2nd robot survey

Curious what the impact of having unfettered access to your competition robot means to the phenomenon of 2nd robots.

I could see us building two robots, but not identical. One would serve as a test bed for prototyping ideas for the other one.

Obviously we still need to discuss this as a team, but I suspect that we will continue to build 2 complete robots–dropping our 3rd “half robot” (usually either a few key mechanisms or a chassis for path development).

Once competition season rolls around, there are still many competing tasks that require a robot: Auton development, driver practice, mechanism improvements, teleop controls development, vision development, creating video assets to name a few. **NOTE: Unfettered access to the competition robot brings a lot of advantages, but it will be crucial to consider wear and tear on that machine and we will have to be careful to not kill it before we compete.

My first pass at how we will allocate our robots:
"Competition Robot" - Auton and vision development/tuning, tweaking of key mechanisms (identical robots are never truly identical, it would have been such a gift to actually be able to play with our Steamworks fuel launcher between comps), filming for videos.

"Practice Robot" - Driver Practice, testing/proving of new mechanisms, teleop controls development, auton team Full Sends (no full sends on competition robot!)

The thing that excites me the most is the potential for a calm Thursday full of practice matches. Rolling into a competition with all updates installed and fully vetted will make for so much more practice time on a real field. (As an aside, I suspect this is where the low-mid tier teams can make huge gains from this change. We’ll see better prepared drive teams and better tuned autons. Access to a real field is hard to come by but becomes a lot easier when you’re not finishing your robot in the pits on Thurs)

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For us, it is rare that our 2nd robot matches in performance to the competition bot (friction, dimensional differences, quality of build, etc.) and they are of limited value in terms of autonomous programming/tuning.

I don’t think we’ll build the full on 2nd robot with the same intent as previously.
We’ve had a separate test bed for electronics for a few years, detached from any physical robot, and will likely continue that.

I don’t think we’ll spend the effort on fully building a 2nd functional robot clone of our competition robot. We may build a 2nd robot in the summer in the vein of “if we had the season to do over again, what would be do?”

I can’t speak for the decision we’ll actually make, but this is true for us too. We’ve never been able to get a second robot perfect enough to get any real auto programming done on it, but it was useful for driver practice… I suspect we’ll use the money for other things and continue with our use of a ‘programming board’ for testing purposes.

Was gonna say the same thing. Identical drive base, but no longer built for drive practice. Now it’ll be for programmers and design testing.

The second robot becomes the competition robot, and is built after we see how the game works…

We may not build a full second robot, but the benefit we found with having a second robot is having parts to swap out. For example, 2017 our gear grabber had an issue where it would bend screws holding our linear slides down. The replacement wasnt quick so our solution was to take the assembly off our practice robot and have it for a quick swap when need be. We couldn’t redesigned the part to make it work better but having the pit crew service the arm asm. during the match wasnt that bad.

I voted as “save money for other things” but I’m re-thinking this. If we have to ship our bot to a regional in week 2, and it goes directly from there to one in week 5, we’ll still need a practice bot.

Alternative is to take 'bot in checked baggage, and lose most of Thursday putting it back together and testing.

If they’d give us some time on Wednesday for reassembly, that might work. Or we could just fly a day early (added hotel/van cost) and put it together in the hotel room, or using a local team’s shop. Hmmmm…

Guess I really can’t answer this question just yet.

There’s definitely a big wear-and-tear downside to driver practice on the comp bot. So I’d probably be in favor of having two “identical” robots, and trying to minimize non-competition use of the comp bot (final auton testing, that sort of thing).

Still will build two, except now we can have programmers working on auto routines and tuning our models on one while we do driver practice with the other. Then we can do driver practice with both to simulate playing defense.

Honestly… I don’t know how it will affect us. We’ll probably talk over our 2020 build plan after this season.

I’ve been thinking about building 2 robots but the second is a revision of the first. They’d most likely share a lot of components so the first revision would become spares for the second one.

Wear and Tear is a big concern but now with robot access between competition it should be easier to maintain a more proactive approach to maintenance. IMO most of the time wear in FRC isn’t really wear in the conventional sense, it usually indicates some larger design or construction issue that is in need of resolving.

Day early and I’ll bet a blue banner that some local team would love to host your re-assembly:D

2009 was the first year we built a true practice robot, although we had enough full protos of Speed Racer and our main robot to have practice robots in 2008.

That was 10 years ago when our season was one regional (Week 1) so we probably wouldn’t have built a practice robot in 2009.

Today is entirely different since districts in 2014. We will still make a practice robot and I’ll be pushing that our team make a third competition chassis for programming and driver practice exclusively while the two main robots are built.

One robot will have a hard time surviving programming, drive practice, practice matches, and 150+ official matches that teams are pushing.

Yeah, I thought of that about 2 minutes after I whined about the problem. It was late, and it is certainly taking a while to fully ‘grok’ the ramifications of this change. I think giving us a year to think about it was a good idea.

We have been doing this for a few years now… It does make it hard to lose the first evening and sometimes part of practice day. Heck the saving in shipping is phenomenal and added design constraint is worth it. The savings from shipping from Hawaii can pay for a practice bot or two.

We do two mainland regionals and do not tear down after the first one but just bag it assembled for the second event. It can make storing and traveling a little more challenging for the second event. Though this process has created some excellent team bonding and more importantly created pathways to work with local teams in the event area…

Citrus Circuits was super wonderful to work with and stored our robot and pit for us while we took the time between SF and Sac regionals to tour the area. So much awesome that they even delivered our bot to the competition!
Kennedy Robotics was clutch and took our crate (we built at Sac) to store and ship to Houston… Many, many thanks for that…

Honestly there were so many great teams we worked with at both regional events that mainland trips have become our preferred path for competition. Let alone the inspiration found in traveling and see what is out there…

Even though we were not allowed to reassemble our robot for the first regional, we would send the robot, mentor and a few students out a day or two early to make sure everything arrived. That way we would have a day or two to recover from a delayed robot… Hasn’t happened yet but its best to be prepared…

With the ability to reassemble prior to event will really help this method of shipping. We have been using Alaska Airlines as they have had the best fees for over-sized baggage. They were only charging for one of the overage fees, so each robot box was about $75 to travel with… many less zero than shipping a crate.

Now with the unlimited access, it will make it much easier and far less stressful to reassemble or repair and prep for the next event.

Sorry if I didn’t give all the other teams that helped us over our last trip a shout out… here is just a few (4159, 2383, 1072, 1671, 6474) Sorry if I missed you, you know who you are and we love you all!


I think the value of no stop build is really that the top-top teams build 2 instead of 3, and that the middle teams build 1 instead of 2.

The wear and tear concerns are more valid the more field time you put into the robot. I think the mid tier teams mostly won’t put in enough hours to fully justify a complete second robot that exists just to keep the first one fresh. That second robot becomes a luxury instead of a necessity, and the gap is much smaller.

I feel like we will probably build two robots in 2020 as we have been doing for years and then change up our approach in 2021 based on our 2020 season experiences.

One implication of this… Can you give a robot to another team to use in competition? Do you have to use substantially the same robot in all competitions. Just what would substantially mean anyway?