We heard from a number of teams and individuals that the OA content put out by our team and others over the past season was invaluable, and helped many teams make better choices to improve their own robot and process. Our summer has been spent primarily on constructing a set of road cases that make a functional Super Pit, and we wanted to share our experience with you all, in hopes that it would help folks as they explore their own choices for improving their work space at competition and at home.
- Organize robotics tools and supplies into a single space
- Inventory all parts, tools and supplies to prepare for major orders prior to build season (especially important since inflation and overseas shipping have become major concerns)
- Create a “Space Within A Space” that prevents cross-pollination of robotics and classroom supplies and tools (including myself, there are three teachers whose students use our meeting areas)
- Keep this space compact, so that it does not interfere with daily teaching
- Keep tools from getting misplaced and lost throughout the year
- Make transportation of all robotics supplies safe and secure from our space to competition
- Make setting up at competition quick, safe, organized, and easy to maintain
- Give us a safe and roomy work space to use at competition, including multiple work surfaces
- Create a hub for in-competition communications within the team, including a space for live viewing of the field
- Make a flexible battery charging station for nine or more batteries, which can either stay within the pit, or be made into a mobile “mini pit” to be taken field-side at events where moving the whole pit during elimination matches is not allowed or not practical
- Provide programmers with access to a space of their own while in the pit
- Fill in gaps in our existing tooling, so that we don’t have to keep borrowing stuff at competition
- Allow us to be able to help other teams the way we’ve been helped in the past, by having plenty of spare parts and tools that are easy to access and share
- Provide a platform for improvement of both our primary branding and our annual “theme”
- Make some space for fun and relaxation while in the pit
- Have this project be flexible (for future improvements) and durable (lasting at least a decade, if not more)
- Complete the project before the second week of August, in time for the start of the school year
That’s a lot to ask.
Team 1619, Up-A-Creek inspired us by being the first team we knew (and the closest to us) with a fantastic and useful pit arrangement. They also allowed us access to their shop, photos of their designs, and let us ask questions.
Team 973, GreyBots was (as far as I know) the original of the concept. We were next to their team at the 2017 Champs and were very inspired by how they used their space.
Team 4414, High Tide shared many photos of their pit design, answered many questions, and put us in contact with the company who built their cases, which was the company we ultimately chose to work with as well. JJ was incredibly responsive to all our questions about their process and product.
OMEGA CASE COMPANY
We considered several possibilities for a super pit structure and eventually decided that a road case was the most practical for us, since we wanted it to become completely enclosed when not in use in my classroom. Omega provided us with a competitively priced quote, along with drawings of their design, and they were willing to make modifications to our requested needs. Overall cost was about $6000 for three cases, with plastic-coated 1/2" plywood frame, heavy duty casters, and standard hardware (painted black on the interior). It took about six weeks from the time we made the decision to the time we had them delivered to my door. I will add that the corner case was a pretty unique design, and was made possible by a collaboration with JJ from 4414 and Randy Velasquez, the rep at Omega.
Some folks have suggested that purchasing the hardware and plywood and making the cases ourselves would have saved quite a bit of money, and they would be correct. If your team has the expertise, tooling, and time to construct cases like these yourselves I think that would be awesome! We had none of those things, so it was a pretty easy choice for us. If you have similar needs I do very much recommend working with Omega and Randy.
||2231 N. Hollywood Way, Burbank CA 91505|
FITTING IT OUT
The Omega cases are sized to fit a 6’ Husky tool cabinet from Home Depot. We found that it doesn’t really matter which model you purchase, they all have the same dimensions. We chose a model with a wooden work surface that can be raised to access additional storage. We removed the casters and power strip (we reused this later) and drilled holes into the bottom sheet that aligned with the caster mounts, then bolted the cabinet to the case. We also used Kaizen foam inserts to cut spaces for each tool, allowing us to keep better track of all of our hand tools. This was itself labor intensive; I know some folks do it with lasers and that might be a good option.
For countertop space, we purchased a long (9’) butcher block and cut it into two pieces, one for the left case and an oddly shaped one for the center. We mounted these to the plywood using 5" L-brackets and flathead 1/4"-20 bolts and nylock nuts. We finished the butcher block with waterborne polyurethane; personally I wish we’d used an oil-based finish since I like how that looks better, but whatever. Mounting these countertops made the cases significantly more rigid when open, and allowed for the stacking of standard KOP-style grey totes underneath.
Because our capabilities in-house don’t include sheet metal bending, but do include a table saw, we designed several storage areas to be made of various thicknesses of voidless Baltic Birch ply. We made these from measurements of the things they would be holding, assembled them, painted them, then attached them to their spaces in the case with 1-1/2" wood screws, pre-drilling the mounting holes and using lots of screws for redundancy. We mounted them through all three panels (side, bottom, back) to have each piece fully constrained.
The storage on the left side are Sterilite boxes that are sold at Walmart in packs of ten for around $10; Though they don’t have secure latches, we designed the case to securely hold the boxes while in place, and the low cost and good size made them attractive. When closing the cases, we take these boxes out and stack them on the counter, then move them back in when we open the case.
The right case has Bosch i-Boxx 72 cases, which have a handy storage setup. We simply cut slots into the plywood at appropriate locations and can now slot each box into place easily. We also used barrel bolts (Ikea style) to mount holding plates, allowing us to tip the case top over and have all of the Bosch boxes stay secure through transportation.
The corner case was fitted with storage for multiple laptops, as well as a large screen tv that can be brought out and adjusted, and devices that allow for cellular service (rather than wifi) and multiple device charging, so that we can stay connected even when wifi isn’t allowed at venues. We also put in an Xbox and some good speakers, for those times when we just want to have fun (and we aren’t violating any competition rules with the music and noise).
The battery charging area is designed to hold ten batteries and charge nine of them. We also made it so that we can pull it out and latch it onto a caster base, making it into that mobile mini-pit we wanted. The casters also conveniently work great as a minimalist robot cart.
We are planning on using the vast black surfaces of the front and back of the closed cases as space for our branding logos. Hiring a specialty shop locally to make and install the large stickers was prohibitively expensive (the quote was nearly $4000), so we used signs.com and designed several stickers ourselves using our existing .svg vector files. We ordered one (it was $160) and installed it as a test. It looks great, and when we’ve raised more cash we will purchase and install the rest.
This week, we finished the cases and have closed them up in preparation for the school year starting in a few days. As you can see, they fit neatly into the space allotted for them. I am able to close or open the cases myself, but it is much easier with two or three people involved, and they need to be tall-ish.
This project from start to finish took myself and a crew of between two to five students the entire summer, working on average three days a week. If we had attempted to construct the cases themselves we would not have completed this project. It remains to be seen if most of our goals will be achieved with these cases, as they have not yet been put to use in either the classroom or the competition environment, but I’m very optimistic that having these will make a huge difference in our preparedness and capabilities. If you have any questions I’d be more than happy to answer. Thanks!