Not really though. I would hazard a guess that over 60% of FIRST teams have limited or zero machine tool access, and an even lower percentage have enough members qualified to operate said tools and produce such a product.

I agree with Kim’s statement. I know that my team will be tightly funded for this year’s build. I wanted to point out though that in the past three years, FIRST has proved a tranmission in the form of the drill motor/reduction drive combination. There has been some effort to remove the antibackforce components and rebuild the gearbox discussed and documented on this website. I have not seen any discussion about adapting the drill gearbox to a shift on the fly two speed transmission. Maybe this illustrates how off the shelf parts may shift developement time to other robot systems where innovation is required.

Just a quick reminder to the new teams out there that were not around when we used to have limitations as silly as 300 or 500 dollars. You may sit here and think, hey that will level the playing field, well think again! Back in 1999 and 2000 I saw robots that were every bit as complex and expensive as anything I have seen lately and they easily met the rules of the time. The low dollar amount ONLY hurts teams with low resources, THATS IT. For $300 I can buy almost unlimited raw stock and have it machined, water-jet, wire EDM’s, laser cut you name it all in house and the total expenditure by the team was under $300. Back then, if gears and sprockets cost too much to buy, you made them out of any material you want. Look at the pictures in the gallery of the early Chief Delphi, Wildstang, Technocats robots and you will change your mind about what the $300 limit really means. What it means is that unless you have resources you are out of luck. With a high limit you can now get transmissions like the one from Andy that will rival what the high dollar teams will have regardless of the dollar limit for a realistic cost.

I am really hoping that people will come around to what Andy & Mark are doing here. They have been a part of FIRST since the beginning and know as well as anyone what it takes to be competitive. I have built MANY transmissions for FIRST and I would be surprised if they were making much if any money on these. If we had to send the machining outside to somewhere I estimate that we would probably be paying well over $1500 for our transmissions. Lucky for us we have a machine shop in the lab and a machinist who can show us how to use the machines. FIRST doesn’t really include everything you need to be competitive and build a box. They give you some wheels, some aluminum tube, and some motors. For every team that I have been able to talk to, FIRST was overwhelming for their rookie year. Most teams have no concept of time management for the entire build season. And while no one seems to want to admit it, having a robot that can’t even move for every match not only is a downer for the entire robot team but also for your alliance partners. In my mind I don’t feel good teaching my students about designing and building a robot yet in the real world not being able to also show them the results. I am not even the least bit concerned if someone wants to build an off the shelf chassis or drive system, it is almost already happening. People like Andy have posted their engineering prints for others to use in their entirety. Programmers have posted their whole code for complex movements. I remember there were something like 13 teams last year that had the identical drive base, one that was robust and actually worked. This particular base gave every team out there good competition which is what I think FIRST is about.

In my engineering world I also believe that this should be real world, that kids should learn, but I also believe that my team should at least have a fighting chance out on the field. This year my team won’t be buying a transmission from Andy-Mark :frowning: (Sorry Andy) but I will without a doubt make sure that any team I am helping that either can’t make their own or doesn’t have the time looks at this and strongly considers it as an option, as should your teams.

Several of you have made very good points about the positives of allowing “standard” FIRST robot components. Thanks especially, Mike, for reminding me that FIRST’s mission is to inspire as much as it is to educate. I see advantages now that I didn’t see before, but I still have some concerns.

Purchase of pre-builts feels like a way around the six week rule. A company may offer “standard” moving boxes, maybe one version with low ground clearance and one for climbing obstacles, with my choice of high and low speeds. There are no rules in place now that would prevent it, and it wouldn’t be too hard, logistically, to pre-build a bunch of them. I take delivery on January 10, and get five weeks to practice driving and to design and build appendages. What about the teams who can’t afford the pre-built robot? Even if they are on the ball and get a design done pre-season, and buy transmissions, they still have to build the chassis, drive train, and appendages. Pre-building doesn’t seem to eliminate the disparity problem between rich and poor teams, it just moves the problem down the economic ladder some.

Andy, will your transmission plug into the FIRST-standard chassis? That might help alleviate the disparity.

Consider the team that’s debating whether to do their own innovative drive train. If their competitors are buying pre-builts and focusing on appendages, maybe they’ll skip the risk of innovation in favor of being safely competitive. Might pre-builts discourage innovation? I agree with Steve that pre-builts could be a great way to expose students to the state-of-the-art, and I hope that mentors, or students, will push teams past settling for “good enough”.

It’s fun to watch a robot do well in competition, just like it’s fun to watch my favorite baseball team win a game, but being a sports fan doesn’t make me want to play sports as a career. The pride and inspiration that I see in my team comes from knowing that they designed and built the robot, that they can fix it between matches because they know every nut, bolt, gear, wire, and tube. They learn that engineering doesn’t have to be distant and esoteric, it’s something that they can do. That’s where the inspiration comes from. Pre-builts seem to lessen the opportunity for that kind of inspiration. Like many teams, we usually have one design group on chassis and drive train, and another group on appendages. Only so many people can work on appendages. If teams can buy pre-builts, doesn’t that decrease design engineering opportunities? Even if the mentors have them take the pre-built moving box completely apart and put it back together again, they won’t get the design experience. Engineering design will still be something that other people do.

It may sound like I’m on a crusade to stop Andymark, and I’m really not. I just think that we are at a crossroads here, and that the FIRST community should consider the negatives as well as the many positives before going too far down the road of pre-building.

Maybe if you look at the other thread that I started a while ago you will see things from both sides. There were a lot of good posts and ideas that were thrown around. Enjoy the reading. :slight_smile:

Thanks. Note to self, search before you post.

I take no issue with AndyMark biz in its present form, and I feel like most people here are primarily concerned that copycat programs might take things “too far.” I feel as though if this sort of program ever did encourage abuses, the FIRST community could respond in the next season. I don’t think this two man effort itself can rock the boat enough to begrudge a few rookie teams their gearboxes.

What I might like to see from AndyMark would be competitively priced unassembled gear boxes, or even some individual key parts. I imagine there are a lot of teams out there for which the only thing holding them back from making these on their own are one or two parts they don’t have the capability to machine themselves. If my team had a gear cluster and dog like that at our disposal, we probably would have build a shifter by now ourselves.

FIRST is not just about fabrication, it is about being resourceful. I don’t think anyone here goes making their own bolts because they need a certain length. Just the same for sprockets, very few teams make their own because we can work with what is available. And I don’t think anyone goes extrudeing their own frame rails or molding their own plasitc parts. We work with what we have. The AM shifter is the same type of thing. It will not be ideal for every robot. But for teams that can adapt it for their own use, it is available. For teams that do not find it useful, they will build their own.

If eveyone had to manufacture every part in their assembly, nothing would ever get built. I’m not talking about just robots, I’m talking about everything in the world.

The motor in your Maytag washing machine was most likely not built by Maytag, and the bearings I can almost gaurantee were not.

A team can already put together a robot without fabricating anything. FIRST even promotes this by giving the “rookie robot kit” which was started in 2003 and included frame rails and gearboxes and stuff.

With the AM shifter, the only difference is that teams can build a better robot.

Just like Inspiration can come either from engineers working with the kids or the kids watching the engineers build a robot, inspiration can come from building a two speed gearbox or buying a two speed gearbox.

Plus, say a team spends six weeks building a gearbox and fails miserably. Yes, something will have been learned but why fail? Let them buy one and succeed.

Finally, it is not like a pre-made gearbox (or any component for that matter) is letting anyone “get off easy” Every team works hard all week for the entire six weeks no matter how many pre-fab or custom-fabbed parts they have.

-Proud supporter of the AM Shifter :slight_smile:

On a side note but still related to the issues of teams not having the resources available to do extensive CNC machining or make super accurate gearboxes.

It is not our teams intentions to make master machinists out of students in 6 weeks. None of the engineers on our team are qualified to be teaching them every in and out of the mills and lathes. When it comes to parts that we feel are too complex to be made in the lab we can either make them at our sponser MG tool or find somewhere to pay to have them done.

In the offseason we wanted to make a super trick chassis that would require extensive CNC work to actually produce. Our sponsor looked at it and said it would be at least $1000 to CNC machine from a 2’X4’ 1/4" piece of 6061 aluminum. (About 30 different parts). Troy Athens has a CNC, I actually have a CNC but neither of us had the time to make the parts right now. We looked around at laser and water jet cutting and found it was definately the way to go for FIRST robots. The local place we found in our area can take your .dxf file and give a quote within about a day. Total cost for the above parts, $400 for the first sheet of parts, just over $200 for each additional. ANYONE can use a source like this, turnaround time is usually a week or less. Yes your read this correct, if you live in California, Canada, or Florida, you can use sources like this tom make your parts. If your team wants to start getting more advanced but you have nothing more than hand tools, USE the resources available. If your team doesn’t have $400 to spend on the robot, get out and start fundraising now.

No one on any team should feel bad that they had parts made by a CNC instead of some poor student or mentor cranking away on the wheels of a machine. Back when I was at Purdue I took a machining class where we had to make a hammer. It took forever to make this thing by hand. Then on the last day of class we all came over to the CNC mill and lathe and it cranked one out every 45 seconds, each more accurate than the one I could do. The teacher made it clear that there are jobs that should be done by man, and jobs should be done by machine. If you can perfect a CNC based design now, the first day of the season it can be reproduced within the rules by popping the program in the machine and letting it cut the piece out.
Supporter of the AM Shifter

I don’t know… its definitely a good design but it just doesn’t seem right…
The shifting transmission is like the core of the robot… teams spend years perfecting their designs and it takes so much hard work… now if anyone can fork over 1 grand they can get a great tranny…its levelling the playing field too much almost like communism… first is for innovation and this feels like a cap on that
the bolt / entire shifting transmission comparison is not really so valid
A bolt is not the focus of your entire robot… that would be like saying just because you use refined sugar in a cake you bake yourself it is the same as just buying a cake…
that was a crappy analogy but oh well…

our team can maybe afford the AM shifter but we just enjoy teaching/learning how different transmission can be made and enjoy the process of making one…
i personally enjoy seeing something i designed and buitl work (or not) than just taking off some bubble wrap … although popping the bubble wrap may give me some enjoyment it is not quite the same as seeing my own tranny work…
that was off on a tangent kinda…

it would be really funny if FIRST gave us completely new motors this year… lol … i almost hope that happens…

I don’t know… its definitely a good design but it just doesn’t seem right…
The shifting transmission is like the core of the robot… teams spend years perfecting their designs and it takes so much hard work… now if anyone can fork over 1 grand they can get a great tranny

I guess I happen to disagree.

Firstly, teams CHOOSE whether or not they build their own custom trannys. Teams even CHOOSE whether or not to build a transmission at all. When they choose to do whatever it is they want to do, then obviously they think that there is an advantage to that choice.
I don’t think that if another team chooses to buy an AndyMark tranny, they are undermining any of the other teams’ hard work – this is because the teams who build their own trannys obviously beleive that what they are making is better to suit their needs. They may feel that they have an even better design.

In short:
If you *don’t have * the right part, then you build it. But if you have the right part, why build it all over again?

…its levelling the playing field too much almost like communism… first is for innovation and this feels like a cap on that

I happen to think that the opposite will happen. If you introduce a new, better product into the market, naturally other product-makers will raise their level of competitiveness to make an even BETTER product… quite the converse of actually putting a cap on innovation. If the situation really resembled communism, then FIRST would be forcing everyone to use the exact same transmission. But since this is not the case - innovation will not stagnate.

the bolt / entire shifting transmission comparison is not really so valid

Although this topic has already been beaten to death…I think the analogy DOES work – why try to “re-invent the wheel”? If your team needs a transmission, and AndyMark has it – why not buy the part you need? In fact, this is already a major part of FIRST – we get a kit of pre-made parts EVERY YEAR! We don’t build our motors or control system from scratch.

More than being a major part of FIRST, buying parts is a part of the real world:

A bolt is not the focus of your entire robot… that would be like saying just because you use refined sugar in a cake you bake yourself it is the same as just buying a cake…

A good analogy…but it can be reversed to prove the opposite.
A shifting transmission is not the main focus of your robot either.
If you have a pre-made transmission but you build the rest of the robot yourself, that doesn’t mean that the robot itself has been bought, pre-made, and that no innovation or learning occurred. It doesn’t mean that the students didn’t get anything out of building a robot.

our team can maybe afford the AM shifter but we just enjoy teaching/learning how different transmission can be made and enjoy the process of making one…

If this is how your team feels, and thats what is right for your team, then go for it. I think I speak for most when I say that I am behind teaching about building these transmissions %100. But for those who have different goals and objectives, I still think it is ok for others to buy premade.

To sum it all up, **it really is up to EACH TEAM ** to decide whether or not they want to buy or build. Whatever suits their needs should be right for them. If they feel that they would like to have the experience of building their own – then they should do that. But if they just don’t have the time or resources to take on such a project, or they feel that the AndyMark tranny is the best for them, then why should they be forced to do something that isn’t right for them?


– Jaine
Supporter of the AM shifter and AndyMark as a whole


EDIT: Just to clarify, both AndyMark and Dewalt are companies which sell transmissions to everyone, not just FIRST teams. Under the 2004 game rules, both transmissions were (or would have been) legal for competition use. Why should one be legal and not the other?

k… now if anyone can fork over 1 grand they can get a great tranny…its levelling the playing field too much almost like communism… first is for innovation and this feels like a cap on that

Well, 2 AM Shifters do not cost 1 grand. They can be purchased for $360.00 each

it would be really funny if FIRST gave us completely new motors this year… lol … i almost hope that happens…

Well the funny thing is that the AM Shifters can easily changed to accept many types of motor imputs. They may require a few minor modifications but AndyMark can easily make up for it because they are designed just for that reason.

Those things are slick and super smooth. Every team should at least take a look at them. :wink:

yeah i guess i can kinda see it you guy’s way also…

as for the AM shifter : 360 2 (for 2 of them) + 1102 (for the planetaries) = 940$
i round to 1000

i’m not saying it should be illegal just that well its too easy … i can’t really make up my mind… i can understand why its okay and i agree with you all its just some tiny part of me says … “its wrong”

for the changing motors thing… it wasn’t really solely aimed because of the AM shifter… i’ve just seen that people have so many designs that they’ve made after years etc… its gotten easy to build a shifter… i think it would shake things up… add a challenge aspect to it…

“But for those who have different goals and objectives, I still think it is ok for others to buy premade.”
shouldn’t everyones goal to learn how to build robots/engineering etc… NOT just to easily build a robot that is reliable and therefore you can easily win competitions…yet not learn so much…?

also for those who don’t really have that much money for transmissions… hmm… what if they make a rule that says only a certain amount of money can be spent on one individual product? i kno i kno … i am a pessimist i’m like this in every aspect of life… lol…

btw if this does go for sale i think our team SHOULD buy it… i want a reliable shifter for my team but in the BROAD overal FIRST picture i don’t think its the best thing…

I never meant to imply that the goal of each FIRST team was NOT to teach about robots/engineering. There are SO SO many different things to be done on a robot, and teams who dont have enough resources to address all of the aspects of the robot to be completed may want to buy a transmission form AndyMark. There are many other things, such as building the chassis, building arms and other mechanisms, wiring, programming, and the whole design process that the kids can still take responsibility for. The way I see it, there is still PLENTY for the kids to learn and experience, even if the gearbox is premade.

– Jaine

BTW - I think these are good questions to ask, because it IS very important to be thinking about these things, and to demonstrate a concern for what will benefit the students the most.

A large part of engineering is about building reliable products. Sometimes the most effective way of doing this involves purchasing components. Should we ban extruded aluminum because it just snaps together with a few gussets? We could force everyone to weld their own aluminum frames, as it would teach them more about welding and fabrication? I see purchasing an AndyMark transmission in the same light.

Plus there’s much to be learned from these prebuilt mechanisms. 1114 & 1503 have already purchased two AndyMark shifters, and rookie team members have taken them apart and reassembled them. This was a invaluable learning experience for every student who took part. Remember, there are many differents path to obtaining knowledge. There’s no need to pigeonhole the process.

That rule already exists…

**<R75> **The total cost of all non-Kit items may not exceed $3,500.00 USD. No individual item may exceed $400.00…

yeah i was just thinking what if they lower it to like 340$ it is not like its totally impossible…! that would be disappointing if we did decide to purchase the trannys… i am actually for purchasing them for our team simply cuz we want to be competitive and not fix our tranny and i am kinda lazy…


Since my name was brought up earlier in this thread, I will go ahead and throw in my two cents worth (note: this is my opinion only, and in no way represents any discussions FIRST may or may not be having on this topic).

First off, right up front I have to say that I really don’t like where we all are on this. Oh, don’t get me wrong - I don’t have any problem at all with what AndyMark is offering (more on this in a moment). But I don’t like the current system that basically allows you to buy and bolt on pretty much anything from any source that you can find. I was a very big fan of the FIRST competition of 10 years ago, where you had to build your entire robot from the contents of the kit, a small amount of credit with Small Part Inc., and a very select set of “additional materials.” Dean Kamen’s philosophy at the time was very clearly stated when he said “we want to see what happens when we make you use parts for purposes for which they were never intended.” The solutions that teams developed at that time were among the most creative, innovative, and occasionally astounding systems I had seen built in quite a while. As a competitor, it was an amazing experience and I really miss that competition.

But, that said, we are where we are. Given the system that is in place, it is incumbent upon all of us to make the very best of it that we can. One of the clearly stated goals of FIRST is to expand the program so that it becomes a common element of our culture, and through that mechanism, spread understanding and appreciation for science and technology. One approach to this is to help teams raise the level of the competition so that the competition itself is as exciting and inspirational as it can possibly be (to the casual observer, and not just to the teams). Turning the FIRST Robotics Competition into something that really can interest the vast unwashed masses, and mass media, will require that we increase the caliber of the competition itself and the robots that compete. This is not going to happen with robots that are moving piles of rain gutter and bicycle fenders held together with bailing wire. It is going to happen with machines that are well designed, well built, and able to compete. It will happen when we raise our standards from “success is building a robot that can just get out on the field” to “success is playing the game and being a good competitor - and doing it with a robot.”

Toward that end, anything that comes along that allows teams to build better robots or compete at a higher level is a good thing. If a new vendor appears with a set of products that raises the quality and competitiveness of the robots on the field, as competitors we have only three ways to respond. We can ignore them and continue to use the tools and methods used so far, and maintain approximately the current level of competition. Or, we can take advantage of their wares and incorporate them into our robots, presumably making our robots better in the process and thereby raising the quality of the competition. Or we can say to ourselves “well now that EVERYONE will have access to capabilities that used to be reserved for only the very top teams, the only way to stay ahead of the crowd is to get to work and develop the NEXT great quantum improvement in competition robot technology” - a step that will set the bar even higher than before and force a quantum leap in the quality of the competition.

In short, I think that having options like the AndyMark products available to teams will positively impact the overall quality and caliber of the competitions, and end up increasing our probability of reaching and inspiring an even larger audience. For the teams at the lower end of the scale, it will help them to become better able to get out on the field and be competitive. The middle-class teams will be able to go head-to-head with the top-tier teams and compete like there is no tomorrow. Top-tier teams will be challenged to come up with new technologies to stay ahead of the commercial products and the rest of the teams. And if in the end the students are inspired and more of the public becomes aware of the program, and people gain more appreciation for engineering, how can that not be a good thing?


After catching up on this thread - I am also going to put in my few words in here.

Shame on some of you people.

  1. This is an Andy Baker and Mark Koors development. Any type of ‘poor judgment’ should automatically be dismissed. I have met Andy a few times and (If I recall right) I have met Mark also. VERY, VERY nice people that - in my heart - carry what FIRST means and they have no intent of doing wrong knowingly against FIRST. Geez guys - comon - A-N-D-Y B-A-K-E-R. Need me to write it out in purple crayon?

  2. Say they do sell it to some sources out-side of FIRST. So? Do they not deserve something for 1. their hard work and 2. I’m sure something (if not all) will some how make it’s way back to a FIRST related event. Give them a break.

Leave them alone I say. I’m in TOTAL favor of what they do and I hope they can take it on a National Level. I’m rootin’ for ya Andy. I see no fowl play…

Sorry if I seem a little irrated. It’s after 2AM on Thanksgiving. Just alittle tired…