FIRST 101 [10/6/05]

Hello class!

A little late on the FIRST 101 this week as even professors can get ill and stay home sick!
The Placebo**

This weeks lesson is about one of the kookiest yet lovable ideas FIRST has ever come up with. The Placebo was a very simple concept. FIRST supplies a robot to fill in during matches where there was an open space in the scheduling! Now, of course FIRST wouldn’t just throw some random box on wheels to fill the shoes of some teams engineering marvel…noooo way. Instead FIRST would utilize the typical engineers sense of humor and put a remarkably engineered (yet slightly humorous) robot out to dazle the crowd! Unfortunately I dont know anything about Placebo’s previous to the year 1995, but lets go back and take a look at the history of Placebo’s…

The Simple Placebo
The Simple Placebo was featured in 1995 (Possibly earlier). It was quite simply a cylinder on wheels. Colored black with big bright yellow letters spelling “PLACEBO” all around it, it would tool around the field doing victory spins and avoiding contact at all cost! As the name says…simple…yet quite funny.

The Hovercraft
Probably one of the more beautifully engineered Placebos ever created was the Hovercraft. Cylndrical like its predicessor, this placebo would tool around the field propelled by small fans. Were they the muffin fans that were supplied in the kit? I dont think so…someone should have checked the rule book on them! Anyhow, it was probably the placebo that had the most downtime, as there were moments where it would pretty much die in a corner. However, when it did work, it was a sight to behold! One of my more interesting memories would be when I was sitting next to the field as a human player in a match.

Did you know in 1996 the human player was actually seated next to the field, strapped down by a seatbelt?

I looked on in astonishment at the beautiful piece fo machinery tooling around the field in a match we were involved in. Next thing you know, its comming right at me! I leaned in to get a good look to see if I could tell what was underneath it…next thing you know, the Placebo turns right in front of me and BAM! One big blast of air right to the face. A thing of beauty.

The Vacuum
Thats right folks…before there was the Roomba…there was the Placebo. It was quite a sight during Torroid Terror when we walked into the stadium to look down at the playing field and we saw a vacuum cleaner roaming around on its own! For that whole competition we were plagued with the question “Does the Placebo actually suck?” Later in the competition Dr. Woodie Flowers himself confirmed to my teamates and myself that the Placebo did not acutally suck. In fact, its sucking components had to be removed so that it could drive on its own. However, I am quite convinced that the creator of the Roomba was a FIRST participant in 1997. Once again…FIRST molding the future.

The Passive Placebo
I really dont have much to say about this one. Basically in 1998, FIRST decided to ditch the normal Placebo’s in place of a box on casters that robots could push around for defensive use in rounds they were in. Actually…they never even left the starting box and were quite bland.

Showbot was never really a true placebo, but it goes down as one because I do believe it was used in matches during the National Competition in 1997. Showbot was created by Disney Ride and Show engineers and would roam around talking and shooting confetti into the crowd during and between matches. It was quite an interesting robot but had a short life span due to the extinction of the Placebo in general (along with the extinction of Nationals from Disneyworld).


Great stuff, Professor, as usual!

If I may be so bold as to append another peculiar device to your history? A close cousin of the passive placebo was the vastly underutilized “stretcher” in the 2001 game (my first year). It served not as a robot substitute but instead as a prosthetic for motivationally-challenged robots.

From the 2001 Competition Manual…

GM9. Each team is given three “coupons” which may be redeemed during the course of the qualification matches in order to place their robot onto FIRST’s “stretcher” prior to the start of a match. The stretcher is designed to carry non-functioning or partially functioning robots so that they may participate in a match for the purposes of scoring. A maximum of one stretcher may be used in a match. All coupons unused at the conclusion of the qualification matches are forfeited. Teams participating in the elimination matches receive two coupons each for use during the elimination matches. Teams may not give their coupons to other teams[font=Verdana][size=2].[/size][/font]
[left]GM10. A robot placed on a stretcher must be wholly supported by the stretcher at the start of the match.[/left]

GM11. A robot which starts the match on a stretcher may not provide its own locomotion by directly pushing or pulling on the playing field surface, but may otherwise interact as normal with the balls, goals, and other robots. Incidental contact between the robot and the surface of the playing field, such as when attempting to pickup a ball, is acceptable. Movement from handling a ball, goal, or other robot is acceptable. If a robot which starts the match on a stretcher ends up off the stretcher, it still may not provide its own locomotion by directly pushing or pulling on the surface of the playing field. The stretcher may be pushed or pulled by other robots on the field in order to move it around the field. It is suggested that teams utilizing the stretcher temporarily disable their robot’s main drive mechanisms by disconnecting the appropriate PWM and/or Relay cables in order to prevent accidental violation of this rule.

If the stretcher was on the field and was in the end zone at the end of a match, it was worth 10 base points to the alliance.

I personally did not witness much stretcher-related excitement during the 2001 season, but perhaps others have some glorious tales to tell.

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Hehe i miss the placebo!! they should bring it back! It would be great triple play defense :slight_smile:

Ahh the days, another great reminder Andy!