Definitive FRC Mechanisms

I was thinking about things I could do to further familiarize my team members with the history of FRC robot design and considered creating a presentation that is a look at the best of the best mechanical and control systems designs.

I thought it might be a fun exercise to debate who and what would be in this presentation here on CD. The notion is simple – for any or each of the following items, select a robot that, in your opinion, represents the best-in-class in that sort of function. Defend your choice. Add pictures when possible.

This list is not comprehensive. Some of the terms are quite generalized, some are not. Feel free to suggest additional terms.


  • 2WD
  • 3WD
  • 4WD
  • 6WD
  • Treads
  • Omnidirectional
  • Swerve
  • Mecanum
  • Articulated/Suspension
  • Steering
  • Cantilevered Wheels
  • Live Axle
  • Dead Axle
  • Brakes
  • Stair Climber
  • Ramp Climber
  • Other


  • 1 Speed
  • 2 Speed
  • 3+ Speed
  • Continuously Variable Transmission
  • Worm Drive
  • Clutches
  • Winch
  • One-Way/Ratchet
  • Power Take Off
  • Other


  • Elevator
  • Single Jointed Arm
  • Double Jointed Arm
  • Triple+ Jointed Arm
  • Roller Claw
  • Pincer Claw
  • Crane Claw
  • Vacuum System
  • Helix
  • Shooter
  • Turret
  • Linkage
  • Lifter
  • Balancing
  • Hanging
  • Grabbing Pipes
  • Defense
  • Other


  • Robot Control
  • Manipulator Control
  • Custom Dashboard
  • Motor positioning
  • Path finding
  • Machine Vision
  • Other

Perhaps include mecanum under DRIVE SYSTEMS since that has been the subject of much interest on CD.

I mention this only because I notice that you have Omnidirectional listed, which would be a superset of mecanum, but you also have swerve listed, which is a subset of omnidirectional.


I’ve added it back. I may have replaced it with omnidirectional when I meant to add them both. Oops.

I’m going to think on this one for a while before responding…


Team 16 the Bomb Squad for 3wd swerve, couldn’t find any pictures of it.

I’d probably personally expand on “linkages” a lot more. Four bar paralellograms in arms are practically ubiquitous, but past that there’s so much more you can do with them and so many other robots that use varying linkages for different applications that I think special emphasis should be added on four bar arms.

I’m going to say 254/60/968 and the West Coast Drive (6WD) is the best all-around drive (i.e., does everything well). 118’s coaxial swerves are probably the best in the “standard” 4-wheel swerve. Plenty of pictures of 254/60/968 on CD-Media (visible under the hopper in,, 118’s swerves are better seen in the Behind the Design books, but the one from 2007 is at, though poorly visible.

The transmission from 254/968 in 2007 (, is one of the best 2-speed trannies in FRC, but it’s tough to make (and AM sells plenty of 2-speed trannies). It weighs just over 1 lb without the motors, and their robot was plenty good to go with it.

IMO, 1771 gets a tip of the hat for vacuums (they even got the Championship Xerox Creativity Award!). From the 2008 season.

1771 in 2008
1771 2008 Scrimmage Video

If the goal is to familiarize your team members with the history of FRC robot design get the kids to do the research! Using blue alliance, chief delphi maybe even youtube the students would get more out of actually doing the research than being told what is good.

I conducted a similar activity recently with our strategy pre-season sub-team where we looked more at performance than at design. However this gave the new students an opportunity to get familiar with certain teams and this process could easily be adapted to fit your design idea. Pick a topic and ask each team to research and present on it, this could be done in an hour or so or more time depending on how in depth you want the information to be.

I hope this helps, if not sorry for not answering your question :slight_smile:

I completely agree with that statement, but this thread will ensure the kids find the “right” answers.

I agree, but it depends who your students are. Are they freshman with no knowledge, seniors with design experience, or even freshman who know more about different teams than you do? Unless they are seniors and juniors who have knowledge of previous machines from teams I will show them the best in each section so I know that they have all seen one of the top machines or parts of a robot.

I really like using thebluealliance for showing match strategy and design in action because then you can show kids a match where omnis are useful in some ways, but all the other times when you will be pushed out of the way by defense. It is one thing to tell, tell, tell; however, show and tell is the best option IMHO.

there are many “right answers”! Also I think that students at any level are fully capable of finding “right” answers to these questions.

in addition to the resources I have already mentioned FIRST hands out design awards. These teams win these awards for a reason!

also look at teams that performed really well like the finalists at championships these teams made it that far for a reason!

Part of this exercise will, I hope, get people to look beyond award and event winners. Award winning designs are rarely notable and it’s likely that there are some great subsystem designs that are strapped to mediocre robots.

I have not yet fully conceptualized what my presentation will look like. I want it to be more than a history lesson, but I also want to be armed with good examples of great system design to present to them as a great benchmark.

A good starting place on much of what you want has been provided by AM here. It covers the basics of a lot of the topics you mention, but perhaps not to the same depth you desire. Reguardless, they are good resources for teaching new team members.

I know I might sound like someone tooting their own horn (although I was not on the team at the point), but in 2008, 1178 built Manny, a robot with scissor lift elevator. You can look it up on, but here is a basic summary: 2 motor six wheel (West Coast) drive, where each motor only powers the center wheel. 2 tusks (leasing to the name) powered by a window motor to pick up the ball and load it onto the scissor lift. Worked well in competition, from what I hear, it was one of the most reliable robots we have, still worked until we had an issue with the controller (but will soon be updated with a C-RIO). Although it had a few problems (could have been slightly more powerful and maybe a little bit taller) it was an impressive robot, and a team favorite.

A possible bonus category would be:

Innovative Buzzer Beaters: Ways teams have scored points even after the clock stpped.

Also, Ways to Hang as this is a periodic bonus that many vetrans get a significant advantage having seen numerous “ways to hang”.


I have my own opinions about a lot of these categories, but am interested in reading what others have to say about them as well. I’ve been around FRC for nearly as long as some of my students have been alive, so I’ve seen a robot or two in my time. :slight_smile:

I agree with the buzzer beat mentality; 1717’s ramps were hands down the BEST in 07, and they heavily inspired their own hanger this year.

I think this season also pointed out a very useful and effective variant of the roller claw; the pinching roller claw using a clutch. I remember in the past we had done this in software in some cases, the clutch is a very elegant mechanical solution.

This is quite a stretch, but while we’re on design, acquisition and scoring area/angle is a big one. Whatever the system is, it should allow as much driver error as possible while acquiring and scoring.

Team 60 in 2002 is one of the really dominant robots that I’ll never forget.

On the topic of intricate details in mechanism design, there were many features of the 2004 team 60/254 robot I really liked, including the single-piston 3-jaw claw and the level-winder for the winch. I think I even recall custom-printed heat-shrink tubing on the team 60 robot that year.

This is the kind of thing I am always keeping my eyes open for!::rtm::

If I could add two cents, I think adding a small section on frame materials would be marvelous! One of the most frequent questions I get from people is what a robot is made of. Aluminum, Steel, wood, 1/4th, 1/8th, 1/16th, square tube, C channel, plates…

True experience only comes from seeing and believing. Thats what seperates the men from the boys, the alumni from the freshmen. However, knowing what you’re seeing, while your seeing it, is priceless.

Really hope to see this final version!