calling all Winners of Excellence in Control

Greetings fellow FIRST members, I was curious as to what some of you had in your designs that won you the award? I’m interested in what type of stuff the Judges are interested in. Anything would be helpful. thanks.

Start with the 2006/2007 Behind the Design books (Innovation in Control section). 10 teams sharing a lot of their secrets, what could be better?

Be sure your team can also explain why you chose a particular control and what other options were considered. Be prepared to explain how the control works and how it makes you more effective during the competition.

Controls also don’t always have to be part of the robot, for example, you could have a diagnostic tool that helps you evaluate a particular system on your robot allowing quicker turn around time in the pit.

Take a look at the description of the award and work towards the spirit and the intention of the award, then be prepared to sell your idea to the judges in less than 3 minutes, in a noisy, active environment. That may be the most amount of time you have to discuss the control with them.

It’s a lot more presentation than you think.

Don’t go out of your way to try and do something for the award lest you compromise a competitive robot - but if you really sell a control feature as essential to your competitive success on the field you can’t go wrong.

How your students explain the control system to the judges is at least as important as what you actually built, possibly more.

In 2008, 103 won this award because of our remote. Rather than using a standard remote, we custom made one that had four infrared transmitters rather than one, increasing our chance of the signal getting to our robot during autonomous. This was a big problem for us during the season, so we fixed it by creating this remote.

I hope this helps you out a little.

I’ll also say that the presentation is a huge part of the award.

You need to be able to tell the judges what the problem was, your thought process and the solution.

Last year when we were testing our robot the drivers could tell when they were in possession of a ball when the vacuum noise would change pitch. We soon realized that that wouldn’t be sufficient during the competition because of the isolation from the field caused by the drivers station and the loud constant volume of a FIRST event.

The team discussed many ways of mounting various sensors or using current detection. All were too complicated to implement or not just doable in the last week of build season.

Then one of our mentors Tim came up with a simple solution. He put a flag on a micro switch and mounted the flag in the stream of air from the output of the vacuum. When the vacuum was not in possession of a ball the air would keep the switch closed and lights (tubes from Aim High) on the robot would be on. When we had a ball the air from the vacuum would be reduced causing the switch to open and turn the lights out.

While we thought it was cool we never considered it to award worthy. We were shocked when we got the award. I later asked one of the judges why we won the award she told me that not only did they think is was cool but the fact that the team members they interviewed in the pits were able to explain it all so well.

First, I’d like to reinforce what others have said, that explaining to the judges is extremely important. It helps when the person telling the judges about each aspect of your robot is knowledgeable and excited about what they have to share.

We had a light stick on our driver station that indicated different things such as a ball being in front of the kicker (infrared beam across the front broken) or the kicker being ready to fire. This was extremely useful for debugging as well as at the competition. We also used a gyro to keep the robot going straight when there wasn’t twist on the joystick. We attempted to use the camera for aiming and I was able explain to explain in detail how it should have worked but there were software issues and we ran out of time.