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Unread 06-23-2003, 03:46 PM
Mike Martus's Avatar Unsung FIRST Hero
Mike Martus Mike Martus is offline
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Requested Advice

A team contacted me with this question:

(Hi,my name is SHeena and I am writing on behalf of West Hill's Robotics Team in CAnada. We would really appreciate any feedback you can provide on building robots, deals on where to get parts of the robot from, and your own team experiences. Please email us at sheena_bhola@hotmail.com . Thank you for showing great team sportsmanship.)

I responded as follows:

(Feel free to expand and give advice by adding to the thread)


Boy that is a tall order, however I can offer the following quick advice as a 8 year veteran:

We purchase most of our consumable materials from McMaster Carr or MSC. Both offer a good variety as well as fast shipping and competitive pricing.

Look for donations of building material, if you plan to use Alum. Then start getting it now. Since FIRST has opened the materials list the last few years teams can expect that it will stay and can start looking for raw stock. Free from local persons is always good.

Standardize your fasteners, this saves cost and confusion as well as tool purchase. Chief Delphi uses 10-24 cap or button head 90% of the time. There are always a few oddball 1/4 20, but very few.

Keep up on what is happening by monitoring the Chief Delphi forums. Ask questions, many teams can find you great deals or even swap you stuff you may need extra of.

Your best source of information is other teams. Use them, they will help in general as well as specifics.

Start learning basic robot building techniques as soon as possible. Knowing how to operate tools and machines before you start to build will lower the learning curve and lower waste. Get your students practice in the brain storming process as well as the build. They need to know how to work together, and that takes hours of practice.

Do not forget to learn how to read a micrometer.

Shop the local machine shop for deals, they might even donate a Bridgeport Mill or Lathe to your school. It makes a great Tax write-off for them and helps your team.

Many veteran teams work on designs in general all year long. And you thought that this was just a 6 week thing! They work on drive systems, shifters, and other possibilities that might be built in the next year. I am NOT saying they pre-build, no way, just experimenting to see what really works and how they would make that great idea come to life if was needed. Many FIRSTers just cannot get the program out of their head and dream "what if" all year long.

Save last years designs, they are lessons learned. What worked and what did not work is a great starting point for the coming season.

Lastly, organize your team and sub groups well in advance of the build season. Knowing what each person is responsible for as well as a plan to cover the emergencies when the job is behind schedule is important. Have your team well organized so that the build is the only thing you have to worry about.

I hope that this gives you a little insight for the coming season.

Keep in touch,

Mike Martus - Team Coordinator #47 Chief Delphi
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Unread 06-23-2003, 03:54 PM
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One bit of advise to give, if nothing else, just make sure you robot can move around. Even if you don;t make the arm, claw, or 'wings' you wanted to, if you can move around you still have a shot at winning. A solid, reliable drive base is the most important part of any robot. Also, keep things simple. Simple and elegant.
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Unread 06-23-2003, 05:06 PM
sanddrag sanddrag is offline
back to school ;-)
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- Have a final realistic conceptual design by day 5
- Be using calipers by day 8
- Bring out the drills and saws by day 10
- After the above, treat every day like it's your last day.
- Everything can and will take longer than expected.
- Nothing will get done early
- Keep a large chart of tasks to be accomplished with start and finish times and who is responsible for them. A large "white board" is a good place for this (and for many other things)

Good Luck!
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Unread 06-23-2003, 08:52 PM
Ian W. Ian W. is offline
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well, one thing that's been missed...

make sure you have plenty of parents that are willing to bring in lots of food and drinks during the six weeks. it's something that you'll probably overlook, until you realize you're really hungry

also, make sure you just have an idea of how you're going to work everything. know who's job is what.

KISS, Keep It Simple, [Student|Stupid] (take your pick on the last word ). don't go overboard your first year.

lastly, make sure you can keep everyone more or less happy, and find out any problems between team members early on, because you don't want a huge brawl to break out with 2 days left till ship.

remember, this isn't just about building robots, you need to keep in mind that we're all still human, and we all have flaws that must be overcome.
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Unread 06-25-2003, 01:50 PM
D.J. Fluck
 
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Re: Requested Advice

Quote:
Originally posted by Mike Martus
Standardize your fasteners, this saves cost and confusion as well as tool purchase. Chief Delphi uses 10-24 cap or button head 90% of the time. There are always a few oddball 1/4 20, but very few.
I HIGHLY agree with this statement. This year, we took the advice of Dr. Joe at the Delphi team forum and decided to standardize, and we even switched to Metric. I'm still not sure why we changed, but anyway standardization saves you in the long run. If you have one size bolts, with a handful of allen wrenches at that size, it really makes things easy. If you need to pull a part off, just grab any allen wrench lying around and boom you are already on your way to getting that fastener off. This saves time (I know this for a fact, we used to look for hours for the right size allen wrench..now its just grab any wrench around and it will fit...you save 10 minutes at a time...guaranteed). Thanks Dr. Joe and Chief Delphi for pointing this out, its really saved a lot of time and headaches.
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Unread 06-26-2003, 08:54 AM
Andy Brockway Andy Brockway is offline
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I would like to add that designing and building the robot 'at assembly' or 'design as you go' works for the simpler mechanisms and will suffice if you are running out of time. These designs are the first to break or fail so be prepared to redesign. Remember that you can learn a lot from your failures.

For best results do the math first especially for selecting motors and gear ratios. There is nothing more discouraging then spending three weeks building the ultimate lift device and then seeing the 'magic smoke' escaping from the motor during power up. Joe Johnson and Ken Leung (amongst others) have put together some white papers to help you through this.
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Unread 06-26-2003, 09:07 AM
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Quote:
I would like to add that designing and building the robot 'at assembly' or 'design as you go' works for the simpler mechanisms and will suffice if you are running out of time. These designs are the first to break or fail so be prepared to redesign
I would hate to tell you but those are not always the first thing to break.
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Unread 06-26-2003, 10:27 AM
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I agree with standardizing fasteners in theory. However, we have never been able to get down to one fastener or one head style or one drive size.

For a starting team, I would say to try for this, but don't hold it as a rigid standard. There are times when you can get yourself out of a tricky dimensional corner simply by choosing a smaller fastener.

If you're just starting out, the new fabrication rules (which will hopefully persist next year) make it much easier to go to metric fasteners. If you haven't yet invested $$$$ in taps, spare fasteners, etc., I would strongly recommend that you "go metric." Although you may have trouble with local supply, you can get almost anything (fasteners, clench nuts, taps, etc) from the mail order houses (MSC, McMaster Carr) in short order.

When we were restricted to Small Parts, this was problematic.


If you standardize on 1-3 fasteners, you can greatly reduce the amount of tooling you have to take to competition.
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