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Unread 01-19-2018, 07:09 PM
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Re: Greyt Universal Cascade Elevator and Powercube Claw

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Originally Posted by jtrv View Post
Mike, I agree with you on most things - both historically and in this post - and I agree that the KoP could likely use some more attention. However, is selling a game piece manipulator from a (multiple) world championship level team really the answer here? Releasing free CAD files of basic, low cost cube manipulators (like the EveryBot) isn't enough?

I firmly believe approaches like releasing CAD for low-cost robots like the EveryBot is the right approach for helping low-resource teams. Not selling them an Einstein level premade part.
The STEP files are available on WCP. My intent in saying this is only that the design isnít really locked down. Also, very similar claws were demoíd via Ri3d machines.

Perhaps this gives a chance for teams that canít machine precise center to center distances a chance at having a world class manipulator? Maybe things like this help elevate the average autonomous capabilities of teams that now have a reason to do more than drive straight?

I believe offerings like this will greatly elevate those teams that donít have experienced FRC mentors, machining capabilities, etc. Iíve seen far too many teams fizzle out simply because all they could put together (often on practice day) was the kit drivetrain.
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Unread 01-19-2018, 07:14 PM
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Re: Greyt Universal Cascade Elevator and Powercube Claw

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Originally Posted by jtrv View Post
Mike, I agree with you on most things - both historically and in this post - and I agree that the KoP could likely use some more attention. However, is selling a game piece manipulator from a (multiple) world championship level team really the answer here? Releasing free CAD files of basic, low cost cube manipulators (like the EveryBot) isn't enough?

I firmly believe approaches like releasing CAD for low-cost robots like the EveryBot is the right approach for helping low-resource teams. Not selling them an Einstein level premade part.
I appreciate you making your perspective clear on this topic.

I don't think there is one answer here.

Do I think it's ideal that we are relying on a 3rd party supplier to round out the offerings that I believe should be in every KoP? No.

Am I glad that someone is doing something to give teams solutions that score points? Yes.

Does it make me nervous that this intake might be really good? Sure

I will say that there are lots of FRC teams that can't even use CAD, so CAD files won't do that team any good. Maybe this intake mechanism will be just what some rookie team needs to score some Cubes in the Exchange at their one Regional event this year. That would be worth it.

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Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
I see your point here, but if thats what a team wants to get out of a robotics program.. why not just compete in VEX? Personally the coolest part about FRC is you show up to competition and see EVERYONE with completely different robots. I hope you still remember your verrry first competition where you showed up and were blown away, because I do, and if I had seen ~60-70% of the same robots (Which in some regions is the average amount of kitbots), I dont think it would have had the same effect.
I sometimes ask myself why some teams are in FRC and not VEX. But they're here, and if they're here, we might as well be thinking about how to make their team experience the best it can possibly be.

I think that motivation is 100% behind this effort from 973 and WCP. Improving the team experience as best they can with the resources and expertise at their disposal.

Frankly, all of our FRC COTS suppliers are innovating every year in attempts to improve the team experience. It is part of what makes this community so special.

-Mike
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Unread 01-19-2018, 07:15 PM
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Re: Greyt Universal Cascade Elevator and Powercube Claw

As a whole I'm all for raising the level of play with COTS parts. I simply question where to actually draw the line of how much can be bundled into a COTS mechanism and still have students get the most out of their experience. This is getting pretty close for me and I'm not sure how to balance students having a robot that competent at completing the game challenge and still feeling like you had a meaningful part of designing the robot. To argue against that you can get a similar result with some VEX gussets bolted onto versaframe. That however feels like it requires more thought and effort by teams where this seems like it's given to you (I get the spacing and wheels aren't given to you but it's pretty close). I'm not demonizing this I'm just not exactly sure how to feel or where to draw the line. Combining general parts feels different that assembling purpose built ones.

If I were a student that spent a lot of time building an elevator (or intake) for my team only to get beat by people who bought a kit I'm not sure how I'd feel. As a team that had to use mostly all COTS parts I see the merits and ability to learn while still using these parts. In 2015 we used a extremely similar elevator to what VEX came out with for build blitz. We still made changes to how it actually interfaced with the totes and integrated into our robot, but as a whole the elevator system was made by VEX. This brings me back to where the line should be because I think being able to have that jump start helped us significantly and made the whole team get a lot more out of the season. However how much is too much to jump start teams?

For this year, we just finished the CAD for a cascade elevator that's extremely similar to this using the VEX linear motion kit. We're now having the discussion of throwing that out in favor of this because it is more purpose built and is actually in stock. It feels weird throwing out that work from our students for the competitive advantage that this system provides. As someone who's right on the line of resources to be able to build something like this by combining other COTS parts, it puts us in a weird place. I still feel a sense of accomplishment (insert EA joke somewhere around here) from combining different COTS components made for a general application into something specific for the game, even though we didn't design all the parts ourselves. I'm not sure if I get the same feeling from assembling components that are packaged together in a kit that anyone can buy for this specific purpose. I also feel as if I would learn less from the process if it's purpose built for one function.

Feel free to disagree with me. I'm trying to see the merits from both sides having been in a position to be benefited greatly from the amazing COTS options out there. I simply feel as if these game specific, packaged mechanisms may be going slightly too far and possibly degrading from a students pride in their work and what they actually learn from the program.
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Unread 01-19-2018, 07:33 PM
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Re: Greyt Universal Cascade Elevator and Powercube Claw

I made a comment earlier in this thread welcoming the cascading elevator. I still stand by it. As noted earlier, how is this any different from the Kitbot?

Some of the assumptions made are a bit exaggerated IMO.
If the concern is that teams can just buy these products and win regional events, then they are in for a rude awakening. It takes so much more to successfully build robots and to be successful in tournaments.

All of the things we want students to learn and be inspired about can still hold true.

If I was interested in making an elevator and had no idea how, I'd start by asking veteran teams about what they built in the past and get ideas. The information I would receive and the learning opportunities as a result, would be very similar to this release.

VEX allows teams to iterate robot builds throughout the entire season. There is a lot of design convergence and similar robots as a result.
Is it a bad thing? I'm not sure.
All I know is the same argument I made for FRC also holds true in our VEX program. Students are inspired and learning participating in VEX.
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Unread 01-19-2018, 07:47 PM
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Re: Greyt Universal Cascade Elevator and Powercube Claw

I have very mixed feelings on this release, but most of what I'd want to say has been said by Chris/Max/Bobby above.

Our kids just spent two weeks designing a two stage elevator and roller claw and now the smart thing to do competitively is to throw that all away and purchase this instead.

Even if our design is slightly better than this (it's probably not), using this means we can bring spare elevator/roller claw materials into competition more easily, because they're COTS items.

Overall, I love the effort to help new teams and low-resource teams out, but it just stings to see my student's work being completely wasted.
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Unread 01-19-2018, 07:49 PM
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Re: Greyt Universal Cascade Elevator and Powercube Claw

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Originally Posted by jtrv View Post
I firmly believe approaches like releasing CAD for low-cost robots like the EveryBot is the right approach for helping low-resource teams. Not selling them an Einstein level premade part.
So, I don't think this is what you're trying to say, but it sounds dangerously close to: "I'm okay with low resource teams having access to building something the quality of an Everybot, but I'm not okay with low resource teams having access to build a robot as good as 973's".

---

We've seen situations like this many times in the past. Some examples:

- 2005 - AndyMark starts selling shifting gearboxes and omniwheels. Prior to this, the only way you could have these types of parts was by custom machining them. (Seriously. A handful of teams used to make their own omniwheels) Many people feel it's unfair that a team who puts in considerable work to design and fabricate these parts no longer has a competitive advantage. Even more, they put themselves at a potential disadvantage when they waste time designing and building, when they could just buy the same parts. You have to remember at this time Andy Baker wasn't known for being the owner of a company, he was known for being one of the best designers and drive coaches in FIRST. So some people felt that Andy Baker was basically designing multiple team's robots and they could never compete with that.
- 2013 - Ri3d starts. Many people thought it was unfair that a team could just copy the Ri3d design and suddenly be able to score frisbees. Many arguments similar to above are posed.

The argument at both those times was that a team who chooses to do their own custom designs or ideas was being put at disadvantage compared to someone who either buys or emulates. I understand the arguments being made by the people who don't want to see the availability of COTS mechanisms resulting in teams feeling forced to stop doing their own custom designs in order to stay competitive. That being said, I think we need to be careful of screaming that the sky is falling. 13 years later the community is in full agreement that COTS parts like omniwheels are a good thing. 5 years later, I think most people like the availability of the Ri3d designs, although there are definitely those who disapprove. We'll see where COTS mechanisms fall on the spectrum.

I absolutely agree that a special part of FRC is the magic of seeing your own creation function. Do COTS parts take some of that away? Yes. Does letting Ri3D do your prototyping for you take some of that away? Yes. Will COTS mechanisms do the same? Yes. Is it a bad thing overall? I don't know. There's obviously a lot of magic still involved when you use COTS parts and an Ri3D concept. Will there still be enough magic left if teams use COTS mechanisms? Probably, but I won't say yes for certain. So much depends on the individuals involved and their own motivations and goals.

I also think people are underestimating the challenges in integrating these mechanisms into your robot. We're definitely not at the era of Ikea robots yet.
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Unread 01-19-2018, 07:51 PM
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Re: Greyt Universal Cascade Elevator and Powercube Claw

I hope y'all don't mind if I make where I and my team are coming from more explicit. I hope that this is valuable to the larger conversation.

We have built three elevators in the past (2007, 2008, 2015) and have experience and designs to grow from. We have studied effective ways to design elevators for years, including the now-famous 973 videos. We have a strong CAD team, and a strong strategy group, and when they decided that our strategy and capabilities were best served with a multi-stage elevator, our CAD students designed one that integrated into our drive base and would be (probably) 85% as effective as the "Greyt" elevator. When this was released today, we studied the CAD, and decided to purchase the kit and incorporate it into our robot design. In essence, we feel that the time saved by getting all the parts at once and not having to CNC out all of our own bearing gussets was worth the tradeoff of a few extra dollars, as well as the eating of approximately 60 hours of CAD time that our dedicated team has put in already. This was more difficult for us than choosing to use, say, COTS gearboxes. But in the end, we still feel proud of what we've done so far, and of what we believe we can accomplish in competition this year, including with the elevator kit parts.

I realize that we don't represent every team, that there are as many ways of approaching this conundrum as there are teams. Some folks shun this, and I don't blame them. Some folks might build their entire robot this year from stuff that they haven't touched in terms of design, and frankly I don't blame them either. I sincerely doubt the day will ever come that four kids unpack a robot-in-a-box and start driving it around. I know that my group works more hours and puts in more heart and thought now than they did a decade ago, even though today we can buy more stuff that works better. In the end, that's satisfying my requirements for this program.
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Unread 01-19-2018, 07:55 PM
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Re: Greyt Universal Cascade Elevator and Powercube Claw

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Originally Posted by Karthik View Post
I also think people are underestimating the challenges in integrating these mechanisms into your robot. We're definitely not at the era of Ikea robots yet.
Great post Karthik.

I wanted to highlight your last statement. Integration is indeed the hardest part. No amount of COTS parts or mechanisms will just make a robot work.
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Unread 01-19-2018, 07:56 PM
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Re: Greyt Universal Cascade Elevator and Powercube Claw

Something to remember, pretty much ever team in FIRST has used a COTS part designed by Paul Copioli, Andy Baker, or John V-Neun. So teams have been getting access to Einstein level parts and designers for years.
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Unread 01-19-2018, 08:06 PM
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Re: Greyt Universal Cascade Elevator and Powercube Claw

I love the COTS revolution. It has done an excellent job of raising the level of accessibility to this program and provides professionally engineered parts that teams can integrate to their robot. I came from a team that extensively used COTS parts and even on the team that I'm on now I actively advocate using COTS solutions in order to achieve a more competitive, more inspiring robot.

But something about this product release rubs me the wrong way. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the designers that have created this product and I don't doubt that this product was released to raise the competitive floor and to benefit the FRC community as a whole. But what makes this product release different from other COTS items on the market? Obviously I'm not the only one that's uneasy about it, considering some of the previous posts on this thread, and I think it's important for CD to really recognize and understand why people have mixed feelings about this.

For me, I'm uneasy because this is a product designed specifically to address a "high level" challenge from the game, released in the middle of build season. Every FRC game has "advanced/high level" challenges and "simple/low level" challenges. The scale from this year would be "high level", as well as the high goal boiler from last year, the high goal from Stronghold, the highest scoring goal from 2012 and 2013 (well, ignoring the one on the pyramid). Now imagine, if for each of these respective tasks, a COTS supplier with Einstein-class engineers decides to sell a well thought out mechanism for it, in the middle of build season, sometimes even resulting in teams dropping their own designed solutions for the sake of the "better" kit (as I've heard some people mention here in this very thread). Imagine what 2015 would look like if there were Einstein-level can grabbers released for sale in the middle of the season. This doesn't just apply to low-level teams, but to any caliber of team out there. I have friends on well-established and relatively competitive teams that have expressed interest in purchasing this product rather than going forward with the solution that they've been working on. Personally, I think we're starting to set foot in a direction that worries me.

Of course, a team that decides to purchase these products will probably not become instantly successful, because there's still integrating it properly, wiring it properly, coding it properly, and making the proper customizations to fit each team's individual preferences. In fact, if this product was released before the season based upon the information FIRST gives suppliers, similar to the Rhino tread, then maybe I'd be relatively fine with it (although Rhino tread was designed for a "simple/low level" challenge). There's a level of customization built into these products that I suppose will allow teams to "make it their own", as well. But there's a better way to introduce a solution for a "high level/advanced" challenge than turning it into a product and selling it.

For example, use the same concept of Ri3D and MCC, and release it as a design for teams to consider (Greyt Designs, or something like that). Whether its by CAD, by a video, by a whitepaper, or a guide on how to make it, any of those options would probably be more well received rather than a product for sale. In fact, I noticed that both the elevator and the intake utilize already existent COTS products. Couldn't the design team have made a guide, like "here's how to make a competitive cascade elevator in FRC" (I know that 973ramp does have a video on elevators), or "here's an efficient intake geometry that we've found for this year's game piece". Even without CAD files, it would benefit teams much better than with a product.

I'm sure myself and others all have different ideas of what is "inspiring" in FRC and where the "line" lies in terms of COTS products, and I don't want to shun or criticize those that choose to use products like this for their team. A lot of people that I look up to and respect in FRC community are supporting this product, and I'm interested in hearing more about the why.
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Unread 01-19-2018, 08:46 PM
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Re: Greyt Universal Cascade Elevator and Powercube Claw

Before I begin, I want to say I'm glad that someone is expanding COTS outside of drivebases and gearboxes. I'm grateful to 973 and WCP for doing this and I think it's a good direction for FRC. That being said, I want to analyze some of the reasons why this may have not been executed optimally.

TL;DR: I think the "anti competitive" effects of game specific COTS components can be seriously mitigated by providing them in the kit of parts. The material problem this product release seems to cause some teams is forcing the decision between not being competitive, and throwing away students hard work.

I think one issue with this is that it came as a surprise to many teams. We know that there's the option of buying a drivebase kit. We know that COTS shifting gearboxes are available. Because we know this, we can decide prior to the season whether we think we will be better served by COTS components or custom components.

Unless I've been living under a rock for the past several months, there wasn't any announcement prior to the season that game specific COTS components would be developed, and to what level of competitiveness and quality. Some teams designed and prototyped both of these mechanisms, and now need to decide whether or not to throw that work away.

Simply having the information that such a component would exist prior to the season already improves the situation, as lower resource teams can go into the season knowing they can spend their time elsewhere (drive base assembly, wiring, code), and higher resource teams can design their own mechanisms.

Issues arise when medium resource teams don't know whether their efforts are going to be wasted despite knowing these components exist. This is unique to game specific mechanisms because their competitiveness is highly unpredictable. Gearbox effectiveness doesn't change year to year, and the same applies to drivebase design to a lesser extent. Medium resource teams know whether or not they can outperform the kitbot and COTS gearboxes with custom designs. There's no way to know whether or not they can outperform the COTS mechanisms though.

Perhaps an elevator is something that comes up often enough that teams are already acquainted with their capabilities to make one, but I think manipulators vary too much between seasons to be a COTS component. We have full width intakes and shooters one year, and claws the next. Oftentimes there are competing designs even.

One way to mitigate this would be for these mechanisms to be designed prior to kickoff, and shipped with the kit of parts. This is the earliest that you can give teams any information on whether or not they should build custom.
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Unread 01-19-2018, 09:00 PM
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Re: Greyt Universal Cascade Elevator and Powercube Claw

Quote:
Originally Posted by gorrilla View Post
I believe rev has elevator bearings for 1*1 tubing
Only works on their 1x1 extrusion as far as I can tell, which is a bit heavy (and expensive) for my liking (also the eccentric nuts they use just scream "this is something that's going to come loose in the middle of a match" to me).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Marandola View Post
The VEX plates support 1x1. Check out the drawings for the assembly.
The Vex 1x1 examples that I've seen only show mounting methods that would prevent a cascading elevator (due to interference with the 1st stage), unless I'm just blind and I'm missing something.

Not that it matters much in either case since the VEX linear parts are all sold out.
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Last edited by cbale2000 : 01-19-2018 at 09:52 PM.
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Unread 01-19-2018, 09:13 PM
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Re: Greyt Universal Cascade Elevator and Powercube Claw

To get an idea of why this bothers me and so many others, I want to try to show how this affects a low/mid-resource, mid-level team like 5254. Here is a side-by side of our latest elevator CAD the day before the WCP elevator kit was released, and here is the WCP elevator kit CAD.

This is probably 80-100 hours of work done in the past two weeks by our students on 5254, and the two look remarkably similar.
The roller claws are fairly different, but still similar in concept.

Essentially all of build season we’ve spent on mechanical subsystems up until now was largely spent on these two systems.
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Last edited by Kevin Leonard : 01-20-2018 at 11:22 AM.
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Unread 01-19-2018, 09:15 PM
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Re: Greyt Universal Cascade Elevator and Powercube Claw

As far as the buy COTS vs. design something in-house argument goes, this allows me to purchase bona fide 973 designs, reverse engineer them, and try to understand why they were designed that way. I personally don't feel that this detracts from the overall FRC experience.

Beyond that, I don't have too much to add, but I do want to raise concerns about some of the implications with respect to cheesecaking.

Because 973 has released these designs as a COTS product, they don't need to prefabricate it and use it as part of their witholding allowance. Assuming that they are able to access the stock used for distribution, they're able to put elevators and claws and anything else on any other robot.
  • Implication 1: If I'm a high-resource team competing at the same event, I am now incentivized to release similar product lines that guarantee that I'm able to cheesecake my alliance partners to at least the same degree.
  • Implication 2: If I'm not a high-resource team, but find myself captaining an alliance from a low seed, I'm now slightly disadvantaged. I too can cheesecake other robots using these same products, but as I'm not the individual or party responsible for the design, I will do so at a level that is less expert. I also have to shell out the cash to purchase these products; I don't have them in stock.
  • Implication 3: If I'm a high-resource team who has released an opposing product line, I now am looking for robots that already are using my parts or are designed in such a way that allows me to cheesecake my stuff onto them. If you take this idea to the extreme, you have competing product lines develop into full blown ecosystems.
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Unread 01-19-2018, 09:16 PM
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Re: Greyt Universal Cascade Elevator and Powercube Claw

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Originally Posted by Karthik View Post
Something to remember, pretty much ever team in FIRST has used a COTS part designed by Paul Copioli, Andy Baker, or John V-Neun. So teams have been getting access to Einstein level parts and designers for years.
Wait until it happens with software. The day is coming really soon, I promise.
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