Design question please

Just a quick question to FRC teams out there. How long did your team spend in the design phase after kick-off?

Fun answer: The robot has already been to comp and it’s still in design phase.

Somewhat serious answer: We usually just build from the ground up, what size do we think the robot needs to be, ok lets build a drive and base robot chassis that size. Ok now how do we pick up a game piece. Lets get it on the drive base, now how do we score a game piece lets get that on the robot. Lets take a step back and make sure those two systems can work together and see if we can simplify it any. etc. etc.

Build happens along side design because if we waited for a perfect design we would never build anything.

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I want to preface this response by saying that our approach is by no means perfect and there are still plenty of lessons to be learned, but with a small team of 10 students (3 design students) we were able to have a finished robot week 4. At the start of this season we were asking ourselves the same question and here is what we learned this season:

  • Within the first 3-4 days you should have a finalized idea as to what your robot will roughly look like through the use of sketches and potentially crayola CAD if time permits
    This is something we learned the hard way in 2023 as we waited until week 2ish to finalize our design, as we were deciding which archetype would work best for the game. In hind sight any one of the archetypes we were deciding between would have resulted in a very competitive robot. During build season time is money so just pick a design and run with it.

  • We then moved into the prototyping faze which started day 1 and slowed down week 2 (although weve been working on prototypes all throught the year some of which may debut at champs :eyes:) during the prototyping faze designers test their game specific ideas ie. intakes, end defectors etc.
    some prototypes are more refined than others and typically we encourage simple wooden prototypes that can be constructed using drills, jigsaws, etc. These are the prototypes that test simple robot functions such as end defectors. Sometimes a more refined prototype is warranted in which case students will create a simple cad model of the mechanism. These refined prototypes are used to solve complex geometry or space constraint issues and not for basic robot function! For this years game we also challenged designers to create adjustable prototypes so we could find the ideal compression and placement of rollers, this saved us lots of time and money. A good example of this would be Rembrandts and their adjustable shooter prototype. The prototyping process is fluid and often continues year round although be weary as it can often waste lots of time.

  • in parallel with prototypes being built designers will get approval to start designing final robot components. During this faze students work at their own pace to complete finalized designs which get pushed out as they get finished. This process lasts between week 1-2 till week-4
    One thing I have to note is the importance of putting hardware in cad. This will save you so much time and money. There were multiple occasions where we would put bolts and belts in cad and see that they intersected other vital components.

  • Once final designs end up on the robot we then move to work to improve these mechanisms as often there are certain issues that arise that didnt show up in cad. This process lasts basically until your first competition although in our experience if the issue is minor its much more valuable to give code more time to refine the robot
    For example, for the intake this year we had an issue where the note would graze the crash bar causing it to get shot back out the other side. It was a simple fix that we were able to implement while greasing our swerve modules.

  • Cosmetics. We are by no means a team that prioritizes cosmetics although with any extra time we have, we make cosmetic adjustments such as radio cases, wire management pieces etc.

TL:DR
In summary your not gonna get a definite answer as all teams are different and depending on how big your team is, you might be stretched thin in the design department. However, It is vital that you finalize your design early on and keep working to refine during the build season. Don’t fall into a prototyping rabbit hole.

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Technically we never chose a design, so 0h.

In reality, about 1 week of adaptation and refinement with bumpers and climbing being separate.