2582 PantherBots Build Blog | Open Alliance | 2023

2582 the PantherBots are proud to join the Open Alliance. We have been benefitting off of the content created and shared throughout the previous seasons and would like to join in and help provide insight and inspiration to as many teams as possible.

About Us

Our team is based out of Lufkin High School in Lufkin, TX. Which is about two hours northeast of Houston in the piney woods of east Texas.


We have been competing in FRC since 2008. For many years we were a single regional robot often with the goal of just making it on an alliance. Since Texas has moved to districts we have become much more competitive and have won several awards and qualified for world championships on two occasions.

2022 was our most successful year competitively. We won the following awards:

  • FiT Dripping Springs - Event Finalist
  • FiT Dripping Springs - Team Spirit Award
  • FiT Fort Worth - Event Finalist
  • FiT Fort Worth - Innovation in Control Award
  • FiT Championship - Team Spirit Award
  • Ranked 11th in the FiT District and qualified for World Championships

We are still seeking our first blue banner but are proud of the accomplishments our students have made both on the field, in the classroom, and in life.

We will add our team goals for 2023 in a future post, but plan to share strategy, prototyping discussion, CAD, and code at least once a week throughout the year.

Website: http://lufkinpantherbots.com/
GitHub: LHS Pantherbots (github.com)


Glad to see yall joining OA! Cant wait to see yall’s build blogs in 2023​:orange_heart::black_heart:


Team Goals for 2023 Season

For the past few seasons or team has met prior to kick off to discuss the team goals in the upcoming season. The is an open session where we ask for input from our students on what we want to accomplish as a team for the year. It is a good opportunity to share the goals from the previous season and add or remove them for the next year depending on the team’s desires. We try to make sure the goals are measurable in some fashion (Some are harder than others to quantify). We set our goals in categories minimum, realistic, and stretch.

Where the minimum goals are items that our team would be really dissatisfied if we went through the season and did not achieve.

The realistic goals are items that we have either achieved in the past, or have been very close to achieving, but it will likely take a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck to achieve. We will strive to accomplish these but understand that we may fall short on some.

The stretch goals are goals that we feel like we can attain, but we will likely need some things to fall our way.

There is sometimes some pretty good discussion in what category the goal fits and sometimes it seems to fall between the categories, but the following is what we ultimately decided.

(Note these are in no specific ranking order other than how they came up in the meeting/or were recorded)


  • Pass on knowledge to incoming students
  • Have a safe workspace, both as in no injuries and a welcoming environment
  • Be an alliance captain or 1st pick at all of our district events
  • Qualify for the FiT district championship
  • Submit all award essays, (Impact, Dean’s List, Woody Flowers)
  • Exhibit Gracious Professionalism even during the heat of an event
  • Have our programing group be fluent with swerve drives
  • Win at least one award at our district events
  • Improve time management (Need to develop some metrics or quantify this one better)
  • Post at least weekly and update this Open Alliance Blog


  • Raise $15,000 in new sponsorships
  • Be a finalist at least one of our district events
  • Be an alliance captain/1st pick at FiT district championship
  • Maintain a clean organized pit and workshop
  • Do not beat ourselves in any match (No bad batteries, incorrect robot configuration, starting without charging air…)
  • Develop real time scouting system/app rather than accumulating data in bulk in the evenings and breaks


  • Qualify for FIRST Championship
  • Win a Blue Banner (Something our team has never accomplished but think we can get if a few things fall our way)
  • Make it on to an elimination alliance at FIRST Championship
  • Finalist at FiT District Championship

I think this pretty much covers where we concluded as a team in our last meeting. Now when kickoff comes, and we are discussing how we want to play the game and start designing we can ask ourselves. “Will playing the game like this let us achieve this goal we set?”


Day 1 Update:

After watching the kickoff video our team read through the game rules. We focused on the Arena, Match Play, and Game Rules sections. We read through the rules as a group and discussed each section to work through and understand all of the nuances of this game. We then broke up into the following subgroups.

Game Simulation

The game simulation group went to a gym at the school and taped out key field elements. 6 students did their best to imitate robots playing the game. We ran through quite a few simulated games. Different robots were allowed to have different capabilities to simulate the level of robots that might be at an average district competition. We hope this gives us a general idea of how the game might play.

Key things we learned that were not necessarily obvious from reading the rules:

  • An average alliance scored around 12-15 game pieces
  • Linking bonuses are critical
  • The charge station is very important
  • Need to be able to handle both game pieces
  • There will be lots of traffic on the side of the field with the loading station
  • Playing the game pieces in the middle of the filed will allow for a few additional game piece cycles

From this exercise our team has set out a few Musts and Cash Money ( aka. Wants) for our robot for 2023.

Robot Must:

  • Drive
  • Have LEDs (‘Because they are cool and to communicate with human player on what game element to give’)
  • Manipulate both game pieces (cone and cube)
  • Pick both game pieces up from the floor (want to pick up cones from any orientation but might have to see if this needs to go to the wants after prototyping)
  • Engage the Charging Station
  • Have low CG (Closer to a microwave than a refrigerator)
  • Score Game Pieces on Low and Mid
  • Align with retroreflective targets
  • Auto: Park, Score game piece + Park, Score game piece + engage

Cash Money (wants)

  • Score game pieces high
  • Use April tags for vision
  • Auto: Park + score multiple game pieces, score game piece + taxi + engage

The team will work on brainstorming and prototyping ideas throughout next week. We may adjust if the musts and wants based on results of prototyping and how difficult or easy the tasks may be or if we run across a great idea that we can easily implement with our time and resources.


A small group of students worked on getting ready for an outreach event that our team will have with some 4th grade students in our district.

Kit of Parts Inventory

Another small group of students inventoried the kit of parts per the checklist.

Game Field Construction

We had a group of students start working on the game field elements. The first item they are working on is the charging station. We managed to get all of the material purchased and cut.


A few members of the programming team started downloading and installing all of the 2023 software libraries and updates.

That is about all we made it through today. It was a good start and I can’t wait to see what types of robots teams come up with this year.


Week 1 Mid Week Update:

We have mainly been busy brainstorming ideas and building field elements.

Below is a view of our whiteboard:

The only circled design decision we have is swerve. That depends if we get our modules. We ordered some WCP Swerve X modules in mid November and hope to have them within a week or so. We have a set of SDS MK3’s that we have been using on a practice bot for the past two years so I think we are ready to take the dive into the swerve world.

It has various ideas of intakes, arms, grabbers and the like. We are still a longways away from selecting a design but are working on some prototypes.

We are working on a passive cone manipulator that was inspired by the following video:

Our prototype:

We are still working out the proper dimensions trying to get the cone to not get stuck at various speeds. Basically, the front bar would have to be actuated by the drivers. If the cone point is toward you it needs to be down if it is pointing away then it would need to be up. It should always orient the cones laying down point in the direction of travel. It seems possible to do, but would require a pretty large tunnel under the bot.

We have a few more items and grippers that we are trying and I will try to get videos as soon as they are functional.


Today we continued prototyping on our bot and we have started making some decisions on what our bot will look like as we build the final version.

A few prototypes that we made throughout the week.

One was a pincher arm that can pick up cones and score them. We decided to have a little fun and attach it to our off season bot with a long enough pvc pipe to score on the mid level. This let us know how difficult it would be to line up and score these and it is always neat to see prototypes in action.

It is a lot of fun to launch game pieces in a pick and place game so we let our off-season bot launch some cubes (unfortunately I don’t have video to share). It does a really good job if the cubes are properly inflated, but if they are under inflated it will not work at all so we decided to make a little catapult.

This simple catapult actually works fairly well. It is just a 1/4" piece of polycarb that has two churros screwed to it to hold the cube in place. When it is deflected about 2" it has plenty of spring to throw the cube in the high node. I think if the trigger was mechanized it would be pretty consistent. It seemed much more consistent with various levels of inflation than our flywheel on the old robot. The deflated cubes seemed to fly a little less than fully inflated, but still seemed like it would land in the same scoring zone with a similar pull.

We made a few more intake mechanisms. One that is similar to the REV Ion build with fixed wheels and a gripper, but we used pneumatics rather than motors. It worked really well at holding the game pieces even under pretty violent shaking. I did a poor job taking videos I’ll try to be better next time, but here is a picture. If we implement this we will need to adjust the geometry a bit to open wider. A fully inflated cube would barely fit in the jaws.

We made two other intake prototypes, but I need to get some pics or videos of those to share. Maybe I can share those by Monday.

Our game field crew finished our full size charging station. We managed to drive up with our old steamworks bot that was on a kit chassis, but our swerve (SDS MK3) that had no bumpers would drive the frame into the side and get stuck before the hinges would pivot. I think it will work fine if we add the bumpers, but we ran out of time.

We think we have the basic architecture for our bot.

We are planning on doing the elevator on an arm rendition.

But wait there’s more.

I have been really infatuated with a little cube racer robot. That could just zip around, intake cubes really quickly and launch them. I really think it would be a winning strategy on many alliances. We have been discussing as a team if we should just switch to focusing on cubes or keep with our original musts. Many on the team felt that we really needed to keep the capabilities to do cones.

Why Not Both GIFs | Tenor

If weight and packaging allow. We are going to try to add a dedicated cube intake and catapult. in the center void. This is in hopes that we could do really quick cube cycles. This would be able to launch into the high goal and mid, but beyond that I think there is a more interesting strategy. All you would have to do is get any piece of your robot in the community, launch cube, and essentially hit the broad side of a barn and you could score in a hybrid node or be within a light plow from you or an alliance mate from scoring. Then go get more cubes. We shall see if this part of the robot becomes reality.

The exact cube or cone intake that we are going to use is still in question, but after some promising progress I think we should have a good solution.


A few more pics and videos of the intake prototypes that we worked on.

This is a prototype of a full-length roller intake that had two configurations to test intaking cones and cubes. It did a really good job of intaking both game pieces. The width between rollers had to be adjusted for each piece, but still had good results with each.

Another gripper prototype with a linear slide that a few of our students worked on. This worked well with the cube, but the grip was a bit too wide to work with the cones.

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It has been an intersting week in the direction our robot is going.

I have actually been on a business trip and have been working with the team remotely.

After trying to start detailing the elevator on an arm layout we decided we might want to go in a different direction. The CAD was hard to control which isn’t a good sign. The more that we detailed the cad the more the design didn’t feel like it was going in the right direction.

This is what we were looking at. It had several ways that the arm could be in an illegal configuration if the driver’s and controls were not quite right. It had too much wight higher than we liked.

I am sure there will be very successful robots that utilize a similar layout, but we just did not like where it was going. We decided to back up and look for some additional inspiration. We really liked the REV starter bot, WCP’s competitive concept, and Everybot, but each one had areas that we thought were weakness. Either by not scoring on the high level or not having a ground pickup. We thought we could utilize some of those concepts along with utilizing a tilted elevator similar to Spectrum to help with reach.

Our new layout can be seen below.

Starting Config:


Ground Pickup:

Scoring Reach:

CAD available here.

Key Features:
WCP Swerve X corner flipped modules.
Single stage tilted elevator
Slide out drawer basically a horizontal elevator
Then a very slightly modified Everybot intake

As far as manufacturing we have started assembling our swerve modules. We are still waiting on a few back ordered items to come from WCP. We have started cutting some of the structure materials for the elevator and drive base.


Love the redesign.

Is that last pictures the high cone scoring? Is the intake going to actually get above the post enough?

Similarly does this reach high enough to get cones from the Double Substation?


With the current design iteration, I think it would be able to get high enough above the post on the high score and get cubes from the double station, but it would take some finesse by the driver using the pivot of the intake.

Ideally, we would just have a setpoint for both of those stations and not need the driver to have to time when they actuate the cylinder to be at the right height to score or pick up items from the substation.

We are going to look at a few changes to overcome this. One would be stacked pneumatic cylinders to get us multiple arm angles, or simply going with a motor driving the pivot. Currently this is our only pneumatic actuation on the robot so going with a motor pivot is likely the best direction to move.

Current Full Arm Pivot Extension:

Partial Arm Pivot:


Going to motors seems pretty doable, this is our first year without pneumatics in awhile and it’s going well so far.

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Current Electronics Layout:

If we end up going with pneumatics for anything it they will likely be going on the right side where the switch radio and RPM are currently located and those items will move upwards into the superstructure. The radio will likely end up in the superstructure anyway.

We will always add in a contingency plan to add pneumatics at a later date and set aside a place for a compressor and manifold. We have been locked into not using pneumatics in the past because we didn’t have the space allocated for the subsystem and it was later in the season and it really hurt us not being able to add it.

If we move to pnumatics:

Our belly pan will have holes for both layouts.


CAD is now getting detailed enough where it will provide somewhat meaningful weight and center of gravity data. I never fully trust the weight numbers in CAD because there are many items that are not fully captured. There is no wire and only about half of the fastners, and a few COTs items (Thrifty Elevator from MK Cad) that are not true to life. The rest of the items I belive to have fairly accurate weight. We are currently sitting at about 105 lbs. I am guessing after all of the unknowns were will likely be closer to 115 or so.

Currently the center of mass is pretty low when the robot is its retracted state. It is about 8" off of the ground almost in the very center of the robot. This should give us a very stable configuration to traverse the field and to balance on the charging station.


When the arm is fully extended to score in the upper positions. The center of mas moves up to about 14.6 inches from the ground and moves toward the front of the robot by about 6 inches. This is not terrible in my opinion, but if the robot is driving at a decent speed with the arm up and then stops there would be a fair likelihood of tipping.


We will likely be adding as much weight as we possibly can low and in the rear center to drop the center of gravity as much as possible on the actual robot.


Construction has begun

We have cut most of the tubing for the robot. We are wanting on some REV max extrusion for our elevators, but we managed to get everything else cut.

This year we are going to add a little color to our bot we are taking some inspiration from our friends on @LadyCans-FRC2881 and using some adhesive vinyl. We have found a cool purple glitter.

We did check to make sure it would not interfere with other bots vision tracking, and we could not see any indication that the purple glitter would act like a retroreflective target.

We painted some gussets.

We assembled 6 of our WCP Swerve X modules.


We started doing some driver practice on our off-season bot.

Interesting thing happened:

Our drivers stated that the bot was coasting too much after the joystick was released. When our programmer went to change the Spark Max settings from coast to brake mode, we managed to brick all of the Spark Maxs on the bot.

I have never seen this happen before, but the Spark Max that was plugged in to the USB C still had LED’s flashing, but all of the rest no LED’s.

With a little detective work we found the LED status codes from REV.

Status LED Patterns - SPARK MAX (revrobotics.com)

Turns out back or LED off is a failure for firmware to load. I am not sure how that happened with what the student was trying to do. We ended up going through a recovery mode for each of the motor controllers per the following.

Recovery Mode - SPARK MAX (revrobotics.com)

This seemed to get everything back up and running.


Looks great. I hope to get to see this up close at a couple of Houston area events in April.


We just got in some matte white vinyl to do on some of our polycarb parts this year. Very excited for how easy this is. I still need to find a vinyl that matches our powder coat and PLA filament purple.


Progress starting to be made on assembly of the robot.

We hope to have something driving this weekend. If our Rev shipment comes on Friday maybe we can be close to functional. :crossed_fingers:

One of our students has been working hard to update our team’s website.



The purple looks great


Awesome work guys! I am excited about this concept youre working towards, steal from the bst and invent the rest has always been a solid way forward.
Thanks for telling the sparkmax story, hopefully that can help others in the future.

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We made a little progress this evening. Drive base is assembled and belly pan is attached. I forgot to get a pic. Hope to get all of the electronics on and wire it tomorrow.

Started assembly of the main elevator carriage.