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View Poll Results: If you have won an event in 2012, did you build and use a practice bot?
YES 134 74.03%
NO 47 25.97%
Voters: 181. You may not vote on this poll

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Unread 04-30-2012, 01:26 PM
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Re: Poll on winning teams using practice bots

Spectrum built a practice bot this year for the 1st time. (This is my first year with a practice bot and also with this team though I have been doing FIRST for 10 years).

Our regional schedule put us at a week 5 and 6 regional. If we didn't have a practice bot we would have been sitting on our hands for 5 weeks not doing anything. Our practice bot wasn't that costly at all, after you consider that we wanted to have spare gearboxes, motors, and sensors for our robot anyway the cost was essentially just the metal which was under $200. We gutted most of the control system (cRIO, jaguars & camera) from the real robot before we bagged it and installed it all again on Thursday during our 1st event.

The practice bot was useful and it did give a second group of students the chance to basically build the robot. However we didn't have a place to setup a practice field and I feel like that really limited the usefulness of the practice bot. We still learned a lot of things about the robot during the events because we were never able to really put the practice bot through it's paces on a practice field for very long.
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Unread 04-30-2012, 01:31 PM
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Re: Poll on winning teams using practice bots

The one year we built a practice robot (2011) was the only year that we won an event.
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Unread 04-30-2012, 02:21 PM
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Re: Poll on winning teams using practice bots

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruceb View Post
Do you build a second(practice) bot??
I answered yes, but more accurately would be "After building your practice bot, did you build a second (production) bot?"

Like pancakes, the second one is always better than the first. And it is built a lot faster, since all the design is essentially done.
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Unread 04-30-2012, 02:36 PM
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Re: Poll on winning teams using practice bots

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Originally Posted by DonRotolo View Post
"After building your practice bot, did you build a second (production) bot?"
This. Practice bot gets built first, production bot done second. We've built practice bots every year since 2007, and it makes a big difference with robot quality as well as driver quality.
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Unread 04-30-2012, 03:17 PM
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Re: Poll on winning teams using practice bots

BX has talked for a couple of years about wanting a practice bot, but has yet gotten to the place where we have enough funding to do so. We hope to do this next year though.
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Unread 04-30-2012, 03:52 PM
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Re: Poll on winning teams using practice bots

This was the first year we had the resources to build a practice bot and it really helped. We had one electrical panel and one shooter, so those were parts in our 40 lbs "spare parts".

Where it helped was giving the drive team more "behind the wheel" experience and in allowing our programmers to get 5 autonomous routines working (although we only ever used 2, it was nice to have the options) and to fine tune our auto-targeting. We actually didn't get the practice bot working until week 2 of the competition season (our regionals were weeks 3 & 5). We were never an alliance captain (not enough CP), but we were good enough to get picked and were part of the winning Palmetto alliance.

The main downside was our single electrical panel. It had all our Jaguars on it. We use CAN bus and direct connect many sensors to the Jaguars. So we had to have connectors for all the wiring (power and sensors). We had cronic problems with the encoder signals and at Championships we soldered around the connectors for two encoders. One of our off-season projects for electrical is to find better connectors for the sensors.

It takes resources (time and money) to build a second bot; but I would say it was worth it, especially if you attend more than one regional or have some very talented programmers who never seem to get enough time with the completed robot during build season to get the software working.
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Unread 04-30-2012, 06:46 PM
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Re: Poll on winning teams using practice bots

Hi,
This year was the first time that the Tronic Titans built a practice bot, and it significantly helped with our performance. We seeded higher than ever before at both of the competitions we attended, and managed to break our "quarterfinals curse", making it to the finals at GTR West. Much of this success can be contributed to our practice robot work time, as it allowed us to fine tune our shooting and bridge lowering capabilities, which greatly helped at competition.

Overall, I would say that having a practice has been the single best thing we have done to increase our performance at competition.
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Unread 04-30-2012, 07:26 PM
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Re: Poll on winning teams using practice bots

We built a practice bot this year for the first time ever. We won our first ever regional (SMR) with 234, and 3259 (both have practice bots). We were first seed in that regional.

Unfortunately for us, the drivers didnt get much time to practice driving. The programmers always had the bot and never let us have time driving. And when they weren't doing anything it was when our mentor was un able to stay for us to practice.

I want to build a second bot next year also. Hopefully have more time driving it. I dont think The mentors or Programmers have any idea how important it is to practice driving. Especially with the benefit of having the second robot to practice.

We were one of the teams interviewed by 33, hope to see the paper from it soon
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Unread 04-30-2012, 07:57 PM
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Re: Poll on winning teams using practice bots

Quote:
Originally Posted by DonRotolo View Post
I answered yes, but more accurately would be "After building your practice bot, did you build a second (production) bot?"

Like pancakes, the second one is always better than the first. And it is built a lot faster, since all the design is essentially done.
^I second this one, all 3 of our teams build a prototype, then afterwords build our final, hopefully much, MUCH lighter. [We always seem to get 140lb prototype bots!!!]
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Unread 04-30-2012, 08:03 PM
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Re: Poll on winning teams using practice bots

We (971) have built a practice bot which is a clone of the competition bot since 2010 (I'm not sure about before then; The only event we had won previous to 2009 was SVR in 2004). The bots are built simultaneously, though the focus generally shifts to one as ship day approaches, so we finish up the practice bot after ship. The two robots are theoretically identical, though minor differences crop up over time (eg, we do not have sponsor stickers on the practice bot, as I said, minor differences).
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Unread 04-30-2012, 08:16 PM
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Re: Poll on winning teams using practice bots

Quote:
Originally Posted by James Kuszmaul View Post
We (971) have built a practice bot which is a clone of the competition bot since 2010 (I'm not sure about before then; The only event we had won previous to 2009 was SVR in 2004). The bots are built simultaneously, though the focus generally shifts to one as ship day approaches, so we finish up the practice bot after ship. The two robots are theoretically identical, though minor differences crop up over time (eg, we do not have sponsor stickers on the practice bot, as I said, minor differences).
To elaborate on James's point:

The first year 971 built a practice robot was 2009, the year we started our more successful streak by winning the Silicon Valley Regional and World Championships (thanks 67+111).
The practice bot that year was more of a kitbot, with hopper and dumper added on. It was far from identical to the comp bot and had jamming issues beyond what the comp bot had I believe.

2010 was the first year we built relatively identical practice robots. The same sheetmetal pieces were used for both robots, only modified later. The comp bot was completed before the practice robot was started.

In 2011 we started putting together the practice robot frame around the same time as our comp bot. We did not get that far, and sameness was definitely an issue. We had to take the entire minibot launching assembly of the practice bot and put it on the comp bot at SVR. We ended up putting on a similar but slightly different launcher on the practice robot when we ran 2 bots at the Madtown Throwdown.

In 2012, we actually started wiring both robots at the same time. We did much of the assembly right after the other, and as time ran out, focused on one. The practice bot was pretty much up and running within a week after bag n' tag.

Differences in the robots most often accumulate once the comp bot is safely in the bag. Often we figure out through extensive running that some parts need shoring up, or we come up with new ideas that we change on the practice bot, test, then apply to the comp bot once we have an idea of what works and what doesn't This year, we changed the shooter hood piston throw, enabling us to get a better key shot. With the practice bot running for many hours, we can start to see workability and sturdiness issues before they would occur in an actual competition, letting us know of what needs to be changed before we even unbag the robot.

Sorry for the longish post. I hope teams wishing to find information find what they seek.

-Kevin
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Unread 04-30-2012, 08:24 PM
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Re: Poll on winning teams using practice bots

Fondy Fire's practice robot was the chassis and ball collector from our 2009 robot with the shooter from our competition robot this year. I would say it definitely helped the programming and drive teams prepare for the Championship.

It also helps to have access to a good practice field, and to be able to scrimmage with other teams. Thanks to Team 2826 and 93 for this!
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Unread 04-30-2012, 08:30 PM
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Re: Poll on winning teams using practice bots

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Holschuh View Post
Fondy Fire's practice robot was the chassis and ball collector from our 2009 robot with the shooter from our competition robot this year. I would say it definitely helped the programming and drive teams prepare for the Championship.

It also helps to have access to a good practice field, and to be able to scrimmage with other teams. Thanks to Team 2826 and 93 for this!
This post another point that is very important. It's great that teams can build practice robots. This gives them opportunities that they did not have before, such as programming and iteration. However, to get the full benefits of the practice robot, a team must have at least some access to a practice field. In each of the years that 971 has had a practice robot, 254 and 1868 have generously allowed us to use their practice facility. For us at least, building the practice bot was only part of it. Seeing it run and testing on an actual field was just as important.

-Kevin
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Unread 04-30-2012, 08:32 PM
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Re: Poll on winning teams using practice bots

We did not win any competitions this year (still have hopes for this summer) but we did build a practice robot for the first time. But as several people have said already, ours was more a prototype robot. It was build from our designs, so it was very similar to our competition robot. Working with that robot we found some of the weak points in our design. We were able to make our conveyor system more reliable and the final robot about 2.5 inches shorter. We also figured out that we needed to flip around a motor and reposition some of our controls slightly. The practice/prototype robot (with our actual shooter, which was designed to be quickly removed and remounted) also allowed us to practice autonomous and practice driving before Queen City and between Queen City and the Championships. We have three working cRIOs and a lot of extra electronics, wheels and hardware from 10 years of competition, so the prototype robot was not a big financial stress. We actually did it because we fell a little short of our goal of attending two regional competitions for the first time ever. As we have a large team it gave more people something to do as well.
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Unread 04-30-2012, 08:37 PM
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Re: Poll on winning teams using practice bots

we have built a prototype for the past 5 - 6 years.

we first build prototype parts and small systems, then get them sorted.

then we build a prototype robot, based on the emerging design we are creating. we build it with the intent to be funcationally equal, but it is often heavier and uglier than the competition robot. it has extra holes, used parts, etc. After it is built and tested, we then finalize the design and buid the competition version.

we have learned to go back and rework the prototype to make it work like the competiton robot where it is needed, otherwise there can be subtle differences that can cause great pains.

it also makes building the competition robot faster and it is more durable because it only has to be assembled once, since all (most ) of the lessons are learned on the prototype.
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