In the 2003 season , our team had more engineering resources than we did this past season, and we designed our own shifting system (involving shifting between large and small wheels). For 2004, one of our engineers was away for the whole season on a project and another was up to his neck in a vital project locally. So we used Team 716’s 2003 non-shifting gear box design from the Chief Delphi White Papers. We also used a modifed version of Team 25’s 6 wheel design that we learned about from the Cheezy Poofs and Team 60. We got gyro code from Team 492 (via Chief Delphi). Our mechanical engineer said we had to keep our robot really simple this year. Well we had an amazing year that wouldn’t have happened without the information that we got from other teams. Question: If we were to prevent teams from buying gear boxes, should we then ban getting gear box designs from other teams via Chief Delphi?
The truth is, the FIRST Competition has been evolving all along as teams share their knowledge. And the competition needs to evolve for reasons that dlavery mentioned above and also because the field of robotics inself is evolving and we need to keep pace so that our students are learning at a level that is in keeping with the requirements of jobs in this and other technical fields in the society.
If we were teaching automotive design, it is unlikely that we would make the students build their own generators. It wouldn’t be a terrible thing for them to know how to do that, but to be competitive in the future, they will need to know how to find, acquire and integrate such parts into their systems.
I am sure there will be times when I look back fondly at the good old days of FIRST when we shifted by switching the drill motor transmission (my first year), but the future is ahead of us, and we are helping to prepare students for that future.
There will be lots of future challenges to take the place of the challenge of designing a shifting gear box. (I am quite sure that our robots will require more programming in the future, and that is as it should be because more and more of our society will involve computer programmed devices.)
With the number of teams that we have now, it is vital for our competition to become much more audience friendly so that we will get more exposure and thus more sponsors who will benefit from that exposure and thus be able to justify supporting a team or a regional. Otherwise, we will run out of sponsors and many new teams will have a very rough time.
That which doesn’t grow, will shrink, and I don’t think any of us want a smaller FIRST. In fact, I hope that one day all students will have the option to participate on a FIRST team.
So thanks Andy and Mark for contributing to FIRST’s evolution and expansion.
The availability of AndyMark transmissions makes it possible for teams without fancy shop facilities to do what teams WITH such facilities have been able to do all along. To me, that is a good thing. For well-supported teams like mine, the use of pre-made transmissions can allow us to concentrate more on other aspects of designing and and building our robot. At this point, I don’t know if we will be using AndyMark transmissions or not. It will mostly be up to our “chief machinist” at KSC.
Also, if anyone who might be in the Florida “Space Coast” area would like to see an AM transmission, planetary, or wheel “in person,” I have one each of them that I can show (or sell) you.
With all of the other heavyweights around here weighing in, I figure I might as well add my 2 shekels.
First of all, I’m more in agreement with Dave and the “Future through the Past” crowd. I LIKED the limited KOP and AML (additional materials list) and thought it was a good thing. Because it forces you to become more creative. But I also understand that Dave and I are probably the only two hold-outs left, and that SPI just couldn’t handle the volume anymore. We’re growing up and maybe we just can’t do things the way we used to anymore. A limited KOP and AML still require thousands of items which are sometimes only produced in hundreds. So only the first few teams get what they need and everybody else has to make do.
So, since the vast majority seem to be for open markets, I am willing to put my personal preferences aside for the sake of others. (This is sometimes called graciousness, at other times it is called Love). If we are to have an “open market” for robot parts, then AndyMark is a logical development.
Given the current conditions not only do I approve of AndyMark, I hope to be imitating them in a small way in the near future.
I am in the process of designing something that I think most teams would find useful. A set of hardware for mounting and using encoders. This will include gears to mount on the encoder shaft and mating gears to mount on the shaft to be measured. All will be made from Nylon, so it will have good durability without being very heavy. A typical encoder gear will probably weigh about the same as four 1/2"dia holes in 1/8" thick aluminum. I am currently basing the design on the Grayhill 63R series encoders.
We realized the need for a better mounting system after our encoders failed this year. Due to some unique circumstances, it is easiest for us to make them out of plastic, and it is little trouble for us to make 20 or 30 rather than one or two. So we thought we would make them available to other teams.
We are still negotiating on fabrication costs and figuring out distribution and other issues, so I can’t tell you the price yet, but it won’t be unreasonable. Heck, we don’t even have a name for the venture yet. If you have a need for other DLPPs (Dumb Little Plastic Parts) that other teams might need as well, contact me and we might include them in the product line.
“Teams inventing new products for other teams”––now that sounds like a worthwhile evolution to me.
I picture a time when there will be 5 or 6 gear box designs available and teams deciding which one (if any) to use, and then working on their own design for sale.
In fact, lately I have been thinking that our team should market something to do with robotics as a means of helping to fund our team. I was inspired by a group connected with Team 968 RAWC who created a robot for the police department. Also I believe that Team 696, the Circuit Breakers, made a robot for a group in India. (Edit: I forgot to mention the twin girls from Alaska who, according to Wired News, invented a robot to help rescue people who had fallen through the ice. They won a $50,000 prize in the Westinghouse Science Competition and are working on marketing their invention.)
“FIRST teams as manufacturers as opposed to only being consumers” sounds like a great step toward another whole dimension for all of us. Who do we thank for this great idea? AndyMark.
Hm…I wonder what we could make for sale? I gotta go check out those AndyMark gear boxes.
Team 1114 has received two shifting and two of the planetary gearboxes for this years off-season projects. This year we are starting a new team (1503) with a possibility of helping another rookie team (yet to be announced). With this kind of growth in our area these gearboxes are going to be a excellent tool. We have used them as a demo with all of the new rookies and our veterans have been able to incorporate them in their designs of a new drive system. In the end these gearboxes will save us a lot of machining time (most of which wouldn’t have been able to be done at the school because of lack of the right equipment). This allows us more time to try different designs as well as spend time with 3D modeling, controls and fund-raising.
Andy and Mark have started something good. I think this will help raise the bar in FIRST quickly for veteran and rookie teams alike.
We don’t have this years rules, yet, so lets look at last years rules:
<R68> Additional Parts must be generally available from suppliers such that any other FIRST team, if it so desires, may also obtain them at the same price. (A specific device fabricated by a team from non-2004 Kit materials does not have to be available to others, however, the materials it is made from must be available to other teams.)
Suppose that a small business makes 30 of some part (prior to the build period) and offers them for sale to FIRST teams for use in their robot. Does this satisfy R68 above? Does the fact that only 30 exist, to be served up to teams on a first come first served basis satisfy this rule? If 200 teams want the part, and only 30 exist, is there a problem? This is not a cut and dry question in that a “generally available part” from several suppliers can run into a shortage of supply, although large numbers are produced during the year.
Suppose a team plans to make 30 of something, during the build period, while needing only one. It them offers the extras for sale to other teams who could make use of them. This would seem to be a different situation in that a team has made them during the build period, and therefore the “generally avaialble from suppliers” rule seems to have an exception. The team markets the parts made during the build period to other teams, and uses the proceeds to fund their team efforts for the year. What about this situation, which is quite different than the one above?
If the two situations above are not enough to worry about, suppose a team wants to get a head start on their robot for 2005, and starts a business to make gear boxes, wheels, and other “off the shelf parts.” The team makes a few, keeps what it needs for the 2005 season, and then offers the rest for sale on the internet. Such a team would get an incredible head start on its robot, and would make some profit on the extra parts that would help pay for the rest of the teams costs. Rest assured that I am not accusing anyone of this, but this seems to be the next logical development after 1) and 2) above.
In years prior to the 2004 season, the rules allowed teams to pay machine shops to fabricate critical parts, as has been referred to by other posters in this thread. The following is what was in the 2004 rules:
<R09> Teams must fabricate and/or assemble all custom parts and assembled mechanisms on the robot by the 2004 team after the start of the Kick-off. Mechanisms from previous year’s robots may not be used, however, individual off-the-shelf components from previous year’s robots may be re-used to save the cost of re-purchase of these parts IF they meet ALL of the 2004 Additional Parts and Materials Rules.
Just what did “Teams must fabricate” mean in 2004? If a team paid a custom machine shop to fabricate something for their robot, and the custom machine shop was not a “team member” and did not “wear the team shirt”, so to speak, was this within the 2004 rules?
I would hope that questions such as these are directly addressed when FIRST first posts the 2005 rules, along with the 2005 game. These questions are not all that hypothetical these days.
I salute any small business devoted to FIRST, but the rules do not seem to be so clear cut as one might think, and we don’t even know the rules for 2005 yet, which can change in significant ways relative to the rules we have seen in the past competitions.
The 2004 accounting rules expand on the above rule:
188.8.131.52 Cost Determination
The “cost” of each additional item is counted as follows:
• The total cost (materials + labor) of an item you pay someone else to make; Example: A team
orders a custom bracket fabricated by a vendor to the team’s specification. The vendor’s material
cost and normally charged labor rate apply.
• The cost of raw material obtained by a team + the cost of non-team labor expended to have the
material processed further. Team member processing labor is not included. Example: A team
purchases steel bar stock for $10.00 and has it machined by a local machine shop that donates its 2
hours of expended labor. The team must include the estimated normal cost of the labor as if it were
paid to the machine shop, and add it to the $10.00. Exception Examples: If the team members
themselves did the actual machining, there would be no associated labor cost. If the machine shop
were part of the team, its labor cost would not apply.
Also for the 2004 season, we had a team Q&A system where teams could post questions. However it seems to be offline at this point.
The following is MY opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my team.
With regards to question 1, there is no guaranty of any company having enough parts in stock for each and every single team that ‘MAY’ want to buy a part. If I call up Brecoflex on January 20th and say I need 8 belts and they tell me they can have them in 3 weeks, you can call them the next day and order 8, they might tell you 6 week delivery after the build period is over. FIRST has absolutely no way of policing that every vendor will have every part available to every team ready to ship immediately, its impossible, even if FIRST picked a few vendors. What FIRST appears to want is that any part that I am buying is ‘able to be purchased’ by all other teams. I say this because it has been this way since the days of Small Parts. We all had the same small parts catalog but if you ordered 50 flange bearings in week 1, I may not be able to get mine until week 5. We both had the same catalog, they were able to be purchased by both of us but they were not in stock in unlimited quantities. In fact due to inventory problems I might not get mine at all in the above scenario. AndyMark.biz has made it clear that they will hold a reasonable inventory of assemblies on hand just like any other corporation based on some sort of forecast. To think that they would have 1000 on hand just so that everyone who wants one can have one immediately is just silly. If you order one in week one and don’t get it until week 3, your team should be building in a placeholder based on the prints in the chassis so you can continue on without stopping the build process. If AndyMark.Biz is incapable of supplying enough of these due to some huge wave of teams than again just like any other company teams have to look elsewhere. Especially in the case of AndyMark.Biz, this shouldn’t be the issue that it is. My point in the last statement is that AndyMark have essentially provided the prints for this transmission and it wouldn’t be very hard for any team to use local resources to build a similar model themselves from raw materials if one wasn’t available through AndyMark. If Dr. Joe wants to use Dewalt transmissions and orders them up in week 1 but then Dewalt has a shortage and other teams can’t get them in week 5 should Dr Joe have to take them off his robot??? NO.
As for question #2, that is definitely in the Gray Area. If I needed to make a part and one of our partner teams had some laying around, I would probably use it but account for the full cost of making it, be it in house or from an outside source depending on how my team was planning on getting it. If the parts are identical, it was made in the build period, and I have the capability of making another duplicate easily, why would I waste the resources to build another one when it is already made?
Lastly the question #3. If someone wants to make parts up at their own cost and risk for a company, then use them in 2005, are you really that concerned? As I said earlier, with the use of CNC equipment, ANY team can prototype a full chassis, drive system, manipulator, anything and have it completely rebuilt according to the rules on the first day of the build season and be totally legal. The chassis we have been playing with over the summer is totally water jet cut and can be re-made in about 1 hour of machine time. Since neither I nor anyone else out there has any clue what the game will be for 2005 as well as what the motors will be, creating a business is a total gamble.
Teams out there that are worried about companies like AndyMark somehow getting a ‘jump’ on the competition are out of touch with the resources that are available to many of the larger teams. Instead of worrying about this or any other company that wants to provide FIRST teams with parts, we ALL should see this as a resource. Just because AndyMark is providing a nice robust transmission doesn’t mean you won’t see 100 other designs this year that may have 4 speeds, may be lighter, may be smaller, you name it. BUT, if your team doesn’t have allot of resources and you want to move beyond the Drill transmissions in the kit, something like what AndyMark is providing should be on your shopping list. We need to stop worrying that somehow teams out there are going to have some secret advantage because, they always have and they always will. FIRST isn’t fair for everyone, some teams have 5 or 10 times the resources as others.
Again this is my opinion on this new company, I want to see more like it, maybe someone will provide a universal chassis. When it comes to the robot, I would rather see the entire organization as a whole move on to more advanced technology rather than every year 200 teams that can barely move 10 ft without breaking, yet they are proud of the design they built. This is what FIRST means to me: not only getting students excited about a project but also teaching them about the world they will have to work in after college. In todays world, mediocre doesn’t cut it, you have to be better than the next guy out there to get ahead.
I would like to request that any questioning of the rules and how they relate to AndyMark be started in another thread. I believe that Andy started this thread as an opportunity for others to share (at a nominal cost) in his and others workmanship. To bring into question legalities of the rules and the fine lines of the law does not quite fit in here with this time of celebration. There are many who applaud AndyMark and many who disagree with what he is doing. We each have our own thoughts and reasons for our belief. To discuss them would be great and welcome (please don’t go overboard) in the proper thread. Why not start one?
This thread has definitely matured. I want to point out that InnovationFirst has provided the controller off the shelf for several years now. The new(2004) controller offers expanded capabilities that were not there earlier. I view AndyMark tranny as a similar component that will expand the capabilities of the off the shelf drill transmissions/FP gearboxes etc. Our team did not build the arm for various reasons part of was time spent on design and construction of an all shaft gear 4 wheel drive train using 4 of the FIRST supplied delrin gear boxes and two drill motors. A simple electrical short hampered the effectiveness of the platform but it competed both at Sacramento Regional and Nationals. The team members have decided generally to move beyond off the shelf and innovate to make up for observed failures and inefficiencies of the 2004 platform. This is a tool for them that will make a difference on other systems design and construction. They will be competing against Cheesy Poofs and Wildstang this year so a pyschological positive is being able to spend time on appendages. Time will tell. Thanks for the chance to share. LRU.
Team 134 is doing something similar to the group from Alaska in making a remote controled robot made from previous years parts for ice rescued. Its a ongoing project that has been in progress for the past few years and is finally going into fabrication and such as we speak.
Christmas came earlier for one of my teams!
Today they received their AndyMark order in the mail and called me over.
It was like a mini-kickoff, we had box opening ceremony, we clapped, we danced and we rejoice! (ok, ok we got carry away….) :yikes:
It felt like Christmas!
The students were very happy. They got to see and touch good quality gear that was not homemaded with hand tools. Machining that was professionally done, holes that are straight, workmanship that the school could NOT produce in a million years.
Project ideas were flowing…. It was just like a FRC Kickoff. Their first project…. A school demo robot they can be proud of.
(sorry Andy… no hot dog wagon this year)
We’ve recently posted entire CAD files of the AM Shifter, at this location.
Our main intent is for a designer to easily incorporate this assembly into their robot design. However, teams can also create their own gearbox from this CAD geometry or create a derivative of this design by improving upon it.