342, The Burning Magnetos, 2023 Open Alliance Build Blog

Hello everyone!

My name is Justin White, I’m the drive team and design mentor for Team 342, The Burning Magnetos. We are so excited to be joining The Open Alliance this season, and I wanted to start this thread with a little info about us.

Allow me to re-introduce ourselves,

Some of the folks who have been around FRC for a while may recognize us, but we have changed a lot over the years and aren’t such a recognizable name like we may have been back in the day.
We are the second oldest team in South Carolina, started at the Bosch plant in Charleston, and at the time, serving as the single team in the entire low country. We consisted of a hodge podge of students from all the local schools, however since 2011 when we helped start some other teams, we have been made up of exclusively students from Fort Dorchester High School in North Charleston.
We admittedly had a bit of a drop off in consistency around 2010, but since 2017 we have been regrowing, gaining experience as a team and steadily getting better. Part of our hope is that joining The OA will help us improve. This season, we are a relatively young team as far as student experience, although we have done our best to train in the off season.

What have we been up to?

Since the end of the 2022 season, we competed in two off-season events, SCRAP and SCRIW.
We invested in some MK4 swerve modules to mess around with so we can be prepared to use them in the future.
We picked up a Shapeoko CNC router from Carbide 3D and have been experimenting with it. I think we have worked out all the kinks on the side of both the users and the machine. we have been making a tubing fixture for this based on the WCP fixture, but we had to make it ourselves so that it would fit the T-slots on our machine, which of course are different than that of the Omio that the WCP fixture is designed for. I plan to make a post about that on its own in the future.
We had new students put together a KOP chassis that we plan to use as a multi purpose mule, for practice driving, prototyping, and demonstrations. We intend to make mechanisms for it that are easily interchangeable so we can do all these things with minor changes.
And as many of you now know, SC has joined the PCH district, so we have been doing some preparing for that.

What do we have coming up?

This coming Saturday we are hosting a FTC Scrimmage in our school,
and we have been given the opportunity to host the official FRC kickoff for the state, at which we will host a variety of workshops.
Towards the end of the build season we intend to host two shake down days prior to the in state events, one of which just being in our shop on roughly a ⅜ field, and the other being in our schools cafeteria with as close to a full field as we can put together. hopefully this will help prepare local teams for districts, which we are told, is way more stressful on your robot than the regionals we are all used to.

Some info about what stuff we use

As far as design, we use Onshape for CAD. (we lost our cad/design mentor in 2020, and onshape was the easiest for me to teach myself that way we had a design mentor, not to mention all the frc feature scripts and MKcad and such.)
We have become fans of the REV ecosystem. We tried falcons last year, and honestly for us, found the cons outweigh the pros. we have had 0 issue with our neos and plan to stick with them for the foreseeable future. We haven’t used the max planetarys yet because we just had a bunch of the versa planetarys around but plan to switch this year. we have also invested in the thrifty elevator system, hopefully we get to use it this year.
We like to use mecanum or a wcd, (and while this thread is for feed back, you won’t change our mind on mecanum) and we have hopes to be ready to use swerve soon, but don’t expect to be ready for this season just yet.
For programming, I know we use Java, beyond that I don’t know anything about programming, lol. It’s basically one big FRC knowledge gap that I have. Here is our GIT.
For scouting, we still go old school pen and paper, and then have someone manually inputing data into a spread sheet to review later.

About this thread

Myself and our Team Captain, Jacob, will be the primary posters here from our team. we of course will do text posts as per usual, but we may do a few video posts here and there. We have a twitch that I have previously streamed on while doing our cad work. I have also posted those streams on our YouTube. Ideally I’d like to stream some of our drive practices but we’ll see how that goes.
As with any open alliance group we are open to any questions and critiques. we are obviously new to The OA and will do our best to post all the info we can think of. if we miss anything, bug us about it lol.

Social links and such

Onshape (ill edit this post and link this seasons build here when we get started, here is our 2022, its kind of a mess, it was my first time designing a robot and being a design mentor lol)

We can’t wait for this season to get started and to share it with all of you! Good luck everyone!
We will be competing this season at PCH Anderson and PCH Hartsville and hopefully at both PCH DCMP and Worlds.


Thanks for getting this thread started, @RedLeader342 !

Hello everyone! My name is Jacob Boutin, and I am the student Team Captain for Team 342. I will be making the rest of the posts for this round of Open Alliance.

  • Lately, we’ve been up to a couple things. Our main offseason project has been working on our first swerve drive since the Steamworks season, and we are using the SDS MK4 modules.
    We’ve also been engaging in a lot of outreach during the offseason, and have been present at many events with a focus on increasing the reach of STEM & FIRST in our local community. For instance, we presented about FRC at a local fair in our area, and attended a NIWC-sponsored defense contractors summit.

  • We have a couple of events on the horizon. This coming Saturday, we will be hosting our first ever FTC scrimmage in partnership with FIRST SC. We will also be hosting the official FIRST SC kickoff on January 7th, 2023. We will be hosting a shakedown day on 2/25 & a scrimmage on 3/4 to help our fellow teams get ready for our first round of district competition.

  • Up until now, we have made use of both VEX & REV Robotics products in conjunction with another, especially when it comes to both Falcons & NEOs. This coming season, we will being moving towards using exclusively REV Robotics products.

  • This thread will feature photographs of activities in the shop, our CAD files, our code for the season, as well as general posts about how we are progressing with our season, including awards & such.

  • Social Links
    Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/@team342-theburningmagnetos5
    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/frcteam342/?hl=en
    Facebook: FRC Team 342:The Burning Magnetos
    Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/frc342
    Tiktok: https://www.tiktok.com/@frcteam342
    Team Website: http://www.first342.org

So I’m going to make a bigger post about it later down the road, like a whole video and stuff, but I wanted to put this out there.

We made our own tubing fixture for our router, on said router.

We don’t have an omio like everyone else seems to have, we have a shapeoko. So the WCP fixture wouldn’t fit our mounting system.
Rather than buy theirs and modify it, we simply used their design and modified it to fit our machine, and built it from scratch.

We still have to tap the fixture holes but finished machining it today. Here’s some pictures


We also hosted our first FTC Scrimmage today.
It was a really interesting experience for our members to experience this program, and we are looking forward to expanding our work with the program in the future! We plan to host scrimmages yearly.

Here are some of the pictures from today.


A brief update for everyone. We had our final meeting of 2022 this past Thursday.

During that meeting we:

  • Continued our work on Swerve code
  • Worked on mechanical part inventory

We’ve also been working on some vision tasks, and have figured out how to tune photonvision for Apriltags.

Our next meeting takes place the first week of January, as we get ready to host the official SC kickoff event. Content on this thread will be relatively limited until then.


Happy Kickoff!!

We took a video to cover what we did today, but I recorded it on my phone and the audio was bad so Im’ma just type a lil sumthin.

As I’m sure most teams did, the first thing we did was sit down and read the rules.
We broke into groups led by each sub-team captain making sure at least one member of each sub-team was in every group.
We got back together after this as a team and everyone pointed out big things they noticed in the rules, the non-evergreen stuff. Some highlights were; if you happen to knock off a game piece scored in auto, but return it during teleop, the auto points still apply; choosing which game pieces to stage where, being separate from your preloaded game pieces; and no extensions in the opponent’s loading zone.

Following that we laid out every way you can score points and ranking points.
Based on this we determined the charging station balancing is going to be the best and easiest way to score points. But obviously, just doing that will not cut it. We want to be able to score on the high row first, fill it out entirely, and then move on to the lower rows. This not only maximizes points, but makes it less likely you’ll knock a game piece off the 2nd row.

Since we determined that the charging zone is one of the most important things, we knew the drive train choice was between swerve and tank. Our team loves mecanum (so you know if we aren’t doing it, that’s probably not the way to go) but it would make balancing too difficult for what it would be worth otherwise.
And even having built a swerve in the off-season, our programming team told us they just were not confident enough yet to do it in season, so long story short, we will be doing a wcd. We should have that design done by the meeting Monday and be able to start cutting metal.

We determined that this game is relatively straightforward design-wise, aside from the gripper. The big concern there is how you pick up a cone that’s not sitting flat on its base. Luckily the FTC game this year has cones and a lot of great examples from teams to take inspiration from.

Now it’s time to come up with ideas and start prototyping!

Ignore my bad handwriting lol

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update; now thanks to this thread, some of us (or at least me) are reconsidering if mecanum would really be that bad. main concern here is how hard would it be to balance the charging station during autonomous. we feel it won’t be an issue during teleop, as we have done that in 2012, but we know tank would be easier.
and that bridge earns the most points. so now im really not sure. we have been talking on our slack channel, but we will likely discuss it more in person on Monday.

After more consideration, me and @RedLeader342 are leaning more towards tank again. The primary reason Mecanum was a consideration was placement accuracy struggles we had with our 2019 Tank Drive, but because we did some thinking and realized we don’t have to be quite as precise, we’re leaning towards Tank Drive again.

ok, day 2 update.

we have finally decided on tank. one thing I’m struggling with is how to do the math to guarantee we dont get stuck trying to drive up the bridge.

we have begun prototyping, we made a successful cone uprighting prototype, but it only works in 3 orientations, upright, knocked over facing away, and knocked over facing towards you. next step is to try to add some sort of centering device so it can be any orientation.
ill add a video to this post on my phone when I get home, but it typed this on my computer at the meeting, so if you dont see it, check back soon.
thats all I have for today <3
Here’s the video now

gripper cad
chassis cad

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A bit of an addendum to @RedLeader342 ‘s post. Yesterday, our programming team did some extensive physical cleaning, and worked on getting our PCs ready for the season. We should be starting on code by the end of this week.

Today, some students worked on a couple different prototypes, one to try and use a vacuum to hold the cone and cube, it did well on the cube but not as well on the cone.
There was another cone uprighting concept put together.
Unfortunately I failed to get pictures of any of these :sweat_smile:

My one and only cad student designed a gripper prototype and we cut it out on the cnc router today, we will assemble it tomorrow.

This was our first prototype/robot part on the cnc!
It’s a wheeled intake with actuating pinchers that the wheels are mounted to. You can see it where I linked our gripper cad in my previous post.

On your “get on the charging station” question, what you want to do is to make a 2D layout of the two states of the switch (flat and tilted). Draw up your proposed chassis front and run it forward until the first thing hits the station. FYI, its going to be your bumpers for the flat position.

To figure out if you can push the bot onto the ramp, you need to do a free body diagram. I would assume that you have pretty good sliding between the bumpers and the slippery ramp. SO, the force between the bumper and the ramp is perpendicular to the ramp surface. Assume that your bot is GOING to go up, and model it as the weight being carried by the ramp and the back wheels.

Do a sum of moments around the back wheel contact to figure out what the force on the ramp is. Taking the vertical component of the ramp force, subtract that from the robot weight to get the vertical force on the rear wheels.

The horizontal component of the ramp force is the tractive effort you need to push your way up.

Divide the vertical force on the wheels by the tractive effort and you will get the coefficient of friction you need on your rear wheels to do the climb.

If you buy sticky bumper fabric you will have to change this model to deal with friction on the front…


This will be a short one
Our cad student got his prototype mostly assembled with the help of a few build students, now we just need to power it. I built another idea based on something I saw on the sushi squad blog. I cut it on the cnc today and will assemble tomorrow.
I really enjoy having this cnc. We’ve already done more proper prototyping this season than ever before. If you don’t have one I recommend getting one.


I don’t have a whole lot to add tonight as far as specific season progress, I kinda got held up with adulting.

But I know the KOP chassis we had new students build in the off season got wired yesterday and programming took it today. This will allow drive team to start practicing with tank drive, which is important since no students on the team were there when we last did one in 2019.

We discussed ways to move the gripper from stowed to scoring,
We determined a few things,

  1. A “pink arm” isn’t within our current design capabilities.
  2. A scissor arm on an elevator is plausible with precise machining, which we have now with the cnc router, but probably not the best option
  3. We did a virtual 4bar in 2019 with success, but we haven’t mapped it out yet to see if it will work for us this year.
  4. David Allred from 4451 suggested a telescope arm on the elevator, like the wcp greyt climber. That makes me nervous about the drooping over time, but it’s something to consider.

Long story short, we didn’t decide anything. Lol
I have a video from yesterday of a prototype demo, but idk how others post videos here on cd. And uploading to YouTube is kinda a hassle,
I’ll investigate the video stuff more tomorrow.

We take fridays off from meeting, but cad will likely still be happening because onshape is great like that.

If you look at the cad links I posted above you’ll see under gripper there’s a file for my student, sushil, and a file for me. You can check out what we’re both working on. He’s more focused on the gripper, while im still mulling over the cone uprighting set up. The chassis went from barely started to almost done during the course of a district even planning committee meeting this evening, so I got that going for me, which is nice.

See you all tomorrow!

Yesterday, our programming team also continued our discussion about how to best approach autonomous for this season. So far, we’ve decided on a couple things:

  • Our minimum viable autonomous is earning the mobility points.
  • Our ideal autonomous is scoring low, earning the mobility points, and engaging with the charge station.
  • We are likely to heavily rely on vision for autonomous this year, especially when it comes to engaging with the charge station in auto.

We also plan to have more autonomous modes then these if we can get them consistently functioning before competition.


So we have a new concept we may explore a little bit… we haven’t done the geometry on it just yet, but it might just work

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bit of a late update here,

we did the geometry on that concept I posted, it worked, but after some thought determined it might be swinging our weight around too much and cause unnecessary wear and break at some point. however we made a final decision and will be going with a 6 bar arm

we have gone back to the drawing board a bit on our gripper. we’re not totally decided on a design here just yet, but the gripper our cad student made was having an issue with the cone getting to the back of the gripper and falling out. I told him he could add wheels in the back and it would probably fix that, but he figured “if we are actuating this gripper anyways, why not just go for a pincher for both the game pieces?”, and I didn’t have a good answer. so now he is pursuing a pincher gripper. I may still work on the wheeled intake behind the scenes just in case.

our chassis design got finished besides bumper mounting brackets and a belly pan. im kinda waiting on some other design info to finish that up. and we just barely at the end of the meeting started cutting out the rails on the cnc router. my first rail went bad, I think I didn’t have enough grip points on it. but the 2nd one went well. its a little loud but I guess you’ll have that cutting through a big hollow piece of aluminum.

sorry Ive been bad about getting enough photos and such of prototypes. were not trying to hide anything, just bad at remembering during the meetings that we need to document more stuff lol.
I probably need to get more people involved in helping with this blog in the future.

we’ll be on the open alliance show on FUN on January 31st and February 21st if anyone is interested in checking us out!

So a little update post, but mostly one about learning from mistakes!

We got a kit of parts chassis that we had new students build during the off season running the other day, and began having potential drivers start practicing. 2019 is the last time we had a tank drive and no one on the team has really had any experience with it.

We got chassis rail pieces cut out on the cnc today!
So we have no officially started building our competition robot now.

A big FRC knowledge gap of mine is programming, but programming has been doing stuff! Idk what, but they tell me it’s going well. And it appears there’s a lot less goofing off occurring in the room so far this year compared to the past so I believe it!

So lessons learned,
I always tell my kids the same thing Dean Kamen does, but with different wording and less hand thumping. It’s ok to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them, and don’t continually make them again. You will have failures along the way, but that’s how we as humans and society learn.
Well I made some rookie mistakes on the cnc. Wasting material and money!
So this was the maiden voyage of an FRC season for our cnc, and also the maiden voyage of the tubing fixture I made on the cnc.
First cut I made, went REALLY bad.
I guess I didn’t have enough of the fixture clamp bolt thingys on or tight enough, we’ll the cnc started moving the part in the fixture and eventually tried to pick it up, ruining the part and breaking our end mill.
I fixed that issue, and moved on. The second cut appeared to be going well. It ran smooth, looked clean. I flip it over to run the other side and it’s the same thing. All appeared well, until I removed the tube.

No, that’s not parallax, it’s about 1/32 off from the other side.
The issue is I rotated the tube along the y-axis when I flipped it, meaning the first cut was made with the factory edge against the jig, and the second cut was with the cut side against the jig, resulting in scrap metal.
Well, I had to go back and rewrite my cnc program, but after I fixed those issues, everything cut beautifully and lined up as it should.

We’ll be back with more soon!


Adding to @RedLeader342, our programming team is working on PID profiling the drivetrain. We’re also taking vision pretty seriously this year (more so than in the past). We set up a command to switch limelight vision pipelines (between RR tape & Apriltags) with a button press. Today we’ll be working on getting our auto-alignment code written (and hopefully) tested. We decided to prioritize the RR tape, and then work on Apriltags due to the differences in volume of targets. I’ll keep posting updates as programming progresses.


Yesterday, our programming team worked on conceptualizing our auto-balancing method, continued working on vision code, and continued working on refactoring our drivetrain code for PID control.

Our mechanical students helped reorganize some of the materials in the room.

Our electrical students worked on 3D printer maintenance.

Our marketing/finance students finished the executive summaries and the digital animation.
Here’s the link to the digital animation : A Fresh Start - YouTube

Prospective drive team members also got some more time with tank using the practice chassis.

CAD is also hard at work as they continue to design the arm and the gripper mechanisms.