Originally Posted by Lil' Lavery
Outside of very high-end R&D gigs, what engineering jobs don't use lots of COTS components?
While I don't fully agree with OP, this is missing the point. If you aren't using lots of COTS, you're doing R&D pretty much by definition. The issue is in limiting one's COTS choices exclusively to those used in FIRST, even when the project is neither explicitly nor implicitly* subject to FIRST rules.
I think 3946 is pretty good about this. Once we figure out what we need for a non-competition function, we first check this against FRC devices, because
- we might have it in stock
- we might be able to use the parts for competition later
However, once we determine that our requirements really fall outside of the FRC allowable devices, we do a broader search. Our air cannon uses an AM Nanotube chassis because it is, after all, about the same size and weight as a 2012 FRC robot, but the pneumatics feature some scuba equipment, galvanized pipe, a cast iron tank, 3/4" brass solenoid valves, and utterly non-FRC standard 12V relay modules. More years than not, we've had an arduino-based control system.
A number of our proof-of-concept-not-intended-for-immediate-competition prototypes have used non-FRC motors and wheels and gearboxes, most commonly at a smaller scale for proof of concept.
A great number of our sensors through the years have come from outside of the regular FRC channels. This year we used three of these
programmed in parallel (OR logic) to detect a gear in the holder, and four of these
wired in parallel to detect when we were pushing against the touchpad, and a completely generic limit switch to tell us when our climbing winch was not securely stowed.
* An example of an implicit case would be when you're doing a mock game, and using the controls rules from the previous year.