many people do you have on your teams?
about 20 total

Quote:
What is your subteam breakdown like? How many programmers, how many designers.
We haven't been too good about having specific subteams, since not all students are there every day. We divide up more along the lines of what work can be done that day.

Quote:
When do you start building in some capacity? When do you have something drivable?
Prototyping starts right away, and keeps going until we get a workable design...if we're lucky we can use our prototype mechanisms/robot (if it's that complete) to work on programming most of build season. We like to have something driving and playing with game pieces by week 3 or 4 at the latest,

Quote:
How many people participate in the nitty-gritty of turning concepts into blueprints?
As many as I can cajole into doing it

Quote:
How much time do you spend training?
Not enough, if by training you mean learning how to operate the robot.

Quote:
At what point in the 6 weeks is your robot "complete?" (in the context of fully-functional)
We try really hard to have it mostly done (fully functional) a week before it needs to be put away in it's bag/crate.

Of course the really good teams do it all quite differently...they are prototyping and improving stuff all 4 months of robot season. They get their practice robot built by week 3 or so, and build the competition robot as late as possible (week 5 or 6) to incorporate as many design improvements as possible. And they keep "training" and improving the design using the practice robot, right up to Championships.
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Unread 05-12-2012, 02:56 PM
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Re: The build schedule: how do you guys do it?

3 hours every other day? Sorry, not enough time in there.

A week for conceptual design is too long. 3 days
2 weeks for narrow design is too long. 1 week. But you are including part fabrication time in there, so maybe 2 weeks, if at the end you have almost all the bits and mostly need to assemble it all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by F22Rapture View Post
  • How many people do you have on your teams?
  • What is your subteam breakdown like? How many programmers, how many designers.
  • When do you start building in some capacity? When do you have something drivable?
  • How many people participate in the nitty-gritty of turning concepts into blueprints?
  • How much time do you spend training?
  • At what point in the 6 weeks is your robot "complete?" (in the context of fully-functional)
1. 80-ish
2. Programming has 4-6, electrical 6-8, pneumatics 4, mechanical 18, plus integration & testing (5). The rest are CAD, non-technical, construction (e.g., the field elements), and a few are just consuming oxygen.
2a. Everyone has input to the design, but I'd guess maybe 16 are actively designing parts.
3. Day 4 (Wednesday) the drivetrain team goes off and does their thing. It's driveable week 2.
4. Blueprints? What's that? Our prototypes are our blueprints. Unfortunately our CAD team follows later.
5. 8 sessions x 4 hours each in the fall, really aimed at new team members (taught by existing team members).
6. Never, but almost there in week 5.
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Unread 05-12-2012, 04:01 PM
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Re: The build schedule: how do you guys do it?

We meet Monday thru Thursday from 2:30 to 7:00 (later if needed), and on Sunday from 10:00 to 6:00 (we can't officially meet on Friday afternoon or Saturday because we go to a Jewish school).

In the past, we've spent the first two weeks designing & prototyping, and only started building in week 3 and just barely finish before ship/bag day. However, we've noticed that there is this period between the end of week 1 and the start of week 3 where not much happens, and we're just waiting around for ideas. What we've decided to do this time around is to get a design in the first few days and stick with it, then spend the middle 4 weeks building & troubleshooting, which theoretically leaves about a week of drive practice.

It is required that everyone on the build team be there at all meetings; the simple reason behind this is that by not attending, not only does that person not help the team, but he/she hurts the team because they don't know what's going on, and whatever they were working on grinds to a halt.

The most important piece of advice that I can offer is to always stay focused; if you notice that your team is getting a bit off track in that you are focusing on little details when some of the bigger things haven't been decided, do your best to steer the boat in the right direction (for instance, something that really hurt us this year was that we didn't decide on six or eight wheel until week two, which really delayed our CADers. Those kinds of decisions, as well as basic concept for manipulator, should be made on day one based on the game itself, team experience, and a study on past games to see what was successful).

Other than that, it really depends on the team, some teams are more compatible with certain kinds of build schedules than others. Do your best to find what works for your team, and I'm sure you'll do fine.
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Unread 05-12-2012, 04:38 PM
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Re: The build schedule: how do you guys do it?

Team 20 has around 85 team members, and we're expecting more freshmen next year. Generally, we do 2 hour nights on Mon, Tues, Wed, and Thurs. We put in as much time as we can on Sat and Sun.

"Elite" and "Powerhouse" teams such as 1114, 118, and the like have one ingredient that everyone seems to be overlooking. According to their schedules on their websites, they work long and they work hard. One such team spends 3 hours on weekdays and then similarly long work hours on the weekends.

More time = more time to fall and then pick yourself up, as we have discovered the hard way.

The bottom line? I'm a firm believe that it really comes down to how dedicated you and your team are, as well as the commitment you and your team has.
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Unread 05-12-2012, 04:49 PM
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Re: The build schedule: how do you guys do it?

Last season I worked Monday through Friday from 4:30 until minimally 9:30 and more often 10:30 or 11:00. Then on Saturday I would come in at 7:30AM and work until 10:00ish at night. If you want to be good you have to put in the work-- no exceptions.

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Unread 05-12-2012, 05:45 PM
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Re: The build schedule: how do you guys do it?

We work from 2:30 to around 8:00, Monday through Thursday. Then we go from around 9:00 to 4:00 on Sundays. We don't work on friday/saturday because we are a Jewish School.
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Unread 05-12-2012, 06:23 PM
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Re: The build schedule: how do you guys do it?

Thanks for all the feedback guys. To address a few things:

Quote:
Originally Posted by DampRobot View Post
In your schedule , you budgeted about a week for "conceptual design." Would this include prototyping?.
As a 2nd year team, we still have very little funding. Hopefully this should change this year as we have a few prospective companies that we're talking with, but this year we had absolutely no money for prototypes. Our entire robot was built on $400, and after that and a single regional we were in the hole $700. Like I said, we're working on that.

I'll be taking a solidworks class this summer, and trying to convince other team members to do the same. The only others on our team who are proficient with CAD are mentors, so this will definitely be a good thing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DampRobot View Post
Your build phase seems surprisingly short. Although it depends on your resources and how heavily you rely on sponsors, I think build deserves at least a week more. Especially because you are a second-year team, there will be some nasty surprises when you try to build the robot. You will probably be required to re-machine or even re-design systems. I would strongly advise against machining too late.
Thank you.



Most of our team members are homeschooled, as we are a 4H team unattached to a high school. As such while you would think it would be easier to get together, it's much more difficult because we're from all across the county. We're also a small team (~15 students). Hopefully we can do some heavy recruiting to make this less of an issue.
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Unread 05-12-2012, 07:12 PM
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Re: The build schedule: how do you guys do it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BJC View Post
Last season I worked Monday through Friday from 4:30 until minimally 9:30 and more often 10:30 or 11:00. Then on Saturday I would come in at 7:30AM and work until 10:00ish at night. If you want to be good you have to put in the work-- no exceptions.
how do you have time for homework? (any APs) that is one thing many on our team struggle with, I know that I was there almost every day of the week, and we have full team meetings on mondays and wednesdays (4:30-8:30), and saturdays (9am-5pm) minimally, but i and many teammates struggled to be there so much with homework. just curious how many teams find a balance.
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Unread 05-12-2012, 07:32 PM
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Re: The build schedule: how do you guys do it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RayTurner1126 View Post
how do you have time for homework? (any APs) that is one thing many on our team struggle with, I know that I was there almost every day of the week, and we have full team meetings on mondays and wednesdays (4:30-8:30), and saturdays (9am-5pm) minimally, but i and many teammates struggled to be there so much with homework. just curious how many teams find a balance.
During build season, we have afternoon work sessions immediately after school. Many of the students spend much of the time at the shop doing homework. This is not discouraged.

The evening sessions are typically much more robotically productive, but the afternoons are not wasted at all.
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Unread 05-12-2012, 07:56 PM
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Re: The build schedule: how do you guys do it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RayTurner1126 View Post
how do you have time for homework? (any APs) that is one thing many on our team struggle with, I know that I was there almost every day of the week, and we have full team meetings on mondays and wednesdays (4:30-8:30), and saturdays (9am-5pm) minimally, but i and many teammates struggled to be there so much with homework. just curious how many teams find a balance.
The official team schedual is less much less of a time commitment then what I put in. That said, I have 4 AP classes often stayed up until 1:00 in the morning and never went to bed before 12:00. Lets just say I'm glad the build season is only 6 weeks.
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Unread 05-13-2012, 01:31 AM
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Re: The build schedule: how do you guys do it?

Everyone else is more knowledgeable than me, and they have already answered your questions well. I want to add a few points, however:
  • Let strategy dictate design, not the other way around. Know your priorities for the most important things to make the robot do, and incorporate them into the design first. You can add other cool features later.
  • CAD everything IN A TIMELY MANNER. This means lots of communication between CAD and Build. We wasted time while each group waited for dimensions for parts from the other. They need to figure it out. That will cut out probably three to five days of doing nothing for many people.
  • Think about making Electrical and Programming one, and definitely have collaboration at least. On a team of 25, we had seven people between those two groups. At no point did we ever need more than three (maybe four) working on wiring or programming something. A small group may mesh better, anyway.
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2012 Championship Newton Division Finalists--Thanks 330 and 639 for the Full Court Press!
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2013 Kettering University District Chairman's Award Winners!
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2014 Great Lakes Bay Region District Winners--Thanks 288, 4819, and 5166!
2014 Waterford District Chairman's Award Winners!
2014 Michigan State Championship Chairman's Award Winners!
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