We’ll start with some updates of what we’ve been up to this offseason and how we’re preparing for the 2023 game. We asked team members to list what they’ve been working on, and as you can see we’ve been very busy!
New & Returning Member Training
We have 10 new members this year, who officially joined the team in July. All of the new members got a chance to see the various facets of the team, and went on to choose the subteam they wanted to join. Over the past few months they’ve gone through training to get up to speed on what they’ll need to know to be contributing members. Additionally, the returning members also got further training on more advanced team roles, like CAD, CNC, drive team, and other leadership roles. We pride ourselves on being a student-run team, so other than safety training which is carried out by mentors, all training was done peer-to-peer by the older students or returning alumni.
2022 Robot Improvements
As a part of everyone’s training, we decided to make major changes to our 2022 robot Stardust. These improvements were done with the Israeli off-season competition in mind, but more so to practice the entire modeling, manufacturing, assembly, programming, & testing procedure. Of the five mechanisms on the robot, we chose three to modify: the shooter, conveyor, and intake. For the shooter, we did a total rebuild, replacing our single flywheel binary hood position shooter with a dual-flywheel infinitely-adjustable hood shooter. The conveyor system was modified to be split into two independent zones to better control the ball positions inside the robot, And to remove the need of a mechanical stop before the entrance to the shooter. The intake was redone to use an older geometry that we were happy with but with different motors, gearing, and overall design. Although we had some technical problems at the offseason competition, we learned a lot through the process.
COTS Swerve Drive
Although we were very happy with our custom swerve drive in 2022, it took a decent amount of manufacturing after kickoff to produce. With the popularization of COTS swerve, we wanted to give ourselves the option to use a pre-built system and save the time and manpower during the season for other tasks. We ended up choosing the WCP flipped Swerve X because we felt it gave us the widest range of adaptability and customizability for the unknown game. We ordered the modules over the summer, assembled them, and built them into a simple chassis. It has proved an effective test bed for our swerve code, autonomous testing, and driver practice.
One of the areas we chose to focus on for improvement this offseason was in our prototyping process. In the past our prototypes have been very hit-or-miss and we’ve often had to remanufacture or take steps backwards because of avoidable mistakes. This year we introduced some new prototyping resources for the team, including pre-made wooden build blocks (based on Ryan’s 3D printed clamping blocks), REV MAXPlanetary gearboxes, and the use of our school’s new low-power laser cutter. The combination of adjustability and rapid manufacturing allowed us to make effective prototypes for various intakes, grippers, and shooters. Some of these mechanisms we then went on to manufacture full versions to practice both manufacturing and our ability to recreate a final version with the same dimensions as our prototypes.
BOM and Stock List Improvements
One of the problems that have persisted through the years was our stock lists were never accurate. The lists were never updated, which led to them becoming inaccurate as components got used in a matter of weeks during the offseason, and in a matter of days during build season. To combat that, we transitioned to a more efficient BOM and stock list. As opposed to a big, static list of our stock that would need to be updated manually, we moved to a digital list that automatically updates itself with the number of every unused COTS item. This was done by connecting the stock list with the system BOMs, so that whenever some system BOM contained a certain number of a specific COTS component the list would subtract that number off of that component’s unused count. Because this system can only be used for COTS components and not for custom parts, we’ve created a separate BOM program for custom parts only.
We spent a number of meetings over the course of the offseason cleaning and organizing our shop. We believe in practicing the way we want to perform, and that includes keeping our space tidy so we can find the parts and tools we need. In conjunction with the improved stock list described above, we also took all of our gears, pulleys, sprockets, and belts out of big unorganized boxes and built organized displays for them, sorted by type and size. This gives us an easier, visual way to check that our stock list remains accurate, especially through the whirlwind of prototyping.
As a part of the preparations for the upcoming season and the inevitable season CAD week, we’ve conducted multiple CADathons using slightly modified versions of F4 CADathons 5,8, and 12. All CADathons were 2.5 days long and were conducted over the weekend, in teams ranging between 3 to 5 people, depending on the game. Like the real season, our CADathons used coopertition in that each member was “graded” against the other CADers, but they had to work together to design a complete and integrated robot. Even though the bots didn’t come out perfect, it was a big learning experience for us.
We went on to use parts of the CAD from our CADathons for manufacturing practice during our 3-day intensive season prep over the Hanukkah break. During these work days, we manufactured and assembled some subsystems to give new students practice manufacturing under pressure. This was a good warm up for our engineering team in preparation for build season.
Kickoff is in 3 days! We can’t wait!