Driver training - couple questions

We’re looking to up our game when it comes to driver training, and I have two questions:

  1. Are there any RC vehicles out there (i.e. less expensive and smaller than a full-sized FRC robot) that people have had good luck with as tank drive robot proxies when it comes to helping drivers gain experience? I see some on Amazon, from toys to hobby-caliber RC vehicles, but if someone has a proven example, that’d be helpful. My thought is it will be valuable to enable drivers to practice on their own at home, outside, etc. using something like this.

  2. We’re thinking of looking around the community for a larger practice space. Right now, our options are a 10’-wide school hallway, a wider but oddly shaped school building entryway that is only partly carpeted, and a somewhat bigger but still odd-shaped space in a different school building. None are great. If we find a space, it likely won’t be exclusively ours, so we’ll need to be able to set up / take down efficiently, and my question is… Any tips on efficiently setting up and taking down, say, 1/2 a field’s worth of field carpet (i.e. so it is fixed in place / doesn’t bunch up)? We recently acquired that much used field carpet (15’x70’ roll), but it is very heavy & unwieldy, and we have to figure out how to best utilize it.

Any answers, tips, etc. on these topics are appreciated - thanks in advance!

Are you not able to use a robot from this year or a previous one? An RC vehicle could work as a stand in, although I don’t have much experience with any that would be comparable to what we use in FRC, but I’d personally want drivers to get as much experience as possible with an actual robot, the specific controllers you generally use, and whatever little quirks your setup might have.

Rather than a rc vehicle, which will cause problems like handling being different from frc drivetrains, remote control customizability, etc. I’d use the quick and dirty control system someone (Andymark I believe) sells. That’ll enable you to give your code/electrical rookies some good offseason practice, and come season when you have a real robot to drive with that control system can be used to effectively control prototypes with ease.

With a practice space, its super helpful to have a spot that you can leave set up for the duration of build season. Especially if you want to have a half field for a game like 2016, setting up and taking the field down every drive practice is a mess. Reach out to local vendors, businesses, anyone who might be able to give you access to a space. Maybe chat with nearby teams who have already solved this problem. We love heading over to nearby teams with practice facilities (love you 3476 and 4), and while we do have an outside space where we can roll out a carpet on our school’s campus it isnt great. If you do need to roll up the carpet every day, I would invest in (or make) one of those roll-up poolside cover things. That way, you can just turn a crank and roll it up, and pull it out with ease (at the cost of some carpet space.

As someone who has been on a drive team for three years, I have learned that the closer you can get to an actual frc robot on an actual field, the better.

There’s so much more to driving than just hands on the sticks, and if you’re really looking to up your game part of the solution might be to prepare your drivers in other ways rather than investing in cheap rc cars or things of that sort.

Hope this helps,

-Marcus

If you have already selected a driver, set up some chairs, and have he or she turn between them. This can be done in your local practice space. I recommend using your previous robots with a common drive train for practice. This will give the driver a sense of familiarity with the control. Other than that, I recommend to up your driving is to get the driver comfortable with the bot, and to know the rules and the field. That is VITAL to a successfully excecuted tele-operated mode. This is what helped me when I drove the bot for 3 seasons (maybe 4?)

Hope this helps!
If you need any other advice/info, just PM me.

Thanks for the responses. Having something like a pool cover roller is a great idea for setting up / taking down heavy carpet - thanks.

On the rc vehicle question, I need to clarify that I’m talking about summer / off-season practice by drivers at home or off-site on their own - with something that’s a manageable size. During the season we’ll definitely train using full-size FRC robots & controls.

I asked the question because I have read more than one post that stated driving various RC vehicles can be valuable for “getting your head into the robot/vehicle”. I take that to mean developing a second-nature sense about steering when the robot is driving toward you or sideways relative to you rather than facing away from you. There are lots of rc vehicles out there, and I was thinking it would be cool if there was one that drives and is controlled somewhat similarly to an FRC tank drive. For example, here’s a toy rc vehicle with skid steering that could be fun - & it’s certainly cheap: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00M1H7486/ref=ox_sc_act_title_2?smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER&psc=1. Or this toy excavator (watch the video - behaves a little like an FRC bot), also with skid steering: https://www.amazon.com/Top-Race-Functional-Excavator-Construction/dp/B00AG573L8/ref=pd_cart_bxgy_1_3?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=0J1WDG7RV701RPPW7YGK

Those two are toys, and there are nicer hobby-level rc vehicles as well. So anyway, off-season / home RC driving practice is what I was talking about. Thanks again.

Would using an RC car like that be better than nothing? Probably. Would it help any more than what you could achieve with an old robot, ftc/vex robot, or an andymark kitbot/vex drive in a day? Probably not. Those general sense of driving things could be accomplished in the first hour or so of driving the in-season robot/practice bot, and doing that is probably more valuable than using an RC car because the driver can get the hang of the joystick they would be using in real life and can do it on something more like an frc robot on something that can simulate an FRC field. If you’re looking to up your game in terms of drive practice, I assume part of that includes finishing the robot earlier to maximize practice time. This means that worst case if your drivers are practicing on the real robot for an extended period of time before bag day they will get the hang of “field sense”, especially if its happening on a mock field with a proper joystick.

I don’t think an RC car will help train your drivers much, and anything you can get out of using a little RC car can most likely be accomplished with stuff you have on hand and a little creativity.

-Marcus

Find an empty parking lot or some outdoor space in the summer to practice. Does wonders for teams with small practice spaces.

Cheap and Dirty, you mean. :slight_smile:

An old robot is ideal for this application. If that’s not an option for storage reasons, a Peanut Chassis is small, geared for 10.9 feet per second stock (8.86 adjusted on the JVN spreadsheet), and by changing the gearing or going to 8" wheels that short wheelbase would be quite the handful. How much of a handful depends on your tastes, priorities, and fears for your ankles.

Sent from my desk at AndyMark

To better simulate a real robot, gear for the correct speed, and make sure you get the weight/motor ratio right. If you want to simulate a full-size robot with 4 CIMs weighing 130# (with battery and bumpers), your 2 CIM model should weigh about 65# so you get comparable performance.

For your carpet question, our team is in the exact same situation as you. We practice in our schools cafeteria, where we move all the tables to the side and put our carpet down.

We keep all our field elements and carpet in the cafeteria, with all the field elements pushed to one corner, and the carpet up against the wall. When we want to practice, we unroll the carpet from the wall, and if we are going to be there for a while (>4 hours), we also tape down the carpet with duct tape all along the outside. If not using duct tape, the carpet is usually good to not bunch unless we are performing really aggressive turning maneuvers, and if we want to try those, we just have some people stand on the carpet and try to keep it tight. We have the locations of the field elements pre taped out, and pick them up and place them on the tape.

Our main issue with this is that it wears the carpet extremely fast. Rolling and unrolling it almost daily for weeks on end wears away dramatically at the structure of the carpet, and every time we would roll it back up we would have to sweep up mounds of what looks like sand, but what is actually just the carpet disintegrating. I believe we got our carpet before the 2015 season, and at this point it has a number of holes in it and is generally very thin.

@chrisin

There is a full size practice field here in Lynnwood\Brier area that you can use with your team. It is always available and can be access anytime this summer. We also have robots you can practice with if you would like. We use an old chassis as a practice bot. Please contact me directly if you want to work out details. [email protected]

We also have been experimenting with a number of different control systems if you are interested in trying out more options for your drivers.

https://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?t=158754

We have found flying small mini-quadcopters has really helped our drivers. They are cheap enough you can have competitions with them. Then they can practice anywhere. Something like a small CX-10.

I think if the RC was a drive similar to the controls and robot design, then go for it. It it was an RC car, with a front turning axle like an actual car, I think it would only lead to confusion.

If you still have some totes from a couple years ago, and you aren’t using 'em for storage, cut holes in the bottom for wheels and mount a Cheap and Dirty inside with some appropriately sized motors and wheels. AM used to sell a kit to do that, but I think it’s been discontinued.

See also: Totebot.

As a bonus, you can store the control system inside the robot… and maybe a spare battery and charger… and the robot comes with handles.

Kinda surprised at all these anti-RC posts. As a former driver, playing around a lot with something as different as a cheap RC helicopter during the summer still helped a lot with the type of hand eye coordination required.

RC cars are no substitute for actual driver practice, but the fundamentals of learning how to drive a vehicle-centric device from far away are important and can be taught with an RC car.

A Vex robot is probably the next best approximation, since you can simulate the steering dynamics of an FRC tank drive really well.

In either case, the more you can get actual, real practice with even just an FRC drive base, the better off you’ll be by a wide margin.

Thanks again for all the great feedback and advice, both on RC driver practice ideas and on managing that behemoth carpet roll we acquired.

Special thanks to @Splashdavidson for the offer to use the Lynnwood/Brier field. I will discuss with coach & student captains. And thanks for the offer to try your team’s excellent control solution along with that. I talked with a couple of your team members in the pits this past year & they walked me through the process the team went through to customize & tune the controls. Very impressive, and your team’s driving was among the best in the PNW this year, partly as a result of those controls (the other part being the driver of course :slight_smile: ) Congrats on the great year you had.